At this point, I have nothing else to lose because it is has become clear that Tom Patton lied to me the past 10-11 months about being my friend because a real friend would NEVER do what he did. Also it has become clear that neither Tom nor the church care about scripture when it comes to restoration (II Corinthians 13:11) or discipline (Matthew 18) or the least of these (Matthew 25).
I would not ordinarily drag names into a post, but I will no longer protect the offenders. However, for those who were only trying to truly help, I will only use initials.
For those that have ever read my earliest posts I chronicled about the tensions with Bob Flayhart and why I ultimately left Oak Mountain in December. I chronicled about the abuses that I personally experienced.
Well, let me tell you what the past 10-11 months have brought me through.
A time of self-discovery. A battle with health. Glimpses of God.
But God is unattainable. But God remains out of reach to me. Because to me God might be a bully just like it turns out Tom and those leaders at the church were and are.
Tom said I hadn't had a meltdown in six months. And this meltdown was certainly the first one in the one month I visited Oak Mountain this time.
So I ask where is that grace they talk so much about when after one mistake they threw me out without just cause and without EVER having exercised proper church discipline?
Somehow though apparently to them church discipline is only applicable to people who do not have autism.
Last year I posted a picture of their document.
As I learned in the days that followed their action, when I became a member at Oak Mountain in 2009, my agreement was a legally binding document. They expected certain things of me but I also expected certain things of them.
One of the things I expected was that if I truly caused offense that they would exercise Matthew 18 regarding church discipline. But they NEVER did. Instead they waited until the conflict had gotten so bad before they ever assigned anyone to me.
Then the care team said its purpose was restoration. Instead of restoration, I got handed a document that was very much divisive. A new contract if you would. A contract that was deemed as bullying and declared immoral. A contract that Tom Patton said neither he nor I would be subject to if I withdrew my membership, a contract that remains unsigned because of the undertones, a contract they have now bound Tom to by threatening to fire him for being my friend because they retaliated when I sought help, a contract they are trying to bound me to now as a non-member, a contract they have breached. The contract says that even unsigned, I may attend Sunday morning worship services yet after one meltdown that did not actually happen at church therefore did not disrupt church, they barred me from attending worship and threatened police force. The contract also says that if I violate any boundaries that the church session must conduct official church discipline (again they did NOT).
The meltdown? Tom exacerbated it when he broke a promise to me by acting before explaining. Which he has now done again which is now why after nearly a month I am finally telling the truth about what happened.
Tom kept saying words that hurt me. It was when he attached the friendship to it though that things got worse.
I was already in a meltdown from all kinds of things including what Tom said.
Tom then exacerbated things. Is it possible that I overreacted? Yes. But he also knows he was at fault when he exacerbated things.
I got in my car after trying to find someone to talk with me through the initial crisis of what Tom did to exacerbate things. I started my car and checked my messages. That's when giant Gordon approached my car. I was about to leave after checking my messages and he approached my car. I trusted him to help, not make things worse. Tom claimed that I dragged him into it, but I didn't. He approached me after I had already started my car. He then detained me until after a friend and her son drove up to ask me to lunch.
Tom told my mom that he recognized that it was after my diagnosis that things at the church got worse. He actually wrote that as well.
He also claimed I asked SR to go to the bathroom with me. I did not. I was already on my way to the bathroom when she ran into me also going to the bathroom. In the bathroom, she noticed I was distressed. She offered assistance I needed when I needed it and helped defuse a meltdown. She did the right thing.
Tom was supposed to talk with me about what happened but before he had a chance to do so, I got a phone call saying I couldn't return to church and police force would be used if I did.
So after having gone to the one person who worked on conflict resolution with Tom and me in the past, and doing what I was instructed by Gordon, and Tom's half-hearted attempt to explain what he did after the fact that he exacerbated the meltdown, they jumped straight to that?
So I contacted the higher authority. I asked what can be done if a church skips the entire order of church discipline and jumps straight to barring a person from worship?
I wrote this:
"When Tom Patton asked if I believe in church discipline, here is what I finally got around to saying:
'U asked if I believe in church discipline. I believe if church discipline is done according to the outline in Matthew 18, then it is reasonable to perhaps shun a person, but never to bar them from worship b/c God might actually use worship to bring the person back around. I was NEVER brought under church discipline as a member nor a nonmember and so this is skipping all the way to the last step. And if that keys to the kingdom thing means that a person is going to hell then is that not assuming that man can somehow judge a person's heart? Tom, either I misunderstood you or the church definitely screwed up this time? Or both?'
Turn off ur brain'"
I asked for a meeting. The e-mail was forwarded and the leaders retaliated by threatening to fire Tom for being my friend. All because I asked for help.
The leaders at that church have a pattern of doing that.
Tom wrote a very beautifully worded honest letter to advocate for me when I had to do court last month (probably the biggest disruption and factor in the meltdown).
I am going to share the two paragraphs that are relevant and even acknowledge how the church's document was misguided.
These also make me cry because it seemed like he finally got it, yet his actions of last night proved that neither he nor that church will ever get it.
"Susan is extremely bright. The first couple of years that I dealt with her, I struggled to understand why she would respond or react so strongly in certain situations and circumstances. After the diagnosis, it became abundantly clear. Susan does not handle stress or ambiguity or confrontation well. In an effort to help "mainstream" Susan, our church formed a small care team to work with her and coach her. Over more than a year, that team spent innumerable hours trying to help Susan grow in a number of areas. They sought to coach her towards developing a number of socialization skills. She struggled the whole time and in the end left the church in frustration. In some ways, I think our expectations were askew. It was as if we were asking a paraplegic to walk.
"Susan has capacities and capabilities but she does have tremendous struggles with social interaction. Those challenges are magnified when she is put in stressful, demanding or highly relational contexts. Others struggle as well because they don't know how to relate to her in a helpful manner. It has been our experience that this compounds the stress and frustration on both sides and can become quite counter-productive."
Tom was spot on in that. Too bad he failed to remember it when they retaliated against him and when he chose to violate the compromise and thus cause permanent damage which now means that the chance of relational restoration may be impossible now save for attorneys to walk everyone through where they went wrong and work on arbitration with them before they have a chance to hurt and abuse and bully more people with autism and other special needs.
Jesus talks about the least of these in Matthew 25. According to that passage, the leaders at Oak Mountain are goats.
How can you effectively minister and do missions when you fail to exercise your mission statement to share grace and show grace to all? You can't.
It is with a very sad heart that I am writing this. One that has been broken beyond repair.
And because of Tom's actions of last night where he violated the compromise he made with me altogether even though I had diligently kept my end of it, now there is another chance that he could still lose his job if and when the leaders retaliate against him and me again.
But maybe he needs that this time because maybe then it will open his eyes to his own mistakes in all of this.
You see, I have a whole lot of people who rallied for a meeting to happen between Tom and myself. ONE meeting for closure. ONE meeting that could have prevented this blog post from being done, attorneys being contacted, letters to both the session giving them a chance to correct their mistakes and the presbytery showing where the church went wrong and filing an official complaint and asking for a court. But he refused. Repeatedly. He did not do II Corinthians 13:11. He did not do Matthew 18. And now because of him, the truth is out there and he has damaged the church in more ways than I could ever even begin.
Are there consequences to this post? Probably. But I don't expect that the biggest consequences will be to me at this point because I really have nothing else to lose since Tom did what he did last night.
ALL of this could have been avoided if Tom had just talked with me though. If he had just shown grace and talked with me.
But he didn't and they didn't. And they probably never will.
Jesus is sad today.
Because when Oak Mountain denied the least of these and abused the least of these, they denied and abused Jesus.
Is there ever going to be a truly SAFE church for adults with autism?
Because that's what we need.