analyzing the group

For so long in Columbus, the community has known that there is something special – or something strange – or something damaging about this group, but no one has quite put their finger on it. Explore how and why abuse arises within the church.

Abuse through Religious Dogmatism

Numerous claims have been brought against Xenos throughout the years related to various forms of abuse including high levels of control, violation of privacy regarding intimate personal details, and emotional and psychological abandonment. Despite these accusations, church leadership maintains that there exists no systemic issue of control, manipulation, or ill intent towards current or former members of the organization. Indeed, a careful review of church responses to allegations of abuse indicates that members and leaders themselves may be largely unaware of the origin and causes of such claims. Church leadership asserts that Xenos is an organization which adheres to mainstream biblical doctrines but with an emphasis on lay ministry and content-rich, biblical conviction. Members and leadership alike have defended their intentions as fundamentally positive and loving, though marked by the failures common to all imperfect people. Through God’s redemptive grace, individual members continuously strive towards a self-motivated spiritual life. How then do we reconcile the significant claims of abuse with the apparent, sincerely held belief that members and leadership have acted with the best possible intentions and – insofar as their imperfect humanity allows – have a clear conscience regarding their organization and actions? This question constitutes the central theme of this article in which I will seek to outline the systemic structures and endemic belief system which engenders an environment organically resulting in significant incidences of trauma with little sense of guilt or responsibility on behalf of church members themselves and without reliance on corrupt or evil intentions.

Dwell Community Church & Xenos Christian Fellowship:
exploring how well-meaning individuals cause significant abuse through religious dogmatism 

We feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.

Slavoj Zizek

It is late now, I am a bit tired; the sky is irritated by stars. And I love you, I love you, I love you – and perhaps this is how the whole enormous world, shining all over, can be created – out of five vowels and three consonants.

Vladimir Nabokov

Divorce and Remarriage

Given that the guidance on marriage and divorce in the New Testament is sparse and far from clear, we believe it is important to understand the underlying spirit of the passages in the greater context of grace that Christians have been granted by the blood of Christ and a new spiritual covenant with God. Marriage represents an important covenantal relationship between husband and wife which should be treated with the seriousness endowed by its reflection as the ultimate relationship between God and mankind. From Creation to Sinai to the Cross, the call of the marriage covenant has always been to protect and sustain, as God protects and sustains his people. The intention has never been to trap individuals in a painful and detrimental situation based on a legalistic adherence to arbitrary standards. In order to honor the true covenant of marriage, we have an obligation to recognize concessions for spouses who face serious harm under deeply flawed human marriages, and those concessions should be based upon the most fulsome understanding of harm that the modern era can provide us with. In a marriage that affords neither protection nor sustenance to either spouse, with little hope of such conditions being realized in the future, we are of the opinion that a divorce is justified under the spirit of biblical principles, that grace is sufficient, and that such decision may be guided by the individual heart devoted to God. Moreover, we believe that every individual should have a right to experience the benefits of a marriage where both parties strive to mirror the new relationship between God and his people that has been bought and paid for by Christ’s blood. To call Christian spouses to remain in dangerous and psychologically damaging marriages is to misunderstand the grace of God and the true meaning of an indissoluble covenant meant to faithfully protect and sustain.

Divorce and Remarriage:
Critical Commentary of Dwell Community Church


From Abuse to Abandonment at the Age of 16

Claire shares her story of growing up in the Xenos-Dwell youth ministries, as well as her traumatic experience suffering for years in an abusive relationship with a college-age Xenos-Dwell member while still being a minor herself. This relationship eventually led to a highly inappropriate, closed-door confrontation between Claire and the group's co-founding pastor Dennis McCallum, during which a 16-year-old Claire was urged to divulge details of her sexual experiences to McCallum. The personal information that Claire provided formed the basis of her excommunication from the megachurch shortly thereafter. At no point was Claire provided with resources or support, nor were her parents contacted in advance of either decision. Claire discusses the long-reaching impacts of these experiences in her formative years, as well as the complete destruction the church wreaked in her life when she returned during her college years with a renewed sense of faith and desire for community. Claire's experiences underline the group's radical intrusion and emphasis on conformance, rather than the grace and understanding that should be the hallmark of a Christian church. 

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