While spending thirteen “successful” years as a pastor, speaker, world evangelist and ministry leader, Stephen was secretly trying his best to make such infamous Christian leaders as Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and Ted Haggard look good. He was pretty successful at doing that.
The explosion that followed the admission to his wife of infidelity was full of public shaming by the church; missteps by the church; a divorce; a new career; dying parents; the death of both of his parents, the dissolution of his relationship to his brother, rehab, and daily 12 step meetings. He remarried and his second wife betrayed him in many of the same ways he betrayed his first wife. As his second marriage dissolved, he found himself in another twelve-step group for family members and friends of alcoholics learning about his own co-dependency and willingness to stay with abusive spouses.
Thirteen years of active twelve-step work later, he began working with Clergy Recovery Network as a “Crisis Manager” for pastors and their families who found themselves facing many of the issues he had faced. He returned to school to give himself additional tools to help those who needed it. Along the way, he began to wrestle with his own story of sexual abuse at the hands of his mother and the harm that that abuse caused. Eventually, he remarried, discovering that God was in the business of resurrecting the broken.
On the heels of a moral crisis in the organization he served, Stephen’s mentors and spiritual advisors encouraged him to leave and find new ways to work with suffering clergy. An opportunity presented itself to join Artists in Christian Testimony, his wife’s mission agency, to develop a new ministry that didn’t merely manage crises but walked with pastors, their family’s, and their churches for longer periods of time to make sure that their footholds were certain.
For Stephen the work he does is not simply to heal families — as important as this work is, it is not enough. He wants to see and be a part of renewal in the Church. He wants to help put an end to cycles of spiritual abuse that pervade ecclesiastical systems. Indeed, the systems promote addictive behaviors among church leaders. For Stephen, the way forward is to address the trauma and shame among the church’s leadership, so they do not make decisions from places of hurt and insecurity but rather from places of love and relationship. As leaders find rest, freedom, and healing, they will be able to promote it in the flocks they serve.
In addition, Artists in ChristianTestimony Intl., his mission, asked he and Paula, his wife to help provide psychological and spiritual care for missionaries around the world. They readily agreed.
Finishing school, having focused his energies on studying shame and trauma; one of the churches Gracefall had served, asked Stephen and Paula to consider opening up a counseling and spiritual direction center on their campus. After months of prayerful consideration by both the church, Stephen, and Paula, everyone thought it was right to move forward.