A Response to Brian McLaren’s Statement

Last night, with a desire to explain where she was coming from, Rachel Held Evans sent private messages and emails to people who have questioned the way allegations of abuse against Tony Jones have been handled by the wider progressive Christian community. Evans’s message (to me) contained a link to a Scribd site which she said reflected the experiences of many other progressive Christian leaders’ experiences.

The link provided by Evans goes to a statement written by Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren in defense of Tony Jones against the allegations of his former wife Julie McMahon. (Statement archived as a PDF here.) The statement is part of a Scribd site called “WhyTony.” On the site (as well as the WhyTony Twitter and WhyTony Storify accounts) one finds many declarations for Jones and against McMahon by the celebrities of progressive Christianity. Everyone from Nadia Bolz-Weber to Brandon Robertson, from Phyllis Tickle to McLaren, declare they stand in solidarity with Jones against, basically, the so-called evil that is Julie McMahon. (Robertson, for example, tells Jones that he and others are “standing in solidarity with you.”) These are the “many” to which Rachel referred.

I have to admit, at this point my heart feels very heavy. Being a homeschool alum who has witnessed firsthand how the conservative Christian homeschool movement has silenced abuse survivors and protected the leaders in power, I have long felt a distance from Christianity and the Church in general. I have felt the Church is an unsafe place for many survivors of abuse like myself. But the hopeful part in me thought that maybe, just maybe, it was the conservative nature of the Christianity I was raised in that facilitated the silencing of survivors and the powerful standing in solidarity with the abusers.

But now that final, little shred of hope has been torn from my trembling hands. When I read Evans’s message last night, and went — shaking — to review that site, I felt dizzy and like I wanted to throw up. I had but a bit of hope and now that hope is gone. While I have always known — and taught — that abuse can happen anywhere, in any community, I have never felt so fully and deeply that this really is the case.  That Evans — or any of the people who contributed to that site’s defense of Jones and full-blown attack on McMahon — thought that it was a good idea astounds me. Even if Jones was entirely innocent, my heart aches to think of what these progressive leaders are communicating to people like me — people who have felt unsafe in the Church because of actions just like this.

My heart. It hurts.

It is because of that hurt, that I don’t have the energy to provide a systematic response to Brian McLaren’s statement — written with such poor taste and blatant disregard for how it might impact other abuse survivors who are looking to leaders like McLaren to do better than their past church leaders. Also, significant parts of McLaren’s statement simply reinforce the exact same claims made in Tony Jones’s January 27 statement, which I already responded to here.

But there are two points I think are really, really important and need to made, and I hope that others will take them to heart, even if McLaren has indicated he won’t. Those points are:

1. We need to take to heart the seriousness of suicidal ideation.

At the very beginning of McLaren’s statement are three sentences that immediately jumped out at me:

In July of 2008, an author who is a friend and colleague was on a speaking tour in another state. I was not present, but was at my home over a thousand miles away. The author’s wife called someone who was present and threatened to kill herself in front of their children if her husband didn’t return home immediately.

I have read the official psychological evaluations of the involved individuals. So I first must say, McLaren’s account of this event differs from the official recorded accounts. Regardless of who has the more accurate account, this much is clear: Both during and prior to 2008, Julie McMahon had expressed a desire to kill herself — a desire otherwise known as suicidal ideation.

Suicidal ideation is an indicator that something is seriously wrong in someone’s life and/or relationships. It is more than simply suicidal urges, and it does not necessarily lead to actual suicide attempts. Rather, it is a pervasive feeling – or unconscious urge — to snuff out one’s life, and that feeling — left unaddressed — can become more and more frequent. The court records indicate that not only did McMahon have this desire, but that it stretched out over at least a year, from 2007 to 2008 — and, while I cannot reveal specific details due to confidentiality agreements — there were real, significant, and concrete events that appeared to trigger this ideation within McMahon. She was not, as Jones had suggested at the time, “bipolar” (and the psychological evaluations reveal she was not). The most common-sensical interpretation of the events — as recorded — is that McMahon had a rational and natural reaction to the events in her life. These events made her feel desperate and without control over her own life, her well-being, and children’s well-being.

Furthermore, when one understands the triggers for suicidal ideation, one notes that, according to the court records and evaluations, most of these were not applicable or present during McMahon’s ideation episodes. The one trigger that is a gray area would be a “history of being abused or witnessing continuous abuse.” We know that, even in children, experiencing physical threats to one’s person increases suicidal thoughts. We also know that women with “histories of attempted suicide are significantly more likely to report higher levels of domestic violence.” This should give us pause.

2. We need to respond better to mental illness and abuse.

I am not saying that McMahon’s history of suicidal ideation proves Jones is an abuser. I am also not suggesting it is helpful to play armchair psychiatrist or to make diagnoses when one is not a mental health professional. However, as a mental health advocate, what I am trying to say is exactly this: These moments of suicidal ideation should give us pause.

That McLaren, and everyone else from Evans to the other progressive leaders standing in solidarity with Jones, would read McLaren’s statement and not become immediately concerned is part of the problem here. It’s the exact same problem we’ve seen in the Conservative Church, the exact same problem I’ve seen in the Christian homeschool movement, and now it’s being seen in the Progressive Church. McLaren looks at this event and — rather than noticing that something is desperately wrong with the life McMahon is experiencing — simply assumes something is wrong with McMahon. He assumes she is “crazy,” or in this case “bipolar.” And we all know mentally ill people are not be trusted, right?


No. Mental illness can itself be a sign of abuse, which is why abuse is called “the tobacco industry of mental health.” Suicidal ideation is “very likely” connected with abuse. Mental illness and suicidal ideation should inform one’s friends and community that something is happening. These are signs from one’s body not that one should be divorced because one is “bipolar” but that, hey, maybe there’s a reason this person wants to die. And in McMahon’s case, there was. There were reasons. I see them right here in these documents I’m reading. And no one — not even Brian McLaren — seems to realize that Jones was inflicting real, serious damage in McMahon and their children. It’s here. It’s real. I’m not making this up.

McMahon is not crazy.

But instead of looking at this from a survivor-centric lens, instead of approaching this situation with an eye to supporting someone clearly being marginalized, McLaren, Evans, and others are simply repeating the lie that Jones is a “good guy” here and McMahon is a “bad guy.” That does not help anyone. That does not help McMahon get the healing and justice she is desperate for and that does not help Jones be honest and take responsibility for the actions that led McMahon to feel like her only option was to die.

Please, for the love of God and survivors everywhere, we need to do better than this.

Published by R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is a child liberation theologian and an advocate for children and abuse survivors. The author of an upcoming book on child liberation theology, The Kingdom of Children, Ryan has an M.H.S. in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College.

55 thoughts on “A Response to Brian McLaren’s Statement

  1. There is another mental health diagnosis in play as well – Tony’s. He has been diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, an Axis II diagnosis (while he acknowledges the NPD diagnosis in his statement, he incorrectly categorizes it as Axis I). On the surface they are often likeable and charismatic people, but NPD people display certain behavioral characteristics that aren’t immediately apparent, such as lying and minimizing their own faults while maximizing those of others. And with this diagnosis now clearly stated and acknowledged, they still choose to believe Tony over Julie? It’s bizarre. Even more astounding, some of those issuing statements claim to have thoroughly investigated, yet haven’t spoken with Julie and haven’t addressed the psych evals, most specifically the NPD diagnosis which they choose to discount for some inexplicable reason. It’s beyond the pale.

    1. Quite right, Brother Maynard. I’m sitting here saddened and stunned. In all this mess, the ONE fact that is no longer in doubt is that Tony has a diagnosis of NPD. This is a very, very serious thing, but his buddies are dancing around it.

      I wish I could say that I find this unbelievable, But I’ve come to expect so little from religious leaders.

      1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, like all personality disorders, is classified Axis II due to the fact that it’s not a result of problems in neurochemistry. Axis I disorders include bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder—all of which nearly always require medication to manage (schizophrenia always does), and often require talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

        Axis II disorders include, in addition to NPD, antisocial personality disorder (once known as sociopathy) and borderline personality disorder, as two other widely known examples. These disorders differ from those found on Axis I because, rather than being the result of neurochemical imbalance, they are caused by a failure in the ability to adjust to others. What is meant by this term is that those who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder are unable to separate their perception of other people from their perception of themselves. Unless they receive long-term talk therapy such as dialectical behavioral therapy, and dedicate themselves to it fully, an individual with a personality disorder will never develop a healthy view of others. In effect, they see others as extensions of themselves rather than as discrete individuals with needs and desires of their own.

        As a result of having a personality disorder, a person views others as existing solely for the disordered person’s benefit. In their view, one may either be of use to them or one is burdensome and interferring. They cannot conceive of the fact that others are not providing for their desires because others have desires and needs of their own. Instead, when others fail to meet their expectations it’s perceived as an affront or an outright attack. Unfortunately, medications are ineffective in treating personality disorders which is why a full acceptance of the diagnosis accompanied by total dedication to talk therapy is needed to treat them.

        Personality disorders are always Axis II, by definition. They quite literally constitute Axis II since nothing other than personality disorders are on it.

      2. Ragnarok’s explanation is excellent. Either he/she has mental health experience or has done his/her research well. My leaning would be to trust the court’s analysis and decision to respect the NPD diagnosis and/or other evidence of poor parenting skills or high risk factor. Of course, depending on kids’ ages at the time, courts tend to give preference to mothers, at least if no serious problems are apparent in her. But that custody/visitation order is not a “normal” balance, and I would think it probably indicates a lot of relatively objectively-weighed evidence.

  2. This, along with Brian Mclaren’s very MRA defense of Tony’s physical altercation with Julie (which he more than verifies happened in the statement) makes Progressive Christianity’s continued defense of Tony all the more horrific.

  3. It really is this bad, isn’t it. McLaren, Evans, etc, have lost the ability to see themselves. Their celebrity and masses of followers has systematically blinded them to love their cult of personality (and the income that comes with it) more than a single mom who has been traumatized for years by their NPD colleague. They just continue in the victimization.

    I hope their followers will realize they are unqualified to be their Christian celebrity.

    1. Mental illness can be caused by abuse, but one is not proof that the other exists. I have suffered from depression for most of my life, but I have never been abused. A close member of my family committed suicide, but he was never abused (to my knowledge). The existence of one is not proof of the other.

      1. I don’t think Ryan is necessarily trying to argue that one causes the other. He seems to be pointing out that it is one indicator of abuse, and one that should be taken seriously and evaluated, rather than dismissed as crazy.

  4. I am heartsick along with you. If I had been in Julie’s shoes, I believe I would have wanted out of the crazy making world that she lived in. Depression can take away the will to live. I know. Sometimes those words are only a cry for help.
    Then on top of finding out that my husband was in love with another woman, well, that would crush me. I am so thankful that Julie is getting support, albeit, from the least of these, the unknown & unrecognized voices who have never been heard.
    Thank-You for stating your opinion so eloquently.

  5. A little side question, if you don’t mind: Tony’s statement said that he was diagnosed with Axis I NPD and that Julie was diagnosed with “Axis I & II diagnoses”. Do we know what she was diagnosed with? Because at first I read it as them both having been diagnosed with NPD. But after a second look I realized that Tony doesn’t actually specify.

    1. R.L. Stollar – Los Angeles, California – R.L. Stollar is a child liberation theologian and an advocate for children and abuse survivors. The author of an upcoming book on child liberation theology, The Kingdom of Children, Ryan has an M.H.S. in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College.
      R.L. Stollar says:

      Tony either incorrectly stated or lied about his diagnosis. He has Axis II NPD. (NPD is, by definition, Axis II, not Axis I.) Since he has made that diagnosis public, I don’t mind mentioning it. Since Julie hasn’t made her official evaluation public, I don’t feel comfortable specifying. But I can say that no, she was not diagnosed with NPD. Neither was she diagnosed with bipolar or borderline, which several people have claimed about her.

      1. Having been on the other side of this in the sense of my ex telling the church community that I had “emotional problems,” I am very empathetic. We should not dismiss the testimony of people who are “crazy.” Crazy is a pejorative term. A majority of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. Some mental illnesses impact certain situations more than others. That does not mean we all have a right to know. And in reality, trauma accounts for a significant amount of mental illness. So what came first for Julie, the trauma or the diagnosis? We should not blame or even speculate.

  6. Katie Pridgen – I'm an average hobby triathlete. Work and training take up a lot of my time which is good because, other than cuddling the cat and periodically making dinner for the boyfriend, I don't have many other responsibilities.
    Katie says:

    Thank you– as someone whose story mirrors Julie’s to an eerie degree, the respect and weight with which you and a handful of others discuss her abuse and the Emergent response has been extremely healing to me and has kept me encouraged in the wake of dismissive responses from people like Rachel Held Evans and Brian McLaren.

  7. Thanks for this. There are no words to say how wrong all this is, yet you found a way. It certainly makes me see Church as unsafe.

  8. I have no words. Your posts are so refreshing. I truly thought there was no one but David Hayward that would speak so clearly for victims. Wow. Thank you.

    Incidentally, my impression upon reading McLaren’s response was to be horrified that McMahon threatened suicide and the response was for them to form a committee and talk about it first. Instead of… you know…. Jones *immediately* rushing home to make sure his wife and kids were safe.

    1. I have mentioned elsewhere, and feel compelled to mention here as well, the fact that McLaren’s claim that Julie threatened to kill herself in front of their children unless Tony came home immediately was at best second-hand. He says explicitly in his statement that he was told it had happened. He didn’t hear that threat himself, and presumably the report he heard came from Tony.

      Julie has acknowledged that she had suicidal thoughts at the time. Who wouldn’t? She has never confirmed making any threat to harm herself in front of her children. This would necessarily mean that the only possible source for the reported threat is Tony Jones, who at that same time was pursuing a campaign to convince everyone, including Julie herself, that she was crazy. Presumably, no one else was in a position to have heard any such threat first-hand.

      While the fact that the report came from Tony doesn’t entirely preclude the possibility that his report is accurate, the fact that he had been campaigning against Julie’s mental stability for some time at that point, the fact that Tony has been caught in numerous distortions and outright falsehoods in his statements regarding this period and regarding Julie, the fact that Julie has never confirmed this threat, the fact that her court-ordered psychological evaluation indicated that her mental stability was not an issue, the fact that the court granted Julie sole physical custody of their children, the fact that his court-ordered psychological evaluation produced a diagnosis (now confirmed by Tony) of NPD, and the fact that NPDs routinely lie and distort in order to make themselves and their claims look better should all add up to more than sufficient cause to doubt the report that Julie threatened to kill herself in front of her children.

      1. It kind of sounds like you’re trying to convince me that suicide was never threatened. So maybe I wasn’t clear in my comment.
        My horror was the response to the (alleged) threat. The forming of a committee to discuss rather than rush home.

      2. Point taken, Wanderer. I wasn’t trying to suggest that you were agreeing with McLaren’s claim, and I don’t object to your outrage in the slightest. I should have been clearer.

        My only purpose was to point out that the ongoing discussion regarding McLaren’s statement has included several comments in a number of locations concerning the report of Julie threatening to harm herself in front of their children. I consider McLaren’s unsubstantiated claim of this threat to be spurious since it could only have come to him second-hand, at best. It is not mentioned in any court-ordered psychological evaluation (where one would certainly expect to find it), and the court granted Julie sole physical custody. Such a threat, with those factors in mind, seems unlikely. McLaren is capable of reasoning through Julie’s purported threat as well as I am, so even if he were told of it by a source he considered reliable he should have at least come to question it by now rather than repeating it publicly.

        My apologies for any confusion. I’m simply concerned about allowing McLaren’s claim to go unchallenged since it would necessarily be unduly harmful to Julie’s reputation were it to be allowed to proliferate unchecked.

  9. Thanks Ryan for speaking out! Do you get the feeling from McLaren’s statement that he has a SGM-style hierarchical view of “dealing with” issues in the church? Third party mediation and reconciliation sounded so fishy to me. What did she owe to those guys anyway? I am not in church, but this hurts me, because until recently I thought the progressive church could be an ally. This is heartbreaking.

  10. I have to say that as someone who has been working on the edges of the progressive Christian world, my experience is that many (most?) of these people work the exact same way the rest of the world does. This is a situation that calls for a very countercultural response where people take risks, are willing to lose what they have to do what’s right and eschew their privileges. The thing that is most striking to me is that none of these people have reached out to Julie to hear her side. That seems like such a minimal, common sense thing to do and the fact that they aren’t doing it I think shows that whatever happened between Tony and Julie, these big name progressive Christians are failing the test.

    1. Rebecca, Not one! Because they know they don’t want to see what I have on them. Denial is better. Ignorance is bliss. NPD is not like an ear ache or even anxiety. It is a very serious and incurable personality disorder! And for that to be completely ignored, and instead focus on how I am “bat shit” crazy even though I have proof to the contrary, is the same old song and dance they have pulled since 2008. Get some new material Emergent Christian Author MINOR Celebrities. This one won’t work. I will keep speaking out and I am suing for my torn shoulder.

      1. Julie, thanks for speaking out with your story. As many other commenters have expressed, I had hoped that the progressive church would be different… It breaks my heart to hear what you’ve gone through, and I just want to reach across the digital abyss and say I hear you. I care. I’m sorry.

      2. Eric Booth – Earth – I love hazelnut coffee, quiet time alone, and loud music that no one else can hear. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be somewhere else so I'm on a perpetual journey away from who I was yesterday.
        Eric Booth says:


        Thank you for speaking out on David’s (naked pastor) blog last September and for continuing to do so in spite of pressure taking place. You Rock. I suspect you are already familiar with One Mom’s Battle, Tina Swithin’s blog/facebook. I think it is a great resource for spouses caught in your horrific situation.

    2. Jonathan Brink – I'm the Senior Editor and Publisher at Civitas Press, and the Managing Editor at Provoketive Magazine. I also provide freelance editing, production and graphic design for authors and companies.
      Jonathan Brink says:

      Rebecca, as Brian states, he reached out to Julie on several different and successive occasions. She declined. And this is part of the issue. As much as her story needs to be heard, she has consistently declined to reconcile.

      1. Actually, it is untrue that Julie refuses to seek a resolution. Beginning on the thread on David Hayward’s blog this past September, Julie has repeatedly stated that all she is seeking is a public acknowledgment of what was wrongfully done to her and an apology. She has made no other demand. What she has objected to is the third-party mediation McLaren offered, which is not to say that she objected to third-party mediation in all cases. She simply doesn’t trust anyone closely associated with McLaren, Jones, or their extended circle to mediate. Considering how people in that group have responded to Julie’s claims, one can hardly blame her.

        In fact, the suggestion was floated yesterday that perhaps G.R.A.C.E. might be an acceptable mediator to all parties. Just because Julie has rejected McLaren’s overtures, it doesn’t then follow that she would necessarily reject all efforts to resolve matters.

  11. Please know that Emergent Village is not part of the Progressive Conversation – Some of the people in the Emerging Conversation may be involved in the Progressive Conversation – As a past Board Member of the Progressive Christian Alliance we do not see Tony Jones, or others in “leadership” within the Emerging Village as part of our voice.

      1. To name just 3 of the photos on that page, Brian McLaren, Bruce Reyes Chow and Rachel Held Evans have all spoken out in support of Tony Jones. Then there’s Doug Pagitt’s mug on there as well, so… yeah.

  12. livingliminal – Australia – Living Liminal lives in Australia with her husband and three sons. She is learning to thrive in the liminal space her life has become. <a href="http://livingliminal.blogspot.com.au/">My Blog</a> <a href="https://www.facebook.com/LivingintheLiminal">Find me on Facebook</a>
    livingliminal says:

    I do find McLaren’s statement interesting. It sounds to me like its written by someone ‘in power’, describing the behaviour of someone who has been stripped of their power and who has been driven to desperation.

    When people have experienced extended periods of abuse and the people they have turned to for help have ignored them or held them at arm’s length, they do tend to behave just a little irrationally, often because they feel like they’ve got nothing left to lose.

    I’m a bit over ‘christian leaders’ (of all flavours!) standing in judgement and protecting their positions/reputations. Kind of reminds me of the sort of leaders Jesus mentioned unfavourably in the parable of the ‘good’ Samaritan 🙁

    I saw this posted on Facebook recently: “Lots of people complain about “wounded people acting out of hurt”. Stop pointing out that they are wounded & rather go help them get healed.”


    1. Indeed, the very existence of taking sides is a mark of protecting the work and not asking, How could we as friends been so blind so long as to not see the pain these two wonderful people had hopefully inadvertently begun to inflict on each other likely because they were so busy they would not deal completely with minor issues that over time snowballed. And we let them keep being busy because the work was more important to us than their health. Had we nit been so goal oriented we might have noticed in time to save their now broken love.

      1. livingliminal – Australia – Living Liminal lives in Australia with her husband and three sons. She is learning to thrive in the liminal space her life has become. <a href="http://livingliminal.blogspot.com.au/">My Blog</a> <a href="https://www.facebook.com/LivingintheLiminal">Find me on Facebook</a>
        livingliminal says:

        Great questions, lumbertiger! Let’s pray that many others come to realise that people – relationships – are more important than the work (however ‘good’ that work is).

  13. Disgusted. This is only the type of article that would occur in a Christian setting. When people feel like they have the “spiritual” right to analyize and diagnose other. Oh and judge them and but into their business (clearly business was pubic – but this goes sooooooooo far beyond what was publicly discussed). Kudos to you for having your “VOICE” – no matter how gossipy or invasive this article may seem.

  14. For background, this is the first I’ve heard of any of this sad situation or the controversy over it, though I do follow a number of Christian blogs and write a very “Progressive” one myself. Indeed, it is sad from a number of angles.

    I won’t have time to look further into it but want to say there is a lot of good observation and common sense in what you point out, regardless of whose version of “reality” is closer to right. I say that as a former marriage counselor and psychotherapist. And its very sad that so much of this couple’s private lives is being examined and analyzed in public. I don’t know who is mainly to blame for that, but it shouldn’t be.

    However, a discussion of common problems that it illustrates SHOULD be going on; discussion of the dynamics often involved with leaders and public figures whether they are Christian or not, etc.

    Briefly back to the issues at play in the original situation under examination: Anyone with any experience counseling couples or even a good sense of how couple dynamics tend to work should realize this: Even when one has heard directly from both parties it is often very tough to assess “who did what, when and how (or why)”. Sometimes that has to be largely set aside and the focus be put on communication going forward (if feasible) and/or how BOTH parties can come to acknowledge THEIR contribution to the problems, seek to grow, and FORGIVE the other for any offenses. (And in cases of abuse, that does not imply continuing to expose oneself to risk.)

    On a separate point, not directly tied to the key issues here, but raised along the way…. The label “Progressive” is ambiguous in more than one way. But for one, it is used for people who still identify as “E/evangelical” as well as for we who align more closely to “mainline” or “liberal” or “Process” concepts of Christian faith. Process, I feel, is the more helpful and specifically descriptive label for my own “progressive” stance… but most people have to do a little study to even know what that involves.

    1. ” And its very sad that so much of this couple’s private lives is being examined and analyzed in public. I don’t know who is mainly to blame for that, but it shouldn’t be”

      That would be Tony Jones who, a few years back, convinced many progressive/emergent leaders and adoring fans that his wife was “mentally ill” and enlisted their help in trying to get her committed. He was also able to convince many that there is such a thing as a “spiritual wife” and a mere “legal wife”.

  15. I am in sunny California and should have had a beautiful weekend. Instead I find myself devoting a large chunk of my time to contacting the U.S.’s top First Amendment attorneys, First Amendment legal rights groups, top law schools regarding same, and journalism schools since Brian McLaren has threatened to sue his buddy Tony Jones’ ex-wife, Julie. Additionally, David Hayward at the Naked Pastor blog in Canada has also been receiving legal threats from these pastors.
    here: http://www.nakedpastor.com/2015/01/sharing-your-experiences-in-the-face-of-threats/

    In my opinion, McLaren and Jones are a disgrace and they should both step down. Neither is Biblically qualified to serve.

    McLaren and Jones, pastors/speakers/authors/bloggers, have benefitted greatly from the First Amendment’s protections in their own careers and yet they want to silence the speech of others. What a bunch of hypocrites!

  16. How about when McLaren made the statement that abuse allegations need to be handled with care when the well being of children are involved, AND when the character of religious leaders are involved? The level of ego in that statement is jaw dropping. Do they honestly believe we exist to tend to their reputations with the same care as we would give children? Jesus.

  17. Correction to my post in moderation:
    David Hayward, at the Naked Pastor blog in Canada, has been receiving “powerful suggestions” from these pastors in the US and their cohorts. I just call it what it is: a threat, intimidation, meant to silence. I am having none of it. (It helps that I’ve worked for the top civil rights attorneys in the US.)

  18. I come to this conversation from the outside, but I have to share some wisdom from another source. My bishop once said to a gathering of clergy, “you’re neither as good as your biggest fan thinks you are, nor as bad as your worst enemy thinks you are.” We are always, in the words of Martin Luther, “simul Justus et peccator” – at the same time, saint and sinner. We all carry around a shadow side. There is always part of us in need of redemption. This is directed at both parties.

    I do not say this to minimize or dismiss abuse. If there has been abuse, interventions should be made. Sadly, I’ve seen character assassination in my day, and all of this smacks of unrelenting character assassination in a way I’ve never witnessed. (And not just by one party.)

    Clinical narcissism is not an uncommon issue amongst clergy. That’s not to say it is normative or good, but you see it fairly frequently.

    Even the narcissist can be redeemed. Christ died for them too. Whatever the diagnosis for McMahon, that can be redeemed too.

    I think my greatest sadness is that this is now a public conversation rather than therapeutic work for all involved. I cannot imagine how this very public spat is doing much of anything but creating children with enormous baggage to take into adulthood.

    Regardless, the relationship has died and it’s time for both parties to pick up the pieces and move forward. Being stuck in in this place of reviling the other is not good for the soul.

  19. Having known Brian for maybe 40 years and been a founding member of the church he started nearly that long ago, I can say that Brian well remembers the situation with one of our longstanding heroes Pastor K. But also the sad decline of musician Bob D., whose life was ruined by mental illness. Shocking things we learn about those we have known and loved. Rule 1 is not to demonize anyone but rather seek to uncover truths that might provide keys to healing and individual, if not joint, restoration. Sometimes we ignore our own guilt in continuing to demand or just praise high performance at times when rest and re purposing might be what God wants for those used to positions of honor and command. We must be willing to step out of the limelight to care for those in our own immediate and extended families who need time to heal.

    1. @lumbertiger27,
      Perhaps since you have known Brian McLaren you can explain why he didn’t take the following Biblical actions involving his friend Tony Jones:
      1. When the Jones marriage was in trouble/family life, why didn’t Brian McLaren do what the Bible says and tell Tony Jones to step down from ministry to get his marriage and family in order?
      2. Why didn’t Brian McClaren tell Tony Jones to step down entirely from Christian ministry when Jones divorced his first wife and re-married, (making Jones Biblically unqualified to be a Christian leader)?

      1. OK — I met Brian when he was a music minister and graduate assistant at U. Maryland. His dad was a doctor, and his most memorable song was about being treated as a social security number at college. Our church took in Hmong people who had been resettled in the DC area — Brian was NOT part of the Gathering of Believers — a bunch of youth leaders who became convinced that the church existed to serve them (the new apostles) — and that they had divine wisdom as to who should be allowed in their country club (er, church). Brian was a voice of reason, and yet even then he was good friends with the radical Christian Left (as I had been at one time). I wrote a lengthy critique of Brian’s book on the environment, and I last hung out with him in Dallas about a dozen years ago. I taught his children in Sunday School along with my own. I prayed for his son during his bout with leukemia. I do believe that Jim Wallis has been a bad influence on Brian as a pastor, but I have no idea how Brian got so intertwined that he is getting into petty arguments with the now ex-wife of his good friend. I know that he had been through many situations in which discipline was necessary for pastors — and surely a man in the midst of marital strife should on his own step down — and if he will not, then he should be “encouraged” to do so. I do know that Brian is no longer in Maryland — and thus cut off a bit from those who counseled him daily (as we do with each other). I do know that the Brian I knew well dealt with marital stress in his church in much wiser ways — I could name several couples who might not still be together today had Brian not quietly met with them. But as to why, first off I do not know what Brian said to Tony in private that is not reported anywhere, and I do not know whether Brian’s loyalty to Tony is personal or political. I do not know Tony. But ask Tony Campolo that question, too —

  20. This is why the cult of celebrity – right, left – center – it doesn’t matter – has zero place in Christianity….once we begin following people – Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McClaren – Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham – the Osteens – Jesus gets a bad name. I wish every single one of these self-promoting “Christian celebrities” would go away. Far, far away. Please – for the love of Jesus. Take down your blogs – quit publishing, go serve some poor people, make peace in your local communities…love your wife, teach at your local church…the self promotional cult of Christian celebrity must be seen for what it is – in all its narcissistic glory. These people may have some great qualities – but none of them speaks for Jesus Christ – or me.

  21. Does anybody know if Rob Bell has responded to this situation yet? I know he made a ‘surprise guest appearance’ at the recent #C21PHX conference. I’m wondering if there is a connection there?


  22. I spent my entire weekend on the free speech legal aspects of this case, contacting attorneys in Canada (where David Hayward is given his blogging about this case at the Naked Pastor, McClaren & Jones’ group trying to intimidate Hayward to change his blog and that he was ‘being warned’), and I contacted the top First Amendment attorneys in the US, First Amendment legal advocacy groups, top law schools that deal with First Amendment issues, top journalists and journalistic think tank experts.)

    Let’s cover this legal ground again. Brian McLaren is a nationally known US pastor/author/speaker/writer/blogger. Under the First Amendment he is a public figure and his entire life is wide open for debate and discussion, even if he doesn’t like it. McLaren has made his living in the public eye and he has enjoyed his own First Amendment rights.

    McLaren has said that he will be suing Tony Jones’ ex-wife and that he spoke to an attorney. Really now? Seriously? Why didn’t said attorney tell McLaren that McLaren was a public figure and that McLaren doesn’t have the legal rights under the First Amendment that he claims that he has? Why didn’t the attorney explain the First Amendment and its categories for libel and defamation to McLaren? (Why doesn’t McLaren post the name of the attorney because I will personally notify that attorney’s State Bar that that attorney should face discipline/disbarment for malpractice.)

    So now we have free speech experts in both countries – Canada and the United State – working on this because Brian McLaren couldn’t behave maturely.

    Brian McLaren and Tony Jones (also a public figure in the U.S. for defamation/libel purposes) don’t get to toss everybody else’s First Amendment rights out the window because McLaren and Jones ‘said so’. Too bad.

    Digital Media Law Project’s chart explaining the difference/giving examples of public and private figures for purposes of defamation/libel claims:

    Digital Media Law Project’s explanation of the legal hurdles that public figures have to meet (malice/negligence, etc) to prevail in a defamation/libel lawsuit:

    When you are in the grocery store or the convenience store and see tabloid magazines with juicy articles about famous public figures, you see those magazines because they are protected under the First Amendment.

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