Seven New Stories 3/6/2019
Story One: “I believe that this organization IS GUILTY of abusing the power that they wield in the lives of people who sincerely wanted to experience God’s love for themselves. And the tragic reality of having their view of God be harmed possibly forever. “
I am a male in my mid-50’s. I grew up in a suburb of north Columbus.
I would never of thought of sharing my story of my experience with Xenos had it not been for those who have taken the time to write their stories first. My heart sank as I have read them all. And I pray for all of these and the many more that have not been shared (yet).
I consider my time at Xenos as a mixed blessing. I learned to love God and others from this organization. I learned discernment and wisdom too.
During the mid-to-late eighties I attended a fish-house meeting at a rented ware-house space off of Sinclair Rd. I was invited by Scot “Buck” McCallum and I could not get enough of my new found love for God, the Bible and a group of truly loving Christians. I used to borrow and listen to countless cassette tapes from Martha McCallum’s basement collection and attended as many meeting as I could. I believe that these very same teachings gave me the inner strength to survive what the future held for me.
I believe that a significant contributing factor for the problems of Xenos are centered around the circle of protection that envelopes the senior leadership of the church. When a person is surrounded by like-minded people and those who dissent are expelled, then the environment becomes ripe for abuse.
Here is one story that makes my point:
I had flunked out of college to pour my whole heart and soul into being part of this church. I was employed by Xenos around 2000. One of my jobs was to attend the Saturday morning Servant Team meeting to record them. The Servant Team was comprised of Home Church leaders and above who would meet on a monthly bases to discuss church issues with the six or so elders and the senior elders. There were several hundred attendees at most meetings. We recorded the meetings to provide copies to anyone “qualified” who missed the meetings so they could retrieve a copy from the library at the main office.
During one unfortunate meeting Dennis McCallum went off on a tirade regarding another elder who was not present at the meeting on this particular Saturday. Apparently the word got back to the missing elder that some mean things had been said about him and his family. Later that evening I met with that elder at another scheduled social event. This elder asked me what I thought about the meeting because I was known for being non-emotionally objective and truthful. I told him that I did not want to share my opinion and that he should just listen to the tape for himself. He was a sitting elder and was entitled to a copy and I provided it to him (I actually did not have the authority to DENY him a copy). I believe that I was following the biblical standard of sticking to the truth and not participating in gossip (which I knew was a huge ongoing problem at Xenos).
This elder listened to the tape and then called Dennis by phone and asked him what he had said the previous morning. Apparently Dennis denied saying anything disparaging and when confronted with the knowledge that he had heard the tape Dennis was furious.
The following Monday morning Dennis ordered all tapes of the meeting to be destroyed and if anyone asked for a copy that we were to say that the recording equipment had failed. And the search was on for the “mole” that provided the elder with the copy that he had heard.
I felt confident that I had done nothing wrong so I went to Dennis’s home to personally tell him that it was me and to explain my biblical stance for doing so. I humbly asked for his forgiveness if I had offended him in any way with my actions. He said that he understood and that he forgave me (and gave me a hug). My fears about confessing my actions were alleviated…or so I thought.
The next morning I was asked to resign or be terminated. I asked if they had spoken to Dennis because I thought everything was resolved in regards to my participation in the matter. I was informed that Dennis was not involved in the decision (yet I knew that he would have been absolutely informed, and to which he apparently did not intercede on my behalf). I did not seek out Gary (the other senior elder) to see if he agreed or not. I never witnessed Gary ever being willing to over-ride any of Dennis’s actions. I hope he can forgive me for not being willing to give him a chance to do so.
I wrote a letter of resignation that questioned why a man who follows biblical principles of avoiding gossip AND confessing of any misdoings (even face to face with those possibly offended) and asking for forgiveness for any trespasses, WAS HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD than a person who flagrantly and publically sinned, then denied the sin, and then attempted to cover it up AND was NOT repentant?
When you work for a church they do not pay taxes or un-employment insurance. I had married very young (which was common) in the church, had two very young children and had recently purchased a little house in the Linden area. My wife was a stay at home mom and we were living pay-check to pay-check. Another church in Westerville had heard about our plight and they took up a donation to help us pay for the mortgage for the following month. I will be eternally grateful for their help.
We were told that we could continue to come to the Central Meetings, but we were being “dis-fellowshipped”. This is where a person is not kicked out, but no one will talk to you. Those who did, only questioned how I could have betrayed their senior pastor. My wife and I eventually became discouraged and simply faded away over time.
There is much more to this story that is even more egregious. But I do not feel the need to share more to protect those involved. Let’s just say that there were many times that I was falsely accused of “being in sin” where EVERYONE knew about it…except me! I am thankful for my friends who would occasionally sneak over to me and tell me what was going on behind my back because they felt sorry for me. Looking back, this is probably the worst part of my experience because I am a transparent individual, but you cannot defend yourself against accusations that you are not even aware of! How many good and sincere people have been shoved out of fellowship and never truly understood why? (Apparently hundreds; I am learning…)
Needless to say but God provided me with another good job and my faith was deepened for God ALONE (and still is to this day). Somewhere in my junk drawer is a copy of the “forbidden cassette tape” for anyone who does not believe my story. Ironically Buck was the last person that I ever witnessed being willing to stand up to defend another person (who was not present to defend themselves) and it was at that meeting. I never saw Buck again before he passed away tragically as a missionary in Russia.
Today my faith in God has never been deeper. I am thankful for my experiences at Xenos for giving me a deep love of the Bible, for loving God alone and for loving those who do not know and trust Him (yet?). I never found another church to attend that satisfied my desire for a deeper study of His Word AND met my desire to find a group that was centered around practicing Grace with each other. I have a small group of family and friends who do this on our own. I see God’s hand moving in their lives every day and I am so humbled to be a part of it with them.
Dennis’s book on Romans and his book on postmodernism are two of the foundational books that have helped me communicate better with those who are seeking God and for encouraging those who struggle with understanding the depth of God’s grace. Dennis is truly a gifted teacher and writer (as are many others). I blame those around him as much as I blame him. They all know better, yet they will allow him to retire in absurdity and I see no visible signs that the church will repent.
I brought a lot of people into the church and I remember that about a year into their involvement is where the problems would arise. The group would start mandating their behavior and actions and I was always stuck in the middle. I would have to explain to the new people that these older Christians have forgotten what it was like to be new. And I would have to remind the group that these are young believers and they might not be fully sanctified for another few months or so…lol (but actually sad,,)
I always thought that God would forgive ALL sins. But Exodus 20:7 (the 3rd out of the 10 commandments) says that “you shall not take the Lords name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain”(NASB). I used to think this meant that I shouldn’t curse. But the word “take” is (ṯiś·śā) in Hebrew and is better translated as “to lift or carry”. The word “vain” is (laš·šāw) and is better translated as “useless or evil”. So God is warning us NOT to CARRY His Holy Name while committing EVIL and USELESS actions, AND we will be punished if we do! (Read Ezekiel 36 for a deeper understanding of how God feels about His Holy Name being profaned). How much more judgement will we receive when a group knowingly and willfully continues to abuse adolescent and naive people IN THE NAME OF CHRIST?
I am exceptionally heartbroken to learn about the suicides, the attempted suicides and the accidental deaths that I am reading about. I was trying to stay close to God while my world was falling apart. I attempted to take my own life, not knowing (or caring) if God was on the other side to receive me or not. I was just tired of fighting my undeserved circumstances and feeling all alone. I do not blame the church for my despair, only for not being there for me when I could have used their love. I truly understand deep despair and those who are experiencing it too. I believe that this organization IS GUILTY of abusing the power that they wield in the lives of people who sincerely wanted to experience God’s love for themselves. And the tragic reality of having their view of God be harmed possibly forever.
And I grieve over this organization for all of the squandered blessings that they have “kicked out” in their immature understanding of Grace.
I pray for each of you that you would not equate the failures of an organization with the failures of God.
God does not fail us. People do.
I pray for anyone still in the church and hurting. If you have not been emotionally abused then you should count yourself as being blessed and protected by God. But I know that if you have been involved for more than a year then you have at least witnessed others being shunned or asked to leave. Maybe you should prayerfully and thoughtfully seek out those who you know were in the past (and present) if God graciously brings them to your mind. I believe that He will.
Thank you for those who have created the opportunity to share these stories. Maybe someday someone will have a burden to start a recovery/encouragement group. It seems like there are a lot of people hurting over their experiences. I would go; just to remind everyone that God wants to turn your bad experiences into a blessing for you if you would give Him and chance to do so (Gen 50:20). I sincerely pray that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, of God’s Love for each of you!!! (Eph3:18)
With the Most Love Possible,
Story Two: “Numbers and growth seemed to be more important than deep friendships. If you didn't walk and talk (and think) all the same....you were made to feel you were wrong. Unfortunately l've been on both sides of this fence. People were more like "projects". I regret that l was part of it as well and ended up going back to some and apologizing.“
Attended Xenos for 25 years. Came in as a young adult, lonely, unfulfilled in life and searching for truth. Met great people who l challenged about God, who He was, etc...Everyone seemed pretty nice, engaging, patient, wanted to teach me, and wanted me to learn how to study the bible on my own. I have no regrets. Their classes and home groups were a place to grow spirituality and for that l am so thankful. They teach the life of a Savior who loves us where we are yet challenges us to be sold out for Him...and for that l am so thankful to God for pointing me there for a season. I lead and colead.
YET...they run like a business model perhaps because they are so big. They have a reporting structure that became impersonal. Numbers and growth seemed to be more important than deep friendships. If you didn't walk and talk (and think) all the same....you were made to feel you were wrong. Unfortunately l've been on both sides of this fence. People were more like "projects". I regret that l was part of it as well and ended up going back to some and apologizing.
GRACE is preached but it's works driven.
If you weren't attending the meetings, involved in ministry, discipling, studying on your own, takin a class here and there, doin cell groups.....you were missing the mark.
Our home group was great. All ages, loving , caring and really genuine. We were ordered (Ben Foust by Ryan Lowery) to break up because we didnt fit the mold perfectly. We had problems but certainly nothing that couldnt be fixed. We had older people who were so connected but chose to walk away and not stay in fellowship after our group broke up. Many hurt people. Half the home church left Xenos. 30 plus people told to quit meeting and find another group. I blame it on young new leaders who haven't had eough life experiences and certainly didnt know our group and our investment in one another.
But...life goes on. Here l am....2 yrs later...God is still good and He confirms that He exists even outside the Xenos model. Yes. I have new friends with a new church.
Xenos have a beautiful place in my heart but would not go back. I think the young adult groups are probably worse because again the kids are influenced to march the same way and don't have the life experiences. If l was a parent, i would let them go but monitor guilt tactics. They do a great job at teaching Gods word and His word penetrates our hearts. I just hope we can all pray for wisdom to know the difference between following fallin humans, God's perfect guidance and love, His desire for us to know Him better, and Satan's role in all the rederick.
Story Three: “They only care about the image of themselves not he emotional or physiological state of the persons they deal with. I wish I could fully explain how i feel inside and i wish there was a way to warn people of the emptiness they can feel when they get overly involved in this church.”
I became a Christian 14 years ago and moved to Columbus Ohio after getting a divorce from a 12 year marriage. A friend of mine told me that he went to a Church that he felt would be a great place for me to learn about what God and what God had done for me. I started going to Xenos in 2004 and was quickly accepted and was filled with love and attention, great friends and wonderful nurturing relationships. I learned so much about the bible and about Christ and his wonderful gift. I found Xenos to be a great teaching Church. I grew in my faith and loved how people loved me as i grew in my faith. In moving here i only knew 2 guys and they helped me to stay in fellowship with Xenos. I went to C.T. (Central Teaching) twice a week, I was in a home Church, attended a mens group (Cell) and was in 2 discipleship relationships 2 times a week. I attended a non sanctioned bible study once a week held by a Xenos member every Thursday afternoon. I was surrounded and loved by many. I was in a position to confess sins with men who had the same type of sins, i was encouraged to share all the time. It would help me to grow and help in my sanctification, I would be stronger in my faith and grow closer to God. My sins were put out there for everyone to see, by sharing with certain people who I could trust to walk me through the sin or sins. You could say that for 12 years i was involved in Xenos 7 days a week, doing outreach and helping to reach people for Christ. I was in love with the way I was loved. I was involved in so much fellowship, BBQ's, NFL hall of fame trips, Presidential museum trips, Football games, baseball games, Pool halls, bars outreach to the community with dinners, back to school drives. My life was full.
I met a woman outside of Xenos and was encouraged to marry before my sexual desires got in the way and interrupted my walk with the lord. I remarried thinking this was the course God wanted me to take. I had not real desire to be with her (although she was a wonderful woman) in anyway. We were very opposite and she never truly embraced the Church. I struggled with that. I struggled with feeling empty inside wanting the love of a woman. I was told that Christ was all the love i need. But the fact was that it was not and I ended up having an affair. I needed satisfaction. I loved her but not as a wife. The affair became known by here and our leaders and that is when everything changed with Xenos.
Now I had to live Hebrews 12:11. I was given strict instruction as to how I would handle the divorce and conduct my life if I wanted to truly be a real man of Gods. An upstanding man who could redeem himself in the eyes of the Church.
1st I would sign any papers that she wanted signed, and give her the dissolution she wanted....take my loss and allow her to move on. I did what was asked of me and lost everything I had. EVERYTHING!
2nd, I was to confess to the Church my sin.I was to repent for my sins to my mens group and to God (FOR THE RECORD i DID REPENT TO GOD FOR MY ACTIONS). My tears were real and my sorrow was true and honest to god and to my Christian brother. I was to be open and honest about it, I was to discuss only my sin (affair) not any other sin on her part that brought me to my wrong decisions. (She also had an affair 2 years prior) I know what she did should have nothing to do with what I did, but it did play a part.
3rd I was to have a discipleship relationship with a Christian brother once a week where we were supposed to discuss my sins on a weekly basis.
4th I was to seek outside counsel from a Christian counselor once a week to work on things in my life.
5th I was to have no contact with the woman i had-had an affair with. I was told that she would NEVER be accepted by the church or my Christian family.
It was at this time that I felt I was being controlled. I was not allowed or encouraged to think on my own or to look in my heart at to what God was telling me. I was a sinner, I was the worst thing there could be. I was no longer in any type of leadership role. I was not able to question the decisions that were made, i was under strict control.
Well after doing everything I that was asked of me and feeling lost, I did continue the relationship. It was found out. I was truly a sinner following the Evil one and not what God (Xenos) wanted. I was not transparent and I was a problem. I was dividing the Church (Home Group). I had no idea that everything that was discussed with leaders was being shared with the entire group.
In 2016 I was called to the home of my H.C. leaders and asked about my current lifestyle and my relationships. I was very defensive about what they had heard and that they DID judge me for my current actions. I was asked to leave their home. 3 days later i got a letter in the mail saying that until I truly repented to God for my actions. Matthew 18:15-17 had taken place. Supposedly all the steps that are listed in Matthew had taken place and I was now a pagan.
The next day NOBODY would take my calls, nobody would come see me. I had over 120 relationships in the church and over 60 of those were close relationships. It has been 2 years and not one single has attempted to get back into my life, I have contemplated suicide, running to another state or country. I have never felt so lonely, I have never been so empty. I am a sinner (We all are). There a lot of details I have left out of this message...Like the guy that was suppose to meet with my only did so one time. The woman I slept with (My current wife) never had her emotions considered. I was open and honest with the Christian counselor about the my continued relationship with her and he was helping me to go to the Church in the right way at the right time. The discipline listed in Matthew never took place. I was to never discuss my emotions only the fact of what I did. I was to not justify my actions in the only way I knew. My repentance was considered fake.
I am not sure if Xenos is a cult or not, i do know that they have cultish type ways and they only care about the image of themselves not he emotional or physiological state of the persons they deal with. I wish I could fully explain how i feel inside and i wish there was a way to warn people of the emptiness they can feel when they get overly involved in this church. It is a great teaching church and you can have relationships as long as you follow only them. I have been forever changed by them in a bad way. I trust in God and thank God for what Christ did. They are controlling and will dictate your life if you decide to follow deeply.
Story Four: “Before the Dispatch article, I was afraid to be known. I was afraid to be confronted. This week, I’ve had two anxiety attacks as I recall those 14 years. But writing this letter has cleared my head and calmed my heart. I speak only the truth in love for those still in fellowship – those I called friends for all those years – and those who are trying to heal from their experiences.”
You truly want to consider this “a time of reflection and learning, and asking God to reveal any aspect of hearts He would have change” … realize the TRUTH of what’s been shared, the hurts caused, the pains endured, and lies told … by the church."
The recent Dispatch article has caused me to reconsider the time I spent at Xenos. While I felt I had left it all behind me, the article provided triggers to memories and feelings that I hadn’t realize still existed. But unlike the timid woman who walked away in January 2016, I am no longer timid. I am willing to share my experiences with anyone who will listen, and felt it was time I tell you directly how much damage Xenos created in our lives. I was not a college student when I began attending. I was a 33 yr old single mother. My experiences span 14 years - single, married, mother/stepmother, and divorced. This letter is also being sent to key staff, elders and pastors at Xenos. Not that I expect a response, it's cathartic to have it all exposed to the light after so many years in the darkness.
I attended for 14 years, introduced by my ex-husband to his home church in 2002. I had recently moved back to Ohio after a very difficult situation out of state, and I was raising my 2 yr old as a single mom (with my parents, as my dad battled lung cancer). I questioned practices – or lack thereof – at Xenos that didn’t match my life long church upbringing. I was saved and baptized in 1983, attended Christian college, and was not new to the Bible. Each time I asked a question, I was told “oh, the Bible doesn’t say that … it was a man-made rule", or the ever popular "that's legalism."
In 2003, I experienced a “church discipline” that I feel was out of line and more manipulative and controlling than any church should ever be in a person’s life. My ex and I had been dating almost a year when one of the home church leaders approached him and asked “so, are you f---ing her yet?” How was this statement ever appropriate for a church leader, a man of God??
We had been dating for over a year, and planned a vacation out of state where he would introduce me to friends and show me his favorite part of the country. Immediately the church leaders were criticizing, calling the trip inappropriate and “sending hints of impropriety.” I could understand if we were college age people, but we were in our 30s. Both single parents with custody of our children. We invited leaders to join us to “supervise” or “chaperone” if they were so concerned about our behavior. We were not treated like adults in any way. A few months after the trip, we were called in for a home church meeting and told if we did not write letters of repentance for disobeying our home church leaders, we would be asked to leave the church. The letters were to be written to Phil Franck and he would approve or deny our level of “repentance” and if we would remain at Xenos. I was humiliated! Not only was I being treated more like a child, there was nothing to repent for! Nothing happened on the trip other than visiting friends and sight-seeing, and we were more of a witness to his friends by sharing we were not living together, were not planning to live together, and wanted to be the example for our children. However, because we wanted to stay “in fellowship” we wrote the letters. By the way, we were engaged within 5 months of the trip. I truly believe it was a way for my ex to spend time with me, determine if we were compatible (long road trip) and if his friends approved of me.
Within a few months, that home church was disbanded for being too inward focused. I can cite at least 6 couples who left this home church between 2002 and 2004 because of the attitude, behavior, and ugly candor of one “leader”. At the time the disbanding was announced, two women started crying and asked what they were going to do now for social interaction? Our women’s cell had devolved to about 20 min of lesson, a little bit of prayer, and pull out the alcohol. The two who complained – one brought a 48 oz travel mug with wine spritzer to every meeting, and I drove the other home more than a few times from a karaoke bar because she was too drunk to drive herself (she, by the way, is teaching in a home church today – three marriages later)
We were in 4 home churches between 2002 and 2016. After the first disbanded, we started our search for a new group. Attended one, and when I saw fleas jumping across my Bible, I decided I wouldn’t return. We learned from Gale Flowers after asking to visit his home church that they had been "warned" about us, told we might bring too much baggage and dissention because of unresolved issues with the old group. We finally landed in a group that was good, but it split in less than 2 years so we were going to a group in Dublin (we lived in Westerville). Moving across town caused a lot of people to leave our group simply because they didn’t want to make the 270 drive at rush hour for home church. However, we remained faithful and stayed in that group until 2014 when it merged with another because both were too small ... we were now meeting near Riverside Hospital.
There were times during my years at Xenos that I was interested in reaching out to friends weak in their faith. I remember one instance I was looking to so a small Bible study with a gal who wasn’t connecting with her church well, and struggling with her marriage. I was told by a few of the ladies that since she had a church, I should look to disciple someone who was at Xenos (or unsaved) and not spend time with this gal. Why? Because she had a church. I wasn’t encouraged to meet with my friend and be a source of inspiration and encouragement, teaching and bringing her up in her faith. If not a benefit for Xenos, I wasn’t supposed to do it. This happened several times in my 14 years. I asked if we’re all given spiritual gifts, perhaps I have a gift of encouragement that is stronger than my gift of evangelism, and how is it wrong to water the seed that may have been planted by someone else? No one ever had a solid answer for me. Perhaps it was simply if I spent more time with someone outside of Xenos, I might start questioning what goes on inside?
We had three kids between us – my daughter, his daughter and his son – in the fellowship. The oldest was taught about smoking, provided cigarettes and vapes by her high school leaders. When we took it to the leaders, they told us porn was a bigger issue and they weren't worried about cigarettes, even given illegally to a 15 yr old. The high school/college leaders regularly encouraged her to smoke, defy our house rules, and every effort to learn what was going on in the group was ignored. They were trying to establish “independence” with her. Clinically it’s proven that the human brain does not mature until age 25. Until that time, contact with parents to help guide, direct, seek reassurance, etc is necessary for healthy development. Xenos was encouraging cutting ties and leaving family behind. His son stayed in fellowship only about a year when he got tired of the hypocrisy, the “must know everything’ attitude and judgement within his home church.
When my daughter was ready for high school HC, she was assigned the same group that the oldest had been with (same leaders) and I said no. I was told that this was her assigned group and she “had” to go. I tried to explain that she had 4 groups she wanted to attend, and she had no interest in Jericho. Again I was told, she HAD to go to the group because it was her assigned location. After putting my foot down – she could go to her 4 choices on her schedule, or she could go to her 4 choices on their schedule, but she was not going to Jericho – they finally granted “permission” for her to go to the groups she wanted to visit. Within a few months, her group split and she was being separated from her best friend and sent to part of the group with kids she didn’t know. Again, I said no. It is a parent’s responsibility to made the best decisions and help guide their children. Not yours, not the church, not some leaders who have taken church-written classes to “qualify” as leaders.
While decisions on membership look good on paper, when leaders don’t know these kids personally, they don’t know the relationships already established, friendships, and bonds. My daughter and her best friend were introverted young ladies who had built a bond in middle school cell. While they attended different schools, we lived close enough that frequent interaction was common with the girls. I had to elevate it to Brett McCallum to get "permission" for her to decide for herself which “side” of the split she would go with. He shared that church leaders put her in one group with the only other student who attended her high school, with expectations that these two girls would be “powerhouses for Christ.” Again, my introverted daughter was not going to be a vocal powerhouse for anything … but no one took the time to know her.
However, while in high school, she was also introduced to vapes, cigarettes, even pot through her home church. When I threatened to file charges against a college leader if it happened again – contributing to the unruliness – the leaders acted concerned, but nothing changed. By the time she was a junior in high school, it was evident that my daughter suffered from mental health struggles. When she tried to share with her peers, she was told to “get over it”, “stop complaining” and “rely more on God.” Also within this high school group, there was a sexual assault committed by a young man in the group and the young lady didn't tell anyone for 8 months, afraid of being blamed or judged. I know it was reported to children’s services for investigation, but I don’t know if anything ever came of the inquiry.
My daughter left Xenos in 2016. She chose to leave Ohio in 2017. And, she spent 11 weeks in residential therapy for diagnosed depression, anxiety and PTSD in 2018. Her issues were real and telling her that medication wasn’t needed, that she needed to “get over it”, or that she needed to “trust God more” wasn’t going to magically take away her feelings. Rather than negating them, the church should validate and help navigate the emotional waters that come with simply being human. Too often I feel that Xenos focuses on the book knowledge, the history, the Scriptural meanings, and forgets that humans are emotional and physical beings as well. We are more than just our minds, our brains … and having a health mind-body-spirit life are crucial to being fully healthy. If you ignore one part, all parts of the being suffer.
During my years with Xenos, I taught VBS (1 year), volunteered as a class TA numerous times, attended classes, and volunteered at the bookstore. I attended cell group, home church, and CT. I spent 10 years with the book store, earning respect and trust to be called on to train new volunteers, open the store on Wednesdays if a teacher wanted resources available for students, and even filled in as a paid “employee” during XSI as “interim manager” so that the manager could have a break. I was not inactive with my time at Xenos. Unfortunately, I learned that if interests aren’t in line with church “theology” they are not welcome. I shared information about a two different women’s conferences and could not get anyone interested in attending with me because they were not “Xenos sponsored.” I had amazing book recommendations but they were never reviewed because they didn’t follow the church’s patriarchal stance.
No matter what the leadership would say about the roles of women, it was very clear that the church was for men. Women were to obey, submit, and be silent helpers. In a Women in Marriage class I heard how we’re not to deny our husbands access to our bodies. My husband didn’t touch me in nearly 2 years, blamed me for his need for medication and struggle with. Before we were married, yes, we were intimate. He was chastised by the same home church leader who asked if we were “f—king” for not being assertive, strong, and resisting my advances. He put it on me for our intimacy, saying my husband should have been a stronger man to say no! Anything I presented that showed women as strong, courageous, firm in their relationship with Christ, offering encouragement to other women got shot down. I invited ladies to my home for a live-stream conference one weekend. And, while the presenters are nationally known, strong women of faith, my Xenos friends had nothing but criticism … for the way one woman prayed, for the music they sang, for anything that wasn’t like Xenos.
During our marriage (we married at Xenos in 2006, after dating 4 years – engaged for over 3.5 years) my ex was identified as a tyrant by our HC leader, called a bully by a pastoral counselor, told he “lords over his family” and had a critical spirit towards his wife (by a professional counselor). If I didn't agree with him, I was called disrespectful. He controlled our finances to the point I wasn’t given password access to the family accounts, or utilities. He had computers locked down with passwords, so I could never see what he was doing online – though I suspect strongly porn was involved. He wanted to dictate the activities I was involved in, the friends I had – often bring women to me who he felt needed mentoring (he knew their husbands) so every encounter felt like another project. I was a hospice volunteer but he criticized this effort because it had the potential of taking me from fellowship (depending on my case assignment). I had a patient for 8 months, a dear 96 year old woman with dementia. I sat with her for 4 hours every Sunday morning so her 76 yr old daughter, and sole caregiver, could go to church. My ex felt this was unacceptable – I was wrong to miss CT every week. I believe God knew my heart, and forgave my absence in the Xenos building.
In our last series of counseling sessions with Katie Downs, she said if married to my ex, she'd be in counseling too because of how controlling he was. At our last session, I asked her how long I was expected to live like this and her ... no kidding ... answer floored me. “Jesus endured suffering at the hands of his abusers until His death. It's not about how you are loved, but how you love others that matters.” I remember looking at her, and just saying “Well, I’m not Jesus.” She followed up by asking if I had given up. I merely cried because she just didn’t get it … no one was willing to admit it, or accept what was happening. No matter how many times I went for help in our relationship, nearly 14 yrs together … I was told I was divisive. I was disrespectful. I was a bad mom. I wasn’t desirable or attractive.
Just prior to this final counseling session, I had a conversation with Doug Patch on how I needed prayer for the marriage. He had been an instructor for my ex and I in a class, and knew his character. From that conversation, he went to our home church leader and advised that if I left my marriage, filed for divorce, under grounds not approved by the church, I would be asked to leave fellowship. I remember when my leader, GF, shared this with me … I was in disbelief. Again, people who knew the abusive nature of my marriage were telling me I either had to stay with this man and remain with my church family, or leave the abuse and lose my church family.
I moved out two weeks later … February 2016. In the summer of 2016, I was blessed to find an amazing counselor who treated me for emotional abuse and PTSD. Seems I had a pattern of following controlling or damaging relationships – from my dad, to 2 ex husbands, to the church. At one point, she was asked by Dennis McCallum to meet and discuss the abusive patterns seen within marriages at Xenos – see, it turns out this counselor had multiple clients with stories just like mine and I had no idea when I first met her – and our stories were provided to Dennis. He had the audacity to ask for the names of her clients. Fortunately she was a licensed professional who knew enough about confidential info and privilege to reject his request … so today, Dennis … I am one of those women she shared about. I don’t know the reason you wanted our names unless it was to blacklist us from returning, talking to us as a way of doing damage control … it doesn’t matter. Other than accepting the role Xenos has played in damaging so many people, there is little you can say.
My ex is still at Xenos. He remarried in 2017 after a whirlwind courtship, brief cohabitation, and wedding at the church. I’ve heard he is controlling and isolating his new wife from friends and family just as he did with me (and his first wife). The relationship with his kids is strained, at best. But he continues to put on a good face and act the part. Staying in fellowship. During our marriage he lied about the household income, stating our annual giving was the 5% required for servant team. Our annual contribution was more like 2% of our income. He drank every day - was called a functional alcoholic by another church member – and still drinks from what I’ve been told. When confronted about it, he said it’s better than my medication for anxiety/depression – and it doesn’t affect his ability to live day to day.
I have had very little contact with people since I left. I've invited ladies to gatherings. All decline. I've offered to meet up. No one accepts. The only person who will meet with me is CF, and that’s if I initiate, reach out, ask for time for dinner. If I didn’t, there would be no contact with any so-called “friends” … I’m not a project to work on. This is another example of how those who leave the church are shunned and rejected by those who remain. If you don’t follow the expectations of Xenos, there is no place for you. Jesus spoke about the shepherd leaving his 99 sheep to go look for the lost one. Xenos would prefer to let the lost go, and remain with the 99.
Your pastoral counseling staff is unprofessional, unqualified and untrained to deal with any mental health, relational, or psychological issue. You proclaim to have “experts” to help with addiction (porn), but what is his training, licensing? From my knowledge in 2016, none of the counselors were licensed. They were lay people, no more equipped than I could be when advising a friend or family member. This is a dangerous practice. You may say that you don’t have licensed counselors for liability reasons, but I see a greater liability by having unprofessional and untrained staff performing these duties.
College students who aren’t fully mature, aren’t adequately or professionally trained, are expected to assume roles with our high school kids that they aren’t ready to handle. When faced with real life issues – addictions, depression, sexual abuse, family issues – these college “leaders” are not ready to deal with the reality before them. They are advising kids in error, and causing so much harm. It’s the same for the adult leaders. Taking classes on Bible, and how to lead, based on curriculum written by the staff nonetheless, does not give you the training to be a mental health or relationship expert. Faced with abuse within the group or by group members? Sweep it under the rug, find ways to make it go away quietly. Someone battling depression? Tell them it’s just a crisis of faith and rely more on God.
I think for me, if all of this wasn’t enough, I lost all faith and respect for the church when I realized that Scott Risley and others are on public records under oath stating that the church has nothing to do with the annual beach trips to North Carolina. I remember all the emails, newsletters and announcements tell parents to plan for our seniors to go on beach trip instead of the high school trip. The trips were supported by, endorsed by, and encouraged by church staff. You want the public to believe that 1200 college aged students just happened to take a vacation at the same time, to the same city, rent homes in the same area, meet up for lessons & social activities all by coincidence. So when Kwesi Sample’s family wanted accountability for his death … the church shunned them, and lied. With an annual budget in excess of over $6m (when I last attended), I would like to think that Xenos would do the right thing and offer settlement to his family. But no .. Xenos isn’t about compassion unless it makes them look good. Settlement would be an admission that things didn’t go as planned. Xenos is a business. I truly pray that the Sample family wins their appeal.
For Ryan, how dare you say “no one else in our city knows the pain we feel at being so unfairly accused.” NOTHING in the Dispatch article was untrue or unfair. It’s all truth! How dare you negate the pain we have suffered by the actions, attitudes, and pervasive control & manipulation by Xenos leaders. The “gruesome light” that has been painted of the church is a light Xenos has created for itself over many decades. You want to be “humble in this time of pain”?? Stop it! Take responsibility for what others have experienced, stop calling us liars or finding reasons to blame us for what we’ve experienced. Stop making the church a martyr for things it’s only caused and brought upon itself! No one is spreading falsehoods about Xenos … the saddest part? Years ago, I defended the church. But the longer I’m away, the stronger I become in Christ, and the more I realize the so-called “accusations” – are TRUTHS.
Several weeks ago, I went out with CF. Again, she didn’t initiate – she rarely (if ever) does. If we go out, I’ve asked her. I knew the question would come, and I wondered how long it would take for her to ask. Sure enough, about an hour in, she asked if I planned to marry my boyfriend of over 2 years. I wanted to ask her "why is it your business?" Instead, I told her ... "yep, eventually. Right now, we're registered domestic partners." It’s not that we don’t want to marry – we do and will. He’s a widower and we need to ensure his kids are ok with everything (14, 19 and 21), the financial implication for us, and more – that frankly isn’t anyone’s business but ours. We’re in our late 40s now … I’ll see 50 next year. I don’t need a church telling me how to behave. That’s between me and God at this point in my life. He knows my heart. He knows our relationship. And, I think He’s filled with sorrow at all the damaged people who have walked away from Xenos, and all forms of fellowship & relationship with Him. Fortunately for me, my faith was grounded long before Xenos and it will take a lot more than Xenos to take it away.
I tried attending a church in 2016 but I found myself not trusting the people, being fearful of vulnerability, and wondering if I was being judged … all aftermath of my experiences with Xenos. My boyfriend and I will return to church. We have a list of three or four we want to visit. We will find a church … we have similar backgrounds, beliefs, desires in what church will look like. It will be one that encourages emotional interaction – joy through singing, gratitude through communion. More than just the intellectual stimulation of the lesson. The biggest regret I have is not listening to my gut all those years ago that questioned Xenos. I was a scared woman who valued a relationship to being alone … I allowed him to make decisions that went against my core beliefs. Had I the strength then that I have found today, those 14 years would have looked so much different.
But through the valleys I grow, right? Because of the marriage failure, the lessons learned through my counseling, I have found joy, reclaimed hope, and enjoy going home every day to my family. I found courage to find a new job that challenges me and uses my skills in ways I never imagined. And, I am mom to 2 young adults in my home whose own mom entered His presence way too young. I am blessed today.
Before the Dispatch article, I was afraid to be known. I was afraid to be confronted. This week, I’ve had two anxiety attacks as I recall those 14 years. But writing this letter has cleared my head and calmed my heart. I speak only the truth in love for those still in fellowship – those I called friends for all those years – and those who are trying to heal from their experiences.
You truly want to consider this “a time of reflection and learning, and asking God to reveal any aspect of hearts He would have change” … realize the TRUTH of what’s been shared, the hurts caused, the pains endured, and lies told … by the church.
In the meantime, I know that I am a daughter of God. I am blessed and loved. I am His masterpiece.
Story Five: “I still felt suicidal and started going to therapy even though that has not helped to this day, My parents don't understand and i can't have a real relationship with anyone and even have problems talking. I feel like everyone is using me just like in xenos and it has gotten worse over time. I don't talk to anyone and have no friends not b/c i can't b/c i won't b/c i am too scared what happened at xenos will happen to me again.”
My Xenos story starts my senior year of my high school. I was lonely and depressed and then one day i get texted to go out to a bible study by one of my friends in the band. I thought some of the girls were cute and i had nothing against xenos at this time so i decided to check it out. Coming from a broken family with only a couple of friends (if you could call them that) i was taken a back the level of love shown not only from the older members but some of my peers as well. I instantly fell in love with the community and wanted to become apart of it. I decided to accept christ into my life and as my salvation. I then went to as many church meetings and ct meetings as i could trying, to not only involve myself as much as possible but also too escape a worsening family situation. They became more like family to me then friends, they were more my family then my own. I felt like i could tell them anything and did tell them everything. Within the next three months i had made the decision to be discipled by the friend who brought me out to my first bible study. I found purpose so much so that i decided to stay in Columbus instead of going out of state or the other side of the state for college when i graduated as i originally planed.
Then came the summer after i graduated high school. Long talks, talking about god, what plans he has for us and it was incredible. I loved being discipled, i loved spending time with my christian brothers and sisters talking about god. They were my home, my rock and my everything. I had barely talked to either of my parents anymore, i may have still lived with them at the start of my college life but i knew the first chance i got to leave for the ministry houses i was taking it. This would all change in the fall of the same year.....
I started college and quickly got overwhelmed by the amount of work i was given. I had to choose between xenos meetings and getting homework done for my classes. Sometimes i would choose school work ahead of xenos and this would ultimately lead to my discipler yelling at me about my lack of dedication to god and xenos. This was my wake up moment, I realized something very wrong was going on here and things just continued. A friend i made during a few church meetings, who i had traded numbers with had been asked to leave the church due to homosexual thoughts. He was completely cut off from the group and no one was meant to talk to him. He kept on texting me and i kept ignoring him. A few days late i found out he committed suicide. I still have nightmares about that.
At this point i trusted no one in the group until thanksgiving when i started talking to a girl who was there during the summer but left for school during the fall. She was an outsider, just like i felt like i was and after talking a few times i realized she saw the same things i was seeing and agreed with me. This is what was sad i started developing feelings for her but i couldn't tell anyone not xenos, not my parents and specially not her. During a meeting she told she was leaving xenos and i felt my one life line slipping away. My one tie to reality outside xenos leaving me alone with people i didn't trust. I was upset, and this was the first night i started lying to my "brothers and sisters" i was done and it took a year and a half for them to realize that as well
I kept lying trying to sin on purpose to see how far they could be pushed. Lying about ex members, current members and pretending to be an alcoholic. This was simply to distance myself from them as much as possible, i didn't want them to kick me out b/c they were the only people i had in my life but at the same i was done being their puppet. I wanted to show them that by constantly not telling them the truth. Most of the people there stopped talking to me and my discipler and i decided it would be better if we didn't study anymore. At some point, I started feeling bad for doing this and decided to repent for what i did apologizing to every member of the body i felt i hurt with my lies and deceit. It didn't make any difference to them as much as they would say they forgave i saw threw them as they saw threw me
It was only a few months later that the day finally came, when they finally asked me to leave, i had done everything in my power to show i repented and in an instant it didn't matter. Everything i was making right in their eyes and in the eyes of god, none of it mattered. I remember the exact time and date, i remember what i was wearing i remember looking into the man's eyes who was asked to kick me out. I loved him, i loved them all and this is why its been such a long time for me to share this. I don't want to hurt them even though they had no problem hurting me. To this day the members of the church will say it was his decision to ask me to leave but i know it is a lie b/c he had information i had only told a few people not including him.
The night this happened i came home and tried to kill myself three times and was unsuccessful all three times in three different ways with a gun (that i didn't have the guts to fire), cutting (I couldn't cut deep enough) and drowning in a tub (You can't even do this). I blamed myself for what happened, i blamed myself for being kicked out of xenos, i blamed myself for ruining my own life. I thought it was over and i wanted it to be. However, due to a stupid FB post i had posted the cops came and i was calmed down enough to go bed. i should of prob gotten help then but i just hoped to forget about it.
However when you create a world and a home its not that easy to give up and you go through withdraws missing people you see as your whole world. I still felt suicidal and started going to therapy even though that has not helped to this day, My parents don't understand and i can't have a real relationship with anyone and even have problems talking. I feel like everyone is using me just like in xenos and it has gotten worse over time. I don't talk to anyone and have no friends not b/c i can't b/c i won't b/c i am too scared what happened at xenos will happen to me again
Story Six: “You're pretty much only allowed to date within xenos and even that has its restrictions. There is an "unspoken rule" that you can't date a non Christian. They say that the non Christian will lure you into sexual sin and cause you to not put god first in your life. You also kind of have to get permission to date. Guys will straight up tell you that you’re too sinful to date or not ready. If you go against that they will warn the leader of the girls house that you want to date and they Will tell her that she can't date you. If you manage to get past all that then you have to deal with people always questioning your motives and actions.“
So I was in xenos for 11 years. I love what you're doing here. These guys are insane. I always lock the bathroom door when I shower, especially when I lived in a ministry house. I got called out at cell group (Friday night guys only bible study, followed by drinking and talking) for locking the door while I showered because They thought I was masturbating every time. Lol. This group is wild, and I was in guinness homechurch (LOL, more alcohol, what do you know?) With James Rochford (one of the Sphere leader). That guy is the biggest hypocrite. I've seem him call people "faggots" and "mother fuckers". How this guy can call himself a man of god is insane.
I started going to a middle school group on and off in 2007, committed to a high school group in 2011 and officially left in January 2017. There is a ton of stuff. Im not sure what you already know but I'll list off some of my weirder stories.
1 - Spyware
They make you install covenant eyes on your phone and "let you choose" (they basically give you a list of people who you can choose) your "Accountability Partner". That way they can see everything you do on your phone in weekly email reports
I had a friend get flagged because he said "fuck me" in a text message
2 - You have to sign a contract
I’m blanking on what its called. You agree to not watch porn, be in a discipleship, have a job or go to school, go to all the meetings etc
3 - Ministry Houses.
These are single sex houses where homechurches are held. They put 2-3 (sometimes more) people into rooms. There is absolutely no personal space and a lot of really bad hygiene. There is also a questionably large amount of homosexual situations for a church house (running around naked, wrestling with little to no clothes on, masturbating while your roommates are in the room, just plain excessive and unnecessary nudity). 1-3 people are in charge of bills and everyone else pays cash.
4 - Dating
You're pretty much only allowed to date within xenos and even that has its restrictions. There is an "unspoken rule" that you can't date a non Christian. They say that the non Christian will lure you into sexual sin and cause you to not put god first in your life. You also kind of have to get permission to date. Guys will straight up tell you that you’re too sinful to date or not ready. If you go against that they will warn the leader of the girls house that you want to date and they Will tell her that she can't date you. If you manage to get past all that then you have to deal with people always questioning your motives and actions. Constantly being asked about where you have been (I forgot to mention that we had curfews if you lived in the house. And no girls allowed over after 1 or 2 am). I got sat down by the leadership team a lot because they didn’t approve of my relationship.
Story Seven: “I had sex awhile back an I told someone thinking they’d keep it a secret since we were such good friends. The next meeting I go to they sit me down an just tell me how messed up of a person I was, an they decided for me I was going to come out to my entire cell group only thinking how it will show others what sexual sin does to someone and not about how I would be.“
I was in Xenos since I was a freshmen in HS I’m now 21 and was pretty much bullied/pushed out of the church. I had sex awhile back an I told someone thinking they’d keep it a secret since we were such good friends. The next meeting I go to they sit me down an just tell me how messed up of a person I was, an they decided for me I was going to come out to my entire cell group only thinking how it will show others what sexual sin does to someone and not about how I would be. So I did an right after everyone treated me different an didn’t treat me like a human being. So after I talked to them about how it made me feel an how hurt I was they said and I quote “you did this to yourself so don’t be upset about the consequences so you learned your lesson” in that moment I knew I was in a church that didn’t care about anyone but themselves and making [people] feel like shit.