by Allison Hilbig
This is an account of a conversation that took place in 1997. I typed it up within a day of the encounter.
Background: I was teaching Christian Childbirth Education and the wife of the pastor of the church where I was teaching handed me a GFI brochure and asked if I had heard of this group and what my opinion was.
The brochure looked okay - nicely presented. While my first thought was that anything about "Growing Kids God's Way" would surely be a good program, I somehow felt like Superman had just been handed a piece of kryptonite! I had such a gut-wrenching, sickening and weakening spiritual reaction to this brochure that it alarmed me. I have a strong gift of spriritual discernment but I had never had such a strong spiritual reponse.
The response was enough to make me decide to investigate this organisation further and find out why the Spirit of God had moved me that way. I was on an email list of Christian childbirth professionals so I asked if anyone had heard of this group. I was directed to numerous websites where I discovered the amount of controversy surrounding this "ministry." I was alarmed at just how much criticism was coming from well-respected Christian groups and individuals.
I contacted the Australian headquarters of GFI and asked about this controversy. They invited me to attend a leaders' information session which would "help me understand." The particular day of the information session I had other commitments but I made sure I was able to attend the question/answer session.
I sat and listened to Gary Ezzo speak until he asked for questions. I raised my hand immediately but it was some time before he finally responded to me. I stood up and we had the conversation related in detail below.
Gary seemed surprised and unprepared for my questions. Obviously he has heard these accusations back home but since GFI was new in Australia he seemed unprepared for any
criticism on this day.
I was actually surprised how long Gary continued the debate - I expected to be asked to be quiet, sit down or leave much earlier in the conversation. Yet he kept the debate going. I was prepared for the debate to turn into a personal attack on me - which it did - so I was able to keep the conversation going for some time. I left feeling confident that I had accomplished my goal of planting a small seed of doubt in the minds of those present.
Afterwards, I walked out to my car and was followed by a woman who was visibly disturbed by what had just taken place. She came and sat in my car and I shared with her for the next 45 minutes! I gave her a copy of all the information I had found so far.
Interestingly, I never gave my name when I spoke that day, but I later discovered that my name had somehow been circulated to other churches starting up GFI programs. I learned that Gary had written about our encounter in a letter, describing how I had left in tears after making a fool of myself! A similar version of our encounter was related to a woman from my church by someone at a third church--not my church and not the host church of the Ezzo workshop!--along with the additional detail that this was on a tape of the session! I was very interested and asked for a copy of this tape, but it was not forthcoming.
In truth, I had left calmly and confidently - unshaken and undisturbed by what had taken place, and with sense of accomplishment that I had alerted this group of pastors and leaders to be careful of the teachings of this organisation. Never once did I cry. I felt very much at peace. In fact I was trying not to smile when I left because I did feel I had accomplished my goal: to add just one small seed of doubt in the minds of the people there!
The next day I typed out my recollection of the conversation that took place:
Allison: Obviously the huge popularity of GFI in America indicates the enormous need for parenting education over there, and I'm sure that the need would be just as great in Australia. No one would question the need for parenting programs. My question is: why should we use your program when I have 97 pages of articles from Christian organisations and health professionals expressing their concerns about the material in your program.
Gary: Honey, honey, you have no idea what you are talking about.
Allison: Why is it that some Christian groups will not endorse it and even your former church where you were a pastor will no longer endorse your material and will no longer use it within the church?
Gary: Honey, that material has been in the church for the past 12 years - so don't tell me it won't still be used.
Allison: Why did your church release a public statement to say it would not endorse your material and if I can quote from it: "Gary Ezzo is prone to ....."
Gary: That was all politics. You know why they said that - because they're jealous. Because I'm over here ministering and they don't want me to be.
Crowd: Mmmm, yeah.
Allison: Why do you go against well acccepted medical research?
Gary: You're an attachment parent La Leach Leaguer aren't you? You are, aren't you? Aren't you? See that's what they do - they send in one of their people to ...
Allison: Excuse me, but we don't even have La Leche League over here.
Gary: Well then what do you have?
Allison: We have the Nursing Mothers Association and NO I am not a member of that. Why are you unable to back up any of the claims you make in your manuals? Where is the evidence to support your claims?
Gary: It's all there sweetheart. It's all there if you want to look at it.
Allison: Oh really - well I'd love to - can I see it please. I know there are many other people who would love to see it.
Gary: And where are you children right now?
Allison: I don't think that's any of your business.
Gary: See, everyone, she doesn't even have children of her own.
Crowd: Typical, ha.
Allison: Excuse me, but I do - I have 2 children.
[This was true in 1997; today Allison has 4 children--ed.]
Gary: And how old are they?
Allison: Is that any of your business?
Gary: How old are your children?
Allison: Does it make a difference?
Gary: How old are you children?
Allison: They are 5 and 2.
Crowd: Yeah well. Ha. Gee - what would she know.
Gary: And does anyone look at your children and comment on how well behaved they are? Do people ask you how you've parented them? No, they don't, do they?
Allison: Well actually they do. Many people have commented.
Gary: Oh... well ... that's good. But do you have an international ministry? Do you - no!
Allison: No I don't - but perhaps I will in 20 years time. I don't know! Why are other Christian organisations concerned about your methods?
Gary: Yeah who - name one.
Allison: Well - why did Christianity Today publish an article expressing their concerns.
Gary: Christianity Today? That was a joke. Just a joke.
Allison: Why has this material caused division in churches?
Gary: Yeah - you name one. Go on - you name one church.
Allison: It's all in here.
Gary: Name it, go on - we're waiting. See, you can't, can you.
Allison: Look, I don't recall the church. I don't know the name of any of your churches. But's it's in here and if anyone wants to read this I'd be quite happy to get you a copy.
Gary: You're an attachment parent, aren't you? You've demand fed your babies, haven't you? You're ashamed of it, aren't you? You are, aren't you? Go on - admit it - you're ashamed you've demand fed...
Allison: Excuse you - you've just asked me a lot of questions - can I have an opportunity to respond please?
Allison: I parent my children in the way that God parents us.
Gary: Oh yeah - and what would that be?
Allison: In love and discipline. To nurture and train them - to disciple them.
Crowd: Well, what do you think he does? That's what he does too.
Gary: Right - that's what we do too.
Allison: Then why are so many people concerned about your methods?
Gary: And how do you know this? Have you talked to these people?
Allison: Yes I have.
Gary: Oh ... you've talked to them?
Allison: So why are ...
Gary: Yeah well name one - go on you name one person.
Allison: Look, I can't think of anyone in particular off the top of my head. Again - it's all in here.
Gary: See you don't know do you.
Allison: Okay - xxxxxxxxx is one.
Gary: Anne Marie - how many times have we corresponded with xxxxxxxxx?
Anne Marie: About 6 times.
Gary: And Anne Marie, how often have we invited xxxxxxxxx to speak with us - and she refuses?
Anne Marie: Each time.
Gary: See ...
Allison: Yeah - you write to people but you beat around the bush - you won't directly answer their questions will you?
Crowd: Sit down.
Allison: Look, I am happy to leave if you wish.
Gary: Have you been here the whole time?
Gary: So you just came along to this session.
Allison: That's right.
Gary: So you came just to cause trouble.
Allison: No, I came to inform everyone here that there are concerns about this material and it has caused problems in America.
Crowd: Listen, we came here to hear the Ezzos - not something you found on the internet.
Allison: Look I'm leaving. You've been warned - just be really careful - and check this out first. I'm going.
I am so glad that I made the effort to "meet" with Gary Ezzo - reading the material is one thing but coming face to face with him is another thing altogether. You need to "speak" with him to
really appreciate where this man is coming from and why there are so many integrity issues.
Allison Hilbig lives in Australia with her husband of 17 years and their 4 children. She is a Women's Health Physiotherapist with a Graduate Diploma in Childbirth Education. She has worked in youth ministry for 16 years, eventually serving together with her husband as the State Youth Directors of their church movement. She developed Childbirth and Family Ministries to provide childbirth and parenting education from a Christian perspective.