The Lasting Supper: a Statement & Apology

The Lasting Supper: a Statement & Apology

"Strike!" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

First, thank you for the many posts/comments on other blogs, and emails that I have received.  To those that have been wounded within The Lasting Supper (TLS), I deeply apologize.

The cartoon is meant to show that I have made mistakes. Small ones as well as big ones. I have not only missed pitches, but I have been struck out, and I've lost games. I have lost seasons. But I do want to be remembered as someone who played well and had a good career.

My goal has been to help many people with their spiritual deconstruction, to allow a voice for those that have been subject to spiritual abuse, and to allow a place for many voices to express their struggles or joys no matter where they are on the spectrum of their journeys. TLS is a place to question, to share, to be heard, and to be supported. We have everyone from atheists to believing church-goers, proving that a rich diversity of people can make community happen.

I spent many hours in communication with some of those who left The Lasting Supper (TLS) recently due to a conflict, as well as with the members who stayed with TLS. A few left. Most stayed. Many issues were discussed at length privately with several people in many messages/emails/etc.. In this post, I wish to address many of these concerns.

1. First of all, I want to explain why my facilitation of some of the conflict on TLS was poor. I tried to build TLS to be a self-moderating community. Therefore, I naively had no protocol in place for the admins or the group to manage major conflict. Also, in May, when this all came to a head, I was on my anniversary vacation. My wife and I agreed that I would not take my laptop so that we could enjoy a real rest. I only had my iPhone, spotty internet service, and I am a terribly slow thumb-typer. The conflict, which happened during this vacation, was so fast and furious that I simply couldn't keep up. I requested that people please wait until I return, which of course was a difficult request to fulfill. It reached a point of no return and it degraded into damage-control after that. Even though TLS is almost always self-moderating, I apologize for not having clearer purposes, rules, and more prepared admins with protocols in place for when conflict does occur. That was my fault. I'm sorry.

2. TLS as a “safe space”: After doing research and conversing with many people, including the members of The Lasting Supper, as well some of those who left, I have come to the conclusion that I should not use the phrase “safe space” when describing TLS.  I am now aware of the very specific usage of that phrase “safe space” for physical/sexual abuse victims and survivors, and admit that TLS might not feel safe for those who have experienced serious abuse, or for those who have endured severe emotional abuse that rises to the level of mind control, or for people struggling with PTSD or highly sensitive triggers. "Safe" means different things to different people.

I'm also going to be very diligent in keeping TLS on track for why it was created. I may use the word ‚Äúsafe‚Äù, but only very cautiously when no other word can be found. TLS is not a support group for physical or sexual survivors, although survivors of all types, including me as a survivor, are members. TLS is a primarily a place for people to deconstruct. As one friend wrote me: ‚ÄúTLS is a closed forum where people can be open - with open questions, open minds, open hearts - a place to privately be themselves to better publicly face their world.‚Äù¬† TLS is an experiment. TLS will continue to grow, stretch, fail, succeed, hurt, support‚ you name it. It's made up of people that co-facilitate the group. It's just like I've always said about the last church I pastored: ‚ÄúThere's no perfect church. Just perfect moments!‚Äù TLS isn't perfect, but it does have perfect moments. It is still a wonderful place.

Again, I extend my apologies to those that were hurt.  Please forgive me for giving the impression that TLS was this technical ‘safe space' for all persons where no one would ever be hurt. That's an unrealistic promise to make. I'm sorry.

3. I had to block certain people who became abusive to me and others in TLS. But, I block people who speak to me abusively and who threaten me with warnings of defaming me and destroying my work. I deleted and closed all comments on the nakedpastor site during my vacation (July 2015) because I could not respond to the comments and did not want any comments to stand idle for so many days. I take responsibility for my attempts to facilitate the community as best I could when I was away and mostly offline.

4.  In the future, and on the nakedpastor site, I will delete comments fully or partially that I believe harmfully misrepresent me, or the members of my community. This is an act of self-care as well as a protective strategy for those I care about and the work I do. I would like to set an example to others on how to maintain healthy boundaries. So, I have come to believe that, as the lead facilitator of TLS, I have a responsibility to post constructive comments, concerns, ideas, disagreements, and viewpoints, etc. I never delete comments that contain a disagreement with me because that wouldn't be fair. However, intentionally harmful comments will not be posted. The pain they inflicted on me, my family, and other members of TLS was inexcusable. They are not safe people. It was right for them to be removed, blocked, and their comments deleted.

5.  With the exception of celebrities, public persons, limited purpose public persons, and tribute cartoons, I have never used someone's personal story as the direct subject of a cartoon. I was cartooning 7 years before I started TLS, and I have been involved in spiritual abuse on both the inflicting and receiving ends – yet, I have diligently and scrupulously endeavored to never place a specific ‘private figure' person within any of my cartoons. My goal, as a cartoonist, is to create an image with which thousands can identify. I insist: I never would use members of TLS as fodder for cartoon material. Never!

6.  I have no recollection of there ever being an issue with racism on TLS. If this has happened without my knowledge, I apologize and promise to endeavor to ensure that TLS is racism free.

7.  I am aware of only one issue regarding LGBTQ. This was when a man, who I know is a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and I believed was not homophobic, confessed in a post that he finds it personally repulsive when he thinks of himself having sex with a man. He was called ‘homophobic' by someone in TLS. I (and others) spoke with the gentleman, and we agreed that he could have conveyed his feelings better for the sake of community and congenial communication. He is no longer a member of TLS. I want to reiterate that my nakedpastor site has been known as a strong advocate for LGBTQ freedoms and rights for years. There are many LGBTQ members in TLS. I still humbly and proudly embrace the reputation of an advocate and ally.

8.  Concerning the man accused of making sexist remarks or contacting women privately: There was a man who made inappropriate contacts and remarks that some felt were threatening. I quickly contacted him. When he was addressed about it, he immediately deleted any offending comments he could and made a public apology. We were in frequent communication on how to be a person who doesn't convey or exhibit sexist or threatening behavior or remarks, even accidentally. He wished to reestablish trust. But he could not learn how to not be sexist in his behavior so he was removed from TLS. We also had another person exhibiting stalking behavior who was removed after this was addressed. I learned a big lesson: TLS will not be a community where we can entertain a vision of restoring sexist men. Sexism will not be tolerated. TLS must feel "safe" for women from the start. Therefore, I will continue to intervene and speak to people about their behavior in order to keep members feeling protected enough to participate in the community discussions. As the founder and lead facilitator of TLS, I and my admins shall continue to endeavor to protect members from inappropriate comments, advances, or threats.

9.  As someone with over 50 years' experience in the church institutions, and 30 years within the full-time ministry, I confess that I have inflicted spiritual abuse, and that I have been the recipient of spiritual abuse. I've made mistakes. But I want to learn. I have issues. But I believe in change. So, I am choosing to remain committed to the spiritual health, freedom and independence of people, and to do my part in creating, and helping to create, healthy on-line communities. As a cartoonist, artist, writer, coach, and online community facilitator, I plan to continue to write and cartoon about abuse, especially spiritual abuse, as well as survival and deconstruction. I plan to also continue being an advocate for victims and survivors of abuse, and a critic of the people, ideas, and systems that inflict it. I plan to continue being passionate about creating spaces for healthy community to happen and to be a good facilitator of them. TLS has over 400 members on our main site with about 200 active in our private Facebook group. We have our ups and downs, but we are learning together and happily continue to grow.

I regret this whole episode happened. Yes, some people did leave TLS. But the huge majority stayed. People were hurt. I was hurt. I hurt others. I didn't mean to. I wish I could do it all over again because I learned valuable lessons through this process so that I will handle conflict better in the future. However, I will not take the blame for the seriously abusive behavior of certain people who are no longer in TLS. Their treatment of me and other members was horrendous. They deserved to be removed and blocked. I'm sure you can read their stories elsewhere, but please keep my story and the stories of other who experienced their abuse in mind as you do. TLS is an amazing online community. Just ask the members.

Again, I'm sorry where I've failed.  You have my heart-felt apologies.

TLS extends a welcoming hand and is committed to the same goals I am.

We learned. TLS is better.

(NOTE: I want this post and apology to just stand alone as my statement and so I have turned off comments. ALSO: To individuals... I beg you to please accept this letter as if written to you personally. If anyone wants to reach out to me to talk about this, email me.)

Sincerely; David Hayward


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