Thursday, February 14, 2008

Diary of a Pirated Church

C O R R E C T I O N: We discovered a scribal error on the date of point number 12 and have corrected it to reflect the correct date, and I sincerely apologize to Mr. Shade for making him jump through all those hoops as a result of this error. Furthermore, we forgot to note that Shade’s church adopted the Christ Church Constitution as its own in March 1999 (point number 5), which probably explains why he jumped through those hoops.

Yesterday, and again today, defrocked minister Burke Shade challenged my understanding of the facts regarding his lawful deposition from office, which inspired me to apply my fully documented anonymous attack skills to a timeline itemizing the chronological sequence of events that led to Shade splitting his church and crash landing the remains in the CREC. This record contains two staggering contradictions: First, in March 2006, Burke Shade said he never heard of the CRE until June 1999, which contradicts the testimony of Illiana Presbytery who said they were aware that Burke Shade was negotiating his reception into the CRE in February 1999; and (2) the elders of Christ Church represented to Illiana Presbytery that Burke Shade requested membership in the CRE in November 1999, seven months after the Kult voted to bring Shade into the CRE and two months after the CRE received Shade as a delegate.

  1. 1998 — Burke Shade, pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), meets Douglas Wilson on the phone to schedule him to speak at a church conference in March 1999.

  2. November 9, 1998 — Illiana Presbytery began a judicial trial against Burke Shade.

  3. January 10, 1999 — Shade’s faction in EPC sends a letter to the session asking for a congregational meeting to vote on, among other things, (1) transferring their membership to their newly founded church, Cornerstone Reformed Church (CRC), (2) taking $70,000 with them, (3) taking one half of the Trinity Psalters and Hymnals, folding chairs, padded chairs, tables, (4) taking the Yamaha grand piano, (5) taking the computer and printer in Shade’s office, (6) dissolving EPC’s relationship with Burke Shade. Rest assured that the Fearless Leader instructed Shade to grab as much as possible, when hijacking a church.

  4. February 22, 1999 — Illiana Presbytery eventually discovers that as early as this date (February 22, 1999, probably earlier) two elders from Christ Church were in communication with Shade about receiving him into the CRE.

  5. March 1999 — Shade’s renegade faction adopts the Christ Church Constitution as its own.

  6. April 3, 1999 — Federation of Reformed Churches (FORC) examines and receives Shade as a ministerial member.

  7. April 10, 1999 — FORC asks Illiana Presbytery to transfer Shade’s membership along with his trial transcripts with the intention of continuing the trial under its auspices. Illiana declines.

  8. April 17, 1999 — Illiana Presbytery deposes Burke Shade from the ministry.

  9. June 1999 — Douglas Wilson speaks at a conference hosted by CRC.

  10. June 1999 — FORC sends a memorial to the 27th General Assembly of the PCA requesting the judgment of the General Assembly as to their action in receiving Mr. Shade as a minister in good standing.

  11. June 17, 1999 — The PCA answers FORC, stating, Burke Shade “was not transferred as one in good standing as alleged by the Communication but as one who had been found guilty of several charges, suspended from the sacraments and from office, and later deposed from the ministry. . . . If the Federation of Reformed Churches desires to receive Mr. Shade, it should be with the recognition that he was not a minister in good standing at the time of his reception since his name was retained on the roll of Illiana Presbytery until his trial was completed. This being the case, the Assembly advises the Federation of Reformed Churches that if they have received Mr. Shade, they should take proper steps to deal with the discipline duly imposed by a PCA court.”

  12. September 16, 1999 — The Christ Church elders vote unanimously to make a motion to receive Shade’s church in the CRE at the next CRE meeting (the CRE was less than two years old at the time).

  13. September 30, 1999 — The CRE votes unanimously to grant fraternal status to Burke Shade and Cornerstone Reformed Church (full membership in the CREC is a two-year process).

  14. July 13, 2000 — Douglas Wilson reminds the Kirk elders during their weekly meeting that he informed Burke Shade that the elders already agreed to bring him into the CRE, even though they had not read his trial documents.

  15. August 17, 2000 — During their weekly meeting, the Christ Church elders adopt the “Report on the PCA vs. Burke Shade Trial for CRE Evaluation,” which they send to Illiana Presbytery. The “Report” makes a staggering misrepresentation: “In November 1999, Cornerstone Reformed Church asked Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho, to consider recommending them for membership in the CRE.”

  16. September 28, 2000 — The CRE votes unanimously to receive Burke Shade and CRC into full membership. The CRE minutes do not note that the fix wa in from the beginning.

  17. January 7, 2001 — Illiana Presbytery replies to Christ Church’s “Report”: “Now, if the first page of your analysis contains these many possible questionable conclusions, we would hope you might revisit your entire analysis and decision. . . Please understand our own concern about your objectivity when we have discovered that at least two leaders from Christ Church were in communication with Mr. Shade about his reception into the CRE as early as February 22, 1999, halfway through the trial. If the CRE was already interested in talking with Mr. Shade about his reception into the CRE then, how are we to conclude that you were able to objectively evaluate our records since then?”

  18. April 10, 2001 — The Kult elders respond to Illiana Presbytery’s reply. Illiana ignores it.

  19. July-September 2002 — Burke Shade writes a letter to the editor of P&R News: “This lack of information in your article makes it ‘appear’ that the CRE has a history of taking in, or shielding men, from denominational discipline, which is not true.” (ROTFL: Burke Shade, Dennis Tuuri, RC Sproul Jr., Steven “Machen” Wilkins)

  20. March 3, 2006 — Burke Shade claims, “I did not even learn of the CRE until Doug spoke at our conference in June of 1999,” contra the findings of Illiana Presbytery that Shade had been talking to two Kirk elders about reception into the CRE in February 1999.

  21. March 3, 2006 — Burke Shade states, “Before vindicating me, the committee that Christ Church established to look into my trial not only read all the trial documents supplied to them by Illiana, but also had contact with the elders of EPC.” Apparently the Fearless Leader failed to inform Shade that the fix was in. And it all began with a phone call.
I invite Mr. Shade to comment.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

These last two entries are painful to read. Dear friends of my parents labored hard at EP to plant and nurture it. It was doing so well. I know people who still tear-up with anger when they recall what Burke Shade did to that church.

It's odd that the two churches are so close geographically. I drive by them both and there is little sign of life in either location. Very, very sad.

SamuelConner said...


This is off topic, but the item that it is most relevant to is older. I'm unfamiliar with the mechanics of 'blogging and don't know whether comments to older posts will come to your attention.

Would it be possible for the refugees/exiles from CC to band together for mutual support and solidarity, and perhaps some kind of joint public action to bring the character of CC more fully to the attention of the wider world? Your 'blog seeks to do this, but the firsthand testimonies of people who have experienced the abuse would be compelling. My perception from your posts is that these people tend to go silent after escaping CC; this is understandable. And perhaps my idea is unworkable. From the little I have read, it seems that dissenters are pursued with hatred even after they leave/escape CC. It would be natural to want to "go dark" in order to not give one's former friends more occasion to trouble oneself.

I ask because there was a large abusive "church" in the Boston area back in the '80s/'90s. They "recruited" extensively from local colleges and (from my external perspective) seem to have maintained the loyalty of members through a system of social manipulation and oppressive "works perseverance." There seems to have been a strong groupthink dynamic there.

The "church" developed a very bad reputation over a period of more than a decade. I lost touch with the matter years ago, but a friend told me that the leaders eventually repented. I'm sure that the public testimony of people who had been mistreated contributed to the eventual "coming to senses" of the leaders.

Perhaps this is an empty hope, but if the way CC treats people were brought more into the light (and your 'blog seeks to do this), it might induce some shame in some of the people. I infer from your writing that you reckon the leaders to be so far gone as to be beyond hope of repentance. But surely there must be people among the "followership" who love Christ and are grieved by the character of CC.
They may be powerless in terms of the governance structure of CC, but there is also power in courageous, truthful testimony. If enough people were to speak up, it is hard to see how the leadership could keep a "lid" on it.

Just a thought.

May God encourage, aid and preserve you,

Sam Conner

Mark T. said...


I’m writing a response to your comment, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish it before tomorrow. You raise some excellent points that I want to explore, but it’ll be either later tonight or early tomorrow before I finish.


Mark T. said...

Hi Sam,

Excellent comment and I’ll take it one point at a time.

1. Blogs: Whenever you post a comment, regardless of the post, blogspot notifies me by email and on my dashboard. It’s really an amazing platform.

2. Banding Together: My read on Kult refugees is that they are so poisoned from Wilson’s toxic brainwashing that they take a minimum of a year to even begin normalizing, which may take a years to complete, if ever. Part of the normalization process involves how they begin relating to others. For example, Wilson the social engineer has been careful to establish by name a number of “enemies” of the Kult. Many of these “enemies” (not all) are former members of the Kult who have effectively exposed Wilson to one degree or another, and they are also the souls that Wilson asks God to destroy by name during his prayer meetings and on Sunday mornings. This kind of brainwashing effectively pollutes members’ minds to the point that they see these “enemies” as sub-humans worthy of hate. He really tattoos this in his disciples’ heads by thoroughly dehumanizing these people, in much the same way the Nazis dehumanized the Gypsies, the Jews, the Slavs, etc. It worked then and it works now. If you’re familiar with Orwell, think of it as several Emmanuel Goldsteins or several Snowballs running around town. Consequently, when God opens someone’s eyes to the point that they flee the Kult and run for their lives, they lack the wherewithal to readjust their brains into seeing the “enemies” as humans and the net result is that they still harbor enmity against those “enemies” as part of the damage done to them by Wilson, at least for a while. I know of only one man who fled the Kult and was able to resume normal relations with former members. Unfortunately for this poor brother, his scars are elsewhere (I think his is the most tragic case yet and when he gets a platform to tell his story, the party will be over for Wilson; but as of yet Wilson is holding his wife and children hostage). And frankly, when people run they’re so scared of the Beast that adjusting their brains toward others is the last thing on their mind. Self-preservation kicks in and considering others is way down on the list of things to do. Finally, at least half of the people who leave the Kult end up leaving town in the middle of the night. Run silent, run deep. I am sure that banding together is a great idea, but it appears highly unlikely given the nature of the case.

3. Silence: The primary reason that most Kult refugees go silent is that Wilson has strings on them. Usually it’s a family member who doesn’t leave for one reason or another and Wilson ALWAYS uses them. For example, a couple former members of the Kult have children and grandchildren in the Kult, so after the adults left Wilson instructed the children to prohibit the grandchildren from visiting their grandparents. This is a typical form of retaliation that does nothing to endear the grandparents, but it furnishes powerful motive not to exacerbate the ill will by speaking publicly. I know of one family that left the Kult and left town, but they will not speak out because they fear for their teenage daughter’s life — they think Wilson would arrange to snuff the daughter, if not beat the holy life out of her. Personally I think it’s a legitimate fear applied to the wrong circumstance. He has not committed murder yet, at least with his hands (however, to the extent that slander constitutes intent to kill, Wilson is a mass murderer). Nevertheless, it is their fear. For another example, whenever an insider leaves who had been employed by the Kult, they have the awful problem of referrals. How do you put Wilson & Jones down as referrals for prospective jobs when you leave on bad terms? So you go silent hoping that they will be decent. Bad hope. They are wolves who chase their prey to the uttermost parts of the earth, which seems to hold their prey in a state of silence. Of course, Wilson has lots of other effective means of manipulating former members, but family and money are the two biggest.

4. Pursuit: Yes, Wilson pursues former members with a vengeance, though he does not pursue all former members with the same fervor. Certainly ALL former members are SHUNNED, this goes without saying, and some of them he assigns to one of Doug’s Thugs to harass and abuse in public on the local listserv or by other means, such as contacting their employer and fabricating complaints against them. They commonly receive abusive emails from former friends in the Kult, who try to manipulate them with various measures. This is really an extension of the previous point, but it can’t be overstated. Wilson always makes people pay when they catch him in sin. He always pursues.

5. Boston Cult: It’s interesting you mention the Boston cult. I don’t know if it’s the same one I’m thinking of (I don’t remember the name), but I remember one young family who joined the Kult after they fled from an extremely authoritarian cult in Boston. Their testimony is heartbreaking — from one hell to another. Wilson eventually ruined their marriage, counseling the wife to abandon her husband.

6. Inducing Shame: Your point assumes the existence of compunction and I do not grant this assumption. Wilson has hardened his disciples so much that they feel nothing. Most members of the Kult are just like their master — heartless. Sure, they treat their own with some level of kindness on the surface, but after that they are hate-filled creatures whose consciences Wilson has systematically seared to a stump. There is no shame. Picture in your mind’s eye the members of Jonestown before they quenched their thirst — those poor souls were mind-numbed robots utterly void of human feeling. Now you have a clear vision of Christ Church, Moscow. Let me try to illustrate this from another angle with a real-life example. In 2003 the Kult elders demanded that the elders of E Free Pullman, Washington, investigate one of their officers. The E Free elders conducted their investigation and discovered that Douglas Wilson falsified written documents to use as evidence against the E Free officer and when they called this fact to the attention of the Kult elders, they replied by instituting daily imprecatory prayers against the E Free elders as well as former members of the Kult. Did you catch the word “DAILY”? They implemented this ritual for the entire Kult to practice in response to the discovery that Wilson committed material fraud. They prayed Voodoo prayers for three months DAILY. This kind of brainwashing goes a long way towards hardening souls and killing consciences. Now add five years of similar hardening experiences in the Kult by Wilson to its members and ask yourself if it’s reasonable to hold out hope that the sense of shame remains in the average Kult member. I say no. There’s too much evidence that these people will do anything Wilson says, without question, and they will believe everything he says, without question. I know that with God all things are possible, but I have no hope that the Kult leaders will ever repent. Wilson will not allow it and it’s clear that these men fear him more than anything else in life. Here’s another example. I am aware of three former partners in business — one of them is an elder in the Kult, one was on the ballot to become an elder (don’t know what became of that) and one is a former member of the Kult — and it turns out that the elder was embezzling money from his partners for the last four years. When the other two partners confronted him with it, he complained, “I’m an elder, and besides, my kid’s in college.” No discipline followed because his status as an elder guaranteed him automatic protection from Wilson, which is beside the point because the point is that these people have no shame, no sense of conscience — they don’t know right from wrong — which must be the case in order for Wilson to continue. Dead consciences cannot call Wilson to account for his sin.

7. Power in Courageous, Truthful Testimony: I fully agree with this point, but there are a couple of dynamics at work that you must remember. First, seldom does any family just up and leave. It’s usually an eye-opening process that takes a couple of months and Wilson, as an alpha wolf, can identify all threats to his power from afar. So whenever a family begins asking the hard questions he does two things: (1) he drags it out as long as he can, making them promise that they’ll only speak with him about it; and (2) he begins feeding the rumor mill that family X has this problem, that problem, and these problems. This is a very effective method of destroying the family’s credibility before they ever see him hit them. Then when he’s pretty much destroyed the family by rumor, he cuts them loose by brining the dialogue to an end. A couple of elders visit them and then a few phone calls from supposed friends. Suddenly the family discovers that Wilson isolated them without them knowing it, by taking advantage of their good faith in speaking with him alone. It’s really quite a sinister process and he’s done it a million times. And the net result of this process is that Wilson preempted the “power in courageous, truthful testimony” of the family. Wilson conditioned everyone in the Kult to dismiss anything this family says as total crank. Now take this and multiply it by 20 families. Wilson gives members of the Kult a talking point on each family to dismiss anything they say. Sure, you would think that Kult members would see the pattern, but you have to remember that they’re mind-numbed robots. They really do hang on every word that proceeds from the mouth of Doug. As his brother once said, “If only I could touch the hem of his garment!” He commands this level of devotion from his disciples. But the bottom line is that no escapes the Kult without losing their reputation among Kult members in the process. And the more they know, the more they lose, because Wilson cannot allow the truth to get out, which means he must kill the messenger.

I could say more, but I’m sure I’ve said enough. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Anonymous said...


Could you say approximately how many have left disillusioned or with eyes finally open?


Mark T. said...

Hi Towne,

This is a great question because it furnishes an opportunity to demonstrate the schismatic history of the Kult. Evangelical Moscow is divided into two camps: disciples of Christ who want nothing to do with the Wilsons and followers of Christ who despise Douglas but hold out affection for his father Jim and his brother Evan. The first camp simply despises Wilson because of his well-deserved reputation in town. The second camp consists of about 75 souls who were around when Wilson split the very first church he helped pastor. At the time he ran his brother out of the church in such a way as to permanently frost Evan’s friends forever. These people saw right through Wilson that instant and to a man they despise him (Evan, however, does not have a bitter bone in his body). So you have this fracture that remains to this day and this many opened eyes in the larger Christian community.

Then you have a fissure in Wilson’s subculture that began in 2002–03 and compelled him to establish Trinity Reformed Church with Peter Leithart. Wilson put TRC in place to relieve tensions in the Kult and to provide an outlet for those who didn’t care for him but didn’t want to leave the subculture. Consequently, whenever Wilson gives numbers for the size of the Kult, (1) he’s inflating the numbers to appear larger than reality and (2) he’s conflating the numbers by combining TRC and the Kult. So when he says 900 people, he really means 750, which is counting children, students, and TRC.

That said, since 2002 Wilson has seen about 10 well-established (or higher-profile) families leave the Kult, and to my knowledge he destroyed every one of their reputations months before they got out. The story is always the same (noted above). Most of these families left the Kult and tried to warn others, but Wilson had already poisoned the well. I know every one of them and have interviewed all of them. Without exception they believe (as I do) that Douglas Wilson is demonized. Then there are about 30 families (probably more) that have sneaked out, not wanting to call attention to their departure for fear of getting the aforementioned treatment. I have spoken with many of these folks and they are consistently quiet and in a theological fog. Some of them appear oblivious to Wilson the Beast and point to the most benign and downright shallow reasons for leaving while simultaneously blathering about baptism. Others have told me that the Kult is “in darkness,” though they make no connection to Wilson. Still others have borne witness to a “spirit of oppression” and like the others they make no connection to Wilson. In this respect it’s a remarkable phenomenon. Even more remarkable, however, are the number of families who affirm that Wilson is wicked and they remain anyway because of their tight connections to the subculture. I have spoken with at least five families in this camp.

We are aware of several families where either the husband or wife suffered severe emotional break downs prior to their departure (this particular affliction combined with other horrible symptoms, such as the high rate of serial paedophilia, deadbeat dads, child molesters, deception, drunkenness, etc., confirms for me the existence of demonic powers in the Kult). A friend of mine actually began charting the number of mental collapses as well as the number of terrifying dreams in the Kult. He’s a great guy and in many respects he represents the vast majority of those who sneak out. We used to visit and pray at least two hours a week and one day his phone was disconnected. He disappeared in the night and I have not heard from him in months. I’m sure he left because of the darkness and I know that when he’s recovered and comfortable, he’ll call.

Long answer, but we have seen about 10 big exits and lots and lots of quiet departures, and every one of them identify Wilson or the Kult’s darkness as their reason for leaving. Sorry that I can’t give hard numbers.

One last thought. You could probably measure the Kult’s depletion by the number of “Shameless Appeals” on Beelzeblog’s platform and the number of blatant (and urgent) invitations for people to move to Moscow. That’s a clear sign that he’s lost his base and needs to replenish it.

SamuelConner said...

Hi Mark,

The "church" I was thinking of was called "Boston Church of Christ." They taught baptismal regeneration with a bizarre twist: you had to believe that it is baptism that saves you in order for your baptism to save you. A member one misquoted Paul to me: "for it is by grace that you have been saved, through baptism." And you had to energetically recruit new
people in order to maintain your
salvation, which (it appears to me) was more or less the same as your connection to that "church." Sort of an "objective covenant" concept, perhaps.

Your analysis is stunning. I have the sense that a new religion is emerging. Perhaps this is what it was like among the early Mormons or the first Muslim community. Yikes.

Thanks for your work. I have noticed that some of your commenters criticize you for posting anonymously. From you description of what it is like to be under the displeasure of DW & company, I would say that you are manifesting great courage to say anything at all.

May God encourage, aid and preserve you,

Sam Conner

Mark T. said...

Hi Sam,

I honestly do not remember the name of the church in Boston; I only remember their recollections of the 24-7s and the extreme authoritarianism. And your comparison to the Mormons is not unique. One of the elders of the Evangelical Free Church of Pullman regularly compares Wilson to Joseph Smith and the Kult to his disciples that followed him to SLC. You are correct: we are witnessing the emergence of a new religion.

none said...

I went to EPC as a child. Michael Marshall is my father. We were part of the renegades that left. I was so young at the time I only knew what my father told me. Burke Shade influenced my father in many dangerous ways. He encouraged what he called "spanking" but what was more like beating with a belt. He approved of this being used even on teens.

I never liked him as a child. He was pushy and disingenuous. Families with children in regular school were put under tremendous pressure to homeschool. Clothing for women had to be unattractive from any angle, or it was looked down upon.

Wives were expected to be mindlessly subservient and obedient. My father had told my mother not to go to the library with me and my younger brother and she went anyway. Because of this, Burke Shade came to my house and "chastised" my mother. He ganged up on her and verbally harassed her. I listened from another room. I was 13 and very very angry.

We finally left due to a disagreement with the Akins and the Bankesters. The Akins were under the impression that I had gotten their teenage daughter, who had been a good friend to me in childhood, into promiscuous sex and drugs. This was not true. Because of the rumors, however, my scapegoat status was secured.

Our departure was an ugly one. I hope Burke Shade melts in a pool of his own excrement. He made me hate church.

Mark T. said...


I am so sorry to read this. Do you have any kind of church where you can receive true pastoral help?