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Arise Church has left the person it hired with over $20,000 in legal bills
Charlotte Cummings was tasked by Arise Church to lead an independent review into its sick culture. They repaid her with lawyers & legal fees.
On December 23rd last year, two days before my birthday, I got an email that made me want to vomit:
It’s Christmas, and I’ve been reflecting on the year, and I want to say thank you.
You may not believe what I have to say, and that’s fine, but I do want to say that Arise church is an immeasurably better place to be than it was at the start of the year. Thank you so much. I genuinely mean that.
There’s a long way to go at arise, but things are happening. There’s freedom to speak our mind and to disagree, where there was no space for that before. Where it used to feel like there was a class system, that seems like it’s gone.
We still have to wrestle with our theology, with governance, with things that we do or that we believe, and whether that’s genuinely biblical, or it’s just what we’ve always believed. We’re on the road to becoming a healthy church. You may not see any hope for Arise, but I do.”
It was signed off from a member of Arise church, and they indicated they were related to one of the senior leaders at Arise.
I wanted to vomit (I’m not exaggerating, I felt nauseous) because as I read those empty words, I was also talking to Charlotte Cummings, who eight days earlier had quietly created a GiveALittle page to help cover the legal fees Arise church had left her with. She was nervous to share it, but this is what it had come to.
As a quick catchup, Charlotte was the person hired by Arise Church to lead an independent review into the church, following allegations made here on Webworm back in April 2022.
Current and former interns spoke of assault and abuse, as well as sexual harassment and NDAs at the church — and eventually its founder (after a lot of gaslighting, dodging and idiocy) resigned and fled to Australia.
But it didn’t end there: various individuals and parties at the church fought to bury the report — the report they’d commissioned in a moment of panicked damage control.
Lawyers were hired, and so Charlotte had to get a lawyer as well. Her legal bills began to rise.
With Arise’s millions (those tithes kept coming in), Charlotte didn’t stand a chance. She was in legal purgatory. And so when multiple parties leaked her report to me — Webworm published it. Other media reported on that leaked report, and the church was left with no choice but to release it officially (they uploaded it on their website but made very little effort to tell anyone outside of the church about it).
All the while, Charlotte continued to receive a barrage of personal abuse from current and former Arise leaders. And Charlotte’s lawyers sent her their invoices.
That was Charlotte’s Christmas. And that’s why I wanted to vomit when someone from Arise church decided to send me an email which opened with “Hey David, it’s Christmas, and I’ve been reflecting on the year!” and ending on “We’re on the road to becoming a healthy church. You may not see any hope for Arise, but I do!”
That email wasn’t for me; it was to make a member of the church feel better.
Arise church has been around for 20 years. It takes a lot longer than a few months to even begin to fix the levels of systemic fuckery found in a place like Arise. To be clear — Arise is a body filled with cancer, and what its leadership has done to deal with that is to apply a couple of bandaids.
If they gave any shits about any of this they would have covered Charlotte’s legal fees. Imagine getting a new job, and then your employer sues you for doing the job they hired you to do.
I didn’t want to revisit the Arise story: my own mental health was suffering, and what I experienced was the tip of the iceberg to what Arise’s victims — including Charlotte — was going through.
But after getting that email, I wanted to write about Arise one more time. I wanted to write about the person Arise hates: Charlotte Cummings.
And so I wanted to share Charlotte’s GoFundMe that she’s started to help cover her legal bills.
Only give if it doesn’t cause you any financial hardship. You can also help by just telling people about it! Share her link (https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/lets-pay-off-charlottes-legal-fees), or share this newsletter.
This morning I donated myself. Any new paying Webworm members I get this week and into the weekend, I’ll be throwing that money towards Charlotte’s page as well. I am not posting this to show off, I am doing it to be transparent about my part in this.
To Arise Church, a giant 666 in your direction.
I am glad many of your branches in New Zealand have shut down, and that many people have been freed from the control you had over their lives. I am glad people can take that tithe money and put it somewhere that actually helps the world. That helps them.
May it continue. Life is too short to be controlled by guilt and fear.
PS — the comments are worth a read. A sense of humour really can help at times.