Last time we were up to the Big Bang of 1988, the falling of two top leaders from MCF (Melbourne Christian Fellowship) and the calm between the storms of 1988-1992 where Vic Hall was gradually taking over from Brisbane Christian Fellowship (BCF).
Now we enter the phases of 1992-1996 and 1996-2016 where Vic Hall gradually brought in brand-new cultish teachings, and then I was destroyed, my life and career and ministries and joys and hopes utterly trampled by two elders and elder apprentices.
Those two links above cover the 1992-1996 period really, so here I’ll just summarize and focus on the effect it had on me 1996-2006.
It was gradual, like being slowly boiled alive like lobsters.
The 1992-1996 Vic Hall period started out with slightly warped teachings on headship (of Christ to man and husbands to wives) and ended with elders being inserted as essential messengers to men between Christ and man to help you discard your ‘idols’.
I call it ‘guru headship’ because your local elder pretty much became your guru.
All along it was emphasized that if you didn’t ‘present yourself to the brethren’ in this manner, once or twice a month typically, then you were self-naming yourself and would ‘go to hell’ with nashing of teeth and so on.
This was preached hundreds of times, but later was denied by some of the presbytery.
We were suspicious because the Scriptures didn’t really plainly state any of these things. But the top-level elders brought it, and proclaimed it, with such excitement and fanfare, and apparent love, and the past word had been so good, that we took the pill.
So what did it mean for me?
Well, I saw what was coming. As a young CSIRO PhD scientist I realized my dreams of doing my essential postdoc in the US or UK and, later on, creating startup companies would be seen as ‘idols’.
And were they ever.
The period 1996-2006 was a slow death for me, as we were raising our children and trying to create a life for ourselves, renovating our house and wanting to carefully steward our careers and ministries.
MCF destroyed absolutely everything for both I and my wife Justine.
Although I had done a local postdoctoral fellowship for a couple of years at CSIRO, my bosses were telling me I needed to do an overseas postdoc because a postdoc needed to be done in a world class laboratory and my bosses lab didn’t cut it.
But this was seen as an idol immediately by my local elder David Bonham and his apprentices Steve Anderson and Steve Holland, both preachers’ kids of course. They accused me of focusing too much on my PhD and career and told me if I left I would never come back.
At that point they stopped short of threatening me with hell fire.
But it worked anyway. And the weekly sermon and home-group meetings and Vic Hall books implied hell fire anyway if I ‘self-named myself’ which I was certainly wanting to do.
I would not have their blessing.
And I would miss out on all the ‘revelations and processings’ going on here in Melbourne (and nowhere else).
So I gave in. I loved my first five years in that job but now was outgrowing the CSIRO postdoctoral position because I had my own research interests.
But that was all irrelevant.
At local men’s pizza nights I would be castigated for talking about my PhD too much. I tried to point out that you didn’t do a PhD in academic science lightly and I needed to steward it or else I would be out of a job in a few years.
But they accused me of being faithless.
I gradually lost interest in academia because I wasn’t allowed to pursue my research interests by either my boss (since it was his lab, fair enough) or my guru elder (who would’t let me move!).
I’d done eight years of PhD and post-doc by now and it was time as a 30 year old to flex my wings.
So. Just as MCF was starting to push men to go into business to ‘make money for the kingdom’ I also switched interests to tech startups which had always been my Plan B (and had planned for it by studying Physics/Math (academic major) AND Electrical & Software Engineering (tech minor)).
Now’s when the full on cult-machine of presumption, partiality, bannings and judgement of MCF and David Bonham came into full action.
When I explained that my other interests were in tech startups, they were shocked and immediately assumed it was my knee-jerk reaction to being banned despite it being my Plan B all along. They didn’t buy my argument that as well as being a PhD scientist I was virtually an engineer too.
I looked too much like a science geek I guess. Quiet etc. But married and almost with children now, I had actually shed a lot of my shyness and was at the peak of my game actually, brimming with confidence and knowledge of the internet, software and AI industries.
It was 1996-1998 and Google was just starting up.
I wonder what they would have said of the Google pair Brin & Page? Or Bill Gates or Steve Wozniak? Pretty geeky, non-traditional business looking guys. My guru headship jus tdidn’t understand the new world.
But bigger than that, they just no longer allowed for any common human decency.
To let someone try something they really wanted to do without labeling it an idol!
Well. it didn’t go well. In the end, after humoring me for a while, over a period of a year or so. I was finally completely banned from starting a company unless I could do it in the evenings or pick up work to do in the evening.
They told me I couldn’t leave my day job because I was having problems coming under my boss that I needed to face.
That wasn’t really true. He had actually given me a lot of opportunities but wasn’t a friendly man to work with per se and I had mentioned that. But mostly, my research interests were different to his. I really needed to do a postdoc in an international lab doing my interests (after all, an academic has to become a world expert in a field of their interest, or else, no tenure) or start my software company.
I had built some interesting prototypes. After looking at the first one they refused to even look further at my work. Literally refused. The second idea was much better (the first was done rapidly to show them something).
I was about to buck against them and was grabbed, literally, by the arm by my previous elder, Laurie Holland, as he was coming out of a pre-church elder’s meeting. He quoted Proverbs 12 at me
‘There is a way that seems right to a man and it leads to death’.Prov 12
How could I disobey? I didn’t of course.
I had effectively been threatened with damnation if I started my business.
So I tried looking for evening work in tech and in these two endeavors lost my evenings and money over a period of another year or two. And made life hard for my wife. But it was because I wasn’t living either one or the other properly or my day job and was second guessing everything and trying to keep primary school teachers and high school drop-out elders happy.
They judged me as an idolater. Accused me of wanting trophies. Any good things that happened as I tried the evening approach were declared tricks of the enemy.
So around 1999, with the birth of my first child, I pretty much just gave up.
Ultimately I was banned form even thinking about technology.
No man can start a businessDavid Bonham (to me), 1997
an elder asks them to.
Then I begged them to let me apply for jobs and they told me they had never banned me from that. But they had, five years earlier telling me I couldn’t leave my boss because I wasn’t serving him happily!
No apology for keeping me in a job I hated for five years longer than I had wanted to!
If these men had had any common decency left they should have seen that this was disgusting psychological abuse.
Finally in around 2002, the predictions by my CSIRO bosses came true and they didn’t offer me a fourth contract renewal and I wasn’t able to get a job anywhere else in the Melbourne academic community. They all said the same thing: no international postdoc. I was competing with all my colleagues who had had two years in Oxford or two years in Cold Spring Harbor.
BTW, I was otherwise a top academic scholar: an ATAR equivalent of 99 (above the cut-off to the School of Medicine at Melbourne University and published 25 peer-reviewed papers.
Finally the elders relinquished total control in about 2003. But I still considered every word they had said as the word of God’ to me. None of that was ever retracted. So I proceeded, shaking in my boots, holding back my talents, second guessing every step of the way. It’s the only way I knew now, as a severely battered and down-trodden person.
A total of seven years after my original tech ideas, they relented and let me start my company but my software product idea was out of date by then and needed a lot more work. Another year went past, my father was banned from investing in us, but we eventually raised some funds, started the company and then within a three months Microsoft and Google both came out with the same product . . for FREE!
The product I had built a prototype of seven years earlier!
We stuck at it for another two years, losing more and more money, trying to make it better than Microsoft’s and Google’s. But it was a never ending catch up game. And the more complex, the more bugs . .
My simple entry into tech had been lost for ever.
No apologies from the elders of course.
They never even asked for the details.
I would hear second hand, thruough my father, they would say
When is Paul going to re-train?David Bonham (about me to my father) 2006
Utter bastards who destroyed three of my careers:
- My academic career
- banned me from doing a postdoc ‘because I would never come back’
- A career in industry
- forced me to stay in a dead-end academic job I had outgrown instead of branching out into industry ‘because I needed to ‘serve my boss’
- Tech startups
- banned me from multiple tech startup plans despite my having prototypes and/or detailed plans ‘because I was hunting trophies/idols’ OR ‘because I needed to learn to lay it down and impute’ OR ‘because I was a scientist not a technologist’
And even after they relinquished control, they banned my father from investing in my businesses.
So, here I was, no hope in academia, an expert in tech but no full qualification or experience, a failed business and now almost 40!
Destroyed hopes and dreams.
I had had numerous internet ideas and prototypes well before other entrepreneurs but was not allowed to commercialize them. And they destroyed my academic career earlier.
And destroyed finances. And a wife, working two jobs, with a lapsed CPA, and four kids! We lost our home and I lost all credibility with everyone.
And that doesn’t even cover what they did to us at church itself. We got banned from youth leading because of my unsettledness. And were never allowed to do anything else again in church from that year on to the time we left in 2016 (other than clean in the scullery and bathrooms at church). Ultimately we even got sidelined in Sunday School teaching. And neither could we run our own craft nights or Bible studies at our own home.
It was all very hurtful. I cried weekly for 20 years from 1996 to 2016 and variously blamed myself, God or them.
I now, as then:
Charge the past and current MCF and BCF presbyteries, including Vic Hall, in addition to these men who directly abused me, with inflicting severe, systematic and sustained psychological abuse for 20 years, all whilst knowing that they were deeply hurting me.Paul ‘Kovaks’ 2019
Vic Hall has even asked those men to make restitution for ‘going beyond their mandate’ and being ‘prescriptive’ about my life.
Bob Stevens asked me what restitution I would expect.
At least $20 million.
But I’ll discount it down to $200KPaul Kovaks 2016
between the four perpetrators.
Just repent and apologize in a meaningful manner!
Surely my life story here is a story of a lunatic version of the gospel, created by an egotist, taught by senior leaders who didn’t flinch at teaching something enthusiastically that was non-Biblical, and implemented with zero care or love by everyone concerned, especially the MCF presbytery and my local fruitcake-ish and, ultimately, nasty leaders.
And remember, that more than one hundred others have been destroyed in strikingly similar circumstances.
Continued tomorrow. The cover-up and lies by the presbytery was almost as bad as the psychological abuse.