Centre Street Church has withdrawn it’s support as an independent 3rd party to Prairie Bible Institute. The church was chosen in lieu of requests by PBI abuse survivors requests for G.R.A.C.E., a USA based organization which investigates allegations of abuse in church and para church organizations.
On December 16th 2011, Prairie Bible Institute announced it was going to support former students and staff kids who had come forward alleging abuses at the 90-year-old institution.
PBI President Mark Maxwell included the following in his statement naming Centre Street Church:
1) Alumni: We have a truly amazing group of Alumni around the world. Many of them have offered to help in any way possible. A dozen of them have committed a great deal of time to working with those alumni who have stories of pain and injury. This group cares about Prairie as well as the need for the injured to find healing. Their efforts may include raising funds to help cover some of:
• the costs of travel if someone would like to come back, either to share with us or the third-party group; and
• the costs related to reconciliation and healing.
Subject to legal constraints, Prairie will allow these funds to pass through the school so that donors can benefit from a tax deductible receipt. Those who would like to share their stories of pain and injury are invited to contact this team…
2) Independent Third Party: We have been in contact with Centre Street Church in Calgary, a prominent Canadian church with professional counselors on staff. This church is not conflicted by virtue of any relationship with Prairie. Centre Street offers a safe and secure place for injured people to be heard and given professional advice on steps to move forward, including directing individuals to the appropriate authorities, referring them for additional counselling or bringing them to the appropriate parties at Prairie. The contact person at the church is Dr. Miriam Mollering…
On February 14th, PBI board chair Bruce Miller repeated the choice of Centre Street Church as an independent party for abuse survivors:
Members of the Facebook site asked that another option making use of professional expertise in the Christian community be available to provide a safe and professional place where their stories could be told. In response to this request, Prairie asked Centre Street Church (CSC) if they would be willing to offer that safe haven and were grateful for their positive response.
The PBI board is pleased that Centre Street Church of Calgary has offered “to provide that safe place to be heard” with a team of professional counselors led by Rev. Miriam Möllering, PhD. Dr. Möllering holds the position of Pastor of Life Care Ministries at CSC and brings significant counseling expertise to the role. She is well-qualified to work with individuals in an understanding and professional way.
Working with Centre Street Church provides a neutral place for those uncomfortable sharing directly with Prairie.
Centre Street Church has chosen to remain professional in announcing a severing of ties with PBI as of April 15th, notifying abuse survivors who contacted the church prior to any public announcement by the church or PBI.
At this stage, all that is left is speculation on why professional abuse counsellors would take this step. I think some of it has to do with what Mark Maxwell placed first in his December announcement – alumni. I have been understandably critical of a group of alumni called
themselves The Survivor Fund Project, recently re-naming naming themselves the Healing Team.
The group has been soliciting funds, which are managed and distributed to the alumni in the group to cover their expenses. They are not trained, and one of the key goals of this group has been to take survivors back to PBI for ‘reconciliation’, a process counsellors of abuse victims (emotional, mental, physical, , spiritual & sexual) caution strongly against.
I’ve written about The Survivor Fund Project here, here and here. The origins of the funding of these alumni have not been addressed by PBI. Upset and angry alumni have been verbally abusive to survivors online, and one alumni possibly connected with the original funding of The Survivor Fund Project is under investigation by Concord SC police for online behavior. That a group of alumni would be permitted to undermine the role of chosen professionals has been a concern for survivors. Given the existence of The Survivor Fund Project, the difficulties in communication with PBI, I believe Centre Street Church severing ties as 3rd party is wise. It is unknown how many survivors will be affected by this decision. Sources tell me that the decision to end the Centre Street Church role as a safe place for survivors to tell their stories and receive referrals for counselling was mutual.
As well, Bruce Miller and alumni online have been saying that abuse survivors are to contact the Three Hills detachment of the RCMP, despite a clear statement from the RCMP that a trained party in the Calgary detachment (Const. Mark MacDonald) had been specifically assigned to the PBI abuse allegations investigation. Constable Mark MacDonald:
“Hopefully I can clear up the concerns that have arisen. This investigation began with the Three Hills RCMP when the first person came forward. Almost immediately it was reported that there were between 80-90 victims of abuse that were willing to come forward with their stories. A file of that magnitude would overwhelm a small detachment and therefore my unit was brought in to assist Three Hills with the investigations. I was assigned as the primary investigator when my unit began to assist because of my experience conducting large investigations such as this. Three Hills is still actively involved in this investigation and I can tell you that there is absolutely no conflict between Three Hills and us.
As for reporting, upon my assignment to the file it was decided that my name would be used as the contact person for the investigation to minimize confusion. However, victims are welcome to report their story to whoever or where ever they please. The files will still filter back to me. Reporting to me just saves a few steps.
This is because in most cases, the investigating agency is the police detachment where the offence occurred (Three Hills) and they would likely have no knowledge of the magnitude of the file and the assistance being provided by our unit. This file is unique and therefore is slightly different.
As for an official statement, the media coverage from the RCMP from the onset of this investigation has been crystal clear. If you were the victim of any form of abuse at the Prairie Bible Institute or anywhere else in Canada, we want to hear from you.
This is some of what has been posted by a FB administrator on a Prairie Facebook page:
Unfortunately, under the present circumstances, the only way for victims of abuse to receive financial assistance with abuse recovery therapy would be to go through the Healing Team, or possibly the Center Street Church. What this means is that PBI is only willing to provide this level of assistance to individuals who go through one of their chosen, unofficial channels, in a manner that they deem acceptable and in-line with their model of how abuse should be dealt with in a Christian environment. Given that PBI is being investigated for failing to properly deal with abuse, it would be difficult to suggest that they can suddenly be fully trusted to know how to deal with it now. This asymmetrical approach is flawed in fairly obvious ways and will need to be addressed going forward – for the benefit of all parties. There are people continuously working behind the scenes to address these ongoing concerns.
No doubt more will be forthcoming soon from PBI.
Update: Prairie Bible Institute pr April 2, 2012
On December 16, 2011, Prairie Bible Institute announced that it would be working with Centre Street Church (CSC) in Calgary, AB to provide a safe, neutral and independent environment where any abuse victims could tell their stories. The church’s mandate was to hear from and direct these individuals to speak with the police or to pursue further professional counselling.
While some people approached CSC, we have been advised that interactions have dropped off significantly over the last several weeks. In light of this, and at the request of the church, we have mutually agreed to end this arrangement effective April 15, 2012.
We are pleased that CSC has been able to step up for us and are very grateful for their team of professional counselors led by Rev. Miriam Möllering, PhD.
Centre Street Church has provided a summary of findings and recommendations to PBI, which the leadership team is currently reviewing. It is our intention to combine CSC’s recommendations with our own policies, and the best practices in higher education, to ensure a safe environment that is vigilant against any form of abuse. We continue to believe that the Christian community should be a safe place for all to find healing and forgiveness, as well a place where justice prevails within an environment of grace.
Even though the formal arrangement with the church will conclude, it is important to note that several avenues continue to remain in place, those being to contact the police or the Alumni Healing Team, a group of committed alumni who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. While these are our recommended avenues, the school continues to be available to hear from any who wish to contact us.
We want to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have advised us over the past few months as we have worked our way through this.
Mark L. Maxwell
Prairie Bible Institute