Why you shouldn’t support Bruxy Cavey’s new ministry
There is a path for repentance and redemption for abusers, but it starts with wholeness for victims, not with fundraising for a new ministry.
This week I became aware that a disgraced pastor who (along with others at the Meeting House) was credibly accused of sexual abuse–including of a minor). Bruxy Cavey, is starting another ministry and is raising money for it. I wrote last year about why I am taking his books off my shelf, but I am further dismayed by this new development.
Danielle Strickland resigned from the Meeting House after the church failed to stand by Cavey’s victim, (referred to as “Hagar”). Strickland outlines her own position here. She is right to point out that plenty has already been written about the Beatitudes, and that we don’t need to collect more from an unrepentant abuser. She goes on to assert that Cavey’s standing by his original confession (which was–but is no longer– online) is problematic because that confession was about what he terms an “affair”– not the clergy sexual abuse it was. Without true repentance, trusting a pastor to be reinstated to ministry creates myriad problems. Strickland is right when she says that inviting people into a healing community when that individual hasn’t repented of his harm, made any reparations—or even had a completed trial—dangerous. The ministry and community Cavey is forming is not safe, and seems to be largely based on self-interest.
Some of us may read Strickland’s comments and argue that they are not gracious, or that she is urging a “canceling” of Cavey. Some might even say that we should forgive Cavey like Christ forgave us. But holding Cavey to account and keeping him from doing ministry until he has repented and repaired the harm he’s caused is not cancellation or condemnation. It is elemental to his own restoration. When someone causes harm and then declines the opportunity for true repentance, they miss the chance to heal and become whole again. And if we are complicit in this process, we not only increase the harm done to the victims , we minimize the chances that the abuser will repent and heal.
By evading responsibility and avoiding accountability, Cavey not only compromises his own learning, he limits what he can teach others. There is a great deal to be learned from repentant abusers who acknowledge their harm and commit themselves to transformation. Without that work, however, their teaching may result in the same bad patterns and further harm.
It’s impossible to know Cavey’s motives, but reading his letter after learning about the allegations of abuse is disturbing. He begins his letter by welcoming us to his “therapy.” By participating in Cavey’s new ministry, we are evidently part of his own healing. Cavey doesn’t acknowledge his reasons for needing this healing. He essentially tries to convince us that our job is to care for him. This kind of reversal is part of a well-known abusive dynamic.
He proceeds to write: “This is a gracious space for the encouragement of those of us who struggle with hardship, failure, and forgiveness, and who are aware of our own need for grace, mercy, and peace. This is not a place for judgement [sic] and divisiveness, but for those of us who want to learn and grow together in the compassionate way of Jesus.”
Cavey understands that he may be subject to judgment, because of what he has credibly been accused of. But instead of owning that, he again puts the onus on the people he is asking for support. He wants grace because he’s been accused. He wants peace, so he doesn’t want you to bring up the allegations. If you do, well, he goes on to tell you that’s judgmental and divisive. This can best be described as gaslighting.
He goes on to say that: “...principles of repentance (rethinking), faith, forgiveness, grace, mercy, peace, reconciliation, and restoration. My hope is that you're here because you see how much we all need a little more of these gospel values in our lives.”
Cavey limits the definition of repentance to rethinking. It is more than that; it is a turning around. It is not an intellectual activity, but a bodily one. It results in changed behavior not merely changed or repeated thought. And then he lists a series of principles that seem to apply to himself, but also to others. Cavey has done none of this work with the victims he has harmed, and he has no right or authority to teach them now.
Cavey says that this process is born out of his therapy. He says part of his therapy has been journaling about the Sermon on the Mount. Now those journal entries are being extended into teaching. It is amazing that a pastor who has been accused of sexual abuse is leveraging his own healing as a ministry opportunity and for financial gain, and doing so with the Sermon on the Mount, no less!
Cavey openly admits that part of his project, and part of his own feeling of exhaustion, is his commitment to defending himself “against accusations of things I have not done.” While he acknowledges that he wants to rebuild what he’s broken and repent (or “rethink,” as he flippantly calls it) what he has done wrong, he is once again taking a defensive posture. And when it comes to his own repentance, he is passive and indirect. Once again, he has only confessed to an extramarital affair, even though the nature of the relationship was fundamentally and categorically abusive.
He claims he has studied the Bible in a new way and is ready to share that insight with us. He goes on to stand by every word of his now deleted confession, and says he is ready to live out that repentance, and is seeking your financial support. Asking for money in order to live out repentance is an astonishingly shameless thing to do, and it is made worse, when no reparations have been made about his own wrongdoing. He acknowledges he is deeply broken and healing slowly, yet still leverages his own process for personal gain.
Cavey calls his project “The Ghost of 1820,” after the Bible passage that says “Wherever two or three gather in my name, I am there in the middle with them.” That passage comes from Matthew 18, where Jesus says that two or three people have God with them as they bind and loose unrepentant sinners, which actually could be good for Cavey—but not for the reasons he cites.
He researches and writes his own work, called the “1820 Studies,” and then a group of people he calls “gracious, mature, and supportive,” revise it. We don’t know who they are, or how they hold him accountable, but certainly none of them apparently believe the victims of his abuse.
And he ends his letter telling us that it has been “difficult and demoralizing” to find work, so he appeals to his readers for money. He has no sympathy, evidently, for those whose lives he has demoralized—those who will suffer from trauma, and struggle not only to find jobs, but perhaps even to find faith.
The issue at hand is plain. Cavey has been accused credibly of abuse and has denied it, and not repented. He has admitted to needing healing and therapy, but he also needs money, so he is leveraging that for his own personal gain. If anything, this project shows us his lack of repentance and transformation.
I am dismayed and discouraged by these actions, and I think good-faith Christians must believe victims, and not support Cavey in this ministry, or else be complicit in furthering abuse.
Again: I believe in transformation and redemption, even for fallen pastors. I do not think that always means reinstatement into ministry; at times that is just a bridge too far. Even after repair and repentance, sometimes we lose the honor of pastoring. None of us is entitled to it or have a right to it. But, ultimately, I do believe that denominational bodies with ethics and accountability, can carve out paths for all of us. Unfortunately, Cavey has not repented of his wrongdoing or submitted himself to those who seek to hold him accountable. And now he is trying to profit off of his own alleged abuse and teach the Bible when he’s lost the authority to do that.