Prevailing Winds "For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom . . ." 2 Cor. 3:17, TNIV

September 26, 2013

Something Bad’s Going On, But First … Some Painful Context

Filed under: Uncategorized — keelyem @ 12:38 am

As many of you know, I worked in independent Christian ministry in the Snohomish County area northeast of Seattle from 1990-2001, working among hundreds of largely undocumented immigrants from Mexico.  Funded by my husband, I was, through the Lord’s kindness, able to bring my high school Spanish up to speed quickly, and during that decade I taught English, in Spanish, to scores and scores of people — mis vecinos, or neighbors, which became the name I chose for my work.  I translated in schools, courts, and hospitals,  helped encourage mothers during labor, provided transportation, and, for the last 18 months of my time, I pastored a Spanish-speaking church.

My pastoring, though, began long before my alliance with and pulpit presence in the Duvall, Washington, Evangelical Methodist Church in 1999.  Indeed, from the first week of my ministry, I was called upon to answer tough questions about faith and life, the Bible and the Church; I listened to heartwrenching stories of abuse, addiction, mental illness, physical decline, sudden injury, chronic fear and isolation, financial ruin and legal terrors.  I developed, by the strength given me by the Lord Jesus, broad shoulders, a tender heart, a deep well of empathy and a wide, sweeping perspective.  I had my faith tested by trauma and strengthened by the same trauma, and I was reminded time and time again that there is no trial, terror, trauma, or testing that can defeat true faith in Jesus Christ, built upon the Holy Spirit and the comfort of God’s eternal Word.

But I was also keenly aware that my love, sense of empathy, and B.A. in journalism made me thoroughly unequipped to offer true psychological counseling to my friends and congregants.  I could, for example, tell Arturo that the Bible assured him that no bruja, or witch, could curse him by making him impotent, and I could use my limited medical knowledge to advise that he see his doctor and begin to treat his diabetes.  I used the Bible to convince him that a mean woman’s words couldn’t “strip him of his manhood,” and I could use Scripture to pray with him as he experienced anew the love of Christ Jesus.  But I couldn’t treat his diabetes, and it would have been wrong — as I think we could all agree — to have represented myself as someone able to.

As a minister — behind the pulpit for a year and a half and in the trenches for more than a decade — I developed a clear sense of how much I could do to lead people to Christ and help them become true disciples.  Equally important, I came to see, and see quite clearly, how much I couldn’t do.  I could love Belen, the woman who couldn’t leave her house because she heard the houseplants on the front stoop threatening her, but I couldn’t treat her mental illness.  I poured myself out in encouraging Violeta in her depression, and I held Miguel’s hands as he went through the storms of withdrawal from heroin.  I loved and served them; I taught English and I taught the Bible and I taught that Christ Jesus walks with us throughout the worst of our lives.  I preached reliance on Christ, and I believe I modeled reliance on Christ.

But I knew my limits. And I had no problem, in acknowledging them, with sending them to people who were trained to help them.

Such is not the case with Douglas Wilson and his bevy of elders, nearly all of whom are financially dependent on his ministries, not incidentally.  One of them, Mike Lawyer, has, with Wilson and as a Christ Church “ministry,” opened this year in Moscow the Center For Biblical Counseling.  And, as is virtually always the case with things involving Doug Wilson and his various enterprises, what sounds benign, even helpful, isn’t what you’d think.  In this case, it isn’t by a longshot.

But before I begin my analysis of the Center for Biblical Counseling, an analysis that I believe will send the same chill down your spine as it does mine, I need to set a context.  You see, while Lawyer is the primary counselor — others, perhaps some after the “Counseling in a Week” training the CBC offers, will follow.  Lawyer is a Christ Church elder, and he reports directly to Wilson.  Not just as a Kirk elder, though.  The intake form the Center offers makes it very clear that anyone’s counseling information, besides being recorded, can and will be discussed with “any” pastor or elder or church leader Lawyer and his upcoming accolytes deem necessary.  The CBC acknowledges, and asserts that it will honor, its legal obligation to report instances of child or elder abuse, or cases when someone is in clear and immediate harm to herself or to others.

But, Lawyer and Wilson promise, they won’t limit their information sharing to the minimal legal requirements.  So counselees will agree to have their most personal information and life circumstances become fodder for pastoral consultations and elders’ meetings, and while it may make them uneasy, this is Idaho in 2013.   Mental health services here are tough to find and even tougher to afford.  The CBC is free, as it should be, given that Lawyer is not a trained, licensed mental health professional. But as anyone who’s followed Wilson, et al, arrogance and certainty are more than enough to propel them to imagined heights of expertise in virtually any area.

Wilson, after all, fancies himself an expert on art, architecture, economics, health care, politics, the Bible, church history, music, literature, history and nutrition.  Really, what’s a little dabbling in mental health to worry about?  I mean, people were shocked and angry about his historical analysis of Antebellum slavery, but no one was really, truly, HURT about it.  Tackling depression, anxiety, abuse, homosexuality, addiction, loneliness and masturbation CAN’T be tougher than defending slavery . . . right?

But let’s accept that mental health treatment is just a touch different from cobbling together a Biblical defense of indefensible manstealing.  After all, these people — these hurting, desperate people who come to the CBC — are not only still alive, but are sincerely asking for his help.  So it seems that an examination of Wilson’s judgment regarding sexuality, marriage, women’s issues, family, and other likely counseling issues in the past is important in assessing the wisdom of his starting up a Bible-based “ministry” that purports to deal with those and other problems.

That, unfortunately, will involve a painful trudge down a filthy, rock-strewn memory lane — one that you can begin by searching Prevailing Winds for five articles I wrote in May 2011.  Read those, all five of them, and then come back.  I’ll be talking quite a bit about the Center for Biblical Counseling in Moscow, and after you read these, you will, too.  Go to the Archives on the blog and click on May 2011.  The last of the five-part series is at the top; I suggest that you read them in the order they were published in.

I also suggest that you pray for the dear people who go to the Center to see how the Bible can cure their problems, only to find that the judgment and knowledge of those who wield it is sadly, sorely, and sinfully lacking.




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