"We remain convinced that most of the accusations leveled against us are the result of anger about our church's strong stance on Biblical truth." These are the words of Elder and Senior Co-Pastor of Dwell Community Church, Ryan Lowery, in a recent internal communication sent via e-mail chain to current church members in the wake of growing allegations against the group of spiritual overreach, controlling practices, and outright religious abuse. Lowery echoes the stubborn position of Dwell leadership, a holdover from the days when the controversial non-denominational Christian group was known as Xenos Christian Fellowship, highlighting the painful irony of a church apparently desperately in need of a name change, but not a change of heart or practice.
We prefer the guidance of Voltaire when he declares, "Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one." For to remain convinced - as Lowery puts it - is no mere act of faith in a professed religious practice, it is a moral myopathy deeply inappropriate for a spiritual leader of any faith tradition. This is not the persecution of government or a question of free exercise of religion; this is not Satanic attack for the valiant efforts of a spiritual elite; this is not the repercussions of faith in the postmodern era; and this is definitely not a group forming strong conclusions about a church without "taking the time to see for themselves." These are the stories of hundreds of real individuals who desired to follow God within a particular religious organization and found themselves emotionally and spiritually brutalized by the misguided principles of a rogue religious practice dominated by a highly controlling and deeply myopic group of individuals who have been groomed by a singular man - Dennis McCallum.
We cannot envy these leaders who remain convinced that all of this has been in the service of biblical truth, for what choice do they have? Ryan Lowery, son-in-law of McCallum, is so deeply embedded in this organization that he has no other choice but to remain convinced. Simply consider what is at risk if he fails to remain convinced: his marriage, his job, his family, his children, his religion, his purpose, his meaning, his income, his hope. Indeed, the growing chorus of abused know these losses intimately, for they are the losses that they themselves experienced upon coming into conflict with the group's authoritarian and intolerant structure, either voluntarily or not. However, these individuals were not in the privileged position of being intimately tied-up with the church's grand puppeteer, as Lowery most certainly is. Indeed, if you fail to remain convinced in Dwell Community Church, you are guaranteed to lose it all. This black-and-white nature is what makes the church ripe for abuse in the first place, and it is also the nature that allows those within the group to perpetually remain convinced.
But how we ask? How shall we remain convinced of the great service that Dwell Community Church is rendering to biblical truth while its naysayers wallow in their pathetic rebellion against God, too immature to see the eternally relevant and divinely good truth that they have been served with? It is a conviction worth no more than the statement itself, an ancient human mantra of ignorance which must be routinely repeated by leadership to convince not merely their congregants but also themselves. For to be unconvinced within Dwell Community Church is a spiritual death sentence. To acknowledge that the interpretation and application of God's word is perhaps not so clear as the church elders would like to declare, that maybe church practices have resulted in very real damage in many lives over the years, that this trauma is related to something more than interpersonal conflict and individual sin - that would take something altogether different than eternally, stagnantly, and hypocritically remaining convinced.
The only path for the highly committed Christian believer of Dwell Community Church is to do the exact opposite of what Lowery suggests: remain unconvinced. Let us hang a question mark on those certainties we have long been convinced of, not in order to lose faith, but to gain it. Faith is not unquestioning adherence to dogma, and it is certainly not blind allegiance to Ryan Lowery or to Dwell Community Church. Faith is not stubbornly remaining convinced when all of the evidence points in another direction. Faith is the courage to step forward with confidence in order to face what is difficult and often painful in life. Is this not the example that Christ gave on the cross? Christ did not use his dying breath to explain to the onlookers that he remained convinced of his innocence, but to comfort those condemned to die alongside him.