An Open Letter to Reformation21 on the Dismissal of Aimee Byrd

Hello. I’m a former Westminster Theological Seminary student, long-time listener to your podcasts, and a more occasional reader of your articles. I’m writing in response to your decision to dismiss Aimee Byrd from your site. 

I wouldn’t normally write this sort of thing, but in your “clarification”, you said that you have removed contributors who have “caused our audience to respond in a largely negative way”. Therefore, because you seem to bend at the reactionary whims of audience feedback, I figured I should at least put one email on this side of the ledger.

In the age of cancel culture run amok, organizations offering knee-jerk dismissals due to Twitter and Facebook mobs, and institutions refusing to stand firm to support their members during such attacks, it is sad and shocking to have seen this sort of “canceling” from you.

What kind of environment of fear might this instill in your other contributors? If any of then publishes a book that provokes a loud “negative reaction”, should they expect the same response? I expect this likely creates more hesitancy in speech among them, worried they have to be more measured, weak, and timid.

Yes, I understand it was the board that made this call (and supposedly not because of “outside pressure”? How is “audience reacting in a negative way” not outside pressure?), and not site managers, nor contributors or public-facing people that made this call.

Nevertheless, it is commonplace for organization members with a backbone to push back on board moves that seem outside the mission and ethos of the organization’s work. The silence from all others at Reformation21 is a tacit endorsement of the board’s actions and speaks very, very loudly. 

People could have publicly disagreed with the board’s move. They could have stepped down and taken their podcasts elsewhere. Unless, that is, they agreed with the move. In which case how are they themselves (and all of you) not also guilty of “refusing to define and defend what they believe”–as you charged against Aimee?

Where is this “two-way conversation” you speak of on your site? All I see is a silent board making silent decisions for an organization of presumably articulate and opinionated writers also remaining silent. 

The fact that the cowardly anonymous letter to Aimee is the occasion for her dismissal is even more disheartening. Did no board member insist this “conversation” with Aimee needed to be truly “two-way”, meaning both sides are known and are responsive to one another?

It is entirely just and understandable for Aimee, at this point, to have had enough of cowardly men in private Facebook groups, anonymous Twitter accounts, and now anonymous interrogations, and demand a real two-way conversation.

If anything, she was desiring the kind of environment you say you wanted to sustain in your dismissal. The irony is thick.

Is there likely more to the story? Yes. Of course there is. There’s always more going on behind-the-scenes in these sorts of situations. But all that we–your all-determinative “Audience”–have to go on is what has been made public; and on those terms, there seems to be little doubt that I and plenty of others will need to step away from our support and engagement with your site and network of offerings.

This decision should not have been made based on temporary reactive audience sentiment–especially when it is bad faith and vitriolic. You should have stood behind Aimee instead of siding with the cowards and the bullies. People should have resigned, tweeted, emailed, and been vocal in their opposition to the board’s move.

But the silence is telling and begs the question: is there anyone there that disagrees or feels sadness and discomfort with the board’s action? If so, then they have conducted themselves cowardly; if not, then this is not the gracious, confessional, rich community I believed it was. 

Either way, I want no more part of it. 

Grace and peace to you,
Paul Burkhart


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.