In a surprising turn of events today, Honor Academy leadership announced that the abusive ESOAL/PEARL event will be suspended indefinitely because the secular media is portraying it negatively.
Not because hundreds of people have been injured, some near fatally.
Not because people have nightmares and PTSD from the psychological effects (even years later).
Not because its an unscriptural, unbiblical path to "discipleship."
But because the "secular media" has used ESOAL to "publicly malign" the Honor Academy.
Make no mistake - there is no repentance here. In fact, Heath Stoner says:
"ESOAL was started in 1999, and it was an incredible event. The lessons it imparted – of strengthening our character and reliance on God when we go through difficult times – were fantastic."
Here is Heath giving one of those "lessons" by terrifying and humiliating young interns while putting them in life threateningly dangerous situations (Fast forward to 1:00)
Isn't that fantastic?
Of course, anyone seriously considering or endorsing the Honor Academy should wonder - if God really told them to do this retreat, and it had so much spiritual benefit - why would they let a little "persecution" stop them? Aren't we supposed to stand for truth and God's will no matter what the world says? Why should the secular media dictate what a Christian organization does to disciple its participants? What if Jesus had stopped preaching because He was getting bad press?
Given the fact that senior Teen Mania leaders have vowed (behind closed doors) to never change anything because of this community, my educated guess is that the enrollment numbers have dropped so severely that they have to do something to shore up their reputation and convince parents to let their kids come to the Honor Academy. Otherwise, the money and free labor will dry up.
While this is a victory for the new intern class that will not have to suffer the abuse of ESOAL, make no mistake - the Honor Academy as a whole is still an incredibly abusive and unsafe atmosphere. My two years at the internship did not include ESOAL and they still managed to wound me in significant, life-altering ways - and they will continue to do so to future interns, regardless of whether ESOAL continues or is replaced with a new idea.
The entire structure of the Honor Academy is built primarily on authoritarianism, fear and shame. Until those underlying elements are replaced with love and grace, the Honor Academy will remain and unsafe and ungodly place.