On Leaving Bethel Village

(from Facebook- April 19, 2014) An open letter to students and volunteers:

A number of questions have arisen from people who are puzzled by my decision to leave Bethel Village, and expressing their concern that I have let down the ladies whom I have loved and served. With the Mission’s postings today referring to changes and comparing the old way ( under my tenure there) to the Levitical law and the new way to the law of love and grace, (which I believe may have been removed) have been given the freedom to express my own perspective of what happened.

I left under duress this past Wednesday, April 16, at about 10am, as the executive director of PCRM and the HR person sat in my office with a lengthy severance package, ready to fire me, that included restraining me from being honest about my experience there. I had already come to the conclusion that we were at an impasse and I would need to plan for something beyond Bethel Village. In fact, I met with our staff at Bethel Village just two hours earlier and told them I had decided to begin planning for an orderly departure at some point and giving them advance notice and the opportunity to help me plan to leave our students safe and informed.

There had been an effort since early October to marginalize me in any role of leadership. Any authority I had over decisions about the women’s program had already been stripped. I was meeting with obstacles at every turn, and, increasingly, with misrepresentations that I found necessary to challenge, even to the extent of believing that I would need to secure legal representation. I had repeatedly sought to negotiate for what I believed were policies we had established in the best interest of the program ladies, with no success.

Many may not know that I was put on paid administrative leave from 3/7 to 4/7 with no warning or discussion, while an “investigation” was conducted of allegations made by women who are no longer at Bethel Village. They are women that staff had been required to discipline in the past for their resistance to policies and who were at the end of their programs, for the most part. Someone saw an opportunity and took it. The entire investigation was handled poorly. I was never given a chance to hear the charges or defend myself. It looked very much like an extended effort to drum up a rationale for firing me. In the end, the HR person found no violations and recommended that I be returned to work without even placing a disciplinary letter in my personnel file, as she reported to me. From my return to work on 4/7 until 4/16 when I left rather than be fired, things went from difficult to impossible.

The proposed changes at PCRM are well and good, for what they wish to accomplish. It simply falls short of the standards for discipleship and mentoring in a decidedly Christian transformational way that we had worked hard to put into place over the last five years. Was the former program structured? Yes. Was it challenging? Yes. Did it work? For some, yes. And we have a number of testimonies to that fact, some of which will appear here in the days to come. For others, the requirement for evidence of true transformation of values, ethics, character, and behavior was more than they wanted to do. (We sought to produce fruit, not simply retain people in a program and use them in a work program to generate financial support.) Since recovery is a voluntary choice, the door was always open for women to exit who did not want what we offered. And I am sure under the newly changed PCRM program, that will continue to be the case.

I wish PCRM the very best. The need in our area is great and there is more than enough need for all who wish to engage in recovery efforts- Christian or secular, free or insurance-reimbursed, coed or single-gender- to stay busy all the time. We are in the midst of an epidemic of addictions of all kinds. People need hope that there is a way out of the pit in which some find themselves. Families are being destroyed all around us and our high rate of foster care in Bay County is a testimony to that reality. I am glad so many options exist in our community for them to find that hope and needed support.

The women’s Christian recovery ministry that we will continue under an independent organization will be small, it will be structured, it will be intensely transformational with a strong mentoring component, and will offer extra emphasis on aftercare and transition to work. It will also be low in financial investment and high in personal relationship investment. It will be about “life recovery”.

And in the end, all of us together will reach more people. Isn’t this the way many Christian endeavors have been born for centuries? People find that they have different ways of interpreting and following their call to spread the Gospel and they part ways, multiplying the reach and with the diversity that gives even more people the opportunity to find hope in Christ.