Wagner Hills Farm Society: Christian Ministry Posed as Recovery

1
2024

Wagner Hills Farm Society/Wagner Hills Ministries is a faith-based rehabilitation ministry for men and women with addiction in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.[1] An alternative title is Wagner Hills Ministries. The latter title more accurately represents the activities of the organization(s) on its(their) face.

They have a number of listings and mentions in Rehab.ca, Charitable Impact, Canada Helps, Mission Central, BC211, Back to Bible Canada, CharityDir, health.gov.bc.ca, Pathways Merritt, Extreme Outreach Society, Giving Tuesday, Centra Cares, The Canadian Lutheran, Birthplace of B.C. Gallery, Global NPO, Christian Life Community Church, Sonrise Church, etc.

In the news, similarly, its name arises in some local news, peripherally, including “Co-founder of Wagner Hills rehab centre in Langley falls victim to phone hacker,” “Wagner Hills plans to increase capacity at addictions facility,” “Neighbours worry about North Langley marijuana greenhouse,” “Realtors Care Blanket Drive raises thousands for Langley charities,” “Plans for Langley cannabis-grow operation raise concerns,” and so on.

Other faith-based recovery centers in British Columbia include Burns Clinical Life Options Inc., Crossing Point – Affordable Addiction Recovery, Valiant Recovery Addiction Treatment Rehab Program, The Center | A Place of HOPE, BC Teen Challenge – Okanagan Men’s Centre, LIFE Recovery, Teen Challenge BC – Abbotsford Women’s Centre, Teen Challenge BC – Chilliwack Men’s Centre, and Union Gospel Mission Recovery Program, probably some others.

Wagner Hills Farm Society amounts to a Christian religious ministerial organization. They want converts, “disciples,” more than anything else, as they see this as the image of the men and the women becoming better, healthier – Christian.

A Christian group ministering to individuals, men and women in separate divisions, in lives destroyed, at subjective bedrock bottom, and looking for answers, guidance, support, comfort, empathy, community, and, in short, meaning.

A sense of meaning and common, eventual, Christian solidarity for individuals who society, their close-knits, or they themselves, have given up on, by that time. From their perspective, God enters into their lives and provides a healing power in His infinite grace, love, and providence, to individuals needing guidance and meaning to mend a broken life.

“Addiction is seen as a symptom of a broken life, as a condition that can be healed through individual inner growth and through transformation to a life that is lived in line with Christian principles and beliefs,” Wagner Hills Farm Society states, “Healing, growth and transformation require time, individual commitment, and a tranquil environment. The two working farms provide a place of beauty, peace and safety for men and women to recover, to heal and to find hope and purpose for their lives.”[2]

They have a particular goal and mission in mind as an organization. These provide a context of the overarching framework for operation of Wagner Hills Farm Society. They state:

WAGNER HILLS FARM SOCIETY
is committed to providing a place of healing, growth
and transformation for men and women with addiction.

THIS WILL BE ACHIEVED BY

Honoring and valuing those we serve and each other,
practicing Christ-like behaviors and demonstrating perseverance and consistency.

IT WILL BE DONE THROUGH

A culture of respect, loving compassion, honesty, integrity,
forgiveness, and ethical decision making.

WE COMMIT TO

Unity of purpose and acceptance of diversity.

ABOVE ALL

We worship, pray and trust God in all things. [3]

Broken down, the idea is to provide “healing, growth and transformation” by “honoring and valuing… each other, practicing Christ-like behaviors,” done with virtuous behaviour through a single purpose while worshiping, praying, and trusting in God.

As a Christian organization, this means Christian worship, Christian prayers, and trusting in the God of Abraham as exemplified in the personhood of Christ. In short, people at rock bottom reaching out to anything resembling a lifeline. Then another Christian organization built to garner converts, or to help people only with a price tag of likely conversion to Christianity.

Often, none of this comes without a price. Individuals must conform to Christian theological practice and beliefs, while living in an overwhelmingly Christian culture steeped in Christian iconography, language, and communities since its founding or confederation on July 1, 1867. They’re nested as Matrioshka dolls in layers of Christian enculturation.

For leadership, the Wagner Hills Farm Society Board of Directors is Kris Sledding (Chairman)[4], Dan Ashton[5], Pastor Curtis Boehm[6], Allen Schellenberg[7], Kim Ironmonger (Treasurer)[8], and Lanson Foster[9]. Some of these individuals are directly connected to the Canadian Lutheran Church.

The staff at Wagner Hills Farm Society includes Jason Roberts (CEO & Men’s Campus Director), Tony De Jong (Operations Manager), Gregg Davenport (Program Manager), Stefan Kurschat (Head Counsellor), Dawn Bralovich (Director of Design), Jenifer Wiens (Program Assistant), and Kait Chambers (Care Coordinator).

The history[10] of Wagner Hills Farm Society started in 1981. Now, it’s a 45-acre farm in Northeast Langley. Since 1983, it has enjoyed formal full charitable status as a society. The women’s campus was constructed later, in 2008, in the Campbell Valley farm district.

History of Wagner Hills” states, “The farms are equipped with professional greenhouses growing perennials, grasses, groundcover and shrubs; productive gardens; bee hives; blueberry fields; and home-grown livestock and they provide an environment of peace and tranquility for residents, staff & visitors. Since inception, the Society has seen over 5000 men and women access this ministry.”

The Wagner Hills Farm Society receives a “Cheering Section” or support from the Village Church, Anchor Marketing, SJC Ltd., Lanstone Homes, and the Customline Group.[11] Why do Christian organizations require so much boutique marketing? What makes the message so ordinarily unpalatable?

Their Wagner Hills Ministries site partners with FaithLife Financial and the Canadian Bible Society. The particularly interesting one is Village Church headed by the newer and popular Pastor Mark Clark, who is the Senior Pastor/Elder of the Village Church.[12]

The Village Church has locations in Calgary, Coquitlam, Langley North, Langley South, Surrey, Abbotsford, Winnipeg, Toronto. Interestingly, the Village Church notes, as with many other churches, the need to move online or virtual for the gatherings based on COVID-19 health concerns with larger gatherings.

One can collect the idea of the impotence of their Christian God to protect Pastor Mark Clark’s flock in this regard. Only rational discourse and actions necessitate moving online, while modern science provides the means by which to have technology making online services possible.

Which raises a side question, why have the church buildings in the first place if one can simply move services online once a viral pandemic happens across Canada? Ironically, Pastor Mark Clark’s January 31, 2021, sermon was on “Do You Believe in Miracles?”

Not for God’s faithful and in-person church services, unfortunately, during COVID-19. Village Church is another Christian cult of personality centered on Pastor Mark Clark. It is similar to Wagner Hills Farm Society making the similar changes to their programs in the light of the pandemic.

Ultimately, there is a limitation in the power of God, even to them. All their statements point to a delusional optimism in a suspiciously missing God when they most need Him. Rational, scientific medical responses completely outweigh transcendentalist ideas here.

They, in “COVID-19 Response,” stated, “We do not act in a spirit of fear but we will use wisdom and precautionary measures to protect the health and wellness of all residents and staff.  We trust and believe God will do amazing more that we could expect in and through this time as we rely on Him to be our provider and protector.”

By “wisdom and precautionary measures,” this means facts and public health official recommendations, end of discussion. In Langley or the Township of Langley, I will give due credit, though, to some of the church leaders who showed solidarity with modern medical recommendations from the leading health authority in the province, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Adrian Dix.

The same Township of Langley with Mayor Jack Froese. Councillor Petrina Arnason who is a former lawyer for the Law Society of Ontario. Councillor David Davis who is a Langley dairy farmer of the fourth generation.

Councillor Steve Ferguson who is a former special education teacher and school counsellor. Councillor Margaret Kunst who is a long-time business owner in the agricultural sector. Councillor Bob Long who is the former Manager of the University Press at Trinity Western University.

Councillor Kim Richter who is an Instructor of Business Management at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Councillor Blair Whitmarsh who is a Professor at Trinity Western University (1996-) and Dean of the School of Human Kinetics and Athletics at Trinity Western University (2003-).

The controversial[13] Councillor Eric Woodward who is Co-Founder and former owner of Mail.com and DomainWorks, former President of the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association, and Founder of the Eric Woodward Foundation.[14]

On the letter, as reported in “Langley church leaders sign letter to ‘fully support’ Dr. Bonnie Henry” by Dan Ferguson, Rev. Andrew Halladay (Vicar) of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Rev. Kristen Steele (Pastor) of the Shepherd Valley Lutheran Church in Langley, Rev. Aneeta Saroop (Pastor) of the Spirit of Life Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Rev. Kelly Duncan (Rector) of the Parish of St. George in Fort Langley[15], Rev. David Taylor (Rector) of St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church in Aldergrove, and others, in a coalition totalling 38 signed the letter.

Fundamentally, it was a political act to remove themselves or distance themselves from the atrociously idiotic actions of their conservative Christian compatriots.

As some may recall in “Municipal Case Study: British Columbia and Permissive Tax Exemptions,” 19 churches in the Fraser Valley, at least, defied the public health orders. Lead Pastor Brent Smith of Riverside Calvary Chapel defied it.[16]

Same with James Butler of Free Grace Baptist Church and John Koopman of Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, where both cited God’s commands and Christian theology as the reason to ignore the public health order.

Thus, we have a split in the Christian communities between rejection of public health orders for the common good and acceptance of them. It’s not reported as such, but it’s shown glaringly here.

There’s a civil war between theological brands in Canada exemplified and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some respect the same rules for everyone and modern scientific rationalism, as given by medical recommendations.

Others deny this, thus defy the public health orders, so view themselves above the common secular law, and rules and norms of everyone else. Because they view themselves as commanded by transcendentalist ethics or God’s law, so, in a sense, superior and excluded from “common secular law, and rules and norms of everyone else.”

It’s a tense civil war amongst Christians too, where both sides lose now and in the future; there’s no way out of the failures. On the one hand, if God is all-powerful, then He can protect His faithful, so the conservative fundamentalists (the latter cited group) are correct.

On the other hand, if God isn’t omnipotent, then He can’t guard His sheep, so the liberal non-literalists (the former cited group) are correct in their actions. Yet, we see conservatives around the world who go to churches, and encourage others to go to churches in-person, who get sick and die, including dozens and dozens of pastors.

Therefore, the conservatives prove by outcomes of deaths (laity and pastors) the impotence of the Christian God to protect them, while, the liberals, prove by actions of staying indoors and respecting modern rational scientific medical recommendations the perception of the impotence of the Christian God to protect them.

Ergo, their God isn’t omnipotent, either by outcomes in response to the conservatives or in theological actions lived out by the liberals. The idempotence of God’s felt, via deaths, or God’s perceived, through actions, impotence seems natural in the light of modern science.

God comes out impotent, regardless, of the church or the Christian theology, or the individual Christian leader or believer. In this sense, the (conservative or liberal theology) Christian God is evil – letting the deaths happen, powerless – cannot stop the deaths occurring, or non-existent – because this explains either case (conservative or liberal theology in outcomes and views, respectively), with the most parsimonious in the lattermost option.

Anyhow, the Wagner Hills Farm Society support by the Village Church makes this action in the Township of Langley interesting, nonetheless. I cite the above narratives because these are all of a piece together. They come and flow within a similar integrated network of ideologies and communities here.

They have some obscure items like a Golf Tournament. They have an alumni page featuring a man named Daniel. The meat of the program is men and women addicts in recovery (discipleship).

The Wagner Hills Farm Society Men’s Campus is in Fort Langley, British Columbia, Canada, and the Women’s Campus is in South Langley, British Columbia, Canada. The Men’s Campus is located at 8061 264th Street in Langley, BC (V1M 3M3). They describe the program as follows:

Our one-year program is aimed to help men heal mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually through a relationship with God and others. Throughout a typical week our residents participate in work, classroom teaching, group Bible study, sharing meetings, recreation, and worship. Most of these activities are required, but some are optional. We also offer prayer counseling in which residents meet one-on-one with a member of our staff. We schedule 10 meetings with each resident over the course of their year with us, and additional meetings can be scheduled on a by-request basis. In addition to these onsite activities, we also take residents to church meetings in the community every Sunday morning and evening.

Visitation and communication are based on a permission slip system with phone calls, internet, and visits. The farm is in Glen Valley. Most of the activities take place at the New Life Centre, while there are five client residences capable of housing 6 to 8 people in each.

The Women’s Campus is located at 460 216th Street in Langley, BC (V2Z 1R6). The Wagner Hills Farm Society describes the program in the following manner:

Our one-year program is aimed to help men and women heal mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually through a relationship with God and others. Throughout a typical week our residents participate in work (with animals, in greenhouses, garden, kitchen or market), classroom teaching, group Bible study, sharing meetings, group therapy, counselling sessions, recreation, and worship. Most of these activities are required, but some are optional. We also offer prayer counselling in which residents meet one-on-one with a member of our staff. We schedule meetings with each resident over the course of their year to discuss future plans regarding education, finding a mentor,  serving within the community and aftercare. In addition to these onsite activities, we also take residents to church meetings in the community every Sunday morning and evening.

Most of the restrictions and demands of lifestyle appear much the same. However, the multi-purpose building is called the Stevenson House of Hope. They have a “EVENTS Volunteer Team” page, “Admission Application” page,  “Donate Online” page (inclusive of another on Centra Windows and Centra), “Contact Us” page, and, interestingly, a page devoted to boutique hand-crafted items called “The Market at Wagner Hills.”

Their “FAQ’s” page answers some of the more detailed queries in a short form[17]. Their two-step program in the first part incorporates “worship services… bibles studies [sic]… and church services.” The program costs $100 (CAD) per day per resident. They do not permit “cigarettes, e-vapes, pipes, cigars, or any smoking…”

On medications, they state, “We do allow prescribed medications while you are in the program as long as they’re not addictive. Because Wagner Hills isn’t a medical facility, it is our policy to disallow anything that could cause harm to oneself or to others if it were to be abused. As such we don’t allow addictive medications even if prescribed by a doctor. These include, but are not limited to, narcotics, benzodiazepines, methadone, and suboxone.”

Even doctor visits, they must be done by submission of permission slips for the scheduling of an appointment time. Even with bail, probation, parole, or other legal issues, they help meet them where they’re situated. Those things banned include drugs, alcohol, cigarettes/pipes/cigars/e-cigs/vaporizers, weapons, drug paraphernalia, porn, and animals.

The interesting fine print is in the “Intake Guideline,” which states:

In order to maintain the highest degree of safety and respect for our residents, we have well-defined rules and guidelines. Potential clients must understand that violating any of the following guidelines may result in immediate discharge and prevention from future enrollment in the program. We reserve the right to refuse admission to the program if potential clients can not or refuse to adhere to the set rules and guidelines.

  • The use/and or possession of cigarettes, pornography and drugs, including alcohol, is strictly prohibited.
  • Threats or acts of violence against fellow residents and/or Wagner Hills employees are strictly prohibited.
  • Residents must medically be able to participate in the program both physically and mentally. The program requires one to be emotionally able to participate in counselling sessions, group sharing, and worship, and be committed to making healthy life changes.

Obviously, the presentation is fit for a Christian message within a Christian secular culture. One in which Christians dominate the current demographics of the area and Christianity has been the host colonial culture since 1867.

As such, its demeanour takes the distinctions of Genesis of man and woman seriously with the separation into Men’s Campus and Women’s Campus. It takes the Bible seriously with the bible studies as part of its program.

It takes a ministerial approach, as per the titling of a ministry and targeted objective of the creation of disciples. Its emphasis on worship as part of the program. In short, the entire approach is a faith-based collection of methodologies to move “beyond recovery to discipleship,” according to the brochure.[18] Which is all to state simply, it’s not about recovery inasmuch as it’s about, ultimately, gaining converts to Christianity.

Ultimately, their coercive and dubious aims are stipulated and made explicit in the separate website for Wagner Hills Ministries. They state the belief in God and the Bible more thoroughly and directly than in the Wagner Hill Farm Society web domain. “What we Believe”[19] states:

We believe in the Word of God as found in the Bible. This is to be the foundation for how we think, speak, and act.

God is our Creator, our Savior, and our Judge. He loves us and desires a relationship with us and wants to give us new, eternal life through Jesus Christ.

We all have intrinsic value and are worthy of respect. We all are self-aware, knowing our emotions, thoughts and actions. We all have a conscience and have a sense of right and wrong. We all have the ability and freedom to make personal choices and are responsible for those choices. Therefore, we all live with the consequences of our choices.

God intends for us to be relational. Our choices affect our relationship with God and with other people. So we are responsible for how our choices affect others as they relate to them (i.e. friends, family, etc).

Real and lasting change occurs when God changes our hearts and better choices become our lifestyle. We co-operate with God in changing our lives by obedience to His principles.

“Our Program Vision”[20] states:

At Wagner Hills we facilitate the making of disciples of Jesus Christ. This encompasses one’s whole life from the inside out, changing one’s perspective and belief system as well as lifestyle. Our vision is to raise up servants who have caught our heart in the values we hold and the ways in which we live and teach these values. We believe that men need a purpose for life and that God has given that purpose in Jesus’ commission to make disciples:

  • to teach and train all who come to go beyond recovery to know and follow Jesus in
  • a disciplined, committed life style
  • to raise up servants whose hearts are to serve in all areas of ministry
  • to train for outreach in a way that will model serving and relationships with an openness to spiritual gifts and power evangelism

The whole aim and emphasis are to convert people at the weakest points in their lives. The particularly unethical and immoral fundaments are laid bare in language seen as positive because of the valence given to the verbiage in Christian ministries and churches, and programs, in this country, particularly this municipality.

The idea of finding and bringing people into the fold who are struggling to the utmost and then “making… disciples of Jesus Christ” through the ploy of proposed recovery with worship services, bible study, and the like, is abhorrent and fundamentally vice-ridden.

A pig in a suit with a bowtie scented with inordinate amounts of cologne and walking along a path strewn in rose petals is still a pig. If you take a step back and reflect on it, then you can comprehend the despicable nature of it. Yet, it garners the social cachet of community service, social work, and Christian iconography and language. This is on the assumption that it works.

If the programs were effective, and if the money and professional resources went to real supports, then they would work towards fundamental shifts in the efforts towards evidence-based approaches, scientific methodologies, known to work better than faith-based programs.

By rejecting modern scientific counselling and therapeutic methodologies considered best practice with a preferred emphasis on bible study, worship, farm work, and ministerial activities, and coerced efforts to conform oneself to a Christian true believer, these can be considered positively framed forms of religious abuse, as in abusing people via religion.

It’s not taking sober, functional adults and making a case for the theology. It’s coercing and forcing this on individuals with no or few other options, who are desperate. The entire fiasco is infused in its media outreach with this too.

If the proposal for support or recovery comes with the basis for the construction of a new Christian personality, so as to make a disciple to evangelize, then this is taking people at the rock bottom of life and then utilizing this trauma and pain to shove religious ideology into their minds. 

The idea is “to teach and train all who come to go beyond recovery to know and follow Jesus”; is it not?

The emphasis is “to raise up servants whose hearts are to serve in all areas of ministry”; is it not?

The goal is “to train for outreach in a way that will model serving and relationships with an openness to spiritual gifts and power evangelism”; is it not?

If the idea is believing “in the Word of God as found in the Bible. This is to be the foundation for how we think, speak, and act,” then their image of Christ, the Word of God, and the Bible, is somewhat of an emotional-abuser-Messiah who only helps with the preferential option for conversion into disciples or a rose shown with the thorns hidden behind the handing hand.

It not focused on people as subjects. We’re seeing an emphasis on people as objects to round-up into disciples, as a new flock, over the course of a 1-year ‘recovery’/discipleship program. What about the fundamentals of the program? The idea of the program working for the individuals in it.

Their main foci are the testimonies of individuals who have gone through the program. Most of them of people who fell through the cracks of society. If our society and families were more functional, fewer of these individuals would be exploited for the purposes of discipleship of these programs. Testimonies are some of the weakest forms of evidence in the favour of a program, though widely considered in the reverse, colloquially.

There are a number of videos[21] – about 30 at the time of writing – with individuals who may have mental illness issues in personal history, as the first man from “Wagner Hills 2019.” The first man was sitting in a hotel and was broken down, found a Bible, and saw a list of organizations with Wagner Hills as the first on there. A desperate find for a man in desperate circumstances.

The second man had been stabbed in the Downtown of Hastings in Vancouver, or the broader Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Well-known areas in the city with difficult life circumstances for many. The second man, with the backwards baseball cap, was calling out to God. Another desperate man looking for a way out in harrowing contexts.

The third man from the same video had been facing bankruptcy and was in bad straits with his son and daughter. He is trying to make well with his kids and finances and attributed this to God rather than his own overcoming of personal struggles.

“With God, I can finally have the appropriate relationship with my kids. I am walking around with the ultimate guidance. It is the most important thing that has ever happened to me. I feel like I am finally living a life of purpose…” the third man opined, “I feel like I’ve exchanged what I want to what I am meant for. What I am meant for is the joy God has for me. I found that here. Something about these hills. Something about the guys that come in and out. I feel like we’re farming the Spirit here.”

A further man who faced desperate personal environments, internal and external, and happened to find a lifeline and then attributed this to the divine. A fourth man claimed by the age of 12 to be a functioning alcoholic and addict, where the drugs and the other things used were worse.

“I thought my life was over by the age of 12. I was halfway on the road to East Hastings right before I got a text from Dustin saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about you. There have been a lot of people praying about you. I think you should come to Wagner Hills,’” the fourth man said. 

These four men profiled in the one video represent a series of men without meaning, in the gutter in their personal narrative, and looking for answers and hope in a moment of utter depression, anxiety, and likely suicidality. There is video after video like this one for Wagner Hills Farm Society, men and women.

All previous harsh commentary would match the commentary of the unethical and immoral foundations of the Wagner Hills Farm Society in spite of the soothing, unctuous guitar instrumentals playing in the background of so many of their videos.

Yet, we have to analyze these prospects rationally and scientifically. For example, do programs like reliance on worship, prayer, discipleship, ministry, and bible studies, help with the recovery from substance abuse?

We can look at the most widely analyzed one, Alcoholics Anonymous, which utilizes an originally Christian 12-Step Program with an emphasis on a Higher Power now. It is founded on the Big Book.

The Journal of the American Medical Association stated:

The book under review is a curious combination of organizing propaganda and religious exhortation. It is in no sense a scientific book, although it is introduced by a letter from a physician who claims to know some of the anonymous contributors who have been “cured” of addiction to alcohol and have joined together in an organization which would save other addicts by a kind of religious conversion. The book contains instructions as to how to intrigue the alcoholic addict into the acceptance of divine guidance in place of alcohol in terms strongly reminiscent of Dale Carnegie and the adherents of the Buchman (“Oxford”) movement. The one valid thing in the book is the recognition of the seriousness of addiction to alcohol. Other than this, the book has no scientific merit or interest.[22]

The only valid item is a recognition of addiction as a problem. Here’s the problem with faith-based recovery programs aside from the above concerns, they do not work and never have, by and large; thus, God is the failed hypothesis, once more.

As reported by National Public Radio in “With Sobering Science, Doctor Debunks 12-Step Recovery,” Dr. Lance Dodes, a psychiatrist, stated:

There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate, and the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 percent. Most people don’t seem to know that because it’s not widely publicized. … There are some studies that have claimed to show scientifically that AA is useful. These studies are riddled with scientific errors and they say no more than what we knew to begin with, which is that AA has probably the worst success rate in all of medicine.

It’s not only that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate; if it was successful and was neutral the rest of the time, we’d say OK. But it’s harmful to the 90 percent who don’t do well. And it’s harmful for several important reasons. One of them is that everyone believes that AA is the right treatment. AA is never wrong, according to AA. If you fail in AA, it’s you that’s failed…

…The reason that the 5 to 10 percent do well in AA actually doesn’t have to do with the 12 steps themselves; it has to do with the camaraderie. It’s a supportive organization with people who are on the whole kind to you, and it gives you a structure. Some people can make a lot of use of that. And to its credit, AA describes itself as a brotherhood rather than a treatment.[23]

So, the failure rate is 9 out of 10 to 19 out of 20. Probably, “The worst success rate in all of medicine.” That’s an astonishingly evidenced showing of the failure of concept of the 12-Step Programs and AA. The ‘God’ filling the gaps is in community, not in God.

People collectively are the God that they were looking for the whole time. Then when it fails, they blame this on the individual addict in recovery. When it succeeds, they can use these as the testimonies for the individuals within the program as a proof of concept to the general public (See above transcriptions or their videos online on YouTube).

You can see the videos, and the like, of Wagner Hills Farm Society. So, it’s not only unethical and immoral. The basis of many of these programs in a Higher Power or giving oneself to a Higher Power doesn’t work, factually known to fail.

Thusly, AA programs, as an analogical comparison, sets a standard of strong failure for decades while Wagner Hills Farm Society and AA set the same standard of immoral and unethical behaviour of taking advantage of the vulnerable for enforcing and coercing religion onto addicts who want to get well.

Even further, Hemant Mehta, of The Friendly Atheist, in “British Columbia Legislator Says Prayer Can Help “People With All Kinds of Disorders”” stated:

In British Columbia, however, many treatment centers only recommend AA to alcoholics. The government’s own health information website also endorses AA. That’s a problem if you’re someone who either wants secular alternatives or prefers programs that operate based on the best available scientific evidence.[24]

It seems as if religious individuals, ideologies, and institutions have set forth an integrated network of programs with extreme failure rates, unethical and immoral coercion of addicts for ministry purposes or religious evangelizing to make disciples, and then closed off the system referrals to keep addicts only within these faith-based programs.

Addicts are being abused by religious ideology here. It’s disgusting, despicable, not laudable, and damaging to the reputations of ordinary religious people, the lives of addicts, the emotional well-being of family members of addicts with seeing the revolving door, and wasting resources and time on programs without solid empirical evidence in support of them.

Ironically, Wagner Hills Ministries evades evidence-based answers, e.g., the addict is now a former addict after the program and has been for 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, 10+ years. Instead, they speak in deliberately vague evangelistic non-sense patois in “How Do We Measure Success?”:

The truest success benefits of our faith based treatment program cannot be measured by simple metrics. We believe that true spiritual change comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of this, we are witness daily to men and women transforming their lives, while mending and restoring broken relationships. We focus on rebuilding self-esteem and confidence, giving each individual an increased sense of dignity and value.

Beyond addiction, many of our residents arrive dealing with anxiety, depression, emptiness, and unfulfilled. We help them make the positive steps towards changing their lives.

In our ongoing counselling, training, work programs and an active relationship with God, a person develops deeper meaning and purpose. This helps lead them to walk a path of truth and integrity, to regain trust and respect in their lives. Many give their lives to the Lord.

This proven step by step approach increases wellness, developing a physical, psychological, social and spiritual balance. The aftercare support includes ongoing accountability, mentorship and fellowship. We promote helping others and volunteering at community events. Many of our graduates go on to living improved lives and are no longer a burden to society, they become contributing members to their community.
[25]

Here would be a simple and science-based response, “Our programs work at these rates, under these conditions, for these demographics, for these substances, for this range of conditions, and for this period of time on average,” rather than a long-winded harangue about finding and giving “their lives to the Lord.”

Yet, Wagner Hills Farm Society/Wagner Hills Ministries has endorsements, at one time or another, from prominent members of our municipal history, including Mark Warawa (former Langley Member of Parliament), Jordan Bateman (former Councilor, Township of Langley), H. Peter Fassbender (former Mayor, City of Langley), Kurt Alberts (former Mayor, Township of Langley), and Bob L. Friesen (Sales Manager, BC Christian News, The Shepherd’s Guide).[26]

Have these individuals considered stripping personal support or endorsement for these programs from their professional legacy?

While, at the same time, other secular evidenced-programs exist to provide proper care for individuals. Nonetheless, these programs exist and will provide marginal help to some and mostly dubious assistance to others.

Therefore, if individuals need help, they will have to be on their guard and proactive in finding evidence-based, secular, or evidence-based secular, alternatives in the Township of Langley and beyond.

If someone you know is or you are struggling with addiction, please see these alternatives (hyperlinks active):

Footnotes

[1] “About Wagner Hills” states:

Our program exists to provide rehabilitative care to people in addiction. It is a faith-based, non-smoking community living experience on a working farm. We use classroom learning and one-on-one mentoring to teach tools for healthy relationships which residents can then practice applying in daily life at the farm. The growth that our residents gain in these skills while in the Wagner Hills community prepares them for a successful life beyond the program. The program length is a one year commitment, with intake happening on a continual basis.

See Wagner Hills (2021a).

[2] See Ibid.

[3] See Wagner Hills Farm Society (2021b).

[4] “Board of Directors” states:

Kris Sledding is the husband to Rachel and father to Cassie and Ethan. Kris is a 12-year municipal police officer with a rich history of experience in the church community at all levels including pastoral service and board involvement. Kris has been directly involved as a board member with Wagner Hills since 2013), when he was introduced to the “Farmily” through Jason, who was just starting out in his role as Executive Director. Over the years, the experience of being proactively involved in Gods restoration of broken lives-rather then caught up in the reactive, fruitless human cycle of judicial system failure and moral emptiness that plague our society in a growing way-continues to provide Kris with a strong sense of fulfillment and purpose.

See Wagner Hills Farm Society (2021c).

[5] Dan Ashton is a self-employed mortgage and real estate broker.

[6] Pastor Curtis Boehm is part of the Lutheran Church Canada.

[7] Allen Schellenberger is part of the Lutheran Church Canada Financial Ministries.

[8] Kim Ironmonger is the Board Treasurer and is part of Northcrest Community Care.

[9] Lanson Foster is part of Lanstone Homes Ltd.

[10] See Wagner Hills Farm Society (2021d).

[11] See Wagner Hills Farm Society (2021e).

[12] “Executive Leadership, Central, Elder Team” states:

Mark grew up in Toronto and moved to Vancouver in 2004 to attend Regent College, where he received a Master of New Testament Studies. Following over ten years of ministry, Mark, along with his wife Erin and an amazing team of people, planted Village Church in January 2010, which has now grown to a vibrant multi-site church in the Greater Vancouver Area and Calgary. He is passionate about contextualizing the gospel, teaching the Bible, seeing people transformed by Jesus, planting churches, and seeing the gospel advance across Canada. Mark resides in South Surrey with his wife and their three daughters. He is honoured and excited to lead Village Church wherever God calls it to go.

See Village Church (2021).

[13] Some of the controversies have involved prominent Kwelexwelsten, Kwantlen First Nation artist Brandon Gabriel (Brandon Gabriel-Kwelexwecten), former Township of Langley Cllr. (2014-2018) and owner of Well Seasoned gourmet foods inc. (2004-) Angie Quaale, and some others, with mixed evaluations of the outcomes of each controversy from various parties within the Township of Langley and the National Historic Site Fort Langley. See Claxton (2021), Claxton (2020), and Claxton (2019).

[14] The current Board of Directors includes Barry Dashner (Chair), Catherine Cook (Director), Frank Cox (Director), Kelly Holmes (Director), Shona DeGuzman (Director), Maureen Rose (Director), Rob Rose (Director), and Eric Woodward (Secretary). Previous directors have included Tom Kirstein (former Board Chair) who is a former Mayor of White Rock and Gareth Abreo who is a former President of the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association. The Fort Langley Business Improvement Association current Board of Directors includes Lisa Smit (President), Lindsay Aplas (Vice-President), Meghan Neufeld (Treasurer), Christine Burdeniuk (Secretary), Anita Bisset (Director), and Paul Wood (Director). Although, according to some recent reportage, the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association (FLBIA) has its management taken over by the Eric Woodward Foundation. See Eric Woodward Foundation (2021) and Uytdewilligen (2020).

[15] Previous research and reportage in “Freethought for the Small Towns: Case Study” listed the churches in this locale as “Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church, Living Waters Church, Fraser Point Church – Meeting Place, St George’s Anglican Church, United Churches of Langley – St. Andrew’s Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Fraser Point Church Offices, Jubilee Church, and Fellowship Pacific.” See Jacobsen (2020).

Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church’s staff includes Jason Lavergne (Lead Pastor), Erwin Van Ramhorst (Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults), Brittany Martin (Coordinator of Worship Ministries), Mary Ann Dance (Children’s Ministry Assistant), and Alana Hall (Office Administrator). See Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church (2021).

The Leadership Council is comprised of Kirsten Anonby (pastoral team), Ryan Bedwell (pastoral team), Heather Currie, Dave Dirks, Carina Drisner, Luke Knight (pastoral team), Jennifer Obrecht, Dave Solmes (pastoral team), Jonathan Withers, and Treasurer: David Knight. The Staff is comprised of Kirsten Anonby (Associate Pastor), Ryan Bedwell (Associate Pastor), Kyle Epp (Pastor), Lynn Gettel (Office Administrator), Dee-Ana Goodman (Pastor, Children’s Ministries), Luke Knight (Associate Pastor), Reuben Kramer (Pastor), Rebeca Monzo (Pator, Youth Network), Ethan Newman (Preteens Director), Harold Sawatzky (Pastor), Rachel Schock (Pastor), Carol Slusar (Children’s Ministry Assistant), Doug Smith (Pastor), Dave Solmes (Lead Pastor), Ricky Stephen (Pastor), Mike Vater (Executive Pastor), and Rob Wilson (Media Production Director). See Living Waters Church (2021a) and Living Waters Church (2021b).

Fraser Point Church – Meeting Place doesn’t appear to have immediate listing of the staff or leadership. Lead Pastor may be Tyson Kliem.

St. George’s Anglican Church’s leadership is The Reverend Kelly Duncan (Priest), The Reverend Eileen Nurse (Deacon), The Reverend Karen Saunders (Deacon), Dodi Mesenchuk (Parish Administrator), Andre Erasmus (Organist), David Jordan (People’s Warden), and Fran Hancock (Rector’s Warden). See St George’s Anglican Church (2021).

The United Churches of Langley – St. Andrew’s Chapel Congregational Leadership includes Tom Louie (Chair of the Board), Eilleen Anderson (Vice Chair of the Board), Sylvia Mountain (Past Chair of the Board), Maureen Burgess (Secretary of the Board), William Ness (Treasurer), Stacey Jordan-Knox (Chair of the Ministry & Personnel Committee), Lynda Christensen (UCW Representative, Member at Large), Kellie Warnock (Member at Large), Chandra Carlson (Pacific Mountain Region Representative), Marianne Clark (Pacific Mountain Region Representative), and Doug Perkins (Pacific Mountain Region Representative). Its Team includes Rev. M. Sophia Ducey (Co-Minister with focus on <50 year old Adults, Families, Children, Youth, and Communications), Rev. Ryan Tristin Chapman (Co-Minister with focus on >50 year old Adult Faith, Pastoral Care and Outreach), Nigel Chuah (Social Justice Program Facilitator), Linda Szentes (Music Leader – Musician), Tim Bailey (Music Leader – Choir), Joanne Sommer-Miller (Pianist), Jovana Ivanovic (Office Co-ordinator), Sherry Klassen (Finance Administrator), Deanna Feuer (Youth Facilitator), Sarah Veltman (Senior Youth Leader), and Carley Carder (Facilitator – Ministry of Children, Youth and Families). See United Churches of Langley (2021a) and United Churches of Langley (2021b).

Vineyard Christian Fellowship’s leadership includes Leili & Patti White (Lead Pastor/Elder), David Klingensmith (Elder), Mike Rempel (Elder/Board Member – Chairman), Shane Blackmon (Board Member – Treasurer), Lori Ward (Board Member – Secretary), Colin Barrett (Board Member – Director), and Barry Cox (Board Member – Director). See Vineyard Christian Fellowship (2021).

Fellowship Pacific’s Team includes David Horita (Regional Director, Krista Penner (Team Leader), Dan Cody (Team Leader), Todd Chapman, Elizabeth Faulkner, Colette Bullock, Mike Mawhorter, Allison Weber, Doug Fordham, and Jessica Powell. Its Board of Directors is comprised of Brent Chapman (President of SouthRidge Fellowship Church, Langley), Jeremy Johnson (of Village Church, Surrey), Barton Priebe (of Central Baptist Church, Victoria), Larry Lagerstrom (of Redemption Community Church, Surrey), Brian Joyce (of Chaplain, Prince George Youth Custody Center), Buffy Paul (of Village Church, Surrey), Janet Bolvin (of South Delta Baptist Church, Delta), Jeremy Norton (of Mountainview Church, Whitehorse), Kelly Nicolls (of Princeton Fellowship Baptist Church, Princeton), and Rick Burdett (of Outreach Canada). See Fellowship Pacific (2021).

[16] “Municipal Case Study: British Columbia and Permissive Tax Exemptions” states:

The male pastoral leadership (by title of “pastor” or “elder,” youth, children, and administration left to the women) comes from Elder Nathan Sawatzky, Elder Brent Muxlow, Elder Pete Jansen, Lead Pastor Brent Smith, Assistant Pastor Randy Dyck, Assistant Pastor Rob Lee, and Youth Pastor Cole Smith.

See Jacobsen (2021).

[17] See Wagner Hills Farm Society (2021f).

[18] See Wagner Hills Farm Society (2021g).

[19] See Wagner Hills Ministries (2021a).

[20] See Ibid.

[21] There are about 30 videos listed on their YouTube channel at this time: “Merry Christmas from Women’s Campus 2017,” “Jason and Tony,” “Stephanie,” “Stelle,” “Jason Roberts + Dawn Bralovich,” “Ellie,” “Teira,” “WH Men’s Campus,” “Ryan,” “WH Jason Christmas 2017 01,” “WH Giving Tuesday 2017 02,” “IMG 3899 MOV,” “Wagner Hills Farm,” “Wagner Hills Building Renovation Donation Appeal,” “A Christmas Message to Alumni 2015/16,” “Christmas Donation Appeal – Wagner Hills Farms,” “Wagner Hills Matching Donation Announcement,” “Support the Jones Family,” “Recovery Day – Wagner Hills Farm Society,” “Peter’s Testimony,” “Allan’s Story,” “Judd’s Story,” “Solid Rock Steel Supports Wagner Hills,” “Introducing ’44 for Freedom’ program,” “Meet Marty from Wagner Hills Ministries – Personal Testimony,” “Meet Justin from Wagner Hills Ministries,” “Wagner Hills – Christian Rehabilitation Center in Langley,” “Christian Rehab Recovery in Langley,” and “Testimonies for Wagner Hills Ministries – Christian Rehabilitation Center Langley.”

[22] See RationalWiki (2020, December 11).

[23] See National Public Radio (2014).

[24] See Mehta (2016).

[25] See Wagner Hills Ministries (2021c).

[26] See Wagner Hills Ministries. (2021b).

References

Claxton, M. (2019, September 4). Current Langley councillor demands apology from former councillor. Retrieved from https://www.aldergrovestar.com/news/current-langley-councillor-demands-apology-from-former-councillor/.

Claxton, M. (2020, January 23). Lawyers argue over truth of “threat” in Langley lawsuit filings. Retrieved from https://www.aldergrovestar.com/news/lawyers-argue-over-truth-of-threat-in-langley-lawsuit-filings/.

Claxton, M. (2021, January 8). Mayor, councillors win court decision and stay in office in Langley Township. Retrieved from https://www.aldergrovestar.com/news/mayor-councillors-win-court-decision-and-stay-in-office-in-langley-township/?fbclid=IwAR2IeRdIMgBTt3qoTZFGJ3Vd_J_eQe20PaUlZWyg-fOfWiAA3iFmujNxhCw.

Eric Woodward Foundation. (2021). Board of Directors. Retrieved from https://www.ericwoodwardfoundation.org/board.

Fellowship Pacific. (2021). The Team & Fellowship Pacific Board Members. Retrieved from https://www.febpacific.ca/the-team.

Ferguson, D. (2021, January 5). Langley church leaders sign letter to ‘fully support’ Dr. Bonnie Henry. Retrieved from https://www.aldergrovestar.com/news/langley-church-leaders-among-group-of-38-who-sign-letter-to-fully-support-dr-bonnie-henry-and-health-minister-adrian-dix/.

Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church. (2021). Staff. Retrieved from https://www.flefc.org/staff.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, May 16). Freethought for the Small Towns: Case Study. Retrieved from www.newsintervention.com/freethought-jacobsen/.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, January 26). Municipal Case Study: British Columbia and Permissive Tax Exemptions. Retrieved from https://www.newsintervention.com/municipal-case-study-british-columbia-and-permissive-tax-exemptions/.

Living Waters Church. (2021a). Leadership Council. Retrieved from https://www.lwchurch.ca/about/leadership-council.

Living Waters Church. (2021b). Pastoral Team. Retrieved from https://www.lwchurch.ca/team.

Mehta, M. (2016, July 14). British Columbia Legislator Says Prayer Can Help “People With All Kinds of Disorders”. Retrieved from https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2016/07/14/british-columbia-legislator-says-prayer-can-help-people-with-all-kinds-of-disorders/.

National Public Radio. (2014, March 23). With Sobering Science, Doctor Debunks 12-Step Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2014/03/23/291405829/with-sobering-science-doctor-debunks-12-step-recovery.

RationalWiki. (2020, December 11). Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved from https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alcoholics_Anonymous.

St George’s Anglican Church. (2021). Parish of St. George. Retrieved from https://stgeorgeanglican.ca.

United Churches of Langley. (2021a). Congregational Leaders. Retrieved from https://unitedchurchesoflangley.ca/about-us/pages/ministry-leaders.

Uytdewilligen, R. (2020, September 24). Eric Woodward Foundation takes over management of Fort Langley Cranberry Festival. Retrieved from https://www.aldergrovestar.com/community/eric-woodward-foundation-takes-over-management-of-fort-langley-cranberry-festival/.

Village Church. (2021a). Executive Leadership, Central, Elder Team. Retrieved from https://thisisvillagechurch.com/people/mark-clark/.

Vineyard Christian Fellowship. (2021). Our Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.langleyvineyard.com/leadership.

Wagner Hills Ministries. (2021b). Endorsements. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/about/endorsements/index.php.

Wagner Hills Ministries. (2021c). How Do We Measure Success?. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/about/how-do-we-measure-success/index.php.

Wagner Hills Ministries. (2021a). Mission Statement. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/about/mission-statement/index.php.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021a). About Wagner Hills. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/about-wh/.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021c). Board of Directors. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/board-of-directors/.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021g). Brochure Outside. Retrieved from www.wagnerhills.com/BrochureOutsidePage%20Copy.pdf.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021e). Cheering Section. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/cheering-section/.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021h). Covid-19 Response. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/covid-19-response/.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021f). FAQ’s. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/admission-faqs/.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021d). History of Wagner Hills. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/history-of-wh/.

Wagner Hills Farm Society. (2021b). Our Mission. Retrieved from https://wagnerhills.com/our-mission/.

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