Nov 13, 2006

Ligonier Lynches Loyal Laborers?

Ligonier's mistreatment of loyal customer service representative the latest evidence of mismanagement

You may remember reading on my blog recently about Meaghan May, a young lady who worked as a customer service representative at Ligonier Ministries during the uproar caused by their unbiblical lawsuit against a professing Christian and subsequent cover-up. Meaghan was the only non-managerial employee at Ligonier who spoke publicly about the lawsuit, and she strongly defended Ligonier's management in comments on this blog.

Well, only a few weeks later, Meaghan is no longer defending Ligonier. In fact, she has left the organization under circumstances that provide the latest evidence of major mismanagement at Ligonier, with implications for all current Ligonier staff.

Meaghan's husband, currently studying for a Masters of Divinity and Counseling Degree at Reformed Theological Seminary, tells the story of her recent plight at Ligonier:

“So my wife got a new job (yay!) and gave her two weeks' notice today after three years of faithful work...and then two hours later they "terminated" her! God, however, showed us really quickly that he will provide for us through the mess left in our laps. Meaghan can start her new job earlier than originally planned, and her old employer agreed to at least pay her unused vacation. Here's to a few days off! It's hard to know how to respond to a situation like this when it's not you but your wife who's going through it. Feeling this desire to protect her and defend her honor, I may have been less gracious in my blog entry for today (in that I actually mentioned what these people did) than she was in hers today, and I want to make it clear that I am damn proud of her in how she's acted through all this!”

Even though Ligonier's policy is for employees to give two weeks' notice of resignation, and even though Meaghan complied with the rules, Ligonier's management fired her for daring to quit! It's a good thing senior management was "generous" enough to pay her for her unused vacation time.

In her blog, Meaghan mentions the three years of trials she endured at Ligonier and how she has been praying about it for the last couple years. She says something about her new job, though, that would be rather puzzling if we were not familiar with the recent happenings on at Ligonier: "I keep waiting for them to be gruff with me if I did something incorrectly, but they are very patient and just excited to see me take on new tasks." I'd like to be able to interpret this comment charitably, but the only way I can understand it is that Meaghan had become so accustomed to verbal abuse at Ligonier that she had begun to think it normal and expected more of the same at her new job.

Ligonier's mistreatment of Meaghan while on the job and continuing as soon as she announced her departure is particularly significant given that she was, after Tim Dick and John Duncan, the most visible staff defender of both the organization and its senior management. Meaghan's loyalty to Ligonier was the strongest when they needed it most - at the height of public uproar over the lawsuit, when Ligonier issued the misleading statements by Tim Dick and Senior Management. In response to the critics, Meaghan posted some very strong comments all over the web defending her employer and identifying herself as the very customer service rep I spoke with at Ligonier. Meaghan did eventually apologize for "any confusion, for Ligonier's part in making the situation more difficult, and that her responses as a customer service representative were not as helpful as they had tried to be." She nevertheless insisted that Ligonier was not trying to lie, that they were all concerned about the situation for the Lord's sake, and that it was all just a matter of miscommunication.

You would think, given Meaghan's vocal public loyalty, that senior management at Ligonier would want to ensure that her last experience of the organization was positive, given that she was going to leave anyway. Instead, Ligonier management bizarrely chose to reward her loyalty ("I will not abandon His ministry, but only pray more earnestly for it") by instead insisting on firing her after she gave notice of quitting.

You will not be surprised to learn then that Meaghan is not the first employee Ligonier management has spurned and discarded. Reportedly, groups of nine and ten employees, some with decades of faithful service, were let go in 2004 and 2005 not long after Ligonier leadership purchased expensive trophy properties. Ligonier is also currently not paying Don Kistler, after he had a stroke and the doctor told him he couldn't go back to work for a few months -- although Tim Dick continues to be paid despite his own medical condition that severely reduces his ability to work productively. Is such behavior in conformity with Ligonier's HR policies? Is this kind of disparity in treatment legal?

And how about ethical treatment? We all know that God’s Word tells us at a minimum to be kind to one another, preferring one another in brotherly love, etc., but let’s get down to specifics. Paul talks about masters and bondservants in Ephesians, and the principles in those verses clearly also apply to employers and employees. Here is a short list of what God expects from purportedly Christian employers:

  • Sincerity of heart, as to Christ
  • Doing the will of God from the heart
  • With goodwill doing service, as to the Lord
  • Giving up threatening

Reportedly, the atmosphere at Ligonier these days is far from this biblical standard, with management threats being common. I'm sure that most Ligonier employees love the Lord and desire to do what is right in His sight, and that they love Ligonier and Dr. Sproul and want to see them both glorify God in all that they do. At the same time, it should be clear to any honest Ligonier employee the vast gulf between what Ligonier management teaches and what they practice, such as what the Bible teaches about handling disputes among believers.

Consequently, employees must be wondering what their obligations are as Christians. I suspect that many would love to speak out and help expose the truth to donors, but fear that doing so would cost them their jobs and possibly also their friends and church. Given the potentially high price, so far most have chosen to remain silent, many while quietly seeking other employment. But I have to ask all such employees: Is your job worth the price of your integrity? Didn't Jesus say that following him would be costly?

As we see by Meaghan's example, you should not expect Ligonier management to reward loyalty with loyalty, unless you're part of the Sproul, Dick or Duncan families. You should not expect that helping management cover up and defending them from critics will protect you from management wrath in the end. If you are "laid off" for "financial" reasons, how will you be able to prove if it was actually for any other reason?

Under the circumstances, it seems to me that, instead of trying to protect the Ligonier leadership, subordinates should help expose the internal scandals in the hopes of cleansing and restoring Ligonier. Fortunately, honorable Ligonier staff can do this discreetly and protect themselves by keeping a low profile at work while supplying information to those who have a genuine interest in seeing Ligonier restored - Ministry Watchman or myself or another trusted outsider - by setting up anonymous e-mail accounts accessed only at home and used only for this purpose. This would help put on public pressure for the replacement of senior management by those with track records that show more concern about glorifying God than gratifying their pocketbooks.

As a former long-time monthly Ligonier donor who loves the Ligonier that used to glorify God and hopes only to see them restored to the glory of God and the blessings of His people, I appeal to all Ligonier insiders who are willing to take a stand against management tyranny, even anonymously and confidentially, to help expose evil deeds of darkness for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Kingdom, and His Glory.

16 comments:

Practicing Attorney said...

Interesting post, Jen. I'm sure Tim Dick and "passerby" will be angry when they see this. But they have only themselves to blame for more bad PR. It makes you wonder if Ligonier's donations are so far behind as a result of the lawsuit scandal that they need those two weeks of Meaghan's salary, even at the risk of the additional bad exposure that they're getting with this article. That is the only semi-logical explanation I can think of for such ill-treatment of a loyal employee...

Visit this site for correct theology said...

This is how you deal with sinning brothers and sisters.

Matthew 18:16-17
"But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

And how are we to treat heathens and tax collectors? Well, not as a brother or sister but as one who is in need of the Gospel. We are not to continue to dig up juicy details on them but instead offer His Gospel to them along with our prayers. Otherwise, you are like the young widows in the next passage of Scripture who are in need of the guidance of a husband.

1 Timothy 5:13-14
"And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not."

You are not bringing glory and honor to God through your constant gossiping of fallen brothers and sisters. Seek to glorify God through your blog. It might not get you as many readers (because of the fallen nature that likes to talk about others) but you will receive more rewards in heaven instead of your reward being moderate volumes of blog readers.

Mark Epstein said...

Jen,

I fully expect Ligonier’s “management” team to respond very negatively to your latest post. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the same “anonymous defense” we’ve seen on Frank Vance’s and Watchman’s sites to suddenly appear in your comments section (despite Ligonier defenders excoriating anyone else who posts comments anonymously). I can only state the obvious: What a sorrow-laden path these leaders have chosen and how unfortunate for the visible church as a whole. As Reformed believers, we are supposed to be getting it right.

Mark

Counter Assassin said...

Interesting how “Visit this Site for Correct Theology” states that John MacArthur’s site is the place to learn how to deal with sinning brothers and sisters. However, “Visit” doesn’t seem to even know the definition of gossip nor does “Visit” recognize the issue of public sin requiring a public response – something none of us have yet to witness by our Reformed leadership, including John MacArthur.

It appears that another “Lig Shill Internet Assassin” has posted an “anonymous” comment on your site, which it appears your husband predicted. I suppose we can expect this pattern of continuing public sin on Ligonier’s part to continue. How very sad that such a formerly great organization has stooped to such a low.

CA

formlessandvoid said...

Jen says: It's a good thing senior management was "generous" enough to pay her for her unused vacation time.

Jen, you are very generous in calling this “generous”, but as a matter of fact it is an obligation on the part of the employer, since unused vacation time is part of an employee’s compensation. If Ligonier would not even pay Meaghan for her unused vacation time, she would have a legal basis to sue them. Of course, Meaghan wouldn’t do that ...

Jen said...

The point of relating these stories here is not to stir up idle, juicy gossip, but rather to motivate apathetic Christians to do something, to call Ligonier to repentance. If this were the only story about Ligonier, it wouldn't be worth repeating. However, this pattern of sin seems to go deep beneath the surface of a professing Christian ministry. As fellow believers, we need to stand together to help gently restore Ligonier and RC Sproul and Tim Dick and John Duncan to righteous, godly living. We humans have a tendency to forget quickly and we could be oh, so tempted, to buy gifts for loved ones from Ligonier at this time of year, or to give a year end donation to a ministry that has been instrumental in our spiritual growth. But there is something even more important than all that right now, and that is the very souls of those involved in these scandals. We need to pray, pray, pray for Ligonier and all those involved. And we need to act; we need to keep calling, keep writing, keep the $$$ away from this ministry, until such time as they repent from their wicked ways.

That is the point of this story.

agreeing with correct theology said...

"As fellow believers, we need to stand together to help gently restore Ligonier and RC Sproul and Tim Dick and John Duncan to righteous, godly living."
This is the job of male overseers who are directly involved with them which doesn't include you.

always batya said...

visit this site, I find it interesting that you will take scripture out of context to rebuke Jen but not Ligonier senior management. I find that strange and sad.

Jen said...

Agreeing - and what male overseers might those be? John Duncan? Tim Dick? RC Sproul?

I think you've missed the whole point here.

If the men who were in control did their spiritual jobs, I wouldn't have to, would I?

More accurate theology said...

This is the job of male overseers who are directly involved with them which doesn't include you.

As recent articles on Ministrywatchman have revealed, RC Sproul has arranged his affairs to avoid true oversight, not only at Ligonier but also at church. RC leads an independent congregation, St. Andrews Chapel, whose elders he has ordained. John Duncan, like many other Ligonier staff, goes to that church. The other pastor there is also a Ligonier employee. Even the sermons RC preaches at St. Andrews are the intellectual property of Ligonier, which sells them. See a pattern here?

But even if RC were under true authority and accountability at his church, so what? That would not exempt him from legal or moral accountability to those who pay his salary, which until very recently included Mark and Jennifer Epstein. RC didn't have to structure Ligonier as a public charity. He didn't have to solicit people like the Epsteins to become monthly donors. But he did and they did, and now you say that they don't have a say in calling for public pressure on Ligonier for squandering their donations and those of many others? What nonesense!

In fact, it would probably be easier to make a case from Scripture that Jen must try to hold Ligonier publicly accountable for its public waste of the money she contributed.

Wendi said...

Just a brief comment to agree about Meaghan's comment about how she kept expecting her new employers to be gruff with her. I found that both startling and very revealing. I felt very sorry for that poor young lady and the conditions she must have been working under for the last three years- and the idea that her husband has been led to think it's gracious of Ligonier to abide by the law and pay her for unused vacation days is equally sad and revealing.

I do hope that they will soon be fully recovered from the stress and confusion that results from working under such conditions.

tyrant slayer said...

Wendi said a mouthful. The longer it takes Ligonier and its management team to repent, the more damage will occur in people’s lives. How very unfortunate, un-Christian, and tyrannical these managers appear to behave. I haven’t read the Ministrywatchman site, but I’m heading there now!

Professor truth said...

Wendi: Just a brief comment to agree about Meaghan's comment about how she kept expecting her new employers to be gruff with her>>

You don't know how right you are...as a matter of fact since I come from industry of training, I can tell you one suffers from emotional abuse at work as bad as if it were at home. You become accustomed to it. Sometimes you think it is normal because you have subjected yourself to it for so long. In Meghans case, she could have been trying for approval by posting what she did but I think she really was under their 'spell'. I use that word loosly because you start thinking things are normal that aren't. And, you want to believe they are right for many reasons I won't go into here. Tyrants (you have to have power to be a tyrant) have more 'head' control over normally intelligent and thinking people than you can imagine. I saw it all the time.

Also, the person posting as 'correct theology' should change his/her moniker to 'legalistic practicioner'

Hislaws said...

Quoting your article: "I suspect that many would love to speak out and help expose the truth to donors, but fear that doing so would cost them their jobs and possibly also their friends and church. Given the potentially high price, so far most have chosen to remain silent..."

Many "milktoast" professors (those who "claim" the name of Christ with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him) will balk at my comments I am sure but...

It causes me to be ill when I read comments such as yours which represent the despicable truth. That truth being how many who claim the name of Christ refuse to obey His Word... live by His statutes and DO what is right... because it"might cost them their job... blah blah.."

What a sad..sad commentary. Lovers of money and lovers of their seats in the religious houses more than lovers of God and keeping His commands.

shameful..

Anonymous said...

This issue should be followed - not fueled. I was a monthly supporter through December. Now, I fired Lig. et.al. Simple. I can choose my support recipients. And, I have. I miss the R.C. messages of yesteryear. I do not rejoice but sigh at the loss. So, let us put our "spears" away but keep a watchful eye while we look elsewhere for sustenance. I say shake the dust and move on. I just wish I knew why and how? One last lampoon, maybe we should schedule a non-ligonier "cruise." When did cruises become worthwhile Christian camp meetings?

FreeGoodNews.com said...

New story on RC Sproul overpaying his son-in-law by $100K:
http://www.freegoodnews.com/2008/02/2008-christia-3.html

...Bernie