Appendix ii: On Confidentiality

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The following material was originally posted on my personal blog.  It has been slightly revised to fit veritas praebita:

I will, d.v., follow this post with a less specific one on the Consequences of Doing Nothing; for now, it will suffice to say that in the ongoing saga that is Church A., one theme keeps rising to the surface: it’s a council matter, and they have to keep everything confidential, therefore I shouldn’t ask for an explanation or proof of what happened.  This is what I will call ‘Playing the Confidentiality Card’.

What the leadership does at A. is, in theory, dictated by the church order of her denomination. There is in fact mention made of the council members’ responsibility to hold at least something[s] ‘in confidence’.  Let’s look at this subordinate clause in its context and see whether the excuse printed on the Confidentiality Card can walk or not, much less hold water.  The excerpts below are from the forms cited as they appear in the text available online, at the denominational website.

1. The clause in the ordination form is vague–defining it may be difficult. It runs thus:

‘They must provide true preaching and teaching, regular celebration of the sacraments, and faithful counsel and discipline while keeping in confidence those matters entrusted to them.’

The immediate context would seem to indicate that confidential matters are linked to the duties of counseling and church discipline. In the case of A., a confidential counseling matter might be, for example, a parishioner coming to an elder with an issue. We know that last year some people came to at least one elder with complaints against the pastor. That should have been kept in confidence unless the parishioner chose otherwise. Yet the elder had an obligation to ‘counsel’ as well. If the complaint was, let’s say, about the pastor’s preaching, the elder’s primary responsibility would be to advise the parishioner to go to the pastor with his issues, as stipulated in, among other passages, Matthew 18, and the pastor should hear him. In addition, it would be incumbent on the elder to point out, if it is the case, that the pastor’s preaching was biblical, and that therefore, for example, there were no grounds for making demands that the pastor change based on the parishioner’s complaint. However, the first point stands: regardless if the nature of the complaint, the elder should counsel the person to go to the pastor and discuss the issue with him face-to-face. The pastor would then also be obligated to keep such a discussion confidential.

In the case of discipline, there were a few instances in the past few years where people probably ought to have been disciplined, but weren’t—it’s hard to know, at least in A., what confidentiality looks like, practically, in such situations. Discipline just doesn’t happen there.

But in looking at the specific case of the termination of Pastor Templar, the List and the meeting at which Pastor T. read his response to it were not treated as confidential by the council itself. The congregation heard about the List after it was given to the pastor, and after the meeting, the council gave its own summary of the response and their reaction to it after the morning service on 1 November; furthermore, arguably defamatory excerpts from the Article 17 were read aloud to the congregation at the congregational meeting. By the council’s own precedent, the event and the text of the List and Pastor T’s response are not confidential; rather, they have been trotted out, in written bits or verbal representations, as justification for the termination, but no one in the congregation has had access to the documents for context, and to verify whether they conform to the verbal claims made about them.

2. Even if the clause were interpreted as applying to a wide range of issues and situations, it could be argued that it wouldn’t apply to an event or document that precipitated the [unbiblical] firing of a minister. On the one hand, if wrongdoing by the council were suspected, the documentation ought to be published, to dispel or confirm the suspicion, and either clear the pastor or the council of wrongdoing, because a congregation can’t really move forward in faith if it is isn’t certain that its leadership has acted in accordance with the Law of God and in a manner worthy of the name of Christ. As it has been alleged, by more parties than simply the pastor in question, that this was WRONG, there should be an investigation, and the alleged cause for his dismissal (the List, and his reply to it) should be examined, and likely the background to the List as well (what precipitated it, why it is in the order it is, why it includes such a variety of issues, why it wasn’t written up in advance, what were the biblical justifications for certain items, whether it was from the beginning a ‘package deal’, whether it was made clear to the Pastor that his job was dependent on him accepting the List wholesale with no discussion, etc.). On the other hand, if he were being fired for a serious moral lapse or gross sin, like sexual harassment or embezzling, it could be argued that it is incumbent on the council to make the reason public, even calling upon the civil authorities to press charges.

3. Because the council is elected and confirmed by their congregation, the congregation is obligated to hold the leadership accountable in terms of both its teaching and actions against the standards provided by scripture and the tradition of the church (following the example of the Bereans). In the following passage from the Covenant for Office Bearers, the council is bound to give a thorough explanation to the church if it takes issue with any statements in the confessions:

‘Should we come to believe that a teaching in the confessional documents is not the teaching of God’s Word, we will communicate our views to the church, according to the procedures prescribed by the Church Order and its supplements. If the church asks, we will give a full explanation of our views. Further, we promise to submit to the church’s judgment and authority.’

The council is answerable to the church even in terms of its stance on doctrinal matters.  As such, the congregation, on some issues, has a certain ‘right to know’ what goes on in the consistory room (e.g., the budget is published. Why?). The council is to be made up of the spiritual caretakers of the church; elders should be able faithfully to teach the Bible, and both elders and deacons should live lives characterized by exemplary Christian service and righteousness. If they have in fact sinned, especially as a group, in effect having brought reproach on Christ’s name and on their local body by abuse of their position, the circumstances should be made known to the congregation in order that they may judge whether discipline is necessary. It is also incumbent on the congregation itself to maintain its own purity and standing before God, and to honor Him and the Truth by diligently seeking it out.

4. The form for ordination includes many other binding or prescriptive clauses. It is difficult to grant credibility to the selective enforcement (or hiding behind, depending on point of view) of one clause when so many others have been ignored and/or broken. Some examples follow.

In the Form for Ordination, the office of elder is described thus (emphasis mine):

‘Elders are thus responsible for the spiritual well-being of God’s people. They must provide true preaching and teaching, regular celebration of the sacraments, and faithful counsel and disciplinewhile keeping in confidence those matters entrusted to them. Andthey must promote fellowship and hospitality among believers (I bolded this because on the List such duties were made the responsibility of the pastor alone [?!]), ensure good order in the church, and stimulate witness to all people.’

A little further down, the deacons are charged with, among other things, the securing of justice:

‘In Christ’s name the deacons relieve victims of injustice. By this they show that Christians live by the Spirit of the kingdom, fervently desiring to give life the shape of things to come.’

The following is in the charge to the elders:

‘Be a friend and Christlike example to children. Give clear and cheerful guidance to young people.’

And this:

‘Be wise counselors who support and strengthen the pastor.’

And this:

‘Be compassionate, yet firm and consistent in rebuke and discipline.’

And:

Know the Scriptures, which are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).’

From the vows:

‘Do you subscribe to the doctrinal standards of this church, rejecting all teaching which contradicts them?’

And:

‘Do you promise to do the work of your offices faithfully, in a way worthy of your calling and in submission to the government and discipline of the church?’

5. It was observed in the midst of the situation that confidentiality of emails between even pastors was not being respected; when pastors who were passing around emails were confronted on this issue, they either would not admit to doing so, or outright refused to maintain confidentiality. One party concluded that it never had been reasonable to expect matters to be kept confidential, given the attitudes of people involved. It is my belief that the confidentiality card being played at this stage serves only to protect the suspected guilty.

I can be cynical in this regard, since, per the termination agreement, Pastor Templar is bound by a gag order, which, if not obeyed, could cost him his severance.  The council is also bound not to speak disparagingly of Pastor T., and of course it would be safer to say nothing about the situation at all, but as stories continue to circulate, proliferate and mutate, it can be reasonably assumed that certain council members do not feel themselves bound by discretion.  One council member’s wife actually took it upon herself to read a letter addressed to the council only, and even to send me a reply.  I will resist offering extensive comment on this.

Indeed, such lack of consideration for propriety is to be expected; the termination agreement also specified that any statement put out to the congregation was to be mutually constructed and agreed upon by both the council and Pastor Templar.  One was written and posted to all the congregation, Templar excepted, without his even having been given notice that the council had been working on it.  He may not have learned about it until long after, if a former member had not informed him, and had some of the letters not been returned to the church undelivered due to invalid addresses!

6. Finally and briefly, the ‘business’ of council meetings is ‘open,’ just as the church budget is published, just as the pastor’s salary is published.  And, the written grounds for firing someone should be as accessible as the grounds for hiring them: the whole congregation can hear a candidate preach, meet him, discuss him, then deliberate and vote whether to call him in a congregational meeting called for the purpose.  How can it be that to fire the same man, none of the process or the decision is ‘accessible’ to the church as a whole?

Exhibit Z.

Classics and classics: Applied Humanities & Relevant Exempla.

**THIS POST IS CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.**

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Featured authors:

Historians: Thucydides, Livy, Tacitus, Plutarch.

Statesmen & Political Theorists: Demosthenes, Cicero, Edmund Burke.

Dramatists: Sophocles, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller.

Novelists & Other Writers of Fiction: Gaskell, Eliot, Poe, Hawthorne, Lewis

Poets: Lucan, Valerius Flaccus, Dante

**Featured passages of Scripture: I Sam.24; Proverbs; Romans 3

Historians.

Chaos and stasis in Corcyra, from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. H/T classicpersuasion.org

(3.82) For not long afterwards nearly the whole Hellenic world was in commotion; in every city the chiefs of the democracy and of the oligarchy were struggling, the one to bring in the Athenians, the other the Lacedaemonians. Now in time of peace, men would have had no excuse for introducing either, and no desire to do so; but, when they were at war, the introduction of a foreign alliance on one side or the other to the hurt of their enemies and the advantage of themselves was easily effected by the dissatisfied party.71 And revolution brought upon the cities of Hellas many terrible calamities, such as have been and always will be while human nature remains the same, but which are more or less aggravated and differ in character with every new combination of circumstances. In peace and prosperity both states and individuals are actuated by higher motives, because they do not fall under the dominion of imperious necessities; but war, which takes away the comfortable provision of daily life, is a hard master and tends to assimilate men’s characters to their conditions.

When troubles had once begun in the cities, those who followed carried the revolutionary spirit further and further, and determined to outdo the report of all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their enterprises and the atrocity of their revenges. The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man. A conspirator who wanted to be safe was a recreant in disguise. The lover of violence was always trusted, and his opponent suspected. He who succeeded in a plot was deemed knowing, but a still greater master in craft was he who detected one. On the other hand, he who plotted from the first to have nothing to do with plots was a breaker up of parties and a poltroon who was afraid of the enemy. In a word, he who could outstrip another in a bad action was applauded, and so was he who encouraged to evil one who had no idea of it. The tie of party was stronger than the tie of blood, because a partisan was more ready to dare without asking why. (For party associations are not based upon any established law, nor do they seek the public good; they are formed in defiance of the laws and from self-interest.) The seal of good faith was not divine law, but fellowship in crime. If an enemy when he was in the ascendant offered fair words, the opposite party received them not in a generous spirit, but by a jealous watchfulness of his actions.72Revenge was dearer than self-preservation. Any agreements sworn to by either party, when they could do nothing else, were binding as long as both were powerless. But he who on a favourable opportunity first took courage, and struck at his enemy when he saw him off his guard, had greater pleasure in a perfidious than he would have had in an open act of revenge; he congratulated himself that he had taken the safer course, and also that he had overreached his enemy and gained the prize of superior ability. In general the dishonest more easily gain credit for cleverness than the simple for goodness; men take a pride in the one, but are ashamed of the other.

The cause of all these evils was the love of power, originating in avarice and ambition, and the party-spirit which is engendered by them when men are fairly embarked in a contest. For the leaders on either side used specious names, the one party professing to uphold the constitutional equality of the many, the other the wisdom of an aristocracy, while they made the public interests, to which in name they were devoted, in reality their prize. Striving in every way to overcome each other, they committed the most monstrous crimes; yet even these were surpassed by the magnitude of their revenges which they pursued to the very utmost,73 neither party observing any definite limits either of justice or public expediency, but both alike making the caprice of the moment their law. Either by the help of an unrighteous sentence, or grasping power with the strong hand, they were eager to satiate the impatience of party-spirit. Neither faction cared for religion; but any fair pretence which succeeded in effecting some odious purpose was greatly lauded. And the citizens who were of neither party fell a prey to both; either they were disliked because they held aloof, or men were jealous of their surviving.

(3.83) Thus revolution gave birth to every form of wickedness in Hellas. The simplicity which is so large an element in a noble nature was laughed to scorn and disappeared. An attitude of perfidious antagonism everywhere prevailed; for there was no word binding enough, nor oath terrible enough to reconcile enemies. Each man was strong only in the conviction that nothing was secure; he must look to his own safety, and could not afford to trust others. Inferior intellects generally succeeded best. For, aware of their own deficiencies, and fearing the capacity of their opponents, for whom they were no match in powers of speech, and whose subtle wits were likely to anticipate them in contriving evil, they struck boldly and at once. But the cleverer sort, presuming in their arrogance that they would be aware in time, and disdaining to act when they could think, were taken off their guard and easily destroyed.

(3.84) Now in Corcyra most of these deeds were perpetrated, and for the first time. There was every crime which men could commit in revenge who had been governed not wisely, but tyrannically, and now had the oppressor at their mercy. There were the dishonest designs of others who were longing to be relieved from their habitual poverty, and were naturally animated by a passionate desire for their neighbour’s goods; and there were crimes of another class which men commit, not from covetousness, but from the enmity which equals foster towards one another until they are carried away by their blind rage into the extremes of pitiless cruelty. At such a time the life of the city was all in disorder, and human nature, which is always ready to transgress the laws, having now trampled them underfoot, delighted to show that her passions were ungovernable, that she was stronger than justice, and the enemy of everything above her. If malignity had not exercised a fatal power, how could any one have preferred revenge to piety, and gain to innocence? But, when men are retaliating upon others, they are reckless of the future, and do not hesitate to annul those common laws of humanity to which every individual trusts for his own hope of deliverance should he ever be overtaken by calamity; they forget that in their own hour of need they will look for them in vain.

(3.85) Such were the passions which the citizens of Corcyra first of all Hellenes displayed towards one another. After the departure of Eurymedon and the Athenian fleet the surviving oligarchs, who to the number of five hundred had escaped, seized certain forts on the mainland, and thus became masters of the territory on the opposite coast which belonged to Corcyra. Thence issuing forth, they plundered the Corcyraeans in the island, and did much harm, so that there was a great famine in the city. They also sent ambassadors to Lacedaemon and Corinth, begging that they might be restored, but, failing of their object, they procured boats and auxiliaries, and passed over to Corcyra about six hundred in all; then, burning their boats, that they might have no hope but in the conquest of the island, they went into Mount Istonè, and building a fort there, became masters of the country to the ruin of the inhabitants of the city.

(3.86) At the end of the same summer the Athenians sent twenty ships to Sicily under the command of Laches the son of Melanopus, and Charoeades the son of Euphiletus. Syracuse and Leontini were now at war with one another. All the Dorian cities, except Camarina, were in alliance with Syracuse; they were the same which at the beginning of the war were reckoned in the Lacedaemonian confederacy, but they had taken no active part.74 The allies of the Leontines were the Chalcidian cities and Camarina. In Italy the Locrians sided with the Syracusans, and the Rhegians with the Leontines, who were their kinsmen.75The Leontines and their allies sent to Athens, and on the ground, partly of an old alliance, partly of their Ionian descent, begged the Athenians to send them ships, for they were driven off both sea and land by their Syracusan enemies. The Athenians sent the ships, professedly on the ground of relationship, but in reality because they did not wish the Peloponnesians to obtain corn from Sicily. Moreover they meant to try what prospect they had of getting the affairs of Sicily into their hands. So the commanders of the fleet came to Rhegium in Italy, where they established themselves, and carried on the war in concert with their allies. Thus the summer ended.

3.82-86, trans. Jowett.

Statesmen & Political Theorists.

Demosthenes on Flattery, Responsible Oratory, and Speech vs. Action. H/T Perseus Project

D.’s ‘First Philippic’, delivered 351 BC; an exhortation to the Athenian assembly to take action against Philip of Macedon {emphases mine}.

38. Of that which has been read, Athenians, most is true, unhappily true; perhaps not agreeable to hear. And if what one passes over in speaking, to avoid offense, one could pass over in reality, it is right to humor the audience; but if graciousness of speech, where it is out of place, does harm in action, it is shameful, Athenians, to delude ourselves, and by putting off everything unpleasant to miss the time for all operations, 39 and be unable even to understand that skillful makers of war should not follow circumstances, but be in advance of them; that just as a general may be expected to lead his armies, so are men of prudent counsel to guide circumstances, in order that their resolutions may be accomplished, not their motions determined by the event. … 43. I marvel, indeed, that none of you, Athenians, notices with concern and anger that the beginning of this war was to chastise Philip but the end is to protect ourselves against his attacks. One thing is clear: he will not stop unless some one opposes him. And shall we wait for this? And if you dispatch empty galleys and hopes from this or that person, do you think all is well? 44. Shall we not embark? Shall we not sail with at least a part of our national forces, now if not before? Shall we not make a descent upon his coast? Where, then, shall we land? some one asks. The war itself, men of Athens, will discover the rotten parts of his empire, if we make a trial; but if we sit at home, hearing the orators accuse and malign one another, no good can ever be achieved. I think, where a portion of our citizens, though not all, are commissioned with the rest, the gods are favorable, and Fortune aids the struggle: but where you send out a general and an empty decree and hopes, nothing that you desire is done; your enemies laugh at you, and your allies die for fear of such an armament. 46. For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for one man to execute all your wishes: to promise, and assert, and accuse this or that person, is possible; but so your affairs are ruined. For when the general is at the head of wretched, unpaid mercenaries, and when there are those in Athens who lie to you light-heartedly about all that he does, and, on the strength of the tales that you hear, you pass decrees at random, what must you expect?

47. How is this to cease, Athenians? When you make the same persons both soldiers and witnesses of the generals’ conduct, and judges when they return home at his audit, so that you may not only hear of your own affairs, but be present to see them. So disgraceful is our condition now, that every general is put on trial two or three times before you for his life, though none dares even once to hazard his life against the enemy: they prefer the death of kidnappers and thieves to that which becomes them; for it is a felon’s part to die by sentence of the law, a general’s to die in battle. 48. Among ourselves, some go about and say that Philip is plotting with the Lacedaemonians the destruction of Thebes and the dissolution of free states; some, that he has sent envoys to the King [of Persia]; others, that he is fortifying cities in Illyria. 49. So we all go about inventing stories. For my part, Athenians, by the gods I believe that Philip is intoxicated with the magnitude of his exploits, and has many such dreams in his imagination, seeing the absence of opponents, and elated by success; but most certainly he has no such plan of action as to let the silliest people among us know what his intentions are; for the silliest are these newsmongers. 50. Let us dismiss such talk, and remember only that Philip is an enemy who robs us of our own and has long insulted us; that wherever we have expected aid from any quarter, it has been found hostile, and that the future depends on ourselves, and unless we are willing to fight him there, we shall perhaps be compelled to fight here. This let us remember, and then we shall have determined wisely, and have done with idle conjectures. You need not pry into the future, but assure yourselves it will be disastrous, unless you attend to your duty, and are willing to act as becomes you.

51. As for me, never before have I courted favor by speaking what I am not convinced is for your good, and now I have spoken my whole mind frankly and unreservedly. I could have wished, knowing the advantage of good counsel to you, I were equally certain of its advantage to the counselor: so should I have spoken with more satisfaction. Now, with an uncertainty of the consequence to myself, but with a conviction that you will benefit by adopting it, I offer my advice. I trust only that what is most for the common benefit will prevail.

D.’s ‘On the Chersonese’, 341 BC.

…[31]but if any one comes forward and tells you the truth, and says, ‘Men of Athens, this is nonsense. It is Philip that is the cause of all this mischief and trouble; for if he were quiet, the city would have nothing to disturb her,’ you cannot, indeed, deny the truth of his words, but you seem, I think, to be annoyed, as though you were losing something32 And the cause of these things is this–and I beseech you, in Heaven’s name, to let me speak unreservedly, when I am speaking for your true good–that some of your politicians have contrived that you should be terrifying and severe in your assemblies, but easy- going and contemptible in your preparations for war. And accordingly, if any one names as the culprit some one whom you know you can arrest in your own midst, you agree and you wish to act; but if one is named whom you must first master by force of arms, if you are to punish him at all, you are at a loss, I fancy, what to do, and you are vexed when this is brought home to you. 33 For your politicians, men of Athens, should have treated you in exactly the opposite way to this; they should train you to be kind and sympathetic in your assemblies; for there it is with the members of your own body and your own allies that your case is argued: but your terrors and your severity should be displayed in your preparations for war, where the struggle is with your enemies and your rivals. 34 As it is, by their popular speeches, and by courting your favour to excess, they have brought you into such a condition that, while in your assemblies you give yourselves airs and enjoy their flattery, listening to nothing but what is meant to please you, in the world of facts and events you are in the last extremity of peril. Imagine, in God’s name, what would happen, if the Hellenes were to call you to account for the opportunities which, in your indolence, you have now let pass, and were to put to you the question, 35 ‘Is it true, men of Athens, that you send envoys to us on every possible occasion, to tell us of Philip’s designs against ourselves and all the Hellenes, and of the duty of keeping guard against the man, and to warn us in every way?’ We should have to confess that it was true. We do act thus. ‘Then,’ they would proceed, ‘is it true, you most contemptible of all men, that though the man has been away for ten months, 36 and has been cut off from every possibility of returning home, by illness and by winter and by wars, you have neither liberated Euboea nor recovered any of your own possessions? Is it true that you have remained at home, unoccupied and healthy–if such a word can be used of men who behave thus–and have seen him set up two tyrants in Euboea, one to serve as a fortress directly menacing Attica, the other to watch Sciathus; 37 and that you have not even rid yourselves of these dangers–granted that you did not want to do anything more–but have let them be? Obviously you have retired in his favour, and have made it evident that if he dies ten times over, you will not make any move the more. Why trouble us then with your embassies and your accusations?’ If they speak thus to us, what will be our answer? What shall we say, Athenians? I do not see what we can say.

38 Now there are some who imagine that they confute a speaker, as soon as they have asked him the question, ‘What then are we to do?’ I will first give them this answer–the most just and true of all–‘Do not do what you are doing now.’ 39 But at the same time I will give them a minute and detailed reply; and then let them show that their willingness to act upon it is not less than their eagerness to interrogate. First, men of Athens, you must thoroughly make up your minds to the fact that Philip is at war with Athens, and has broken the Peace–you must cease to lay the blame at one another’s doors–and that he is evilly-disposed and hostile to the whole city, down to the very ground on which it is built; 40 nay, I will go further–hostile to every single man in the city, even to those who are most sure that they are winning his favour…

76 I desire now to sum up my advice and to leave the platform. I say that we must contribute funds, and must keep together the force now in existence, correcting anything that may seem amiss in it, but not disbanding the whole force because of the possible criticisms against it. We must send envoys everywhere to instruct, to warn, and to act. Above all, we must punish those who take bribes in connexion with public affairs, and must everywhere display our abhorrence of them; in order that reasonable men, who offer their honest services, may find their policy justified in their own eyes and in those of others. 77 If you treat the situation thus, and cease to ignore it altogether, there is a chance–a chance I say, even now–that it may improve. If, however, you sit idle, with an interest that stops short at applause and acclamation, and retires into the background when any action is required, I can imagine no oratory, which, without action on your part, will be able to save your country.

According to Edmund Burke, political philosopher & statesman (elected MP for Bristol, 1774). H/T wikiquote.

(in order to streamline the presentation, I have not included the various contexts of the quotes below; some emphases are mine, some are remnants from bolded text on the source page)

There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.

A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.

In doing good, we are generally cold, and languid, and sluggish; and of all things afraid of being too much in the right. But the works of malice and injustice are quite in another style. They are finished with a bold, masterly hand; touched as they are with the spirit of those vehement passions that call forth all our energies, whenever we oppress and persecute.

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.

Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.

You can never plan the future by the past.

Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to any thing but power for their relief.

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Neither the few nor the many have a right to act merely by their will, in any matter connected with duty, trust, engagement, or obligation.

There is a boundary to men’s passions when they act from feeling; none when they are under the influence of imagination.

We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.

Old religious factions are volcanoes burnt out.

It is the function of a judge not to make but to declare the law, according to the golden mete-wand of the law and not by the crooked cord of discretion.

Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference.

And having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.

Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations — wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.

The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.

A very great part of the mischiefs that vex the world arises from words.

The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.

There are few with whom I can communicate so freely as with Pope. But Pope cannot bear every truth. He has a timidity which hinders the full exertion of his faculties, almost as effectually as bigotry cramps those of the general herd of mankind. But whoever is a genuine follower of truth keeps his eye steady upon his guide, indifferent whither he is led, provided that she is the leader. And, my Lord, if it may be properly considered, it were infinitely better to remain possessed by the whole legion of vulgar mistakes, than to reject some, and, at the same time, to retain a fondness for others altogether as absurd and irrational. The first has at least a consistency, that makes a man, however erroneously, uniform at least; but the latter way of proceeding is such an inconsistent chimera and jumble of philosophy and vulgar prejudice, that hardly anything more ridiculous can be conceived.

Kings are ambitious; the nobility haughty; and the populace tumultuous and ungovernable. Each party, however in appearance peaceable, carries on a design upon the others; and it is owing to this, that in all questions, whether concerning foreign or domestic affairs, the whole generally turns more upon some party-matter than upon the nature of the thing itself; whether such a step will diminish or augment the power of the crown, or how far the privileges of the subject are likely to be extended or restricted by it. And these questions are constantly resolved, without any consideration of the merits of the cause, merely as the parties who uphold these jarring interests may chance to prevail; and as they prevail, the balance is overset, now upon one side, now upon the other. The government is, one day, arbitrary power in a single person; another, a juggling confederacy of a few to cheat the prince and enslave the people; and the third, a frantic and unmanageable democracy. The great instrument of all these changes, and what infuses a peculiar venom into all of them, is party. It is of no consequence what the principles of any party, or what their pretensions, are; the spirit which actuates all parties is the same; the spirit of ambition, of self-interest, of oppression, and treachery. This spirit entirely reverses all the principles which a benevolent nature has erected within us; all honesty, all equal justice, and even the ties of natural society, the natural affections. In a word, my Lord, we have all seen, and, if any outward considerations were worthy the lasting concern of a wise man, we have some of us felt, such oppression from party government as no other tyranny can parallel. We behold daily the most important rights, rights upon which all the others depend, we behold these rights determined in the last resort without the least attention even to the appearance or colour of justice; we behold this without emotion, because we have grown up in the constant view of such practices; and we are not surprised to hear a man requested to be a knave and a traitor, with as much indifference as if the most ordinary favour were asked; and we hear this request refused, not because it is a most unjust and unreasonable desire, but that this worthy has already engaged his injustice to another. These and many more points I am far from spreading to their full extent.

I could show, that the same faction has, in one reign, promoted popular seditions, and, in the next, been a patron of tyranny; I could show, that they have all of them betrayed the public safety at all times, and have very frequently with equal perfidy made a market of their own cause, and their own associates. I could show how vehemently they have contended for names, and how silently they have passed over things of the last importance.

A good parson once said, that where mystery begins, religion ends. Cannot I say, as truly at least, of human laws, that where mystery begins, justice ends? It is hard to say whether the doctors of law or divinity have made the greater advances in the lucrative business of mystery. The lawyers, as well as the theologians, have erected another reason besides natural reason; and the result has been, another justice besides natural justice. They have so bewildered the world and themselves in unmeaning forms and ceremonies, and so perplexed the plainest matters with metaphysical jargon, that it carries the highest danger to a man out of that profession, to make the least step without their advice and assistance. Thus,by confining to themselves the knowledge of the foundation of all men’s lives and properties, they have reduced all mankind into the most abject and servile dependence. We are tenants at the will of these gentlemen for everything; and a metaphysical quibble is to decide whether the greatest villain breathing shall meet his deserts, or escape with impunity, or whether the best man in the society shall not be reduced to the lowest and most despicable condition it affords. In a word, my Lord, the injustice, delay, puerility, false refinement, and affected mystery of the law are such, that many who live under it come to admire and envy the expedition, simplicity, and equality of arbitrary judgments.

Power gradually extirpates from the mind every humane and gentle virtue. Pity, benevolence, friendship, are things almost unknown in high stations.

Custom reconciles us to every thing.

It is an advantage to all narrow wisdom and narrow morals that their maxims have a plausible air; and, on a cursory view, appear equal to first principles. They are light and portable. They are as current as copper coin; and about as valuable. They serve equally the first capacities and the lowest; and they are, at least, as useful to the worst men as to the best. Of this stamp is the cant of not man, but measures; a sort of charm by which many people get loose from every honourable engagement.

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

Public life is a situation of power and energy; he trespasses against his duty who sleeps upon his watch, as well as he that goes over to the enemy.

Falsehood has a perennial spring.

It is not, what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice, tell me I ought to do.

All who have ever written on government are unanimous, that among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.

The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.

Corrupt influence, which is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality, and of all disorder; which loads us, more than millions of debt; which takes away vigor from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of our constitution.

They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance.

There never was a bad man that had ability for good service.

Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety.

One that confounds good and evil is an enemy to the good.

An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.

Resolved to die in the last dike of prevarication.

I cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, to consider his country as nothing but carte blanche, upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases.

People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.

Learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.

Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.

A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.

A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.

All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society.

But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.

In their nomination to office they will not appoint to the exercise of authority as to a pitiful job, but as to a holy function.

Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident a security.

Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.

Good order is the foundation of all good things.

Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent.

I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observation of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business.

(contemplating the fall of the Queen of France in the Revolution): Little did I dream when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.

Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.

No man can mortgage his injustice as a pawn for his fidelity.

No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity.

Our patience will achieve more than our force.

The body of all true religion consists, to be sure, in obedience to the will of the Sovereign of the world, in a confidence in His declarations, and in imitation of His perfections.

Where popular authority is absolute and unrestrained, the people have an infinitely greater, because a far better founded, confidence in their own power. They are themselves, in a great measure, their own instruments. They are nearer to their objects. Besides, they are less under responsibility to one of the greatest controlling powers on the earth, the sense of fame and estimation. The share of infamy that is likely to fall to the lot of each individual in public acts is small indeed; the operation of opinion being in the inverse ratio to the number of those who abuse power. Their own approbation of their own acts has to them the appearance of a public judgment in their favor. A perfect democracy is, therefore, the most shameless thing in the world. As it is the most shameless, it is also the most fearless. No man apprehends in his person that he can be made subject to punishment.

Whilst shame keeps its watch, virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants.

Writers, especially when they act in a body and with one direction, have great influence on the public mind.

When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.

It cannot at this time be too often repeated; line upon line; precept upon precept; until it comes into the currency of a proverb, To innovate is not to reform..

We must not always judge of the generality of the opinion by the noise of the acclamation.

Manners are of more importance than laws. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in.

Well is it known that ambition can creep as well as soar.

Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatever: But, as in the exercise of all the virtues, there is an œconomy of truth. It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure that he may speak it the longer.

Dramatists.

Excerpt from Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III.

[In which Henry exposes the members of the Southampton Plot, who have just been advising him to throw the book at a drunkard railing against the king in the street.]

The king hands sealed commissions to the conspirators, in which they find information other than what they expect:

KING HENRY V
Then, Richard Earl of Cambridge, there is yours;
There yours, Lord Scroop of Masham; and, sir knight,
Grey of Northumberland, this same is yours:
Read them; and know, I know your worthiness.
My Lord of Westmoreland, and uncle Exeter,
We will aboard to night. Why, how now, gentlemen!
What see you in those papers that you lose
So much complexion? Look ye, how they change!
Their cheeks are paper. Why, what read you there
That hath so cowarded and chased your blood
Out of appearance?

CAMBRIDGE
I do confess my fault;
And do submit me to your highness’ mercy.

GREY SCROOP
To which we all appeal.

KING HENRY V
The mercy that was quick in us but late,
By your own counsel is suppress’d and kill’d:
You must not dare, for shame, to talk of mercy;
For your own reasons turn into your bosoms,
As dogs upon their masters, worrying you.
See you, my princes, and my noble peers,
These English monsters! My Lord of Cambridge here,
You know how apt our love was to accord
To furnish him with all appertinents
Belonging to his honour; and this man
Hath, for a few light crowns, lightly conspired,
And sworn unto the practises of France,
To kill us here in Hampton: to the which
This knight, no less for bounty bound to us
Than Cambridge is, hath likewise sworn. But, O,
What shall I say to thee, Lord Scroop? thou cruel,
Ingrateful, savage and inhuman creature!
Thou that didst bear the key of all my counsels,
That knew’st the very bottom of my soul,
That almost mightst have coin’d me into gold,
Wouldst thou have practised on me for thy use,
May it be possible, that foreign hire
Could out of thee extract one spark of evil
That might annoy my finger? ’tis so strange,
That, though the truth of it stands off as gross
As black and white, my eye will scarcely see it.
Treason and murder ever kept together,
As two yoke-devils sworn to either’s purpose,
Working so grossly in a natural cause,
That admiration did not whoop at them:
But thou, ‘gainst all proportion, didst bring in
Wonder to wait on treason and on murder:
And whatsoever cunning fiend it was
That wrought upon thee so preposterously
Hath got the voice in hell for excellence:
All other devils that suggest by treasons
Do botch and bungle up damnation
With patches, colours, and with forms being fetch’d
From glistering semblances of piety;
But he that temper’d thee bade thee stand up,
Gave thee no instance why thou shouldst do treason,
Unless to dub thee with the name of traitor.
If that same demon that hath gull’d thee thus
Should with his lion gait walk the whole world,
He might return to vasty Tartar back,
And tell the legions ‘I can never win
A soul so easy as that Englishman’s.’
O, how hast thou with ‘jealousy infected
The sweetness of affiance! Show men dutiful?
Why, so didst thou: seem they grave and learned?
Why, so didst thou: come they of noble family?
Why, so didst thou: seem they religious?
Why, so didst thou: or are they spare in diet,
Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger,
Constant in spirit, not swerving with the blood,
Garnish’d and deck’d in modest complement,
Not working with the eye without the ear,
And but in purged judgment trusting neither?
Such and so finely bolted didst thou seem:
And thus thy fall hath left a kind of blot,
To mark the full-fraught man and best indued
With some suspicion. I will weep for thee;
For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like
Another fall of man. Their faults are open:
Arrest them to the answer of the law;
And God acquit them of their practises!

EXETER
I arrest thee of high treason, by the name of
Richard Earl of Cambridge.
I arrest thee of high treason, by the name of
Henry Lord Scroop of Masham.
I arrest thee of high treason, by the name of
Thomas Grey, knight, of Northumberland.

SCROOP
Our purposes God justly hath discover’d;
And I repent my fault more than my death;
Which I beseech your highness to forgive,
Although my body pay the price of it.

CAMBRIDGE
For me, the gold of France did not seduce;
Although I did admit it as a motive
The sooner to effect what I intended:
But God be thanked for prevention;
Which I in sufferance heartily will rejoice,
Beseeching God and you to pardon me.

GREY
Never did faithful subject more rejoice
At the discovery of most dangerous treason
Than I do at this hour joy o’er myself.
Prevented from a damned enterprise:
My fault, but not my body, pardon, sovereign.

KING HENRY V
God quit you in his mercy! Hear your sentence.
You have conspired against our royal person,
Join’d with an enemy proclaim’d and from his coffers
Received the golden earnest of our death;
Wherein you would have sold your king to slaughter,
His princes and his peers to servitude,
His subjects to oppression and contempt
And his whole kingdom into desolation.
Touching our person seek we no revenge;
But we our kingdom’s safety must so tender,
Whose ruin you have sought, that to her laws
We do deliver you. Get you therefore hence,
Poor miserable wretches, to your death:
The taste whereof, God of his mercy give
You patience to endure, and true repentance
Of all your dear offences! Bear them hence.

From Shakespeare’s Richard III, Act II, Scene 3.  Gloucester’s Reflection.

GLOUCESTER
I do the wrong, and first begin to brawl.
The secret mischiefs that I set abroach
I lay unto the grievous charge of others.
Clarence, whom I, indeed, have laid in darkness,
I do beweep to many simple gulls
Namely, to Hastings, Derby, Buckingham;
And say it is the queen and her allies
That stir the king against the duke my brother.
Now, they believe it; and withal whet me
To be revenged on Rivers, Vaughan, Grey:
But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

Novelists.

Excerpt from ch.2 of My Lady Ludlow, by Elizabeth Gaskell (published 1858).

Text available at Project Gutenberg.

[The narrator is a young woman who has been sent to live with the countess Ludlow at Hanbury Court; she is describing one of the first interactions between Lady Ludlow and the new vicar in her parish, Mr. Gray, and what came of it.]

All this time I have wandered from Mr. Gray. Of course, we first saw him in church when he read himself in. He was very red-faced, the kind of redness which goes with light hair and a blushing complexion; he looked slight and short, and his bright light frizzy hair had hardly a dash of powder in it. I remember my lady making this observation, and sighing over it; for, though since the famine in seventeen hundred and ninety-nine and eighteen hundred there had been a tax on hair-powder, yet it was reckoned very revolutionary and Jacobin not to wear a good deal of it. My lady hardly liked the opinions of any man who wore his own hair; but this she would say was rather a prejudice: only in her youth none but the mob had gone wigless, and she could not get over the association of wigs with birth and breeding; a man’s own hair with that class of people who had formed the rioters in seventeen hundred and eighty, when Lord George Gordon had been one of the bugbears of my lady’s life. Her husband and his brothers, she told us, had been put into breeches, and had their heads shaved on their seventh birthday, each of them; a handsome little wig of the newest fashion forming the old Lady Ludlow’s invariable birthday present to her sons as they each arrived at that age; and afterwards, to the day of their death, they never saw their own hair. To be without powder, as some underbred people were talking of being now, was in fact to insult the proprieties of life, by being undressed. It was English sans-culottism. But Mr. Gray did wear a little powder, enough to save him in my lady’s good opinion; but not enough to make her approve of him decidedly.

The next time I saw him was in the great hall. Mary Mason and I were going to drive out with my lady in her coach, and when we went down stairs with our best hats and cloaks on, we found Mr. Gray awaiting my lady’s coming. I believe he had paid his respects to her before, but we had never seen him; and he had declined her invitation to spend Sunday evening at the Court (as Mr. Mountford [the late former vicar] used to do pretty regularly—and play a game at picquet too—), which, Mrs. Medlicott told us, had caused my lady to be not over well pleased with him.

He blushed redder than ever at the sight of us, as we entered the hall and dropped him our curtsies. He coughed two or three times, as if he would have liked to speak to us, if he could but have found something to say; and every time he coughed he became hotter-looking than ever. I am ashamed to say, we were nearly laughing at him; half because we, too, were so shy that we understood what his awkwardness meant.

My lady came in, with her quick active step—she always walked quickly when she did not bethink herself of her cane—as if she was sorry to have us kept waiting—and, as she entered, she gave us all round one of those graceful sweeping curtsies, of which I think the art must have died out with her,—it implied so much courtesy;—this time it said, as well as words could do, “I am sorry to have kept you all waiting,—forgive me.”

She went up to the mantelpiece, near which Mr. Gray had been standing until her entrance, and curtseying afresh to him, and pretty deeply this time, because of his cloth, and her being hostess, and he, a new guest. She asked him if he would not prefer speaking to her in her own private parlour, and looked as though she would have conducted him there. But he burst out with his errand, of which he was full even to choking, and which sent the glistening tears into his large blue eyes, which stood farther and farther out with his excitement.

My lady, I want to speak to you, and to persuade you to exert your kind interest with Mr. Lathom—Justice Lathom, of Hathaway Manor—”

Harry Lathom?” inquired my lady,—as Mr. Gray stopped to take the breath he had lost in his hurry,—“I did not know he was in the commission.”

He is only just appointed; he took the oaths not a month ago,—more’s the pity!”

I do not understand why you should regret it. The Lathoms have held Hathaway since Edward the First, and Mr. Lathom bears a good character, although his temper is hasty—”

My lady! he has committed Job Gregson for stealing—a fault of which he is as innocent as I—and all the evidence goes to prove it, now that the case is brought before the Bench; only the Squires hang so together that they can’t be brought to see justice, and are all for sending Job to gaol, out of compliment to Mr. Lathom, saying it his first committal, and it won’t be civil to tell him there is no evidence against his man. For God’s sake, my lady, speak to the gentlemen; they will attend to you, while they only tell me to mind my own business.”

Now my lady was always inclined to stand by her order, and the Lathoms of Hathaway Court were cousins to the Hanbury’s. Besides, it was rather a point of honour in those days to encourage a young magistrate, by passing a pretty sharp sentence on his first committals; and Job Gregson was the father of a girl who had been lately turned away from her place as scullery-maid for sauciness to Mrs. Adams, her ladyship’s own maid; and Mr. Gray had not said a word of the reasons why he believed the man innocent,—for he was in such a hurry, I believe he would have had my lady drive off to the Henley Court-house then and there;—so there seemed a good deal against the man, and nothing but Mr. Gray’s bare word for him; and my lady drew herself a little up, and said—

Mr. Gray! I do not see what reason either you or I have to interfere. Mr. Harry Lathom is a sensible kind of young man, well capable of ascertaining the truth without our help—”

But more evidence has come out since,” broke in Mr. Gray. My lady went a little stiffer, and spoke a little more coldly:—

I suppose this additional evidence is before the justices: men of good family, and of honour and credit, well known in the county. They naturally feel that the opinion of one of themselves must have more weight than the words of a man like Job Gregson, who bears a very indifferent character,—has been strongly suspected of poaching, coming from no one knows where, squatting on Hareman’s Common—which, by the way, is extra-parochial, I believe; consequently you, as a clergyman, are not responsible for what goes on there; and, although impolitic, there might be some truth in what the magistrates said, in advising you to mind your own business,”—said her ladyship, smiling,—“and they might be tempted to bid me mind mine, if I interfered, Mr. Gray: might they not?”

He looked extremely uncomfortable; half angry. Once or twice he began to speak, but checked himself, as if his words would not have been wise or prudent. At last he said—“It may seem presumptuous in me,—a stranger of only a few weeks’ standing—to set up my judgment as to men’s character against that of residents—” Lady Ludlow gave a little bow of acquiescence, which was, I think, involuntary on her part, and which I don’t think he perceived,—“but I am convinced that the man is innocent of this offence,—and besides, the justices themselves allege this ridiculous custom of paying a compliment to a newly-appointed magistrate as their only reason.”

That unlucky word “ridiculous!” It undid all the good his modest beginning had done him with my lady. I knew as well as words could have told me, that she was affronted at the expression being used by a man inferior in rank to those whose actions he applied it to,—and truly, it was a great want of tact, considering to whom he was speaking.

Lady Ludlow spoke very gently and slowly; she always did so when she was annoyed; it was a certain sign, the meaning of which we had all learnt.

I think, Mr. Gray, we will drop the subject. It is one on which we are not likely to agree.”

Mr. Gray’s ruddy colour grew purple and then faded away, and his face became pale. I think both my lady and he had forgotten our presence; and we were beginning to feel too awkward to wish to remind them of it. And yet we could not help watching and listening with the greatest interest.

Mr. Gray drew himself up to his full height, with an unconscious feeling of dignity. Little as was his stature, and awkward and embarrassed as he had been only a few minutes before, I remember thinking he looked almost as grand as my lady when he spoke.

Your ladyship must remember that it may be my duty to speak to my parishioners on many subjects on which they do not agree with me. I am not at liberty to be silent, because they differ in opinion from me.”

Lady Ludlow’s great blue eyes dilated with surprise, and—I do think—anger, at being thus spoken to. I am not sure whether it was very wise in Mr. Gray. He himself looked afraid of the consequences but as if he was determined to bear them without flinching. For a minute there was silence. Then my lady replied—“Mr. Gray, I respect your plain speaking, although I may wonder whether a young man of your age and position has any right to assume that he is a better judge than one with the experience which I have naturally gained at my time of life, and in the station I hold.”

If I, madam, as the clergyman of this parish, am not to shrink from telling what I believe to be the truth to the poor and lowly, no more am I to hold my peace in the presence of the rich and titled.” Mr. Gray’s face showed that he was in that state of excitement which in a child would have ended in a good fit of crying. He looked as if he had nerved himself up to doing and saying things, which he disliked above everything, and which nothing short of serious duty could have compelled him to do and say. And at such times every minute circumstance which could add to pain comes vividly before one. I saw that he became aware of our presence, and that it added to his discomfiture.

My lady flushed up. “Are you aware, sir,” asked she, “that you have gone far astray from the original subject of conversation? But as you talk of your parish, allow me to remind you that Hareman’s Common is beyond the bounds, and that you are really not responsible for the characters and lives of the squatters on that unlucky piece of ground.”

Madam, I see I have only done harm in speaking to you about the affair at all. I beg your pardon and take my leave.”

He bowed, and looked very sad. Lady Ludlow caught the expression of his face.

Good morning!” she cried, in rather a louder and quicker way than that in which she had been speaking. “Remember, Job Gregson is a notorious poacher and evildoer, and you really are not responsible for what goes on at Hareman’s Common.”

He was near the hall door, and said something—half to himself, which we heard (being nearer to him), but my lady did not; although she saw that he spoke. “What did he say?” she asked in a somewhat hurried manner, as soon as the door was closed—“I did not hear.” We looked at each other, and then I spoke:

He said, my lady, that ‘God help him! he was responsible for all the evil he did not strive to overcome.’”

My lady turned sharp round away from us, and Mary Mason said afterwards she thought her ladyship was much vexed with both of us, for having been present, and with me for having repeated what Mr. Gray had said. But it was not our fault that we were in the hall, and when my lady asked what Mr. Gray had said, I thought it right to tell her.

In a few minutes she bade us accompany her in her ride in the coach.

Lady Ludlow always sat forwards by herself, and we girls backwards. Somehow this was a rule, which we never thought of questioning. It was true that riding backwards made some of us feel very uncomfortable and faint; and to remedy this my lady always drove with both windows open, which occasionally gave her the rheumatism; but we always went on in the old way. This day she did not pay any great attention to the road by which we were going, and Coachman took his own way. We were very silent, as my lady did not speak, and looked very serious. Or else, in general, she made these rides very pleasant (to those who were not qualmish with riding backwards), by talking to us in a very agreeable manner, and telling us of the different things which had happened to her at various places,—at Paris and Versailles, where she had been in her youth,—at Windsor and Kew and Weymouth, where she had been with the Queen, when maid-of-honour—and so on. But this day she did not talk at all. All at once she put her head out of the window.

John Footman,” said she, “where are we? Surely this is Hareman’s Common.”

Yes, an’t please my lady,” said John Footman, and waited for further speech or orders. My lady thought a while, and then said she would have the steps put down and get out.

As soon as she was gone, we looked at each other, and then without a word began to gaze after her. We saw her pick her dainty way in the little high-heeled shoes she always wore (because they had been in fashion in her youth), among the yellow pools of stagnant water that had gathered in the clayey soil. John Footman followed, stately, after; afraid too, for all his stateliness, of splashing his pure white stockings. Suddenly my lady turned round and said something to him, and he returned to the carriage with a half-pleased, half-puzzled air.

My lady went on to a cluster of rude mud houses at the higher end of the Common; cottages built, as they were occasionally at that day, of wattles and clay, and thatched with sods. As far as we could make out from dumb show, Lady Ludlow saw enough of the interiors of these places to make her hesitate before entering, or even speaking to any of the children who were playing about in the puddles. After a pause, she disappeared into one of the cottages. It seemed to us a long time before she came out; but I dare say it was not more than eight or ten minutes. She came back with her head hanging down, as if to choose her way,—but we saw it was more in thought and bewilderment than for any such purpose.

She had not made up her mind where we should drive to when she got into the carriage again. John Footman stood, bare-headed, waiting for orders.

To Hathaway. My dears, if you are tired, or if you have anything to do for Mrs. Medlicott, I can drop you at Barford Corner, and it is but a quarter of an hour’s brisk walk home.”

But luckily we could safely say that Mrs. Medlicott did not want us; and as we had whispered to each other, as we sat alone in the coach, that surely my lady must have gone to Job Gregson’s, we were far too anxious to know the end of it all to say that we were tired. So we all set off to Hathaway. Mr. Harry Lathom was a bachelor squire, thirty or thirty-five years of age, more at home in the field than in the drawing-room, and with sporting men than with ladies.

My lady did not alight, of course; it was Mr. Lathom’s place to wait upon her, and she bade the butler,—who had a smack of the gamekeeper in him, very unlike our own powdered venerable fine gentleman at Hanbury,—tell his master, with her compliments, that she wished to speak to him. You may think how pleased we were to find that we should hear all that was said; though, I think, afterwards we were half sorry when we saw how our presence confused the squire, who would have found it bad enough to answer my lady’s questions, even without two eager girls for audience.

Pray, Mr. Lathom,” began my lady, something abruptly for her,—but she was very full of her subject,—“what is this I hear about Job Gregson?”

Mr. Lathom looked annoyed and vexed, but dared not show it in his words.

I gave out a warrant against him, my lady, for theft,—that is all. You are doubtless aware of his character; a man who sets nets and springes in long cover, and fishes wherever he takes a fancy. It is but a short step from poaching to thieving.”

That is quite true,” replied Lady Ludlow (who had a horror of poaching for this very reason): “but I imagine you do not send a man to gaol on account of his bad character.”

Rogues and vagabonds,” said Mr. Lathom. “A man may be sent to prison for being a vagabond; for no specific act, but for his general mode of life.”

He had the better of her ladyship for one moment; but then she answered—

But in this case, the charge on which you committed him is for theft; now his wife tells me he can prove he was some miles distant from Holmwood, where the robbery took place, all that afternoon; she says you had the evidence before you.”

Mr. Lathom here interrupted my lady, by saying, in a somewhat sulky manner—“No such evidence was brought before me when I gave the warrant. I am not answerable for the other magistrates’ decision, when they had more evidence before them. It was they who committed him to gaol. I am not responsible for that.”

My lady did not often show signs of impatience; but we knew she was feeling irritated, by the little perpetual tapping of her high-heeled shoe against the bottom of the carriage. About the same time we, sitting backwards, caught a glimpse of Mr. Gray through the open door, standing in the shadow of the hall. Doubtless Lady Ludlow’s arrival had interrupted a conversation between Mr. Lathom and Mr. Gray. The latter must have heard every word of what she was saying; but of this she was not aware, and caught at Mr. Lathom’s disclaimer of responsibility with pretty much the same argument which she had heard (through our repetition) that Mr. Gray had used not two hours before.

And do you mean to say, Mr. Lathom, that you don’t consider yourself responsible for all injustice or wrong-doing that you might have prevented, and have not? Nay, in this case the first germ of injustice was your own mistake. I wish you had been with me a little while ago, and seen the misery in that poor fellow’s cottage.” She spoke lower, and Mr. Gray drew near, in a sort of involuntary manner; as if to hear all she was saying. We saw him, and doubtless Mr. Lathom heard his footstep, and knew who it was that was listening behind him, and approving of every word that was said. He grew yet more sullen in manner; but still my lady was my lady, and he dared not speak out before her, as he would have done to Mr. Gray. Lady Ludlow, however, caught the look of stubborness in his face, and it roused her as I had never seen her roused.

I am sure you will not refuse, sir, to accept my bail. I offer to bail the fellow out, and to be responsible for his appearance at the sessions. What say you to that, Mr. Lathom?”

The offence of theft is not bailable, my lady.”

Not in ordinary cases, I dare say. But I imagine this is an extraordinary case. The man is sent to prison out of compliment to you, and against all evidence, as far as I can learn. He will have to rot in gaol for two months, and his wife and children to starve. I, Lady Ludlow, offer to bail him out, and pledge myself for his appearance at next quarter-sessions.”

It is against the law, my lady.”

Bah! Bah! Bah! Who makes laws? Such as I, in the House of Lords—such as you, in the House of Commons. We, who make the laws in St. Stephen’s, may break the mere forms of them, when we have right on our sides, on our own land, and amongst our own people.”

The lord-lieutenant may take away my commission, if he heard of it.”

And a very good thing for the county, Harry Lathom; and for you too, if he did,—if you don’t go on more wisely than you have begun. A pretty set you and your brother magistrates are to administer justice through the land! I always said a good despotism was the best form of government; and I am twice as much in favour of it now I see what a quorum is! My dears!” suddenly turning round to us, “if it would not tire you to walk home, I would beg Mr. Lathom to take a seat in my coach, and we would drive to Henley Gaol, and have the poor man out at once.”

A walk over the fields at this time of day is hardly fitting for young ladies to take alone,” said Mr. Lathom, anxious no doubt to escape from his tête-à-tête drive with my lady, and possibly not quite prepared to go to the illegal length of prompt measures, which she had in contemplation.

But Mr. Gray now stepped forward, too anxious for the release of the prisoner to allow any obstacle to intervene which he could do away with. To see Lady Ludlow’s face when she first perceived whom she had had for auditor and spectator of her interview with Mr. Lathom, was as good as a play. She had been doing and saying the very things she had been so much annoyed at Mr. Gray’s saying and proposing only an hour or two ago. She had been setting down Mr. Lathom pretty smartly, in the presence of the very man to whom she had spoken of that gentleman as so sensible, and of such a standing in the county, that it was presumption to question his doings. But before Mr. Gray had finished his offer of escorting us back to Hanbury Court, my lady had recovered herself. There was neither surprise nor displeasure in her manner, as she answered—“I thank you, Mr. Gray. I was not aware that you were here, but I think I can understand on what errand you came. And seeing you here, recalls me to a duty I owe Mr. Lathom. Mr. Lathom, I have spoken to you pretty plainly,—forgetting, until I saw Mr. Gray, that only this very afternoon I differed from him on this very question; taking completely, at that time, the same view of the whole subject which you have done; thinking that the county would be well rid of such a man as Job Gregson, whether he had committed this theft or not. Mr. Gray and I did not part quite friends,” she continued, bowing towards him; “but it so happened that I saw Job Gregson’s wife and home,—I felt that Mr. Gray had been right and I had been wrong, so, with the famous inconsistency of my sex, I came hither to scold you,” smiling towards Mr. Lathom, who looked half-sulky yet, and did not relax a bit of his gravity at her smile, “for holding the same opinions that I had done an hour before. Mr. Gray,” (again bowing towards him) “these young ladies will be very much obliged to you for your escort, and so shall I. Mr. Lathom, may I beg of you to accompany me to Henley?”

Mr. Gray bowed very low, and went very red; Mr. Lathom said something which we none of us heard, but which was, I think, some remonstrance against the course he was, as it were, compelled to take. Lady Ludlow, however, took no notice of his murmur, but sat in an attitude of polite expectancy; and as we turned off on our walk, I saw Mr. Lathom getting into the coach with the air of a whipped hound. I must say, considering my lady’s feeling, I did not envy him his ride—though, I believe, he was quite in the right as to the object of the ride being illegal.

Our walk home was very dull. We had no fears; and would far rather have been without the awkward, blushing young man, into which Mr. Gray had sunk. At every stile he hesitated,—sometimes he half got over it, thinking that he could assist us better in that way; then he would turn back unwilling to go before ladies. He had no ease of manner, as my lady once said of him, though on any occasion of duty, he had an immense deal of dignity.

 <–Return to Table of Contents.                                                 Appendix i.–>

Appendix i. Further Resources on Abuse of Clergy.

[Return to Table of Contents.]

Crockett, K. (2012) Pastor Abusers: When Sheep Attack their Shepherd.

Greenfield, G. (2001) The Wounded Minister: Healing from and Preventing Personal                            Attacks, Grand Rapids, MI.

Haugk, K.C. (1988) Antagonists in the Church: How To Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict, Minneapolis, MN.

Jackson, J.P. (2002) Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit, North Sutton, NH.

Maynard, D.R. (2010) When Sheep Attack!

Meyer, J. (2013) Church Coup: A Cautionary Tale of Consanguinary Conflict, Maitland, FL.

Pitelli, R. (2013) Narcissistic Confrontations: A Biblical Guide to Your Abusive Family and Church Family’s Battle Tactics, Covert Operations, and Nuclear Meltdowns, Parker, CO.

Rediger, G.L. (1997) Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations under Attack,      Louisville, KY.

Online:

David Murray’s series from April 2016, ‘Fighting Spiritual Abuse in the Reformed Church’:

part 1. Introduction.

part 2. What is Spiritual Abuse?

part 3. 10 Characteristics of Mr. Controller.

part 4. What About the Victims?

part 5. Spiritual Abuse Resources.

part 6. Self-promoting Wolves or Selfless Shepherds?

Bonus!

Introduction to DARVO: Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim & Offender.

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit T. Special Meeting of Classis, Nov./Dec. 2015.

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                             [Exhibit U.—>]

‘The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.   –Prov. 18:17

‘”Evil does seek to maintain power by suppressing the truth.
Or by misleading the innocent.“‘   –‘And the Children Shall Lead,’ Star Trek: TOS

 Firstly, the reader is directed to Exhibit A. for comments and a timeline generated closer to the time at which this happened, and Exhibits J. and P., for documents my father submitted to Classis for the titular meeting, which took place on 8 December.

What followed the announcement of Pastor Templar’s termination at the congregational meeting on 10 November was chaos.

In this denomination, a request for an Article 17a separation between church and pastor must be reviewed and approved by Classis, the local/regional level of church government, who also review terms for a severance package, health insurance, and in this case, the vacating of the parsonage by the pastor and his family.

My father wrote a letter to 21 (mentioned elsewhere) the week he was handed his walking papers, describing at length how 21 had offended him in his handling of PT and the situation, how 21 had betrayed his confidence, how he believed he had not come into the situation as impartial (he noted to 21 that he’d heard from a fellow minister that, months before 21 was appointed as a CV to A., that 21 was telling at least this minister that PT was going to ‘have to make some changes’!).  PT never got a reply to this letter.  Instead, the communications from 21 which followed seemed to have been written in an alternate timeline in which PT’s letter did not exist.  These communications were concerned primarily with the scheduling of the ‘Special Meeting of Classis’, which was to be convened to review the ‘council’s’ Article 17, and, it turned out, the closing of a struggling church elsewhere in the Classis.[For those of you unfamiliar with the process, a quorum of representatives from the highest level (Synod) in the denomination must be present for such a meeting.  They are called Synodical deputies.]

What is offered immediately below are emails between PT and another pastor in the Classis who was handling the admin for the scheduling of the meeting, whom we shall dub ‘WVW’.  He also held an administrative position on one of the Classis committees, but we won’t include the title in the interest of doing the most to preserve anonymity.  This pastor is no longer in the same Classis, and so it seems safe to include his correspondence here.

What is most important about the scheduling of this meeting are:

a. ‘people’, whoever it was who was responsible for setting up the meeting, wanted it to happen ASAP (see again Exhibit A.)  When certain pastors were asked why ‘people’ seemed to be in such a hurry, the reply was, ‘There isn’t a hurry.  Classis wants to be seen to be handling the concerns of a church council in a timely manner’.  And yet, the evidence does not bear out this claim.  See, for example, the 21 November email from Simon to WVW.

b. fellow pastors with official responsibilities in this situation were passing around PT’s emails without permission.  When called on it, there seems to be no awareness that this was inappropriate, and certainly there was no apology.

An introductory message (to a counselor from my father), sent 4 April 2016, just a few weeks ago (the correspondences described in the message are from the time of the debacle; I felt it pertinent to include this recent email because it shows how the ‘little’ actions of the past still affect the present):

“Hello again, Sir.  It’s after 1 AM, Monday morning (Sunday night!), and I’m about to call it a day.
Before I turn off the computer, I wanted to send you some e-mail correspondence between a member of the [classical committee x] and me.  The names have been changed to protect the guilty (apologies to Jack Webb!).  The issue concerns the scheduling of the Classis Meeting which was convened to discuss my separation from A.; several related matters were also discussed.  Please take note of the dates, and understand that I was trying to get information pertaining to a meeting scheduled less than two weeks after my dismissal, and one week after A.’s Congregational meeting, where my dismissal was announced!
Another set of correspondence will follow– I’ll send it out tomorrow.
Take care,
Simon Templar”

 

The author would like also to publish an email exchange between PT & 21 of which she is aware,  but permission to do so may be difficult to obtain.  Instead, the contents will have to be summarized, with some excerpts included.   We feel it is not wrong to include the email exchange immediately below, as it is clear from the 16 November email from WVW to PT, that PT’s interlocutor (another pastor) was not particularly concerned with confidentiality (again, 42 observed that after a certain point, observance of confidentiality could no longer be expected from anybody).  We may also, further below, introduce one of the secretaries for Classis, whom we will call Dwight, and who also is mentioned in the correspondence below.  While emails between PT & 21 are not printed here, much of their content can be inferred from the mention of them in the correspondence between PT & WVW, which is prefaced by two emails which were sent out to the whole classis:

Email Exchange, 5-21 November

NB: the spelling, grammar and mechanics have not been altered in any way.  The formatting, font & colour have been adjusted either to make the distinction between authors clear or to represent PT’s highlighted passages in forwarding the exchange to Sir.

On Thursday, Nov 5, 2015, at 9:58 AM, WVW writes:

The [classical committee x] has deemed it necessary to call a special classis meeting for November 18 at 6:30 PM location to be determined if either V—- Church or P— Church could host let us know.

I am aware that this is short notice but the matter has been brewing for some time and has been dealt with well by church visitors.

WVW

On Monday, Nov 9, 2015 at 09:40:AM, WVW writes:

To all,

Due to conflicts for many of the pastors involved it has been deemed necessary to change the date of the Special Classis meeting.

We still need to act on this as soon as possible so it has been decided to change the date to Monday Nov 23 again at 6:30 PM at P—– Church.

Di— respond if we need to find a different location.

Please respond to Dwight concerning your availability.

Dwight sorry to complicate the process of finding synodical deputies.

If you are back from your trip Da—- this would once again place you as chair of the meeting.

The special meeting is necessary to address A. and Simon Templar concerning their ministry.

WVW [classical committee x] Chair (short term)

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 7:49 AM, Simon Templar writes:

TO: WVW

FROM: Simon Templar

Hi, WVW. I received your note sent Monday morning, Nov 9, on Wednesday afternoon.

I had not received your communication from Thursday morning, November 5; did you send an e-mail to me that got lost?

I need to know a couple of things.

First, am I expected or allowed to be at the “Special Classis meeting” planned for November 23?

Second, in the event that I desire to be present but am unable to attend on November 23 (Thanksgiving week!), at what date in December could the meeting be rescheduled?

I’ll wait to hear from you.

Thank you.

Simon Templar A. Church

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 11:20 AM, WVW writes:

Simon,

You are allowed to attend this meeting, you are not compelled to be there.

The meeting will not be extended to a later date it is time to conclude this matter.

WVW

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 12:04 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello, again, WVW.

Thank you for responding.

I am curious, since I am so directly involved in this situation, why was I not asked about my availability for this meeting?

I am also left wondering, is there some deadline we’re trying to meet? Please do not misunderstand– I am not in favor of dragging this out until June. However, the phrase, “it is time to conclude this matter,” puzzles me. Are there some parameters with respect to time that the Classis is expected to honor? Or is there some standard protocol or procedure? I guess I’m just interested in the basis of the decision not to have the meeting in December, after the Thanksgiving week.

By the way, I noticed in your reply that you didn’t make reference to my question about your communication of November 5. Did you send this e-mail to me?

We’ll be in touch.

Simon Templar A. Church

On Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 at 12:25 PM, WVW writes:

Yes I did

On Friday, Nov 13, 2015 at 4:12 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hi, again, WVW. Happy Friday! I’m sure you’re busy getting ready for Sunday, but I’m still in the dark about a couple of questions from my e-mail below.

As I noted, I am directly involved in this situation, and have a considerable stake in how this all goes forward. Wouldn’t it make sense to ascertain whether I desire to be at the meeting, and what my availability is?

I realize that we do not handle Article 17 cases on a weekly basis, so probably a lot of us are unfamiliar with some of the procedures. In light of these circumstances, where would you recommend I go to get more information on these matters? I am willing to do some investigation.

In the meantime, I’m assuming you must have awareness of some information that I don’t have. In your e-mail dated November 9, you wrote, “We still need to act on this as soon as possible.” As I asked in the note I sent to you Thursday, is there some deadline we’re trying to meet? Why does action need to be taken “as soon as possible?” What parameters (if any), with respect to time, is Classis expected to honor? And, who determines the date of the meeting?

Please realize, WVW, I honestly don’t expect the date of the meeting to be scheduled at my convenience. But to set the date without even asking me what would work in my schedule or how much time I need to prepare seems to suggest that I have little or no role in the proceedings.

Finally, I noticed that you provided an assessment of the work of the Church Visitors to the Classis ministers. May I ask, in what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors.”?

Did the Church Visitors report to you on their visits and tell you personally how well they dealt with the matter? Or did someone from the Council of A. Church communicate a favorable report?

I’ll wait to hear from you.

Thank you.

Simon Templar

A. Church

PS: Is there some reason why B—- or M— of the S— C— Team would need to be apprised of these deliberations?

On Friday, Nov 13, 2015 at 4:27 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello again, WVW!  I forgot to ask you– do you have the names of the Synodical Deputies?

 Or should I check with Dwight?  Or go online?

 Thanks again! Simon T.

On Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 5:32 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Good Sunday afternoon, WVW.

 I’m just checking in to see if you received the e-mail I sent Friday afternoon (see below). 

 I’m assuming you’ve had a busy day with two services and all, so I understand if you are unable to get to my questions until Monday.

 Incidentally, on Saturday morning, I received a note of apology from 21 for not including me in the “scheduling process for the special classis meeting” because “this is your life and ministry.”

 Does this mean that 21 was responsible for scheduling the meeting?

 Whatever the case, even though I appreciated his apology, it did seem strange to read his expression of regret.  I say that because I have not communicated my concerns about the meeting and my stake in all this to 21.  His acknowledgement of my position seems to have come out of left field!  Have you forwarded my e-mails to 21?

 Well, that’s all for now!  I’ll wait to hear from you.

 Thanks, W.

Simon Templar

A. Church

On Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 7:34 PM, WVW writes:

Simon,
I have received your email and it is now out of my hands to deal with this. I have to get finished packing and on my way to H—- [in another state]. I understand your concern but we sent a team in to work with you and with your council. This team reported on their work and advised the [classical committee x] and recommended classis take up at this point. That is the why of special meeting. I have to rely on work of church visitors and they will report to classis. So they are your best source to stay in contact with and it might be wise to heed their advice. You can also contact either N—- or C—- at  [denominational department]. That is the best I can do because as of now I am no longer a member of Classis N——–.

Thanks
WVW

On Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:42 PM, Simon Templar writes:

TO:   WVW

FROM:  Rev. Simon Templar

RE:  Questions Related to Special Classis Meeting

THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE SHARED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION

Good Sunday Evening, WVW.

Because you’re busy packing, I’ll try to make this as brief as possible. I am not asking you to “deal with this.” I would like answers to some questions I raised in previous e-mails, and I’m wondering why you won’t supply them. You don’t have to be a member of Classis N——- or part of the church visiting team to answer questions about which you have personal knowledge.

So, if you would please, let me know the answers to the following questions:

1. Your two statements “We still need to act on this as soon as possible” and “it is time to conclude this matter,” suggest there is some deadline that Classis must meet. Why does action need to be taken “as soon as possible?”

2. In your assessment of the work of the Church Visitors to the Classis ministers, you noted that this matter has “been dealt with well by church visitors.” In what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors,” and on what did you base your assessment?

3. Is there some reason why B—– or M—- of the Safe Church Team would need to be apprised of these deliberations?

4. Was 21 responsible for scheduling the meeting, and if not 21, who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting?

5. Have you forwarded my e-mails to 21?

I would appreciate an answer to these questions “as soon as possible,” to coin a phrase!

Thanks in advance, WVW.

Simon Templar

A. Church

On Monday, Nov 16, 2015 at 11:04 AM, WVW writes:

1. You know why this has to happen.
2. Yes they report as to the steps they think necessary.
3. That was due to missing the fact that they were on the mailing. I sent a further email B—- telling them to ignore.
4. He was consulted and had a hand in it.
5. Some not all.

On Monday, Nov 16, 2015 at 3:54 PM, Simon Templar writes:

THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE SHARED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION

Once again, WVW, I say hello. The following letter to you is, admittedly, a bit pedantic, but I hope my point will become clear as you read through this.

I gather from the tone of your last e-mail (there was no greeting, no signature, and the statements seemed somewhat curt) that you were put off by the communication which I sent Sunday evening.

I urge you to put yourself in my position and try to be “empathic.” Until the note I drafted and sent last night, I believe I was fairly cordial in my correspondence with you. Admittedly, I felt I had to be more direct with my last e-mail. If you will take the time to review our correspondence since Thursday, November 12, you will notice the following:

1. I asked three times why it was necessary for the Special Classis meeting to be convened “as soon as possible,” and whether there was some deadline that had to be met.

2. I asked twice if it wouldn’t make sense to determine my availability for the meeting.

3. I asked twice about your personal assessment of the work of the Church Visitors.

I also asked several other questions in my previous e-mails which were neither answered nor acknowledged. It was not until the e-mail you sent this morning, November 16, that you finally responded to some of my questions. To put it bluntly, these delays, along with the fact that I asked for this information more than once, leaves me feeling stonewalled. Am I “on the outs” for some reason?

And even after you supplied some answers to the short list of questions in my Sunday night e-mail, I’m left wondering.

For example, my first question: Based on your own statements, it appears as though there is some deadline that Classis must meet. My question is this: Why does action need to be taken “as soon as possible?”

Your response, “You know why this has to happen” does not answer the question. Obviously, a special meeting of Classis must be convened to deal with an Article 17. My question was and still is, why the rush? Why the push to have it on November 18, and then November 23? Is someone’s carriage going to turn into a pumpkin? (By the way, that question is rhetorcial!)

Secondly, question number two is very significant to me. As I stated, you made an assessment of the work of the Church Visitors, noting that this matter has “been dealt with well by church visitors.” My question was really a two-parter:

A. In what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors;”

B. On what did you base your assessment?

Your reply, “2. Yes they report as to the steps they think necessary” doesn’t really get at the first part of the question. The simple fact that they report “steps they think necessary,” does not mean the matter has been dealt with well. I’m assuming that the basis of your assessment is the report of the Church Visitors themselves!

In essence, you have told all the Classis Ministers, along with B—- and M—-, that this matter, which “has been brewing a long time” (!), has been dealt with well by the Church Visitors, simply because they told you how well they handled it!

[author’s note: is this like a restaurant reviewing itself on Tripadvisor? 20 April 2016]

Let me assure you, I take STRONG exception to your assessment. I have solid grounds for asserting that the Church Visitors did not deal with this situation well at all! More to the point, you did not have enough information about what has happened hundreds of miles from R—– [WVW’s church, before he moved to H—-] to inform the Classis of how well the Church Visitors handled matters!

So, one more time: HOW has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors”?

Finally, I wanted to know if 21 was responsible for scheduling the meeting, and if not 21, who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting? You answered, “He was consulted and had a hand in it.” Notice, your reply only gets at the first part of the question. I understand from your answer that 21’s opinion was solicited, and that he provided some input.

But, what about the second part of the question? Who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting? Evidently, it was not 21, as he was merely “consulted.” So, one more time: Who consulted 21, received his input, and based on 21’s “hand in it,” would make the decision regarding the date of the meeting?

Once again, thank you for any information you can provide.

Simon Templar

A. Church

On Tuesday, Nov 17, 2015 at 2:40 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello, WVW.

I’m just wondering if you received the letter below which I sent out at about 4 o’clock yesterday (Monday).

If you could bounce me back a reply that you got this, I’d appreciate it.

Simon T.

A. Church

On Tuesday, Nov 17, 2015 at 7:14 PM, WVW writes:

Just got back on the web. And I haven’t had time read it yet as I drove all day.

WVW

On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015 at 1:00 AM, Simon Templar writes:

THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE SHARED WITHOUT MY PERMISSION

Good Friday evening, WVW. I trust your trip to Minnesota went well. If you recall, I sent a follow up e-mail to you on Tuesday, November 17, which you responded to that evening {Just got back on the web. And I haven’t had time read it yet as I drove all day.  WVW}.

Thursday, I left a message on the answering machine of the church in H—–. Did you get my message?

I am still seeking answers to the questions I asked in the e-mail sent on Monday afternoon, November 16. I include it here for your review.

You should know that the “Special Classis meeting” has been postponed to the week of December 6.

Now, permit me to set forth my questions again:

1. Why was it necessary for the Special Classis meeting to be convened “as soon as possible,” and was there some deadline that had to be met?

2. A. In what sense has this matter “been dealt with well by church visitors?”

    B. On what did you base your assessment?

3. Who is/was responsible for setting the date of the meeting? Who came up with November 18 and November 23?

4. How many of my e-mails did you share with 21, and why?

Thank you, WVW, for your prompt attention to this request.

Best Regards,

Simon Templar

On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015 at 7:25 PM, WVW writes:

Simon, Sorry, for being so short with you in earlier e-mails I was trying to get everything tidied up at R—— and be ready to move as well.

To your first question, it seems that working through art 17 that getting the matter moving keeping pace works best for getting resolution for both parties.

2. I based that assessment on the reports I received from the church visitors.

3. The [classical committee x]

4. Two because he was the church visitor working with you and A. Church.

I hope this answers you questions,
WVW

On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015 at 8:30 PM, Simon Templar writes:

Hello, WVW. Thank you for your reply.

I am glad to know you have the self-awareness to realize that you were short with me in earlier e-mails.

As of Friday, November 20, the “Special Meeting” has been postponed to December 8th. This will be nearly three weeks after the original target date of November 18, which was barely a week after the Congregational meeting when A. Church was informed of my “release.”

I must point out the folly of being in such a hurry to schedule this meeting. It was hasty and unwise for two reasons:

1. As I have indicated previously, no one consulted me, the person with the most at stake in this, as to my availability or the time I would need to prepare.

2. In a recent telephone call with the Clerk of Classis, Dwight informed me that no one in our Classis had handled an Article 17 like this before, and therefore, didn’t know what to do. I believe the following is an accurate quote: “We’re just learning as we go along.” My, those are comforting words when one is on the receiving end of having his career destroyed by a lawless elder and complicit Church Visitors!

At any rate, the answer you provided to my first question still doesn’t make sense in light of what’s transpired. I will quote you: “{I}t seems that working through art 17 that getting the matter moving keeping pace works best for getting resolution for both parties.”

I have to wonder, where did you get that perspective? Is there some denominational literature that discusses procedural matters like Article 17 which is the ground for your assumption (“getting the matter moving keeping pace works best”)? Or is this just someone’s opinion, and if so, based on what? I have just learned that the Classis has little or no experience in these matters, so why would the [classical committee x] assume that “getting the matter moving keeping pace works best”?

Furthermore, your initial e-mails and responses to me indicate a greater urgency to convene the “Special Meeting” than your answer above. For example, in your communication of November 9, you wrote, “We still need to act on this as soon as possible.” And when I indicated my desire to have the meeting scheduled at a later date, you wrote:

The meeting will not be extended to a later date it is time to conclude this matter.” {emphasis mine}

Really? That kind of dogmatic response appears to be at odds with your less definite answer quoted above! It is also inconsistent with the phrase, “works best for getting resolution for both parties.” As I noted previously, I did, indeed, indicate my preference for the meeting to be scheduled in December. If you really wanted to do what “works best for getting resolution for both parties,” you would have at least consulted me, or, upon learning of my need, tried to accommodate my request. You didn’t even consider my situation!

And as I informed you in a previous e-mail, 21 apologized to me for not including me in the “scheduling process for the special classis meeting” because “this is your life and ministry.” Interesting, isn’t it! Both 21 and the [classical committee x] erred in not including me in the process, and they compounded their error by ignoring my request to convene the meeting at a later date!

And all this goes on while the Clerk of Classis can’t get a Synodical Deputy for the meeting of the 23rd to save his soul, if you’ll pardon the expression! He actually reached into [neighboring states of the Union] to get Synodical Deputies!

At this point, I will summarize:

1. In your November 9 e-mail, you wrote: We still need to act on this as soon as possible

2. In your November 12 e-mail, you wrote: The meeting will not be extended to a later date it is time to conclude this matter.

3. In your answer to my question from the November 15 e-mail, “Why does action need to be taken ‘as soon as possible’ ”?, you responded as follows: You know why this has to happen.

4. More than once, I asked if there was a deadline Classis had to meet, or time perameters Classis had to follow, with respect to the meeting. You never gave me a direct answer concerning a deadline.

5. The Clerk of Classis felt so obligated to convene this meeting that he contacted Synodical Deputies in [neighboring states of the Union].

In light of these facts, I find it difficult to believe, as 21 communicated to me Thursday, that “There was no particular pressure in the scheduling of the meeting.” If there was no particular pressure or urgency, why was there resistance to setting the date in December?

Just a couple more things, then I’ll close. You have probably detected that I am less than satisfied with how the Church Visitors handled our situation. In fact, I take strong exception to your assessment that the matter has been “dealt with well” by the Church Visitors.

The reason I have pressed this point, WVW, is to raise the issue of your weighing in with an evaluation or opinion of our situation. You simply do not have sufficient data to make an informed judgment on the performance of the Visitors, or the length of time we have had “problems” at A..

Thus, your comment “the matter has been brewing for some time” is also questionable. Whether you meant to or not, your uninformed comments have formed a perception in the minds of the delegates. I will say it again– reports received from the Church Visitors are not an adequate basis for declaring how well they did their work.

With regard to question 3: Thank you for letting me know who is responsible for scheduling the meeting. You said the [classical committee x], but in an earlier communication, you noted that 21 “had a hand in it.” Was it a group decision to attempt meeting on the 18th or 23rd, or was it the preference of 21?

Finally, pertaining to the matter of forwarding my e-mails to 21. Why did you need to include him in our interaction? Surely, you were able to answer my questions without his input. (Such as, why the pressure to convene the meeting ASAP, who is responsible for setting the date of the meeting, what is the basis for your assessment of the Church Visitors, why was I not consulted).

So, what was the purpose of sending my e-mails to him? Are you planning to forward the reports of the Church Visitors to me? I would be interested in seeing them for myself.

I will sign off as I did last time, asking for your prompt attention to the questions in this letter.

Cordially,

Simon Templar

To date, Pastor T. has had no reply from WVW.

Next, I include an email, the introductory letter PT  wrote, just a few weeks ago, to the above-mentioned counselor before sending the correspondence for his information (with names changed).  At some point in the future I may be able to post what PT mentions at the close of this email.

PT on the Role and Comportment of 21.

This was sent 5 April 2016 (again, while this email is recent, it is a helpful summary written to someone who ‘wasn’t’ there):

Hello again, Sir. I am attaching an exchange of e-mails between one of the Church Visitors, who was appointed by the Clerk of Classis in early September, 2015, to assist the Council of A. Church.  The recommendation to involve Church Visitors came from 54, who had compiled the results of interviews between three elder/deacon teams and various attendees of A. Church. The purpose of these house visits was to get the “pulse” of the church. 54 reported that there were “longstanding issues” between the pastor and some of the members which needed to be addressed. The Council followed 54’s advice to enlist the support of Church Visitors for guidance.

Several days later, the Clerk of Classis appointed 22 of L—- Church and 21 of H— Church as Church Visitors. Rev. 21 met with me to give an overview of their role as Church Visitors, and to get some feedback about my perspective. He also wanted to inform me that the Council had the power to get rid of me if they wanted to, regardless of my conduct. He emphasized that it didn’t matter who was right or wrong, good or bad, if they wanted to fire me, they had the authority to do so!

I mention this because I didn’t think we were that far “down the road,” and I was not aware that our task was to deal with me! In retrospect, it is clear that Rev. 21 had been discussing issues pertaining to our church at length, prior to meeting with me.

At some point, I may need to describe in greater detail the conduct of the Church Visitors. For now, it will suffice to point out that:

1. Rev. 21 sent a letter to the Council, including me, describing their role. He emphasized that they were joining us strictly in an advisory capacity. He all but stressed that the Church Visitors were only with us to observe, and to make sure we met!

2. It seemed to me that the Church Visitors, especially Rev. 21, took the side of the Council. The way it was handled from the outset, the way the meetings and correspondence were structured, it became Pastor vs Council! Or, Council vs Pastor! Consequently, I felt like I had no advocate– it was 8 against 1! (6 Council members plus 2 Visitors = 8!)

3. The Church Visitors did not know what their roles were, did not have a clear plan for how to address our issues, and lacked the necessary background and objectivity to properly assess the alleged “problems” at A. For example:

A. Neither of the ministers pastors small churches or have day-to-day familiarity with small church dynamics.

B. One of the Church Visitors comes from the [different denomination], and has only been affiliated with our denomination for two years.

C. One of the Church Visitors is FAR too familiar with the community and the congregation at A. Not only has he pastored in this area for 18 years, he served on a committee of Classis ——- with the influential member of the A. Council […]. Rev. 21 discussed our church’s situation with this elder at length in the months prior to his appointment as Church Visitor. In fact, another minister had told me in June that Rev. 21 was aware of problems at A. Church, and quoted him as saying, “Simon better make some changes, or he won’t be there much longer.” Again, this was three months before being appointed as Church Visitor. It seems clear that Rev. 21 lacked objectivity, and should have recused himself.

D. In early October, 2015, the denomination hosted a seminar in [city of denominational headquarters] for Regional Pastors. At this seminar, denominational officials candidly acknowledged that there must be guidelines and training for Church Visitors, because they don’t know what their roles are, and they don’t know what they’re doing! I am not making this up!

Prior to the Classis meeting of December 8, I wrote a response to the Article 17, which included an introductory statement, and an addendum. In this document, I described some of the interplay between the Church Visitors, the Council, and me. This document is included in the long attachment which I e-mailed a few days ago. I won’t restate those details here, but I do want to note that only 7 weeks had passed from the time the Church Visitors became involved until I was fired. We only met ONE TIME as a group, for about 15 minutes. The rest of the meetings were convened without my presence.

Additionally, I was suspended for three Sundays on October 27. The following Sunday, November 1, my suspension was announced in the AM service (I was not present), and the following Thursday, I was terminated. It all happened very fast, and caught me by surprise, because so much was happening behind my back!

Well, with that as background information, I invite you to read the e-mail exchanges between 21 and me. Note, between Sunday, November 1, and Thursday, November 5, 21 received a letter from 42, a letter from my older daughter, ekkles, and a lengthy letter from me, all of which urged the Church Visitors to look more deeply into the situation at A.

The way this all unfolded, and the shift in Rev. 21’s tone towards me is interesting. I will send what he wrote about me to Classis in a couple days. It is in marked contrast to some of the e-mails in the attached!

Please begin with the 21 e-mail exchange, then the letter to 21, then the “response”, the audio file, and finally, the transcript.

Thank you for your patience, Sir. I hope this makes sense.

Talk to you soon,

Simon T.

Intellectual Sloth & Lack of Professionalism

My curiosity is piqued by the seeming inability of several pastors, whose job mostly consists of praying, reading, writing, and speaking, to read carefully, especially texts [i.e. emails] that are longer than a few sentences.  Several exchanges my dad had with fellow ministers boggle the brain–why can’t people answer simple, straightforward questions?  Why can’t they understand why inability or refusal to answer questions (especially from a brother whose career is on the line) would bother the one asking the questions?

Certainly these pastors didn’t ask to be dealt into this poker game, but they are nevertheless obliged to do their Christian duty by seeking truth and justice, and of course are always bound to treat their fellow believers with compassion.  What did it mean that they couldn’t be bothered to read, to inform themselves before taking action (namely their deliberations and decision-making on 8 December).  Was this really an issue of people not having enough time to read an email properly, or are people just lazy?  You’ll notice above, reader, that PT points out to WVW repeatedly that W didn’t interact with all of his questions, answered only some of them, or answered them inadequately/incompletely.  It shouldn’t be necessary to call a pastor out on this more than once–again, reading and understanding, then explaining the written word is WHAT THEY DO FOR A LIVING!

Aside from not reading carefully, there was a certain lack of diligence in even responding to PT’s messages in a timely way, if some received replies at all.  There was a string of them sent over several days to one pastor which were ignored.  When an email finally elicited a reply, the pastor had obviously (again) not read carefully–the content of his email did not correspond to PT’s.  See Email 2 from Dwight below.

Timeline and Confusion

In the end, the meeting was not scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving.  The right people, or enough of them, were not available.  We mention again here that Pastor T. was pretty much the last person to get confirmation that it would not happen on 23 November–an elder from A. was everything but certain, by 19 November, that it would be pushed back to December, and told Pastor T. so on the phone.  21 kept telling PT up to and through part of the weekend before the 23rd that it could still happen.  Was he purposely trying to keep PT on tenterhooks?  Why?  And if 21 didn’t know, but the elder did, and so did a parishioner who had already left A. over the scandal, how do we account for this administrative fumble?

Anyway.  Instead, it was set for the first full week of December, which was still not much time for PT to prepare to counter, in whatever way he could, what had been written and said about him.

Different people suggested different approaches to challenging the Article 17 (some of which are described in his document to the Classis in Exhibit P.).  In the end he took the tack there posted.  42, meanwhile, had agreed to the inclusion of his rebuttal to the A-17 in the group of documents distributed to Classis; he asked 21 to distribute it.  21 promised he would do so, whether via email, or by presenting all or some of it to the Classis at the meeting (by reading it aloud?).  This was 16 November.  One week later, he still had not sent it, and 42 was anxious for it to be shared with Dwight, and the delegates to Classis as soon as possible.  He agreed to its distribution by Dwight in a conversation with PT.  PT passed this on to Dwight in a phone conversation on Monday 30 November (we believe), when he also learned that 21 had not even sent it yet to Dwight (after 2 weeks!), and PT thought it was clear to and understood by Dwight that he should send out 42’s documentation immediately.  5 days later, this still had not been done.  When 42 and/or PT contacted Dwight to ask why the rebuttal had not been sent, Dwight said that he hadn’t had 42’s direct permission to do so, in writing or otherwise!  Why PT had to elicit this piece of information, after thinking that it was settled, is strange–if Dwight discussed it with PT but thought he still needed to get permission from 42, why had he not, during the intervening week, contacted 42 to get it?   At any rate, a mere 3 days (early morning, 5 December 2015) before the special meeting (8 December), Dwight sent out a whopping collection of documents to the classis delegates.  I use the term ‘days’ loosely; since many of the delegates were pastors, the vast majority of them would not have been able to start reading all the documentation until Monday the 7th.  This included 42’s rebuttal, which was supposed to have been almost a week before.  PT shared these electronic proceedings with some of his confidantes:

5 December 2015:

“The attached is a stunner.  You may want to pray before you read.
Thanks.
Pastor T/ Dad/ Simon/ Big Brother
Good morning, one and all.  It’s hard to believe, but [Dwight] finally sent out the documents for the TUESDAY Classis meeting early this morning, in two separate e-mails.  These e-mails included a rebuttal to the Request for Article 17, which was written by 42, a lifelong member of A. Church and former elder.
The Rebuttal was sent to Church Visitors on November 16, who were supposed to forward it on to the Clerk.
Had I not connected with [Dwight] on Monday, November 30, he may not have received the Rebuttal!  I told him in no uncertain terms that the Rebuttal was intended for all the Delegates and Synodical Deputies, and that it should be sent on to them.  There was to be some discussion between the Clerk and two members of the [classical committee x] about how to present this material, but that was supposed to be on December 1!
Anyway, the document that’s most pertinent I have included in the attached.
I’ll refrain from comment until you read it.
Below, you will find the e-mail from Dwight (to all Delegates), and then two more which were responses to me.
I think you’ll find those two interesting.
I hope to talk with you soon,
Pastor T/ Dad/ Simon/Big Brother”
–Email 1 from Dwight (5 December) was addressed to the delegates, including the date and time of the meeting; an agenda; the A-17; Classis credential forms; ‘Guidelines for Article 17,  taken from the Synodical Deputy Guidebook’.  Attached was a document written by 21, comprising a ‘timeline’* and ‘overview’ of events at A. as he saw them (or as put to him by a party or parties at A.).  There was also a PS., in which Dwight hinted there may be more documents to follow pending acquired written approval.
*This timeline is riddled with errors, which seems odd–of all things to get right, dates should be easy, since all it takes is going through a calendar, and if needs be, phone and inbox for calls and emails.
–Email 2, to PT, 5 December: Dwight explains that he did not send Simon’s document because he didn’t know whether it was intended for ‘all delegates and/or Synodical deputies’.  He says he also opted not to include 42’s rebuttal as he ‘did not have permission to distribute it either.’  He indicates that he needs written (email) permission from the ‘author’ to distribute both documents.  PT had already written to Dwight in an email on 27 November the following (emphases mine):
‘Third, a former elder of A., 42, has written a rebuttal to the “Request for Article 17” submitted by the Council of A. On November 16, he sent the rebuttal to the Church Visitors, Rev. 21 and Rev. 22.
It is my understanding that Rev. 21 was to contact the [classical committee x] the week of November 15 in order to inform them about the rebuttal and the manner in which it ought to be presented to the Classis Delegates and the Synodical Deputies.
Has any decision been made pertaining to how this rebuttal will be distributed, or how it will be discussed at the December 8 meeting? It is my conviction that the rebuttal should be read and considered well before the meeting. Also, I plan to write a response to the “Request for Article 17” which the Delegates will need to read before the meeting.’
If Dwight had read this email, ought he not to have mentioned then to PT that he would need written authorial permission from 42 to distribute 42’s rebuttal?  If there was any confusion on this point, why was it not noted when PT was obviously concerned about its being shared in a timely manner, so that the delegates could read it thoroughly and think about it?   PT had also shared some of his concerns about the strange treatment of him by WVW and 21; instead of addressing these concerns, Dwight considered it more important to dwell on the fact that PT somehow ‘found out’ who the synodical deputies were, and thought he should advise him not to ‘contact them directly’, as it would be ‘inappropriate’.  PT hadn’t contacted them: they had hit ‘reply to all’ when responding to an email from Dwight to confirm that they would be in attendance at the special meeting.  And given the overwhelming amount of documentation wherein PT is careful, professional, and minds his Ps & Qs, one has to wonder why he needs to be told the obvious, given no benefit of the doubt on questions of ‘appropriateness’ despite evidence that PT takes this more seriously than others at the table, while so many other clerics can persist in their odd behavior, raising nary an eyebrow.  Peculiar indeed, and this is only one example!
–Email 3, to PT, also 5 December:  Dwight reports that he has just finished reading PT’s document and ‘realized’ that it was intended to be sent to both delegates and Synodical deputies.  He says he has sent it and 42’s rebuttal, though he hasn’t had ‘written approval’, as he judged from Simon’s document that distribution was the intent for this document as well (though he doesn’t acknowledge that this had been previously agreed upon earlier in the week).  Dwight apologizes for the ‘misread’.

fin.

‘It’s a TRAP!’

ekkles will refrain from further comment on this point, except that this ‘miscommunication’, in the end, served the interests of the cabal, whether unintentionally or not.

Among the collection of documents was the latest bombshell drafted by the ‘wordsmith’ (according to 13), CV 21 (though at least 21 signed this one).  We will not post it here because it is both slanderous and undeserving of the light of day (though that light be the internet), and is too potentially damaging to 21 and to his church.  His church was unfortunate enough to be represented in and by him (as he’s their pastor), but his actions in this situation are his alone, and this document simply goes too far.  We can’t be responsible for making it public without being able to guess at the ramifications.

While all of this brings reproach on the name of Christ and cripples the preaching of the Gospel, the document called ’21’s Overview’ is abjectly sickening (literally, that is, physically, as well as emotionally and spiritually–my reaction in reading it was one of four times in my adult life when I have been out of control and been able to name the cause–experienced pure, raw, pathos [one of the other incidents was when I read the Article 17.])  in its unbiblical employment of innuendo instead of facts; its postmodern slant in prioritizing feelings and perceptions over God-honoring reason and weighing of evidence; its unChristian tearing down of a fellow brother in the pastorate; its irresponsible furthering of a narrative of which the validity had been challenged by several committed Christians with appeal to Scripture, truth, and justice; and its unquestioning crediting and enabling of a contingent in a church who could not only not accept the trustworthy word as taught, but also insisted on a smear campaign (to make themselves look good? to vent?  to justify their rush?  to explain the loss of ‘joy’ in the church without having to do any self-reflection?) rather than simply asking their pastor (not guilty of any ‘wrong-doing’ according to 21 himself!) to start looking for another call.

Again, we are not ready to post this ‘overview’ here.  It is very possible the world (including contemporary ‘evangelicalism’) is too ‘moved on’, like Rob Bell says, from biblical values, and our perhaps archaic ideas of virtue–maybe people would read it, yawn, and say, ‘Who cares?’  Maybe no one would be scandalized that an ordained minister produced something so vile (in a deliberate effort to slam a fellow minister?).  And why is still not clear to us; we think it sounds angry.  If we, like 21, believed ourselves psychologists, we might venture a guess that encapsulated in the ‘overview’ is his pent-up anger toward ekklescake, 42, and PT for their defiance of his ‘authority’ in all this, and unwillingness to admit his genius.  It was in this document that 21 insinuated that PT was the source of the material they’d received from at least 42 and ekkles; it was a convenient assertion, it turns out, since no one of the people who had appealed to him, including 42 and ekkles, were able to challenge this to the Classis.  More on that below.

As for the timing, certainly it all seems very…sketchy? shady? dodgy?  that Dwight sat for so long on 42’s rebuttal (after 21 and 22 sat on it for a fortnight), and still sent neither it nor Pastor T’s response to the A-17 before distributing the ‘overview’.  Why does it seem that 21 and his perspective is the one that’s always published (verbally or in writing) first?*  To WVW, perhaps to Dwight, and certainly to the whole Classis? And–how long had it taken 21 to produce the ‘overview’?  Did he ask Dwight to hold off distributing any documents at all, until he had the ‘overview’ ready?

*this makes one think of 13, who had 54 over to his house for a (secret?) meeting (see the closing passages of Exhibit C.), with no other council members present, let alone PT; and who also jumped ahead of the clerk of A. council to secure CVs from the Classis, perhaps making sure that he was able to get pastors he knew would be sympathetic to his position?

And now we come to the meeting itself.

8 December 2015

We will ‘nutshell’ it.  The Synodical deputies ran late, so the order of business was reversed; A. and the A-17 was discussed after the closing of the other church.  ekkles’ sister was present at this meeting, and was connected via Skype to ekkles, who was staying up late in the UK.  There wasn’t much to hear; once the A. business was opened, it had all the structure of an informal cocktail party, without the benefit of cocktails–not even the salt to rim the margarita glass.

The floor was opened for the [Aetna] delegates (it wasn’t possible to get a complete consensus from eyewitness if the chairman opened the floor for delegates generally, or just for A.’s council delegates’; what is clear is that attendees were never given the opportunity to speak), if ‘any of them had anything to say’.  11 stood up in his pew and described how awful an experience it all was, a source of great stress and depression, that he didn’t like the A-17 process (understandably so), and that he wished the denomination had something different in place [I assume for the separation of pastors and churches].  Unfortunately, it was unclear what (or who?) had made it a bad experience, and ekkles (among others) was unsure of the impact it would have on the other A.ns in the pews, especially those who supported the cabal.  ekkles is of the opinion that it took guts–real courage, in fact–to do what 11 did, in that sort of majority-hostile environment (several pro-A-17 parties were in the sanctuary, including 13), and 11 felt it was right and necessary to speak out–but it might have been difficult to deduce from his statement alone that something (or more than one) untoward had happened, or that this was wrong.

What is disappointing is that no one apparently approached him for clarification–not any of the A. members in attendance (except 42), and more importantly, none of the classical delegates.   If anything, the fact that 11 felt compelled to speak up as he did should have got some people thinking, and wondering, ‘Why has this been so bad?’  His short speech, combined with the paperwork the delegates had already (supposedly) read, should have given them pause.  At the very least, they should have understood that this action was controversial, was not just ‘stressful’, but spiritually oppressive and troubling for at least one of the council members involved, and thus, making the proper decision about it was likely beyond the scope of the deliberations of one two-hour meeting on a December night.

At any rate, after this invitation, the meeting went into executive session.  I will here dive into first person singular narrative voice.  My sister hung up on me and her boyfriend, who were parties to a group call she set up.  The noise she made as she vanished was something like a surprised and angry sigh, while her boyfriend was typing frantically in the Skype IM box, such as ‘nononononono’ and the like.  I didn’t understand (as they apparently did) what ‘executive session’ meant: everyone from A. was to leave the room, including the council’s delegates (again, 13 was there, but not a delegate), PT, and 42.  It had never been clear on the agenda whether anyone involved would have the chance to explain himself, interact with the delegates over what he wrote (this is either PT or 42), and so to prepare, and to know when to jump up and say his piece, was nigh impossible.  The CVs were permitted to stay, with no one from the ‘other side’ (how sad it is to say that about a group of Christians) there to even know what 21 and 22 said to the Classis behind those closed doors in the sanctuary, much less were they able to cross-examine the CVs, or provide clarification on the A-17 rebuttals.  Nope–the CVs were permitted all the time and freedom they needed to say whatever they liked, with no alternative viewpoint and no challenge, though it should have been obvious to the delegates, who had had to wade through all of the documentation (if they had time) that the alternate viewpoint existed, and that the other party merited a hearing, and deserved an opportunity to hear and counter the narrative offered to Classis by the CVs.  No… everyone else was waiting around outside what 42 later called the ‘Star Chamber’…

Someone had said over the weekend of 5-6 December that 21 had to write (as in, he couldn’t help himself) his ‘overview’ because he had to find a way to counter and discredit the documentation of PT and 42*, which were far superior to the A-17 he (it is believed) wrote, in every possible way, particularly in terms of language, style, reasoning, and biblical basis.  That is why so much of the ‘overview’ is threaded through with allegations of mental instability (to cast doubt on PT’s reliability and conduct; again, there are no examples, just innuendo and ‘it seems that something just isn’t quite right‘, that sort of mush) and ghostwriting (to cast aspersions on the integrity of the material submitted by 42 and ekkles).  Low.

At any rate, people were called in one by one, haphazardly, once the CVs were apparently ‘done’, though my sister and a family friend present said 21 looked stressed, even angry.  PT was called in, asked if he had ‘anything to say’.  He said no; everything he had to say was in the document they already should have read.  He should have been asked specific questions if he was going to be called in at all; how could he know what he was supposed to say in support of his own case when he wasn’t aware of what his detractor had said about him behind the glass (the church that hosted the meeting has a window in the wall between the narthex and sanctuary), which may not have been covered in his document?  That’s not what happens in secular courts! And of course, he hadn’t had time to familiarize himself with the contents of the ‘bomb’, so, was it not best to stick with what had written before being blindsided by 21’s ‘overview’?  42 was never asked for his input.  At a later date I would like to post his rebuttal–any curious, honest mind who had looked into all the documents in advance should have wanted to hear from him.

The opportunity to speak in any meaningful way was extended to the non-impartial CVs only.  After 2 hours, the Classis decided to approve the A-17 as it was, though they graciously agreed to give Pastor T. and his daughter an extra month to vacate their home of 7 years, rather than having to be out by New Year’s Eve [a tasty dickensian touch in the November proceedings, as 42 noted!].  Now–they (the delegates) had had only 2 days, give or take, to read all the written material; they had allowed no direct interaction or cross-examination between the main spokespeople for the two sides (I’ll note here that 13 was adamant that he himself not be a delegate–he didn’t want any written association with the Article’s success or failure on the record!); they knew there was a strong disagreement on the nature and progression of events–not just a mismatch, but the two sides were presenting polar opposite versions of what had happened, and insisted that very different people were responsible, acting from very different motives.  At least one version had to be wrong, and both might be wrong.  With this kind of dissonance, and with a man’s career on the line, how could the delegates have thought they were making a valid decision to accept 21’s version (as it seems that it what happened), so thoroughly (and capably) contradicted by not only PT himself, but by an extremely accomplished, articulate Christian with not only high standing in the community due to his position as a judge, but also a lifelong member of the church in question?  How could they have thought their approval was one qualified by due time and energy spent on prayer, deliberation, research and investigation?   They didn’t even realize that 21’s ‘overview’ should have disqualified him from being a credible, impartial witness to events (though he was of course witness to very few anyway, the dates of which he couldn’t get right [but people don’t check their work, and no one was going to read it closely anyway, right?!], and besides, he had never been there to ‘do anything’, though the council credited the CVs with every decision they made).

The whole thing was a disappointment.  A joke.  They didn’t even realize that the whole thing should have been tabled.  Someone in the Classis had already admitted that they hadn’t handled an A-17 like this before, and that they were ‘learning as they went along’.  Maybe it would have been better to channel Indiana Jones: ‘We’re making this up as we go.’   Either way, it’s not very reassuring, if you’re the guy who was first accused of being an impossible-to-work-with jerk, and second, crazy, and if you’re depending on the same denominational people to give you the green light for your next job.

This was negligence.  And it was a miscarriage of justice in the household of faith.

[*Author’s noteI recently learned from delegates who were present in the closed executive session that PT’s emails were described as ‘sounding like an attorney’–this is, I assume, meant to be pejorative, though certainly not every attorney is like 13; also, at least someone was interested in discrediting 42: he was made to look unstable.  Go figure.  25 September 2016.]

 <—Exhibit S.                                                                       Exhibit U.—>

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit X. Concluding Remarks.

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                             [Exhibit Y.—>]

‘I don’t blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them.’   –John Hammond, Jurassic Park, 1993

I wasn’t there, but as I thought to myself after flying back to the States and setting up meetings in October, I’ve done my homework: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened, documenting the series of events, contacting people, offering those on the other side a chance to explain themselves, back up their claims or clear up misunderstandings, and trying to piece together the plot.  All the ‘official’ people in this business, be it council members, church coaches, church visitors, and classical delegates, all put together, haven’t done half the work I have in trying to get to the truth, and now I’ve devoted a significant portion of these past several months trying to make it intelligible.  Research, as I’ve said elsewhere, is my bread and butter: if an argument is honest, thorough, and based on clear, well-presented evidence, the truth should speak for itself.

‘You see, my friend, I brought more facts than you did.’

As I prepare to let this blog ‘go public’, as it were, I reflect on how much has changed in such a short period of time.  I was married in that church 4 years ago.  People I thought were my friends, real friends, then, I would have called my friends only a year ago.  No longer.  I have realized, with much regret, in the past couple of months, that worthier, sometimes far worthier, people sat in the pews, whose acquaintance I never took the time to cultivate, to my loss and shame.  What is more important, this happened first and foremost to my dad, and to those long-time members of the church who were hurt and forced out by this–I believed many of those responsible were friends to him and to them as well.  Perhaps they were, but the change in spiritual climate either changed the nature of those relationships, or it changed the people.  Of course, the actions of some of these people also changed who they were, as I’ve said repeatedly over the past several months.  Maybe (and I’m thinking of a handful of people in particular, like those who danced at our wedding reception or had my family in their home for Thanksgiving a half-dozen times) they never were who or what I thought they were.  Or they have changed.  It is hard to know which is more painful.

Now, a source in the church tells me that there is a remarkable enthusiasm, almost giddiness, on the part of some who had been members of the small group–women in particular whom I both trusted and respected.  Is this enthusiasm forced or real?  A desperation to put a happy face on things, or a belief that things are better that they’ve dumped the ‘problem’?   There’s still no getting around the fact that the root issue was never discussed or acknowledged, assuming my read on the situation is correct.  A trio of strangers to A. (sort of–one nonagenarian participant was baptized at A., but has spent most of his life downstate) went on a prayer walk through the church in the Fall with my dad and sister, and confirmed what I had already seen for myself–that there is a demonic presence there, certain aspects of it very old.  I mentioned this to one of my interlocutors, 19, in October, someone I have considered a ‘sensitive’.  I wonder if she remembers this, and if she’s thought about it since.  Given the one correspondence I’ve had from her since December, I assume there are only a few answers to that indirect question: she disbelieves it; she has to resist it because practically no one else (the vast majority!) in the church believes in the supernatural, and she has to go along with the current that seeks to find a superficial remedy, no matter how costly; she is in denial about its importance and impact and believes the superficial changes will be enough for the church to carry on.  I guess we’ll see.

I will make one summary statement: people don’t know what they’ve done, just like they didn’t understand the issues at stake when the Ss left in Fall 2014.  After my dad was terminated, once of the council members said, ‘I still consider you a friend,’ and at the special meeting of classis, another said, ‘So, you going to look for another church now?’  One can only laugh or cry at the total lack of awareness.  It’s like they thought someone stepped on his toe and broke it, when really he’s had his leg chopped off (oh wait, that’s actually a really good analogy!).  I wonder if anyone has thought about what it was like for me to see the furniture I grew up with advertised for sale to strangers online, because, well, the moving situation simply hasn’t allowed for our lovely piano (played by me, my siblings, my college friends, my husband), among other things, to remain in our family.  At this point, it looks like some of the nicest pieces will have to be simply given away to charity, because the church needs the parsonage emptied, and my dad and sister can’t get leads to sell the remaining bits–the piano, the china cabinet…  Pure loss.  More collateral damage.  Thanks, guys.

Though I haven’t been back, and have heard from very few people, of all those I’ve contacted, the fixation with just ‘moving on’ seems to result in a total lack of grief or sense of loss over the departure of members whom I would have considered very valuable indeed, albeit for different reasons.  If we want to treat people like numbers, or weights in a scale, some of them would certainly be more valuable than those whom the cabal fired my dad to keep, as they actually believe the Bible, while several of those I’ve called the ‘extortionists’ do not.  Oh wait, I forgot–while only a few people remaining at A. could be bothered to even check on my family at Christmas and in their moving period (my thanks goes out to those men who came to help them with this in late January), some of the departees have received cards from women in the former care group.  Is this an effort to woo them back?  If so, it betrays a lack of understanding of the sheer gravity and momentousness of the action they took.  Lifelong members of the church did not leave in a tantrum.  This was evil and unChristian, and a stain on the garment of Christ’s bride.  This violated their consciences.  They will not be ‘won back’ by awkward overtures like greeting cards.

Speaking of cards, though, I do thank those still at Aetna who expressed their condolences in cards and/or came to the funeral service for my grandfather, who passed away last month [March 2016].  Two cards were sent by those whom I believe supported the termination; though the cognitive dissonance gives me pause, thank you, too.

So.  The human cost in terms of spiritual anguish, disappointment, slander, broken friendships, and anxiety has been immense.  More than that, the church exists to glorify God, to proclaim Christ’s Gospel both within and without.  This devouring of shepherd and sheep by other sheep can do nothing but lose the eaters their Lord’s blessing, and give the world one more reason to decry Christianity for  barbarism, both real & perceived.  God help the church in America–rather than suffering for Jesus under an oppressive regime, we allow Satan to dictate the direction of our churches by accepting the bullseye he paints on our pastors and joining him in taking potshots at them when they preach a word which makes us uncomfortable.  Being transformed and renewed by the power of God’s Word was never supposed to be a cosy business.

This story does have the makings of Myth.  It is a story of disappointment, betrayal,  abandonment, conspiracy, cold pragmatism, glorification of the carnal, deceit, denial, shallowness, haste, folly, cowardice, and Groupthink.  But throughout, quickening rays of light shone through the darkness, as time after time the Master in His Providence raised up those who would be heroes in their way, showing true valor, courage, conviction, wisdom, discernment, rationality, in some cases, remorse,  and commitment to the truth, to the integrity of the Church universal and the good of their church local, and to the Holy Scriptures.

If being Reformed teaches me anything, it teaches me the real meaning of grace, and the different types of grace.  Some people at A. wanted grace packaged neatly (they wanted it without mention of ‘repentance’?), in a way devoid of meaning which would serve to massage…something.  I realize after experiencing this nightmare, and after this past Sunday evening’s sermon (17 April 2016) on Exodus 15:22-27, how easy it is to get complacent, to take God for granted, and from there, to begin to grumble and complain.  In the previous chapters of Exodus, the Israelites had seen for themselves the Lord’s power and miraculous provision, in the plagues and in the parting of the Red Sea, and they had the physical, visible sign of His presence with them in pillars of cloud and fire.  And they STILL moaned against God when they came to Marah, and attacked Moses repeatedly throughout his ministry.  I pray that this thought is never far from my mind: that could be me!  How we all need the constant working of the Holy Spirit within us to love the Lord, and our local fellowships and our shepherds as we ought!  I would like to replace the memory of the ironic singing of a ‘I Love Your Church, O Lord’ at the special meeting of classis with a recitation of it as a prayer.  Jesus, teach us how and help us to love your Church!

Acknowledgments:  my thanks to those who have read this blog before its official publication, helping me with typos, continuity, factual errors, and editing out of names.  Also, I want to thank those who have supported my family over the past several months, those from within A. and those from without, in whatever way you were able: you know who you are, and what you did, whether it was simply to reach out and hear their side of the story, whether it was trying to slow down this process for the sake of the truth (if not for pity!), whether it’s been to encourage and come alongside them in the aftermath as they pick up the pieces, by helping with the move, offering housing, sharing a meal.  Some of you are still at A., and are still speaking up with boldness against the rot.  God bless you all.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’  -Heb. 12:1-2

<—Exhibit W.                                                  Exhibit Y.—>

 

 

Exhibit K. Preaching Schedule up to ‘Being Word Centered’ (26 Oct. 2015)

[Return to Table of Contents.]                                                    [Exhibit L.—>]

‘How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He has said, you, who unto Jesus for refuge  have fled?’ — ‘K’ in Rippon’s Selection, 1787

First, an excerpt of the schedule from the second half of 2014, the ‘Matthew stuff’ some people were murmuring about (see Exhibit G.):

author’s portrait of Matthew from the Ebbo Gospels
Aug 10

*******

Effects of God’s Grace Titus 2:1-15

Lord’s Supper

Aug 17 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

Amazing Expressions of Faith and Unbelief

Matthew 15:21-16:4

Aug 24 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

The True Confession & the Sure Foundation

Matthew 16:5-16:20

Aub 31 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

Satanic Opposition and a Call to Discipleship

Matthew 16:21-28

Sept 7 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

The King in His Glory

Matthew 17:1-13

Sept 14 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

The Powerless Disciples. The Mighty Christ

Matthew 17:14-23

Sept 21 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

To Avoid Offending

Matthew 17:19-27

Sept 28 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

The Little Ones and How We Treat Them

Matthew 18:1-14

Oct 5 Guest Preacher

Who Then Can Be Saved?

1 Peter 4:1-5:11

Oct 12 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

For the Love of the Church

(Church Discipline)

Matt 18:15-20

Oct 19 The Gospel Acc to Matthew

The Imitation of Christ

Matt 18:21-35

Oct 26

*******

The Precious Treasure

Psalm 19 Reformation Sunday
Nov 2 The Gospel Acc to Matthew The True Pattern for Marriage Matt 19:1-12

World Hunger Sunday

Standard Time Returns

Nov 9 The Gospel Acc to Matthew What Must I Do, What Do I Lack? Matt 19:13-26

Intn’l Day Prayer Pers Church

Lord’s Supper

Nov 16 The Gospel Acc to Matthew Great Difficulty and Great Reward Matt 19:23-30
Nov 23 The Gospel Acc to Matthew The Injustice of Grace Matt 20:1-16 Christ the King Sunday
Nov 27

*******

Abundance! Thanksgiving Eve Service 7:00 PM

Preaching Schedule, 2015.

The reader can decide for him-/herself, after looking at the titles and the texts exegeted, whether the congregation was only hearing ‘judgmental’, ‘continual call[s] to repent!’, and whether the material and presentation of it was mostly negative.  Again, anyone who would like to hear the messages can contact me, and I am happy to send mp3s.  Note that my dad was only able to get a few weeks into his series on Philippians, the clearest direct answer to those who wanted what they called ‘joy’ (see the entries beginning in September below).  This epistle contains the hallmark passage(s) on Christian joy.  Since my dad was canned only a short way into the sojourn in Philippians (and it promised to be a darn good series), one has to wonder if the ‘joy’ some were clamoring for is the same joy Paul describes.  The sheer disconnect (between the cry for ‘joy’/encouragement and kicking a man to the kerb just as he’s beginning his answer),which borders on dishonesty–because people couldn’t even acknowledge the effort to meet them halfway–literally nauseates the author.  What’s the point of voicing complaints and making demands when you don’t give the person a chance to meet those demands?  Is it because those demands/complaints were just an excuse?  It smells like this:

 

Certainly some of this is subjective–some may indeed not find an exhortation to ‘think the way God thinks’ a positive and motivating message.  But what does the Bible say?

The list below represents REALITY–what was actually preached, and reveals the different foci of the preacher at different times.  Unless one wants to claim that throughout various series, and in spite of the texts coming from all over scripture, the preacher managed to drag in the same dead horse and beat it Sunday after Sunday, I don’t see how anyone can get around the simple fact that the themes were varied, though consistently biblical, and that the vast majority are indeed relevant and encouraging (or at least, the source texts are).  But someone may just dismiss this evidence with, ‘Well, I know what I feel.’  There is no hope of rational exchange with such a person, and that person, evidently not valuing truth above feelings, is thus totally unable to hold God’s Word in proper esteem.

NB: **indicate author’s personal favorites/recommendations; italics indicate messages which the author believes were preached in direct response to the ongoing situation; bolded text indicates those messages whose texts and themes especially and overtly contradict the complainant narrative that all is negative, lacking in encouragement, ‘out of touch’, or fire & brimstone.

11 Jan.       ‘The Goal of Christian Teaching‘, Eph. 4:1-16 [installation of new office bearers]

18 Jan.      Counsel for the Downcast Soul’, Ps. 42

25 Jan.       ‘An Important Step to Godliness’, Rom.11:33-12:2; 2 Cor.10:1-6

1 Feb.         ‘Sit and Be Blessed’, Luke 10:48-32**

8 Feb.        ‘The Lost Son’, Luke 15

Lent Series: OT types of Christ, Feb.-April

22 Feb.       ‘The Ladder that Reached to Heaven’, Gen. 28

1 March       ‘The Man Who Wouldn’t Let Go’, Gen. 32**

15 March      ‘The Passover’

22 March     ‘The Scapegoat’, Lev. 16**

29 March     ‘The Figure of Isaac’, Gen. 22

5 April           Easter: ‘Beneath His Feet’, Eph.1:18-23; 1 Cor.15:20-26; Heb.2:1-8

(2 week gap—12th & 19th)

26 April       ‘A Psalm on the Brevity of Life’, Ps. 90

For the Love of the Church series (April-May)

3 May            ‘Chosen from the Foundation of the World’, Eph. 1

10 May          ‘Christ’s Love for His Bride’, Rev. 19 & 21**

17 May          ‘The Greatest Expression of Love’, Luke 22:14-27

(On the Holy Spirit)

24 May         Whitsunday: ‘When the Spirit Comes’, Jn.16:1-16

31 May          ‘The Sight Giver’, Jn. 9:1-16

7 June           ‘Gaining Sight, Becoming Blind’, Jn.9:13-41

21 June          Father’s Day: ‘An Exhortation for Young and Old’, 1 Jn.2:12-17

28 June         ‘The Certainty of the Second Coming’, 2 Pet.3

5 July             ‘Living in Light of the Coming Day’, 2 Pet.3.10-18

12 July           ‘The Believer’s Anointing’, 1Jn.2:18-29

19 July           ‘Fasting and the People of God’, Dan.9**

26 July          ‘A Distinguishing Mark of the People of God’, Ex.33**

2 Aug.          ‘Running the Race, Considering Christ’, Heb.12:1-14      [the day of the ‘convo’ with 13, see Exhibit D.]

9 Aug.          ‘Given for You’, Luke 22:14-22

UK HOLIDAY

6 Sept.        ‘Extravagant Worship’, Mark 14:3-9

13 Sept.      ‘Minority Report’, Gal.2**

Philippians

20 Sept.      Meet Philippians!’, Phil. 1:1-11

27 Sept.      ‘A Prayer for Abounding Love’, Phil 1:1-11

4 Oct.          ‘The Important Thing’, Phil 1:9-18

(2 week gap—11th & 18th)

25 Oct.        ‘Being Word Centered’, Col.3:16-7** [Pastor Appreciation Sunday; suspension came 2 days later]

<—Exhibit J.                                                                  Exhibit L.—>

About

I am a 29-year-old PhD student in Classics at UCL, specializing in Flavian epic poetry.  I live in Bristol, UK, with my husband, and our cat, Joab (we adopted him in September 2015; his name is not insignificant).  For my ‘real job’, I work at a local Japanese restaurant as assistant manager.

DSCF1118
Joab has always been precocious and helpful—3 months old and doing laundry.

Though I grew up (from about 8 years of age) in a denomination where ‘Christian’ education is encouraged, and in some places, expected, I went to public schools my whole life.  For my undergrad degree, I went to Hillsdale College.  Once I’d been accepted there, more than one person at our church at the time asked, with some feeling, ‘Don’t you want to go to [flagship denominational] college?’  NO.  I didn’t.  I wanted to go to a place where I would be taught to think, and be challenged to know what I believe, why I believe it, and live accordingly (this did happen at Hillsdale, testified to by the huge number of non-denominational students who ended up converting to Roman Catholicism while there: their ‘no creed but Christ’ upbringing had not prepared them for the force of beautiful Tradition).

That (my desire to go to a place where ‘I would be taught to think’) betrays my bias at the time, which has not been much altered by ten more years of life experience–so many of the young people from our church who went to ‘Christian’ school would be going to ‘FDC’ as a matter of course; many of them showed minimal commitment in high school, and fell off the bandwagon of the faith as young adults.  I was not motivated to go to a Christian college where so much would be taken for granted, and where indeed orthodoxy has been consistently undermined over the past decade.  Indeed, after my younger sister’s experience at Christian school (which she attended for 3 years), and after this experience at my father’s former church, where so many of the older adults and their kids attended Christian school, I can’t see that it makes much difference in terms of love and fear of the Lord, knowledge of Christ’s character and expectations of his people, groundedness in Scripture and Proverbial common sense, ability to think critically and biblically, and simple Christian bearing of good fruit.  Thus the tongue-in-cheek companion title of this blog.

My husband and I attend a small independent evangelical church here in Bristol.  Both of us are pastor’s kids, though my husband’s father left the pastorate fairly early in his career to take up a position at the Free Church Seminary in Edinburgh, as professor of Old Testament.  My husband–an academic in ‘Pure Maths’–and I are both committed Reformed believers; we love the Lord, we love our church, we love God’s word,  and we love thinking about what it is, and who He is.  We both love to read.  Over the years I have read discernment blogs and listened to a discernment broadcast at Pirate Christian Radio, while doctrinally I have been formed by many years of listening to the Dividing Line.

If you check out my personal blog, you will see that what is going on in the American church at large interests me just as much as what happened in my home church at A., documented here at veritas praebita.  For (much) more qualified observations on American ‘evangelical’ culture and issues in the church, I direct the reader to James R. White’s Pulpit Crimes, to more recent books by David Wells, e.g. God in the Whirlwind and The Courage to be Protestant, and to T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns and Why Johnny Can’t Preach.  Also, almost anything connected with John MacArthur’s ministry at Grace to You would be edifying and educational.

I will close by saying that I think I am a rather ordinary person, and that this blog is not about me.  I can be summed up very simply: I like countryside views, cats, ’80s music, reading with my husband, laughing with my family, and enjoy real ales and a good curry.