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Church to “out” ex-member’s Immoral Relationship

Thursday, December 18, 2008 • 12:25 pm


from here

The Jacksonville church informed Hancock, 49, this month it will make her “sexually immoral relationship” with her boyfriend public at that service.

Hancock, who is divorced, said she left the church in October because members confronted her over it. On Wednesday, she also sent the church a letter officially resigning - hoping to stop the action so her children, who attend services there, would not have to face her embarrassment.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, on Jan., 4, their mother will be publicly humiliated.’ This will really devastate my children,” Hancock said.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. T. Scott Christmas, said the discipline process outlined in his Dec. 8 letter will continue.

“We explain this process of loving accountability when they become members, and we are doing nothing more than following the practices of what biblical churches have done through history,” Christmas said. “It is a mission of restoration and it is done in a spirit of love and grace.”

...more

I am all for church discipline but, at least as this article describes it, I think this might have been handled differently. When this woman’s relationship became known to the leadership was she put immediately on the “discipline” track or was there an attempt to come alongside and help? (Gal 6:1-5) Did someone in leadership “confront” her or try to reason with/council her? It sounds like, and admittedly this article is probably biased in some way against the congregation, the Matthew 18 process began too early and too formally. If she is truly unrepentant, it would have had to begin at some point, but I wonder if all the options were exercised before concluding that she is unrepentant? Also, since she is voluntarily leaving, why would the process of discipline continue? She seems to be effectively excommunicating herself. If the pastor is concerned that she might simply move on to another congregation, he could simply inform her next pastor of the circumstances and the steps taken to date.

But I could be wrong.


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Comments:

If anything, such a thing should and must be done in private.  But now that “the genie is out of the bottle,” if I were Col. Hancock, I’d be tempted to tell that pastor to go to Hell.  A slander suit might also be appropriate here.

[1] Posted by Cennydd on 12-18-2008 at 12:59 PM • top

Cennydd, I do think there is a time when discipline must be made public (Matt 18:17). But that is the very last stage of discipline after all avenues have been taken…I don’t know that that was done here.

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 12-18-2008 at 01:02 PM • top

Is she being disciplined because:
1) they do not recognize divorce, or
2) they believe she is having sex with her boyfriend, or
3) both.
It isn’t clear from the article.
Anyway, continuing discipline as if she were a member, when in fact she has resigned, seems to be a way to humiliate her children.

[3] Posted by perpetuaofcarthage on 12-18-2008 at 01:14 PM • top

You’re right, of course, Matt+, as usual.

[4] Posted by Cennydd on 12-18-2008 at 01:15 PM • top

Joseph, being a good man, decided to divorce Mary quietly.

Col. Hancock has divorced herself from this worship community - there is no justification for any further action.

[5] Posted by RalphM on 12-18-2008 at 01:17 PM • top

Matt, this sentence makes me wonder if they did try to help her with “all avenues” having already been attempted.

But because Hancock rebuffed efforts by church elders to resolve the issue, the letters states, “you leave us with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ” - namely “tell it to the church” - on Jan. 4.

However, I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s always more to every story than meets the eye. That’s why I could not support either side in this issue. I can only state that if indeed all avenues have been attempted, then the church is not wrong in its actions. Yes, it’s painful for someone to be brought to a position like this, but in some cases, it also may bring someone to repentance.

There is so much we just don’t know here. All we do know is that, yes, this woman did sign a membership letter stating that she understood and accepted the code of conduct the church requires to maintain an active member of the church.

[6] Posted by Mugsie1 on 12-18-2008 at 01:17 PM • top

Every time I’ve been involved in something that the press has reported, they have left out or mis-reported some important detail.  I am 99% sure that they did it this time too.

Since she is no longer a part of that congregation, they have no cause to discipline her.  She has excommuncated herself.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

[7] Posted by Philip Snyder on 12-18-2008 at 01:28 PM • top

Geesh! This is horrible! Why don’t they just make her wear a “Scarlet Letter” around so the whole town can know? Where is the love of discipline in counseling her? helping her to see the error of her ways and not publically humiliating her? Do they want her to repent and be reconciled or do they want to drive her completely away from church and God?

[8] Posted by TLDillon on 12-18-2008 at 01:33 PM • top

Once she removed her membership in the congregation, the church’s interest in addressing this matter publicly ended.  She “excommunicated” herself…both by her actions and then by her decision to rescind her membership.

The church’s response to her shows a total lack of pastoral sensitivity or safe boundaries.  Anyone in this organization should remove themselves from their clutches.

Phil’s post at 7 is accurate, but if the facts as presented are true, the church’s leadership needs to back off.

-Jim+

[9] Posted by FrJim on 12-18-2008 at 01:34 PM • top

“Do they want her to repent and be reconciled or do they want to drive her completely away from church and God?”

I think that is the question in a nutshell.

[10] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 12-18-2008 at 01:37 PM • top

Who brought this to the attention of the press?  This woman is no longer a member of the congregation and the matter should be dropped.  If the church does continue and publicly humilates her they are not acting in a Christian manner.

[11] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 12-18-2008 at 01:43 PM • top

Well, I guess the pastor won’t get the chance to “out” her relationship now…the press has done it for him.

[12] Posted by OneOfFive on 12-18-2008 at 01:57 PM • top

I don’t see this as a legitimate exercise of spiritual authority, nor do I think an interview with the press is a good idea if you are attempting to protect your children from embarrassment.

[13] Posted by FrVan on 12-18-2008 at 02:19 PM • top

Fr. Matt,

This is a tough one.  I started out ambivalent.  My feelings then evolved toward reluctant support of the pastor.

The key words in the newspaper article are: “… it’s not something former church member Rebecca Hancock wants her children or anyone else to hear.”

As someone, President Reagan, I think, once said, “Facts are stubborn things”.

Here are the operative facts, in my opinion:  1) Hancock joined Grace Community Church voluntarily, of her own free will.  2) She apparently had consensual sex outside marriage with Frank Young; at least there is no reference in the article to any denial of that by her. 3) She had sex with Young while a member of Grace Community Church.  4) She is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U. S. Army Reserves, a field grade officer, a position in which such conduct is, or was in my day, “conduct unbecoming an officer”. 5) All the church intends to do is publicize the facts, based on my reading of the article.  6) If Hancock thinks what she did is OK, what is her problem with having it publicly discussed, from the pulpit.  7) Hancock’s goal appears to be keeping her son and daughter and other members of the church from learning the facts about her behavior. 8) The newspaper article makes that a moot point.

Behavior has consequences.  Being PC is wimping out.  We need to stand-up for what we stand-for.

My views would be quite different if Hancock denied having sex with Young or professed that there was nothing wrong with what she had done.  She seems to want to enjoy her behavior and avoid its consequences.  Not a very admirable stance.

Telling the truth about someone’s behavior is not disciplining; it is disclosing the facts.  From the article is seems reasonable to assume that her actions were not discreet nor isolated events and that her behavior was well known among the church women who confronted her.  I agree that mentioning it from the pulpit carries it to another level.  However, examples are frequently effective teaching tools.

If she wishes to prevent her children from being embarrassed Sunday morning, she might consider sitting down with them and talking about it.  Perhaps they would welcome the opportunity to defend her before the congregation, if given the opportunity.

A business acquaintance some years ago taught a Sunday School class at a Bible church.  His girl friend moved in with him.  The pastor told him he could not continue to teach the Sunday School class because he was living in sin.  He was incensed, saying that he did not think it was any of the church’s business and withdrew from the church.  It seems to me there is a bit of similarity here, not four square, but similar.

God bless.

[14] Posted by Ol' Bob on 12-18-2008 at 02:27 PM • top

I liked the comment made at the end of the newspaper article:

“Perhaps, the Lord has found in Jacksonville those without sin to cast the first stone on Jan 4?”

1.  Is the pastor also going to ‘publicly denounce’ out all those who are guilty of gluttony, theft, lust, covetousness not loving their neighbour, not tithing, etc? 

2.  We don’t know exactly what kinds of efforts the elders made but I wonder if they only tried to ‘help’ her as a group of elders, or if they had requested to receive private counseling.

[15] Posted by Bill C on 12-18-2008 at 02:36 PM • top

What a disgrace.  Will parishioners be handed a stone as they walk through the door?

[16] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 12-18-2008 at 02:43 PM • top

“Do they want her to repent and be reconciled or do they want to drive her completely away from church and God?”

And how many other people who might have given some church a try this week are now firmly convinced to stay in bed?

[17] Posted by Elizabeth on 12-18-2008 at 02:49 PM • top

I think Fr. Van has it in a nutshell. This one doesn’t appear to reflect well on anyone.

[18] Posted by oscewicee on 12-18-2008 at 02:55 PM • top

I’m picking up that this person was a Colonel. Adultry is a court marshall offence which is a punishment prescribed by Congress and approved by the President. Adultry is one of the Ten Commandments. Who here among us thinks that they have the moral authority to overrule Congress, the President and God. They are not stoning her. They are just making a dirty little secret, public. It is not politically correct, but immoral or harmful, please! Some have raised the plight of the children as concern. The worst thing that a parent can do is not be truthful with their child. Nothing hurts a child like a lying parent.

[19] Posted by ctowles on 12-18-2008 at 03:03 PM • top

#14, Ol’ Bob, I’m more inclined to think along the same lines as you. The only thing that’s keeping me neutral is the fact that I don’t know all the facts.

However, it does seem rather unusual for a church member to want to go to this woman’s home to check if she’s staying out all night, or to call her into a meeting of female members to discuss these concerns with her, unless they have enough evidence go to these lengths. If the church goes to the lengths of making a member sign a document agreeing to a certain code of behavior, then it should only be expected that there will be serious ramifications if you violate that code.

This is indeed a tough call, but I can’t fault the pastor if they did indeed have enough evidence to support their concerns and if they did indeed make efforts to counsel her in attempting to modify her behavior.

Like you, it just seems rather strange that this woman would go to the press with this. She, herself, is revealing to the public what she has done. I’m feeling a tendency to want to believe that she’s just running away from the consequences of her behavior and is making all attempts to fortify her stance. I don’t say this lightly. It’s what seems to be the case from what I’ve read. However, I still need to remain ultimately neutral due to a lack of all the facts.

As someone who has gone through a divorce and has done my own share of sinning, I would have loved the opportunity to sit with this woman privately with a cup of coffee to hear her own position on this. That would give me a clearer picture of whether she was even remotely interested in repentance, or just rebelling to save her own face.

[20] Posted by Mugsie1 on 12-18-2008 at 03:07 PM • top

Are these the nutters who turn up with placards at veterans’ funerals?

[21] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 12-18-2008 at 03:11 PM • top

One more thing. She’s concerned about humiliating her children. According to the article, her children are 18 and 20 years old, and her son seems to already have the letter from the church. The age of the children makes them pretty much adult in age. They should be able to handle this on some level in a mature manner. If the son already has the letter than he’s not going to be surprised. He may already know of the activities his mother is engaging in. The daughter may also be aware. I still have to wonder if she’s just doing all this to save her own face.

[22] Posted by Mugsie1 on 12-18-2008 at 03:11 PM • top

I would rather see this Lt. Col and Social Worker’s first concern be the moral and theological example she sets for her children.  Her and her boyfriend’s devaluation and departure from Scripture will bring them all more harm and distress in the end that is much more humiliating in the end than the church speaking the truth. 
Their living in sin sets up spiritual, emotional and physical dynamics and consequences that will affect them all the rest of their lives.  We don’t break God’s laws, we only break ourselves when we try.  We pay dearly for any and every departure from Scripture and God’s laws.

[23] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 03:23 PM • top

21   No, it’s Fred Phelps and his bunch of crackpots!

[24] Posted by Cennydd on 12-18-2008 at 03:37 PM • top

Undoubtedly, this woman’s relationship with her boyfriend is wrong.  But there are ways she could have been helped toward godly living in her relationship rather than the kind of confrontation the women of the church laid on her. 

Why would anyone who is struggling with sin want to go to this church after this?  Instead of a hospital for the cure of souls it has become a death camp.

[25] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 12-18-2008 at 03:47 PM • top

Mugsie1 (#20),

Your comment that you “don’t know all the facts.” is very pertinent.  I don’t know all the facts either.  I wish I had stated that in my comment.

I hope you are having a blessed Advent and wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

[26] Posted by Ol' Bob on 12-18-2008 at 03:52 PM • top

The point of church discipline, as I understand it, is loving restoration to full communion through repentance.

It’s not clear if the lady refused to repent, in a Biblical sense, or if the church was in such a hurry to get her out and make dramatic statements that they didn’t give her time.

In an age when churches really need to start paying more attention to the living arrangments (and financial dealings, etc) of their members, this appears to be a false start by the church.

It also sounds like the “telling to the church” idea is silly, since she has left. The “telling” part is supposed to bring additional pressure to bear in an attempt to bring repentance, not to shame the person.

I wonder if the church is saying that she hasn’t really left their authority, since the resignation was under a disciplinary cloud, so to speak?

That being said, it sounds like she went to the press, and that suggests to me that she might not have been willing to submit to the church’s teachings after all.

My experience is that people who won’t repent will generally leave on their own, if enough private pressure is brought to bear by the elders.

[27] Posted by Capn Jack Sparrow on 12-18-2008 at 04:12 PM • top

#28 - the thrill, the peace, the ineffable joy of union with Christ surpasses all the gratifications of the world, the flesh and the devil.  Obedience to God’s Word is a product of our love for Him.  (John 14:15, 21). 

The Church should live as though this were so.  Her relationship with this man shows she has little love for Christ and less for her own children.

This is not gathering stones, it is the truth.

[28] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 04:18 PM • top

In other words, she’s settling for a scorpion rather than good food, for a stone rather than bread…for a poison and death rather than healing and life.
She’s settling for the world/flesh/devil rather than life, righteousness, peace and joy in Jesus Christ.

[29] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 04:20 PM • top

AH!
The Sedd Fawr still functions in this place.

I had stories like this from my parents and grandparents.

In most cases the Deacons/Elders denounced the victim during service without any prior warning.

[30] Posted by Martin Reynolds on 12-18-2008 at 04:31 PM • top

1928-FIF Blacksheep,

I tend to agree with those who do not think this particular exercise of discipline was appropriate…but I could be wrong. Your comments seem to suggest a more general criticism. Do you think it improper for the church to exercise discipline over her members?

[31] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 12-18-2008 at 04:33 PM • top

I live there and read the story today. Some thoughts…
1. The counselor violated the trust of this lady. I would hope the counselor is ‘done’ at this church.
2. The woman is concerned about harm to her children yet went public in a paper that has a MSA area of over 1 million. Why?

[32] Posted by Festivus on 12-18-2008 at 04:35 PM • top

Black sheep,  I’m gonna make this personal.  To paraphrase what I wrote above:

I don’t break God’s laws, I only break myself whenever I have attempted to do so. I and everyone I love have paid dearly any and every time I have departed from Scripture and God’s laws and gone in my own willful sinful direction rather than honoring and choosing God’s will and way.

We do not judge (condemn) but we must judge (discern) good from evil.  Jesus said, ‘Judge not after the flesh, but judge righteous judgment.’ 

We must warn those who are heading in the wrong direction or their blood is on our hands says Scripture. 

I owe my very life to one Christian woman’s righteous indignation and her having a ‘come to Jesus’ conversation with one of my parents.

[33] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 04:40 PM • top

Dear Black Sheep,  God’s laws cannot be broken, changed, negotiated.  They are founded, anchored upon his character - they ARE His unchanging character.  The whole purpose of the commandments is to build God’s character into us.

So, I repeat, I do not break God’s laws, I cannot.  I only break myself.

[34] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 05:07 PM • top

#39 - our human discernment is guided by Scripture…and tradition.  It is not to be left to our perception, feeling and experience.

[35] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 05:08 PM • top

My understanding from the article (which I’ve read several times now) is *not* that an adulterous relationship has occurred. Rather, her “immoral relationship” involves dating a man other than her ex-husband. At some churches, any dating after a divorce is taboo. A coworker of mine is divorced and is convicted to never date again; he believes that biblically he must always hold out the option that his wife, who initiated the divorce, will return to him. He believes that even if she one day remarries, he should not date again. I saw this conviction frequently among individuals and churches before I became an Anglican. I think that’s what’s going on here; to assume more than that is unwarranted from the article itself.

[36] Posted by Ralph Webb on 12-18-2008 at 05:25 PM • top

Wow! What a bunch of wimpy responses. Let us see what the Book has to say on this point.

Here is just one reference:  Mt18:15-19 (KJV)

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
  16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
  17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
  18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
  19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

It appears from the pastor and congregation are tracking, to wit:

But because Hancock rebuffed efforts by church elders to resolve the issue, the letters states, “you leave us with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ” - namely “tell it to the church” - on Jan. 4.

From reading the article, I take it that, resolve the issue is secular news-speak for repent. So Mrs. Hancock did not repent after the meeting with one or two more which was after the private meeting with the woman to whom she went for advice.

Then we have the evidence of the boyfriend (emphasis mine):

Hancock’s boyfriend, Frank Young, said church members have been “vicious” to a “really good woman.”

Yes sir! Mrs. Hancock is a really good woman!

Please do not blame bishops for lack of backbone because, it appears from these responses to church discipline, that they are drawn from congregations without backbone.

[37] Posted by iceworm on 12-18-2008 at 05:32 PM • top

Well, they’ve left out a few rungs out of the Matt 18 process, that’s for sure.  Part of the process of that kind of discipline is for the friend to offer the gentle rebuke, before running up the chain of command.  “Go to the pastor right away, and they’re gonna flip the birdie.. when a friend offers the rebuke, it carries a lot more weight,” was advice I recieved from one of my pastors who had once served a congregation fraught with troubles over adultery, alcoholism, and spouse abuse. 

If the woman had already left, the thing to do would be to privately inform her that the elders had followed up by suspending her communion priveledges.  If she continued to sin and looked for another church, then her new church (hopefully) would call her previous parish to get the skinny. 

(Yeah, I know.. probably not.  But we should work that way anyhow)

This was an intervention, with excommunication as the afterthought.  What a mess.

[38] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-18-2008 at 05:41 PM • top

All right 1928-FIF Blacksheep so far people have engaged you reasonably and you have responded somewhat irrationally and accusatorily. Now, in #42m you’ve brought in an off topic discussion of WO.

This is your one warning. Please remain courteous and on topic or your posting priveleges will be revoked.

[39] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 12-18-2008 at 05:43 PM • top

I’d agree this is a mess and it really does appear truth without much love, the two have to go together.

Discipline is certainly needed, especially in the American Church, but 1 Cor 5 is the final straw and Gal 6:1 give the attitude we must have as we walk through the stair-stepped levels Jesus gave us.

[40] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 12-18-2008 at 05:51 PM • top

I just want to reiterate that is is not clear from the article if this is a church that simply does not allow remarriage after divorce, so her dating is not acceptable.

There is one suggestion that she may have been out on a date all night. It is clear that she is not living with this man. And it is possible that one can be out together until dawn without having sex.

[41] Posted by perpetuaofcarthage on 12-18-2008 at 06:15 PM • top

1928-FIF Blacksheep,

Assuming, for sake of arguement, that Hancock indeed had a sinful sexual relationship with Young, it would be quite helpful to me if you would share the basis for your apparent view that stating the truth about Hancock’s actions and casting stones at Hancock the same thing.

God bless.

[42] Posted by Ol' Bob on 12-18-2008 at 06:47 PM • top

No. 19 - A military court is not a court marshall, it is a court martial. A court martial is not a punishment itself, it is a trial conducted by military legal authorities. As in any court the verdict could be a punishment.  If military courts today spend their time on trials for reservists
accused of adultery, there would be countless trials that have no real relation to military matters.  Are charges of adultery pursued in civilian courts today?

Ms. Hancock was betrayed not only by the friend to whom she went for advice, but by the pastor.  People in the Catholic Church have the confessional available for such confessions if they feel such a need. Churches making a practice of revealing confidences, or of investigating the private lives of their memebers are outrageous examples of the worst kind of behavior. Why would anyone in his/her right mind attend such a place?

[43] Posted by St. James on 12-18-2008 at 07:05 PM • top

Friends,

This thinking is taking your conservative Reformed / Presby brethren for a ride.  It flourishes because people exiting mainline denominations are hungry for ANY polemic that attacks antinomianism.  Unfortunately, the people leaving have also been subject to poor catechesis during their time in imploding mainline denoms. 

It’s presented as the only game in town as far as combating antinomianism, and it’s readily understandable. 

It’s tolerated because people who hold it are orthodox in their view of the creeds, and are also quite moral. 

Let’s see… a bunch of us are leaving an imploding mainline denomination, and have been horribly catechized.  What do you think the odds are that we will be dealing with this kind of thinking, sooner or later? 

(Yeah)

Friends, we’re all under judgment.  All of us.  Best if we get used to it so we can (per Kendall’s+ suggestion) be faithful in the small matters.

[44] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-18-2008 at 07:53 PM • top

The press is notoriously one-sided and ignorant in this country (and elsewhere), which is why freedom of the press is so important—with luck it may balance itself out.

Some points relevant from at least a pastoral (though not moral) perspective:
<ul><li> The lady is 49, at the very least no longer in the first bloom of naive and pliable youth;

<li> There is a certain taint of cattiness, gossip, and uncharity about the behavior of the women who confronted her.  Whatever may have occurred, it hardly reaches beyond the level of indiscretion, with respect to the community, and would certainly not qualify as “notoriously sinning.” 


<font size=-2>We learn in the science fiction television series Babylon 5, for example, that it is traditional for women of the planet Mimbar to sit overnight in the bedroom of their betrothed before the marriage, watching his face as he sleeps, believing that his real face will be revealed after he has been asleep for several hours, and that they should decide on that basis whether they are willing to continue the betrothal.  The Mimbari rate of divorce is much lower than ours.</font>

<li>The children of the woman are 18 and 20; it is not exactly as though their unfeeling 5th grade chums are going to start throwing crayons at them and being mean on the playground.
</ul>

In short, all involved here are adults.  It is apparently too much to expect that they would behave as such, let alone as Christians.

As the great agnostic Mark Twain commented, original sin is the only Christian doctrine overwhelmingly confirmed by the most casual scientific observation.

[45] Posted by Craig Goodrich on 12-18-2008 at 08:03 PM • top

1928-FIF Blacksheep (#53),

I suggest you take a look at the following SF thread from a few days ago:  More Sheer Wickedness: Stoning victim ‘begged for mercy’

I you don’t know the difference between stones and words, I am sure the unfortunate woman in that thread would have loved to have had you choosing the weapons.

God bless.

[46] Posted by Ol' Bob on 12-18-2008 at 08:19 PM • top

BS, That’s the most revealing thing you’ve said all evening.  You seem to equate the truth with a stone…well, Jesus is The Rock of our salvation, a stone of stumbling…but if you object to speaking the truth about a person’s sins, you will leave them in error and their blood is on your hands as someone above said. 

Why don’t you spend some time in the Letters to the Churches in the New Testament?  There you will learn that certain serious instructions were given as to truth-telling (Galatians 4:16; Ephesians 4:15, 25; II Timothy 4:4)apply and submitting oneself to the church in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21), and of confessing your faults to one another so we may be healed (James 5:16)and of course, Jesus words in Matthew 18.

Accountability and transparency are our friends, not our enemies.

[47] Posted by Floridian on 12-18-2008 at 08:24 PM • top

GA/FL (#55),

You said:  “Accountability and transparency are our friends, not our enemies.”

Very well said.  Thank you for those words, that thought.

God bless.

[48] Posted by Ol' Bob on 12-18-2008 at 08:34 PM • top

In your favor, Black Sheep, Jesus Christ is both the Rock, the Stone of Stumbling and the Living Word, the Word made flesh….so I’ll give you 10 points.

[49] Posted by Theodora on 12-18-2008 at 08:35 PM • top

I say let’s give our friend Blacksheep 15 points…Jesus is all three, Rock, Word and Truth. 

If we do not fall on this Stone, The Stone will fall on us and we will be crushed: Matthew 21:44 (Christ’s words)

[50] Posted by Floridian on 12-18-2008 at 08:43 PM • top

Your words and thoughts always edify me as well, Ol’Bob.

[51] Posted by Floridian on 12-18-2008 at 08:44 PM • top

Matt+, 2, (also applies to other posts), at the great risk of engaging someone far more Scripturally and theologically advanced than me (I am absolutely and completely serious), this appears to me to be a misapplication of Matthew 18:17.  The passage goes (NIV):

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

The process begins with a sin by one Christian against another.  I don’t see where that’s present here.  The Colonel may be sinning, but it is not against anyone in the church.  It is not against the other woman who spends nights tracking when she comes home.  It is not against the pastor who shows a bizarre determination to pursue a public rebuke after she has left the church (without considering effects on evangelism and so forth).  Had she slept with the husband of another woman in the church, I’d understand this.  But that’s not what we have.  I think this is a John 2:1-11 situation.

(Disclaimer:  The above comment assumes that “against you” is properly part of Matthew 18:15.  The NASB doesn’t have it, and the NIV drops a footnote that the manuscripts are mixed on whether it belongs.)

[52] Posted by DavidH on 12-18-2008 at 10:32 PM • top

RE: “Why would anyone who is struggling with sin want to go to this church after this?”

I agree with To All the World.  If I’m struggling with sin—say, drug addiction—I’d know that I’d need to get my act cleaned up before entering this church.  And if I were foolish enough to enter, I’d hide and guard everything in my life.

I don’t think that’s what church discipline is supposed to engender.  I think church discipline is supposed to 1) guard the flock from false leaders or from open scandal in the larger community [ie—“look—that’s the church that harbors that wife beater, child abuser, or adulterer—what a hypocritical place they are”], and 2) bring a person to repentance who is interested in belonging to a community of love and grace.

Once the person is no longer interested in your community, then you’re doomed.  He or she is not going to be moved to repentance—your community holds no sway. 

This is a HUGE DEAL in the Church today.  The Church basically has to try to resort to shame in order to control its’ members actions—because certainly love or fellowship or the fear of losing a beloved and faithful community isn’t going to affect the person, because the church isn’t a beloved and faithful community.

I think the church’s responsibility ends once the person has flounced away to another church.  If they are interested in clarity they *might* be able to put a little note in their church newsletter stating something like “person x’s unwillingness to adhere to our requirements for membership has led to her departure—we wish her well and pray for her good spiritual health.”

That fixes the requirements to communicate with the church.  After all—thanks to the gossiping biddies who lurked outside her house that night—the entire church already knows anyway.

[53] Posted by Sarah on 12-19-2008 at 08:04 AM • top

[35] Festivus

The woman is concerned about harm to her children yet went public in a paper that has a MSA area of over 1 million. Why?

The best defense is a good offense.  Going to the press makes her into the victim, and puts the church on the defensive.  The general public will not consider the (alleged) behavior in question immoral, and so she immediately acquires significant public support.  And if you noticed in the article, her actual behavior was discretely kept hidden.  She thus comes off as a victim of puritanical busybodies with no one the wiser on what she actually (allegedly) did.  A slick and effective strategy in our current culture.

Btw, yes adultery is a prosecutable offense under the UCMJ.  But always remember that the UCMJ is intended to foster good order and discipline - not justice.  Adultery will be prosecuted ruthlessly but only if it affects the good order and discipline of the service.

carl

[54] Posted by carl on 12-19-2008 at 08:43 AM • top

But surely the USMC recognizes legal divorce? Surely they would not call it adultery if she were legally divorced?

[55] Posted by perpetuaofcarthage on 12-19-2008 at 11:22 AM • top

The congregation’s public exposure of this woman’s conduct is the sin of detraction.  It is a grave sin, as in the ministers of this church are risking eternal damnation for publicly exposing her in this manner.

There are a number of fundamentalist/evangelical congregations that are now abusing the concept of church discipline in malicious-minded ways.  Congregations like this have been known to maliciously contact their former member’s neighbors and employers of whatever “sin” (real or alleged) that he has supposedly committed.  No matter whether the woman is sinful or not, the behavior of the congregation is shameful and wicked.

[56] Posted by Violent Papist on 12-19-2008 at 12:02 PM • top

2) bring a person to repentance who is interested in belonging to a community of love and grace.

I would add / tweak this a bit.  The goal of repentance is to bring the person back into a safe / loving covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.  As I’m sure you already know, the famous Rev 3:20 is in the context of church discipline and repentance, not the regeneration of a soul.  I do not think it coincidence that this is the same imagery in the Song of Songs (5:2ff), where the lover is knocking at the door of his beloved, while she’s making excuses why she can’t run to the door right away.  She finally shows up, and he’s temporarily gone.  That’s what sin does to our relationship with Christ. 

I think the church’s responsibility ends once the person has flounced away to another church.

I used to feel that way about my ex sister-in-law.  It’s funny, but somehow she stays connected to my life, despite my best efforts to disentangle.  wink

The thing is, in some denominations, “flouncing off to another church,” is flouncing off to another parish in the same denomination, no questions asked.  That’s why I believe it supremely important for whoever handles spiritual discipline (priest for Episcopalian-type government, and elders for Presbies) to contact the applicant’s former parish, to get the skinny on why they left. 

The elder/parishioner relationship never ends.  But even if it did, discipline needs to occur on the level of the laity. 

Agree though, that new parameters need to be set on oversight, once the offender has flown the coup. 

If they are interested in clarity they *might* be able to put a little note in their church newsletter stating something like “person x’s unwillingness to adhere to our requirements for membership has led to her departure—we wish her well and pray for her good spiritual health.”

I think that’s probably okay.  When I joined TEC, I offered to sit down with my OPC parish elders, and discuss why I was leaving for a denomination this bad.  They declined, citing that they knew I had put a lot of thought into it, and knew I was a big boy.  Later, they published a blurb in the bulletin that I had joined an Episcopal church and (therefore) my name had been removed from the roles.  In OPC polity, this is somewhere between excommunication and a membership transfer. 

I was shocked at first, but quickly developed a respect for how they handled it.

[57] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-19-2008 at 12:29 PM • top

I am amazed at how the orthodox and others on this thread flounder around over this issue.  Granted, the press usually garbles the story, yet reading all the reports it appears that the church is precicely following Mt. 18. I’m sure it always could have been done better and being human they may have made mistakes, yet they are trying to obey the Lord of the Church.  She went public and has refused instruction.  Now the church must make an official judgment int he matter, even if she has left on her own.  I Corinthinss 5-6 must be followed.  ISTM that you all are very unskilled in using this process.  No wonder you are in such a fix.  This case is of a member who will not submit to the Lordship of Christ and has been dealt with.  I get the impression that so many on this blog really don’t believe in any church discipline, only endless talk like Episcopalians do.  Oh well…

[58] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-20-2008 at 01:46 PM • top

In the days of the old BCP, I seem to remember one way to deal with an issue such as this (when it has reached this point) was to deny the Chalice, and contact the bishop within 12 or 14 days, to explain further WHY such discipline was being taken. That was done even in the case of a divorced person remarrying. I don’t remember letters going out announcing you were going to announce something.

[59] Posted by FrVan on 12-20-2008 at 01:57 PM • top

RE: “Now the church must make an official judgment int he matter, even if she has left on her own.”

Nope—Matthew 18 is now dull and void in the matter—she left the church.  Much as the vengeful might wish to embark on some public humiliation, it isn’t “following Matthew 18” in the least.

Following Matthew 18 could continue if the woman were still in the church, and the “wronged brother” could then bring the entire situation before the church for adjudication.

But the “leadership” of the church simply standing up and stating their “pronouncement” is in no way “following Matthew 18.” 

RE: “Now the church must make an official judgment int he matter, even if she has left on her own.”

No—that is not the purpose of Matthew 18.  The purpose of Matthew 18 is not bringing the matter before the congregation in order for the leadership to pronounce their opinion.  The purpose of Matthew 18 is to settle the matter.

But the matter has been settled.  The woman decided she didn’t want to be in the community anyway—which I can certainly understand, given their idiotic behavior after her departure.

RE: “ISTM that you all are very unskilled in using this process.”

We certainly are.  But it appears that you don’t know much better, PM—and you a Nascar free churcher too.

RE: “This case is of a member . . . “

Nope—no longer a member.


RE: “I get the impression that so many on this blog really don’t believe in any church discipline . . .”

Church “discipline” worked.  The woman departed the community.

Now it’s only a case of the embittered and righteous being deprived of their prey and determining to embark on the revenge as best they are able by attempting public humiliation.

[60] Posted by Sarah on 12-20-2008 at 01:59 PM • top

“the embittered and [self]righteous…”

[61] Posted by FrVan on 12-20-2008 at 02:01 PM • top

Hi All! I have been following this blog for several months, but this is my first time commenting.

If you are interested, I wanted to share another blog that has two different posts on this news article. It’s a conservative Calvinist blog named Pyromaniacs The posts are informative and they have numerous lively commenters who seem to be very in tune with the discipline issues too.

The last blog post made a good point. “How many of you attend or know churches that state in their constitutions/bylaws that running away does not cancel the discipline process?” I thought they made some good points about this because with all of the church hopping/changing, it can be difficult to enforce discipline when it is needed. Anyway, ya’ll might enjoy checking it out and reading their thoughts. smile

[62] Posted by Lily on 12-20-2008 at 03:45 PM • top

Sarah, I think you all make my point.  First of all the canon: Mt. 18 is not given for immorality, but rather for a brother who has been harmed by another brother.  Now most slights are to be overlookde or covered with love, but some need to be addressed.  The woman’s husband, if he was a member could use this for being divorced.  And even in this directive, after the offending party refuses to hear the leaders, then they are commanded to take it before the church.  There is no footnote that excuses them from this because the offender skips out.  It is to be adjucated by the congregation and if there still is no repentance, then they are to consider him “outside the covenant”, like any other nonchristian. 
    For imorality, the canon is I Corinthians 5 which is very clear and a rule for the church.  If there is no repentance, then the church is to 1. not eat with them—no communion, 2. Don’t associate with them, and 3. turn them over to Satan for the destruction of the body.  It is not only an act of disobedience for a church not to follow this Apostolic instruction, but it is harmful to the Body of Christ and to the individual who just suffers no consequences.  BTW, in the case of Mt. 18, I believe it is a sin to turn against a brother without going through the Mt. 18 process. Many churches have in their rules that a member can not resign if under a disciplinary process. Pyromanics website has some good entries on it about this.
These instructions work for any form of church government.  The opposite of a hierarchial church is not the congregational free church, even a NASCAR one, bt an individualist, an Army of One, a Church of One. We are to be with other Christians and in subjection to the Elders and other leaders.  We can leave, if it is not a matter of discipoline but only to another body, not St. Starbucks.  It’s dangerous outside the Church and no protection from Satan—the god of this world.
  Maybe you all could record a table of church discipline in the Episcopal Church as an example of how it works.  I don’t personally know of any except some bishops who did not submit to thir Presiding Bishop.

[63] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-20-2008 at 10:19 PM • top

Please tell me that this church is also going to monitor all of its obese members for their sins of gluttony—-repetitive chronic sin—-and have members stationed at the local Baskin Robbins and Krispy Kreme.

Also, if they could require members to submit their credit card reports for review on at least a quarterly basis, so the elders could adjudge that their spending habits and venues are appropriate for the church.

[64] Posted by heart on 12-20-2008 at 11:28 PM • top

” . . . yet reading all the reports it appears that the church is precicely following Mt. 18. . . . Mt. 18 is not given for immorality, but rather for a brother who has been harmed by another brother.”

Nice switch of an argument mid-stream there, PM.  ; > )

RE: “There is no footnote that excuses them from this because the offender skips out.”

There isn’t any need for an “excuse”—church discipline is for those actually in the church.  Once the person isn’t in the church then the discipline is finished.  Completed.  Done.  It worked.  The only thing left is to . . . er . . . try to exact the revenge for dissing the church.  But that’s another matter entirely.

If the church wishes to enact church discipline on all those outside their church, they’re certainly welcome to it.  That’s a whole lot of adjudicating before the congregation, though!  So many many people claming to be Christians who are not in their church but also sinning . . .

RE: “For imorality, the canon is I Corinthians 5 which is very clear and a rule for the church.”

Beyond your switch of the horse mid-stream . . . there is the issue that the woman isn’t in the church.  The “rule for the church” is, er, “for the church.”

RE: “It is not only an act of disobedience for a church not to follow this Apostolic instruction . . . “

Sure—for people in the church.  But, you know, she’s not in the church.

RE: “I believe it is a sin to turn against a brother without going through the Mt. 18 process.”

I’m sure you do.  Thankfully, even if that were true, “turning against a brother” is left open to definition.  One man’s “turning against a brother” is another’s setting healthy and appropriate boundaries in relationships.  But I’m sure that you will have a definition approved by PM.  ; > )

RE: “Many churches have in their rules that a member can not resign if under a disciplinary process.”

Yes—because they’ve got an entirely different purpose than either 1) repentance or 2) church discipline.  Sad that they would be so sinfully vengeful like that, but churches are sometimes like that.

Sounds like, PM, you’re not really able to be consistent with your congregational ethos.  Sounds like you like a church that claims to be congregational, but whose reach is within a much larger, say global, visible body.

Perhaps you should join a nice hierarchical and global church where a church can enjoy more far-reaching “church discipline.”   

Oh . . . wait . . .

[65] Posted by Sarah on 12-20-2008 at 11:40 PM • top

PM sounds more and more like KJS. Local control on pretty much everything, but heirarchy when it comes to an attempted beatdown of someone who wants out.

As Algore once said about his questionable Buddhist temple fundraiser, “there is no controlling legal authority”—- when you take yourself out from under the authority of a particular church, that is.

I, as a true congregationalist, have absolute confidence that the great, invisible, universal church with no identifiable authority structure will eventually be led into all truth on this woman’s behavior. Until then, perhaps we can assert that an implied trust exists on her house and maybe take her to court or something.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. In reality, there is probably fault on both sides with the woman and the church. Going to the press removes all of my pity for her. However, I think both sides are now looking for revenge against each other.

[66] Posted by Capn Jack Sparrow on 12-21-2008 at 12:47 AM • top

Until then, perhaps we can assert that an implied trust exists on her house and maybe take her to court or something.

That was funny! But in a really sad sort of way.

[67] Posted by perpetuaofcarthage on 12-21-2008 at 01:31 AM • top

#72 Welcome SjB - it is all downhill from here you know once you start commenting?  Enjoy it.

[68] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 12-21-2008 at 06:28 AM • top

RE: “Going to the press removes all of my pity for her. . . . “

Yes, and most likely she didn’t comprehend that going to the press has now publicly outed the church and so—given the church’s nature—whereas before it might have been amenable to logic and scriptural admonition, now it will be duty bound to move forward with its faux Biblically-based revenge in order to prove that it’s not manipulatable by the press or in “shame for the gospel.”

She didn’t realize what sort of place she was dealing with, and by going to the press made it all inevitable anyway.

The next step will be for the church to insist that the two kids refuse to be with the mother.  And then they’ll have to leave.  And then the church will have to pretend to enact “church discipline” on them as well.

[69] Posted by Sarah on 12-21-2008 at 08:25 AM • top

The church works best when we know the value of obedience, accountability and transparency - that it is for our own good. 

All God’s commandments are voluntary.  We are free to choose to adhere to His Word - or not.  Our love for and obedience to God’s Word and His commandments are a result of our love for Him (John 14:15-21)  We are free to love or not to love God with all our hearts….(though whatever part of our hearts we hold back will die, decay or harden.)

Ephesians 5:21 and James 5:16 are best obeyed voluntarily, within a loving, trustworthy and mature, transparent and accountable Body of Christ (where all, from top to bottom are open and accountable)...the hardest part is finding such a Body.

And, yes, we should live so that everything we say, do and think - our credit card statements, our computers, our homes and media habits, our relationships - EVERYTHING - can be brought into the light of Christ.  (John 3:19-21)

As John Wesley said, we should always be prepared to ‘preach, pray or die’ at every moment.

[70] Posted by Theodora on 12-21-2008 at 09:03 AM • top

Hi Sarah Hey,

What’s a “Nascar free churcher” ?? smile

[71] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-21-2008 at 09:47 AM • top

Thank you for the warm welcome and I am thankful to hear all of your views on the subject and the Pyromaniac blog. I have been torn on the subject. As many others have noted, neither side seemed to handle the situation well (but isn’t that true of most of us?)

On one hand, I can see the necessity of the church needing to take a stand on the former member’s misbehavior for the benefit of those who are still church members. Perhaps, a church statement that presents the facts in a discreet manner and informs members that she chose to leave rather than work with the elders through the discipline process would be appropriate? That would affirm that the church has a discipline process that will not ignore problems and upholds scriptural standards for it’s members? It’s a difficult situation. If what I read on Pyromaniacs is true, she did not leave the church (per se), she left this church and went to another one down the street. It’s so American. I do not want to play by the rules, so I’ll leave and go elsewhere? In my mind, the problem is that these people go to another church where they will not be confronted on their sin. What is the ‘church’ supposed to do?

On the other hand, I can see the dangers of heavy-handed or unfair discipline. The points on how do we regulate gluttony, gossip, and etc. are well made. If what I read on Pyromaniacs is true, this woman had tried to break up with this man 10 different times. She had been struggling with her sin for a long time and we all have sins that we struggle with. This woman thought her struggles were confidential with her mentor. Why did the mentor give up on her and take it to the church? Such a mess!

Personally, I’m beginning to wonder if this may reflect some of the differences between non-denominational churches and confessional churches like the Anglicans and Lutherans. Confessional churches have different ways of handling struggles with sin. We can confidentially confess our sins to our pastors and receive absolution. We believe that the Lord’s supper is central to worship and that we receive forgiveness and strength with the sacrament. Confessional churches observe the church calendar, recite the liturgies, have catechisms, and seem to be more grace and gospel oriented and patient towards the struggling sinner while the non-denominational types seem to be barren of the traditional beauty and sacraments of the church and more law-centered with a try-harder-and-succeed-or-else attitude? Personally, I could not go to a non-denominational church because of things like this.

[72] Posted by Lily on 12-21-2008 at 11:29 AM • top

SjB writes:

If what I read on Pyromaniacs is true, this woman had tried to break up with this man 10 different times.


And the linked news article includes this:

Her boyfriend sent an e-mail asking for her removal from church membership, and she moved to a Southside church, thinking it was all over - until her son brought home the church letter.

I think it is very suspicious that her boyfriend sent the resignation to the church, especially is she has been breaking it off from him and then winds up back with him. This woman may be in an abusive relationship with a man who won’t let go.

[73] Posted by perpetuaofcarthage on 12-21-2008 at 11:54 AM • top

Very often church discipline is short-circuited by people simply leaving.  They leave church A, and travel down the road to church B.  Since church B is none the wiser to the circumstance, they continue on as if nothing has happened.  Thus the whole point if church discipline is frustrated.  It’s a difficult problem, and gets even worse when the differentiation between ‘member’ vs ‘attender’ is considered.  Members can be construed to have voluntarily accepted the rules.  But what do you do with people who just show up?

I don’t know the facts in this case, and so have no opinion on the appropriateness of church’s actions.  But I can understand that there should be no general rule about keeping things private.  That would simply push the problem onto a receiving congregation.  I suspect that many churches are concerned not about discipline but about lawsuits.  And it’s easier to make a virtue out of self-interest than to face the hard task of discipline in an antinomian culture like ours; a culture that thinks private behavior is beyond judgment, and denies the spiritual authority of elders.

carl

[74] Posted by carl on 12-21-2008 at 12:27 PM • top

Loyalist, I think I see your point. It’s a good point and it does make one wonder what the boyfriend’s role in all of this is.

I was under the impression that she broke off the relationship 10 times because the mentor was pressuring her to break up because the relationship had become sexual. Sheesh! That’s what’s so hard about this situation: I keep speculating even though I don’t have all the facts.

[75] Posted by Lily on 12-21-2008 at 12:29 PM • top

I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED! that Episcopalians would be so judgmental against Grace Community Church and it’s ordained elders, although they don’t have the apostolic succession of your bishops like KJS, VGR, Channe so we just don’t know if they could have the mind of Christ without that holy hadnshake.  Of course they are at a decided disadvantage being there on the ground and personally involved in the adjudication of the matter.  You would be more objective.  I do admire your neat, efficient way of dealing with offended brothers—just whack them off and create your own boundries.  At least you wouldn’t have to sit next to them in communion.  I await with great anticipation to recieving the list of discipline examples in the Episcopal Church.  I may be able to forward the info to BCC for their edification.  I only know of two bishops who were disciplined, after they left the theater, by KJS.  Now I’m confused.  Why does your God ordained leader violate your standard of not judging those out of the show?  Maybe you can get KJS to inhibit or depose those ignorant NASCR free church vindicative power rangers. And maybe the poor dear gal can find herself a nice affirming inclusive non judgmental Episcopal Church in her ares.  The new motto of TEC is “Come on in.  A church where you don’t have to leave outside your your brains or your boy friends.”  Guess this clinches my number one position as best (non)Anglican Blogger of the year award.  Happy and joyous Winter Solstice.

[76] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-21-2008 at 06:32 PM • top

MERRY CHRISTMAS, Prophet Micaiah!

[77] Posted by Cennydd on 12-21-2008 at 06:38 PM • top

RE: “Guess this clinches my number one position as best (non)Anglican Blogger of the year award.”

That would be Best [non] Anglican Commenter of the Year award.  [sniff, toss head]

RE: “I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED! that Episcopalians would be so judgmental against Grace Community Church and it’s ordained elders . . . “

We’ve learned from our Free-Church betters.

RE: “You would be more objective.”

No—only more Biblically consistent.

RE: “I do admire your neat, efficient way of dealing with offended brothers—just whack them off and create your own boundries.”

No, no, no, no—the offended brothers whack us off, in outrage after we have the gall to create the boundaries.

RE: “Happy and joyous Winter Solstice.”

Liberal!

; > )

[78] Posted by Sarah on 12-21-2008 at 06:48 PM • top

RE: “What’s a “Nascar free churcher” ??”

Moot—care must be taken to use the hyphen in the right place.  I mislaid mine earlier.  For instance, if one said “Nascar-free churcher” that would be Very Bad.

It’s “Nascar Free-Churcher.”

These are Very Very Very Low Church, Completely Congregational, Totally Independent Churches, Free Of All Societal Influence, yet NASCAR-Friendly too.

[79] Posted by Sarah on 12-21-2008 at 06:51 PM • top

Moot, basically NFC are mostly southern, ignorant, fundamentalist, usually rapidly growing, redneck, can’t spell properly—generally 180 degrees from TEO.  You wouldn’t want to go there—-I guess—there I go judging without personal knowlege.

[80] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-21-2008 at 07:50 PM • top

PM,

I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED! that Episcopalians would be so judgmental against Grace Community Church and it’s ordained elders

What I have to say, I say as neither a fan nor an enemy of Apostolic Succession:

The elders, or whoever runs their little fiefdom, are incompetent in handling larger matters of discipline.  Their congregants are equally incompetent in lesser matters, as demonstrated by the botched “intervention,” a poor idea to begin with.  I’d be embarassed for all of them, but for considering their actions as beyond the pale. 

The thing is, even if they’re incompetent, all that they’d need to is talk about these issues with other congregational churches. 

“Hey, have you guys ever had a problem with membership applicants who are shacking-up?  How do you handle that?”

or,

“Hey, I’ve got this guy who was baptized as an adult, but it was sprinkling, not immersion.  Should we accept the baptism as valid?” 

or,

“Hey, I’ve got this guy who left the Roman Catholic Church, but I’m starting to suspect that it’s for reasons other than doctrine.  Frankly, I don’t think he’s the real deal.  What should I do?” 

But they don’t have the foresight to talk to one another about these sorts of immature questions;  leaving the same vacuus questions to be dealt with in the next inept generation. 

They need to grow up.

[81] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-21-2008 at 09:12 PM • top

These are Very Very Very Low Church, Completely Congregational, Totally Independent Churches, Free Of All Societal Influence, yet NASCAR-Friendly too.

Up until now, I thought I’d accomplished so much in my wanderlust years - leaving the Detroit suburbs for the gardens of West Michigan, and after that leaving for the concrete tundra of Madison, then on to the wilds of Montana.  In fact, I’ve accomplished nothing by milling around in the North.  For I know nothing of Nascar-Free Churches, nor Nascar Free-Churches. 

The world is bigger, obviously, than I thought.  :(

[82] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-21-2008 at 09:19 PM • top

Hi Moot, news flash, these guys like most big city nondenominational churches have elders who have seminary degrees—-look at GCC website.  They have Masters Seminary M.Div’s and Doctor of Ministries from major seminaries on board.  I think Dr. John MacArther and Dr. Molner at Souther Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY know how to educate the unwashed.  Unlike so many Episcopalian seminaries, the students have hot discussions about these very issues and what the Bible says—in the Greek and Hebrew.  They even have text books that discuss these things, and yes, there is a tremendous cross polination with other churches and pastors on many theological and ecclesioligcal issues.  Just read “BibSac” from Dalas Theological Seminary and see the great depth with original languages that are covered. 
No, you folks are the real “free church” crowd.  In spite of braging about Apostolic succession, catholicity, councils, etc.  you still don’t follow those apostolic bishops or councils that decide things you don’t like.  Give me a break, you all are at heart just churches of ones.  If you are going to be RCC you had better be in submission to the Pope, and if Episcopalian, you shoud do what GC03 and KJS decide or get out.  Sorry you have lived such a sectarian, isolated life and are unaware what all is going on in a large part of the Body of Christ.  Stlll waiting on that list of discipline cases from TEO that we can learn from.  <crickets…..>  Cheers

[83] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-21-2008 at 09:37 PM • top

No PM.  They’re incompetent and have absolutely no business handling larger matters of church discipline.  The deacons at the Baptist parish where I spent my teen years would agree with me, as would the elders from my former parish (Orthodox Presbyterian);  And the elders of every parish in-between. 

spite of braging about Apostolic succession, catholicity, councils, etc.

Neither Sarah nor I brought up Apostolic succession.  Since you had brought it up, I acknowledged it by declaring neutrality on the issue. 

you still don’t follow those apostolic bishops or councils that decide things you don’t like.

Hmmm… I do.  My rector does.  But even if we didn’t, I don’t see how bringing up TEC’s folly has anything to do with the incompetence of the “elders” of this “community” church.  You may as well compare any incompetent church body against TEC, to make it look good.  Doesn’t really say a lot, though.

[84] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-21-2008 at 10:00 PM • top

I wonder if it is a “process of loving accountability”, or simply a process voyeurism running out of control.

[85] Posted by Betty See on 12-21-2008 at 11:09 PM • top

I rest my case.

[86] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-21-2008 at 11:15 PM • top

What case??

[87] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-21-2008 at 11:19 PM • top

Am I the only one who has trouble keeping track of the thread I am posting on? After scrolling down so much blank space I forget where I am at?

[88] Posted by Betty See on 12-21-2008 at 11:41 PM • top

RE: “What case??”

Moot, I suspect that PM is now responding more from High Emotion than from reason.  We all have our pet theologies that are important to us and obviously his particular theology of “church discipline” is important to him.

Comment #94 is an example of . . . er . . . well, Tom Woodward is that you?

[89] Posted by Sarah on 12-22-2008 at 07:57 AM • top

Now that the days are getting longer and I have more strength, I just have to not let this end on the note that I am a frothing, ignorant, emotional fundi.  I admit that eccleseology is one of my “hobies” that I have studied a number of years.  This is one of the reasons I hang out on SF is to try to understand how other groups operate.  I do believe that many things that are distinctives of various denominations are not critical issues, but also that the Lord doesn’t mind if there are a variety of church models to suit taste, class, education, or just historical events as long as the core is orthodox.
    The thing that amazes me about this thread is how conservative folks from the dysfunctional Episcopal church can jump on those godley and well trained pastors in GCC and accuse theme of all sorts of evils and judge their motives and intelligence.  I can see disagreeing about whether a person in the disciplinary process can or can not opt out from their authority and it be of no further concern.  There are large denominations that take either position, so it is not some strange ignorant thing that stupid vindicative preachers have ginned up to persecute a poor woman. We basically only know what we read in a news article based on her version.  There is a copy of the letter from the elders available, however.  When they sent her the notice of having to move up to the third level of the process, she was still a member and only a week later did her “boyfriend” notify them to bug off.  We have no way of knowing what the church will do now.  I would expect that at their next meeting they will announce that she refused to repent or meet with the elders and had removed herself from the church. 
    I fear that you have demonstrated that the tolerance, nonjudgmentalism, inclussivism is so woven into Episcopalian thought that it will explaine why TEO is in the fix it is in and that even conservative reasserters won’t be able to deal with it or what may arise in new Anglican branches.  I think you have made my case, but you probably won’t be able to see it or even see that folks like GCC could ever be in accordance with the Lord’s leading.
Now I feel better and can wipe the froth off my mouth.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

[90] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-24-2008 at 06:03 PM • top

PM,

I fear that you have demonstrated that the tolerance, nonjudgmentalism, inclussivism is so woven into Episcopalian thought that it will explaine why TEO is in the fix it is in and that even conservative reasserters won’t be able to deal with it or what may arise in new Anglican branches.  I think you have made my case, but you probably won’t be able to see it or even see that folks like GCC could ever be in accordance with the Lord’s leading.

Thanks PM.  You’ve tremendously reinforced my 40+ year journey away from so-called “congregationalism” in favor of regional church government, be it presbyterian or episcopalian. 

I confess though, that one thing I’ll miss about “congregationalism” is the ability to cite crumbling mainline and pompous suburban continuing denoms as Much Worse Than We Are Under The Tender Mercies Of Rev Billy-Bob (or Uncle Joe) And His Goon-Squad.

[91] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-24-2008 at 06:46 PM • top

Yeah, Moot, you are right.  Those local yokels are all ignorant, buffons and Nazis.  You have to go to Headquarters to find the righteous, wise leaders.  Shore is working for you all.  Cheers

[92] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-24-2008 at 11:09 PM • top

Not at all, PM.  Those leaders in headquarters are all buffoons and Nazis, whereas the “Locals” are Absolutely Beyond Reproach.  This is true not so much because there are standards for leadership which exist independent of one’s ecclesiology, mind you; but rather because the former are sitting in headquarters, while the latter gather in a “local” type setting.  So it’s very much dependant on venue. 

And just think.. you can go back to your parish this Sunday feeling Really Good that you are not one of those poor schlemiels in TEC or the REC or even the OPC.  Hopefully, you’ve found a way to work that into your personal testimony.

[93] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-25-2008 at 03:22 AM • top

So judgmental.  How do you know I am not REC OPC PCA?  But I’ll guarantee I am not RCC or TEO.  Cheers

[94] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 12-25-2008 at 10:52 AM • top

So judgmental.  How do you know I am not REC OPC PCA?

I didn’t bring up the PCA.  But now that you mention it, it’s possible that you might hail from one of the “grass-roots” PCA presbyteries. 

But I’ll guarantee I am not RCC or TEO.

For how long?

[95] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-25-2008 at 01:50 PM • top

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