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Hard conversations in the wake of allegations against Bruxy Cavey

Cavey is under investigation, and we need to talk.

Many of Christian Courier’s readers will know Bruxy Cavey – the larger-than-life hippie pastor of Oakville’s The Meeting House megachurch – and they may even have family and friends who attend one of the 20 different remote sites in Southern Ontario (with 90 worldwide venues in 33 countries, as of December 2021). The disappointing news is that he is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, as his chair of overseers publicly announced on Dec. 6. A woman approached the overseers board just a week earlier and now Cavey has been placed on a leave of absence while an independent third-party investigation takes place. 

This is not the sort of publicity any church wants, and it will feed the easy cynicism that already mars the Christian public witness in our secular age. The news was almost immediately in the Toronto Citynews, The Washington Post and a Dutch church paper Nederlands Dagblad. 

What is to be gained by drawing attention to this here?

Shaping a conversation. This news repeats a dreadful pattern, and such bad news is not just in large churches. There are 1,800 megachurches in North America, and we only hear about the relatively small sample that have been scandalized. The media select what they report and the unscrupulous evangelist stereotype becomes an easy go-to reference point. But really, sexual indiscretions, abuses of power and dastardly fraud disrupt all sizes of church, all religions, and all cultural sectors. Don’t be fooled. There are no statistics that show megachurch pastors are more prone to such sin. Wherever two or three are gathered, it seems, there will be trouble. We know comedians, doctors, radio hosts and movie directors have been implicated in similar abuses. That it happens in a church, however, seems worse, and so we need to talk.

Red flags

We need to talk about relationships at work, and the roles of perpetrators, victims, by-standers and managers. We need to talk about the courage to speak up, accountability, board responses, legal liabilities, and how best to communicate and when. We need to talk about charisma, desire, power, leadership and character. We need to talk about the role of the church in preventing, perpetuating and addressing these tragedies. We need to talk about congregation members who feel betrayed, disillusioned and possibly faith-bruised. We can speculate about megachurches, celebrity status and the influence of the media and the internet, too. But we should remember that it’s something that also happens in our communities.

We don’t want to sensationalize such announcements, especially at this point. But keeping quiet about these failures has its own liabilities.

The news especially smarts because Pastor Cavey and his tattoos promised us that he was not going to be like those other pastors. His whole persona and branding was based on the vision of a church that was more like a counter-culture’s Jesus and less like the now-defamed evangelical trope of prosperity, politics and emotional hype. So it feels like there is a lot riding on the facts of this sad case. 

Schuurman’s 2019 book was the first to study Cavey and The Meeting House. Schuurman interviewed 82 members and ex-members of The Meeting House for his PhD (University of Waterloo), including Cavey (photo credit: Facebook).

Towards the hard conversations

I spent four years studying his ironic posture as a leader and wrote a book on his “irreligious” spirituality. I vouched that his spiritual vision was ripe for our times, and was directly addressing some of the ambivalence Canadians have for the Christian faith. This is not hyper-masculine Mars Hill, Seattle. I met many former Reformed folks in The Meeting House who were hoping to try on a fresh expression of faith in pacifist Anabaptist garb.

Certainly, I have some critical distance from The Meeting House. I’ve heard both the best and the worst of it. Still, this news hits close to home.

I am reminded that what we have here are allegations. No police are involved, no crime has been named. The investigation may take months. In the meantime, The Meeting House has offered professional counselling to the woman who came forward with allegations and they have ready funds to do the same for any of its distraught membership, which numbers in the thousands.

People will speculate, prejudge and gossip. But we can direct our speech in more edifying ways, towards the hard conversations that need to take place in our own communities. Can these scenarios ever resolve with a mixture of justice and redemption? History suggests some sobriety. The consequences may be substantial. Our core gospel virtues may not be fully realized on this side of heaven. But they can at least be part of the conversation.

Author

  • Peter is Executive Director of Global Scholars Canada, a transnational guild of Christian scholars. He preaches, teaches and writes – having written columns, editorials, news and features for CC since 1997. His book The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019) is an ethnographic journey into the life of a megachurch and its “irreligious” charismatic leader. He loves stories that cross boundaries while maintaining integrity.

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6 Comments

  1. Dear Peter,
    Thanks for this column. Here is one quick reaction, re: ” The Meeting House has offered professional counselling to the woman who came forward with allegations and they have ready funds to do the same for any of its distraught membership, which numbers in the thousands.” I would never, never take counselling from an associated organisation or individual connected to the congregation. Too many possible conflicts of interest.

    1. Yes, I agree. They would be best off to supply the funds for counselling and not supply the counsellors. There still might be a tension in such an offer, even if it comes from genuine generosity.

  2. There is a fine line between wanting to know the outcome and needing to know the outcome of the investigation into this allegation. I can’t say I know where the line is. I know I have daughters who attended a meeting house congregation until they didn’t. I as well, until I didn’t. The meeting house was the last church we attended, until we didn’t. This affects not just the “members’ who are the only ones who received the initial and (from little I know ) the only email addressing this. “This” … it is a crisis – no doubt for Bruxy and his family, certainly for the woman (and her family) who brought forth the allegations – and to varying degrees all members and attendees past and present who have been part of the meeting house.

    The SILENCE from the meeting house since that initial email that was only sent to “members” – when does the continued silence become a betrayal to everyone (yes that is a reference to Martin Luther’s quote). Thousands of people attend the meeting house churches who are not members – yet who are struggling with confusion and ???. Silence does not feel safe. Silence … it isn’t neutral.

    1. I don’t have any connection to the Meeting House, but I would expect that the silence is just a result of the legal system it and all of us are embedded in. If you or anyone you associate with is accused of something, even if everyone is 100% innocent and everything is clearly in your favour, it is very foolish, legally, to be anything but silent. Innocent comments, used cleverly by an opposing legal team, can make a lot of extra work for your lawyer (and for the other lawyer), add a lot of money to your legal bill, and use up a lot more of the court’s time, even if it doesn’t make you lose a case. Ask a police officer or a lawyer or a paralegal or anyone, if you want to hear stories! I don’t know any details about this specific case, but the silence itself won’t be the least bit suspicious to anyone with any legal experience.

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