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Ron Enroth's Response To Jon Trott


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The extensive use of my personal correspondence, without my knowledge or consent, amounts to ''trial by correspondence.'' More seriously, it appears to be a violation of the law. I hold author Jon Trott, editors Anson Shupe, William A. Stacey, and Susan E. Darnell, together with New York University Press, jointly responsible for what appears to be careless disregard for copyright law. Readers of this response should also know that the leadership of the Evangelical Covenant Church, heretofore fully supportive of JPUSA, were not apprised of Trott's use of their correspondence or mine. In a letter to me dated September 1, 2000, Dr. Glenn R. Palmberg, the current president of the ECC, stated that the leadership of that denomination neither authorized nor consented to the distribution of the correspondence which Trott so frequently mentions in his essay.

Likewise, in a letter to me dated October 13, 2000, Rev. Herbert M. Freedholm, Superintendent of the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, a person I had extensive contact with during and after the completion of my book, indicated that he gave no authorization to distribute any of his correspondence. Neither he nor Dr. Palmberg were aware of Trott's chapter until I brought it to their attention.

In another instance of highly questionable behavior, Jon Trott makes reference (p. 166) to a taped interview I supposedly conducted with an ex-member. ''I have a copy of an interview Enroth did with a former JPUSA member, who taped the phone call and later sent a copy to me.'' I asked Mr. Trott to provide me with proof that I had given permission for that interview to be taped. In a letter to me dated August 26, 2000, replied, ''To your request that I prove permission was given to tape your interview. . . I decline.'' In most states, the act of taping someone by telephone without obtaining permission to do so constitutes an illegal act. Trott was apparently unconcerned about whether his source was acting legally.

When Trott did reference the extensive correspondence noted above in his recent essay, he did so selectively. For example, he quoted extensively (footnote 13, p. 179) from a letter written by Paul Larsen, the president (at that time) of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Much of that footnote quotation has no relation whatsoever to the points I raised in my book about JPUSA. It is a totally erroneous, if not ridiculous, suggestion that somehow my problem is that I have a middle class bias against people who live in a countercultural community. What Trott fails to quote from that same letter is Larsen's ''below the belt'' suggestion that my ''financial ties to Zondervan'' will transcend my commitment to scholarly inquiry. In my response to Dr. Larsen (dated July 14, 1993 and not mentioned by Trott), I state, ''For you to suggest that Zondervan and I will profit financially from the 'pain' that I supposedly intend to inflict on your denomination is extremely offensive to me.''

Larsen's attitude from the start was essentially that I was out to expose and willfully hurt the folks at JPUSA and thereby tarnish his denomination. He went so far as to guess that my book might turn out to be ''one more dreary, one-sided account of Christian failure.'' I assured him that I had higher expectations for the book. ''Based on the overwhelming positive response to Churches That Abuse, I am confident that it will provide help and hope to many. I trust that The Covenant Church will be able to put aside the defensive posture demonstrated by your letter and join me in reaching out to those who have been hurt.''

But the problem was (and still is) that Jon Trott and some leaders in the ECC do not believe that people have been hurt. They either refuse to see or are unable to see any problems warranting ''reaching out.'' Trott and his defenders completely ignore the possibility that there might be ''some'' truth in what 40 - 50 ex-members have told me about their experience at JPUSA. I was not saying that JPUSA was all bad! I was merely saying that here is evidence that suggests that things might not be as rosy as the leadership claims. I made a modest empirical assertion. They distorted my empirical assertion, presented it as a monstrous attack, ignored the data on which it was based, and waged an extended ad hominem designed to do to me what they claimed I was trying to do to them-utter discreditation!

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