"Bryan" presented this to VBC leadership after he had tried to confront and address both Austin and Jeff in his letter which he read previously in the presence of Austin, Jeff, Trent and the deacons.

Vision Baptist Church Leadership,

We have remained mostly quiet and vague about the true reasons for our resignation from Vision Baptist Missions and our change of membership from Vision Baptist Church. This has been purposeful as we have wanted time to move on and to heal. However, we believe the time is right to share more of why we left. There are two main reasons why we are once again revisiting this very painful subject.

  1. The meeting in January had no true resolution.

This may or may not come as a surprise to you. Perhaps you thought we did resolve everything in that meeting. The truth though is that it was not resolved. For those present, they will perhaps remember the chaos and confusion that took place there in that room. We went home numb and shocked from that experience. It took a month to unravel the threads and realize what had happened. What we realized was that the apology given was a pseudo-apology. This was made plain through two components: - Passive-aggressive statements. Although Austin was more subdued the next few Friday classes, it was not long before the passive-aggressive attacks towards me started in class. “I should be able to teach how I want.”, “This might be offensive but I’m going to say it.” were some of the comments that began to be thrown out at random. - Not meeting the full requests we asked of Austin in regards to a public apology to previous missionaries, the church, and the board for his public sins that we mentioned. If you recall for those who were there, every time we got close to that subject, he would use a manipulation tactic to steer the conversation somewhere else.

  1. The ultimate issue is that it isn’t just the leadership of Austin Gardner, but the entire unhealthy culture he has created that still exists in Vision Baptist Missions.
  • The leadership culture of Vision Baptist Missions (and closely connected, the Our Generation Training Center) is the fruit and almost exact duplicate of Austin Gardner. When these things became clear to us, we knew we did not want to participate and promote such an environment, nor did we want our children to grow up in it. Two examples that happened around the time of our resignation illustrate this.

There was a training center student who had a doctrinal stance different than VBM and the OGTC (a stance which other students also held to at the time). He was plainly told by Trent and Robert that the problem and why he could not stay and teach was that there was no way forward with this stance. However, Jeff told him he could stay at the training center even with his doctrinal position, that was no problem. Jeff said that the problem was he was unteachable and arrogant. I watched from the side as every manipulative tactic was used against him. This was the first event that helped me see that the leadership structure in both of those entities is corrupt to the core.

I was scheduled to substitute teach for Jeff Bush in March of this year. Jeff typically allows me freedom to teach whatever I want. Yet, about a week before I was to teach, I was told by Jeff to speak with Robert about my teaching the following week. I was told that I had to submit my teaching notes to Robert for approval, which I agreed to. This was the very first time that this request has ever happened. As you might imagine, I was taken aback by this. After reading my notes, Robert then requested to meet with me, in person, as soon as possible.

For full disclosure, the topic I had chosen was spiritual leadership, due to the fact that it was a topic that I had been reading about and studying for the previous three months. These notes were mainly taken from three sources: Paul Tripp’s two books Dangerous Calling and Lead as well as Pastor Carey Schmidt’s college class on spiritual leadership.

Thursday night we met after church. He sat across from me and asked, “Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked him to be more specific and it came out: he knew I had a meeting with AG and the deacons in January and he wanted to be sure there were no more problems, but that he wanted to make it very clear that he is in full agreement with leadership. At the time, it did not register with me what was going on. But again, as I unraveled it afterwards, I could see clearly. Even though things were supposedly “fixed”, the fact was: there was no change and no desire for change. Based on that interaction with Robert Canfield, it seemed as though that unwillingness to change was being communicated down the line to the other leadership of the board and church.

Because of these reasons, we believe that there has been no resolution to the sins we addressed in the meeting. There would be some who would say that we should have stayed and saw the whole thing out, but what you must see is that we realized very quickly that the matter was not just addressing it with one or even two men. In order to see a change to a biblical and Christ-like spirit at VBM and the OGTC, and in some degrees VBC, the task would be to attempt to change dozens who have been influenced in varying degrees by Austin. In my opinion, loyalty to him trumps all else.

There may be resistance to listen to those of us who left, but would you consider the true reasons we left? Would you consider the hopelessness we have all felt as we attempted to see and work towards biblical change within the board and church and were instead ignored, cast aside and slandered? Would you consider the fact that Paul was not a member of Peter’s church when he rebuked him for not living according to the truths of the Gospel?

As I stated in my original letter, we often only view sexual and financial sin as disqualification for ministry, but there are other qualifications that must be considered. In light of that, if several previous members came forward with accusations of sexual abuse, would you ignore them because they are not members? I would hope not.

Furthermore, what you must realize is that these sins are still happening. They are happening to your church members who are missionaries in the board whether they realize it is happening or not. Even those who come close to realizing what is happening have been conditioned to think that they are the problem. As I said in my meeting, there are others who are merely waiting for the right time to leave because they, like us, are hopeless about change that needs to occur.

I have included my original letter since, from what I understand, this is to be read by others who have not seen it. I have also included more examples to establish the pattern of sins I described in that original letter. In addition to this, I am including stories of experiences with others in leadership at the board to show how this unhealthy culture saturates the board.

Once again, as I already have done in the past, and others have before me; I plead with you to listen to my concerns that are echoed by so many others. Concerns that have not changed, have not been addressed, and have not been truly repented of. Our desire has not changed: we want to see VBC, VBM, and the OGTC transformed from the current unhealthy and ungodly culture into a biblical and Christ-like culture.

This move has cost us greatly. We have lost financial support. We have been lied about. There have been many friends at VBM and VBC who have now disassociated themselves from us and shunned us based on information given to them by leadership, all because we dared to expose the sinful attitudes and actions present within these organizations. I have nothing to gain in doing this. As a matter of fact, I risk a further round of slander and mockery because I refused to be silenced as I have been so many times.

There is a trail of casualties behind Austin and in turn Vision Baptist Church and Vision Baptist Missions that will continue to grow until something is done. To close these opening remarks, I leave a thought for you from Wade Mullen’s book, Something’s Not Right: “But organizations and their leaders are always faced with two choices when abuse happening on their watch comes to light: adopt truth telling and transparency, regardless of the impact on their approval, status, or image; or use the same tactics of abuse in an attempt to retain or regain legitimacy.”

I pray you all will adopt truth telling and transparency no matter the cost.

For Christ and His glory alone,