Friday, November 21, 2008

Retreat Results and Fallout

Well, I'm getting even slower at this blog posting stuff. It is only when I am writing my monthly prayer letter (also getting slower), that I take time to post to the blog, too. I have written these posts on my personal experience with contemplative prayer to emphasize how it is creeping into many Christian arenas (even on the mission field) and that most people (Christians!! Believers!! Good people!!) are oblivious to the error/danger and are antagonistic when it is pointed out. How sad for God's servants, who believe they are being true to Him and His Word when, in fact, they are being totally and fully deceived.
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." 1Timothy 4:1

UPDATE: Speaking of the retreat, here is the latest. It happened. Was it as bad as I had hoped it would NOT be? Yes, and worse. And even though the retreat is now over, the fallout is not. The two ladies from America came, the committee met them over lunch and all seemed to be united and friendly. Those of us who had reviewed the outline from the "guest" speaker (as opposed to the "invited" speaker) were very careful not to re-raise any of our concerns. We had been reassured that the "guest" would only present an OPTIONAL seminar on Saturday afternoon. We could choose to not attend.

DURING SESSIONS: But that is not what happened. Beginning with Friday night, our "invited" speaker gave her presentation and then invited the "guest" to the stage to close the evening. The "guest" then proceeded to do an exercise with us that was not fully contemplative prayer, but more of a combination of psychological introspection, centering and then applying this introspection to a Scripture verse. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the Scripture was taken completely out of context and the application was focused on the individual and not on God. I was so disappointed. My friend Marianna felt "ambushed". Each time the "invited" speaker came to the stage (4 times in the course of the weekend) she would invite the "guest" to close the session. Each time an exercise was suggested using these same techniques. On Sunday, communion was offered to close our retreat. But by that time, I was feeling so angry about what was being forced upon everyone who was in attendance that I knew I could not, in good conscience before God, take communion. So, I left the room.

DURING WORKSHOP: I also attended the OPTIONAL workshop, because I wanted first hand information of what would take place. And, again, I was sorely disappointed. The "guest" speaker began with her own personal testimony about the emotional and physical difficulties that had beset she, her husband and her children and that finally led her to a "silent" retreat with the "invited" speaker and 4 other friends. This is where she learned how to "sit in silence" before God and what she wanted us, in turn, to learn from her. She also ended this workshop with an exercise to teach us how to do it. It was exactly what I had feared it would be.

EVALUATIONS: That was still not the end of it. One of the things our retreat committee always does is ask each woman to complete an evaluation of the facilities, schedule, food, speaker and workshops for the purpose of improving the retreat for future years. Out of almost 100 attendees, 80 handed in an evaluation. Of those 80, 20 had negative comments about the "guest" speaker and/or "invited" speaker. Some of them were signed, including one by my friend Marianna. Her daughter complied a summary of all 80 evaluations and sent it out to the entire committee within a day or so after the retreat ended. We believed that if the committee had this "controversial" information in advance of our debrief meeting, which would take place in a week or so, that they would be more prepared to have an open discussion. We did not believe that they would necessarily change their minds and agree with us regarding the content of the teaching, but we, at least, hoped for some honest dialogue.

DEBRIEFING: Not to be. At the debrief meeting, 10 days later, everything about location, food, logistics, music, etc. were discussed for 2 1/2 hours. But when we got to the speaker, the workshops and the evaluations, the leader of our committee said, "Well, that's in the past, it is done!" End of discussion!! End of meeting!! We were dumbfounded. One of our fellow dissenters tried in a very non-confrontational way to say that she thought further discussion was needed. No one, including those of us who were dumbfounded, said anything. I felt that it was already late and that if I said anything to take it further, I would be immediately shut down. It was very clear that the rest of the committee who had said "just trust us" was now unwilling to revisit any of the controversy. To be as fair as possible, one member of the committee who was unable to attend the debriefing, did approach Marianna at the retreat to express her regrets as to what had taken place in the teaching and to voice her thoughts that maybe Marianna's position on this topic was correct. She, at least, said she was willing to look at the issue and ask God about it.

BLOGGING: As a result of our dumbfounding, my friend Marianna wrote in her blog the next day that she felt ambushed by what had happened at the retreat, then completely ignored and unheard at the debriefing. Again, she stated that she does not feel that people should agree with her position about the teaching, but that she has a real issue with 1) how the promise of JUST an OPTIONAL workshop was not followed, and 2) how her EVALUATION COMMENTS (and everyone elses) were so completely and obviously SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET. This is not the way a Christian group should process conflict, from hers and my perspective. Now, she is receiving fallout from several different members of that committee because of what she wrote. So, the retreat ended, but the controversy did not. Marianna's experience confirms how I have felt (dismissed as a disgruntled disunifier with dillusions of detrimental doctrine) and that this topic generates incredibly strong antagonism. I am truly dumbfounded. But, God is Good and His Word Stands FIRM and I must also stand firm with Him as my Defender.
"As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all to take refuge in HIM." Psalm 18:30
Thanks to those of you have commented on my blog or sent email telling me you have read it. It helps to hear positive feedback especially when I, and those who have chosen to "be Bereans" with me, feel so attacked and maligned. GOD is our witness and our Defense in Time of Trouble. Praise HIM!!!
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." 2 Chronicles 28:9
"The Lord looks down from Heaven on the sons of man to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." Psalm 14;2