Valleybrook Church, based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is under fire for what a former leader is calling “abusive practices [that] were inappropriate and pushing the church away from God.”
After a pastor blew the whistle by way of an open letter, a team of investigators (sent in by the church’s parent organization) spoke with current and former church members, eventually issuing a report that condemned the leadership for allowing these abusive practices to continue:
Four Valleybrook Church pastors left after widespread claims surfaced about them pushing members and staff to reject their families, matching unrelated pairs of parishioners into “knit-together” relationships to replace biological family, sharing personal information gained in confidence, and abusing their authority by demeaning and shaming others.
Some of the pastors, including head of the church Rev. Doug Lebsack, resigned because they say the final report didn’t tell the full story… and, it seems, because they didn’t want to be around when it was read to the congregation. Lebsack didn’t respond to questions from a reporter, but he’s believed to be in Texas right now.
And when you hear about how he acted, you can understand why:
Lebsack turned Valleybrook into a fringe church with an isolationist mindset and coached the pastoral team into believing it was the only valid church in the area, possibly in the world, [former pastor Grant] Schultz’s letter said. The letter went on to say many of Lebsack’s teachings came from what he claimed were direct revelations from God, and then the pastors would twist Scripture to fit the theology.
“New things, new revelations, new truths. All false, all heretical, all manipulative. With just enough truth, and just enough fruit, to make us focus on the good, and distract us from the growing darkness,” wrote Schultz, a pastor at Valleybrook for seven years who expressed regret he did not act on his misgivings sooner.
The church is under new leadership for the time being, but how do you undo years of damage affecting an entire congregation? It’ll take a while to say the least. Maybe parishioners stepping away from church would go a long way toward fixing the problem.
(Thanks to Eric for the link)