Disclosure & Vulnerability (2020)
I’ve spent a long time on Morning Mercy through the years. It’s hard to explain how much was invested in this online space. Most the effort will never be visible on the pages or the articles contained within.
This website was kicked off with a public declaration of leaving the message. It was raw, honest and sincere. In the final portion of the declaration, I emphatically expressed how I had no fear, that I stood by my decision, that I was engaged more than ever in my faith and that I was a Christian.
I stand by those words as being sincere – they were a true representation of my heart as I wrote it. Nearly 8 years later, in this moment of vulnerability, I want to share that I no longer call myself a Christian.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned after leaving the message was the meaning of vulnerability and authenticity. It’s a difficult thing to find – and is something I’m still working on. It’s been a personal goal of healing for me to be more expressive, and that’s what I am allowing myself to do here: be vulnerable and authentic.
I was warned many times by message friends that I was destined to ‘fall’. It was not as though their words were prophetic, nor improbable. I clearly knew that I was opening my mind to change, and I was accepting the risk of an uncertain future. Truthfully, I felt my decision to leave the message wasn’t even an option. Based on the evidence I saw, I had to. Agree or disagree, the greater indictment on my character would have been for me to stay when I knowingly saw blatant error.
Other people had opportunity to examine the same evidence, and perhaps they didn’t see the issues as I did. Or perhaps they did, and chose to ignore. Whether willfully or in err, we all choose.
I think it’s important for me share where I stand now. Especially since my earliest articles and my original testimony offered a statement of faith. Though I have no desire to persuade anyone against their Christianity, I recognize my words – past, present and future – may be esteemed as “tainted”. I don’t want to mislead people into thinking my advice is “godly counsel”, if they later learn I may not view things in a similar manner.
I believe my personal path is just that – my own. I have many friends who left the message who continue to thrive in their faith. It cannot be construed that leaving the message always results in the abandonment of faith. I support those who remain faithful in their walk; I assume those have examined their faith, as they should. For them, I am grateful for continuing friendship.
It would be my opinion that anyone leaving the message should do the diligent work of pursing the questions of their faith. That, in fact, is the point – examine all things, and don’t follow me for the sake of following. There are good Christian churches and pastors, offering spiritual guidance. Men like Ravi Zacharias – who’s passing I mourned – and many others are wise with words that penetrate deeply. [ *Amended Comment: I was unaware of the accusations of sexual abuse against Mr. Zacharias prior to writing this; it’s a horrible, disappointing shame.] I will not shy from directing people to these resources or to suggest they find counsel with former message believers who continue in their faith. Finding a different conclusion than I have doesn’t bother me.
For myself, I could not quiet my mind to the questions and concerns I wrestled with. My questions were many, and after years of seeking – I determined that Christianity did not provide answers that satisfied me. I am a different man, for sure, but I will carry the lessons of my faith with me always.
To conclude, a good friend who was questioning the message once wrote to tell me – though he had concerns with William Branham – he couldn’t dare risk to take his family venturing into “the wilderness” outside the message. What if they perished? And my response was simply — you’ll perish in Egypt no less than you’ll perish in the wilderness. To stay in Egypt is to prefer fear over honesty. I know he doesn’t equate the message with Egypt – and that’s fair enough. But to me… when fear is the thing stopping you at the door, you might wonder if that’s a good thing.
I am grateful for my journey into the wilderness. To some – because of this disclosure, I have perished. To me…the Message was my “Egypt”. And then maybe “religion” was my wilderness. Far from me to say things are now perfect – there’s no promised land I’m aiming for. But from where I am now, I’m alive – and still on my way.
Though I will not presume to offer spiritual guidance, I still have perspective and experience, which I believe will remain a benefit to those seeking a new path. Future articles will reflect this vantage point.
I only found your website today and just read your ‘Disclosure & Vulnerability’ post; it was good; great work overall. I believe you still can offer godly or spiritual guidance in this current climate regardless if you consider yourself a Christian or not. I can relate to your story; I live in Newfoundland now, but grew in Edmonton in a ‘Message’ church in the 80/90’s but I cannot recall you, but I bet we have many common relationships. Love to chat sometime if you are so inclined.
Thanks for the message. I certainly do agree — ‘advice’ in issues of the message come from a place of experience and knowledge. I have an awareness that people leaving the message would be skeptical and nervous knowing what my “fate” was. I respect that – and disclosure is necessary. One thing I know – the same heart and good intention I brought into the message and my spiritual life is in me.
I grew up in Terry Sproule’s – while most of my extended family were in the Hildebrandt’s church. With a ‘gap’ of some years when my parents left the church, I came back into the message on my own in 1998, so unless you were around at that time, we may not have crossed paths. I attended Ron McCafferty’s church – which was taken over by Eugene Braun.
For a long time after I left I felt an emptiness and questioned my whether there really was a God or not and questioned whether I believed in Christianity. It took years but I do believe in God and my relationship is very much an individual one than I ever had when I went to a ‘Message’ Church. I don’t go to any Church on a regular basis and I miss that sense of belonging to a group. Perhaps I will join a church one day!
Back then I actually went to both Churches; we moved to Edmonton in 1981 and we attended Hildebrandt’s (my father was the song leader there for 2-3 years) then we went to Sproule’s in mid 80’s. You may know my sister, Carolyn Brown. A good friend of mine still goes to Eugene’s church, David Kessir. Dave was a friend of mine when neither of us went to Church back in the early 90’s.
your commentary about the dearth of godly counseling within the ranks of the message is spot on. i could write a book on this subject based on what I have experienced and witnessed. while I still believe in the message w/my whole heart, I find the lack of counseling most distressing. having suffered a nervous breakdown over 5 years ago, I am more sensitive to brokenness and the feelings of being lost. i wish I could something to make it better- even in a small space for one moment in time.
Rocco – do you still engage in Message circles? (I had the impression you were an ex-message believer). If you do, there’s some people who might share your heart that would be interesting for you to talk to. Steeve Brisson in Quebec, Canada and Bob Brooks (who was in Ohio). They are two men who practiced “Caring for the Heart” counselling like I did, and have a real heart for helping people. So for as Message ministers, they were admirable.
I agree.. there is a desperate need for more help. I hope you can find a way to help, if that’s your desire!
Hi John! This is a very delayed response, I apologize! David Kessir is a family member (he’s a 2nd/3rd cousin of mine). Unless he moved churches, he never attended Eugene Brauns (I would be shocked if he did – he was very loyal to the Hildebrandt church). The message is a small world, in a lot of respects; there are a lot of connections from church to church – even over the years, you can usually find people who you know scattered in assemblies across the continent. 😊
Religion in general can be so damaging to people. Jesus stood against the religious authorities in his day and promoted love and grace. I am a Christian simply because I have a relationship with this Teacher of love. I do understand why people get disillusioned with all of it, especially after being in an oppressive religious system. Each person must walk their own journey and live their own story. Thank you for being so candid and honest.
Thank you again, Kathy! I know my wife and I have experienced changes in our views – but in no way has our care, understanding and love for people diminished. I will always have friends who walk different roads – many of whom are Christian. I can appreciate, respect, value and support them as friends, regardless of differences. I encourage you in yours – you and Paul (I typed Jeff at first – but I corrected! Ha!) will forever remain special, and I appreciate your continuing heart for helping people.
I was at Terry’s church for quite a while. After I left, the stories of sexual abuse I could tell you would curl your hair, the weight I felt lift off was incredible.