A renewed public plea to Pr. Engelbrecht and the ALPB...

Started by Rob Morris, February 21, 2019, 11:24:53 PM

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Rob Morris

I signed in and caught up today to see where things stand. What a bizarre and tragic day of posts (starting with #617 over on the Mobbing thread).

The way I see it, where "Mobbing" is concerned, there are two concurrent problems. The discussions of each have overlapped and conflated the two problems - as did the original article. But separating them would be the healthiest and most helpful approach. (I should add, it would be the most Biblical approach, too, but I have already tried to make that case at length elsewhere - and this is a long read as it is!)

Before beginning, at the risk of resume-reading, I will point out that my degree is in Organizational Behavior and Communication - all of that came before seminary... which came before another seminary... which came before colloquy into the LCMS. Further, a reminder that I have absolutely no history in the LCMS or any strain of Lutheranism prior to about 9 years ago, so whatever baggage those previous tempests would have brought did not encumber me.

The two issues I see are these:
(1) An LCMS culture of power-grabbing behaviors which frequently encompass mobbing-style tactics.

(2) At least one coordinated organization of mobbers with influence throughout the entire synod currently utilizing these mobbing tactics.

(Note: Further obfuscating these issues is the clandestine process of political organizing within the Synod: something which should not be equated with mobbing, though I think both are clearly unhealthy.)

An organizational consultant would tell you that these two specific problems require different solutions. You need one solution strategy to address the cultural problem, and another solution strategy to address the organizational problem. Right now, only one solution strategy is being utilized to address both problems. This is not good. In fact, it could end up kneecapping any chance to fix either.

Addressing an overall culture within which mobbing is happening could certainly include an awareness campaign, complete with personal testimonies and articles exploring the phenomenon Scripturally and academically. These efforts (which I would recommend would need to be strategically directed and communicated through many outlets over a substantial period of time) would seek primarily to educate people, and to create a stigma around such behaviors as clearly being wrong.

So far, so good... these things are happening, if only in their infancy.

But the problem is this: the solution to the first problem, which exists at the cultural level, does not solve or even address the second problem, which exists at the organizational level. And until and unless the second problem is meaningfully addressed, the first cannot be helped. When there are specific people engaging in specific behaviors, those people must be clearly and unmistakably brought to account. There must not just be propaganda, there must be action.

By way of an example: Take a look at the NFL. Does anyone believe the League takes the problem of domestic violence seriously? That's a pretty strong "No". Why not? After all, the NFL runs great ad campaigns about it, they donate money to causes supporting victims and cuases working toward violence prevention - they do the education thing. Yet, no one believes they take it seriously... why not? Because the League has time and again allowed those who have enacted domestic violence to continue to be paid millions of dollars, to continue to sign contracts (and autographs). Google Kareem Hunt if you want the latest in a long, sad list of examples. If the NFL really wanted to take a stand, they would issue lifetime bans to anyone their investigative team determined had engaged in domestic violence (like kicking a woman in a hotel hallway... on video). Where there is no such stand, then it's all just grandstanding.

I don't even need to outline why the Catholic Church's priest abuse scandal is this problem of teaching vs. practice writ large. The pain was found in the abuse. The scandal lies in the intentional and systemic cover-up. The church can speak against abuse all it wants, but it means little until it actually takes steps to remove the abusers.

Which leads us to the good old LCMS. Some have started the article-writing and letter-writing and discussion, with the intent of leading the way toward cultural change. That really is fine and could prove quite laudable. I will wholeheartedly speak up for and wish Christ's grace to anyone who has been victimized (and the silent victims: their families and parishes). My comments on this board, even in regards to Pr. Engelbrecht's specific situation, bear this out. Awareness and education really are important. Over time, they may help to shape the culture.

But if that's all that happens, then it is pretty impotent as far as organizational change.

And if the organization doesn't change, then the cultural change will be either be abortive or, at best, short-lived.

That's why victims - of anything, in any setting - have to name names. This is a burden... sometimes a crushing one. I have physical and sexual abuse victims among some of my closest family members: I know this burden well. I would totally understand someone saying: "I will never go public with what happened to me." I would understand and, depending on the circumstances, might even advise that course.

What you can't do and what I could never advise is to go half-public. Or more accurately, go public with half an accusation.

Victims can't tell the NFL: "Your players engage in domestic violence; some did it to us. We won't name them, but you should do something about it!" Just like victims can't tell the Catholic Church: "Your priests are abusing children; some did it to us. We won't name them, but you should do something about it!"

Why not? Because those accusations are not actionable. And take a look at what results when only the cultural education happens, but no organizational follow-through.

Every NFL player is too easily looked at askew. The NFL is too easily seen as a league of wife- and girlfriend-beaters. You can't say: "He wouldn't do that - he would have been out of the league." Because far too many have done it and still stayed in the league. Likewise, every priest is looked at askew. You can't say: "He wouldn't do that - they wouldn't let him stay in the priesthood." Because far too many have done it and stayed in the priesthood. (BTW - this is the reason that in predominantly-Catholic New England, I never wear my collar when I am around town with one of my young sons. I did that once early on, and the looks I got for holding hands or giving hugs taught me my lesson pretty quickly.)

What results when a fervor for culture-change does not have real organizational direction is McCarthyism: everyone is guilty until proven innocent, and the charges can be twisted for whatever ends the user wishes.

Take a look at the direction Pr. Engelbrecht's article has been taken by Christian News, or by Congregations Matter. Pr. Engelbrecht may not have intended political consequences, but to publish such an article in a Convention year and expect it wouldn't be used politically would have to be the height of naivete.

Some of that McCarthy flavor has happened on this board in the weeks since I stepped away. Anyone who questions the testimonies or the techniques used to share them is painted as being either a Mobber or a Mobbing sympathizer. Notice how few anonymous commenters are showing up recently. Do you think that's a coincidence? Even if taking anonymous posting away is seen by some as progress, did you really want to bully them away with the "Are you now or have you ever been a Mobber" line of treatment?

As I said from the beginning, this situation as it stands is deeply unhealthy. Everyone can talk about how bad the problem is; but no one can do a single thing about it. And plenty of people get smeared along the way. Shadows and darkness and bitterness and resentment grow and Satan rejoices.

The only possible solution is to shine the full light of truth on the realities.

It takes courage for someone like Pr. Engelbrecht to stand up. It takes courage for someone like Pr. Staneck to publish his article. Pr. Engelbrecht claims he has evidence of all that he claims. Pr. Staneck claims to have access to data and testimony that supports Pr. Engelbrecht's claims.

But who will actually take the steps to stop these people?

Who will even say, "I am going to take those steps, I'm just not quite there yet, and here's the reason why"?

I can't do it. I don't have any evidence and I don't know who the perpetrators are. I know who was offensive and even borderline-abusive to me after my ordeal here with Sandy Hook. But I reported such behavior to my DP, complete with forwarded emails, and he attended to it immediately and appropriately. I even discussed it with my Synod President, who also took steps to ensure the behavior abated immediately and would be more easily actionable if it took place in the future.

(Perhaps ironically, making it even more impossible that it could be me who stands up on the basis of the article... after defending the credibility of Pr. Engelbrecht for days, I was the one who needed to point out that "gan ainm" who used to post here has never been the Main Nag; in fact, he has never even spoken to Pr. Engelbrecht. Pr Engelbrecht's unwillingness to either clearly affirm or retract his parenthetical claim equating gan ainm to the Main Nag has been excruciating to watch.)

The only people who can take the steps to stop this behavior are the people who were subjected to it. I get why that's hard. I lament it. But it's the truth. I will stand with anyone willing to actually stand. I will bring the charges myself if you'll provide the testimony and evidence.

But until someone does take a full stand, the activities will continue.

Several people are taking Step 1 - addressing the culture. Thank you and God be with you in your recovery from such mistreatment.

Will no one take Step 2 and actually call such people to account?

If the answer remains no, then the mobbers can carry on unchecked, while we squabble about culture.

And until someone takes them on, the list of victims will inevitably and tragically grow.

Please, for the sake of the Church, do not let this end with half-measures.

Pastor Rob Morris

(Note: I have only referred to Pr. Engelbrecht in the third-person because he has not yet, despite multiple requests in multiple formats, private and public, electronic and phone, and through his editor, responded directly to me in any way. He wouldn't even respond to my previous public plea on that thread. Absent this basic courtesy across all formats, I can only refer to him, as I currently despair of actually interacting with him. It is a shame, too - I have (prayerfully) publicly accused him of sin, but he has shown zero interest in even finding out against whom he may have sinned... This sorrows me greatly, but this is territory I covered weeks ago.)

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