The Follow-Up Post (6 Months Later)
CW: spiritual abuse, emotional abuse
NOTE: this post was originally written in April 2019 and was taken down as per the same reason that the first post was taken down (see note on link below). I am now re-posting.
I originally wrote “My Experience with Inner Healing Prayer Ministry” in October 2018. It’s been 6 months now, and I thought I’d write a follow-up post to update people on what has happened since then.
The short answer: a whole lot of nothing.
A Performative Show of Concern
The long answer: I met with the board of directors for Transformation Ministries in November 2018. Denise and Ginger were not present at the meeting, despite (as far as I know) actually being on the board. Their board consists of close friends, and in some cases, colleagues in the whole inner healing prayer/ ministry circle. In other words, people who have no way, or even interest in the ability, to be objective.
I will say that they treated me with respect and friendliness, despite the coldness and mixed messaging of the emails beforehand. They appeared to take my concerns very seriously. Dave George shut down and waved away any attempts of mine to speak about the emotional impact of what I’d been through, as well as any questions I tried to ask to invoke empathy with any of them. But despite that, we discussed quite a lot of practical suggestions as to how conflicts like the current one could both be avoided and satisfactorily resolved in the future.
Besides feeling frustrated that I was basically there to teach them some actual ethics in ministry, it seemed promising at the time that they might make some changes. If it had resulted in some kind of resolution, I would have considered the emotional labor worth it.
But strangely, it did not.
No Further Follow Up
If all of that had been followed up with actual actions on their part, it would have gone a long way to show me that they really do take people’s concerns seriously. As things stand, however, they have done nothing to my knowledge to put into action anything I said in that room in any way. I got a thank-you letter from them a month later, for attending the meeting and re-sharing everything I’d written in emails to them in person at the meeting…and for my input on practical solutions.
And nothing else.
I learned from someone that used to know me back in 2013 (when I first started meeting with Denise and Ginger) that — unsurprisingly — Denise pulled this person aside on several occasions and told her very personal things about me, things that she only knew in confidence. This included a warning against allowing me to become emotionally close to her, as it could hinder the healing process for someone with my kind of problems.
A close relationship with someone like me, according to Denise, needed to be left to professionals. She didn’t say it, but the implication was: professionals like her.
Written File Request: Unanswered
For my part, I tried to give Denise the benefit of the doubt. I have, at various times in my healing process, given consent for her to discuss my “case” with people who were playing a significant role in my life at that time, in case it would be helpful. If I had given consent for this, Transformation Ministries should have that consent form on file in writing. On December 26th, I sent a letter to Denise at Transformation Ministries via certified mail, formally requesting my ministry file. I requested any and all ministry notes from sessions, as well as any consent or release forms I had signed or revoked during the course of our 4-year ministerial relationship. I wanted to see for myself what I had consented to and/or revoked, in case I was missing something from a very emotionally-charged period of time in my life.
I know that my request was received because she signed for it shortly before or after (I forget which) New Year’s.
It has been nearly 4 months, and I have yet to receive anything in the way of a file. I have received nothing. No response at all. (Although if she’s smart, she probably conveniently “lost” anything in writing pertaining to me as soon as I showed myself to be a troublemaker.)
No Response from the Higher Ups
That same week I sent a copy of my original Medium post to Father Andrew Miller, the founder of the “Heartsync” method that Denise and Ginger teach and use in their ministry. I wanted him to have a chance to respond to the situation. I had 2 different addresses for him, so I sent a copy to both.
I sent emails to two different churches in Nashville. The first, One Stone, is the church where Transformation Ministries has use of a “ministry room” for their sessions; I sent a link to the Medium post to the pastors there. I felt it was important for them to know what one person’s experience of that “ministry” had been, since they were providing the physical space for it.
The second, Grace Center in Franklin, is the church I used to attend myself (Denise and Ginger are also members there) where they teach at that church’s ministry school (School Of Supernatural Life, or SOSL) twice a year. Here is what I sent:
I did receive one response from one person at Grace Center, even though I sent it to a total of 5–6 people. The response, sent by Tony Wakefield, was more confusing than anything else:
Opening and closing sentences were omitted for space and irrelevance. Children’s names and our location were blacked out for privacy.
I wrote this email back to Tony:
Closing sentence was omitted for space and irrelevance.
One week later I sent this:
No response. No one ever said one more word to me about the subject.
Nothing Has Changed, and Nothing Will Change
I worked with Into Account most of this time, and got feedback from them on all of the above mentioned steps I took. Into Account is a nonprofit organization that seeks to hold religious institutions accountable for abuse that occurs within religious contexts. They also offer support and resources for survivors. Into Account published a shortened version of my original Medium post on their blog, Our Stories Untold, on February 26, 2019. It got some Tweets and FB shares, as well as a handful of comments (which I appreciate), but as far as I know nothing has changed for Transformation Ministries at all.
Denise (and her daughter, oddly) and Ginger continue to block and ignore me. They have withheld my ministry file. They continue to teach their vague gatekeeping spiritual rhetoric about healing a person’s inmost wounds — of which (according to them) everyone has need of, before they can become their true self and find their God-given calling — by some specific method of communicating with God that must be learned from (or arbitrated by) only people who already know this method. (Although you, too, can learn the method if you want to pay for it!) Denise continues to be a guest speaker at local churches in the Nashville area — speaking, I’m sure, about how vital it is to let God lead you and shape your life, with some comments about authenticity and vulnerability (and maybe boundaries) thrown in for good measure.
Does God ghost people? Does God choose to circle the wagons and ignore people you’ve directly harmed instead of choosing to be vulnerable and listen to them with humility and perhaps learn something about yourself that might help you?
The Personal Fallout
I experience the effects of what happened to me at the hands of this ministry every single day. I am in the middle of an intense bout of depression, and it makes functioning difficult.
It’s a struggle for me to reach out to anyone, even my friends. It feels like I wake up and try to do life every single day with a dead elephant chained to my ankles.
Functional tasks mostly feel overwhelming. Extracurricular tasks are out of the question. I’ve actually thought about writing this particular post that you’re reading right now for about 3 months — and I’m a writer; I’m used to churning this type of thing out in an hour — if that tells you anything. The thought of trying to find a professional to talk to about any of it mostly just makes me feel anxious and weary.
Because of the conservative laws in Tennessee, and because Transformation Ministries can hide behind the label of “faith-based ministry,” there’s not a whole lot I can do, legally speaking. Ironically, there isn’t really a genuine way to actually hold them accountable. Writing and having my say on the internet is cathartic in a small way, but as for it actually having any real-life impact, I have my doubts.
I wanted to write a big long treatise on the problems in evangelical Christianity and the dysfunctional aspects of patriarchy in the Christian church that make my situation so common. But I honestly don’t have the spoons for it today.
The Silence of Friends
What I do want to say about all of it is this: one of the most painful things about making this story known publicly has not been the lack of response from Transformation Ministries themselves — that has hardly been surprising to me. After the initial shock and betrayal last summer when I tried to reach out to them directly, nothing else about their behavior has really surprised me all that much since then.
One of the most painful things in this whole experience has been the silence of my mutual friends. The people who are still in my friend list who are also still friends with Denise and Ginger. Some of them were very involved in the story at first, but have since disappeared. Whether that’s because they have Denise and Ginger whispering in their other ear, painting themselves as the actual victims in all this, I don’t know.
One of the big problems in evangelicalism that I am not going to elaborate on in this post (because I don’t have the energy) is that very early on, people allow others to become their conscience.
It’s the nature of the beast; the spiritual leader sets themselves up as someone who is more spiritually mature and therefore more morally superior to their followers. In turn, the followers allow someone else to tell them what’s moral and what isn’t, and they learn to compartmentalize and ignore their own natural inborn sense of right and wrong. This allows room for a whole lot of atrocities to occur, and people do and say nothing because they’re not convinced it’s wrong because whatever spiritual guru they’re listening to at the time doesn’t tell them it’s wrong.
Maybe people hesitate because they’ve been profoundly impacted by Denise and Ginger in a positive way. Well guess what? So was I, in many ways. That doesn’t mean they didn’t make some awful choices and shouldn’t be called out on them. Listen, you can acknowledge that someone you admire, love, and respect has made some really wrong choices without negating the good they may have done in your life. The ability to see someone as human — and ask that they are actually held to the accountability that they claim they want — is really healthy. The converse is putting them on a pedestal, which gives them way too much power in your life.
“The Only Thing That Matters”
The last sermon I listened to by Denise (which I can’t find a link to, anymore…maybe it was taken down?) which was sometime in December or January, contained one line in it that told me everything I need to know. She was a guest speaker somewhere or another, and was leading the audience in a guided meditation toward the end of her message. The idea she was conveying is that the only thing that matters is how God sees you.
To demonstrate, she used herself as an example and said it had been one of the hardest years of her life, but no matter what had been happening, “no matter what anyone else is accusing me of,” etc, etc, etc, it didn’t matter because all that mattered was how God sees her. The statement that she is being “accused” of things implies that the accusations are false, which hints that she is the victim here. I can tell you right now that if she sees herself as the victim in this situation — the situation wherein I have simply told the truth, since neither she nor Ginger nor her board nor her circle of supporters have been willing to listen to any of it — well, that’s telling.
I don’t know if that’s her story amongst our mutual friends. I know one person that was a mutual friend initially reached out to me on FB via DM back in October and told me she was grateful I’d shared my story and that she related to a lot of it. She told me she’d been in a lot of therapy herself, trying to heal from what happened between her and Denise and Ginger. Then a week later she came back, told me she’d re-read it and our stories weren’t actually that similar and then she un-friended me and has not spoken another word to me since.
At any rate, I don’t want to belabor this point any further, but the silence of my mutual friends has been the most painful thing about the whole ordeal. Maybe it’s personal, maybe it isn’t, but either way, don’t think I didn’t notice.
I’m not here to say that everyone who knows me and who also knows Denise and Ginger has to take sides and if they don’t take mine, we can’t be friends anymore. I’m just saying that navigating the whole idea that people can hear my experience AND still sing Denise and Ginger’s praises has been excruciatingly difficult for me to navigate. Put yourself in my position. How would you feel?
I still don’t see Denise and Ginger as my enemies. But I do see their lack of willingness to listen to the cries of the people (plural — it’s not just me) they’ve harmed as a serious problem. One that will only lead to repeating that harm with more people, if they continue like this. Denise flat out says her mission in life is to “multiply” what she offers so that people who need ministry don’t have to sit on a waiting list until she is personally available. If their whole mission is to multiply, and there’s a whole bunch of hurting people that they’ve been sweeping under the rug, what exactly do you think is being multiplied? You can’t pick and choose.
One of Denise and Ginger’s big themes that they like to incorporate into everything they teach is “say ‘yes’ to God.” So again, I ask: does God ghost people? Does God make promises he doesn’t keep? Does God ignore people who have been harmed? Does God block people who have been hurt?
If not, why do they?