I am happy to announce that after dinner on July 3rd, at the International Cultic Studies Association conference at the Sheraton in Silver Spring, Rev. Bob and Judy Pardon have offered to hold a discussion session for former members of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) if they would like to come. (Think of it as a care group that is really the best kind of care group!)
I've obtained permission to get scholarships for people in the area who attended SGM churches. You need to contact me for instructions about how to get the waived fees if you would like to come.
There are several good discussion sessions on Thursday about boundaries in high demand groups, a session about “Who am I” after leaving spiritual abuse, and one about how grief becomes disenfranchised within families within spiritually abusive groups. There are also two sessions specifically dealing with spiritual abuse in Christianity, and I'm giving a presentation on the abuse of Christian counseling programs in Evangelicalism.
I can also arrange for a scholarship if anyone would want to attend the Pardon's presentation on the Safe Haven Project on Wednesday at 2PM, geared at training pastors how to respond to the needs of the spiritually abused.
To get the waiver/scholarship, please contact me for instructions. I would ask that you consider giving ICSA a donation, however.
I hope to see you there!
More about Reverend Robert (Bob) Pardon:
"We live, in fact, in a world
starved for solitude, silence, and private;
and therefore, starved for meditation
and true friendship."
C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis is a favorite author of Robert Pardon, M.Div.,Th.M. When Lewis wrote the above statement about the lack of solitude and true friendship, he might have been describing the reality in which so many cult members find themselves.
It was in order to respond to that desperate reality that Reverend Pardon, along with others, founded MeadowHaven, a long-term rehabilitation facility, which opened in 2002. Earlier on, during his 15 years as a church minister, Rev. Pardon had begun to sense the need for a place where those abused by cults could find refuge. Eventually, he and several others were able to acquire a building in Massachusetts that had previously been used as a nursing home. After extensive renovation and repair, they opened the residence to former cult members, with Rev. Pardon as Executive Director.
Because it is a full-time facility, people who have exited cults may stay for as long as a year. There they can gain the peace and solitude necessary to heal from the often horrific cultic experience they have endured. In discussing his work, Reverend Pardon says that he feels "enriched by having the privilege of sharing in the pain of others." He loves his work and feels that his own experience has been enhanced by "knowing our efforts have literally saved some lives."
Bob Pardon studied at the University of Michigan, earning a B.A. in Religious Studies, followed by a Master’s in Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Master’s in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. For eight years he pastored a church in Middleboro, Massachusetts and then, for seven years another church in Watertown, Massachusetts.
It was during this time that he was confronted by what he describes as people "brutalized in the name of God." With the Bible at the center of his life, he felt the need to respond to the suffering he saw. Always striving for personal integrity, and "a deeper walk with Christ," he was compelled to get training himself in dealing with the unique and complex issues that excult members have to deal with.
C.S. Lewis once said, "The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift," and this seems to be the guiding principle of MeadowHaven; Rev. Pardon shares that the thing he finds most inspiring is "seeing severely damaged lives salvaged and made meaningful." MeadowHaven is located in Lakeville, Massachusetts. Rev. Robert Pardon is also Executive Director of the New England Institute for Religious Research.
More about Judy Pardon:
Judy Pardon is living the life she always wanted. "My ultimate desire was to help others change their lives for the better," she says. Judy is Associate Director of MeadowHaven, a long-term rehabilitation center for people who have survived the trauma of cults.
As a young teacher, Judy became aware of the problem extremist and destructive groups caused. She educated herself about the issue, and, spurred to help, became involved. She earned a Master's in Counseling and eventually became a founding member of the New England Institute for Religious Research. Side by side with her husband, Robert Pardon, Executive Director of MeadowHaven, she helped found the center, working on the renovation of the building, along with many volunteers.
What MeadowHaven is meant to provide for its residents is sanctuary, a place to rest and recover. For Judy, one of the saddest things is that people are abused "in the name of God. Their experience of God has been tainted." The center is non-denominational. Judy explains, "We never 'preach....' I simply live my life as a Christian before them and pray that they gain a different understanding of God."
After so many years' experience with former cult members, Judy's advice is that "their experience in the group was not all 'bad. '" At MeadowHaven, "Part of the healing process is to sort out what they want to keep from their experience and what they want to throw away. They will gain the categories with which they are able to make such assessments and then they will be able to help others to heal as well." One of the things that Judy admires most about ex-cult members is their perseverance, loyalty, and commitment.
Judy Pardon loves her life. "We have had so many incredible moments.... We are so blessed."