And so another religious educational establishment pops up on the radar. This time from Ontario, Canada.
The Grenville Christian College has recently closed amidst allegations of abuse and malpractice. Whilst its headmaster toes the official line and states in a press release that "changing demographics, declining enrolment, and increasing operating costs" forced the closure, another senior staff member comes out with this - "What was done to people at GCC was very wrong, I was very wrong. And I am so sorry for all the hurt that was caused to each of you by me and by all of us in positions of leadership.” (Joan Childs)
According to the article "former students have described a bizarre environment where they were hauled from their beds in the middle of the night to be harangued for hours by staff at so-called light sessions about being sinners."
Now, I'm cautious when I read this kind of stuff, as my gut tells me to be outraged and I've learned not to trust it over the years. This could simply be one or two bitter students and a harangued ex-staff member.
I came across this message board however populated by 'survivors' of the GCC. Given the volume of posts about the college, it seems the story is bang on. So, I'll let my outrage run unfettered then...
An ex-student / survivor posted this message about his experience of Ms Joan Childs within his 1st 24 hours there;
"We had been at Grenville for not even 24 hours when my [father] and I were walking with Joan to the compulsory evening chapel.
I was walking in the middle of Joan and my Dad (so I could be watched), when Joan happened to find me in the unfortunate circumstance of having gum in my mouth. (still hadn't gotten the hang of things and was in the throes of adolescence).
Well, Joan turned and with anger demanded that I SPIT my gum into my father's hand. I said, "Spit?" (thinking with alarm ... Wouldn't you rather I remove the gum with my fingers and place it into his hand? I mean, aren't I supposed to be learning to show respect to my "rightful authorities" here?)
So I made mistake number two, and asked "Why spit?" And she got furious and stepped in front of me, had my Dad hold his hand out, and demanded I spit the gum into his hand. So, well, I did.
Well, my Dad, not really ever having caught an airborne piece of gum before (and not really wanting to), dropped it accidentally. He knew and I knew at that instant that it was an accident.
But as I lifted my head up, after watching it fall, Joan threw her arm back and slapped me VERY HARD across my face! It was all I could do to keep the pejoratives in my head ... and I replied angrily, "It was an accident!!!"
And, my dad meekly (and too quietly) followed up with, "it was an accident."
This did not deter Joan and she escorted us, with accompanying lecture about my "sin" (uh-huh, you got me convinced, lady), to the chapel.
(Sorry for the irreverent tone of this post, don't mean to offend anyone, but it had a touch of comedy even then ... of course being both angry at the injustice and humored by it got me in more trouble ... too bad it shaped my opinion of her so dramatically ... and ticked me off for years!)"
I guess Joan Childs has got her apology in before the court cases start to come. Mind, I've noticed that many of the posters on this board apologise, like the above, when even a vaguely critical comment has been made. It seems guilt will always be with them. Perhaps no one will sue, as it must be their fault they're going to hell.
I do have some sympathy for Joan. Her public apology has took some mettle. It's also very likely that she was under pressure from an authoritative system and probably abused psychologically herself.
And after all, what can be more abusive than man's notion of God eh?
So, lets join with Joan as we sing the GCC's favourite hymn;
“You are wrong, you are wrong,
“No matter what you say or do,
“You'll always be wrong.”