Arise Church: Pathfinding Report

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Categories: Pastors Blog

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Dear Pastors

Arise Church: Pathfinding Report

The much awaited report is out. The Arise Board had committed the full release of this report back in June but has been held up due to some legal action. The report, compiled by Pathfinding, a consultancy firm for charitable organisations, was leaked to journalist David Farrier on Monday this week. Since then it has been covered by TVNZ, RNZ and Stuff. The Review was ‘commissioned’ by the Arise Board almost immediately after the first allegations of the mis-treatment if not abuse of members were published by Farrier back in April and it had the Cameron’s full support so it seemed. This was an encouraging sign that the leadership of Arise wanted to do the right thing.

  1. In total, 545 people completed submissions for the review, including from every campus (12) across the country, past and present Ministry School students, current and former members, staff and past board members. To be precise of the 545 submitters, 325 were current members (or 59%), 188 former members and 32 not specified.
  2. There are “countless stories” of exhaustion, burnout, and mental and physical breakdowns by students of the church’s Ministry School were reported. Meanwhile, some in the training centre for the church reported living in impoverished conditions.
  3. The report is 49 pages long and has made 92 recommendations. Among them: having the whole board resign, ensuring Sunday is considered a workday for staff, commissioning an independent review of the church finances, establishing time limits for Ministry School students working in the church, and disallowing tithing for children.
  4. It concludes with an important reminder that though there are systemic and serial problems deep within the culture of Arise many people including submitters had found a place of belonging and personal growth. You can find this on P45.
  5. Section 17 (P46) titled, ‘Apology and Restoration’ along with 5 recommendations is an excellent guideline as to how to help people you have hurt and how best to help them deal with the pain and hurt they have experienced and hopefully come to a place of forgiveness.

The report makes for sad reading…..very sad. And so do, for that matter, the stories coming out of the ‘Abuse in Care-Royal Commission of Enquiry’. It goes without saying that no church on God’s good earth is perfect but the systemic and serial mis-treatment and abuse of people’s goodwill (and in many cases vulnerabilities) over a long period of time is way beyond the pale.

A lot more needs to be prayerfully reflected on and talked about. We need to talk about Good Governance and what that looks like in churches of different sizes and clearly defined accountability processes for all people in Leadership especially senior pastors. We need to talk about this new(ish) phrase ‘toxic positivity’ and a much more biblical (and nuanced) understanding of what the Bible means when it says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine”. 1 Timothy 5:17. Otherwise known as an honour culture. We need to talk again about ‘tithing’ and offering talks and financial disclosure policies. We definitely should talk more about charisma (or personality) of leaders vs character of those same leaders. My blog next week will make a small contribution to this conversation.

In the meantime, I do think that report can serve all of us really well. I would recommend we see it as a template, a document that can help us do an ‘internal audit’ of not just our finances but our systems and structures, our processes and policies, our leadership philosophy and decision making practices and of course the culture of our church/organisation.

Finally. I would like to highly recommend Frank Ritchie’s paper, “Arise Church: A Theological and Cultural Reflection’ that you can find here. Frank was on the Pathfinding Team for this review and has done some long and hard thinking about many of the above mentioned topics.


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