Pursuing Justice

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

Additional Note for this Article:

About a year ago, this website published A Look at Current Valleybrook Leadership which was written by a former member of the Valleybrook community. This article is written by another former member of the Valleybrook community who helped spearhead the process of bringing legal action against Doug Lebsack and Mary Clark. As always, all claims have been vetted and verified by myself and some other former members of the Valleybrook community who are familiar with this particular topic.

Criminal Possibilities:
After learning of Valleybrook’s decision not to pursue any legal action against former pastors for possible financial crimes, a group of several previous members explored options for justice. The reasons were:

  1. To protect future victimization of others by creating a legal trail that would minimize the ability of the allegedly abusive pastors to harm others. If a conviction resulted, it would show up on background checks that are commonly used in churches and other agencies, as well as in general information searches.

  2. To deter others from trying to attempt financially fraudulent activities in churches by demonstrating that there are consequences; the result being that resources donated in good faith are used for legitimate ministry purposes.

  3. To bring about justice for the many people who were abused spiritually, financially, psychologically, and emotionally at Valleybrook by offering an additional layer to their healing. We do not believe that financial abuse is the most devastating type, but it is one of the only areas for any legal recourse. It is also the easiest to prove because numbers are objective.

  4. To show that while forgiveness is one of the most important facets of Christianity, it doesn’t mean that we excuse criminal acts and shield offenders from accountability and consequences.

  5. To provide past donors access to the information that Valleybrook, while claiming to be transparent, withheld.

The first approach was to bring a summary of financial information, compiled from the notes taken by many in attendance at Valleybrook’s financial meeting, to the Eau Claire Police Department. A former member who now lives out of state called the police department to make sure that a complaint could be filed anonymously, due to the collective experiences of abuse and harassment experienced by group members. While all parties were willing to be identified at some point, they preferred to proceed unnamed if possible due to fear of retribution by both the former pastors and their followers, as well as the current leaders of Valleybrook Church, including members of the Transitional Leadership Team (TLT). The TLT had actually participated in some harassment toward people who disagreed with their decision.

After the initial call, a local party delivered a binder of information to the Eau Claire Police Department. The detective who received the information approached the Eau Claire District Attorney office and was given permission to investigate. To clarify, both the ECPD and the ECDA thought this was a case worthy of a criminal investigation. They were willing to dedicate law enforcement and court resources to this situation. The detective opened a case.1

One of the reporting parties spoke with the detective, who explained what would happen. He said that, while he was sympathetic to the many people who were involved in bringing this complaint to the ECPD, as individuals we were not the legal victim. We had given money to Valleybrook, and it was allegedly stolen from Valleybrook. It went from our pocket to theirs, and if it was stolen it was out of their pocket, not ours. He understood our position, but explained that legally we had no recourse. Only Valleybrook had the position of being the legal victim and only they could proceed with a criminal investigation against the former pastors. He said he would contact them to let them know it was an option and the ECPD was ready to proceed.

The individual representing the group of former Valleybrook members also discussed the investigative process with the detective. The police investigation could uncover information that Valleybrook’s internal investigation could not, because the PD would have access to subpoenas. Their computer experts could attempt to recover information that Doug Lebsack and Mary Clark had both admitted to deleting; Doug claiming it was inadvertent, and Mary claiming it was out of anger.2 They would be able to do a much more thorough investigation. The reporting party specifically asked if Valleybrook would have any financial obligation for this investigation and the answer was NO. Other than manpower required for cooperating with the detective, there would be no financial cost to Valleybrook. If the District Attorney decided the detective built a compelling case with the information available, it would become a criminal matter prosecuted by the State of Wisconsin.

The detective said he could arrest someone for probable cause, but the court process would determine guilt and consequence. Obviously, it would be more complicated if one of the defendants was out of state, but even then there were options.

The detective contacted Bryan Symes, Valleybrook’s legal representation from Ruder Ware in early February, 2016. Mr. Symes said he would call the detective back to schedule an appointment. According to the detective, he also mentioned that Valleybrook didn’t want to press civil charges because of the cost.

This comment was interesting since Valleybrook had just distributed a letter claiming their decision not to pursue legal action was a “directive from God.” The Transitional Leadership Team wrote 4 paragraphs about how “moving forward” was the clear biblical response. They did write one phrase that indicated there were other, possibly non-spiritual reasons “…we were aware of some practical kinds of considerations that only further confirmed for us the biblical directive to NOT bring suit.” Expense was never mentioned. Lack of evidence was never mentioned either, although it was talked about months later. Another additional “consideration” might have been related to a rumor about possible litigation from the accused pastors. Which would have been an interesting deterrent since Valleybrook leadership claimed on stage their faith in, dependence on, and trust in God. But perhaps a possible lawsuit loomed larger…

Bryan Symes did not schedule an appointment. The detective followed up with him 2 months later and at the beginning of April they chose April 20th, 2016 as an appointment date. Bryan Symes and two members of the TLT from Valleybrook were scheduled to meet with the detective. In an e-mail exchange to establish the meeting time, Bryan Symes wrote: “Valleybrook does desire to put this behind them to the extent possible.” When the detective asked for the information below, and explained that it was Valleybrook’s choice to participate, Valleybrook leadership cancelled the meeting. The case was closed on April 18, 2016.

This is what the detective initially requested from Valleybrook:

  1. A list of potential witnesses to interview, specifically those with first-hand knowledge of the alleged theft.

  2. A designated liaison for me, which would be someone who could answer financial questions and confirm whether any specific transaction would be authorized or not.

  3. Specific allegations of theft….when, how, how much, where, who benefited, etc.

  4. How far back should the investigation go? It is not uncommon that embezzlement starts far earlier than an initial examination shows.

  5. A documented complaint, whether written or typed, outlining the chronology of events.

Next Steps—Civil Options for Justice

The idea of Christians bringing forth a lawsuit is controversial, especially since Valleybrook claimed it would go against a “directive from God” in 1 Corinthians 6. Anyone who cares to do a more in-depth study on that passage will see there are many caveats and that a “dispute” between brothers is not necessarily the same as embezzlement by a pastor—financial fraud is criminal behavior. And since the former pastors refused to engage with Valleybrook, it is a stretch to call them a brother or sister and expect the issue to be resolved satisfactorily within the church. The issue was carefully studied and considered, and this group felt that allowing injustice to prevail is not consistent with important themes of the bible, and that 1 Corinthians 6 does not prohibit action in this situation.

Because Valleybrook seemed ambivalent about cooperating with a police investigation (based on the fact that their attorney did not initiate an appointment with the detective) the group of former Valleybrook members began to explore the possibility of pursuing civil litigation even before the criminal case was closed. The goals listed at the beginning of this summary were the same. Members of the group planned to donate any monies recovered.

Researching which area of law addresses lawsuits against a church or former pastors was an interesting journey! We contacted the law firm that is representing victims of the Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-up. We asked for referrals from attorneys with whom we had relationships. We ended up scheduling an appointment with a local attorney who has experience with church-related issues. This attorney normally charges $450/hr, but he met with the representatives of the group for 1.5 hours at no cost because he “shares their concerns, grief, and pain.” We had sent in the same summary that was presented to the Eau Claire Police Department and he and a legal aide reviewed it before our meeting on April 14, 2016.

Unfortunately the attorney delivered the same information as the detective: We as former donors to Valleybrook are not the legal victim. Once again, Valleybrook is the only one to be considered as the potentially defrauded party.

All possibilities were discussed—suing the overseers for their lack of any sort of control of the finances. This group did not have the legal standing to do that (same reason as above), and it is likely that the overseers would have statutory immunity anyway. What about the possibility of a lawsuit against Doug Lebsack and Mary Clark? Financially, same story—we are not the correct party to do so. And in either case, the attorney said it is unethical for him to charge money to pursue litigation if there is not a high likelihood of collectability on the other end. Many scenarios were asked about, and the same legal counsel was given that any case brought forth by this group would likely be dismissed. Not because Doug and Mary were innocent, but because Valleybrook was the only one who had the legal standing to bring suit.

As a side note, while group members were researching litigation options, slander would have been a possible litigable offense. Not every group member experienced this, but we mention for the benefit of those that did. Some states have “pastoral malpractice” laws, but Wisconsin does not.3 New Jersey is considering laws about “predatory alienation,” which would cover what the Hagedorns have experienced with their son Nate. Otherwise there are very few legal protections against spiritual abuse or psychological abuse by a member of the clergy. The attorney explained that because of the “separation of church and state” (not an actual phrase in the constitution, but a legal term), “internal governance of churches is left to churches.”

We, as former members of Valleybrook who sought justice, are sharing our story because we feel it contains information that others should have the ability to know. Valleybrook never publicly discussed the possibility of criminal charges, only “legal action.” Many people assumed that there was nothing Valleybrook could do because they must not have had enough evidence. Others took it as proof that Doug Lebsack and Mary Clark were merely irresponsible, and not fraudulent. Still others said “Well, there weren’t financial guidelines in place, so it’s not really fair to hold Doug and Mary accountable.” The hitch is that Doug Lebsack dismantled the financial accountability that was in place at Valleybrook on his arrival by firing and not replacing the bookkeeper on staff. Internal guidelines aside, there are LAWS and IRS regulations that provide the minimal standards for any non-profit, especially a church, and these appear to have been violated. But it was convenient for Valleybrook to leave people with vague opinions and misconceptions.

We continue to see the ripple effects of the devastation that happened there and want it to be known that while Valleybrook could have pursued criminal charges, they chose not to. They could have pursued justice for all of those harmed. They could have protected others from possible future victimization. They could have allowed the facts to be known rather than allow this prevailing idea of “we’ll never really know what happened.” They could have sent a clear message of responsibility for stewardship so church donors would know the standards of accountability.

And not only did they choose not to, they did everything they could to hide the issue of criminality. As recently as this past month, a former member of the TLT stated that Valleybrook had arranged for and completed an investigation. When asked “by whom?” because an internal investigation is NOT the same as a criminal investigation, he declined to answer and removed his comment. He was being dishonest.

Given the information revealed by Valleybrook, there appears to be a high likelihood of fraud, embezzlement, and/or theft committed by Doug Lebsack and Mary Clark. And Valleybrook did not do everything they could to make it right, they chose instead to “put this behind them to the extent possible.” And that is that.

So indeed, that is that. In all honesty, the way Valleybrook has handled the process of justice after Doug fled the area has made me extremely angry. Some readers may remember when I posted An Update Before the Financial Article I said that I had taken an audio recording of the meeting (not having heard them ask that no recordings be made, as I arrived to the meeting about 15 minutes late) and that a member of the Transitional Leadership Team at Valleybrook contacted me and requested I not post it. That individual’s justification to me was, and I quote from the message I received from them, “There are specific legal reasons we asked for the meeting to not be recorded. If you are insistent on helping those you say you are against, I can’t change that. But, know that is what you are doing.” And so that individual, plus another member of the TLT, and I met a few blocks down from Valleybrook and we talked about the financial article that I was going to post. They made it clear that if I were to post that audio, it would hurt their legal options as they pursued legal action.

Well as you can see, that was just a bald-faced lie to protect Valleybrook’s image. I deleted the audio in good faith that they would be pursuing legal action, and they lied right to my face. Whether the audio would have actually hurt their case is pretty immaterial. When an already-open legal case with all of the information they’d need to proceed was dropped into their lap with a bow on it, they rejected it.

The author of this article also sent me a PDF of various budgets and memos that they had collected and saved during their time as members of Valleybrook. I received these too when I was a member. I think there are two main takeaways from these pages:

  1. Just the sheer scope of how much money we’re talking about. Millions of dollars.

  2. A quote from the very last page, which is a letter from the Overseers to the members of Valleybrook Church, dated December 17th, 2014 – mere weeks before Doug’s empire would come crashing down:

We can also promise you that our staff has been faithful and responsible with the funds you have provided. To date, our giving is $18,000 under what we projected. Our staff went through a significant belt tightening process in our last fiscal year, and if giving continues to fall short of budget they will again be ready to make the necessary decisions in order to allow us to continue funding the ministries where God has called us.4

What a scam. Clearly, they weren’t faithful or responsible even a little bit. Did you catch that bit in the Case Summary, or in a previous post on this site, where a bag full of cash was found in Mary’s office that had been collected for a Kid’s Offering? When that letter was sent to the congregation in December of 2014, during that same period they spent over $7,500 in late fees, penalties, and interest. They may as well have lit a stack of cash on fire.

This PDF, as well as the Case Summary that was linked earlier in this post, is also available on the Media page for quick access.

I’ve been asked now and again why I don’t meet with Valleybrook to talk about these issues. Some of our former-member community discussed with me that perhaps we should all meet with Valleybrook to give them another chance to pursue legal action. We all landed on, “what’s the point?” They know what they haven’t done. They know what they’re trying to cover up.

I’m all for Valleybrook moving on from this nonsense, but to be responsible in moving on, they need to stop ignoring all of the people they hurt by enabling Doug’s behavior and enabling the church to not take action. If you’re currently attending Valleybrook, I strongly suggest considering the fact that they are still not being fully transparent about what happened, and they are still trying to cover it up by remaining silent. Personally, I would have a lot of questions to ask before I gave them another dime in the offering plate, considering their lack of any desire to pursue justice after being, quite frankly in my opinion, robbed.

Finally, I want to end with yet another update on where I’m taking this website. The Chosen Audio is coming next, followed later by the comparison between Valleybrook and Scientology. I’ve added one additional article after the Scientology comparison, though. I realized I have given a lot of information on some particular incidents, but I’ve never painted a bigger picture for you, the readers. So I intend to remedy that by creating a timeline, from the beginning of Doug coming to Valleybrook to the time he fled the state, complete with accounts from former members who were there and experienced it first hand. I hope to give you all of the necessary context of this whole debacle so that you can truly understand what a nightmare this was to be a part of.

As always, thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing!

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.

  1. Ordinarily, I would post the PDF of the Police Report that was filed, but given the official and legal nature of the document, and potentially private information, it’s better that I don’t. What I can say, though, is that there is a Police Report filed with the Eau Claire Police Department, and if you’re interested in viewing it, you can try contacting them to request they send you a copy. 
  2. I think that’s really telling of Mary’s ethics and morals. She was angry, so she was willing to commit (potentially) a crime by deleting company/business information. There are, to my understanding, some additional implications since the business was tax-exempt non-profit. 
  3. With the exception of sexual assault. 
  4. Like the over $6,000 that they spent on parking tickets between 2008 and 2014…half of which were from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, where Mary was taking classes. Draw your own conclusions. 

Two Years After The Fall

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

Well hello again. It’s been awhile. My last post was published just slightly under a year ago. In all honesty, I expected that to be it. I had some high hopes that perhaps the financial investigation would result in some legal consequences that would force Doug back to the area to stand trial, but, that didn’t happen. Although that’s actually a post for another day. Which brings me to why I’m back.

It would appear Doug is at it again. Or maybe still. At the very least, he was pretty quiet on my radar for the last year. That changed a few weeks ago, back in December. The Narrow Pathway (the “church” Doug started with Nate in Grapevine, Texas) published a new post on his “church’s” website. It was quite a doozy, and it was both painful and funny to read. This is also the first time, to my knowledge, that Doug and Company have tried to go after me personally. I got my own little paragraph amongst the nonsense.

Here is a PDF of what appears on their webpage.1 Take a few minutes to read it. You may have noticed they were kind enough to link to my website. I started getting a significant uptick in traffic on December 15th, 2016, so I presume that’s when the article went up on the website.

Before going any further, I’d like to contribute what I think is a huge, bright, glowing red flag:

The entire contents of their “church” website is dedicated to slandering their biological family members, former friends and colleagues.

That article they deleted a long time ago sure was creepy and cultish, but at least it had some beliefs and organizational vision. But just think about that – here’s someone carrying the title of Pastor who fled a state when their theology raised some serious red flags (followed then by a bunch of legal and financial issues) and then started another cult in Texas, and their entire public persona is dedicated to trashing their families. Now, if I was truly trying to bring God’s peace, love, and compassion to His people, and I wanted to walk (as Doug often quipped at Valleybrook) the “straight and narrow path2” to run the church with integrity, I sure wouldn’t devote my entire web presence to trashing my family. This is the nonsense Scientology pulls – disagree with us or stand in the way of our delusions, and we’ll try and trash your life.

Next I want to point out the thinly-veiled threats in this letter. Namely, this one:

Something that has fascinated me in the middle of all this drama is that people have been so bold in their attack. I mean, Doug knows things about some of you that have the potential to ruin your lives, if he ever told.

If you were linked to this blog from Doug’s cult’s website, I want you to read those two sentences again, and really consider them. Is this any way for a pastor to behave? Is this a man you want to follow? One who would dangle any information you ever told him above your head, to try and control you or seek revenge upon you? Something you told him in confidence, or perhaps something you never wanted to divulge in the first place until he had worked on you so long you broke down?

Is that the kind of “church” that you’d want to be a part of? One where the Pastor has no qualms about trashing his friends and family, publicly, on the website for the church? Or at the very least, a Pastor who allows his staff to do the same? Sounds like a cult to me. But, that brings me to my next point.

Let’s talk about who wrote this latest post. Personally, I don’t think Jessica wrote it. It sounds very much like Doug, and very similar to the voice used in the letter “Nate” sent to his biological parents. In contrast to that, the letter “Jessica” attached at the bottom to her biological father, that sounds more like Jessica to me. The other part of this post that, for me, points to Doug writing it rather than Jessica comes at the very end:

Attached below is the actual resignation letter that no one got to hear. I wanted to attach it because it means a great deal to me for you to hear our heart.

I’ve actually seen that letter before, so I can vouch that it is indeed what was sent to the Overseers. But, it’s Doug and Nate’s resignation letter, not Jessica’s. So it seems (to me at least, but please draw your own conclusions) that Doug kind of “dropped character” at the end there and forgot he was supposed to be writing as Jessica. Even if Jessica did write this letter, it is absolutely and clearly influenced by Doug’s own venom and toxicity. At the very least, Doug hasn’t changed a bit since I’ve known him. He still is trying to turn families against each other, and drive wedges further in relationships. And guess what? The people on “his” side of the wedge wind up totally and completely dependent on him. Because what else do they have? They just told their families to get lost.

Next, let’s go to what I consider the most disgusting part of this letter. All throughout this latest post, “Jessica” talks about her father Greg. It’s pretty horrible stuff, but it pales in comparison to the letter “she” attached at the end. It’s basically a “goodbye forever” letter, where she completely tears into him for what he may or may not have done in his life. It was really horrifying to read, but not because of what it contained, but rather what it represented.

I don’t particularly believe 90% of what’s in that letter, especially after talking with people who knew Greg far better than I did.3 But that’s not the point, the point is that Doug has allowed a letter that is only intended to slander an individual to take a front and center position on his cult’s website. There is nothing to be gained by the public knowing anything in that letter. Greg’s family life is no one’s business but his family’s. This doesn’t need to be aired on the internet.

Here’s my request to you: please consider that maybe you don’t need to read it. It shouldn’t be on the internet, but it is. At the same time, my goals here are to preserve information so that Doug can’t hide behind a lack thereof, as well as bring necessary information to light. So if you decide that it’s necessary and you do want to read it, here it is. I realize that both asking you to not read it and then linking it is pretty contradictory, but I hope you understand why. I’m saddened that a family is being publicly destroyed, but I feel obligated to not purposely conceal information. And, I would rather you read it here in a PDF than give Doug’s site any credibility by navigating to it.

Finally, I just want to bring this all together. This latest letter from Doug’s camp continues to paint a more complete picture of how dark he really is. He has “outed” a lot of personal information that he had no business of doing. He has threatened that he could easily reveal more in an attempt to ruin lives. The only way this man exists online is in a negative fashion – his entire website is devoted to hate against family members and former colleagues.

This blog post is just part one of several I have planned. There have been a few developments over the past year that I haven’t posted about, simply because this all felt rather “over.” Clearly, it’s not. So, coming soon:

  1. Extra details on the financial investigation of Valleybrook Church in the wake of Doug’s departure and the lack of pursuit of legal action by the church.
  2. The Chosen podcast I’ve been promising for months and months. I’m not sure why I kept forgetting to post it. But, it’s happening, along with a few comments on the theology of it.
  3. A comparison between the way Doug runs The Narrow Pathway (and how he ran Valleybrook) and the way David Miscavige runs Scientology – one of the most widely known cults in existence.

Before I close, I want to thank the former Valleybrook members that took time out of their lives to sit down and talk with me over the past few weeks, so that I could put together a cohesive narrative and make sure I had my facts straight. There’s clearly more of a cost to this now that Doug is calling specific people out on his website, so I appreciate anyone who is willing to speak out against a tyrant. Without them, he would be able to continue hurting people, completely unchecked. When I heard that an already-established church in Texas had read this blog back when I started it and distanced themselves from Doug’s attempts to join their leadership team…well, that’s why I started doing this.

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.

  1. As per my usual modus operandi on this website, I’m dedicated to making sure Doug can’t hide behind anonymity or lack of information. So if he ever decides to delete something again off his website, that’s cool, I’ve got a record of it here. 
  2. I wonder how he decided on the name for his new cult… 
  3. I only ever interacted with Greg at Valleybrook – we didn’t have a relationship outside of that. But, he was always very kind to me and was always excited to hear about how I was doing at college. 

A Look at Current Valleybrook Leadership

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

Additional Note for this Article:

Most content on this website is written by me (Matthew), or it is reclaimed information that the prior administration of Valleybrook tried to delete from public access. This is neither. This is an individual from the community (who wishes to remain anonymous) who has additional information on what has been going on recently within the church in the wake of the financial report and subsequent Leader Telegram article, during which it was stated that no legal action would be taken against Doug Lebsack or Mary Clark for illegal use of funds. All statements made here by the anonymous writer have been vetted by myself for accuracy. In some locations, emphasis has been added by the writer that does not alter the meaning of the text, but attempts to highlight a particular quote or statistic to the reader.

Valleybrook’s Transitional Leadership Team’s recent letter of communication dated 2/1/16 contained examples of proof-texting and demonstrated that they are not being as transparent as they have promised the church body many times both verbally and in writing.

How open has Valleybrook been regarding past finances?

“So while we have been aware as a TLT that there are people inside and outside the fellowship of Valleybrook who have charged the TLT with hiding things related to the process, and while we are sad about that perception, we remained resolved to be accountable to process. We have not sought to hide anything.” – Pastor Tim Haugen, on behalf of the Valleybrook TLT (Transitional Leadership Team), September 2, 2015.

The TLT claims complete transparency regarding the past finances, but their actions have not been transparent. At Valleybrook’s presentation of the forensic audit’s findings on October 28, 2015, the TLT noted multiple times that they would not say whether or not misappropriations, fraud, or embezzlement had occurred. The TLT had a clear picture of what happened but did not present a clear picture. Anyone in attendance was left to draw their own conclusions and interpret data shared with incomplete information and knowledge. Valleybrook leadership can be completely open and forthcoming and accept any resulting consequences, or else they can protect themselves by withholding, limiting, and controlling information. However, they cannot do the former and call themselves transparent.

Valleybrook leadership obviously made the decision that they “were not going to pursue legal action” regarding the findings long before that decision was disclosed. In their letter, Tim noted that they had come to that conclusion while “retaining an attorney for protection.” The exact timeline is unclear but the decision had been made before December 6 and not announced by TLT until February 1, after the congregation was asked to vote on the new constitution. Transparency?

We first learned that legal action wouldn’t be pursued because Tim Haugen was “irresponsible and careless” with his remarks to the Leader-Telegram1. But only Tim and the TLT can answer when, if ever, they planned on notifying the church fellowship regarding this decision officially.

What really happened at Valleybrook with regard to finances?

With the lack of transparency of Valleybrook’s past finances, it is impossible for those of us outside of the TLT to say with 100% accuracy what really happened. Did something criminal occur? Unfortunately, Valleybrook hasn’t given our governing authorities the opportunity to answer that question. The following information can help us draw a reasonable conclusion.

Black’s Law Dictionary notes that forensic audits “[use] accounting methods to get evidence that can be used in a court based on science.” Forensic audits are often used when an organization’s finances present a legal concern due to suspicion of illegal activities including, but not limited to, embezzlement, tax fraud, and allegations of bribery. The facts shared during the October 28, 2015 meeting pointed to likely misappropriation of funds and embezzlement without stating a conclusion. Multiple individuals have heard Tim Haugen disclose his concerns of the IRS finding out what happened at Valleybrook. A reasonable assumption based on this information is that the occurrence of criminal or illegal activity is highly likely; this is not addressing legal burden of proof.

A 1982 article in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology2 lists reasons that religious leaders decide to cover up scandals after “removing the wrongdoer who has diverted church funds to personal use without taking any further action.” The article discusses churches choosing “to absorb the impact of the scandal after it has become public and thereafter conduct religious services as usual without suing the offending party so that a civil action does not protract the scandal.” While there may be religious considerations for adopting this course of action (discussed below), there are usually practical reasons as well3. Churches can be afraid of losing dissatisfied members either individually or as a group. If restitution is not sought, harsh consequences of IRS imposed sanctions and retroactive removal of tax exempt status can occur when financial indiscretions come to light.

The actions of Valleybrook’s leadership suggest they wish to discard the past, minimize the perception of any illegal dealings, and move forward as soon as possible. We see “casting hope for the future,4” not indicating whether the forensic audit found criminal behavior, and offering Biblical references to support their decisions. Tim refers to “evidence of financial management that was costly to Valleybrook Church.5” This language carefully skirts the issue of whether the findings were criminal or not; it also notes that Valleybrook lost money as a result without quantifying the damage. It is much easier to dismiss the gravity of a situation when disclosure of both true cost and crime are concealed. It seems that Valleybrook is neither on the side of transparency nor legality in their past financial dealings.

Valleybrook’s current TLT members have conflicts of interest in regards to past financial indiscretions.

The current makeup of the TLT also makes it difficult for them to render non-biased decisions regarding past financial abuse. The TLT is composed of Tim Haugen (Converge interim pastor), Pastor John Anderson (Converge pastor), Dr. Steve Patrick (Converge Associate District Executive Minister), Dan Gluch (overseer during the former administration), Greg Smith (former member of the TLT, overseer during the former administration), and Nancy Robinson and Chris Solberg (VB members). It has been overseen at times by Dr. Perry (Converge District Executive Minister for Converge Great Lakes). There are personal testimonies of individuals who went to Converge and Dr. Perry and shared their concerns about Doug Lebsack and Valleybrook years ago only to be ignored and have Doug/Valleybrook defended. Similarly, Dan Gluch, along with other past overseers, defended the abusive regime at Valleybrook6. In a letter to the congregation on December 21, 2014, Dan Gluch, Greg Smith, and the rest of the overseers noted “We can also promise you that our staff has been faithful and responsible with the funds you have provided. To date, our giving is $18,000 under what we projected. Our staff went through a significant belt tightening process in our last fiscal year and if giving continues to fall short of budget they will again be ready to make the necessary decisions in order to allow us to continue funding the ministries where God has called us.”

By ignoring the concerns of congregants in the past, what kind of fiduciary responsibility and legal culpability do Converge and Dan Gluch have7? Are they hoping to conceal as much as possible to protect Converge, Valleybrook, and former overseers from being sued for lack of oversight? Are they trying to protect Converge from facing similar suits as well as tax or financial consequences? It is therefore doubtful that a team with such conflicts of interest could be free from bias and self-protection when deciding whether or not Valleybrook should involve the authorities.

Valleybrook’s leadership is continuing to use scripture out of context to support their endeavors.

“While retaining an attorney for protection, we had decided that we were not going to bring suit against former leaders because of the directive of I Corinthians 6:1-8. We were particularly struck by verse 7 of this passage.”

“We could not as a matter of conscience defy this directive from God. While we saw much in the review that was irresponsible and even unethical, and while we were sobered by what it cost Valleybrook, we resolved that we could not bring suit. Beyond biblical directives and counsel, we were aware of some practical kinds of considerations that only further con rmed for us the biblical directive to NOT bring suit.8

In the above letter, Tim Haugen makes it clear that 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is a “directive” from God not to bring suit. Much study of this passage shows it is questionable whether the original text provides such definitive guidance on this specific issue. 1 Corinthians 6 gives directives for handling civil suits between believers; civil suits involve a plaintiff and a defendant, in which the defendant is asked to fulfill his/her promise and/or make compensation for damages done. This passage also refers to two believers that appear to both have fellowship within a local church. This is not the situation that Valleybrook currently find themselves in.

As described earlier, Valleybrook finds themselves with facts that more likely suggest that two former pastors stole money from the church. Both former pastors have ignored any requests for reconciliation with the Valleybrook, other than on their own terms. Some would question whether these individuals are the brothers/Christians at all that 1 Corinthians 6 references.

In this passage, Paul does not discuss criminal cases. In a criminal case, the government prosecutes the accused on behalf of victims and/or the public’s welfare. In Romans 13, Paul teaches that criminal suits are to be handled by the state. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established… For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.9” Keith Krell explains this quite well in his series Saints Gone Wild: 1 Corinthians:

“One important clarification: Paul does not specify any criminal cases because he teaches elsewhere that these must be handled by the state (Rom 13:3-4). We must always distinguish between sins and crimes. Sins are handled by the church while crimes are handled by the state. Both are God’s governing authorities. Furthermore, when a crime has been committed, a Christian may at times be obligated to turn a fellow-Christian in and even to testify against him in court. The church does not have jurisdiction over criminal justice—that belongs to the state, according to Romans 13.”

Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 6 bear on an extremely limited context. The moment we press this passage beyond this context, we run into serious difficulties. For one thing, he is dealing with financial disputes, not with issues like violent crimes. Should we say that Christians may never prosecute other Christians for child-abuse, or domestic violence? That we should not contest child-custody if the other Christian parent is guilty of sexual abuse?

In my opinion, we should not even use this passage as a prohibition against ever suing another Christian over financial matters. There are always unique cases in our day and age: Flagrant, chronic default of child-support by a Christian parent. A swindler who takes a Christian small businessman for thousands (unable to pay employees) and then says, “You can’t sue me because I am a Christian.” A Christian who engages in dishonest business practices and refuses to comply with the decision of other Christians to make restitution needs to be judged by the church and possibly by those outside the church. These types of cases seem to fall into a 1 Tim 5:8 domain, where a believer is capable of behaving worse than an unbeliever. Consequently, judgment must fall! This actually serves to uphold Christ’s reputation and the testimony of the church.

In The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Johnson and Vanvonderen note 1 Corinthians 6 is often twisted by church leaders to support the unsubstantiated claim that Christians should never appeal to secular authorities. Congregants who wish to file charges are told it’s judgmental and unchristian to press charges and are silenced as a result of abuse of this Scripture. If this is a “directive from God” for Valleybrook to not bring suit against a church leader or congregant involved in a crime, what other criminal acts might Tim Haugen and the TLT not pursue or report? Reporting crime does not go against 1 Corinthians 6. As Christians, we are called to walk in the light exposing the truth, not hiding in the dark and covering things up.

James 2:13 stretched beyond context

In the same letter, Tim and the TLT point to half a verse (James 2:13) to support Valleybrook having a “passion for both justice and mercy.” After Paul condemns acts of favoritism to the wealthy in this passage, he reminds us that we all need God’s mercy shown through Jesus’ death; this view of God’s mercy should cause us to sacrifice for one another and not withhold forgiveness from others after receiving it ourselves. So this verse can help the church move forward in forgiveness by forgiving the sins of former leaders. God is 100% just and 100% merciful. It was for this reason that God allowed Jesus to die for our sins: justice said that the wages of our sins was death10, but in his mercy Jesus became sin and died in our place. On the cross, we see God’s 100% justice and 100% mercy.

Unfortunately, the TLT muddies the water by stretching this verse that discusses judgment without mercy, to instead discuss justice and “merciless justice,” James does not say that seeking justice is “vengeful” or “vindictive.” Justice is an attribute of God, “Righteousness and Justice are the foundations of his throne.11” Therefore, justice can be carried out in a righteous way. In some cases, justice can actually be merciful. An alcoholic might continue to abuse alcohol despite serious consequences in multiple areas of his or her life. For an alcoholic who drives under the influence and gets arrested, justice might in fact be merciful. Merciful if it allows the individual to reevaluate their life and make changes. Merciful to the individual’s family if it helps restores relationship. Merciful to otherwise future victims of their drunken driving.

Please don’t talk about the past, We’re moving forward?

If Valleybrook can’t pursue justice without having a “vengeful” or “vindictive” attitude then perhaps they need to look at whether they truly have moved beyond the past. It therefore seems ironic that they chose to flank the paragraph containing the James citation with the idea of not pursuing justice to move forward. If the TLT12 wishes not to pursue further legal action because they believe Valleybrook’s resources of time and money would be funneled away from loving God and others, promoting healing, etc., then they should make that statement when talking about “moving forward.” 1 Corinthians 6 and James 2:13 should not be proof-texted13 to say that their decision to not pursue justice is a biblical directive or would be vengeful or vindictive.

Even if the TLT doesn’t think that Valleybrook can pursue justice without mercy, it doesn’t mean that they should keep what was found in the forensic audit hidden from the public and from the local, state, and federal governments. While it is the church’s responsibility to deal with sin, it is the government’s responsibility to handle crime and seek justice. It is up to the authorities to decide whether a crime has been committed. Valleybrook should then be fully transparent (something the TLT14 and Valleybrook leadership has claimed all along) with what really happened. If taxes were not paid then taxes need to be repaid – keep in mind this is in the Bible as well – Romans 13:7. If individuals misappropriated money to themselves or took church property then they should have to pay taxes on what they received. Jesus did not ask us to be honest and tell the truth only when it is beneficial for us to do so. Perhaps the TLT should read further in James 2 about our actions confirming our faith. Perhaps it’s time for Valleybrook to tell the whole truth to everyone.

Where does this kind of “moving forward” take the church?

Hiding the results of the audit from the government allows possible crimes that were committed in the church to be concealed. The Bible asks us, individually and corporately, to be good stewards of God’s gospel, people, and money. In the first half of 2014, $39 billion of church-related financial fraud took place world-wide15. During that same time churches spent $35 billion on worldwide mission work. It is believed that only 20% of all fraud in the church goes reported. That leaves an awful lot of unlabeled wolves to continue to steal more money than goes to orphans and widows16. This may be why fraud in the church is projected to be $60 billion/year by the year 2025. Perhaps the TLT should reread James 2: 1-12 where the poor are dishonored and the rich exploit both the church and the poor. Perhaps it’s time for Valleybrook to care for the universal Church and poor outside their building more than the structure located at 412 S. Barstow St. Perhaps it’s time for Valleybrook to allow justice to be pursued.

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.

  1. TLT letter 2/1/16 
  2. “Diversion of Church Funds to Personal Use: State, Federal and Private Sanctions,” Barry W. Taylor. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology; Volume 73, Issue 3, Fall 1982. 
  3. This seems to be part of the TLT’s modus operandi – “Beyond biblical directives and counsel, we were aware of some practical kinds of considerations that only further confirmed for us the biblical directive to NOT bring suit.” – February 1, 2016 TLT letter 
  4. Tim Haugen and the TLT have used many permutations of this idea. This idea has been repeated in private meetings, from the pulpit, and in the press release to the Leader-Telegram April 19, 2015 – “Yet newly installed interim lead pastor Tim Haugen described an attitude of hopeful anticipation as the congregation seeks to move past the scandal…” The main idea is for leadership to cast hope and forget what is behind. 
  5. February 1, 2016 TLT letter 
  6. This was also supported in the Converge Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) report 
  7. I am not absolving other past overseers here. I highlight Converge and Dan Gluch because they are currently in Valleybrook leadership and are making decisions on issues they have vested interest in. 
  8. February 1, 2016 TLT letter 
  9. Romans 13:1,4 
  10. Romans 6:23 
  11. Psalms 89:14 and 97:2 
  12. Note that TLT and not Valleybrook is used here. Valleybrook has had no input in this decision. They are only allowed to question why the TLT has already decided that, and only question privately, not as a congregation. 
  13. “Proof-texting occurs when someone has a point he wants to prove. So he finds a verse to do so, even if it means stretching or ignoring the original issue about which the verse was written or the context in which the verse is found.” – The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse 
  14. Transparency has been postured both on stage as well as through written communication. “We wanted to be fully transparent.” – Chris Solberg in the Leader-Telegram December 6, 2015 
  15. According to the Status of Global Mission report from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. 
  16. James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

The Finances

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

On October 25th, 2015, Valleybrook held a public meeting regarding their financial audit in the wake of the earlier Converge report. This article will report the facts that were learned, and will provide additional statements as made by the presenters. Unless and until there are legal matters to report, this ends the official investigation by Valleybrook.1

There are some caveats that I want to address early on. Firstly, I was misinformed of the time of the meeting, so I missed the first 15 minutes. Secondly, I recorded the audio for the entire presentation, but I was later respectfully approached by Valleybrook to ask why I had recorded it when they asked not to at the beginning. Well, I had missed that. So I have no bad feelings about not posting the audio.2

Thirdly, as a result of deciding to report on the financial meeting, I ended up having some meetings and communications with a couple of current Valleybrook leaders. This may come as a big surprise to some people, but I didn’t want any new article to harm the rebuilding effort at Valleybrook. So I want to take a moment and make my stance on the current state of things very clearly:

Truly terrible, abusive, manipulative, unethical, and illegal acts occurred under the leadership of Doug Lebsack (and as you’ll come to find out, Mary Clark) These individuals are no longer at Valleybrook, and haven’t been for several months now. There is a Transitional Leadership Team (TLT) in place right now, and they are working to move Valleybrook forward to be a good representation of Christ’s church. Where I have been critical of Valleybrook in the past, I no longer have those qualms. Valleybrook is moving forward, and therefore we find ourselves on the same side.

I really want to hammer that home as much as possible: maybe you’re a new UWEC freshman this year and you’ve been looking for a church to go to. “Well, I shouldn’t go to Valleybrook, because there has been all that stuff in the news and online about them,” you might think. Yes, there has been all that stuff in the news and online about them, but it’s historical now. Valleybrook is moving forward, and they’re not living in the past. You don’t need my permission to go anywhere, but if you’re looking for some assurance, then yes, I believe that Valleybrook is safe to go to.

This is really important to note: Valleybrook doesn’t “approve of” or “endorse” this article, or this site. While I did show this article to a couple of Valleybrook leaders prior to posting it, it’s still not “with their blessing” that I post this. Does that make sense? What I’m really trying to get across is the legality of the matter, that the new Valleybrook church and I aren’t in “cahoots,” they’re not feeding me information, and they’re not censoring me. This website is my own, and Valleybrook is only involved in it insofar as the content on this website is 99.99% about Valleybrook’s former leaders.

Okay, that’s out of the way. Now to the financial report:

For background information, the financial audit was done in response to allegations and evidence of financial misconduct by the former Lead Pastor Doug Lebsack and former Executive Pastor, Mary Clark. In the original report, not many specifics were given regarding finances other than the indication that there was serious mismanagement of money.3

It seems to me, that ended up being very, very true.

The following is a list of some of the findings from the financial audit, conducted by WipFli. In an effort to provide as many details as possible, but protect any potential legal action by Valleybrook, some numbers are grouped into a larger sum.

For example, take these imaginary figures:

Charge A: $500

Charge B: $750

Charge C: $250

I would summarize this to:

Total Charges: $1,500

And so to begin the list:

  • Between January 2014 and March 20154, Doug’s credit card and Mary’s credit card had combined charges of more than $350 to their Valleybrook credit cards for services like Hulu and iTunes. (Valleybrook has not made a statement regarding those charges and possible ties to ministry)

  • Between January 2014 and March 2015, 6 different staff members used their Valleybrook credit cards for dining out, totaling more than $6,000

  • Between 2008 and 2014, slightly under $6,500 was taken from church funds to pay parking tickets. Many payments were made out to the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, which by my own personal observation is where Mary Clark was taking classes while on staff at Valleybrook.

  • Between January 2014 and March 2015, slightly under $30,000 was paid to Verizon Wireless for 16 lines of cellphone service, including service for Doug’s children, upgrade fees, and data charges. It appears that several checks between $50 and $65 each, when traced back to the originating bank and the corresponding memo, were written by Doug as reimbursements for his children’s phone services.

  • Between April 2013 and March 2015, untimely payments on credit caused charges of over $7,500 in late fees.

  • Several notices came from the IRS to seize property if amounts due continued to go unpaid. One example statement shown was for over $12,000 in unpaid fees.5

  • Several bags of cash were found in various locations in Mary Clark’s office following her resignation, totaling more than $250. Some were labeled as “Kids Offering” or as donations to a charity that had been collected during offering. Additionally, several un-cashed checks were found. Total cash/checks found were over $700.

  • A “Lead Pastor Discretionary” account in QuickBooks showed roughly $22,500 in discretionary spending. Among these charges were $11,000 in VISA charges and a $1,000 bonus to Mary Clark for a college graduation bonus.

Legal Statement

Valleybrook closed their “scripted” meeting with a legal statement from their lawyer. It is written thusly:

In concert with Bryan Symes at Ruder Ware, LLSC, Valleybrook Church is considering the full range of legal options in connections with Valleybrook’s former leadership.
While this process plays out, to best protect the Church’s interest and maintain attorney-client privilege, we have been instructed to refrain from commenting about legal issues during the pendency of the matter.

Because of this statement, I haven’t probed Valleybrook leadership about legal matters at all. I definitely respect their “right to remain silent,” if you will, and so I personally am taking this as, “If there’s something to pursue, they’re considering pursuing it.” And I think that’s fair for now.


Let’s talk about some implications, because there are quite a few. I pose these as questions for you to reconcile with yourself. I don’t necessarily have “the answer” to any particular question. But here are some things for you, the reader, to consider in light of the information you know now between this and the Converge Report:

  • Considering all the fees paid for interest and late penalty payments when there was money in the accounts to pay in full on time, would this be considered a mismanagement of godly resources? The same goes for the late payment of taxes due. People were giving sacrificially to Valleybrook with the expectation of their money being used wisely within ministry related purposes. Shouldn’t the Church be a place of the highest integrity? Wouldn’t these kinds of transactions in the business world get people fired?

  • Is it not a disrespectful use of church money to pay out parking tickets (several hundreds of dollars) simply because staff could not take the time or effort to follow the laws like everyone else? Is it up to the congregants to pay those tickets without ever having choice?

  • Is it typical of a lead pastor of any church to have a $20,000+ “discretionary fund” where he does not have to be accountable for the use of it?

  • Why did Doug do this? Why did he treat Valleybrook money as his own personal checking account? Could it be because he was building loyalty through the financial gain to others as entrapment? Also, making others “dirty” right along with him so he is not the only one guilty of mismanagement/theft/disrespect? Is it considered wise or godly to use church funds without review, discussion or disclosure that were designated for ministry purposes to better one’s life style instead?

  • Mary was in charge of finances, reporting directly (and apparently only) to Doug, and yes, a business person like Mary would have been fired. Why didn’t Doug fire or reassign her? His supervisory role would seem to dictate that he was responsible for making sure her job duties were carried out or proper discipline received.

  • Doesn’t the fact that there were no written policies points to larger leadership issue?

  • Even forensic accountants couldn’t completely reconcile the mess of files and (sometimes lackthereof) paper trails that were supposedly organized by Mary Clark, under the supervision and direction of Doug Lebsack.

Like I said, I don’t have the answers to these, necessarily, but I have my opinions. You’ll likely have yours. Let’s leave it at that, since everyone needs to reconcile things for themselves.

Going Forward

Valleybrook is moving in a great direction, I think, and as I’ve mentioned already. A lot of these really horrible activities won’t be able to go on anymore, because they’ve implemented the checks and balances that should have been there the whole time.

As for me, this closes the book for the most part. If legal proceedings ever happen, I’ll cover that. If I learn more stuff or uncover more things from the past that ought not be forgotten lest they happen again, I’ll cover that. And, when I inevitably get around to asking Grant if I can post his personal story, if he says I can, I’ll post that.

Otherwise, this is history now. As we’ve seen, there may be consequences for some people because of this history, but it’s history. It’s not still going on at Valleybrook. But it’s really important that we all remain vigilent that nothing like this happens again. Not in Grapevine, Texas, and certainly not again in Eau Claire.6

Thanks, everyone, for reading and sharing these stories so that awareness can be spread about dangerous acts like these.

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.

  1. Which means that from here on out, this site will likely be reporting information from the past. If there’s legal action, I will be covering that, but that’s all the “new stuff” that is possibly expected to happen. 
  2. And trust me, it’s a lot of numbers, so you’ll likely be thankful to just be able to read this article instead of listen to my almost 2 hour recording. 
  3. My understanding is that the CIT report merely “recommended” an audit more-or-less for the peace of mind of congregants, so they’d know for sure if things were OK… but as soon as they got into the review process it was apparent more digging needed to be done. 
  4. March 2015 is when all resignations were effective. Grant, Doug, and Nate resigned in February. 
  5. Okay I was confused about this and I asked for some clarification: why did Valleybrook owe the IRS anything if they were non-profit? Turns out, this was a failure to pay government taxes on wages, which is still necessary. So for example, on your check you’ll see an amount taken out to FICA. These taxes weren’t paid. Additionally, several warnings were sent to Valleybrook with attention to Mary Clark before the seizure notices started coming in the mail. 
  6. A “splinter cell” of Valleybrook has formed a “church” called Ethos, and the most up to date information I can find is that they meet on the UWEC campus. Mary Clark is involved (my understanding is she is the pastor) in it, along with other people deeply involved in some of these “behind-the-scenes” underhanded activities. When questioned about what Doug, Nate, and Mary were now up to during a brief Q&A session at the end of the financial meeting, Valleybrook said, “Yes, we are very concerned about what Doug, Nate, and Mary are doing now.” Just as a reminder, Doug has started a new cult in Grapevine, Texas called “The Narrow Pathway,” and I’ve written about it here. 

An Update Before the Financial Article

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

I wanted to talk briefly about this site and its status before I post my article on the findings of the Financial Investigation in the wake of the Converge Report as there are a few updates that should be outlined ahead of time:

  1. In the article titled The Narrow Pathway, I mentioned the website was deleted, and I provided a cached version of how the page looked before it was deleted. The website came back online a few days later, and the text was replaced with a letter saying that “their systems were hacked” and “this site was not available to the public.” I want to be clear: in my investigations and reporting of the events surrounding Doug Lebsack’s relationship with Valleybrook Church, I have never used any underhanded methods to obtain my information. Everything I have ever and will ever post has either been public at some time or it is a private document for which I have permission from the appropriate party to post. And speaking of not using underhanded methods…
  2. My original intent with the Financial Report was to record the meeting with an audio recorder and post that, like I have done with other pieces of media. Very little commentary from me, just the media. And so that’s what I did: I recorded the audio. However, I arrived to the meeting slightly late and did not hear at the beginning when they requested that there be no recordings. And so that’s my fault, and I accept that. However, I did not and will not post those recordings, because they were not acceptable to have in the first place. I’m glad I have them since I didn’t take written notes (because I’d have the audio to listen to! Why bother writing?) but now that I’m writing an article instead of posting the audio, it’s nice to have notes. I will be deleting the recording after I am done writing the article.
  3. This little whoopsie on my part led to a great new development: a connection with the new leadership team at Valleybrook. “WHOA!” Some of you say. Let me be very clear up front: Valleybrook does not endorse this website. It’s not an official Valleybrook publication. I have been very critical of Valleybrook while it was under Doug’s leadership. Doug is no longer there. A transitional leadership team is in place, and as a dear friend of mine put it, “are working their tails off to turn around the Titanic.” These are good people. These are people who want Valleybrook to truly be a Godly place, a healthy place, and a safe place. They are as against the practices that went on under Doug as I am. And so we find ourselves “on the same team.” It is also important to note that Valleybrook as it exists today is no longer a cult. It is a community of believers trying to move forward while recognizing and dealing with a terrible past. I personally will not be returning to Valleybrook as a member, but I do feel that it would be a safe place for anyone who wants to attend.

So what does this mean for the Financial Report? Well, it’s going to be an article. It’s going to be a long article. But please note the following legal statement from Valleybrook:

In concert with Bryan Symes at Ruder Ware, LLSC, Valleybrook Church is considering the full range of legal options in connections with Valleybrook’s former leadership.
While this process plays out, to best protect the Church’s interest and maintain attorney-client privilege, we have been instructed to refrain from commenting about legal issues during the pendency of the matter.

Since “the full range of legal options” are being considered, it is beneficial for certain details to be kept relatively private. That’s likely the main reason the meeting was not to be recorded. Not to hide anything, but to protect their legal interests. I was personally satisfied with the amount and detail of statements that were made at the public meeting. I don’t believe Valleybrook is hiding anything. But in order to help protect their legal interests, I voluntarily am offering my article to the Valleybrook Transitional Leadership Team to review before I post it. I am allowing them to suggest things to take out or rephrase, but I am also keeping my right as a journalist to refuse their changes.

This is mutually beneficial for us, and for you. You will be getting better and absolutely accurate material, and their legal interests will be respected.

I personally am very grateful to be able to cooperate with the new Valleybrook Church in order to bring to light the tragedies that occurred behind the scenes under the previous regime.

Look for my article on The Finances coming soon!

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.

The Narrow Pathway

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

There was the mysterious church in Michigan that this whole saga supposedly started at. Very little is publicly known about what happened in Michigan with Doug. Then there was Valleybrook. Thanks to all of you who have read and shared this website, a lot is publicly known about what happened there.

It seems that Part Three will take place in Grapevine, Texas, at a new “church” called The Narrow Pathway. A website for the church circulated through several online communities on August 24th, and by the morning of the 25th, the website was pulled offline. However, a PDF was obtained via a Google cached page search, and is posted here for public knowledge.

“The straight and narrow path” was another buzzword at Valleybrook, however, it was different than the “core lies” buzzword in that it actually has biblical roots. Matthew 7:13 says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” What it ended up becoming, though, was basically a moniker for obedience. And that obedience was to Doug.

As far as the brief appearance and abrupt departure of this website goes, it’s textbook to how Doug has operated so far. When Valleybrook came under scrutiny early this year, controversial documents were removed from the website to hide behind anonymity. Those documents were all recovered, and are posted in the Media section. When the website was found (conceivably by someone in the Chippewa Valley) on August 24th, it spread like wildfire through communities of ex-Valleybrook members. The “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the website got a lot of use. Doug was under attack, and he hid behind anonymity. Delete the site, and no one can prove anything, right? Wrong.

Additionally, Doug went to some extra trouble to protect his identity when registering for a web domain. The original link was to a Weebly site, which looked somewhat like the URL to this very site, except replace WordPress with Weebly. I looked into the WHOIS information (which is basically a record of who owns what domain on the internet, along with some personal information about them) and found that Doug used a registrar notorious for its use by criminals and dangerous or illegal activities called Domains By Proxy. There are very, very few legitimate reasons that you’d want to have some privacy with your domain registrations. There are MANY more under-handed reasons that you’d want it, one of which being, of course, anonymity. Another is deniability, and since the only way to get the personal information for a registration out of a company like Domains By Proxy is issuing a subpoena, it’s easy to deny any ties to a site that is called into question for any reason.

When looking for a different church to call home, be guarded about what newly formed churches you go to, especially if you’re in Grapevine, Texas. By all means attend and join new churches. Just do your research and know who your pastor is. Know what the leadership team believes. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to keep going there.

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.

Mission Accomplished

Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.

A few weeks ago when the Leader Telegram ran an article (and a video!) profiling the events at Valleybrook, this website has exploded in popularity. That has allowed a major breakthrough to happen:

  • Before this website and these articles from the Leader Telegram, there was no paper trail for Doug Lebsack. Now if you search for Doug Lebsack, depending on where you are in the world, this site is now the top result.

I’m extremely proud of that, because it means he can’t hide behind anonymity anymore. Jody Hagedorn and myself (although mostly Jody!) have done some research into Doug’s time at a Michigan church before this one. There’s just not much of a paper trail! Now, there is. And I hope it helps prevent these atrocities from happening ever again.

That brings me to an important point: what next? What else goes on this site?

Right now, nothing. I set out to archive some important documents and to bring light to a dark situation. We’ve done that together. It’s in the light. However, there are certainly many more audio recordings from Doug’s tenure at Valleybrook, and potentially more documents to find.

There’s also Grant’s letter that has often been talked about in the Leader Telegram articles. I may have mentioned it on this site. When I see Grant, I will seek permission to post the copy of the letter I have in my possession. But, it’s his, it’s very personal, and I won’t betray the trust he put in the people who he gave it to, with the provision they could share it with other trusted people. That’s a far cry from posting it on the Internet, so I want to hear from him that it’s okay to do so.

I just updated the Leader Telegram post with a second article they ran the week after the original did. So, that has been done.

I still need to upload the Chosen audio. I have it, I keep forgetting to post it when I use the computer that I have it saved on. I’ll update that article too when I have it, and add it to the Media page.

Finally, there is currently a financial investigation occurring at Valleybrook, researching whether misappropriation of funds occurred under the watch of Doug Lebsack and Mary Clark. If a report is released about that, I will post it to this site, and to the Media page.

In closing, this site has always been about factual, non-opinionated information. It has been about people sharing their stories of abuse, if they desire, either by emailing me their story or posting it on the Discussion page. Therefore, I have nothing further to say.

For the foreseeable future, this is Matthew, signing off.

Tales from the Cult is a free effort to bring stories of abuse into the light so they may be prevented from happening again. There is not now, and will never be, a fee to access this site. Thank you for reading, and please remember to share posts you find interesting to increase our web presence.