‘So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.‘ –Matt. 5:23-4
‘Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.’ –Prov. 19:11
My dad and sister were supposed to make their very first trip to visit me and my husband in the UK in mid-August. After the event of the hand-written note, and some back-and-forth with 13 about, among other things, accurately handling Scripture, my dad tried to discuss their disagreements and what he described as 13’s ‘blindsiding’ (with criticisms, undermining remarks, unannounced sharing of the handwritten note with the rest of the council, in council meetings, before having discussed it with my dad) after a morning service on Sunday 2 August 2015. This did not go well; 13 did not want to go over any of the material, even to give explanation or examples of what he meant by the suggestions. My dad said 13 got markedly irritable, even snarky and antagonistic, making sarcastic comments about my dad thinking himself ‘brilliant’ while 13 ‘wasn’t’. My dad said that he told 13 more than once, ‘I feel like you’re not hearing me, 13. You’re just shutting me down.’ 13 apparently did not feel obligated to dialogue. What he expected of my dad, aside from just ‘doing it’ (?), was unclear. This, again, was someone whom I thought close to my dad (my dad thought he was his friend), an elder in a Christian church, a professional man in a high-profile public career, and much older than my dad. (I have my father’s permission to share his email describing this event; anyone who would like to read it can request it from me via the comments.)
Another event took place that is worth noting, though like the previous just described, the written communications regarding it are better briefly summed up. My dad was to be away for two Sundays while in the UK, and had secured pulpit supply. The first Sunday, the service was to be led and the sermon preached by a retired minister; one of the young men in the church was also going to give a presentation about his experience while doing missions in another region of the US. My dad got a call one evening before he and my sister left for the UK, from one of the men in the church. 13 had come up with a great idea: tell the retired pastor he wasn’t needed that Sunday morning (less than a week away), and just have the young man (neither a minister nor in training for the ministry) lead the whole service. 13 was apparently very enthusiastic about this. As far as the caller could tell, 13 didn’t care much about the aspects of professionalism or courtesy involved in cancelling a pulpit supply minister on such short notice, after it had been in his calendar for weeks, and after he had already likely begun his preparation. Also, my dad asked the caller, has the young man been asked if he wants to do this? The caller said he would get in touch with the young man. Perhaps not surprisingly, the young man was not entirely comfortable with this; someone in his wisdom had the idea to put the young man in touch with the visiting minister, so they could coordinate with each other about the service themselves. 13, who, it could be argued, had no business trying to arrange such things, was in this case ‘brought up short’. It is worth noting that the caller told my dad that he’d heard about this big idea (modern, vibrant, exciting, different, or something…), and figured my dad didn’t know. He didn’t want him to think this was being done ‘behind his back’, or at least, couldn’t let it pass without giving my dad warning. Of course it was being done behind his back—13, I am certain, had no intention of either asking or informing him about it, even though it had been my dad who secured the minister for pulpit supply in the first place. This drama on the eve of our family visit, before my dad’s and sister’s first trip across the Atlantic, the cold and selfish machinations which no doubt continued in their absence, was aptly dubbed by 42: ‘cruel’.
Inevitably, such intrigues (and anxiety about them) cast a pall over our holiday. I shall include as part of this Exhibit a happy moment from our trip—overall ‘ruined’ by the agitators, as my dad said to my sister in the following months, and at a later date, I may include a sketch I drew while reflecting on one night while we were up in Scotland, my dad looking so utterly helpless as he wondered what was going on back home, with those whom he once trusted, now that he was away and they were free, we all feared, to scheme.