Let me hide myself.

Hide Myself

A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.
~attributed to both Max Lucado and Maya Angelou

I was 15 years old, sitting in the front row of the church, staring skeptically at the woman who was preaching to us. This wasn’t my youth group, of course—the assemblies would never allow a woman to speak like this. I determined that perhaps she was like Balaam’s donkey, and did my utmost to pay attention to whatever word of the Lord she might ironically speak despite her unfitness for leadership.

She walked over to her projector and held up a transparency sheet. “This represents you,” she said simply. “Your lives.” She picked up a few different markers and started doodling on the sheet, explaining that our sins and decisions and actions were like the marks on the page. “Everything is here—from the clothes you wear, to the words you say, to what you do in your every day life. They all show up here.”

The speaker placed the sheet back on the projector and turned on the light. “This light is Jesus,” she continued. “Notice how you can’t see him through the ink, only through the clear parts?” I stirred in my seat, aware of how it seemed the Spirit was moving within me.

She took an eraser and slowly began moving it across the marker drawings. I watched, mesmerized, as the marks disappeared. “This is what the blood of Christ does”—she pointed to the now-clean sheet—”so that all that can be seen through you is Jesus.” She spent the rest of her time with us explaining how important it was to make sure that our transparencies remained clean, that our decisions and words and lives were so clean that we would only reflect Christ to those around us.

As I got in the van with the carpool that brought me to church that night, I was deeply convicted to start changing my life so that I would better reflect Christ. It occurred to me that this meant becoming a different person. But wasn’t that what Christianity was all about to begin with, becoming a new creation in Christ?


There’s still so much that I’m trying to unpack about my upbringing. I was completely saturated in a fundamentalist Christian environment at home, church, and school. Putting words to what’s damaging about what I believed is delicate, difficult work. I keep coming back to, “But nobody meant to hurt you! They were just doing what they thought was right!” Unfortunately, intentions aren’t magical, and they don’t erase the damage that actions create.

In past months, I’ve kept coming back to the concept that preacher so memorably illustrated for me. Quite literally, I was supposed to be invisible so others could see Jesus. Today that phraseology puts me on edge and reminds me of a Darth Vader Boyfriend, but at the time and even up until a few years ago, I absolutely didn’t blink an eye. Of course I was supposed to be invisible. Of course nothing was too big a sacrifice for my Lord. It was so easy to swallow because it’s absolutely indistinguishable from what I was taught in the assemblies.

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Call for input & entries.

“When you have this motley group of many denominations, this independent environment, and then this distortion of scripture, that’s an environment where abuse can flourish.”  ~Boz Tchividjian

Regarding my absence.

As you can clearly see, I haven’t been nearly as active over here as I initially anticipated. This is due in part to lacking the time needed to regularly update and in part to dealing with a particularly rough season with depression and anxiety. I’m working through things as best as I can, and part of that has looked like a continual meditation on what I want to do with this blog.

Clearly, it’s still very much in its infancy. I’ve been trying to figure out how to go about writing about the movement, my experiences within the movement, and dissecting the problems inherent in the system.

As I’ve said before, I started PBD because as I made my way out and began searching for critical examinations of the open assemblies, I was unable to find any. So I’m trying to create the space that I wanted when I was questioning.

Clarified direction for the blog.

A friend rightly pointed out to me that so far on the blog, I’ve alluded several times to the abusive nature of the Plymouth Brethren without taking the time to establish that they are, in fact, an abusive group. So I’ve been trying to outline why I think they are abusive, then build on the bullet points later in the blog.

And that’s where you come in.

Call for participation.

I want to establish that the ideas, beliefs, and practices in the assemblies are either directly abusive or demonstrably conducive to an abusive environment. So for things like biblical literalism, inerrancy and infallibility, I need to be able to back up that those things are harmful. I think I’m set for things like the dangers of the particularly sexist structure of the movement, but the more theologically-specific problems are things I need more help with since I have never personally tried to find a Christianity outside of the Plymouth Brethren version.

I don’t want this blog to exist in a Dani-sized vacuum. My experiences are not universal. I want to foster a community for the many of us who have left the movement, whether to find a Christianity worth keeping or not. I want to bring light to the darkness that hides far too well in the assemblies, not because we have a vendetta against them but because manipulation and coercion and abuse cannot be addressed, dealt with, and healed from until they are seen for what they are.

The following list is just the beginning of my outline and is thus incomplete. I’ll be updating it as I’m able, but I want your input. Scripture you remember being used to enforce strict authoritarianism, practices you recognize that create environments ripe for abuse and cover-up, patterns you’ve noticed that are damaging. While I am doing a lot of thinking and researching and talking to people, any help or insight you have (former PB or not) is so deeply appreciated! You can add your thoughts in the comments here, or if you’d prefer to talk one on one, you can contact me privately.

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From “assembly girl” to feminist: learning my worth as a woman.

A variation of this image was designed by me and used for Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week earlier this year.

A variation of this image was designed by me using open-source images and used for Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week earlier this year.

“I really appreciate your spirit,” he told me.

I looked at him, a bit embarrassed and confused. “Thank you?” I replied and asked all at once. He chuckled good-naturedly.

“You’re not like these other girls — loud, giggly…honestly, a little shallow. A little vain. You’ve got a quiet spirit. You’re a thinker. You’re very tender to the voice of the Lord. I really appreciate that about you.”

I thanked him once more as he left me alone to continue writing in my journal in the empty conference room. He was one of the conference organizers, a man I’d known for almost 10 years and whom I looked up to greatly.

I thought back to a few summers before, when one of my male friends on staff at camp told me that he considered me to be the godliest girl there, then thought of the several preachers who regularly thanked me privately after their sermons for being so openly attentive, like Mary at the feet of Jesus.

Those comments all swirled around in my head, and I was suddenly very deeply humbled. I often felt that I was too brash, too opinionated, that I fell so far short of true godliness. But for that moment, I felt relieved that my dedication to obeying the Lord’s commands regarding women seemed to be evident.

It simply didn’t occur to me that despite the good intentions of these men, what they said was absolutely not a compliment.

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Notable Brethren: Scott Blair, former elder at Southeast Bible Chapel & former manager of Greenwood Hills Bible Camp, pleads guilty to sex crimes against children.

Content note: childhood sexual assault and brief descriptions of said assaults.

I’m so very grateful that Southeast Bible Chapel cut ties with him when he was discovered. That gives me hope.

My thoughts go out to his victims and his family. I wish for peace and healing, as best as is possible.


A former Springfield church elder is accused of sex crimes against two children. Prosecutors charged 59-year-old Scott Blair with seven felonies including child molestation and statutory sodomy.

Prosecutors said for almost a decade, Scott Blair preyed on young family members. Investigators said both of his victims were under the age of 10.

“Our office takes an aggressive stance against child abuse cases and sexual abuse cases and whenever we can corroborate a child’s account, we’ll file a charge,” explained Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson. “The children in this case are known to the offender which is often the common scenario.”

According to court documents, Blair inappropriately touched one girl several times at his Springfield house. She told investigators the abuse occurred when she was between the ages of six and eight years old. The victim, who is now a teenager, said Blair had also kissed her with his mouth open. The girl said the abuse stopped after she turned nine.

The second victim told investigators Blair did similar things to her within the past year. She also was between the ages of six and eight.

“What that indicates, as is often the case, many times offenders have a preference for an age group that they prey upon,” said Patterson.

Blair used to be one of the elders of the Southeast Bible Chapel. After members found out about the allegations, they cut ties with the man they once considered a leader.

In court documents, investigators wrote Blair admitted to inappropriately touching the children. When detectives asked him if there were other victims or other instances of similar behavior, Blair described an event with another family member when he was 11-years-old.

Although charges are filed, prosecutors said this is only the beginning of a long process. Wednesday, Blair posted a $25,000 bond. Thursday, he is scheduled to be booked, have his mug shot taken, and then released from the Greene County Jail.

For the victims, the process of healing, may take a lifetime.

“Oftentimes this plagues a person,” said Patterson. “And troubles them throughout their adult life.”

If convicted on all seven counts, Scott Blair could be sentenced to life in prison.

Source, February 6, 2013

He plead guilty October of the same year.

A Springfield man pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually abusing two young girls.

Source, October 23, 2013

The basics of church discipline.

When someone in regular attendance in a Plymouth Brethren assembly is under discipline, they are typically not permitted to partake in the Lord’s Supper. Occasionally they may be asked to leave the church. Since each assembly is autonomous and there is no denominational oversight, it’s possible for someone to be under discipline in one assembly but find a church home elsewhere. However, most assemblies are connected to one other through an informal grapevine and it’s not unusual for other assemblies to uphold the discipline determined by another assembly.

Usually, the process of church discipline follows the steps outlined in Matthew 18. If a person is repentant before the matter is brought before the elders or the entire church, they are often not put under discipline. However, if a person is considered to be living in sin, unrepentant, or showing public consequences of private sin (being pregnant out of wedlock, for example), their sin is brought before the church and it’s made known to the assembly that the person may not partake in the Lord’s Supper. If they are unrepentant and asked to leave the church, the assembly may be asked to refrain from associating with the person unless it is to try to bring them back to the Lord.

Since there is no governing authority over the assemblies, no official resources available for things like background checks and no official record of wrongs committed by assembly members, the environment is an ideal safe-haven for abusers. Particularly since it is difficult to make an accusation against an elder, particularly if his offense or abuse has been private.

Basics of the headcovering.

Plymouth Brethren teach that women are to have their heads covered during church meetings, while men are to have their heads uncovered. This is based on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.

The argument from scripture is that man is the glory of Christ, woman is the glory of man, and a woman’s hair is her glory. Therefore for a man to be covered is to cover the glory of Christ, so he remains uncovered. A woman’s hair is given to her as a covering so she is not displayed as man’s glory, but her hair must also be covered so that the only glory in the room is the glory of Christ. The headcovering is considered a symbol of authority, since man is head of the woman and Christ is head over all. The reference to the angels in verse 10 is considered to be proof that this passage is not merely cultural, since angels exist outside of culture and time. Since the book of 1 Corinthians is addressed to “all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” this is taken to mean that nothing in the book is cultural or specific to just the church at Corinth.

The type of headcovering varies depending on personal preference and conviction. Some women wear a lace circle that covers the top of their head, while others wear a lace veil that covers more of their hair. I would wear a scarf wrapped around my hair so that none of my hair showed during the meetings.

Basics of church membership.

Plymouth Brethren often do not refer to themselves as Plymouth Brethren except as a last resort when pigeon-holed into identifying themselves to another denomination. They typically refer to themselves as adhering to New Testament church principles, or simply identify as Christians.1 They believe that denominationalism is an affront to God and disrupts the unity of the church.

Since Christians are baptized in one Spirit to one Lord of one universal church, Plymouth Brethren accept all Christians into their midst whether they adhere to “assembly principles” or not. Participation in the Lord’s Supper only requires one to be saved and in good standing wherever they choose to assemble for Christian fellowship.

With no church membership, there is also no overseeing board or governing body to regulate how churches or those who attend those churches conduct themselves.

Consequently, when trying to find information on the Plymouth Brethren, it’s rather difficult since there are few identifiers to search for. Hence this blog!