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Deconstructing Bruxy Cavey: Another Blow to Megachurch Evangelicalism

By Peter J. Schuurman
bruxy cavey
Pastor Bruxy Cavey in 2021. (Video screen grab)

When I was interviewing megachurch pastor Bruxy Cavey for my dissertation on charisma and leadership a decade ago, I had no clue that he was involved in a sexual relationship that would come to be called, in an outside investigators’ report, “an abuse of Bruxy’s power and authority as a member of the clergy.” His thousands of followers at The Meeting House near Toronto, Ontario, would have had a hard time ever imagining such scandal.

Understand that Cavey is not like many megachurch pastors. He does not shield himself from the crowds; he often stood in the hallway between his multiple morning services to answer questions from attendees. Some of my colleagues studying megachurch pastors couldn’t get within a mile of their subject. Cavey had me over for a beer at his modest suburban home and answered all my questions.

Long hair, T-shirts and jeans with accompanying beaded necklaces and bracelets — Bruxy Cavey doesn’t look like the stereotype of the clean-cut, stylish megachurch pastor. He made frequent allusions to grungy, peace-loving hippies. While he was gregarious, sharp-witted and confident on stage, in person he was shy, soft-spoken and passive. He waited for me to ask the questions and he dutifully answered. He was always gracious and patient, with an ironic sense of humor.

This was his theological vision: that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a call to shut down religion and enter into authentic, loving relationship with God and others. True to his Anabaptist commitments, he preached pacifism, simplicity and generosity as “the Jesus Way.” He consciously built his image as a foil of brash, angry, right-wing masculinist evangelical leaders, calling himself a beta male. He championed team leadership and egalitarian gender roles and emphasized the ultimate rule of his board. He was, in hindsight, deconstructing evangelicalism for many urban cultural creatives around Toronto.

I was told by numerous people that Cavey was often quiet and even seemed disinterested during the board meetings. Sometimes absentminded, he was content to let others make decisions and delegated leadership freely. Sunday mornings, they told me, they phoned him to be sure he was awake and ready to preach.

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I sat with him in a café one winter afternoon, and I asked him, “What motivates you to get up on Sunday mornings and teach three more services?”

“If I don’t show up, that is not nice,” he replied. “People are counting on me to communicate the message and there is a team of volunteers scrambling to do what needs to be done. If I don’t show up, I’m failing my teammates as well as the people we’re all trying to deliver the message to.”

This sounded like a divine calling coupled with a fear of disappointing people. He didn’t want to let people down. If this is true, then as he has confessed, his decision to abuse his pastoral authority in this case of alleged sexual misconduct is his “greatest failure and darkest sin.” He admitted that he has “broken the bonds of trust” with his family, the victim and his church followers.

His multitudes of attendees, many of whom would identify as spiritual refugees desperately looking for a more loving and gracious spiritual home, looked to him as the best hope they had for Christian teaching that could heal the wounds inflicted by the institutional church.

“He has now undone so much good that was previously done and given us another reason not to trust those in positions of power,” one longtime Meeting House attendee wrote to me recently. “It’s heartbreaking … but maybe it’s partly on us for putting him so high up on a pedestal.”

Testimonies of Cavey’s best moments are surfacing on the internet from his many supporters. There is hope for forgiveness after justice has taken its course. Many others champion the courageous victim who broke the silence, and follow former Meeting House pastor Danielle Strickland’s statement from the victim, demanding that the church describe the relationship not as an extramarital affair, but as “clergy sexual abuse.” 

“Why was he counseling anyone?” asked another, wondering about his job description and qualifications for such.

bruxy cavey
Pastor Bruxy Cavey in 2019. (Video screen grab)

Most seem to acknowledge the gravity of the damage. Cavey has broken the promise he gave to be the “irreligious” pastor, the quirky Canadian urban Mennonite exception. With his illicit relationship, he has sabotaged his own project of deconstruction. He often jokingly said of himself, “I have the face of Jesus and the body of the Buddha.” He was self-deprecatingly referring to his rotund shape, but in retrospect, claiming a divine likeness has a double edge, and he seems to have fallen on the wrong side of it.

He was not Jesus. Neither is he a demon. But with his fall, the age of Big Evangelicalism has taken another damaging blow. Its credibility sinks further as disillusionment with its big, bold and brash spirituality grows.

Cavey promised to be the alternative to megachurch power politics, prosperity and patriarchy. But this identity floated on the same megachurch marketing, management and metrics that buoys any other megachurch pastor. He had a different style, but he relied on the same multisite networks, electronic media, centralized leadership and branding consistency. The Meeting House was deconstructing the evangelical megachurch brand, but it was still a megachurch. Cavey did not deconstruct far enough.

Cavey often said that self-preservation in institutional life was “religion.”

“Part of the life of any structure is being able to embrace their own demise,” he explained in a sermon in June 2007. “That’s what it means to follow Jesus. … One of the saddest things on the planet today are the time and energy that people invest in churches and denominations that have long outlived their usefulness. … Shut it down.”

Whether The Meeting House and its 19 remote sites, which are supported by the Be In Christ denomination, can recover, or at least retain, some of its former ministry will take years to assess. I suspect some of the spiritual vision and posture of the culturally savvy, irreligious teachings promoted by Cavey will remain, although chastened and rather subdued by this humiliation.

The views expressed in this commentary, which was originally published by Religion News Service, do not necessarily reflect those of The Roys Report. This article has been updated.

Peter J. Schuurman is executive director of Global Scholars Canada and an adjunct faculty member at Redeemer University. He is the author of “The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch.” 

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24 Responses

  1. My husband was a pastor for 40 years, so I believe I can speak to this with a tad bit of knowledge. There is so much wrong here. I understand that this report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Roys Report. There are so many red flags in this, I don’t know where to start. The fact that someone thought his “look” was more convincing as a disciple of Christ is alarming. Also, that he promotes egalitarianism as something to be applauded, without once mentioning their position in Jesus. The word “deconstruct” is used numerous times, as if somehow 2,000 years after Jesus Christ left this earth, we need to do that with our faith is disturbing. That a mega-church pastor who goes against the “norm” of most mega-church pastors was a protective force and, shock of all shocks, someone going against that flow certainly wouldn’t do something like that, even though he’s a fallible human being.

    Another concern is that Danielle Strickland wants to rename what he did as “abuse,” when that word is thrown around for everything. Can we please call it what Jesus did? It is adultery, it is sin. I don’t get this abuse thing. It’s flung around and anything can be abuse these days.

    One of my main concerns is his reasoning for preaching. Because it wouldn’t be nice to leave his team hanging and people come to hear him????? Seriously? That may sound humble, but humility calls us to fall on our faces before God, handling His word.

    The flippancy of his attitude and the embrace given this man because he is unorthodox is disturbing.

    1. What this man did is defined as abuse in the same way a ‘consensual’ relationship between a teacher and student is called abuse. He took advantage of his position of power, and knew better. He MUST be held to a higher standard. Plain and simple.

      1. There might be an implication of power imbalance, but isn’t there always? Perhaps all sin is abuse, all abuse sin. But don’t let’s varnish the rust. He committed adultery.

    2. LAURA MULLENIX: Thank you for your voice of experience. I also replied to this article but not with the measure of your eloquency. Your closing line is so well said. Thank you again.

      1. Thank you so much, Hendrik. Also, to the above, I never intended to imply that he shouldn’t be held accountable, I just think we should call sin FIRST by its original intent. All sin is abuse of some form.

    3. He was 46, she was 23. He was the spiritual authority, she was in crisis. These are the red flags that are the beginning of all of this. If you do not frame how this sexual relationship started, then it is too easy to equate to some normal ‘consensual’ case of a husband cheating on his wife.

      When a pastor warps and damages the faith of someone under his care, that is spiritual abuse. Whether that leads to the sin of the other person or not, it is still the shepherd abusing the sheep.

      1. Exactly. If it were consensual sin between two church members, neither of the parties would be termed “abusers.” But because he was someone in a position of authority counseling a 23 year old kid (I’m 67 so yes, a 23 y/o is a “kid”–as it also is to a 46 year old man!), then yes, spiritual abuse has occurred in addition to the sin of adultery.

    4. “Also, that he promotes egalitarianism as something to be applauded, without once mentioning their position in Jesus.”
      ———-

      Human beings don’t all have equal value?

      Only those with the christian label have equal value?

      Those with the christian label have equal value theologized away into separate but equal?

      No one has any value unless they wear the christian label?

      …You make your statement as something that should be obvious. It is not. Please clarify what you mean.

  2. We all fail the doctrine we believe in. Other than this report I’m not familiar with this church or Pastor Cavey’s story, if it was an ongoing affair or a one-time thing, but why do we consider that the spiritual principles he preached as failed because he did? I understand his position and visibility made his a harder fall, but following Jesus is not for perfect people, but for those who are being made perfect in Christ thru many trials, and sufferings and failures. I look to spiritual leaders as those who show the reality of Christ and whose lives point to Christ, but it’s seeing Christ that matters. And when leaders stumble and fail, I pray that I show them the same grace that God gives us when we do.

  3. I am having a difficult time of having any kind thoughts about this man or giving him the benefit of the doubt. His teaching is simply a polished version of social identity theory, a theory straight out of the Abyss. Some of his “doctrine” is to attack traditional denominations; “…denominations that have long outlived their usefulness. … Shut it down.” Never mind that the Church, dispite all it’s errors in history, has spread the Gospel to the world. It has been the vehicle of REAL social justice and the founder of countless iinstitutions of healing and mercy.
    One of the mantras today is “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” That is often accurate but I’m sorry, Cavey’s appearence is as artificial as his teachings. “Come as you are ” is not an invation to attend Church in your shorts and flip flops. It tells us not to look down on someone who has very little in this world. Dressing well is a sign of respect. No one would be allowed to present themselves to the Queen in such a costume.
    Jesus said there would be false teachers and he is an example. No one is beyond redemption until death but Cavey had better do a lot of soul searching on his knees before God as we all need to do.

    1. Well there are several recent actions by pastor John MacArthur, which I condemn, but this golden oldie comment of his, I still endorse. Adulterous pastors should be fired and never rehired! So, this comment from 31 years ago is still applicable to conservative churches.

      https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A256/should-fallen-pastors-be-restored

      What a shame this pastor in the article behaved this way. Because as far as I’m concerned he should have been fired, and not hired as a preacher anywhere.

      Yes, I prefer a pastor in a suit also, unfortunately, I’ve seen through the years that clothing can be similar to a white-washed tomb.

      “1. It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” (1Ti 3:1-2, NASB)

    1. Please stop calling Cavey “pastor.” He has disqualified himself from a leadership position (1 Tim 3:5). That said, only GOD knows his position in the Body of CHRIST. Even Paul sinned after he was saved (Romans 7:15), like all of us. So let us pray for Cavey, the people he hurt and for CHRIST’S Church.

  4. It’s supposed to be against the rules for men to counsel women alone. The whole torrid episode hinges on that one mistake. Period. Better yet let women counsel women and men counsel men. The arrangement was sloppy and ripe for temptation. When we treat leaders with the kind of trust that assumes infallablity, we set them up for failure.

    1. Absolutely, Mark. Especially youth pastors.

      And we as individuals are fooling ourselves if we put ourselves into a situation where we are sharing intimate things with someone of the opposite sex, even under a ‘counseling’ header. It’s so easy to go astray, folks. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. It’s human nature. It can happen to the very best of us.

      Back to youth pastors. We set a very dangerous precedent when we’ve got kids just a few years out of high school and putting them into position as overseers of kids who aren’t that much younger than they are. We’re begging for trouble with that scenario. What. Are. We. Thinking??

      1. Man, you are dead right. We are struggling with the role of ‘youth pastor’ in our church. No big scandals are in our history, just missed opportunities, under performance, and directionlessness. I’m thinking the better model might be a youth minister (I don’t like the word ‘pastor’ it is too narrow; ‘minister’ embraces the concept of service and is broader) who has a youth ministry steering group to report to and work with. It would mentor him or her with the chairman of that steering group doing a weekly review of their ministry. It needs to be tightly overseen, with a detailed program and planned development of older youth into service roles all integrated with the active involvement of the steering group.

    2. It’s entirely unbelievable and disgusting that the church has to have these rules for men under the assumption that they must be unable to control themselves at all…but women can be put in any situation with no concern whatsoever. Does anyone see a problem with the way we see men? If you can’t, just think of school dress codes…they are all geared toward girls covering shoulders, clavicles, knees to prevent boys from coming unglued. With these assumptions about boys and men, we sure don’t expect much from them, as a society, do we? Maybe we need to start there. Stop our backwards expectations of men and boys.

  5. pretty soft on a wolf abusing the sheep
    typical of these last days as 2 Peter 2:14 states: “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls”

  6. The big point being missed is this one. Buxey Cavey is an entertainer. He entertains with his mode of dress, his speeches and his performance. Busey Cavey is not a biblical shepherd who has love for the sheep. Having lived in adultery for a several years while preaching from the Bible makes Buxey Cavey a false teacher. He is a false teacher because his life contradicts the teachings of the Scriptures. Even if what he taught was not in itself false, his life being false (living in adultery, making a lie of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ) makes Buxey Cavey a false teacher. Mr. Cavey should not be allowed back on any church platform and needs to find another way to make a living. That he was able to attract a large crowd is not an evidence of God’s blessings. The crowds are evidence of Buxey Cavey’s acting ability and that acting ability attracted a group of people looking for an easy going Jesus rather than a biblical Jesus.

  7. There is nothing from Casey’s response about his motivation to preach to indicate a “divine calling.” His lackluster response, with no reference to love for God, passion for preaching, or reaching people with the Gospel, should have been a red flag to you.

    1. The landscape is strewn with the remains of pastors and churches that ticked all the right boxes for us. To someone who was burned by a church where the pastor wore a suit and tie, and was extremely formal, I can see why Cavey would have seemed to be the antidote. But there’s no magic bullet, only Jesus.

  8. “disinterested during the board meetings”. Somehow disinterest is the right thing for board meetings. It would mean that he was not pre-judging any matters that came to the meeting. Exactly what we want. Now, if he was UNinterested. That would be a problem.

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