To the Reader:
There is no good time to clear the air. Certainly there is no convenient time to set right a wrong. There is likewise no reasonable season to reckon with ruin or to bring closure to catastrophe. The following is an attempt to do the aforementioned, however untimely, unlikely, or impossible.
As a new Christian, I (Brad) started attending Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in the year 2002 — devastated from a personal loss. The lead cleric was a self-described pastoral counsellor whose calling was “inner healing” — a spiritual healing journey for the deep brokenness of humanity. I was a broken man. As much as my personal life pained me, my professional life was flourishing. As an industrial contractor, I had just taken over the company from the man that I worked for years. I entered a pastoral counselling relationship with the cleric, sharing with him my personal sorrow and my professional success. It was in the context of this pastoral relationship, that he first asked me to invest an initial $75,000 in his publishing business — Essence Communications Group. At this church, I met my now wife, Lori Anne.
I (Lori Anne) had come to the church as a newly separated single mother with a protracted history of poly-victimization in childhood and as a young adult. When my father, a previously incarcerated pedophile, died in 2002, the cleric became a “spiritual father” to me. As such, I submitted myself fully to his “headship.” The model of discipleship was one of reparenting, heavy shepherding, and coercive control. It was in the context of this pastoral relationship that Brad and I were married by this cleric.
Under the guise of furthering the Kingdom of God, we continued to be financially victimized via the misuse of Brad’s corporate lines of credit and contracting work not recompensed for. The original company declared bankruptcy and was reinvented into a new business — Rock Media Inc. Brad was asked to be the sole director of this corporation. This directorship was exploited by the cleric, making Brad personally liable for approximately $150,000 of corporate taxes owed to the federal and provincial governments. Monies owing to Brad’s business and person totaled $375,000. We took a sabbatical from the church in 2008. Over a hundred other congregants concerned about the healing ministry, left both before and after, our departure.
Before I (Brad) filed the lawsuit against the cleric — Lori Anne and I went through a protracted process of ecclesiastical accountability with the support of the broader CRC overseers (Classis, Church Visitors) — to no avail. Similar churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, denominationally, the CRC has limited authority over the local church. Having done all ecclesiastically possible, I was advised by Head of CRC Pastor Church Relations to file a civil lawsuit against the cleric. The lawsuit was filed in September 2010. In 2011, the cleric was deposed by Classis— this action appealed by the board and was granted a stay. Also in 2011, Maranatha Church threatened to disaffiliate from the denomination. Rather than disaffiliate, the church appealed to CRC Synod, wherein the cleric was later suspended. The cleric was eventually reinstated by church board where he continued in his role until his retirement in 2017.
In time the lawsuit was dropped without resolution or recompense. My family and I were, shunned, vilified, and publicly humiliated by the cleric and church community. Uncomfortable attending church — we were isolated. I (Brad) turned to radio ministry of UCB Canada for discipleship and spiritual direction. It was in that context that we met another cleric in 2014, who would eventually gain our trust and traumatically betray it.
In 2017, we were pre-emptively publicly sued and simultaneously humiliated in a federal US lawsuit when we attempted to hold this cleric to account for his actions. Egregiously, we were accused as apparent extortionists who sue pastoral people for financial gain— nothing could be further from the truth. This narrative has been multiplied many times over by faith-based publications without the most rudimentary of fact checking.
As a couple, we find the public narrative utterly untenable. Together we find the loss of our individual and corporate lack of capacity “to say our own word” deeply dehumanizing.
The cleric unilaterally breeched the NDA in his public statement in 2017 — we remain unilaterally bound to the contract or face further legal harassment.
As we have seen in across professions and platforms — non-disclose agreements permit alleged offenders to continue to act inappropriately and even criminally — undetected for decades. Faith groups should re-evaluate the use of non-disclosure agreements in alleged abuse cases as they promote secrecy where public scrutiny should be.