Apologies are wonderful to receive.
And to be honest–I had given up hope that I would ever receive any.
I’ve been calling out the harm of toxic teachings in the church for four years now, and asking the church to do what’s right. In return, I’ve often been villified, and maligned, and even had lawsuit threats .
I’d just about given up hope that anybody who had ever said anything toxic would see the harm and change.
Well, recently I’ve had two people apologize in wonderful ways, and since yesterday was my birthday, I think of them both as birthday presents!
The first apology: Patrick Miller
As I explained a bit on Tuesday, there’s been a lot of social media attention once again to our research, because of a Truth Over Tribe podcast that landed last week.
On May 17, Patrick Miller (author, pastor, and podcaster) welcomed Josh Butler onto his podcast to discuss his book, A Beautiful Union. Butler’s book had been the subject of a lot of backlash from the Christian community due to the harmful language Butler used to describe marriage and the hurtful impact that his book could have on Christian women (I initially wrote about that here).
In that interview, Butler dismissed the research we’ve done to centre women’s experiences with their sexuality, such as the correlation between purity culture and decrease in marital satisfaction as well as the higher rates of painful sexual issues like vaginismus. In this interview, Butler also mischaracterized the work that we do by accusing us of faulty research methods and using outrage as a marketing tactic.
I immediately requested to be interviewed as well so that I could defend myself and my co-authors from the accusations that were made. He declined by saying that he couldn’t be the judge of whether or not our research and conclusions were right.
In response to the amount of pushback that both Butler and Miller experienced with this interview, Miller initially doubled down on the comments made during his interview with Butler. Initially, Miller wrote a long essay to explain his point of view, why he declined to interview me, and levelled some accusations about our team and our work. There was also a subsequent tweet that he posted with the apparent motive to illustrate how we had been unfair to authors whose conclusions differed from our own.
To be honest, I had lost hope again.
But then something amazing happened.
Things took an abrupt change this week after Patrick sent me a long, gracious apology, and asked if he could phone me and apologize in person, though he was clear he didn’t expect me to say yes.
I was just ecstatic. His apology was thorough and genuine, and we talked for about an hour and a half. It was a rare kind of phone call for me: He listened without defensiveness, and I felt very, very heard. I’m grateful. It was so healing. It was a genuine apology.
But he didn’t stop there.
After we got off the phone, Miller logged into his twitter account to issue the following public apology (click through on the tweet below, but I’ll also paste the entire thing):
After last week’s events, I wanted to self-reflect and talk with @sheilagregoire. I asked her to talk on the phone and I was deeply thankful that she not only kindly agreed to do so but also followed that up with a gracious, honest phone conversation. That's a model we should all…— Patrick Miller (@PatrickKMiller_) May 24, 2023
After last week’s events, I wanted to self-reflect and talk with Sheila Gregoire. I asked her to talk on the phone and I was deeply thankful that she not only kindly agreed to do so but also followed that up with a gracious, honest phone conversation. That’s a model we should all emulate.
I called her specifically to apologize for a tweet I wrote saying that people had reached out to me with stories about her, but which included no names or specific details. I shouldn’t have written that tweet. Without specific details, she had no way to defend herself. As it stood, it was gossip that harmed her reputation. In my view, this is a form of theft: because I took something that wasn’t mine and she had no way to get it back.
So I want to issue her a public apology for sinning against her in that way on Twitter.
It was wrong. If that tweet persuaded you to think worse of Sheila, I’d ask you to reverse your thoughts. You should think worse of the person who wrote it, not the person it was about.
Again, I appreciate Sheila talking with me and graciously hearing my apology.
I first read Sheila’s book shortly after its publication because a trusted friend said it was extremely helpful. After I read it, I was grateful for the ways it confronted harmful teachings made popular by purity culture. While I didn’t grow up in that environment, I know many people who did and it has been tremendously helpful to them.
While we don’t see eye to eye on everything re: online speech ethics, I appreciate that my own view didn’t sufficiently account for Sheila’s mission and motives: namely, to give a voice to women who grew up in those environments and help them find healing.
Given that this all began with a critique of the survey methods of Rebecca Lindenbach and Joanna Sawatsky, I want to make sure to say that they put rigorous, careful work into their research, and have made their methodology publicly available here:
They have also written a response to the specific critique made by a guest on Truth Over Tribe below. If you listened and want to be a fair judicious thinker, I would stop and read it.
(links added in hyperlink format and names changed from Twitter handles to names)
This apology is thorough. It is sincere (I believe). It is not defensive.
I’m very, very grateful. It is wonderful to see.
I also had a great chance to talk with Patrick about how each of us sees online discourse differently, and I explained that, for many women, social media is their only chance to be heard. When I speak out on social media, it’s to give women a voice. And so many women have told me that it wasn’t until I became emotional and forceful about marital rape, for instance, that they realized how angry God must also be about what was done to them.
And he listened, and I think a part of me started healing too. So I am very, very happy.
Second apology: Tim Kimmel, Grace-filled marriage
A while ago I wrote about a passage in Tim Kimmel’s book Grace-Based Families, where a minor girl had had a “relationship” with an adult family friend. Kimmel appeared to blame the girl for this, talking about how, among other things, “the breast fairy” had arrived too early.
I won’t post links or screenshots because he did apologize, and I think that’s wonderful.
I received this message from him:
Thank you for your careful critique of Grace Filled Marriage. We are all learning and growing day by day. A hallmark of healthy, grace-based relationships is the ability to hear the critiques of others, consider them and ask for forgiveness when necessary. I see how my words in this section minimize the evil choices of the abuser and blames the victim. Please forgive me. I can’t remove these words from books that already exist, but at our soonest opportunity, we will amend this section.
Thank you for the advocacy you provide to victims of abuse and oppression.
All is Grace,
Again, I feel like that is thorough and without defensiveness, and it sounds like he’s going to try to remedy things.
All of this gives me hope that people will care about harm done–and I hope it gives you hope too!
These two men heard the critiques and took them to heart.
They knew that they had done wrong, and they attempted to repair it as best they could.
Isn’t that what the Christian walk is about? We don’t need to be perfect, nor will we ever be. But when people show that we did harm, we apologize and correct it as best we can.
We all mess up. I know I have. I used to teach a lot of this stuff too, and I am dedicating my life to try to fix some of the things that I used to say. And sometimes I don’t handle everything right, and I’m always wrestling with how to find the right balance between standing up for those who are being harmed and not being vindictive when I personally am hurt. It’s really hard, and I don’t get it right all the time.
None of us do.
But this week I saw how people do want to repair, and so I am going into this weekend celebrating. I hope you will be able to celebrate too!
Do you think more apologies may be coming? How do these ones make you feel? Let’s talk in the comments!
Yay!! This is so awesome!
This does give hope for a better way forward-in helpful discourse and dialogue and in the way teaching is done in this arena. I am celebrating with you and for you. You have taken so many hits to get to this point—thank you for risking so much to change the conversation.
Wow! I have been moved to tears by reading these apologies. It gives me hope for the future of our church, when those in positions of power and leadership can model Christlike humility like this. What a wonderful, amazing encouragement. God bless these two men for their grace and honesty (and courage too since I suspect they are likely to get a lot of mockery from those whose hearts are still hard)
Those are true men who did the right thing. I am so glad they did, and I am so happy for you, knowing how hard this road has been for you. Hopefully others will follow their example of strong humility.
Nice. Now let’s expect to see their repentance.
So awesome Sheila – what I like about it is this is a starting point. When people become vulnerable especially in public it allows others to do so as well. I think about some of the group therapy I was in 20+ years ago. When one person shared there faults the next one felt safe to do also. Yesterday I talked to this man who acted out sexually. His behavior was dangerous. He has been struggling with this dangerous behavior for a long time. Yesterday he shared it immediately with me. I. The past I found out after he would get nailed. So while the behavior still exists there is improvement (and his behavior method was different too —although still dangerous). So I asked him. Did anything bad happen after you completed the act? Answer – No – now shame and guilt is a consequence but nothing bad happened. He didnt die, he is not going to jail, he is not going to get in trouble, he still has his family and marriage and so on. (Please dont get me wrong here – the man still has consequences for his behavior). How ever – I embraced him. Now, if we apply this thinking in a different light to these authors – what is the worse thing that is going to happen if they publicly apologize for writing harmful stuff – especially when they didn’t mean to? Seems to me they will be EMBRACED. Sheila – it takes a special person to be able to swallow ones pride and allow an apology. Accepting that apology and EMBRACING it is just another level of comfort that these authors can witness. It also speaks to your character and THE MISSION. I am am so grateful to be walking with you on this journey. It sure is awesome to be a part of as a witness. You have torn down a wall for these authors. WOW. Its working Sheila. Jesus is right here beside us.
Sheila – I would also add that you also demonstrated that we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.
“He declined by saying that he couldn’t be the judge of whether or not our research and conclusions were right.”
Huh. Really? But he was so sure Josh Butler’s assessment of your research methodology was correct? How? What were his criteria for accepting Josh’s assessment? Had he done his research on Josh’s assessment before he had him on? If so, why didn’t he look at your research methodology ahead of the podcast as well?
I’m glad he’s apologized, but he will need to do a LOT of reversal in the future, because he clearly thought Josh’s opinion and viewpoint were inherently right. Was there some amount of “Oh, well, it’s just a woman who’s complaining so of course we can just dismiss her out of hand”?
Perhaps he can write a very long article (like the one where he doubled down about Josh) about why he changed his mind, what exactly prompted his ability to see things in a different way, and, most importantly, write lots of future articles to pull his fellow males out of the same morass he found himself in. After all, won’t HIS viewpoint be at least listened to simply because he’s a man?
I agree with you! While I’m happy he apologized he really needs to truly own up to his actions! They felt like the truth was being said from his perspective but he needs to own up to the fact that he went into this ill informed. When you podcast or have a platform you need to be informed.
I’m glad they apologized. Really, I am.
But how often do abusive husbands apologize, improve their behavior and attitudes for a time, then simply revert to their previous form?
And when husbands mouth these words but don’t back them up with the corresponding behavioral changes, well, I guess the guys didn’t really mean it after all. And guess who continues to bear the cost of that bad behavior? Their wives.
Same thing here. Just like with abusive husbands, WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH. These men need to make serious, significant, consequential changes to their prior teachings, doing exactly what Sheila has done: removing books from the market, removing or rewriting blog posts, etc. They need to have their souls deeply plowed and re-sown with good seed. Because if they don’t, the women of the church, God’s own daughters, saved by the blood of God’s Son, will continue to bear the cost of that lack of real change.
Actions speak way the h*ll louder than words.
It is so awesome to see hearts open to listening and consciences that are soft. What an example these two men are to all of us. Bravo!!
Thanks also, Sheila, for reminding everyone that you as a public teacher have also had to publicly apologize when the LORD opened your eyes to wrong teaching. We are all on a journey to Truth, and we’ve all learned some false ideas. To learn is to “change our minds” – quite literally.
Yes! Exactly! And aren’t we supposed to grow? Isn’t that supposed to be part of the Christian life?
That’s so wonderful! Celebrating with you, Sheila!
This is very good news. Baby steps, but hopefully we’re all headed in the right direction.
At least these two have shown that it is indeed possible to apologize. That’s huge!
“when people show that we did harm, we apologize and correct it as best we can.”
This here is called being humble and owning up to our mistakes which is what we are supposed to do as Christians. Repent and turn from those wrong ways. Unfortunately, a lot of Christian authors, megachurch pastors, and those with strong social media influence (ex. Girl Defined) are too prideful and do not want to give up their “power” and big bucks. I believe that if they realize that their teachings have harmed people and they confess then they will lose their influence and power which is sad and not of God.
I am super happy that you got some apologies Sheila and Happy Birthday to you!
Tears. So happy to read the Body treating one another as they should.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.””
1 Corinthians 12:21 NRSV
“So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.”
Ephesians 4:25 NRSV
Wow, I am choked up by how gracious those are. What an example, I feel convicted to be humble as well. Thank you SO much for sharing the joy with us.
So encouraging. I was very pleasantly surprised by this turn of events. I hope this was a balm to you. I’m glad to see some folks actually engaging directly, publicly and respectfully. It is possible to disagree and even criticize in love and truth.
Patrick showed real strength of character here and I appreciate that you met him with grace.
I would also say that by not only apologizing privately, but publicly via Twitter meets both words and actions measures.
Also fantastic response and feedback from Tim Kimmel. Really appreciate this. It is living hell to be a little child with breasts you can’t help in a world like this. They are not “wiles”. They are targets. So glad to hear this language will be corrected in the future.
Delighted these messages arrived so close to your birthday. Is congratulations even the right word??
Love to you and team
This makes my heart happy!
What a great birthday present! And your sweater is gorgeous!
So pleased to hear about the apologies! I love the work that you are doing in this sphere!
On that note I am also looking forward to hearing an apology from you to Joshua Butler once you finally read his book! (In which he quotes your research promoting mutuality in marriage!)
I love that you are fighting against the selfishness and unbiblical stances found in so many Christian books on the market. I just want to caution you to be careful not to start swinging at the home team by accident. I was pleasantly surprised by Butlers book in which he thoroughly addresses consent, abuse, and mutuality in marriage. I think TGC did him dirty by posting an excerpt with zero context. It’s like starting in the middle of a thesis with no idea what of the premise that it is building a case for. His book was healing for me and my husband in many ways. I hope you read it! And again, so glad for the apologies!