Gordon's Original Letter to Henry Kriete
Thanks for including me on your mailing list. I look forward to reading your article carefully. I appreciate your courage in taking on the system, those most responsible for creating it, and all of us for joining in and sustaining it. We are all guilty, and the higher up in the system of leadership we are, the greater the guilt. None of us can blame the system for our own sins, for we had our choices, and made them as much because of their appeal to our own sinful nature as because we were caught up in the system. (You seem at times a little sentimental on this point, by the way, in dealing with certain personalities close to you.)
I did look through your article briefly, and have some initial reactions that I will pass on now for the purpose of promoting the kind of honest examination of the system and of one another that will be needed in moving forward. You will likely sustain some pretty strong, negative reactions, so I wanted to add my voice to the process early on as one who welcomes such challenges as you bring to us.
One, I agree with nearly all of the broad brush critiques you raise, but likely would have some disagreement with some of the specifics under the broad banner. However, I think that arguing about the possible disagreements on the smaller matters would be interproductive at this point, causing us to get off track in dealing with the bigger issues. Two, I totally agree with the need to publicly repent. We have done some of this in Boston, but more of it at more levels is clearly needed, in my judgment.
However, trying to force leaders to do that before they really have their own convictions would not accomplish the needed purpose of heart-felt repentance. So, we need to be urgent in trying to move toward that end, but careful not to again force conformity rather than honesty. But, (and herein lies the biggest challenge), the public repentance must start at the top and not the middle or bottom in our leadership system to avoid more of the consequences many are reaping and going to reap due to our systemic sins.
I fear that those in higher places are too worried about how it makes them or theirs "at the top" look and feel about their past work (for many good things did occur), or even about how it makes the movement look to outsiders or even to more innocent insiders. The initial response of some in high places to the publishing of our Golden Rule Leadership book a year ago makes my fear here seem highly plausible.
And one point here is that many disciples are pretty happy folk, having had the good fortune to have good leaders. When they hear some of what those in other settings are facing and saying, they are in fact confused and unsettled by it. This is not to say that we shouldn't address it all for that reason, but we had better make sure that we educate those in that category who have been spared the larger part of the systemic abuses. This growing-up phase has to be handled carefully. Though mentioned briefly here, it is a big concern of mine.
Three, I do feel somewhat of a quandry personally on the nature of the process before us. I tend to evaluate things from a progress standpoint, and can feel encouraged with progress, especially when looking back on the frustration of little or no progress on some of the important issues you raised -- for years. (For example, I had a much better feel about the progress made in the LA Meeting than you have, understanding that I see it as a beginning, not a finished job by any means.)
But, I have my own articles written more than a decade ago expressing my concerns about many of the systemic sins you mention. In my earlier days in the movement, I felt I had two choices (based on observation of what happened to others): speak out forcefully and quickly and be fired; or teach patiently as I went, hoping to gain acceptance and trust as a fellow soldier rather than be seen as a critic. I obviously chose the latter. Maybe I was wrong here, but some of the results in my life personally don't force me to that conclusion.
I do count those intervening years as great blessings to me and my family. Both of my kids are in the movement, married to great disciples and raising our grandkids in the movement. I love the movement, and am eternally grateful for so many blessings in my life, and to countless people to had a hand in those blessings.
But I do remain highly concerned and alarmed over many of the things you discuss, and have always wanted to effect change in any way that I could. I must say that I am quite convicted of my own cowardice in the process. I could have been stronger, longer, and I have no doubt that God holds me responsible for not doing so.
I have struggled a lot with timing and deciding whether my efforts would move things forward or actually hinder them. The publishing of the Golden Rule Leadership book was an attempt to hit the timing right, not being so early that it blocked what we were trying to accomplish, but not being so late that everyone had already accepted its principles. Again, a judgment issue. If we are too early on advocating something, we can block or slow down the very thing we are trying to accomplish. But perhaps you would say that this is humanistic thinking, and that a prophet's a prophet, period.
I have adopted that perceived prophetic approach in studying with individuals and have seen some go the other way, unable to handle the amounts of truth applied so strongly and quickly. I have exercised more patience with other individuals, allowing time and the immediate rejection of the truth that went with that, and later have seen them come around and do great as disciples. That's where things get a little cloudy for me regarding process and progress.
Applying that same principle to the larger settings of churches, geo sectors and world sectors has made me have the questions about timing that I raise here. When I was a younger man, l would have advocated kicking down the doors no matter what. As an older man (now 60), I am inclined to be somewhat more tentative, being as or more certain about the biblical truth involved, but less certain in my conclusions about how to best effect change.
That must mean that either I am wiser or weaker. But my feeling now is as yours in this respect: that we are under the hand of God's judgment and must be urgent in trying to figure out what He is doing and what we must do in reponse. On the other hand, I know that we must avoid knee-jerk reactions and avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. My guess is that most among us will be too slow to react strongly and decisively, and here is where your challenging approach can help move things along.
I don't think that you are 100% correct on everything that you think, nor that I am either. We are but humans. On the other hand, it is high time for being honest and outspoken with other leaders (while protecting the innocent sheep), willing to let some sparks fly on one hand, and willing to be persuaded that we are wrong at points on the other. I commend your directness and your convictions. My initial agreement with you is so high that I am little concerned at this juncture about the areas of possible disagreement. We have as a movement sinned greatly and now God is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat, as we so often sing (howbeit with different a application in mind!).
Your letter will get things moving quickly is my guess, and although it may usher in a bit of a tempest, it will not be a tempest in a teapot. Too much is at stake, and we will not come to grips with God here without much soul-searching, dialogue, courage to stand up for what we believe, and above all -- humility. Let's just all be sure that we are in the process of forging (maybe with great heat) unity and direction, rather than choosing sides in any way. Thanks again for what you are trying to accomplish. May God grant much good to come from it!
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