The Lasting Supper: a Statement & Apology

"Strike!" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“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. 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), as well as with the members who stayed with TLS. Many issues were discussed at length privately (not with any one person but 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 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 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 became damage-control after that. I apologize for not having clearer purposes, rules, and more prepared admins with protocols in place. 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.  Here is part of one such letter from a friend (who gave me permission to share these words):

“Something that should be helpful in heading off future misunderstanding of the nature of TLS would be to retire the use of the term “safe space” as even a casual description. I had no idea that something that seems so innocuous is, today, a loaded phrase with very specific meaning. I did some research and found that, to victim advocates, the phrase essentially means a safe-house (physical or virtual) with multiple safeguards against intrusion, active monitoring/ policing, strictly enforced rules as to what can and can’t be said and done. It’s become an extension of the protocols for running a shelter for domestic abuse survivors whose lives are at risk if their spouses find them. That is not TLS.”

I’m sorry for this misunderstanding concerning my use of the phrase ‘safe space’ within TLS and especially sad how this misunderstanding hurt people. I accept responsibility for not using this phrase in the most appropriate manner. 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 some of them,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.

So, out of respect for physical and sexual abuse victims and survivors, I am retiring the phrase “safe space” as a descriptor of TLS. (I am the survivor of spiritual abuse; I am not a victim or survivor of physical abuse nor of sexual abuse.) I have deleted every reference to “safe space” on TLS’s main site and Facebook group, and from now on I will no longer use it on nakedpastor to describe TLS.

I’m also going to be very diligent in keeping TLS on track for why it was created – that is, the goal stated earlier. I may use the word “safe”, 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, can participate. TLS is a place for people to deconstruct. As one friend wrote me (and gave me permission to share): “TLS 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.”  TLS is an experiment. People aren’t objects. They are living beings. 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: “There’s no perfect church. Just perfect moments!” TLS isn’t perfect, but it does have perfect moments.

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.

I also want to address several additional concerns that have been raised.

3. I block people who speak to me abusively and who threaten me with warnings of defaming 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.

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. 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. However, intentionally harmful comments will not be posted.

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.

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 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 even though his feelings are valid, in the future a better word than ‘repulsive’ might be chosen to express them for the sake of congenial communication. I want to reiterate that my nakedpastor site has been known as a strong advocate for LGBTQ freedoms and rights for years. I still humbly and gladly embrace that reputation.

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. When he was addressed about it, he immediately deleted any offending comments he could and made a public apology. We’ve since been in frequent communication on how to be a person who doesn’t convey or exhibit sexist or threatening behavior or remarks, even accidentally. He is reestablishing trust. We also had another person exhibiting stalking behavior who left after this was addressed. 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, 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 over 230 active in our private Facebook group. We have our ups and downs, but we are learning together and happily continue to grow.

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.

(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.)

Sincerely; David Hayward

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