AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL CURRENT AND FORMER FAMILY MEMBERS GP 3091 12/96
--From Maria and Peter Amsterdam
15. As stated earlier, we clearly understand that some former members have had negative and hurtful experiences in the Family. We have apologized in written publications a number of times over the last years. However, you personally may not have received a copy of these publications. The following is an excerpt from one of those publications, written by Maria in September 1995:
16. "Likewise, if any of you ex-members who may be reading this have had negative sexual experiences while with us, or you were treated unlovingly or harshly, either before or after you left the Family, we are sorry. Our goal is to be the Lord's Family of Love, so if you suffered unloving treatment from any Family member, we ask you to please forgive us. The Lord has been teaching us all a lot about how important it is that we are loving and kind with one another. As a Family, we are asking Him to help us to love Him and others more, for without love we have nothing! So if we failed you in not being loving enough, please forgive us." (End of excerpt by Maria.)
17. The following is a portion of a letter written by Peter Amsterdam to a judge during a court case involving custody of a Family child in Britain in October 1995:
18. "Maria, Gary and myself and World Services acknowledge that any abuse of children is abhorrent, whether it be sexual abuse or other forms of abuse, and we are determined that the Family will be a safe environment for all our children and teens to be brought up in.
19. "We acknowledge that in certain places at certain times the Family has not been as safe an environment for them as it should have been. Over the last nine years, we have taken progressive steps to make it as safe as possible, and have apologized to those who have suffered harm, and we recognize this litigation and these communications as an opportunity to apologize again. We sincerely believe that the Family today is a safe place, and we have established safeguards to make sure it will remain so.
20. "Your Lordship has asked us to acknowledge that Father David, through his writings, was personally responsible for children in the Family being sexually abused. Father David wrote a series of Letters concerning sexual behavior. The judgment refers in particular to 'The Law of Love' and 'The Devil Hates Sex.' And we accept that as the author of ideas upon which some members acted to the harm of minors in the Family, he must bear responsibility for that harm. Maria, and all of us in World Services leadership, also feel the burden of responsibility. Maria in particular has done an enormous amount to put a stop to any sexual maltreatment of children and instituted strict safeguards to make sure it will never happen again.
21. "We acknowledge that it was wrong to proclaim a teaching of sexual liberty (i.e., in 1976 and 1978) without establishing clear rules to ensure that sexual contact did not take place between adults and children. Further, in 1980 Father David's statements in his discourse entitled 'The Devil Hates Sex' opened the door for sexual behavior between adults and minors, such sanctioning being a direct cause of later abusive behavior by some Family members at that time. In addition, we also acknowledge with regret that more specific and concrete restraints were not introduced earlier, and that Father David should have done so immediately upon receiving indications that problems were beginning to develop.
22. "The extension of the Law of Love to sexual matters was a unique contribution of Father David's to the Family, and we accept and acknowledge that he bears responsibility for what arose as a result of it. Among other things, we acknowledge that his beliefs and teachings led to the setting aside of ordinary sexual taboos and restraints, particularly between adults, and this significantly contributed to the development of an overly sexualized atmosphere in a number of Family communities, of which children were a part. Unfortunately, this further led to a number of children being subjected to sexually inappropriate behavior." (End of excerpt of Peter's letter to the judge in Britain.)
23. The following are excerpts of a letter written by Maria to former members who were attending the fellowship meeting in Laurel, Maryland, in July 1996. In this excerpt, Maria addresses not only those former members who attended the Laurel fellowship, but any of you who had negative experiences while in the Family or were treated unlovingly by Family members after you left, so please take it as her sincere personal apology to you.
24. "I'm so sorry, my dear ones, for how you have suffered and for the difficult things you have experienced, both during the time you were in the Family and in recent years. I'm so sorry for how you have felt hurt and abandoned. It hurts me to think about how you hurt. It breaks my heart to see how your hearts have been broken. It pains me and I'm crying now to think how you have cried. I know there are times that you have felt alone and in despair and without hope. Questions, doubts, feelings of bitterness and resentment have overwhelmed you. You have questioned the love of the Lord, and the love of Dad, and me, and the Family.
25. "I understand your feelings, and I don't condemn you. I don't think I can honestly say that I can completely fathom all that you have been through and experienced to bring you to the point where you are today. But I can honestly say that I love you, and [Peter, Gary and Dust, who attended the meeting] love you, and especially that the Lord loves you.
26. "I am sorry for the way the Family has failed some of you in the past. I'm so sorry for the unloving behavior some of you experienced from some of our leaders and Family members. There are certainly many ways we could have done better. We could have been more tolerant, more accepting of other people's opinions. We could have practiced more teamworking in our earlier years. We could have listened to people's feelings with greater openness and been more human and willing to show ourselves weak. We could have been more ready to admit that we didn't have all the answers, that we were still learning. We could have been more gentle with some members who were weaker.
27. "We could have done all these things, and we should have. I'm sorry--very sorry--for our past failures and mistakes and shortcomings, of which I know there are many that affected you. Please accept my humble apology. I ask your forgiveness in the name of David and myself and the Family.
28. "I was telling some of the Family the other day how the Lord has used our failings and shortcomings to teach the Family humility, to teach us brokenness and greater dependence upon Him. Yes, the Family has been blessed with some marvelous accomplishments. We've preached the Gospel around the world and won millions to His Heavenly Kingdom. But when you see all that could have been done, all that we had hoped would be done, and you read past MO Letters of all that Dad spoke of, you realize that we have fallen short in many ways.
29. "But when praying about this, the Lord showed me that the most important thing, the greatest benefit or fruit that has come from these failures and shortcomings, is that the Family is now more humble and broken and dependent on the Lord. We now realize how weak we are and how much we need Jesus. We can't pat ourselves on the back and feel proud and strong because of our great accomplishments. We've made some good progress on many fronts, but in some cases it's not the progress nor success nor accomplishments that we had hoped for, or the fulfillment of all the ideals which Dad had written about in the Letters.
30. "So, yes, I know the Family is not perfect, and we as a whole have gone through a lot of breakings and lessons and a time of training. In many ways we were children. But now, by God's grace, we have learned and matured and we have put away childish things. And the Lord has used it all to prepare us for what He has for us in the future. We who remain in the Family have had to put away our disappointments, our regrets, and the sadness we have felt because of our shortcomings and because we have not been all that we could have been or done all that we could have done.
31. "We have had to forget the past in order to be what the Lord wants us to be today and tomorrow, and in the years to come. We've had to keep learning and growing. It's been a cycle, year after year, learning and then growing. And I'm thankful that the Lord has seen fit, in His mercy, to continue to speak to us and lead and guide us in the way that we should go. We are weak and humbled and in desperate need of Him. We have learned the meaning of that old song--probably many of you know it--'Lord, I Can't Even Walk Without You Holding My Hand.'
32. "We are weak people with many faults and idiosyncrasies, personality quirks, and bad habits--just like you. We don't always do everything right. Even when we try our best, sometimes we goof up--just like you. We may not be very smart or wise in the ways of the world, but we have a desire to love and serve the Lord--just like many of you. We depend wholly on the Lord's mercy and grace, and pray desperately that He will continue to use us for His glory, to bring forth fruit for His Kingdom--just like many of you.
33. "I pray that you will feel strengthened and renewed and that you will feel closer to the Lord and also to us.--That as you continue in your different ministries and walks of life, you will see His love manifested more clearly, and you will have a renewed desire to serve Him to the best of your ability. I pray that your fellowship with the Family will be sweeter, and that through it you will find strength and encouragement. I pray that our bonds together as Christians will grow stronger, that the love of Christ will constrain us in our interactions one with another, and that with time we will gain a greater appreciation one for another.
34. "There is so much to do to win the world for Jesus, and we are not kidding ourselves by thinking that someone has to be in the Family, either as a DO member or a TRF Supporter, in order to serve the Lord and bring forth fruit for Him. If you haven't found it yet, I pray that each of you will find a place of service and a ministry that will bring you great satisfaction and joy and fulfillment in your lives. I pray that your children will be happy, healthy and strong in their love for you and the Lord. It must be very difficult being on your own without the immediate strength of brethren close at hand, but I know the Lord will lead and guide you and supply your needs, as you follow Him. I love you! I hug and kiss each one of you. God bless and keep you. Love, Maria." (End of excerpt from Maria.)
35. It is the Family's sincere hope that the differences, the hurts of the past, the distrust and anything else that divides current and former members can be overcome and forgiven, and that we all can accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our prayer is that anyone who wishes to contact and communicate with a current Family member will feel free to do so, and that such contact will be met with enthusiasm and love. If you have any questions about the Family or our current doctrines or practices, or if you wish to contact someone in the Family, please don't hesitate to call the 800 number or contact the e-mail address listed previously. We will do our best to answer your questions and to pass on your message to the one you are seeking. Those answering the phone do not have information as to the whereabouts of every Family member, but they will do all they can to contact the various major centers around the world in order to help locate the person you are looking for in order to give them your message.
36. We ask that you please understand that the Family is made up of thousands of individuals who are encouraged to act according to their own faith in all matters. It is our hope that each one would welcome communication with any former member who wishes to communicate or fellowship. However, this may not always be the case. If you are rebuffed by specific Family members, please do not consider that their actions reflect the whole Family's feelings or policy. We are trying to bridge the gap between current and former members, and we sincerely wish to do our part to heal any wounds or hurts. We ask for your understanding, forgiveness and cooperation in these matters.
God bless and keep you,
For Maria and the Family Leadership
God bless you! We're enclosing a version of this "Letter to Current and Former Family Members" in a different format, which you may photocopy and give to any former members you encounter or are in contact with. It's the same letter but simply in a different, more personal letter type of format.
Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family