Friday, January 16, 2015

When a retweet is described as perpetuating the violence: Tony Jones and the Sonoran Theological Group

I am posting an email that I received earlier this week from Amy Jacober, a leader in the Sonoran Theological Group. The email is in reference to the issue of very serious questions that are being raised about Tony Jones, "Theological Provocateur" and a leader in the Emergent Movement and founder of the Jopa Group. The Sonoran Theological Group has an upcoming event, Christianity 21, that is organized by Tony Jones' Jopa Group. 
Tony, Doug and a third friend, Mark Scandrette, rolled into church sanctuaries and basements across the country where religious thinkers lined chairs and stretched out in aisle-ways to talk, argue, laugh, and craft new ways of living faith together. The roadshow brought new allies together and became the first of many efforts to come that combined innovative content with relational events.
Since then, the scope of JoPa’s events has grown to include several annual events and a host of other offerings.
Each year, Church Planters Academy and Christianity 21 will add to the national faith conversation by inviting smart, progressive, and often provocative thought leaders to share their latest ideas and practices.
The questions being raised about Tony Jones are centered on the serious allegations of emotional and physical abuse by his ex-wife, Julie McMahon. I first learned about these disturbing allegations in the comment thread of this post by David Hayward. Earlier this week, the discussion about these allegations ramped up after the announcement that Rachel Held Evans would be launching a new conference "Why Christian" organized by Tony Jones and the Jopa Group.
Nadia Bolz Weber and Rachel Held Evans have announced an all-female lineup at their new conference 'Why Christian?' this September. Held in Minneapolis, the conference will seek to explore why we continue to follow Jesus in the wake of corruption, hypocrisy and televangelists.
Their announcement has been greeted with much anticipation on Twitter:
The subject of the email "retweets" refers to these 2 tweets that I retweeted:







Here is the original tweet in that conversation:




Towards the conclusion of her email, Amy Jacober describes my RT as perpetuating the "violence."

From: Amy Jacober <amy.jacober@gmail.com>
Date: January 14, 2015 at 10:19:34 PM CST
To: watchkeepamy@gmail.com
Subject: retweets
Hello! My name is Amy Jacober. I have referenced your blog many times and recommended it to many readers. I have written about you when you were egregiously treated and prayed for you. 

I was a professor at Truett Seminary. It is a long story but the abuse that takes place in and around Baylor and the seminary is rampant. I had my fill. Upon leaving to care for sick parents, I am part of a small group trying to offer affordable theological education. I spend a lot of time with those abused by churches, academic institutions, and systemic financial problems. It has cost my family in ways that are far too great to detail here. 

Our small start up training the poorest ministers was asked to be a part of a conference where we might meet some people in our community to better serve the needs of untrained leaders. I consult and help churches with things like back ground checks and writing safe sanctuary policies. My world for twenty years has been advocating for the least of these, including spending a great deal of time with friends with disabilities and crying out to my teaching colleagues to address the spiritual and physical needs of these friends so that further abuse does not continue. The name of that conference is C21. 

Today, one of my colleagues at our small start up responded to an accusation that we (STG) support abuse. You retweeted it. We had never heard of any such allegations and were taken by surprise. Wihtin moments, it was misquoted, edited in multiple variations at this point. We should never have responded to the bait. What you have taught me is that speaking up for what is right brings violence, unless you are the person in power. Today, you are the person in power. It has grieved me to my very soul. It has been like living with the abuse of Baylor (your alma mater) all over again. People in power, who do not fact check, sling mud and then think nothing of the lives they are destroying always stun me. Mostly they stun me because I honestly don't think they realize what they are doing.  I know, you know this pattern well. I assume you did not do this maliciously, rather it was an easy soundbite and you bought into it. 

I know you have done good work in the past. I have been an advocate and ally. Please, in the future, do not do this to others. You have just become the very thing you fight against. I have spent much of the day dying inside as I think through all of the young women I have ministered to over the years assuring them that there are responsible, non-reactionary advocates out there and they can be brave. I wonder if I'll have that chance again. I wonder about my very reputation as the retweets keep flying. You are powerful, whether you realize it or not. Please, please, please, before you ever retweet something where a person or organization is being accused that you do not know, do your homework before you perpetuate the violence. 

This is not an e-mail from our group, it is from me alone, Amy Jacober. I'd be delighted to talk if you see fit. What you retweeted is not the full story. I am a part of The Sonoran Theological Group. 


grace and peace-Amy Jacober, PhD, MSW


4 comments:

Dee said...

I am truly shocked by this email to you. There is no mention made of the violence done to a victim. It is all about the "organization." It sounds more and more like a progressive version of the conservative church which hides abuse. No difference. Sad.

Coleslaw said...

This is very peculiar. If I had the email address of someone who was posting erroneous information, grave concerns about how the erroneous information was going to affect victims, and evidence that the erroneous information was just that, erroneous, I would send the evidence to the person I was emailing. I might first attempt to establish my bona fides, but I wouldn't make that the subject of most of the email, followed with, "and oh, yeah, I know this is not true".

Calulu said...

Most odd! When did the possible violence against Julie McMahon became less important than any damage to the STG?

Anonymous said...

We left our church where we served on staff and in many ministries for 20 years. A new priest came and began to target us with lies, manipulation, slander, gossip and alienation. We left one year later. Since then, I have learned that those clergy who have been convicted of child abuse exhibit traits of being narcissistic and grandiose, which this man had. I am very interested in knowing the early signs of abuse, targeting good people to get them to leave, and the denial of the congregation to the truth and evidence of wrongdoing BEFORE the sexual abuse happened. Can you give any insight into these questions?