Monday, December 16, 2013
Religion • When You Have Wronged Someone
(Below is a very personal message from Rev. Austin Miles that will surprise many. And this is a public apology to the memory of the late Rev. Len Evans.)
The Source of All Truth
This is the most difficult piece I have ever written but I must. Not only has God instructed me to make this right, but I have felt it deep in my heart to do so for some time. My biggest regret is that I did not do this sooner.
I wronged a very good man almost 30 years ago. A man who had done nothing wrong nor was he deserving of any kind of condemnation. At that time, a particular church denomination had unleashed such vicious attacks on me that it could only have been spawned from the pits of hell. Not only did this denomination work to destroy the ministry God had given me but were determined to destroy my very soul as well. There was absolutely nothing about my conduct or theology to warrant this.
They not only used the finances and power of a world wide organization to hurt me but they crossed denominational lines to be sure that there would be suspicion about me in virtually every church in the world.
It became so bad, with actual death threats from these “Christians,” that I began carrying a gun. While traveling on Sundays, we would pass a church and I would say to my wife, “There they are, all inside getting their hate lessons.” And it was all I could do to keep from pulling out my gun and shooting the stained glass windows out.
I had gone back to the circus where I was the Ringmaster, trying to get as far away from the church as possible. These nuts followed me right to the circus.
In Detroit they bought an entire box of expensive seats for the Shrine Circus there so that when I made an entrance or exit, passing that box, all the ‘righteous’ stood up with their Bibles under their arms giving me a thumbs down for all to see as the spotlights followed me when I went past them.
With the constant pressure from them, I began to lash out at anybody who had anything to do with any church.
It was the result of an unexpected email a couple of days ago that brought this back in focus. The sender, whose identity I am not revealing since I have not sought permission to do so, went to a church where I was guest speaker and was touched by God. All these years later he had sought me out.
The church was in Niles, Ohio, called, Pleasant Valley Evangelical Church. The pastor, Rev. Len Evans was a very hospitable man and one whom I felt was for real. We became close and had long talks in his office. During one of those talks I revealed to him a struggle I was going through to the extent I felt I was going through a nervous breakdown.
Pastor Len, who was noted for his ‘Theology of Love’ messages, showed genuine concern and compassion, and felt that I might be going through a mid-life crisis. Then he explained he once thought he was going through a nervous breakdown, and something happened briefly during that time, which he said, made him feel like a hypocrite. He reached out to God and pulled through and out of that brief crisis.
Much later, as the attacks grew stronger, I finally wrote a book, “Don’t Call Me Brother” detailing how dreadfully unchristian these churches were. I was in burn-out and angry when I wrote that book, which became a best seller. I put everything into it that would make all ministers look bad. Even something slight that did not reach even near the level of scandal or misconduct and ministers who had not mistreated me.
That included Rev. Len Evans who had confided in me something very personal in an effort to help me. By the time I wrote that book I had left the ministry, the church and felt I was no longer under any ministerial obligation. I was wrong.
Had I possessed the maturity I now have, that would never have happened. The book was absolutely accurate in the events described but I would have written it differently today. Some of the examples simply should not have been told. There was no reason to do so. And I would later learn that this was very embarrassing for Pastor Len who had talked to me in confidence. A confidence I betrayed.
I have deep and painful regrets over this. The man who emailed me informed me that Pastor Len had passed away several years ago. For the benefit of any of his family or those who were in his congregation, I humbly apologize and beg forgiveness.
The ministry God has entrusted to me has come full circle. I hit 80 this past September and have gained a lot of wisdom that I did not have in those days. And I have a peace and fulfillment that I lacked. Yes, I have matured, am still in full time ministry and would handle things much differently today than I did then. I am sorry. So very sorry.
I did not name the denomination that tried to destroy me. I have forgiven them as I have asked God to forgive me for wronging a very good man of God who deserved no condemnation whatsoever during a time of insanity when I believed that all churches and ministers were bad. Again, I was wrong. My biggest problem now is forgiving myself.
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