Today David Hayward, the facilitator of the online community The Lasting Supper and satirical religious cartoonist known as the “Naked Pastor,” issued a “statement and apology.” This statement/apology was in response to claims of mistreatment by former members of his community. These members — who collectively are childhood abuse survivors, survivors of abusive homeschooling backgrounds, spiritual abuse survivors, and LGBT* individuals — were misled by Hayward to think The Lasting Supper was a safe space. It ended up being anything but that.
To that end, Hayward apologized, tried to explain himself, and announced several changes to his community. One aspect of his statement that I appreciate is his commitment to no longer appropriate the term “safe space” — a term that has very specific meanings arising out of women and LGBT* liberation movements. Hayward now understands that The Lasting Supper is not a safe space, and he promises he will no longer appropriate that term. He also apologized for the immense pain he caused abuse survivors and LGBT* individuals who thought they were entering a safe space. Hayward says,
Out of respect for physical and sexual abuse victims and survivors, I am retiring the phrase “safe space” as a descriptor of TLS… I have deleted every reference to “safe space” on TLS’s main site and Facebook group, and from now on I will no longer use it on nakedpastor to describe TLS. I’m also going to be very diligent in keeping TLS on track for why it was created – that is, the goal stated earlier. I may use the word “safe”, but only very cautiously when no other word can be found… I extend my apologies to those that were hurt. Please forgive me for giving the impression that TLS was this technical ‘safe space’ for all persons.
Hayward does undercut his apology and promise to change, though, by saying he might still use the word “safe.” We will have to wait and see if he truly understands appropriate versus inappropriate ways to use that descriptor.
While there are several other parts of Hayward’s statement that I appreciate, I believe it is necessary to point out three glaring problems with his attempt to apologize and reconcile with those whom he has hurt:
First, Hayward continues to justify his poor treatment of childhood abuse survivors by referring to their anger at his mistreatment as “abusive.”
This first point really eradicates any good will I was interested in extending to Hayward. After acknowledging that he messed up — he messed up in facilitating his community, he messed up in miscommunicating the safety of his community, and he knows that really hurt people — he then has the gall to still refer to those hurt people as abusers. Hayward says,
I block people who speak to me abusively and who threaten me with warnings of defaming and destroying my work. I deleted and closed all comments on the nakedpastor site during my vacation (July 2015) because I could not respond to the comments and did not want any comments to stand idle for so many days.
Those people? Those are the people that he is theoretically apologizing to! And yet here he is, continuing to dig his heels into the ground and gaslight them as people who abused him. People who threatened him. I saw their interactions with him. Yes, they were angry. Yes, they contained profanity. But Hayward — who proudly declares in his apology that he is “someone with over 50 years’ experience in the church institutions, and 30 years within the full-time ministry” and thus understands spiritual abuse — should be one of the first to recognize that anger and profanity are not the definition of abuse. In the face of mistreatment, anger and profanity are brave refusals to be dehumanized. In the face of being shunned by the leader of a community, anger and profanity can serve as prophetic critique. That Hayward refuses to drop this marginalizing language is evidence that he has not taken his mistakes to heart.
Second, Hayward refuses to actually apologize to the individuals he has hurt personally.
Rather than reconciling himself with those whom he has betrayed and hurt, Hayward chose to write a public statement. Despite claiming in his apology that he “spent many hours in communication with some of those who left The Lasting Supper (TLS),” he did not actually talk to the many former members I interviewed and communicated with in my account of their mistreatment. If you are not willing to actually apologize personally, and instead content yourself with public declarations of sorrow and humility, you are clearly more interested in your reputation than in justice. You are furthering injustice by trying to sway public opinion against those whom you have hurt.
One of these former members, Danica, called Hayward out on this on his public Facebook page. Only when pressured did Hayward apologize to her personally. Danica then further pressed him to apologize to other former members. Hayward ignored her request and instead simply added the phrase, “ALSO: To individuals… I beg you to please accept this letter as if written to you personally,” after an advertisement for The Lasting Supper. Text of Hayward’s public interaction with Danica follows:
Danica: Thank you for this, David. I appreciate you addressing these concerns, and also for hearing what we have been saying about tls not being a safe space.I was wondering if you would please apologize directly for how you’ve specifically hurt me? It would mean so much. Thank you. (Posting this here since you blog is closed for comments)
nakedpastor: I apologize to you Danica. Your words about “safe space” were a large part of what went into my public apology, and TLS will be a better place because of it.
Danica: Thank you David! Would you also please consider apologizing to Wende and Jason for how they were hurt, as well? (I mention them becuase they were the other two who made public statements)
nakedpastor: I’ve added an edit to my post today at the bottom.
Danica: Would you mind naming them? That would go a long long way in making them feel acknolwedged and not overlooked / ignored.
Hayward ceased interacting with Danica at this point. Not only, then, does Hayward continue to cast abuse survivors as abusers themselves, he also refuses to apologize personally to them — even after admitting he harmed them. This is how this looks:
You are better than that, Hayward.
Third, Hayward follows his own model of an “abusive apology” by casting LGBT* individuals and women who felt unsafe in his group as simply “feeling” so.
On January 19, 2013, Hayward critiqued an inauthentic apology from a church pastor to a woman for being an “abusive apology.” One aspect of the apology that fell short was the following:
She “feels” this way, meaning that she isn’t being logical, that she’s being a typical woman who only thinks with her feelings, and therefore invalidates what he really did to her.
Yet Hayward implements this exact model when responding to claims that The Lasting Supper became marginalizing to LGBT* people and women. In response to a male member of his community who attempted to scare a woman with a threatening message, Hayward says:
Concerning the man accused of making sexist remarks or contacting women privately: There was a man who made inappropriate contacts and remarks that some felt were threatening.
Some “felt” the messages were threatening. Hayward then bends over backwards to explain the man is a much better person now, rather than validating the feelings of those who felt threatened. The focus is, again, on salvaging the reputation of the abusive person, not validating the experience of marginalized individuals — the very problem that got Hayward into this mess.
Concerning LGBT* people, Hayward also is more interested in salvaging the reputation of the person who alienated queer people:
I am aware of only one issue regarding LGBTQ. This was when a man, who I know is a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and not homophobic, confessed in a post that he finds it personally repulsive when he thinks of himself having sex with a man. He was called ‘homophobic’ by someone in TLS. I (and others) spoke with the gentleman, and we agreed that even though his feelings are valid, in the future a better word than ‘repulsive’ might be chosen to express them for the sake of congenial communication. I want to reiterate that my nakedpastor site has been known as a strong advocate for LGBTQ freedoms and rights for years. I still humbly and gladly embrace that reputation.
Hayward stresses that the offending person is “a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights” and “not homophobic” and that he (Hayward) is also “a strong advocate for LGBTQ freedoms and rights for years.” Not a single sentence is uttered on behalf of the queer people who were marginalized by this so-called LGBTQ advocate. Not a single sentence is dedicated to the validity of the queer person actually harmed. No, the entire paragraph is focused on the validity of the “advocate” who had “valid” feelings and the reputation of Hayward himself as an advocate — and the people they are supposed to be advocating for get erased.
To reiterate: I am glad Hayward apologized. I am glad that he is (at least appearing to) think through the mistakes he has made. But his apology is only half-way there. That’s obvious by the fact that I, someone to whom he owes no apology, am writing this because numerous former members that he hurt are blocked from interacting with him and cannot voice their concerns to him. He continues to cast these individuals as abusers when he himself is the one who created this entire situation in the first place. He created it by appropriating the phrase “safe space” and centering privileged people over and against marginalized people.
Hayward needs to do better.
And to people angry at me for calling Hayward out: I have hope that Hayward can do better. That is why I have stuck my neck out. I want to believe that Hayward and I are on the same team, standing against the misuse and abuse of power within Christianity, whether that Christianity is progressive or conservative . Hayward said he was. And now he’s doing otherwise. I believe that we need to keep each other accountable. I hope Hayward would do the same for me.