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KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Ben Cavanna, Joan Pavitt Cavanna
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
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Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
KEEP IN TOUCH
------ Table of Contents --------
Tenth Annual Friendly Crossways KIT Conference
Two U.K. Get-togethers for your calendar
ITEM: The Tribune-Review articles
ITEM: The Bruderhof 'Down Under'
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Andy Harries to Oxford Univ Press
Hilaron Braun to Paul Fox
Paul Fox to Hilarion Braun
Hannah Goodwin Johnson
---- excerpts alt.support.bruderhof ----
Ben Cavanna, Dave Goodwin, Wayne
Chesley, Blair Purcell, Paul Forde
Paul Fox, Mike LeBlanc, Mel Fros Wayne
Chesley, Blair Purcell, Betty Chesley
Emil Fischli - 'Memoir Part I'
Mel Fros - New Verses In Old Tunes
KIT: Just a reminder that the Tenth Annual USA KIT Conference at Friendly Crossway ways will be held on August 7-9. Let's make this one the 'biggest and best!, because this time we're reserving the whole hostel for ourselves. Reservations slips will be included in a subsequent KIT.
Andy Harries, 2/10/99: This is a reminder that we are having a get-together for any ex Bruderhofers and any of their friends or relatives who would like to come for one day. The day is Sunday May 2nd at about 11 AM at Rookwood School, Andover, Hants, where we have met before & also had the Euro KIT meeting a few years ago.
It is an opportunity to get together, share, talk, listen, learn and enjoy each others company. If everybody can bring some food, including for a B-B-Q, we can pool it and share it around. Hot drinks will be provided. There will be a charge of £3.00 per adult (children free) to pay for booking the facilities. For further information please phone 01264 353800 or write to:
Andy & Gudrun Harries
119 Gallaghers Mead, Andover,
Hants, SP10 3BS U.K.
Ben Cavanna, 2/5/99: The 1999 EuroKIT get-together will be held at Lower Shaw Farm, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK, from Friday supper time September 17th to Sunday afternoon the 19th. Please mark your calendars!
ITEM: The Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Tribune-Review ran four excellent articles on the Bruderhof by their investigative reporter, Robin Acton. They are available on the Internet at both:
Titled "Beyond the Gates," they give the reader a detailed view of both the Bruderhof itself as well as the lives of various ex-members and children who have left.
Surprisingly hard-hitting, the articles mention how the Bruderhof has been criticised as hiding behind a guise of poverty to shield its thriving corporations. Many members receive various kinds of government benefits including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, WIC, the federal school lunch and surplus food items.
The articles also describe the preferred status of the leadership, the pistol permits that allowed Christoph Arnold to own varous hand weapons. and the various "carbines, rifles and ammunition" that were purchased. Despite Christoph's insistence that Bruderhof members "do not vote -- we pray," the voting lists in both New York and Pennsylvania were shown to list hundreds of Bruderhof names including Christoph's own, and his wife Verena.
The odd tension between the "forgiveness" attitude described in Christoph's book and the various previous lawsuits against ex-members is discussed, and also the Palmgrove debacle and the parting of the ways with the Hutterites.
The second day's articles describe Susie Zumpe's dramatic nighttime "escape" from New Meadow Run, August and Nadine Pleil's removal from the community, Margot and Blair's story, Ebong Ebong's fight to regain his rights to visit his children, Ramon Sender's loss of access to his daughter Xavie, and Laurel Durgin's battle with depression and suicide.
John Domer, previously a paralegal person at Woodcrest, is quoted various times, including in the final paragraph of the final article: "I would say the mind control is just below the level of suicide." Domer and his wife and six children were expelled two years ago. RS
ITEM: The Bruderhof is attempting to buy two thousand acres of property (possibly two properties) 20 km east of Inverell, Australia. They propose to build a community to house about 400 - 500 members, and are hoping to receive whatever zoning variances are required to allow them to do so. On January 26, 1999, the Inverell newspaper presented a front page spread about the Bruderhof's visit to Inverell and how much the Council welcomed them. Joe Keiderling and three other brothers (two from the U.K.) recently returned from New South Wales, having dined the Inverell mayor and impressed various town citizens with promises of hiring local labor, etc., and having a positive economic impact on the township. Inverell (10,000 people) is situated up on the tablelands that are used agriculturally for raising sheep, beef, and for farming various crops.
A Town Council meeting was held on Tuesday, February 23. The public gallery was packed for the meeting with about forty people. Four people first spoke against the Bruderhof's purchase, followed by three people who spoke against what they called "a hate campaign of religious bigotry." First the alleged owner of the land being sold to the B'hof spoke (the contract for the sale seems to be contingent on the council's approval of the B'hof's development application). A woman spoke next who said "I am from the Catholic Church." She later was described as allegedly the wife of the real estate agent who brokered the deal. Then a man from State Planning spoke who was involved in bringing new businesses to shrinking rural towns. He allegedly had introduced the B'hof to Inverell. So each of the three had a vested interest in the B'hof purchase going through. Each had prepared their speech on the basis that the opposition were religious bigots, but none of the previous speakers had mentioned religion.
Three more Inverell people then spoke about the need for proper research into B'hof business practices and behavior, for a total of seven against the proposal. The mayor then explained that no development application had yet been filed, and when it did, it would go through the normal process. According to KIT's sources, he was very critical of the protesters and took them to task for bringing disrepute to the town and conducting 'a witch hunt.' RS
Betty Chesley, 1/6/99: Thank you, Samuel, for such a clear and factual posting (see KIT XI #2 Feb '99 p. 3)! As someone who joined and left the Bruderhof only in this past decade, I have been lacking in a true picture of its history and am continually amazed at myths we were "fed". It becomes clearer that today's current Bruderhof travesties had much of the groundwork laid earlier.
In your Conclusion you stated: "Mr. Keiderling's attempts to stop Oxford University Press from publishing The Other Side Of Joy indicates a possible apprehension that Dr. Rubin may be more right than wrong about abuses within the Bruderhof if he so determined to keep the book under wraps. Johann Christoph Arnold has made the claim repeatedly that the efforts by outsiders and KIT to discredit him and the Bruderhof have caused his book sales to rise. If this is true, why is he so worried about this particular book? This is just another example of their dishonesty."
A very good point. And one, quite frankly, that shows their digression from an Anabaptist community committed to non-resistance as well.
Another quote from your posting: "In a recent case of abuse on the Bruderhof that I am familiar with, Mr. Keiderling has played a central role to obstruct justice and healing from occurring by denying the victim any opportunity to challenge her abuser. Her abuser did not even respond to the letters that she wrote to him in which she accused him of the abuses. Instead, Christian Domer denied her allegations. How could Domer possibly know the facts of the case? Under what ethical, moral and healing practices is it considered appropriate that Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer write letters on behalf of another person for something as sensitive as physical, sexual and mental abuse? Who can take their word seriously? Does this not show the world that something is amiss and that they are more interested in protecting their own empire than in finding the truth? How can Joe Keiderling say that the Bruderhof encourages the individuality of its members if he insists on being their spokesman? Clearly he cannot do so with honesty."
I would draw any reader's attention to this paragraph, any seeker's attention, any Bruderhof promoter's attention -- any Bruderhof book endorser! -- and challenge them to ask themselves if these are the actions of truly Christian leaders. There are very hurt people living outside of the communities who have experienced this sort of tragedy
Attempts from "outsiders" at professional mediation (through respected agencies) for reconciliation seem to go no further than the two men, Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer, written about here. They go nowhere.
What are these people afraid of?
Sam writes: "What Mr. Keiderling wants, plain and simple, is control. He wants to play God in the religious book industry, and he wants to stop the publication of another book with Julius Rubin's name on it. Keiderling's efforts to discredit Dr. Rubin in order to prevent his books book from being published is another example of the intellectual, ethical, legal and religious dishonesty that the Bruderhof Executive now practices."
Joy Johnson MacDonald, 2/4/99: Once upon a time two people fell in love. Their names were Guy and Eleanor and they were married at the Cotswold Bruderhof in January 1939. By the end of that year, Timothy, the first of their eight children was born. Also, Europe was at war and we know from our community history that the storm clouds which had been building up for years had already had an impact on the Bruderhof which had been forced to flee Germany.
By the following summer it became clear that to remain together as an international groups they would have to move yet again. Hans Meier and Guy Johnson were sent to North America to try to negotiate a move, hoping for help and cooperation from the Hutterites and also contacts in Government. This wasn't successful but in the meantime Paraguay, and the Mennonites who had colonies in several parts of that country had agreed to accept and help the Bruderhof. Eleanor and baby Timmy were in the first group of 80 people who left England on the 24th November 1940 on the Andalusia Star bound for Buenos Aires where they were joined by Hans and Guy. From there they travelled by boat, narrow gauge railway, and wagon to Colonia Fernheim near Filadelfia in the Chaco with a view to settling on land near to the Mennonites. They arrived on January 2nd 1941 and two days later Jan Peter Fros was born. Emily Paul, Hanska Fros (cousin to Jan Peter), Lydia Meier and I, Guy and Eleanor's eldest daughter, were born within the next few weeks. By early March this first group were travelling back to the South Eastern part of Paraguay to settle at what became Primavera and were joined by two more large groups who sailed from England over the next few months.
All the Chaco babies survived their inauspicious beginning though Jan Peter died some years later. I am told that though tiny and premature, my only health problem was conjunctivitis, an eye infection, from which almost all children and many adults suffered in those early years. My regret is that I have no memory of what must have been a quite incredible experience for all those who journeyed into this unfamiliar country and that I have never returned to my birthplace.
We will be celebrating my birthday with family and friends and also visiting the Bulstrode remembrance garden where my parents are laid to rest. My father, Guy, died 20 years ago on my birthday, so we often use my birthday gathering as a special remembrance time for our parents. Love, 2/23/99: ...We had an enjoyable afternoon at the Bulstrode burial garden earlier this month. Our winter has been very mild and there were carpets of snowdrops, some crocuses, hellibores, periwinkles and winter heathers in flower on and around the graves. We planted a white buddlea, called Peace, for Gwynn and Buddug and sang some Welsh songs and also spring songs and "My brother has a little flute." The buddlea is usually purple and called the butterfly bush as it attracts butterflies but Gwynn means white and Buddug just had to have a buddlea! We weeded and re-planted and pruned as necessary. It is such a peaceful place surrounded by countryside and we always take the opportunity of having a walk in the Park. The 'evening star' was just ascending as we were ready to leave, so we sang that song too -- thinking especially of our loved ones, all of them, whose life has ended. Greetings,
Sam Arnold, 2/22/99: The letter from Pauline Ellison-Davies (KIT XI #3) was interesting. For some reason I do not remember that Yehudi Menuhin had visited Wheathill, or that he gave lessons there! I also do not recall that the Sayvetz family lived in Wheathill. I was good friends with Tom during my brief stay at Woodcrest in 1968. He played the cello quite well, and we often played cello duets in their home. (I played the bassoon, which has about the same range as the cello and also reads in the bass clef.) I hadn't heard that the Sayvetz family lived in England, or that Leon was friends with Menuhin. Small world and fuzzy memory!
Stanley Vowles' letter to JCA is really good, and deserves an answer from him. If breaking the church vows by a departee is so terrible, then it appears to be just as bad for non-members to leave, judging by the similar treatment they receive. This was also the case long before KIT, when contact with other graduates was just as 'verboten' as it still is today. Unfortunately it looks like the Bruderhof is closing up towards us these days and they are no longer responding to any relevant issues that we raise. I suppose that they are too busy trying to find new countries where they can hide their members from "the enemy." and maybe also from the law.
Religious tyranny appeared to have be the main theme of this issue. The new ruling in the child abuse case of Jane Doe vs the Mormon Church is a hopeful sign that churches may not be living "above" or outside the law of the land very much longer. This case, or another similar one, will probably end up in the Supreme Court before meaningful corrections in child abuse can occur. Most countries, including Canada, are still grappling with this issue. It is unfortunate that the U.N. Charter of Rights has so little authority and influence around the world, as well as in the U.S.
Paulo Allain's thoughts on religious tyranny are useful. Using fear and confusion as methods to controlling the individual is an abuse of power, and really has nothing to do with a positive spiritual development of an adult or child. I do not believe that any church should have the right to exercise control over its members and their children if it can be shown that through their control practices the individual has suffered, or that the attainment of maturity and psychological balance has been subverted and damage by the church, or any other institution for that matter.
In Canada we have a constitutional charter of individual rights that provides protection to children from abuse at home and from society in general. While this protection applies to churches as well, it is still a gray area that the government appears to be reluctant to tackle. But with the growing number of horror stories of abuse in church-run institutions the need for reform is growing steadily.
I think that what needs to be enshrined into law are the rights and the safety of the individual, placed ahead of religious rights and freedom. If a church can operate within the parameters of national or global laws that spell out exactly what an individual's right to a safe and nurturing environment are, then these churches may practice their beliefs. In a democracy the government is answerable to the people, and the church should therefore be answerable to the government.
Andy Harries, 2/10/99: In the last January KIT, some letters were printed by Joe Keiderling written to Cynthia Read, Executive Editor, Oxford University Press, criticising a book written by Julius Rubin. Julius also wrote in the KIT explaining the situation. I felt very strongly that it was wrong the way Joe had tried to bully Cynthia Read into caving in to his demands. They are just so afraid of the truth about them coming out as all of us involved with KIT have found out.
I decided to write a letter to Cynthia to put her a bit more in the picture of the reality of the situation & I also sent Julius a copy of my letter because I felt it would be good if he knew what I had written. Julius Rubin and Ramon Sender have since asked me whether I might print my letter in KIT. After giving it some thought I agreed, with some slight editing.
Cynthia A Read, Exec. Editor,
Oxford University Press
Dear Ms Read:
I have just become aware of the correspondence you have been having with Mr. Joe Keiderling as a representative of the 'Bruderhof.' He has asked if a sample of his letters could be printed in the KIT Newsletter. KIT stands for 'Keep In Touch.' We are a group of ex-members who want to keep in touch with others who were born on or who joined the Bruderhof. We meet or correspond with each other for friendship and support, and also have the KIT Newsletter monthly where anyone can write in whatever they want.
Joe Keiderling is or was trying to get you to stop printing the book The Other Side Of Joy by Dr. Julius Rubin, or to have a lot of it changed. I am quite amazed how Joe Keiderling has been writing to you so much and that he has been trying to put you under a lot of pressure to listen to him, and especially to meet up with him and with others; a very important point here is that he always emphasizes that he can arrange for you to speak independently with any cross-section of "current Bruderhof membership." Any Bruderhof member is of course brainwashed into their ideology and is not able to speak freely.
That is what the Bruderhof people will not accept; but I as an ex-member (and there are many more like me who have lived there for many years -- I was born and grew up there), know the truth. Bruderhof people talk well and very convincingly, but the reality is different. There is complete censorship, no freedom of speech or thought or anything. They all live in an enclosed environment where the leaders have complete control over their whole lives from morning till night. The people are cut off from the 'Outside World' almost 100%, and there is strict control over all media such as radio, news and all literature including newspapers. That is how they control people. There is no democracy; the leaders make all important decisions and the 'common' people have to go along with them or otherwise they will be in trouble, which means punishment such as having various rights withdrawn. This often also involves having members of a family taken away and excluded.
I have to say quite honestly that after having read Joe Keiderling's letters to you and then some excerpts from Julius Rubin's book, there is no doubt that what Julius writes is basically true and that Joe is just very worried about what Julius has written, not because it is untrue but because it puts the Bruderhof in a bad light. Joe makes one quote from the book which he finds particularly galling, "Religious despair, suicidal inclinations and obsessions with unpardonable sin afflict many Bruderhof youth". Well I happen to know that this statement is absolutely true. I actually helped my sister escape from this 'religious' group less than three years ago. I don't use the word escape lightly, but that is what it was. When they found out, they tried by all means to get her back, including using the police in America and when that did not work, they tried by using Interpol and telling the police a whole lot of lies.
Joe Keiderling also mentions that Julius Rubin contributed a chapter to a book called Harmful Religion; An Exploration Of Religious Abuse, printed by SPCK. Julius wrote one chapter in it called "The Other Side of Joy." He recounts the story of one woman's experiences who grew up on the Bruderhof. It is quite a harrowing story. She was put under so much pressure for a long period of time and eventually felt so low and useless that she just wanted to commit suicide. The story was written under a pseudonym, but I happen to know the story is completely true because I have heard it more or less myself from the woman who is a friend of mine and whom I can completely trust. I also know that there are many many people there, or who were there, who have been so desperate that they have wanted to commit suicide.
The real reason Joe has tried so hard to get you to talk with him, obviously with the intention of having the book altered or not printed at all, is their fear of the truth coming out. That is also why the KIT organisation is their enemy Number One, because we can write and print what we want. If there was really no truth to what we or others were saying, then they would not need to be so desperate to try and close down the KIT publishers, etc. Just one or two years ago they sued KIT publishers and three men, including Julius Rubin, for $10 million; they only withdrew the lawsuits after they found out that it would be contested by a top law firm from New York.
I was quite amazed to hear from my sister when she escaped that the main Bruderhof, where she lived, has a special security department. Johann C Arnold is the leader or Elder and that department is run for him by his 'hitmen,' Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer amongst others, with the help of some office secretaries.
I have written to you because I felt so strongly that it was not right that somebody from the Bruderhof should try and put you under such pressure. I would very much like to have a response from you, either in writing or you can ring me at the above number.
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, Drachten, 2/7/99: I have checked with all the Rhoen Bruderhof and Sannerz sources about "The First Law of Sannerz" and it just was not there. It is a complete finding of Heini Arnold to get control by forbidding the internal checking of ideas amongst the membership, which could lead to criticism about Heini's leadership! He was very afraid of this, so all members had to pledge loyalty to him and any question a person would have would be extinguished in the bud.
There is a lot of snow today, and the world looks beautiful. Thursday I will have to go into hospital for another bladder test. I hate this and would much rather have a sore toe.
Much Love to all KITfolk,
Margot Purcell, 1/6/99: As a child in the Bruderhof, I had a strong impression of heaven and that we were all to go there when we died. The stress in songs, stories and talk were mostly about heaven. But I was also aware that in the burial ground in Primavera, some graves were on the outskirts of the burial ground fence. These were graves of those who had not been true to the church.
The adults did not want to talk about the individuals buried there. It was like they were still being shunned. (I know I was not the only child puzzled by this, as I have spoken to others who grew up in Primavera and many of them had the same questions and concerns).
Many years later in the communities in America, they spoke of the unfairness of this practice. I doubt the sincerity of that, as we have a photo of the stone which now is the only reminder of the burial ground. On this stone are all the names of those buried there. Even now, those who were buried on the perimeter, are listed as a 'p.s.'
In one of the TV interviews Mr. J. C. Arnold, states "yes the Devil is real".
I do not recall any readings done at meetings that spoke of "going to hell" or "damnation," so to me it was never clear if the Bruderhof believes your soul will go one way or the other. I do recall several books that were read at the evening mealtime, regarding "a soul" that has to prove itself fit for heaven, the struggles it faces, and other similar subjects. (... I did not like these stories.)
Thinking Aloud by Leonard Pavitt
Why is it that newly formed groups, born out of a desire to live according to what they see is the true or original meaning of their particular religion or way of living, always lose that first clear vision that led them to live so differently, and that they then, slowly and inevitably become something other?
I remember reading a book some years ago called, if I remember right, The Pilgrim Church. It traced various Christian groups from the early church up to the twentieth century and showed how these groups appeared to have had an insight into the 'true' beginnings of their faith which led them to return to the first flowering and make a new beginning again, casting off the traditions and forms that had accumulated since. This new clarity, this new beginning was, in turn, lost after a generation or two but somewhere else a new group would again rediscover the 'first born' way and what was seen as the 'true way' was once more found and taken. So that the basic, original and genuine creation had another chance to survive intact.
When one looks at the recent history of various groups, it so often appears that the first enthusiasm and clear vision of the way ahead is lost by the succeeding generations. It seemed to me that this also applied to those forms of tightly knit community groups, whether religious or not.
What appears to happen is that the original group is composed of people who are not only driven by a vision of what they think 'should be' and a determination to put this into practice, but they are also ready to put their own 'stability' at risk to achieve it.
For many this means giving up their careers, relationships, perhaps familial ties, and putting all they possess into the building of the 'new way.' In other words, many such members of new groups truly risked all and, by doing this, not only showed their whole-heartedness but committed themselves totally to making it work.
However well these first totally committed people attempt to pass this whole-hearted giving on to their children, those children when they join the group, simply do not have to make this same sacrifice and great leap into an uncertain future. They don't have to give up the security of a home and job and income as their parents did for the 'new way.' They don't have to run the risk of losing contact with their family or sinking all their hard-earned savings into the venture. Rather one could say that for them such risks would only happen if they decided to leave, for then gone is their security and their familial ties. In a sense, they would be showing the same courage in leaving that their parents or grandparents had shown in joining.
Ben Cavanna, 2/17/99: When our family arrived in Evergreen in December, 1966, I loved the Norfolk Library which I seem to remember is a Carnegie library. I loved the fabric of the building and the beautiful grandfather clock with the sun and moon phase mechanism on the face. I ripped through the American myths like Paul Bunyan and devoured the science fiction. That was where I discovered Robert Heinlein, whose writings caused me to realise that there were social organisation possibilities other than the Bruderhof.
I had permission to take eight books at a time which used to last me for the two weeks till the next visit. I enjoyed wearing our "library clothes", and having access to the gloriously unfettered world of literature. I found that five or six acceptable books, gave good cover for my science fiction passion, which was definitely frowned upon.
The fabric of the building reminded me of Bulstrode and combined for me the warmth and safety of the old world and the excitement and discovery of the new. Tony Potts was our teacher and I liked his enthusiasm and enjoyment of life.
When I went back three years ago with Joanie, we visited the library. It was just as I remembered it, but the children's section was in a new wing. I was sure that the children's section I remembered had been to the right as you came in and the librarian confirmed this had been the case ,but it had been too small. What had originally been the place of my start to liberation is now a conference room, and map section. It was quite wonderful to sit in there for a short while and have memories come tumbling forth.
Hilarion Braun to Paul Fox, 12/22/99: Dear Paul I've been keenly interested in the conversations you and others have had that are being published in KIT, and have been bothered by something that I've finally been able to express. While all of your analyses are refreshing and interesting, they seem consistently to avoid the bigger questions, and that is exactly what the beginnings of the Bruderhof were all about, namely that the "regular Christian churches" were silent on compelling issues and verbose on microcosmic dogmatism.
In a country where Charlton Heston, Whitehead, J. Carter, H. Hyde, and those who bomb abortion clinics all claim to be Christians, one would think that this topic would lie heavily on our shoulders. For me, it is an indication that Christendom is a historical failure, and that those who deal in pietistical microcosms before dealing with this, are the true enablers of the failures of Christianity.
It would be far more believable if you, who are Christians, would include global topics in your discourse regarding the Bruderhof, rather than treat the Bruderhof as an isolated issue. For example, in your "leftist leaning" piece, were you implying that had the Bruderhof supported the Right Wing causes it would have remained Christian? Did you imply that Castro's predecessor was a fine person when you called Castro a thug?
Eberhard Arnold consumed the best whisky and most expensive cigars while the community hardly had enough potatoes to eat, and frequently vacationed while the community was slaving to stay afloat. This is to me, at least, hardly the image of a spiritual person!
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know some of my thoughts, and wish you well. Regards,
P.S. The book by Emmy Arnold, Gegen den Strom, was translated and heavily edited so that its version, Torches Together, downplays Eberhard's excesses.
P.P.S. Feel free to challenge me, etc. or to publish any of this -- I'm one of the few who believes that the First Amendment allowed no buts!
Paul Fox to Hilarion Braun, 1/15/99 Dear Hila, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Personally, I think you expect rather too much from the KIT Newsletter which is, after all, simply a bulletin board for those who have been affected by the Bruderhof to reflect on their experience, and to offer support to one another. I'm not sure it is an appropriate forum to reflect on the alleged failures of Christendom -- or Christianity (which are not at all the same thing). However, I will send your letter and my reply on to Ramon, and allow other KITfolk to decide whether or not the issues you raise will be discussed in the newsletter.
First of all, let me respond to the questions you had about what you termed my "leftist leaning piece." Depending on how you define "right-wing causes -- no, I do not imply that such are intrinsically more Christian than "left-wing causes." Nor am I implying that Batista was a fine fellow simply because I characterize Castro as a thug. I think you are engaging in false dichotomies here. If I criticize Communism, does that mean I support Fascism? Obviously (at least I hope obviously) not!
As to the alleged failure of Christianity (since I gather that Christianity, not Christendom, is the real target of your criticism), one can only judge something a failure if it does not accomplish what it is intended to accomplish. For example, an automobile cannot be judged a failure because it does not fly.
Now, in what sense do you consider Christianity to have failed? Did Christ ever promise that all who "claim to be Christians" would be perfect? That they would never be wrong, and never do wrong? On the contrary! He made it very clear that there would be false teachers, false prophets, and false Christs.
Again, did Christ ever claim that the Church would somehow bring about world peace, and usher in a golden age of brotherhood? Not at all! He clearly prophesied that the world would go from bad to worse until the end of history. According to Scripture, only the direct, personal intervention of Christ will ever bring an end to mankind's miserable history of injustice and oppression.
Granted, He did not give Christians leave to simply sit on their hands and wait for His coming. We are expected to work for justice and peace as much as we are able. And granted, Christians have certainly failed again and again in this respect -- but not entirely! I am convinced that for all the failings of Churches and Christians -- which I do not deny -- the world is nonetheless a better place for their presence. Just consider that the institution of slavery has been universal in every civilization -- until Christian societies abolished it! Yes, there have been "Christians" who defended slavery, but I challenge you to find a single example of a civilization that was not Christian or influenced by Christians that has voluntarily abolished slavery.
Or, to look at more recent history, let us concede that some who called themselves Christians participated in the genocide against the Jews (though the Nazis were clearly as anti-Christian as they were anti-Jewish). But many thousands of Jews were also saved from death by the courageous efforts of Christians of all denominations -- some of whom also paid with their lives for defying the Nazis in this way.
On the personal scale, many are the individuals whose lives have been transformed for the better through their faith in Christ. I know some of them. I am one of them. Alcoholics and addicts have been freed from their chains. Wife-beaters have become loving husbands. Prostitutes have become chaste. There is nothing automatic about this. There is no magic formula or ritual by which evildoers inevitably become righteous, for the simple reason that God respects our freedom to remain in darkness if we prefer it to the light. Nevertheless, there are many examples of genuine and profound change.
Have Christians failed? Of course! Christians are also sinful human beings just like everyone else. Has the Church failed? Yes, in many ways the Church has failed to live up to the teachings of its Founder. However, the Church has not failed in the essential missions which Christ gave her: namely, to preserve and proclaim certain vital truths about God and mankind, and to bring as many souls as possible into eternal life.
For the God in whom Christians believe deals primarily in the "pietistical microcosm" of the individual human soul. Through transformed individuals, society itself may be (and has been) transformed. But society is transitory, while souls are eternal. Of course, if you are looking for some kind of system that will bring in the Golden Age, Christianity will disappoint you -- not because Christianity is a failure, but because it never pretended to be such a system in the first place. What certainly has failed is every human attempt to create a perfect system. All the "isms" of the Twentieth Century have shown their complete inability to transform society and individuals -- except for the worse. Marxism has failed, Fascism has failed. To the extent that Capitalism claims to be anything more than an economic system, it too has failed. I confidently predict that any new ideologies that might arise will also end in failure.
In the end, there remains only Christ and His Church -- and against these the gates of Hell will not prevail. Yours,
Hannah Goodwin Johnson, 2/6/99: Dear KIT, for me to go bugging Afghanistan (with what little I know other than it has been a war zone for the 30 years I've listened to the news), I would think a woman could go there "under cover" to report more directly. What could be a more perfect opportunity for an undercover investigation?
Many things mark a neighborhood
where the stoic world
merges with the sentimental
lives of different people,
in words made monumental.
Within my time of language,
what I say to merge
with other folk makes marks
in the dream world, where an urge
finds worlds in space.
Coils of recall float with stars
in formations that collide
and reform a space for history past
that changes the present norm,
a talent dug up
and taken from fear.
-- from alt.support.bruderhof --
by David C. Goodwin, 2/10/99
I'm sorry about the length of this post, but that's the way it compiled. You won't offend me any if you skip over all of it. As the heading implies, this story involves some things that at least to me seemed strange. You may have heard the joke about the man who liked to boast, "my wife and I enjoy a strange and wonderful relationship -- she's strange and I'm wonderful." I want to make it clear that this is not quite how I feel about this situation. I will continue to hold open the distinct possibility that at least part of the strangeness lies with me, and I would welcome any readers to point out where you see that is the case. I love Wayne, Randy and Joe and pray that God will bless them with wisdom just as I do for all friends or enemies I may have.
But I am both concerned and thankful. Regarding the Bruderhof I am concerned that: Truth is being avoided or intentionally twisted. Family relationships are tampered with in a way they should not be. Swear words are not only tolerated they are even promoted in writings. Theses things are defended with religious pious nonsense.
I am thankful that: God is in no way coerced or in agreement when men twist the truth. I enjoyed a fruitful and open relationship with both my parents until they died. I learned much truth from them including the fact that bad language is bad. No man can tamper with all the good memories I treasure of my parents
I pray that the truth of Christ will increase; I pray that family relationships can be healed.
To any bruderhofers who read this I have written with the following phrase from my brother-in-law's letter in mind: "he (David) is asking that you be sure of what you have done and make it right if there has been a wrong. To me that is one of the highest goods a brother can do." (from letter included later in this posting) When ever any of you would like to dialogue about these concerns I will be glad to. My concerns are out lined in this posting and two other of my postings to this forum titled "Changed for the Better" and "The Lord is Good."
As stated above I am deeply thankful for the open friendship I enjoyed with my parents as long as they were alive. I see great restraint demonstrated by the many people who have parents living at the Bruderhof and who are currently cut off from them. I can easily picture myself attempting to cross the "border" after dark in an effort to make human contact with a parent. The parent-child relationship is one of the deepest bonds God created, and to tamper with that bond in any way that detracts from a free and open friendship is sinful in my opinion. Many others have raised these same concerns in a context of Christian love and until they are resolved they will very likely continue to be mentioned here on this news group and elsewhere.
Sometime in September of 1997 our family stopped at my fathers grave site at the New Meadow Run cemetery (Farmington, PA). I had called Steve Wiser from Ohiopyle to ask which route across NMR property they would prefer we use to reach the cemetery. He very kindly offered to send someone out to open the back gate near the grave yard. I told him we would gladly walk the short distance since it was a lovely clear day. He was very cordial and told me that would be fine. We enjoyed a very nice visit to dad's grave site on the lush green grass as the sun passed through the yellow foliage of early fall. Later I sent Steve a short note thanking him, and whoever does the cemetery care, for the beautiful job they do and for the opportunity afforded for our family to visit.
In October 1997 I received a short and friendly note from Randy Gauger, a member of NMR whom I had never met. He said he would have liked to talk with me but had missed us by a few minutes on the day we visited the grave site. He wrote that if I had any concerns about the Bruderhof he would be glad to talk sometime. Since I do have some concerns I wrote a short note stating that he could gladly stop by most anytime.
The following excerpt appeared on the "Plough on Line" web page some time during January 1998 as part of an otherwise good article by Ruben Ayala (Woodcrest member) about the plight of the indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico:
"I'll remember Tuxtla Gutierrez and its people, in another reality from their neighbors just down the road. Living their lives in comfort, rich, powerful, and not caring about a f---ing thing but themselves." (The bad word was spelled complete with the "uck" part included.) This strong language surprised me enough that I included the letter to The Plough Editor (included later in this posting) along with my subscription check.
Within a few days after I had sent the letter to The Plough, Randy Gauger called to say it would suit him to make the visit we had previously discussed, since he and Wayne Shirky would be near Harrisburg on February 5th. I invited them both to come for supper which suited them, and so we met as planned at our house that evening.
(Meeting notes are included later in this posting)
During Thanksgiving 1998 some of our family got together at my brother Chris' place. He lives a few miles south of Route I-84 near Carmel, NY. Since we would be quite close to Maple Ridge bruderhof (Ulster Park, NY) I decided to take our family to visit my mom's grave site which is located there. It took at least three phone calls until I could talk to someone who could give this permission:
"We don't really want you to visit just now because we don't know were you stand on some things, but we don't think we should say no to visiting your mom's grave."
I thanked them and arranged to visit the day after Thanksgiving.
On Friday we all (my family, my sister Eileen and brother Chris) made a brief visit to our mother's grave. We had a very nice visit and also had the chance to chat with my brother Peter and his wife Terra, who walked along to the grave site with us. It was the first I had met any of my bruderhof family in over 4 years. Then we stopped at the Perrine's Bridge which spans the Wallkill River near Rifton, NY, quite close to the end of the Woodcrest driveway.
We walked across the bridge and Chris, my boys and I walked down stream to the dam and powerhouse. When we returned about 25 minutes later, Joe Keiderling was standing there waiting to talk with me. My wife had seen him and someone else inspecting our car, presumably taking note of our PA license plate, drive away and then return a few minutes later to look around some more. When he saw part of our family sitting on the far bank of the river he came across the bridge to talk. Our conversation included more or less the following:
A. Joe asked if we would be in the area long enough to schedule a talk. I told him that we would be leaving the next day and that it would be better another time when it wouldn't interrupt our family visit. I said that although I do have concerns about the Bruderhof, the last meeting with Wayne and Randy from the Bruderhof had seemed very strange to me, and it probably would take several hours to talk anything through adequately.
B. He said he is not concerned so much about the Bruderhof, because it will survive anyway, but he is concerned about the people I associate with and that for me as a Christian he is concerned for my spiritual well being. When I asked who he might be referring to he mentioned Blair Purcell and Wayne Chesley.
C. I told him that I have not talked with Blair for almost two years since trying to arrange mediation talks with MCS, and that Wayne had been a friend for years, since before he joined the Bruderhof and I didn't see any reason to change that now. Joe said that the mediation attempts had to be canceled because of conditions made by Blair and others, not by the Bruderhof. (Note: I do not wish to try to distance myself from Blair, or anyone else. This was merely a statement of fact and the quickest way to keep our conversation on track. I feel that bringing third parties who are not present to defend themselves into a discussion is not very helpful and is irrelevant.)
D. I told him my main concern is that families should be allowed to function as families regardless of belief differences. I said my own family had been through plenty of separation that I feel was not necessary. Mom even spent time out of brotherhood fellowship on account of trying to relate in a friendly manner to my sisters after being advised not to.
E. Joe said that there are many who relate to their families at the Bruderhof in a positive way with out any problems. He said that 95% (of those who leave) relate to their bruderhof families in that way. (Note: since I know of well over a hundred people with family at the Bruderhof who do not enjoy such a problem free relationship, I would question the accuracy of this statement. There would have to be literally thousands of outsiders enjoying nice family relationships to bruderhofers to make the 95% figure true. Who are they?)
F. He asked why we were in the area and if we were intending to visit Woodcrest. I told him we had come over from Maple Ridge after visiting our mother's grave to look at Perrine's Bridge and were not planning to visit Woodcrest . He said that they would rather not have us make unannounced visits.
G. I told him our visit had been properly arranged with folk at Maple Ridge. Chris said that it had taken more than three phone calls in order to obtain reluctant permission to merely visit mom's grave site. He also said it appeared to him that Joe was the one making an "unannounced visit" by interrupting our family walk.
Our discussion was quite amiable and we parted on friendly terms. We both agreed that more dialogue could be beneficial and I told Joe he can stop at our place if he would like. After considering what such a discussion could lead to I sent the following letter (dated Jan. 21, 1999) with all the rest of the attachments.
I soon received this reply: "Dear David, Thank you for your letter of Jan 21. After reading through all the material you sent, I couldn't think of anything to be gained by dialog. Thank you for taking so much time to share your thoughts with me. Regards, Joe Keiderling"
I am fully content to leave this all in the Lord's hands, and intend to do so. May He work to soften and mold hearts as He sees fit. He will do so for any of us who allow Him to.
January 21, 1999
Joe Keiderling Woodcrest Bruderhof
This letter is a follow up to the discussion we had together last November 27 near the Perrine's Bridge. Thanks for the good will you expressed and the interest in starting some dialogue. I told you that I would welcome this too. I will be honest however, and tell you that I have some serious misgivings about this kind of discussion, when I remember the last meeting I had with bruderhof members Wayne Shirky and Randy Gauger in February, 1998. As you may recall I told you that meeting seemed very strange to me and I will explain why. In their effort to reassure me that the brotherhood operates on the same "basis of the clear teachings of Christ that was operating when my father was alive," they raised a whole new cloud of doubts in my mind and heart.
Really, I do not know much about how the brotherhood operated when my dad was alive because he died when I was only 13, but I do know what was consistently represented to me by both my parents. My mother in particular was very influential during those teen age years when critical thinking takes a turn for more serious analysis of values in a person's mind. This was during the time that my mother was helping to translate the "Great Chronicle", as well as researching other related documents of the reformation era. She often would make mention of these writings in our home. What was consistently represented to me by both mom and dad (and all other teaching I can recall at the Bruderhof) was very consistent with the following anabaptist and early church principles:
1. Non-resistance: (pacifism as it was usually called) -- turning the other cheek when confronted by force or verbal attacks, allowing oneself to suffer rather than defend oneself or rights, avoiding all coercion of others in order to protect oneself, refusing to bear arm to protect country, others or self. (Mt. 5:39,44)
2. Not swearing or taking oaths: using sound speech that cannot be condemned, not using words known to be swear words, giving a simple affirmation on legal documents, etc. rather than signing or executing a sworn statement. (Mt. 5:34-37)
3. Avoiding courts of law: staying away from courts of earthly rule and law, agreeing quickly with an adversary who would sue us at law in an attempt to make peace, never initiating legal action against another but rather suffering loss. (Mt. 5:40, 1Cor. 6:1-8)
These teachings of Jesus may not always be easily lived up to and I think it is safe to say that we have all failed at times to live them, both personally and corporately, but the ideals listed above were taught clearly enough when I lived in the Bruderhof prior to 1981. Even our neighbors knew the bruderhof's position on these issues, as the following example in which I personally failed demonstrates. I was engaged in some small argument with a high school classmate from Markleysburg who often seemed to enjoy harassing me with verbal abuse and mild physical threats. When he threatened me with something I quipped that I could sue him if he did that. He replied that we (bruderhoffers) did not believe in suing, which I had to admit was the truth. That ended the argument quickly.
The very strange part about the meeting with Wayne and Randy was this: while there was some general agreement about the above principles in theory, there was plain evidence that in practice these same principles could be ignored very easily if convenient. Wayne even used a by-word to bring an objection from me. When I quietly objected to Wayne's use of bad language, Randy very quickly used my objection as evidence of great spiritual pride requiring a change of heart, repentance, and change of attitude on my part, and that using scripture the way I had in the letter to The Plough was proud, etc.
I will continue to examine my attitudes in the light of truth that I have learned (much of it during more than 20 years of bruderhof life). If I need to repent or change course to follow Christ more closely then I wish to do so. If I can understand what was wrong or proud in either my letter to Plough, or discussion with Wayne and Randy (or this correspondence) I will do my best to make things right with my fellow man and before God. But quite frankly, Randy's strong accusation of pride and need to repent, etc. astonished me, when what I was trying my best to promote were time-honored Anabaptist and early church principles along with some supporting scriptures.
I can make no apology for referring to scripture. The Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles all quoted and wrote scripture in great volume. We can make no claim to be on par with them, but all through the ages Christians have turned to and quoted scripture to make their defense, teach each other, exhort, bless, correct, challenge, and learn. I do not know what we can tell each other of value if we can not include God's written word.
Getting back to the previous three points, I believe it is wrong for myself (and other Christians in general) to participate in the following kinds of activity: It is wrong to use coercion or force to protect rights, property, or ideas. It is wrong to use swear words or oaths even to make what one may consider a good point. It is wrong to sue or initiate legal action against another, even if they are wrong or seem to justly deserve it. I know such statements are easier said than lived, but by God's grace I desire to represent all of Christ's call in action. At this point in my life I have a clear conscience before God and man as I endeavor to follow Christ, and I can think of no major disagreements between my present beliefs and what my parents represented to me during the entire span of years that our lives overlapped. I wish to be accepting of any input that points to Christ, even if it means I need to change what I currently believe or practice. Let us exhort one another to love and good works as Christ calls us to do.
I have written all this in the hope that you can understand what seemed to me as strangely two sided speech at the meeting last year with Wayne and Randy. This is a summary of where I stand and what I believe regarding the issues that were discussed. I have included all the additional information in an attempt to be as honest as possible with you about all my concerns. This is not to tell you that you need to change or agree with me on any of these points. If you disagree with my position I will still be glad to dialogue. If, however, you see this letter as more indication of pride and unrepentance on my part then tell me so in a short letter and save us all the bother of time, travel, and phone calls needed to make such a meeting, because I am not very interested in more discussion with you if that is the case.
During the past several years I have been accused of spiritual pride or arrogance or some other spiritual problem at least three times by bruderhof members while attempting to discuss some of my concerns regarding the Bruderhof. Each time the accusation was made it effectively ended all further meaningful discussion, and I have no interest in repeating that scenario. I look forward to your reply.
My opinion is that the best way to clear up some of these disagreements would be to hold a forum open to anyone who is interested in respectful dialogue. I am quite sure many would make an effort to be there. However you feel about all this, I will continue to pray that God will direct both your ways and mine. He knows much better than any of us what both you and I may need to change to conform to the image of His dear Son. I welcome any input or corrections on the content of that last meeting with Wayne or Randy that either may have.
Wishing you the joy of the Lord.
Encl: Letter to Plough Meeting notes
Follow up correspondence
cc: Wayne Shirky, Randy Gauger
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one with another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it." (Mal 3:16) May it be so! Amen
January 26, 1998
Enclosed is $10 for Plough issues for 1998. I always read it with interest and find myself challenged, surprised, even shocked at times (just as planned?), and I find all that mostly positive. Like most people, I enjoy a good shock occasionally. The key word here should be "good" as judged by God's timeless and holy standards. I have also received some "bad shocks" lately such as foul language in print and electronic publication. In Abu-Jamal's books it looked very bad, but now it seems to slide by even from a bruderhof member. While growing up at the Bruderhof I am sure such language was not acceptable, and would have received a firm reprimand even if it was a slip of the tongue. I am extremely thankful for the teaching I received; most importantly to always ask the question of myself "would I be happy to have Jesus stand next to me while I do this activity, type this letter, edit this print, say this word, or whatever I am doing?" In light of Jesus' teaching, I would have to answer "no" if my activity included saying, writing or editing such foul language (that even a secular newspaper would edit out).
Jesus said: Swear not at all (Mt 5:34) We shall give account for every idle word (Mt 12:36)
Evil communication corrupts good manners (1Cor 15:33) Use sound speech that cannot be condemned (Tit 2:8) Let your speech be always with grace (Col 3:8) Put away filthy communication out of your mouth (Col 3:8) Provoke (exhort) one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24)
As a Christian friend, I exhort you to promote with your writings this high gospel standard. If you do find such language (as enclosed reference article) acceptable in your community and publications I would very much like to know why.
Sincerely, David Goodwin
cc: Ruben Ayala
(A copy of the article by Ayala as quoted earlier in this posting was included.)
Meeting With Wayne and Randy
Meeting notes: The following is my recollection of the main points of discussion at the meeting. No notes were taken during the discussion so all points are from memory, jotted down shortly after the meeting ended. The points are not necessarily in the order of their discussion. Meeting date/location: evening of Thursday, Feb. 5, 1998 Goodwin residence, Orrstown, PA Meeting Agenda: To discuss differences in view point between David Goodwin and Bruderhof folks in an effort to provide greater understanding between family and friends.Meeting Attendance: Wayne Shirky, Randy Gauger, Dave Goodwin (Philip Sollenberger and Gregory Toth attended most of the meeting)
A. Letter to The Plough Editors: Randy brought up the subject of David's letter to Plough. He stated he had read the letter but had not seen Ruben Ayala's article that had been attached. The subject letter was written by David Goodwin to the Plough Editors questioning the use of bad language in Plough publications (copy of letter attached). Wayne and Randy explained that "letters to the editor" are sometimes published with strong language as written in order to show the true reaction of some writers. They also said that such language is not acceptable on the Bruderhof.
B. Family Visits to Bruderhof: David stated that one of his main concerns is that "outside" folk could visit family members at the Bruderhof more freely, particularly those with elderly parents. Wayne and Randy explained that there is no objection to visits as long as the visitor has a "spirit of trust and openness". David suggested that all folk, regardless of differences, wishing to visit be invited for a "trial period" of six months. Everyone could evaluate how things could proceed after that time. Wayne and Randy stated that much effort and thought had gone into such ideas already but that it is just not possible with people who are working to undermine them.
C. Blair Purcell and others: Randy stated that Blair and others are essentially trying to undermine and destroy the Bruderhof by spreading false information with allegations of such things as child abuse, or facts presented in a misleading way such as "media packets" sent to various township and local officials, etc. David stated that he believes some of the accusations made against the Bruerhof seemed misguided. Randy stated that Andy Baseley made an unannounced visit to new Meadow Run and belligerently refused to listen to any of the men who confronted him and asked him to leave. Randy finally called the police to escort him away. Andy later reported those events inaccurately to make the Bruderhof look bad.
D. Difficulty in leaving Bruderhof: Randy stated how some people have given the false impression that the Bruderhof is hard to leave by reporting that they had to "escape". He said any one is free to leave and he has helped several people who decided to leave himself. David stated that leaving the Bruderhof had been very difficult adjustment for him. Randy stated quite emphatically that people need to "grow-up" and realize that everybody's life has its difficult moments and that life is not a bed of roses.
E. Trust: Wayne stated that there needs to be an open trust for a good relationship and is seemed evident that David lacked trust of their motives. David stated that his trust was lower then it used to be upon hearing of Bruderhof's actions such as the barrage of phone call to the "children of the Bruderhof" 800 phone number and legal action against those outside perceived as enemies. Wayne stated that the law suits have been withdrawn and that although some of the actions may not have been the best they were done in a sincere effort to follow Christ. Randy stated that he supported the phone calls made to the 800 number and said "I wish I had called and told them what I thought of it." David stated that the lawsuit seemed contradictory to the position he believed the Bruderhof taught when he was there, that Christians do not sue in a court of law, and that he still believes instigation legal action is wrong. David also stated he does not believe there is a "right" way to do a wrong thing. Wayne stated that the brotherhood struggles hard with these issues and that the brotherhood still operates the very same way that they did (when David's father was alive) in trying to discern God's will. Wayne made an emotional appeal for David to trust them, and that there needs to be complete trust before there can be any meaningful relationship. Wayne at one point used the phrase "dam* it" as he talked about the importance of trust. David stated that such language does not help to raise his trust level any.
F. Pride Evident: Randy quickly stated that David's objection to Wayne's use of bad language was a result of pride and that David's letter to the Plough editor which contained quotes from scripture represented very much pride and a superior attitude. Randy said they already know what the Bible contains. He then challenged David to repent of his proud heart (if there is to be an improvement in the relationship with the Bruderhof).
Randy left the meeting very shortly after his strong admonition and went outside to start the car.
Some of David's Reflections Regarding The Meeting
The meeting was quite disappointing. Mutual understanding and trust took a step backward rather than forward in my opinion. The discussion seemed to be planned to entrap me in "spiritual pride." Soon after Randy had made a strong statement about my pride, the meeting ended.
Why had Randy been given a copy of my letter to the Plough editor, but not the article written by Ruben Ayala which contained the foul language? That fact struck me as most disingenuous. The whole case that Wayne and Randy made about letters to the editor being printed with strong words completely missed the point. My objection had been about use of bad language in Plough publications by their own members.
In discussing the phone calls made by Bruderhof members to the COB 800 number, Wayne conceded that it may not have been the right thing to do, even though they honestly believed it was right at the time. Randy stated "I wish I had called and told them what I thought." I'm not sure that they were in unity on this point.
I have known Wayne for most of my life. I went through all twelve school years with some of his children and I have many good memories of his family, of working together with him on building projects, and of his personal input in my own life that I count valuable to this day.
I had never met Randy before and I find it unfortunate that the Bruderhof chose to send a non-acquaintance to such a meeting. Now my entire personal knowledge of Randy is clouded by the mostly negative memories I have of that meeting, and Randy's seemingly judgmental accusations. I'm quite sure this is not an accurate picture of him as a person, and I would be happy to have the opportunity to get to know his good side better.
Wayne's use of the phrase "dam* it" seemed both disturbing and also quite out of character with how I remember Wayne. I think he came from a Brethren background and as far as I know the Brethren take a similar stand to not using swear words as I do. It almost seemed like he may have said it intentionally to draw a reaction. For Randy to effectively defend the bad language, with all the talk about pride made no good sense to me at all. It was all the more strange and even contradictory in light of the fact that our talk had started out by discussing bad language, with Wayne trying to reassure me that swearing is not counted as acceptable speech at the Bruderhof.
I am quite sure that use of the bad word mentioned above would have called for at least a kind and firm admonition if not a full-blown row when I lived at NMR. Has this changed? I remain highly unsure of the Bruderhof stand on this subject.
It seemed that both Wayne and Randy had great concern that my thinking has been negatively influenced by what their "outside" critics say about them. Actually my favorable opinion of the Bruderhof has suffered a much heavier beating as the direct result of several direct contacts I have had with bruderhof members other than my own family since mom died in 1992.
I am very thankful that I never became entangled with bruderhof membership if, as a result, I would have to defend, agree with, support, or participate in the kind of action I witnessed in Wayne and Randy during that meeting.
MY PRAYER: Oh God our heavenly Father, you who Know and try the hearts of men, lead us by your Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ, and may He direct each of our thinking about these and all other matters. Teach us Thy will, Amen.
The meeting was attended by Philip Sollenberger, my brother in law, who is a college student in his mid twenties and Gregory Toth, a high school senior exchange student from Hungary. Both of them lived in our household community last year. They had been interested in visiting New Meadow Run Bruderhof and Philip had talked by phone with Randy sometime around October 1997 to request a visit. Randy told him that because they lived in our house and because of their "deep concerns" about me, that each of them should write a letter to request a visit, which I think they each did. They both found the meeting to be very interesting, but as Philip states not entirely enjoyable. After the meeting Gregory made some insightful comments and wrote a page or two of notes in Hungarian. Philip wrote the letter included below. Sometime after our meeting, Randy wrote inviting them to visit, but by then Philip had moved to Philadelphia to continue his studies at Drexel, so they have not visited yet.
February 10, 1998
Dear Randy Gauger,
Hello! I've purposefully waited to write this letter even though I felt like writing it the next day after you visited. I usually wait before responding to something which gets me a bit riled up because I know my own initial responses to an uncomfortable situation can easily be unthoughtful and harmful at times. When I thanked you for helping me off the couch as you were about to leave the Goodwins', I also meant it as a thank-you for coming to talk to Dave about the deep concerns which you had mentioned in the phone call. As I see it, this was a needed step for you to understand one another. From my point of view this understanding did not happen. I'm writing to give you my perspective on the evening and I hope that you can clear up any misunderstandings which you see in my thoughts.
Through the evening I saw several things about you and Wayne that became very obvious to me. First and most clearly was the high value you both placed on preserving the community spirit. This was evidently a very important factor in your lives. You each gave up a lot in your lives to experience this as stated by your own testimony. Something that is of such value must be more than I have yet seen and still do hope to find in fellowship among believers. The fellowship Dave and Starla have as part of their church fellowship is the most open and honest that I have seen among Mennonite circles. They do indeed share a great deal among themselves and have also shared with me in small ways although I have not asked for it. I truly would like to see and hopefully experience what you have spoken of.
Secondly, you both expressed a deep desire for the reconciliation of relations with Dave and others who have left the community. I could also see this in both of you although I saw it most clearly in Wayne as he stood up and told Dave in essence, "We have tried to open the doors for reconciliation. Can't you trust us? You've said we haven't tried?" His earnestness was quite evident to me even before he stood up. I must say that I fear that this desire was so strong within him that he was not seeing that Dave had merely asked if an open effort could be made for reconciliation. Dave had NOT said that it wasn't tried. He was saying, as I understood, that whether you had tried this or not, he had not seen it yet for himself -- or for others whom he knows. Gathering from what you said of some of the others, they would not have told him when you did try it with them. From what I've seen, His contact with you has been quite slim in any personal way over the last year or two.
As far as I know, the most contact he's had with you has been through the Plough and books written by Arnold (I think there was another author but I can't remember who). I don't remember ever seeing literature accusing you -- other than what you print in the Plough 'Letters to the Editor' -- anywhere near this house. Newsprints of the children's march and other socio-political events have hung on the fridge for weeks at times. Without personal invitation to the Bruderhof, or an internet offer or printed offer of such an effort, how was he to know that you had tried? Is it a wonder that he said what he did? His clear invitation to you to come and join us at supper was itself an indication of his openness and trust to the Bruderhof from my point of view. I don't understand why the trust is not returned. I can understand, in the heat of emotion which Wayne showed, that he could miss what Dave had really been saying about such an effort. I do think it was a misunderstanding. Dave had tried to make what he said clearer but it was not heard because Wayne had not finished yet.
I can't understand why Wayne would use the one word as he did in Dave's own house when part of the reason you came was due to Dave's own response to the use of such language previously. It was surprisingly disrespectful because I had previously always considered the Bruderhof and it's members to be very respectful. Each one of the ex-Bruderhof members that I have come to know (Dave, Eileen, Chris, and Ruth) have been very respectful and given me a very good example of thoughtful, cultured education. This has reflected to me some of what the Bruderhof community must be (unless some change has occurred -- you both stated that it has not). I hope to see more of what went into their upbringing as it was an important part of producing this character. The behavior of those whom you and Wayne mentioned (in this discussion) would not have produced such a desire. I do not think the Bruderhof would engage in this kind of activity.
Thirdly I write of Dave's letter that you said seemed so proud -- due to the use of much scripture. I did not read this letter so I can't say I know what it was like. Another individual from his church had read it and did not have the same opinion as you did -- even before Dave sent the letter. From what I have seen, Dave makes an honest effort to watch for his faults and didn't defend himself when you so accused him. He asked you again. I fail to see the pride? If he had not used scripture I myself would have asked him what basis he was approaching you on. If he stands on his own ground to bring to others what he sees as a fault, then it most definitely is pride. Using God's Word is the only safe basis. To say that you don't need scripture shown to you, is quite opposite of what Paul did in reminding those he was addressing of things which he previously said. Jesus also repeated themes in different ways. The law of the old testament was to be memorized and recited. How else was Dave to mention this to you? If he honestly believed that the Bruderhof itself had taught something different and now appeared to oppose its own teaching, then should he not question the application of the teaching? I would have to do this myself.
This doesn't mean that he questions all of the Bruderhof's practices or it's intentions. Rather, he is asking that you be sure of what you have done and make it right if there has been a wrong. To me that is one of the highest goods a brother can do. Another concept which I seem to be seeing, but don't understand about your community, is why the community spirit, if God is there, (this is what I believe would cause the value you place on the community) needs to be protected so strongly.
Jesus didn't seem to protect it so valiantly but rather seemed to place it in seemingly vulnerable situations (i.e. He came to earth, lived with a traitor, visited hypocritical Pharisees homes, etc.). The strength of his spirit was seen in the fact that it prevailed in spite of these situations. Even after Jesus ascension the believers were constantly in touch with society and God saw fit to keep them strong in unity and action. This strength was their attraction. The actions I've seen the other evening do not make sense to me.
This has presently completed my review of the my questions coming from the evening visit you gave us. Again, I thank you for coming and although I did not find all of it enjoyable, I ask that you do not close the doors of communication to us. My present situation makes it more difficult for me to visit the Bruderhof than it would have been -- due to a change of localiation and job situation (although I still hope to visit someday). My schooling and job will keep me pretty tied down for the next six months. It will probably be a while before I can come, but I would like to leave the opportunity open.
May God bless you with wisdom and a clear discernment of truth along with the grace to respond as He would.
Sincerely, a brother through Christ,
Philip received a very short reply to his letter from Randy which stated more or less: We received your letter and Wayne and I (Randy) have both read it. We do not have anything further to say in reply to your comments at this time.
I wrote the following letter in Feb. 1998, but the reply to Philip's letter came back before I sent mine. When he showed me both his letter and the reply, I decided not to send mine because his letter which was quite similar had warranted a "no comment" from Randy. Instead, I sent the brief letter posted later. I have not heard back from either of them since. Before that I had received a nice little note from Wayne, dated Feb 10, thanking us for the supper and chance to talk. That seemed much more in keeping with my fond memories of him.
(Letter by D. Goodwin in Feb. 1998 but not sent)
Dear Wayne and Randy; Thank you for taking the time to stop at our house for the discussion the other evening. Enclosed are my recollections of some of the factual content of the discussion. Please send me any corrections or additions you may wish to add to these notes.It would take much space to write all my thoughts about our meeting, but I will include the following points: 1) Most importantly, I hope we can move forward and conclude this discussion with a more open and mutual friendship as an end result. 2) Regarding trust, I believe it is honest to say that my level of trust for the bruderhof movement is not as high as it once was and that is mostly because I feel less trust for me than there used to be. So how can we build a trustful relationship? To me it would seem easy to accomplish that by more open communication and family visits, etc. with talks about whatever is mutually upbuilding. On the other hand I don't see how we can build trust if the face to face communication is practically non-existent. What basis would there be for trust if we don't share ideas? I can very honestly say that before my mother died we always had good visits, and I can't think of any negative feelings I had for family or friends at the Bruderhof during those 12 years (1980-1992). Any minor disagreements we may have had were easily resolved by a face to face talk or phone call just as they should be. I had all kinds of discussions with mother about many of the same things we discussed the other evening, and there were never any sparks or elevated emotions because it simply was not any problem to discuss anything we needed to talk about with each other. It was just as it should have been. I look forward to things being just that way again.
3) Regarding Blair Purcell and others mentioned I can only say I will usually defend a third party who is not present if I hear accusation made about them. If Blair would start accusing you to me, I would try to defend you. My only personal contact with Blair was a meeting over a year ago to discuss "mediation efforts" which I would still be happy to do, and I think Blair would too. I'm quite sure Blair and I have some major differences of beliefs, but as the song says:
"No man is an island -- no man stands alone -- each man's joy is joy to me -- each man's tears my own. We need one another -- so I will defend -- each man as my brother -- each man as my friend".
4) Regarding my pride, I can only say thank you for the good reminder, and I will do my best to root out pride in my life, by God's grace. Could any of us humbly argue against such a challenge? However I do not agree that the letter to the Plough was the result of pride but only a challenge to do what is right in accordance with God's word revealed in Christ- the only fair standard. I do not feel I am better than you are in any of these counts. I look forward to your reply.
May God bless and keep you and help us all to open our understanding to better know Christ our Lord. Sincerely, David Goodwin
(Letter that was sent)
No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's tears are my own.
We need one another
So I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend.
Dear Wayne and Randy, Thank-you for the time and effort you spent to stop and talk with us last month. Although our discussion seemed to lack any clear conclusion, I hope it was sufficient that from here on we can view our differences as less important, and our responsibility to be brothers and friends as more important. The song quoted above summarizes my thoughts about our meeting very well. I look forward to renewing fellowship with family and friends. May the love of Christ be with you.
Sincerely, David Goodwin
Dave Goodwin, 2/23/99: The following correspondence fits the current thread of helping in some constructive way to promote the unity of families that have been divided, particularly the Nigerian brothers who have wives and children at the Bruderhof. I wrote the first short letter last fall after Blair's postings to this news group about this matter. I sent it to several bruderhoffers including Christoph Arnold. He sent a short reply along with a copy of "Seeking Peace", and inviting me to comment on the book. I am posting my letters in the hope that we can continue to seek peace, cross walls and see family bonds healed by the grace of God..
September 4, 1998
To: All concerned Bruderhof members
I have read in various news forums that some fathers, who were married and have children at the Bruderhof, are not able to visit their children as they would like to. I remember very clearly the joy on my mother's face when she shared with me (about 12 years ago) that the brotherhood had recognized the grave error of promoting or encouraging family separations that had occured in the past, and that the situation had changed. I realize that many factors can be involved in situations of family break up. Never the less, I give you my strongest encouragement to do all you can to bring about unity of families, particularly in the tough cases.
May the love of Christ shine in many more places!
Sincerely, David Goodwin
(My reply to Christoph's letter)
Nov. 2, 1998
Dear Christoph, thank you for your reply to the letter I sent in September regarding the plight of the Nigerian fathers who have wives and families at the Bruderhof. I learned of the more recent situation from online news group reports (which may be rather one-sided). But before that I had met Ebong and one of his friends in person (about 1992), and read the joyful story in The Plough "It's Gonna be Permanent". I had also heard second hand from a more recent hof visitor who had spoken with one of the separated mothers. The whole thing seems very sad to me and I feel much compassion for the separated husbands and wives and the rest of you all. It just doesn't need to be this way. Even an unbelieving partner should be encouraged to stay with their lawful spouse (I Cor.7:12,13). Since I know few details about this current case I will only reiterate my strongest encouragement to allow families to function as families even where there are differences of belief or conscience. As I mentioned before, my mother told me herself (around 1986) that the brotherhood had recognized the tragic consequences and wrongness of separating families that had occurred before. I pray that if this is happening again that it can be recognized and corrected. As an Elder, you stand in the best position of anyone to spark such a change for the better, if it is needed.
Thank you for the book Seeking Peace. As you requested I have included some of my thoughts about the book. I strongly identify with the commitment to seek peace wherever possible. Since both my parents died without any outstanding issues dividing our friendship, I have much inner peace as I remember my upbringing and family relationships.
I will be glad to sit down and talk with anyone wishing to discuss a resolution to family relationships from within and without the Bruderhof or anywhere else. I think that much could be gained by sitting down with all concerned to discuss the topic of seeking peace. As the song says, we are all part of the "family of God".
I have enclosed a copy of the book The Secret of the Strength which I hope you will find encouraging.
Best regards, David Goodwin
Some thoughts on the book: Seeking Peace
In some ways after reading the quote by T.S. Eliot near the front I wondered, "does anymore need to be said about peace from above?" Maybe no more needs to be said, but there is always more to think on and the book gives many good points to ponder. In particular, I found the chapter on silence to be an encouragement. In our meetings for worship we enjoy very much the chance to be together and use our voices for song, prayer, exhortation, and old-fashioned friendly chatting afterward as well. While the gift of verbal communication is wonderful, I often think that corporate silence could be counted as valuable too -- and not viewed as time poorly spent.
At night is a good time to experience silence in solitude and thoughts of God are always the best remedy to restlessness or anxiety that try their best to ruin our silence. As I pondered this one night (after reading that chapter), I was thankful to realize that sleeplessness can actually become a blessing when we allow the silence of God to fill that space with peace, which would otherwise be full of fear or worry.
Speech is silver and silence is golden, but sometimes silver may be found the most valuable element for a job. This is the case when we face an issue that should be opposed. I think we all know the lack of peace that we feel after leaving a situation where we could have said something to help turn people's hearts and minds in a better direction, and we merely stood by silently. This could be called peace in speaking out. And so it should be good for us to speak out to each other and welcome a kind rebuke rather than oppose opposition. Does this mean we should be glad to be in constant opposition? No -- but we should be glad for occasional or frequent opposition if that can point us on to truth, righteousness, godliness and closer to Christ our Lord. So we must be very careful that when we oppose something it will have this benefit if our opposition is heeded. True peace can be found in giving or accepting the opposition that God may lead us into.
A few more thoughts:
It is in the context of peace through speaking out that I have opposed the separation of families (and any other issues at the Bruderhof that I may have opposed on occasion). I feel at peace for having done so and the ball is in the other court. If my opposition is groundless I will not feel slighted at all if it is ignored.
Along that line it is alleged that you stated on a recent Winnipeg radio program that the Nigerian men are involved with other women. I do not believe that is true for most of them and do not condone it if it is true. However, if any person at the Bruderhof (be it their wives or anyone else) is preventing them from being with their families, then they are directly responsible for putting those men in a situation where they are greatly tempted to find another "relationship". I cannot condone any other position than that given in I Cor. 7.
Furthermore, these men as well (as many others who have left the Bruderhof), feel that they had to leave on account of opposing what was against their conscience. There very much needs to be a way found for those who leave (or stay) on grounds of conscience to be counted as friends who can provide valuable criticism and vise versa. Christ, our best friend, still opposes us when we are wrong while at the same time he loves us even unto His death. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and continue to heed His council.
My last comment on the book is regarding the coverage of Hans and Emi-Ma Zumpe, which painted Hans as controlling, bad, and power-hungry in general. The view that Hans had many good human qualities, although he fell into sin, is much more believable to me, and the historic evidence that he wrote letters seeking forgiveness which never reached Emi-Ma is very convincing. How much better that peace could have been if that sin had been forgiven face to face as I believe both parties must have longed for. It is easy to picture that Hans himself found peace in trying his best to repent of his sin, correct his failing and find forgiveness, although it did not happen on a personal level as he may have hoped. I would find the book quite improved by not including that anecdote, (with its rather one-sided view of Hans) which has been a touchy subject for many previously.
I certainly hope the book can provoke more discussion about peace and peaceable fruits of righteousness. I pray that all who seek peace will find it in the Prince of Peace -- Jesus Christ our Lord.