In a recent message I wrote about the dangers of gossip and the way the internet has enabled gossip to travel faster and further than before and to be more easily 'manipulated'. In this message I want to give an actual example of how this can happen in the Christadelphian community.
Some time ago I became aware of an allegation that I had "withdrawn fellowship" from Christadelphians. Anyone who has read any of my messages on this blog about "withdrawing fellowship" or who knows me personally would know that the allegation is clearly nonsense.
I came across a "quotation" on a website which claimed to be something I had written. It was allegedly from a letter I had written when "withdrawing fellowship" from Christadelphians. I contacted its author (let's call him 'Ken'). I asked him to remove the statement as it was untrue. He refused, on the basis that he had received the information from "a reliable source" and it was claimed that the quotation was "unedited" and was my "own words".
I tried to track the untrue rumour to its source. This is what I uncovered. (By the way, I have changed the names of the people involved to hide their identities.)
1. 'Ken' obtained his information from 'Kathy', a "reliable source" of information and someone he obviously trusted. He has never personally seen the letter from which he quoted although he insisted that the quotation he put on a website was "unedited". Even though he had never even seen the entire 'letter' or seen the "quotation" in its context he was still confident that he knew what it meant. Even though I was allegedly the author of the unseen document he wouldn't believe anything I had to say about it.
2. I contacted 'Kathy'. She told me that she had seen a letter I had written to an ecclesia saying that I had 'withdrawn' from Christadelphians, and that this had come from a sister we both know ('Betty'). I immediately contacted Betty. She told me that she had never discussed the matter with Kathy, and had no knowledge of such a letter.
2. When I confronted Kathy with this information she changed her story. She said that she didn't get it 'directly' from Betty but from 'some brethren' to whom Betty had allegedly sent the letter. So that removes Kathy one more step from the alleged 'source' of the story.
3. After my enquiry Kathy contacted Betty again, wanting to get a copy of the letter she had allegedly sent to some unnamed brethren. Betty told her again that she had never seen the letter, didn't even know if it existed, and could therefore not have shown it or passed it on to anyone.
4. I told Kathy that I hadn't written a letter to any ecclesia resigning or withdrawing from Christadelphians. Kathy may have checked with the ecclesia who supposedly received this letter (I don't know) but she subsequently changed her story (again) to say that perhaps I hadn't sent a letter. So now she changed her story to say it may have been a different form of communication (although she really didn't know and had no evidence of any other communication) and perhaps this 'communication' had been sent to someone else and not the ecclesia she claimed. In other words, it was evident that the letter didn't exist, but she still wanted it to be true! From the change in her story it was obvious that she really had no detailed information whatsoever and was simply passing on some gossip she had heard but hadn't checked but wanted to be true (or she may have fabricated the whole thing - a sad and frightening possibility).
5. So the story went from me writing a letter (which Kathy claimed to have seen) to a named ecclesia resigning or withdrawing from them and Christadelphians in general, to some other form of communication (but Kathy couldn't say what or how) to someone else (but Kathy didn't know who).
6. Instead of having 'first hand' knowledge of this Kathy has now admitted that her information came from 'some brethren' (unnamed) who allegedly received it from Betty, who apparently or allegedly obtained it from someone else (but Kathy is not sure who), even though Betty denies this. That means the information was at least third hand by the time it reached Kathy, and she has no idea where it originated or how many hands it might have passed through before arriving in its final form.
7. Despite being presented with this Ken has refused to remove the "quotation" from the website. He still believes that his "unedited" quotation from Kathy was accurate.
Ken still insists that his 'quotation' is "unedited" and in my "own words" even though he has never actually seen the letter from which it allegedly came, his 'reliable source' of information (Kathy) has never seen the letter either (and now admits it may not exist), she won't say where she got the "quotation", and the person from whom Kathy's unnamed source allegedly obtained it (Betty) has never seen or even heard of it.
NO ONE has actually seen anything from me on the subject, and no one knows where the 'quotation' originated, or in what form, or in what context, or by whom, or if the source was trustworthy!
Yet Ken and Kathy obviously don't want the facts to stand in the way of a good story, and so they will keep telling it! Heaven help us.