In March of 1999 I attended my first ADF ritual for the Spring Equinox run by Bill Elston in Elmira, NY. When I attended that ritual and learned more about ADF, I was full of excitement. I felt at home with the ritual format and appreciated focus on scholarship. I saw an organization that had survived its first change in leadership as Isaac had stepped down only a few years earlier. I saw an organization that shared my values, and eventually I would start and lead a grove under that organization. In the subsequent 21 years, I would even serve in the highest levels of leadership.
Starting a few years ago, I have witnessed ADF move in new directions that I cannot support, beginning with the way that the leadership has handled complaints of sexual nature.
At first there was the situation with the leader down south who was caught distributing child pornography and pleaded guilty, a situation in which ADF leadership took his word that it was cleared up at face value, never checking the court records. While I can believe his version of the circumstances leading to his arrest, and while I sympathize with him for his treatment by what can be described as an unfair system, I believe that organization leaders have to trust the court records over the person. Until they were forced to, ADF leadership trusted the word of the convicted individual without question.
Then there were the accusations that came out about Isaac. Whether true or not, condemning these actions should have been the obvious course of action. Instead many influential leaders attacked the accuser and the publisher of the book. The MG didn’t do much better. A few months ago, the issue came up again, along with evidence that not only supported the accusations, but that also indicated that other ADF leaders were likely aware of the situation while Isaac was still alive. At that point, the MG decided to remove any and all traces of Isaac from ADF, including magical traces. In my opinion, this was an overreaction. Personally, I don’t see how this can be done, and I am concerned that the attempt will be an excellent way to create a malevolent spirit.
Then we had 3 members of the MG resign, partly due to the mishandling of yet another sexual misconduct complaint. The MG says that it has been resolved because all parties decided to drop it, but I have heard others say that’s not the whole story. The rumor mill states that it was something that happened years ago and involves a leader. This feels like the “old boys” protecting one of their own, especially since 3 people resigned in part over this.
My concerns are not only limited to the way in which the leadership has handled sexual misconduct. I also have to question the commitment that the leadership has to being inclusive. When we had multiple mass shootings around the world that were obviously inspired by white supremacist ideology, misappropriating the Germanic religions to support their beliefs, the best we could get out of the MG was to condemn this person and this act. It took 3 or 4 of these events before the membership successfully pushed the MG to condemn white supremacy by name. I have to question why. I have to express concern for any minority within the organization because if we cannot condemn something that is so obviously deserving of condemnation, what else will they allow to happen?
In the fall, we also lost 4 clergy members and an initiate. They expressed concerns about many other issues such as nepotism, misogyny, sexism, and racism. My experience tells me that these accusations in general are not baseless. As a white, cis, man, I cannot really speak to most of that, but I can say that we should listen to and believe those that have spoken up. I can speak to nepotism though. It’s obvious to anyone who pays attention that the leadership is a very insular group, and we haven’t had any real change over the years. Instead we keep seeing many of the same faces, and their close friends, in leadership. When I look at the slate of candidates running in this election, the majority of them are the same people we’ve seen in leadership for years, or people very close to the current leaders. This lack of new blood is how we have gotten to where we currently are.
I wish I was in a place to resign my priesthood and membership when the others did. There were other issues that I had to deal with both on the international level and on the local level before I could do so, but the time has come.
It is with a heavy heart that I have come to the difficult decision to resign from ADF, both as a priest and a member, effective immediately. I have great faith in most of the members of ADF. In general, the majority of the people I have met over the last 21 years are good people. However, I have no faith in the current leadership, or in their ability to make the structural changes needed to address any of the issues that have been raised by me or by the many others that have left. It is time for me to move on.