I would like to commend Prairie Bible Institute alumni who have been urged to give the public the names of the Survivor Fund Project team. The Survivor Fund Project, which is being funded by money donated by alumni to PBI, was announced in December by PBI President Mark Maxwell. The members of The Survivor Fund Project were announced on the FB group Prairie Bible College Alumni and Current Students tonight. They are:
John Kepler (PHS ’71, PBC ’75)
Jim Crites (PHS ’78, PBC ’82)
Mim Carlson Phibbs (PHS ’59, PBC ’63)
Brenda Boytim Morrison (PHS ’74, PBC ’78)
Priscilla Virts Johnson (PHS ’72)
A step forward.
There have been a few steps back this week.
Social networking is powerful, but it is like any other community with ingroups, outgroups, miscommunication, scattered communication, and for interested parties participating in conversations, various emotions, and sometimes, high drama.
When Prairie Bible Institute went public with information about alleged abuse in November 2011, media all over the world took notice. As with any story in any given news cycle, some of the coverage was speculative, incorrect and misinterpreted. A few bloggers posted, a few discussion groups noticed, most reactions occurred in various Prairie groups on Facebook. The timeline is tortuous. Under anger fear, pain and loss often lurk. Previously unknown groups such as the We were prairie bible school kids came under intense scrutiny, and some strong verbal attack from anxious and angry alumni. Loyalty is confused for love, and sides are taken.
PBI President Mark Maxwell became the spokesperson for PBI, Linda Fossen became the designated spokesperson for the abuse survivors FB group, Jim Crites became the spokesperson for The Survivor Fund Project; and as yet no one has publicly spoken for Calgary Centre Street Church, the designated independent 3rd party announced in December by Maxwell.
None of these spokespeople are pros, none are pr experts, they are ordinary people who find themselves in the unenviable spokesperson role, and have done the best they can while conversations, questions and criticisms land in their FB groups, IM’s, emails and peripheral vision.
There have been some encouraging steps forward. Shawn Anderson, a Baptist minister and PBI alumni blogged about one step in his post, Where’s Alice Cooper when you need him?
Let me start moving towards my point. I have been trying to stay current with the whole PBI thing without letting it consume my life right now. I recently had a chance to be present at a meeting with Mark Maxwell, and I have to say this. I was sorely tempted to go into that meeting with guns drawn and Bible in my hand, ready to call down fire and brimstone on his head. But a couple of people whose judgement and wisdom I trust completely told me “Mark Maxwell is a good guy – give him a chance”. So I did. While I still don’t want to trust Maxwell, I am willing to believe that he is committed to finding justice in the situation at PBI. Since then I have seen both Mark Maxwell and Linda Fossen take sincere steps toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict between “survivors” and “administration”, and I think they should both be commended for their efforts so far.
However, Facebook has shown me that not everyone who has an opinion in this mess has the same commitment to peaceful resolution that Mark and Linda have demonstrated to me.
…You have been calling down condemnation on Linda and her associates for quite some time now. Some even refer to her and her friends as “bitches”. Where is Jesus in that? (Answer? Nowhere.)
Good post. Go read it. I’ll wait. Back? Okay. Tentative steps forward by hesitant people went south fast. It’s a shame, there are so many earnest kind alumni who want to say the right thing, offer comfort and care, and tread new ground. Tonight I logged into an open FB Prairie group to find this: (settle in and follow below the fold)
My heart sank to see confusion, hurt, frustration and questions from alumni about why a spokesperson for abuse survivors who reached out, told alumni about talking with the PBI president after weeks of impasse, who metaphorically shook the hands of friendship offered. A invested group has every reason to wonder why a spokesperson gets banned from an open group where people were inching forward and finding grace. Fossen had done a great deal at this FB page to clear up misconceptions about the abuse survivors she speaks for, she allayed fears about lawsuits (while facing one) and talking openly of the stress she has faced and the tears she has shed.
And like that, a moderator for Prairie Bible College Alumni and Current Students sends spokesperson Linda Fossen into pixeland. Banned. Banished. Out of there. Gone. No explanation. Then I saw this in comments under a link to Shawn Anderson’s post I sent you off to read:
If you are not aware of alumnist Fred Whaples letter to abuse survivors of his intent to sue, it’s here. I’ll wait. What looks like a step forward for Whaples is not when this comment is placed in context. It’s an escalation. What may have been an independent decision by a moderator to ban, takes on a gut knotting chill for people chatting on FB and for observers driving by. Conversations and motives become threatening, confusing and unsafe.
A step back.
I emailed Linda Fossen with a few questions about how this banishment and Whaples comment affects her and her beleagured group of survivors.
I think these latest events is about more than a FB spat, and more about the ongoing pattern of step forward/ step back in a long and difficult journey for PBI survivors of abuse, PBI and alumni.
I’ll post here when I get a response.
1) You’ve had an opportunity to post at a PBI alumni FB page.
Yes I have. It was an open group that several survivors have joined recently.
How did that go?
Well, at first it was awkward with the usual conflicts that go along with the inevitable clash between those who are very loyal to PBI and those who aren’t. We survivors tend to fit into the latter group for some strange reason.
The conversation turned toward abuse and there was a lot of consternation with the alumni reminding us that if we wanted to discuss abuse we should talk about it somewhere else but not on their group wall.
There were very rough patches in the initial conversation but what eventually emerged was a very open dialogue between people of different viewpoints who shared a sense of community. Survivors felt empowered and began to speak their truth. There was mixed reception to this. We had some alumni who sincerely seemed to care and want to help and
then those who would just as soon not know if anyone was abused at PBI because it was all in the past.
Overall, it was a good conversation – a lot of give and take. I went to sleep last night encouraged that even though we still had our major differences, perhaps we alumni might be beginning to find some common ground.
2) Something changed yesterday. What happened?
It sure did. I woke up to discover that I had been kicked out of the alumni group without any warning or explanation! I was stunned, especially after I had poured out my heart and had even gone so far as to talk about a major step I had taken of ending the stalemate between President Mark Maxwell and me by contacting him and telling him my story. Telling my story to Mark Maxwell was very difficult and painful - especially when I described the shame that had been pounded into me at Prairie. I can remember so vividly as a young girl sitting in the Prairie Tabernacle and feeling such immense shame as L.E. Maxwell pounded his fists on the pulpit and hollered about how much God demanded holiness.
I remember thinking how much God must hate me because I knew I could never be holy. I was damaged. It was very painful and empowering to be able to tell the grandson of L.E. Maxwell how much this hurt.
Prior to all of this on January 30th without any advanced notice I received a letter of intent to sue from Pastor Fred Whaples, an alumni of the school. The letter stated that I would be sued for comments made on a private Facebook group that I administer along with others. Fred had at one time been a member of the group until we removed him.
3) After you received the letter of intent from Fred Whaples, what did you do?
I read it to my husband and we both decided that it was very poorly written. It did not sound like it came from an attorney at all. I contacted attorneys and we talked about the letter that Fred sent me. I was not at all upset, in my opinion it was just another attempt by Pastor Whaples to try to intimidate and silence us survivors.
He had threatened lawsuits to others before me so hearing about a lawsuit was nothing new. Following through to this point was.
4) This has to be unsettling. Fred Whaples has told you he is coming to Florida and you’d better meet with him or he is going to the Sheriff. Are you concerned for your safety?
When I read this portion of the document, I began to feel concern. There was no way in the world I was going to meet with Fred Whaples – and for sure not by myself! I have been on the receiving end of his belligerence before and I was not about to be there again. There was no possible way that I would agree to meet with him.
5) Why do you think you are being threatened?
Fred Whaples has been a source of contention with the survivors I represent since day one. He was in our group several months back and regularly disrupted it by preaching at us and throwing scriptures in our faces and being brazen. I think most of the survivors would agree that Fred has been quite abusive to us. Why he is doing this is anyone’s guess. All I know is that he is not welcome in our group. I think to the broader question, there still are many alumni who view the survivors as being “sent by satan to destroy the school” and as such, they feel justified in fighting against us. Let me make it very clear, the survivors do not seek to destroy the school. We actually want to save her from herself! We want hold those who have abused children accountable and help Prairie take steps to ensure that no other child has to suffer like we did.
6) How is this escalation affecting other abuse survivors?
The survivors are weary. They have basically been under attack from the beginning. The continued hostility hurts them deeply and we continue to have issues with those from the outside wanting to sabotage our group. They contact our members to intimidate them or get information about our group that they can pass along.
Fred Whaples claims to get inside information from people who “cut and paste” from our private Facebook group. This is not only unethical but it is very cruel.
The basis for this letter of intent from Fred Whaples claims to have recent documentation off our group wall. If this is so, then this information was designated to have been private and inaccessible to Fred in the first place.
7) What can people do to help?
I am calling on all alumni of the school to get involved. Everyone needs to acknowledge that children were abused at Prairie and realize that it is no longer necessary to deny
this fact. The best thing alumni can do is to show compassion, and kindness to the survivors. Many of these survivors have endured life-long consequences from their abuse and may have gone through traumatic changes in their belief systems. And they are alumni of the school and as such deserve to be heard and acknowledged. All of us need to realize that we are in this together and when one of us suffers, we all suffer.
8) Anything else you’d like to say?
I am calling on Mark Maxwell to encourage the alumni to support all the survivors regardless of whether they are willing to reconcile with the school or not. All of the
survivors deserve our love and support and there should be no distinction in our treatment of the survivors by who is loyal to PBI and who is not. These are precious hurting people who need us!