Response to Growing Families International

Response to Growing Families International

by Joel and Kathryn Kuhlmann
December 31, 1998

A Public Response by Gary Ezzo Mentions Us

We are mentioned on pages 8 and 9 of Gary Ezzo's public response to the Christian Research Journal article about GFI under the heading "Example Four: 'Questions Unanswered or the Questioner Attacked'." In question is a letter we wrote to Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo in August of 1996 at the encouragement of Assistant Pastor Richard Encinias of Calvary of Albuquerque, the church we attend.

Since these accusations against us have been made publicly, we would like to set the record straight publicly.

(A chronology of our interactions with GFI as well as links to original copies of the letters in question can be found by clicking here)

Ezzo Allegation:
"First, much of what the Kuhlmanns wrote did not come directly from PFP, but rather it came indirectly from a compilation of misquotes and false statements circulating among La Leche League/attachment parenting internet bulletin boards. As such, Mr. and Mrs. Kuhlmann simply passed on someone else's misquotes that circulate frequently among these groups."

Our Response:
It would, of course, have been appropriate for the Ezzos to include examples to back up this statement.

In actuality, none of our statements were taken from La Leche League/attachment parenting internet bulletin boards and there are no misquotes in our letter. Any quotes used are from one of three sources: the Bible, Preparation for Parenting, or Dr. William Sears, and the source of each quote is clearly documented.

Our letter to the Ezzos contained 17 footnoted references. Every single one of these is from the 5th edition of Preparation for Parenting (the latest edition available at the time of our letter). An appendix included excerpts from the writings of Dr. William Sears, a prominent Christian pediatrician; these quotes were clearly identified as being from Dr. Sears. The appendix was included only to refute the Ezzos' gross misrepresentation of attachment parenting.

We do not know why the Ezzos decided to use the term "much" to describe the quantity of our quotations that did not come directly from PFP when, in fact, all of those in our letter to them came directly from PFP. But then, to borrow a phrase, it must depend on what your definition of "much" is.

Ezzo Allegation:
"Second, even though the Kuhlmanns had no children at the time (although they were considering adoption), Pastor Richard Encinias, one of our GFI state directors, gave the Kuhlmanns several hours of his time answering their questions."

"Given that so much time was already spent answering questions, we found it unusual for a couple to be so insistent that Gary Ezzo respond personally to their letter."

Our Response:
We are curious why the Ezzos have chosen to make the point that we had no children at the time of our discussions with Richard Encinias. The curriculum we were questioning was entitled "Preparation for Parenting," and at the time of our first interactions with Richard we were in the process of adopting a child. Gary Ezzo was well aware of this, since he made handwritten notes on a letter we wrote to Richard in which we made this very point. (Note: as of this writing we have a 17 month old daughter, adopted at birth.)

Merriam Webster defines preparation as "to plan in advance." It seems to us that a couple planning on having children should be the perfect candidates for such a program. In fact, the Ezzos themselves have this to say about the Preparation for Parenting curriculum: "If you are expecting a baby or you have an infant, then this series will help you and your family get off on the right foot." This statement is the description of PFP on GFI's web site. We certainly hope that the Ezzos do not consider the process of adoption any different from "expecting a baby" when it comes to preparing to be parents.

The second statement above implies that for someone in Richard Encinias' high position as a GFI state director to spend several hours of time with us was extraordinary and should put to rest any questions we may have had. In reality, it was Richard's job to talk to us. He was the Assistant Pastor in charge of Family Ministries at Calvary of Albuquerque, and in that role was the appropriate one for us to contact with concerns over the parenting curriculum being used at our church. Unfortunately, he was unable to provide satisfactory answers to many of our questions, troubling from someone in a leadership position of the organization in question (GFI).

Significant in its omission is the fact that Richard was the one who encouraged us to share our concerns directly with the Ezzos in the first place, as stated in our letter to them. He suggested that we take the approach outlined in Matthew 18:15, and go directly to our brother with our concerns. In fact, Richard said that he would hand deliver our letter to Gary Ezzo in person, which he did.

It was not necessarily a personal response that we were looking for from the Ezzos as much as a respectful response and one which actually answered our questions. Unfortunately, as stated in the Christian Research Journal article (April-June 1998 issue), Gary Ezzo's position to us was clear: "There was no mistake - this is the response. Your letter although I'm sure sincere was so badly flawed in its assertions that any other type of response was rendered useless." (The entire note from which this quote was taken can be seen by clicking here)

Ezzo Allegation:
"Our interests in this couple were further sparked by the inadvertent receipt of an e-mail to Mrs. Kuhlmann ..."

"In response to this e-mail, Kathy Kuhlmann out of fear that this group would be discovered, wrote the following:"

"Scripture teaches that there are times to answer questions and there are times when answering is not the right thing to do."

"In rare occasions, such as this one, impure motives surface. In those situations, an honest answer does not cause the tension to go away."

Our Response:
It appears that the Ezzos considered this email and subsequent note to be evidence of "impure motives" on our part. They state that Kathy wrote a note "out of fear that this group would be discovered." It is interesting that the Ezzos can discern a person's motives from thousands of miles away. In actuality, the note was written to merely pass on a request we had received that certain information be kept private. The Ezzos apparently decided that their "inadvertent" (read surreptitious) receipt of this email nullified the request for privacy and gave them the right to publish this publicly on the internet. They certainly did not contact us for permission to reprint this private correspondence.

As the Ezzos point out, we received the email in question on October 4, 1996. What they fail to mention is that this was 13 days after we received Gary Ezzo's response to our letter (September 21).

However Ezzo was able to acquire email never intended for him, he acquired it after he had already responded to our letter, and thus it could not possibly have influenced his response. Only via the art of time twisting can Ezzo claim that our "impure motives" made clear to him in this email correspondence caused him to realize that "there are times when answering is not the right thing to do." It's unfortunate for Gary Ezzo that a simple check of well-documented dates clearly proves that he answered our inquiry significantly prior to learning of, what he terms, our "impure motives".

Ezzo is absolutely mistaken in his presumption of our motives and in his statements hinting at some sort of conspiracy. We were simply raising concerns we had personally about the GFI parenting curriculum.

It should also be noted that we meant to share this email only with Calvary Chapel. It had nothing to do with Gary Ezzo, as we had already pursued that route and had received Ezzo's response to our concerns. At that point, our only interest was in getting our church to understand the problems with GFI.

It is not surprising that we, as the authors of the letter in question, would feel that these accusations by the Ezzos are a misrepresentation of the facts. That is why we wanted to make the letter (and information about the events surrounding its writing) available for anyone who would like to see it and decide for themselves whether this is an appropriate example for the Christian Research Institute to use of "Questions Unanswered or the Questioner Attacked."

(The entire chronology of events surrounding our correspondence as well as copies of the original documents can be seen by clicking here.)

Additional Notes:
Calvary of Albuquerque has discontinued use of all GFI material.
Richard Encinias is no longer on staff.

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