Arise Church Board
Dear Pastors and Christian Leaders
Arise Church Board
Today I find myself in quite some inner turmoil. I have been very careful and judicious about what I have said and written publicly about Arise Church and John Cameron in particular. I still want to adopt that practise. But something must be said about what we now read on the Arise Church website.
Late yesterday the Arise Board issued this statement.
The heading reads ‘Acknowledgement of John & Gillian’s Service & Ministry’. Amongst many glowing things it says about the Cameron’s, it says this:- ‘Aotearoa New Zealand is different because of the ministry of John & Gillian. Their courage, faith and obedience to God to step out and launch Arise Church in 2002 has left an indelible mark on the Christian landscape in this nation and has impacted tens of thousands of lives’………..their lasting impact within the wider Christian church of New Zealand cannot be understated’.
It is true that the Pathfinding Report made a positive comment towards the end of their Report under the heading ‘Positives and Other Perspectives’. I quote:-“We have also through this review process heard from many people regarding the things they appreciate about Arise Church. We have heard of people’s experience of Arise as a place of belonging, and a place of tremendous personal and professional growth. We have heard of the deep gratitude held by some people for the support, encouragement and care they have received. A number of submissions raised that being part of Arise Church has been a central and defining part of their life – adding meaning, and allowing them to contribute to something of value beyond themselves. We also heard from a few family members who identified that they have seen the positive influence Arise has been on their loved ones”.
So to acknowledge this is only fair but that must not and can not over shadow the harm that has been done. This comment came in a Report of 91 Recommendations of things that can be improved, not to say anything about a few stories that have personally been shared with me that are nothing short of devastating.
I’ve been incredibly disappointed at the way the Arise Church Board has handled this whole issue especially after the Pathfinding Report was leaked. And now we read this acknowledgement which if you were to read it without any prior knowledge would suggest that the Cameron’s have done nothing wrong.
Sorry, but this is so wrong.
Some questions must be asked at this time.
- How can a Church Board say this in the light of 545 submitters (most of whom are complainants) to the Pathfinding Report? We need to keep in mind that this is unprecedented in New Zealand as far as I am aware. If we go back over the last 5 years all other reviews/investigations of misconduct by leaders, managers or coaches has been triggered by just 2 or 3 complaints. On occasion a few more but nothing close to 545. To think there are 545 submitters/complainants in this case is astounding. I still find it hard to believe.
- Why would you write this at a time when so many former Arise and even current Arise members are bewildered, disappointed, sad and hurt? Why would you rub salt in the wound?
- Are you as Board members so ensconced in the Arise culture of ‘toxic positivity and culture of honour’ that you are completely blinded to what you are saying, doing and writing?
- Are you perhaps facing a threat or two by John Cameron around defamation, slander or libel that you feel you needed to say this? Have you been pressured to write this at best or threatened at worst?
- Why did you even have to write a public statement like this? Was this really necessary? And if it was, why write it on your website so that the whole world can see it?
To my brothers and sisters in Christ on the Arise Church Board, I want to ask you to please re-consider what you are doing. Please first and foremost have the stories, the griefs and the hurts of 545 complainants as your primary focus. This is what you as a Board and Spiritual Oversight are called upon to do.
Alan Vink is currently the Executive Director for LeadershipWorx. Prior to this role he has been the Executive Director of Willow Creek Association NZ (WillowNZ), a Baptist pastor (23 years), Bible College teacher, and church consultant.