From: Jeremy & Leonie Tomlinson
Date: Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 10:13 PM
Subject: BC Sister Workers
To: Merlin Affleck, Joshua Tschetter, Reid Goodkey [email addresses redacted]
Dear Merlin, Joshua and Reid,
Thank you, Reid, for including us and sending the recent emails April 8/10, 2023. Finally, the issues of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and Sexual Abuse (SA) are being taken more seriously and appropriately so. It cannot be easy for anyone who reads of Senior Workers’ transgressions that go back decades. Even reading convention notes of these workers creates a turmoil in one’s soul. We are pleased that there is more transparency and there is more help being offered to the victims.
The elephant in the room that requires serious attention is the state of our Sister Workers. Why have we have lost so many Sister Workers in a relatively short space of time? Now with Connie home it is time for transparency around this matter, as something is seriously wrong. We would like to know what their reasons were for quitting – but we know at least some are too traumatized by the events that caused them to quit to speak up. The reasons they left should be shared with their permission once they feel strong enough to verbalize them.
A. Several Sister Workers were indeed shut down and in some cases disciplined for speaking out about CSA and SA cases in the past. Hindsight, in light of most recent exposure of sexual predators, would tell us that the Sister workers were justified in their efforts and the retribution they received from Brother Overseers was wrong, completely unfair and dare it be said, a coverup. We are talking about BC specifically.
B. We need to remember Sister Workers who, dating back decades, have tried to help CSA and SA victims in the Truth and they were silenced, disallowed to offer compassionate help to victims and punished by the Brother Overseers.
1. Punishment involved in some cases being sent out of province to entirely remove them from the victims they were trying to help.
2. We earnestly request of you not to brush this off. It is not an empty allegation but a fact that can and will be corroborated in time.
3. It is often offered as an excuse that the Overseers that made these decisions in the past were making these decisions to the best of their ability at the time. The problem with this explanation is that Doctrine has been the same all along. At least theoretically those that serve God in Truth, and especially God’s servants, should not even need the laws of a country to guide their conduct with respect to CSA and SA. Please note this as you read the rest of this letter.
C. A senior Brother Worker in BC very recently stated that he “has no idea” why the Sisters have been leaving. This is either a person who is unable to empathize or is completely out of touch.
D. Another senior Brother Worker recently, when asked the question of why the Sisters are leaving simply and bluntly stated: “the Sisters need to stay true to their calling”.
E. Another senior Brother Worker, when given a copy of a media article about Aaron Farrough, simply stated “I don’t read this MeToo stuff”. MeToo??
F. These responses are indicative of a culture of male dominance and efforts to control the Sister Workers and the general narrative. Why and to what end? How has this culture become so prevalent in the Ministry and how can anything good come of it? We have been unable to find any Scripture to support this state of affairs.
G. Our example should be how Jesus treated women. Jesus’ lack of discussion on the subject of women speaks loudest of all. It seems convenient to refer to the writings of the Apostles while ignoring the context of the writings, yet only selectively adopting these writings. One such example is that women are to remain silent both in Timothy and Corinthians.
H. Why is it that Sister Workers should be afforded so little respect that their actions (likely Spirit guided) towards helping CSA and SA victims would be considered out of line?
I. During the last two months a person came forward who was a child victim of a professing alleged sexual predator in the Metro Vancouver area. A senior Brother Worker very recently said about this victim, behind his back, “the motive is a big deal here. I didn’t think the motive was right in the first place, because there is bitterness toward the truth. Period.” Coming forward took immense courage for this person and unfortunately this very false statement got back to the victim and the damage is severe. This person is NOT bitter.
Is it time to consider a future in the Ministry where there is more than one overseer in every jurisdiction (province, state, country – however the Ministry is organized) at any given time? Currently there are countries where there is more than one overseer. South Africa has two overseers who regularly include a third “younger brother worker for his input”. This has nothing to do with the size of the Ministry or of the country itself. If the answer to the above question is No, then why not? We know that the Overseers of the various western provinces and states cooperate on matters, but this is not the same as each of these provinces or states having more than one overseer.
It might seem like letters such as this are to cause trouble or because of a bad spirit since no one (or almost no one) raises these matters. It is understandable as people fear being separated from friends and family if they speak up or disagree with the status quo. They fear being ostracized or even excommunicated by the Workers. We know this happened in Alberta and the ostracizing was done by the very Workers who were the problem. We feel moved by the Spirit and our strong convictions disallow our silence. We have variously been called dissenters and rebels. We are neither, we love God’s Truth and are 100% convicted this is God’s Way, but we are desperately concerned about this matter of the Sister Workers and the general state of the Ministry.
We would ask you to consider including the Elders and Deacons, both young and old, those that are quiet and those that question, as well as any others that would like to attend – and meet in the various districts in BC to openly and honestly answer questions. This may restore trust in the Ministry for those that are struggling. Such meetings should be more for listening and less for telling.
The Way of Jesus is a simple way that is good for all time and for each generation. See item B3 above. People and governments change, laws change, society changes but the Way of Christ and the Doctrine does not. There has been efforts over the generations to keep the Friends in conformance with certain outward standards and certain narratives and this has done nothing to avoid the awful things that have come to light recently and has rather caused a strong appearance of a spirit of coverup in order to maintain an outward image of the Way. Some of our most strict or most conservative Workers, both male and female, are now known as perpetrators of CSA and SA, yet they were some of the staunchest supporters of the outward show and meted out judgement against those who questioned.
My dear Mother was sexually assaulted by a brother Worker at age 9 (one of Wilson Reid’s first converts in South Africa) and when she tried to tell her parents she was severely reprimanded for even “speaking like that about a Worker”. Her parents were upholding the outward show. This is how we become known as a sect and this is how we get to where we are today: Unchecked power, suppression of uncomfortable questions, narratives that prey on fear.
The Elders who receive this may wonder why they are included. This is for your information. You can choose to read it and contemplate it or discard it. Some people remain silent because they accept the status quo, others because of fear. Fear is understandable, but it should be towards finding oneself on the wrong side of God’s Will, fearing that the Spirit of the Anti-Christ has come into the Ministry and the Way, not fearing to be unliked. We are all only weak humans but we are or should be of the Body and should have the Spirit leading and guiding us.
Jeremy and Leonie
This letter can be downloaded as a pdf.
Merlin Affleck subsequently replied to the Tomlinsons:
Hello Jeremy and Leonie,
Considering history is important when coming to conclusions about the elephant in the room. I was in neighbouring provinces for 34 years before coming here to BC six years ago. Yes BC has had the reputation of being a graveyard for sister workers for decades. I could give you a list of 16 names or more that have not made it in the last decade or so. Since coming here I did learn that some did not have the health to continue and that is understandable.
But several left wounded. I have had the opportunity now to personally visit with several of them and heard from them first hand about their experiences and I would encourage you to do the same. I would rather have you listen to those details first hand from these sisters themselves and I will be happy to supply you with their names and contact information if they agree. Most of them have been gracious (including auntie Betty) and silently suffered.
You also might want to visit with some who are more comfortable labouring in other provinces where they feel appreciated and safe. I can supply their contact information too if they agree and you can hear it first hand from them whether the pressure they felt here comes from the brother’s side or the sister’s or both.
Another good resource would be to visit with the convention owners. You have their contact information so you can speak with them and learn about their observations during preps.
You might check with one who came here from another province in recent times and health broke after 1.5 years. She returned home and heads up a field and does fine. These are gracious people who do not want to cause trouble but they may answer a ‘yes or no’ regarding where the uncomfortable spirit they felt came from ….the brothers or sisters or from both.
I would be able to supply you with the contact information for the mother of a young sister that came from another province and it would be good for you to hear it from her regarding the change that she witnessed in her dear daughter after coming here.
I wish you could have been in the car last week as could have been in the car last week as Judy, Connie and I traveled over the Coquihalla together and had a serious brotherly / sisterly visit. It was lovely. We were coming back from a meeting in Kelowna where concerned parents and elders met to discuss and ask direct questions about CSA and other issues like you have mentioned in this email. The meeting lasted from 7 – 11:30pm and a good spirit prevailed and I believe all would agree that it was productive and good points were agreed on for moving forward.
There is a place for face to face visits. We have an elders meeting scheduled for next week and we will be having more throughout the province in the near future too. I think you will remember how I spoke to the province via Zoom a few years ago opening up the subject of CSA. Since then I have worked with sisters and brothers regarding CSA courses and Workers code of conduct and Child safe policy documents. Recently I asked Cindy-Lynn to research and send out a 90 minute CSA course and other hotline information to our elders and parents.
All this has been a learning curve for me and I am not here to say that I have done everything right, but I can also say that I hate these issues along with you and pledge to be open to better ways moving forward. I also want to remind you about the old saying …..’there are many sides to a story’ and I want to encourage you to do lots of first hand listening and learning from many sides about the history before coming to definite conclusions.
I’ve appreciated Nehemiah lately. The Kingdom was in disrepair. He observed, wept & prayed (including himself when the Kingdom suffered loss) while the enemy ridiculed. Then he inspired the people to unite and rebuild one stone at a time. They did and in 52 days the walls were rebuilt and strong again. The precious things of God (including children) could be safe again. Then they rejoiced …..and we can tool!
Thank you Jeremy and Leonie.
I sure hope you get someone’s attention. Don’t hold your breath.
We don’t question the workers. Especially the older brothers. I wrote to an older brother a month ago. Nothing. He doesn’t have time. He got promoted to assistant manager when our sexually abusive overseer got removed. They absolutely love their titles and powers as you too are finding out.
Again thank you both for your undeniable courage.
This is an excellent letter. Clearly each point has been well thought out, and more importantly, is accurate regarding the nature of the problem.
Some characteristics of BOTH perpetrators and their accomplices/enablers include:
– Displacement of focus and responsibility
– Subterfuge and concealment
– Victim blaming, shaming and character assassination
– Lack of empathy
The events described in your letter reflect many of these characteristics.
I absolutely agree that God’s doctrine has been the same all along and will not change- regardless of how some of the men in charge choose to act.
Under the nefarious circumstances of molestation or sexual assault, it makes logical sense of how the various Sister Workers have been horribly treated. Perpetrators and their enablers need to quell any and all threat to their secrets. Again, clearly the opposite of Christ like behavior… I am thankful Jesus faced situations head on, sorted them out and then applied Devine and righteous decisions.
I genuinely hope and pray that the existing righteous workers will be able to rise up and stem the tide.
These are just some thoughts from someone who is watching from “the sidelines”.John the baptist said “now the axe is laid to the root”.I have read many of the posts on this site.There seems to be a problem that i don’t think is going away.So where might the root of this problem be?There is an unwritten rule when anyone enters the work marriage is forbidden.But that is neither a commandment or teaching of Jesus as far as i can see.Paul in writing to the corinthians said”to those who examine me”Do i and Barnabus have not the power to lead about a sister,a wife as other the apostles.He names them,Peter being one of them,James and the brothers of Jesus also(if my memory serves me correctly).So this was not forbidden.Jesus in teaching about “eunuchs”said not everyone is capable of living like this only to those to whom to it is given.I believe everyone who is called into the work enters with every good intention of being faithful.But what about when a young worker finds he cannot contain those natural desires.Would it not be prudent when they enter the work to instruct them if they find they cannot contain those affections,maybe it is better they not continue in the work before it is a problem.,or marry a sister worker if they still feel that call of the ministry?I understand that distraction,but Peter certainly wasn’t hindered by it.Far better than hiding it in secret.If they are encouraged that they are not failures if they can’t contain.I believe their hearts were right and pure in the begiining.My heart aches for all the ones involved.The victoms and the offenders.These are just my observations.
What does the bible teach us to do with offenders? What does Jesus teach to do with them? What DID Jesus do with them? What DIDN’T he do with them? All the answers are in Jesus and if anything is done in any other way or with any other excuses, then it might feel justified but if it’s not Jesus, it’s still useless. Let him that is without sin cast the first stone. No overseer or elder or friend living in the world today can do that no matter how much they haven’t done certain sins. The bible teaches that we can do everything right we possibly can but if we offend Jesus in just one area, we’re offenders of it all. To me, the biggest problem is lack of communication between the ministry and friends that are being negatively affected by some kind of evil they have been enduring often for many decades. I have attempted numerous times to have a visit with senior workers regarding things that are very troubling and harmful yet they do not believe that it is their responsibility to even respond. It’s very frustrating and so difficult not to react to. Jesus is our counsellor and if the ministry is following Jesus that means they are our counsellors too yet we have been told time and again to go to the “professionals”. Well, who are the professionals for spiritual guidance!? NOT the workers? ALL of these things affect our spiritual life.
I read about a worker saying he couldn’t stop accessing child pornography when he was bored. I have been informed by workers that the reason they can’t visit us as often as they need to is because there are not enough workers. That’s bullshit. There are too many workers if any of them can be “bored”. Unfortunately the way “problems” are dealt with are through a bunch of emails between themselves, resulting in decisions made too quickly without going to ALL parties involved and making decisions through prayer and fasting instead of getting their heads together and coming up with solutions that seem right among themselves with maybe one piece of scriptures to back up their decisions. Someone mentioned “now is the axe laid unto the root”. No it is not because no one understands how deep that root goes or even what it is. Jesus didn’t broadcast the problems he dealt with among his people but he didn’t hide them or excuse them either. No “letters” were passed among the most prominent and privileged. His life and ministry was so straight and narrow and lowly that there was no to ask for transparency. And how the hell is having a website that helps people become more aware of sexual abuse going to help anyone? So that they can take the easy way out as usual and just tell their people to use the website rather than having to get out of their comfort zone and BE the help God intended his ministry would be? There’s enough on the web for anyone to find out how to deal with abuse without adding more information that’s already out there, especially without personal ministry involvement for ANYONE in the church that requires it. It sounds to me like, as usual, they are trying to pass the buck so that they themselves do not have to change. Anyhoo, it was the chief priests and elders of Jesus’s day that made the same choices and so it’s no wonder it’s that same category of people in the truth today. It’s likely that Jesus’s return is very near when the ministry is too busy with operational duties to care enough about the lost sheep of their own flock.
And – hell no! We do not need more overseers! But that’s probably how it will go. Too many chief priests not enough true labourers. It hasn’t been working and LOOK at all those overseers who put their names to those letters, most of whom are offenders in other areas of people’s lives.
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I stand corrected. How wonderful that you heard back from Merlin. Makes him a stand up worker. Sounds like he’s trying to make things better. I appreciate his response to you both.
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