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Title Center of Light - Susan Moss, A Therapist and Former Member Speaks Out Against the Abusive Practices of the OCS

Susan Moss, A Therapist and Former Member Speaks Out Against the Abusive Practices of the OCS: August 20, 2010 Dear Michael, I have recently (as of 3 weeks ago) severed my connection with the OCS in the New Haven, CT Center of Light. Having been a devoted, faithful and committed member of this spiritual community for five years, I have to say it has been a difficult separation. A friend of mine said, "It's like the breakup of a long-term relationship." Ending my relationship with this community is painful, and I'm thankful for your understanding and support. The hard part is that they're not totally bad. My experience was not completely negative. In fact, I received many blessings, especially in the beginning. It is because of those tangibly felt blessings that I chose to overlook the many red flags I perceived over the course of my years there. As an experienced psychotherapist (with three Masters degrees, two of which are from Yale, and the coursework for a PhD), I am trained to notice the behaviors, thought patterns and personal strategies people use to adapt to their environment. From my initial involvement with the Center of Light, I noticed that the methods the teachers used in their interactions with students were those used in severely dysfunctional family systems. For example: They publicly humiliate people (I have witnessed this and experienced it personally); they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and thus - blame the victim; - they use circular reasoning to justify their infallibility. This 'infallibility' part is really insidious. Here's how it works: Once someone is ordained and becomes a deacon, they then have 'inner sight,' which comes from God. Since it comes from God, and God is always good, whatever they 'see' about any particular person is also correct and true and good. Therefore, any argument against their 'God-given sight' is never justified, is never valid and is always defensive. In other words, they are always right and any questioning of their pronouncements is wrong. It is out of this type of reasoning that they can call their 'sight' Loving and not abusive.But abuse is what it really is; they avoid the responsibility of looking at their own behavior and how it provokes the anger or defensiveness on the part of the person they're helping.' They rationalize their own behavior by saying that they're doing it out of Love.This is not Love. Those who are accepted into training for the ministry eventually come around to this abusive way of treating people. This is what I would characterize as a 'shared delusion.' It is shared not only among the ministers, but also in the communities as a whole. While it is not stated overtly, it is understood that no one is allowed to question Peter's authority. I have actually heard Peter say, in a seminar, that he is just below Jesus and Mary on the earth at this time. He said it seriously, and no one challenged him. I have been treated this abusive way many times over the years by deacons and priests and not once have they ever apologized for their behavior. Of course, they don't have to because everything is re-framed as being from God, and therefore loving. How can you object to God's voice, even when it comes through a human being? I offer you a verbatim letter I received from Rev. Johanna, one of the priests at the New Haven Center of Light. It refers to an incident that occurred between Deacon Esther and myself. Incidentally, Rev. Johanna was neither present nor involved in this interaction. To summarize briefly: I tried to explain how a particular behavior of Deacon Esther's affected me. She did not let me finish, interrupted me, and began berating me. She told me I was 'slime-ing' her, telling me I was 'defensive', accusing me of 'dumping' on her and of trying to get her to change rather than look at my own stuff, etc. Her tone became increasingly loud and harsh and I felt attacked and shocked. The incident ended without resolution. After this incident with Deacon Esther, I stopped going to the evening classes. Although continuing to go to morning communion, I left before hugs. (It is customary after services to gather outside the chapel for hugs and a brief discussion of the reading.) I wanted to receive the blessing of communion but not have to face 'The Tribunal.' That is, from past experience I knew that if I stayed, I would be brought before the two priests and two deacons and be forced to admit the error of my ways and to apologize to them. They would dismiss my concerns, get me to acknowledge how 'loving' Deacon Esther was and manipulate me into accepting their word as Truth and my experience as false. Thus they will have reasserted their authority and subjugated my autonomy..I was not willing to put myself through that. I received the following letter from Rev. Johanna about a week after the above incident with Deacon Esther. Please keep in mind that the person writing is an ordained priest. NOTE: [Rev. Johanna refers to me as Lauren. This was my baptismal name at the Center. And she refers to OM. OM is The Order of Mercy which is a sub-order of the OCS. I was blessed into it as a Sister a year ago, having taken a 1-year vow of service.] From: Rev Johanna Date: Sun, Aug 8, 2010 at 1:29 PM Subject: change To: Lauren Moss , Sister Lauren Cc: Michael Knight Dear Lauren, I see that you are very strenuously avoiding speaking to any of us. But it must be spoken of, because you are spreading damage by the way that you are acting. If you choose to not come here, that is your prerogative, but sneaking in and out as you have been doing cannot continue, because it is mean and hateful. Whatever is going on with you is something you need to take care of, not stew in, and certainly not spew it silently on everyone else. You may think you are slipping in and out, but your avoidance is so blatant that it is like shouting at us how mad and disgusted you are, so mad and disgusted that you will not deign to have an actual interaction with us. Do you realize that your coming and going is like that of a thief? This community has been a saving grace for you, holding and supporting you through changes that were tough, welcoming you always. The OM could be a container that provides the structure you need to become a stronger, more loving, more stable person, because being in the OM requires you to be mature, responsible, and giving, which are things you need to grow in strength. But you cannot just shit in that container. You can't represent the OM and act like a manipulative little girl. You can change this. If you are going to, you had better get going on it, because the longer you persist, the harder it will be for you. What is needed to change it is to address responsibly and respectfully the issue that confronts you. You also treated Rev. Michael and Deacon Esther with tremendous rudeness in your emails, and you would need to recognize and redress this. You would need to own your behavior of the last couple of weeks and apologize for it. I have complete confidence that you can do this, and that if you choose to, you will be relieved. Whatever you choose, it is not okay to continue stealing in and out of the chapel, avoiding people. Let me know what you decide. In Christ, Rev. Johanna Rev. Johanna Knight It's a soul thing. When I reread this letter, I feel contaminated. Notice how Rev. Johanna's tone is mean and hateful. It sounds like she is enraged as well as being mad and disgusted with me. She calls me a "manipulative little girl." She implicitly accuses me of being immature, irresponsible and unstable and explicitly describes me as "a thief who steals in and out of the chapel" using profanity, she tells me that I'm someone who "shits in the container of the OM." These are not the words of a representative of God. This entire letter seems to be a projection of her stuff onto me, notwithstanding her 'complete confidence' that I can apologize for my transgressions. One of the teachings they give out in class is that if someone tells you something about yourself that contains a tiny grain of truth in it, but it is done with meanness or malice or hatefulness, then the entire thing should be rejected out of hand, because it is not of God. This is exactly what I am doing now.


Susan Moss Former member of the New Haven, CT Center of Light