from xbytejp - Saturday, January 29, 2005
accessed 1977 times
Maria's Letter to the Family's Former Members
(Mama:) Since writing the above Letter, I have heard from Peter that not only is this a gathering of our TRF Supporter brethren, but that also in attendance are some of you former members. And of course I knew that I couldn't write a letter just to the TRF Supporter members and ignore you, the former members. Well, it's not that I couldn't, but I didn't want to! It's not very often, after all, that I have a chance to talk to you, to share my heart with you and to love you via my Letters.
I'm so thankful that Peter and Gary and Dust have had the opportunity to talk with you. Peter has spoken with me on the phone and briefly told me about some of the conversations that he has had with you and some of the others there, how his heart has broken for you, and how he has wept for you and with you.
I'm so sorry, my dear ones, for how you have suffered and for the difficult things you have experienced, both during the time you were in the Family and in recent years. I'm so sorry for how you have felt hurt and abandoned. It hurts me to think about how you hurt. It breaks my heart to see how your hearts have been broken. It pains me and I'm crying now to think how you have cried. I know there are times that you have felt alone and in despair and without hope. Questions, doubts, feelings of bitterness and resentment have overwhelmed you. You have questioned the love of the Lord, and the love of Dad, and me, and the Family.
I understand your feelings, and I don't condemn you. I don't think I can honestly say that I can completely fathom all that you have been through and experienced to bring you to the point where you are today. But I can honestly say that I'm so thankful you're there now with our Family and with Peter and Gary and Dust. I can honestly say that I love you, and they love you, and especially that the Lord loves you.
I'm not going to pretend that these three days that you have spent together with Peter and Gary and the brethren have healed all the hurts of the past, or completely renewed our fellowship and reconciled all our differences. But it is my prayer that it is at least a start, and that through this time of fellowship and communication and loving the Lord and each other, we will be on the road to greater unity and love and fruitfulness.
I know you love the Lord, and I believe you have some desire for fellowship with the Family, or you wouldn't be there at the TRF Supporter meeting. I only hope that in the days to come you will find what you need, and that we will be able to continue walking this road together toward greater communication, greater understanding, and forgiveness.
I've said this before to our TRF Supporters, and I'd like to say it to you former members as well, and that is that I am sorry for the way the Family has failed some of you in the past. I'm so sorry for the unloving behavior some of you experienced from some of our leaders and Family members. There are certainly many ways we could have done better. We could have been more tolerant, more accepting of other people's opinions. We could have practiced more teamworking in our earlier years. We could have listened to people's feelings with greater openness and been more human and willing to show ourselves weak. We could have been more ready to admit that we didn't have all the answers, that we were still learning. We could have been more gentle with some members who were weaker.
We could have done all these things, and we should have. I'm sorry--very sorry--for our past failures and mistakes and shortcomings, of which I know there are many that affected both you and our dear TRF Supporter members. Please accept my humble apology. I ask your forgiveness in the name of David and myself and the Family.
I was telling some of the Family the other day how the Lord has used our failings and shortcomings to teach the Family humility, to teach us brokenness and greater dependence upon Him. Yes, the Family has been blessed with some marvelous accomplishments. We've preached the Gospel around the world and won millions to His Heavenly Kingdom. But when you see all that could have been done, all that we had hoped would be done, and you read past MO Letters of all that Dad spoke of, you realize that we have fallen short in many ways.
But when praying about this, the Lord showed me that the most important thing, the greatest benefit or fruit that has come from these failures and shortcomings, is that the Family is now more humble and broken and dependent on the Lord. We now realize how weak we are and how much we need Jesus. We can't pat ourselves on the back and feel proud and strong because of our great accomplishments. We've made some good progress on many fronts, but in some cases it's not the progress nor success nor accomplishments that we had hoped for, or the fulfillment of all the ideals which Dad had written about in the Letters.
So, yes, I know the Family is not perfect, and we as a whole have gone through a lot of breakings and lessons and a time of training. In many ways we were children. But now, by God's grace, we have learned and matured and we have put away childish things. And the Lord has used it all to prepare us for what He has for us in the future. We who remain in the Family have had to put away our disappointments, our regrets, and the sadness we have felt because of our shortcomings and because we have not been all that we could have been or done all that we could have done.
I pray that as you leave this fellowship you will feel strengthened and renewed and that you will feel closer to the Lord and also to us.--That as you continue in your different ministries and walks of life, you will see His Love manifested more clearly, and you will have a renewed desire to serve Him to the best of your ability. I pray that your fellowship with the Family will be sweeter, and that through it you will find strength and encouragement. I pray that our bonds together as Christians will grow stronger, that the Love of Christ will constrain us in our interactions one with another, and that with time we will gain a greater appreciation one for another.
There is so much to do to win the world for Jesus, and we are not kidding ourselves by thinking that someone has to be in the Family, either as a DO member or a TRF Supporter, in order to serve the Lord and bring forth fruit for Him. If you haven't found it yet, I pray that each of you will find a place of service and a ministry that will bring you great satisfaction and joy and fulfillment in your lives. I pray that your children will be happy, healthy and strong in their love for you and the Lord. It must be very difficult being on your own without the immediate strength of brethren close at hand, but I know the Lord will lead and guide you and supply your needs, as you follow Him. I love you! I hug and kiss each one of you. God bless and keep you.
(From: “Bridging The Gap!--Between DO And TS Family Members!” ML #3068, August 1996. World Services p. 100-110, 115-116)
An Open Letter to All Current and Former Family Members
Greetings in Jesus' name! Maria has asked me to write this open letter to you as part of our continued effort to help break down the walls of partition that have arisen between current and former Family members over the years. Throughout the Family's 28-year history, thousands of people have joined the Family as full-time members. Many of them, for a variety of reasons, have felt led to leave the Family and pursue other courses in their lives.
There is a great diversity in the way those previously in the Family feel about the Family and their time as members. Some look at their time in the Family as a positive experience, others as a negative one. Some wished to remain in contact with current Family members; others did not seek such contact. Some feel that the Family benefited their lives; others feel it was detrimental. Some have spoken out on the Family's behalf; others have spoken against the Family.
Because of past Family rules, up until a few years ago the Family did not actively seek to have contact with former members. For some former members this was a welcome relief, but for others it was a sign of abandonment. Over the last couple of years, and even more so in the past few months, we, the Family's leadership, have become painfully aware of the hurt that some former members have felt. We have looked for ways to heal the pain and rejection some former members have experienced and to reconcile with those who have been hurt. It is our hope to be able to further undo some of that hurt by apologizing to those who have been offended, and to continue to open channels of communication for any who wish to communicate with us.
The Family took a significant step toward a change of attitude vis-à-vis its former members in October 1993, when a dialogue was opened between former and current members.
From that time on, the Family has taken a number of steps to meet with former members and discuss ways to bridge the gap between them and current members. A toll-free number was set up for anyone wishing to communicate with the Family or desiring to locate friends or loved ones within the Family. A meeting was held in California in November 1993 between Family representatives and David and Mary Lou Hiebert (known in the Family as Zebedee and Zorah Rabbit, or "the Z's"), editors of the "No Longer Children" newsletter, a publication for former Family members. In time there were meetings between other current and former members, all of which began to lay the foundation for a mutual bond of trust, the basic building block for any kind of meaningful relationship.
In July 1996, in Laurel, Maryland, during a Family fellowship organized by some of the TRF Supporter Family, I, Peter Amsterdam, and Gary--together representing Maria, World Services and the Family's leadership--held various conversations with Sharon Wilson (known in the Family as Joanna Cook) and George and Woodie Terrel (known in the Family as Vessel and Lamb Harper). Sharon, George and Woodie are members of "Safe Haven," a communication and support network made up of former members of the Family. They were not attending this fellowship meeting as representatives of "Safe Haven" but as independent former members. We also spoke extensively with former member Happy Wotila (Joab). During this fellowship I read an open letter written by Maria to all former Family members, portions of which are included with this letter.
In October 1996, Dust and Simon (both members of the North American Continental leadership) and I met for two days in Jacksonville, Florida, with "Safe Haven" members Sharon and Pope Wilson (known in the Family as Jaakan Giant), George and Woodie Terrel, John and Linda Hardy (known in the Family as Nekoda and Bathshua) and Abraham Brosius. The purpose of this meeting was for all of us to gain a better understanding of one another, to explore ways to overcome past hurts and to find ways to prevent future problems and misunderstandings between current and former members, in an effort to heal the rift and establish a relationship of love and acceptance of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
During this meeting there was a healthy and spirited exchange of ideas, grievances, explanations and the like. All parties went away with a better understanding of the other's point of view, which seemed to draw us all closer together, having seen and heard each other's hurts, opinions and outlook…
We, the Family's leadership, have acknowledged that some former members were treated unfairly, harshly, and in an unloving manner, and we have officially apologized for this in a number of publications over the last few years. It is also understood that some former members have spoken out in the media against the Family, while others have actively campaigned for governmental action against the Family, all of which has resulted in Family members being harassed, Homes being raided and, in some cases, children being forcibly taken away from their parents at gunpoint.
There has been hurt on both sides. However, it's important to understand that not every Family member was responsible for or caused the hurt experienced by those who left the Family, just like not every former member was responsible for the trauma suffered by Family members and their children at the hands of the media and government authorities. It would therefore be best to avoid blaming either the Family as a whole, or former members in general, for the hurt and pain experienced on either side.
On several occasions, Family leadership has written and encouraged the Family to foster friendly and loving contact and communications with former members who likewise desire such contact. The following are excerpts from a Family publication on the subject, dated August 1996 and written by Peter Amsterdam:“ (End of excerpts of Peter's letter to the Family.)
As stated earlier, we clearly understand that some former members have had negative and hurtful experiences in the Family. We have apologized in written publications a number of times over the last years. However, you personally may not have received a copy of these publications. The following is an excerpt from one of those publications, written by Maria in September 1995:
"Likewise, if any of you ex-members who may be reading this have had negative sexual experiences while with us, or you were treated unlovingly or harshly, either before or after you left the Family, we are sorry. Our goal is to be the Lord's Family of Love, so if you suffered unloving treatment from any Family member, we ask you to please forgive us. The Lord has been teaching us all a lot about how important it is that we are loving and kind with one another. As a Family, we are asking Him to help us to love Him and others more, for without love we have nothing! So if we failed you in not being loving enough, please forgive us." (End of excerpt by Maria.)
The following is a portion of a letter written by Peter Amsterdam to a judge during a court case involving custody of a Family child in Britain in October 1995:
"Maria, Gary and myself and World Services acknowledge that any abuse of children is abhorrent, whether it be sexual abuse or other forms of abuse, and we are determined that the Family will be a safe environment for all our children and teens to be brought up in.
"We acknowledge that in certain places at certain times the Family has not been as safe an environment for them as it should have been. Over the last nine years, we have taken progressive steps to make it as safe as possible, and have apologized to those who have suffered harm, and we recognize this litigation and these communications as an opportunity to apologize again. We sincerely believe that the Family today is a safe place, and we have established safeguards to make sure it will remain so.
"Your Lordship has asked us to acknowledge that Father David, through his writings, was personally responsible for children in the Family being sexually abused. Father David wrote a series of Letters concerning sexual behavior. The judgment refers in particular to 'The Law of Love' and 'The Devil Hates Sex.' And we accept that as the author of ideas upon which some members acted to the harm of minors in the Family, he must bear responsibility for that harm. Maria, and all of us in World Services leadership, also feel the burden of responsibility. Maria in particular has done an enormous amount to put a stop to any sexual maltreatment of children and instituted strict safeguards to make sure it will never happen again.
"We acknowledge that it was wrong to proclaim a teaching of sexual liberty (i.e., in 1976 and 1978) without establishing clear rules to ensure that sexual contact did not take place between adults and children. Further, in 1980 Father David's statements in his discourse entitled 'The Devil Hates Sex' opened the door for sexual behavior between adults and minors, such sanctioning being a direct cause of later abusive behavior by some Family members at that time. In addition, we also acknowledge with regret that more specific and concrete restraints were not introduced earlier, and that Father David should have done so immediately upon receiving indications that problems were beginning to develop.
"The extension of the Law of Love to sexual matters was a unique contribution of Father David's to the Family, and we accept and acknowledge that he bears responsibility for what arose as a result of it. Among other things, we acknowledge that his beliefs and teachings led to the setting aside of ordinary sexual taboos and restraints, particularly between adults, and this significantly contributed to the development of an overly sexualized atmosphere in a number of Family communities, of which children were a part. Unfortunately, this further led to a number of children being subjected to sexually inappropriate behavior." (End of excerpt of Peter's letter to the judge in Britain.)
It is the Family's sincere hope that the differences, the hurts of the past, the distrust and anything else that divides current and former members can be overcome and forgiven, and that we all can accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our prayer is that anyone who wishes to contact and communicate with a current Family member will feel free to do so, and that such contact will be met with enthusiasm and love. If you have any questions about the Family or our current doctrines or practices, or if you wish to contact someone in the Family, please don't hesitate to call the 800 number or contact the e-mail address listed previously. We will do our best to answer your questions and to pass on your message to the one you are seeking. Those answering the phone do not have information as to the whereabouts of every Family member, but they will do all they can to contact the various major centers around the world in order to help locate the person you are looking for in order to give them your message.
We ask that you please understand that the Family is made up of thousands of individuals who are encouraged to act according to their own faith in all matters. It is our hope that each one would welcome communication with any former member who wishes to communicate or fellowship. However, this may not always be the case. If you are rebuffed by specific Family members, please do not consider that their actions reflect the whole Family's feelings or policy. We are trying to bridge the gap between current and former members, and we sincerely wish to do our part to heal any wounds or hurts. We ask for your understanding, forgiveness and cooperation in these matters.
God bless and keep you,
For Maria and the Family Leadership
(“An Open Letter To All Current And Former Family Members” (Excerpts) ML #3091, February 1996. World Services)
Reply to Allegations from a Former Member
ACCUSATION: It took Maria and Peter years to admit the obvious; sexual abuse of minors had occurred in the Family, MO was directly responsible for it, and that it is a sin in the eyes of God. Neither MO, Maria, nor Peter were ever truly sorry for advocating that adults have sexual contact with minors. They were terribly sorry, however, that after years the court forced them to publicly admit that MO was wrong, and responsible for the harm that children had suffered.
(Mama:) It is sad that issues that have been resolved for years are once again brought up, but because they have been, I will address them once again. Before doing so, I want to point out that the claim that Peter and I are not sorry for any hurt that happened to individuals in the Family is absolutely false. We are very sorry that anyone was hurt, and have publicly apologized and have asked for forgiveness in various ‑Letters or other publications. (See the 1992 Statement on Child Abuse; "Our Beliefs Concerning the Lord's Law of Love," ML #2858:50-51, published in 6/93; "An Answer to Him That Asketh Us," ML #3016:18-20, 52-56, published in 9/95; Mama's Letter to Former Members in "Bridging the Gap," ML #3068:101- 108, published in 8/96; "An Open Letter to All Current and Former Family Members," ML #3091:3,10h,15-22, published in 12/96.)
If some choose not to believe or accept our apology, that is their prerogative, but God knows our hearts. We are sorry about anyone who has been hurt in any way during their time in the Family. Not only are we sorry, but we have established firm rules regarding sexual contact between adults and minors, making it an excommunicable offense in 1986. We have also included clear rules and punishment in the Charter to ensure that no harm of any kind related to sexual or physical abuse happens, and if it does, that those who caused it can be disciplined. Our apologies were not only words, but actions which have significantly changed the governance of the Family.
Let's remember that 14 years ago, in 1986, Dad and I banned all sexual activity between adults and minors. This was years before the Family was involved in large court cases, and therefore it cannot be said that we made this ban under pressure from the courts or the ‑System. In 1988, again years before any court cases, sex with a minor became an excommunicable ‑offense, and it very explicitly remains so in the Charter.
In 1988 we published the "Child Abuse?!" tract in which Dad made the definitive statement, "We do not approve of sex with minors, and hereby renounce any writings of anyone in our Family which may seem to do so! We absolutely forbid it!" This clearly showed Dad's stance regarding the matter.
Later, in the Letter "An Answer to Him That Asketh Us," we used the definitions of the words in that sentence in order to further clarify our position, so that it read: "We do not consider it right or good, we do not think or speak favorably of, nor do we officially [or unofficially] consent to, confirm or sanction sex with minors. As a result of this fact, I reject, disown, abandon and give up by open profession every single writing of any person in the Family which may appear to approve of it. Without condition or limitation, we command the Family not to indulge in sex with minors" (ML #3016:26).
In that same statement of 1988 Dad renounced all literature, including his own, that indicated in any way that sexual activity with minors was permissible. Based on his renunciation of such Family literature, he approved our lit purges, which expunged all such literature, no matter who it was written by, including his own. Dad didn't just renounce his old writings; he had them destroyed.
The Letter "Child Abuse: A Final Warning" was published in 1989, a few months after the 1988 Child Abuse statement came out. In it, we stated: "We've already put out an urgent notice to the Family and to the whole world that we don't do such things, and we mean it, we don't do it!--And anybody who does is in serious trouble, not only with the world but with us!" (ML #2536:10).
Also in 1989 the Letter "D.O. Is for DOers of the Word!" (ML #2531) was published, in which Dad listed the excommunicable offenses, including the following:
14. Sex with Minors
We do not advocate nor practice sex between adults and minors (someone who is under-age)...Any such practice is strictly forbidden within our group and anyone found guilty of such will be automatically and immediately excommunicated--totally severed from receiving any literature or from having any contact with the Family whatsoever. (Right!--D.)
Excerpt of LNF 121, sent out in 1989
10. "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones!"
…We want to reiterate that the "Child Abuse" tract was not only our official statement to the System but also our official statement to any Family members, part-time or otherwise, that any such practice is strictly forbidden within our group, and anyone found guilty of such will be automatically and immediately excommunicated --totally severed from receiving any literature or from having any contact with the Family whatsoever! (Right!--D.)
The preceding excerpts of Letters and statements make it obvious that we had definite rules against sexual contact between adults and minors since 1986. As I said in "An Answer to Him That Asketh Us," we should have had rules in effect much earlier that would have prevented any of our young people from being hurt. We didn't, and we're sorry we didn't because it made it possible for some young people to be hurt. Adult/minor sex has been an excommunicable offense for 12 years. Any sexual crossovers in the Family are considered sin and they remain an excommunicable offense, which will be disciplined according to the guidelines in the Charter. If you are aware of any type of sexual impropriety, you know what to do--report it! In fact, those who do not report such things are guilty as well and subject to the same discipline.
We've been accused of flip-flopping in our stance on adult/minor sex. We haven't. It is clear that 14 years ago, in 1986, Dad and I put a ban on any adult/minor sexual activity. In 1988, 12 years ago, we made it excommunicable and it has remained so since then. We made it quite clear that any such activity was wrong and not allowed within our communities. While the theological discussion may have continued, the fact is that any adult/minor sex was excommunicable. In 1995 the Lord spoke explicitly on the subject. Here is an excerpt from that GN:
As far as we're concerned, that's the final word on it. Any questions about whether adult/minor sexual contact is at all possibly permissible in theory or theologically were laid to rest. This overrides anything that was ever written suggesting otherwise. Once the Lord said it was sin, we announced it to the Family and that has been our stance since that time.
I want to emphasize this point, because I don't want any of you thinking that our stance on this issue is ambiguous. The Lord made it clear at the time of "An Answer to Him That Asketh us" that all adult/minor sexual contact is sin. We consider it as such. It is wrong and results in excommunication.
Everyone knows, and numerous courts acknowledge, that solid safeguards have been put into place to protect young people in the Family from abuse, and as such, they are no more likely to suffer abuse than young people in society at large. You who are in the Family know that for 12 years any sexual crossover has been grounds for excommunication; you also know that you need to protect your young people and all young people in the Family from any abusive situation. You know that our official stance is that any form of adult/minor sex is a sin. If you know of any infraction of the Charter rules taking place, it is your duty to report it. This is a resolved point.
Our detractors, however, continue to bring it up and try to document supposed wrongdoing on my and Peter's part. The facts stand. We've faced these accusations in many court cases and have won every time. We have admitted and apologized for the past, we have asked forgiveness, we have put strong rules in place, and we have moved on from all of this. My question is, why don't they?
Again, I want to apologize to any of those who have been hurt by any wrongdoing by anyone during their time in the Family. We ask your forgiveness. We have done all we can to prevent any such things happening again. The Family has changed, and even the judge who so strongly condemned some of the things that happened in the past officially stated in his written judgment that the Family is a safe place for children.
(From: LNF 121:10) (“None Of These Things Move Me!” ML #3307, July 2000. World Services. p. 64-66, 80-86, 91-96, 122)
It is our prayer that this reconciliation process will continue to provide support and friendship to those making the transition from a close, communal, faith-based support system to an independent secular lifestyle.
If you have any questions or comments, we invite you to contact us at one of the following addresses:
2020 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20006–1846
Or call in the USA at:
1 (800) 4–A–FAMILY [423–3264], or
1 (202) 298–0838
Web site: www.thefamily.org
Luton, LU1 1RS