Pastor resigns, admits sexual misconduct

Another pastor resigns in solidarity with victim, who says church did not support her

Bruxy Cavey speaks at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Harrisburg, Pa., in 2015. — Dale D. Gehman Bruxy Cavey speaks at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Harrisburg, Pa., in 2015. — Dale D. Gehman

This article was updated March 14.

Bruxy Cavey, the well-known senior pastor of The Meeting House, a ­Canadian Anabaptist church with about 5,000 members who attend services at 20 meeting sites in Ontario, has resigned.

The resignation, which occurred March 3, was requested by the church’s Board of Overseers. It came as a result of a third-party investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

The church announced his resignation in a March 7 letter to the congregation, which is part of the Be In Christ (formerly Brethren in Christ) denomination.

Cavey was placed on leave in early December after an adult woman reported the misconduct to teaching pastor Danielle Strickland.

At an online town hall meeting on March 8, Maggie John, chair of the Board of Overseers, told members the investigator “determined that Bruxy had maintained a sexual relationship with the victim, an adult woman, in violation of The Meeting House policy and the Handbook of Faith and Life of Be in Christ Church of Canada.”

The investigator also found that the relationship “constituted an abuse of Bruxy’s power and authority as a member of the clergy and amounted to sexual harassment.”

On March 10, a second town hall, attended by over 1,200 people, was hurriedly held due to the overseers receiving hundreds of questions from members. One of the overseers read the first public statement by the victim, who has chosen to go by the name “Hagar.” She noted that some people were describing what happened as an affair. This impression came up because the findings of the investigation failed to name what happened “for what it is: clergy sexual abuse,” she said.

“This began during a pastoral counseling relationship,” she said in the statement. “I was in crisis and trusted him, and I did not nor could I consent to a sexual relationship with him. This was not for me an extramarital relationship or affair. It was a devastating twisting of pastoral care into sexual abuse.”

Cavey’s ministerial credentials have been removed by the Be In Christ denomination.

The overseers said the church continues to stand with Cavey’s wife, Nina, and their three daughters, and they removed Cavey’s content from the church’s website out of respect for “Hagar.”

John said “it took incredible bravery and courage” for the victim to come forward. “We are grateful to her actions that brought the truth to light.”

When asked why Cavey wasn’t fired, the overseers said they felt resigning would give Cavey a “chance to take some responsibility.”

The overseers acknowledged sexual misconduct or abuse had happened at the church in the past, adding “we do have a problem . . . things have happened repeatedly.”

After the March 8 meeting, Cavey posted a message on his website titled “My Confession.”

“At the core of these allegations there is truth,” he said, acknowledging “some years ago, I had an extramarital affair. . . . This adulterous relationship is my greatest failure, my darkest sin, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

He went on to say it was “irresponsible in my role as a spiritual leader and Christian clergy, which involves dynamics of power and influence and an expectation of exemplary conduct that makes me doubly accountable. I accept this responsibility, with deep regret for my actions.”

Two days before the church made its announcement, Strickland announced on Twitter she was resigning in solidarity with the victim.

On March 9 on Instagram Live, she read a statement from the victim, who said the relationship began in 2011 when she was 23 and Cavey was 46.

Strickland applauded the church for acting quickly on the allegation but said its statement to the congregation “was true but not the whole truth.”

It reads, she said, “like a pastor had an affair but, because he was a pastor, it was worse.”

Strickland went on to say that despite what the church said, “Hagar” did not feel cared for or supported by The Meeting House, and no victim advocate was assigned for her. “She had to advocate for herself,” Strickland said, adding “Hagar” felt “unheard, unseen, unknown.”

“Hagar” didn’t want any money, Strickland said, only that the abuse be named for what she believed it to be and that steps be put in place to prevent it from happening again.

Cavey was a featured speaker at the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Harrisburg, Pa., in 2015 and has taught at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren. He is the author of Reunion: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints and Sinners (Herald Press, 2018).

Cavey is one of Canada’s most recognizable church leaders. In 2019, he became the subject of a book, The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch by Peter J. Schuurman.

Anabaptist publisher Herald Press said on March 14 it would no longer sell Cavey’s books. It has published two books by Cavey, Reunion and The End of Religion.

“MennoMedia stand[s] against sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and the abuse of power and authority,” said Amy Gingerich, Herald Press publisher, in a release. Given the disciplinary action against Cavey, she said, “Herald Press cannot in good faith sell his books.”

John Longhurst

John Longhurst was formerly Communications Manager at MDS Canada.

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