‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.’ –James 3:1
After the frustrating non-interaction with my concerns and ideas, I decided to compile several documents, in hard copy, and send them in a packet, tracked and signed for, to 21. This is the cover letter for the packet, which I mailed on 19 November 2015. The email interactions I described at the close of Exhibit O. follow the letter.
19 November 2015
Dear Pastor 21,
I write because this all ought to be on the record. I am writing to you, and not to A.’s council, as the council has for all intents and purposes laid this on your doorstep, and as the Classis people say you are the ‘point man’ in the Article 17 process. I have spent some money to send these materials, in hopes they will get a fresh reading. Given that, in your last email, you thought you were ‘responding’ to my second letter, I thought I should re-send it and some other documents, with my questions, issues, examples, arguments, and appeals to scripture underlined. I would like to believe you are not aware of how you have been talking down to me by insisting on answering my pleas for serious intellectual engagement with vague generalizations and would-be ameliorative comments about feelings. I think I have demonstrated that I am neither a child nor a woman (I am 28) who is entirely beholden to her emotions, and I demand to be taken as seriously as the squeaky wheels at A..
In addition, I find it difficult to understand why a seminary graduate would refuse to engage with the material I’ve sent at the level I have requested. You have a M.Div., and reading and interacting with texts is a big part of your calling. It is also the case that you have multiple languages under your belt, so you know what I mean when I say that I find it frustrating, your penchant for impersonal verb constructions—‘steps were taken’, ‘things were attempted’. While the passive voice is not as naughty as it used to be, many of your verbs are missing their agents, and of course, while I want to talk about specifics, in terms of who said what, did what, and when, the above assertions you make are never explained or enumerated. Who did what and when? I hope you will find it in you to simply give me some answers.
As I’ve pointed out to others, you and Pastor 22 took on a moral responsibility, even culpability, when you agreed to get involved in this, and all the more when you gave advice, ‘approved’ the Article 17, and since, offered your perspective and review of the situation to people on the outside whose take on it has been shaped by what you have told them. It is incumbent on you to be able to defend and explain your role and actions, and indeed you should do so, just as we should all ‘be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within us’. Would you be able to entertain, even for a moment, the possibility that you stamped the seal of approval on this too quickly?
I sum up the sentiment of your email and the Art. 17: ‘This has gone on long enough’—what, a few weeks’ worth of disorganized griping, issuing thrown-together directives and sloppy brainstorming amounts to a total ‘breakdown of diplomacy’? There were no ‘negotiations’, no counter-demands, no redrafting of proposals—it’s absurd to make my dad sound like the PLO. Besides, if I say that this spin of the narrative isn’t true, why do you believe it is? Who (singular or plural) told you that? And I assume ‘this’ refers to the crisis of the past several months. The problems that have been present for several years long predate my dad’s arrival at A..
One more thing: my dad ‘didn’t do anything wrong’, you said, in essence, in your last email, and, ‘sometimes things just don’t work out’. Why then is he being treated like a leper by [another pastor in the Classis who refused to answer my dad’s questions, and later emails, after throwing in an unnecessary review of the CVs involvement to the entirety of Classis: ‘this matter has been handled well by the CVs’. Unprofessional, to say the least, and unqualified, as the answer he finally gave to the question ‘Who told you it was handled well by the CVs was, ‘The CVs told me’. Ah. See Exhibit T. 28 March 2016]? Answer me that one. He [above pastor] had time to toss his bias into this sick soup, before skipping town to [another state], and doesn’t think he has to explain himself either. This string of events leaves me really disillusioned with the [denomination]—it [sic]way of thinking, its way of living the Word (even pastors!), its way of handling problems—which is basically, get it over with quick; if someone asks questions, blow him off past the deadline/final ‘meeting’, so we can sweep it under the rug ‘when it’s too late’, and make him go away quietly. Of course, maybe this only happens in the Provinces, and fairness could actually be gotten in [the city that hosts the denominational headquarters], before Caesar. Don’t know.
I’m asking you, before you either read this or throw it out, consider the fact that what has emerged from our exchange is proof that you and I (and perhaps 22 and I) have a foundational philosophical gap between us—we obviously think very differently, about a great many things. I challenge you to think about this, how we might go about defining that gap, and the possible reason for it—I believe this gap will be clearly demarcated, particularly in my response to your latest email, document 4.
The contents of this packet are as follows:
–doc 1: the very first letter, on the preaching, I sent to you in September
–doc 2: the second letter I sent to you 5 November
–doc 3: the shorter letter I sent to 12 & 11 in late October
–doc 4: the exchange of emails, the one I sent to Pastor 22, and the one I got from you, with my reactions in the text (all these docs have red underlining of points, arguments, examples you haven’t responded to, which I think merit, in fact demand, follow-up)
–Copies of 3 pictures I drew in the last 6 months
–Samples of poetry from February to November
Feel free to share any or all of this material with Pastor 22.
In all sincerity,
Document 4 of 4; email exchanges, 11 & 14 November 2015
11 November 2015
Dear Pastor 22,
I really don’t know what to say in reply to your email. After last night’s proceedings, I’m left completely bewildered about my and my family’s relationship with A. as a whole. I heard the atmosphere in the sanctuary after the meeting adjourned, and it just sounded like nothing had happened, in spite of the fact that 12. could barely get through the closing prayer. A few women (not the ones we’ve known best–I don’t know why they couldn’t be bothered) approached my sister trying to be sympathetic and saying ‘it’s tough’. These people have no grasp of what they’ve done. ‘Everyone likes the guy.’ Christians who ‘like’ their pastors don’t sack them without hearing their point of view (though I guess that doesn’t matter if he’s supposed to just follow orders), don’t slander them without giving them a chance to defend themselves, and don’t besmirch their reputations while proclaiming how much they’re ‘praying for them’ and ‘wishing them the best’. The Article 17 ‘grounds’ make my dad sound like an absolute jerk. Who would want to call him or work with him? Who would even like a pastor like that? And they’ve all just moved on, it sounds like, based on all the trifles people were talking about as they mingled after the meeting. Moved on, no solemnity, no grief– with which I’m sure that 13-minute spiel at the beginning about ‘journeys’ helped. Priming the pump for the big ‘change’? Which it turns out shook very few people? It’s like everybody already knew.
My sister told me how much smiling there was. How can people do this? How can the council and others make the misrepresentations they have, believe and propagate rumors about a person’s comportment and attitudes without ever consulting him (or even their own memories!) about it (because trust me, my dad never heard these sorts of allegations until last Thursday), and insist it’s nothing personal, they still consider us ‘friends’? How can Christian adults even think that way? It’s completely irrational, or insensitive, or both. It seems no one there knows what it’s like to have to bear false accusations from people you once trusted And when you try to explain yourself, you get shouted down, or people simply don’t care. They’re over it. So few people know how this all came about, what those ‘instructions’ were, the hurry in which they were thrown together, and my dad’s response to them (which was not ‘thoroughly uncooperative’). The scariest part is they can laugh and smile and say, ‘It’s nothing personal, all the best,’ and they believe it; they don’t even realize they’ve done anything wrong.
At the start of my long letter, I asked you and Pastor 21 to read it for what it actually said. In my shorter email, I said explicitly what I wanted to discuss on the phone–it wasn’t confidential conversations. Is any of the material I wrote in my letter worth interacting with, in writing or by phone? This whole thing is a farce if I can spend so much time putting something like that together, be much more clear, biblical, rational, historically accurate, fact-derived, and specific than that Article 17 list of ‘grounds’ (which was so full of undefined, ethereal buzz-words, unsupported assertions [‘active core’?], and therapy-speak that I didn’t understand half of what it said, and I’m not sure 11 did either when he was reading the excerpts last night!) or that pathetic list of instructions (so many of which would not have addressed or mitigated the Article 17 problems anyway had my dad agreed to the whole ‘deal’, which makes me wonder if these men are even sane– assuming they aren’t just coming up with convenient arguments that suit the moment, regardless of whether they’re consistent with what was convenient last week), and no one can be bothered to address any of it to me.
Truth, consistency, justice–none of it matters, evidently. Just feelings–and God’s supposed to have been leading them to do all this? How can real prayer and seeking the mind of God lead to someone’s being punished for not dancing to sub-biblical tunes in this way? And that CYA clause toward the end of the Art.17–‘we know we’ll lose people, but this is about the health of the church’. Can’t they hear themselves? The people who may leave aren’t essential to the health of the church, but the itchy-eared extortionists are. How is that supposed to make the former group feel?
Speaking of feelings, you suggested talking to the council members–I can’t really trust them, since I think two of them don’t even take this all that seriously; two others said one thing to me and then did another 2 1/2 weeks later; and another I don’t know very well. I suppose I will try to call 13, since he claimed he was open to speaking to me (though he still hasn’t replied to my email), and he’s probably the one to beg for more time to get out of the parsonage, because (something I doubt anyone has considered) I will not be able to drop everything and fly over to help them move before Christmas day. Heaven help me, I don’t know why 2 disabled people are being given 8 weeks to move out of a home they’ve lived in for nearly 8 years over ‘no moral failing’ with their 20-yr-old sick cat (all these little bits of collateral damage because some people can’t bear to hear unadorned preaching of God’s Word or be challenged to prove their faith by bearing fruit). And evicted by their church, with the ‘closing’ date the week after Christmas.
I can’t believe this situation wouldn’t have kept for another 2 months. Like people were going to leave in the middle of Advent if council didn’t send my dad packing immediately? Please. But what was so urgent that this all had to be done by the end of the year? How did it happen so quickly? What was the BLOODY RUSH? Was it because the truth would have been discovered sooner or later, so better be sure that when it is, it’s too late? I guess now that they’re free of him and moving on, they’ll have plenty to be thankful for in a few weeks. The irony isn’t lost on me that my Christmas visit with my family will be spent helping them pack and move house (it will no doubt embitter many Christmases to come), or that he was suspended for ‘no moral failing’ two days after Pastor Appreciation Sunday, and ‘released’–how sanitized that sounds!–9 days later. All this sensitivity and generosity and ‘it’s nothing personal’ sentiment really makes me wonder what we ever meant to so many of the people at A.. The severance pay and healthcare stuff may ease their consciences, but it doesn’t change the moral or biblical dynamic of what they’ve done–I’m not sure it’s going to fly with Jesus. You can’t throw someone under a bus, pay for his hospital stay, then steal his house while he’s bedridden and say it’s all good because you paid the doctor.
The ‘pain’ in A.. There’re so many upset people, it must be PT’s fault because they say so. Elijah, Jeremiah, Moses, Paul, Christ himself, and people down through church history–all ruffled a lot of feathers, they may have even made some people cry, because they told the truth. Why isn’t that the test for whether someone gets the boot? Everyone was in such a hurry to just ‘get it (PT?) over with’ that there was no time for sifting through the evidence to find the truth. And if it is just the pressure of the numbers (11 & 12 admitted to me it was that for them, pure and simple), why isn’t that on the Art. 17, and why don’t they stand by it? What is the truth? What does the council really believe? Now I’m wandering back into the material of the long letter, so I won’t go into that again.
I have plenty of other things to do–can’t wait to have my life back–but I have been collating emails and documents going all the way back to 2011 and putting them together into a giant file. I am going to make sure this saga can be accessed somehow, even though I’m discreet enough to change names, if anyone is committed to taking the time to finding out what really happened. And it blows my mind what I’ve read from other people in the congregation, emails from the past few years, feedback that completely contradicts the Art. 17 ‘grounds’ (including members of the same family at the forefront of this apparent ‘journey’ campaign–which reminds me of Nissan ads from the late 90s).
I am hurting, yes, and very much in need of the comfort that only the Holy Spirit can give. But I am also waiting (I hope patiently) on God for justice. I have obviously expected too much from one segment of what is supposed to be the Bride of Christ. 13 can read/talk about how we’re to think on noble things, to ‘edify’ one another, how that’s a command, after what he’s said and done to divide that church, to shut down people who disagree with him (ain’t just Templars, by the way), pander to grumblers (my husband was reminded of CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce–the grumble is all that’s left of some people after enough time passes), and to tear down my father, whom he once befriended and supported, and who openly supported him even when it wasn’t universally approved. This is an absolute fiasco.
In the end, it is of course your choice whether you’re up for a phone call or any further emails. But I’ll ask the question again–is anything I’ve said/written worth interacting with? If it’s not too late, isn’t it important to get to the bottom of what’s going on? If it is too late, then what’s the harm in wrestling with some of these things so I can get answers or even come to an understanding of why this has happened? This disaster will affect my sister’s walk and personal growth (and her ability to trust), but it is my dad’s life, because it is his calling, and it is all personal; if he is to be undone, I want sound, biblical, Christ-honoring, specific reasons for why it’s justified. This is what I would expect from those pastors I know well.
Thank you for your well-wishes and prayers, and for the time you spent reading my letter (and this email, which I know is very indignant).
[There was no reply to this from 22, contrary to his assertion to my father that he answered all my emails.]
14 November 2015 (my responses to the original email [in italics] are bolded)
Pastor 22 shared with me the email without asking me he sent to you, and I join with him in extending condolence in the stress of this time. As I read your email, I thought of my own daughters, and how they would feel if I was going through this. Because, all of us as pastors are well aware that with any turn of events, it could happen to us. In particular, it pained me to think of you sitting in church the day when some of this was being announced.
I cannot add much, as Pastor 22 and I are limited to the immediate situation and the people involved. Are you kidding me? Maybe the better question, what does it mean, ‘limited to the immediate situation’? What does this have to do with my questions?
There is truth in what you say is this an attempt at placating me? What is true, besides the following obvious statement, a given if you believe in original sin?...I am sure that there are personalities and sins in the congregation. Just as it is in every church. This is an insult to my intelligence, but I’m glad I at least got the concession that there could be some sin lurking somewhere in the un-dusted corners of A. church.. Certainly none of it factors into this situation, where only my dad is the one to blame for all this ‘breakdown’. I wish we could find a more precise word; that one is too loaded with multiple relationship connotations for me to find it useful.
ekkles, sometimes it just doesn’t work. This is NOT what the Article 17a grounds say. Quite a while back, I was meeting with your Dad, just the two of us. And I shared with him of a time when my ministry collapsed underneath me and around me. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and desires and hard work, it just doesn’t work. Where is God in this talk about ‘people’s’ ministries? You know what, this isn’t really about my dad or his intentions. This is about people being honest. This isn’t about him even keeping his job. This is about Christians being willing to stand by and defend their choices, and whether they’re able to do so biblically and with integrity, without scapegoating other people.
There are volumes of things to discuss and debate about, Is this is fobbing off? Because while you say there is all this stuff to debate & discuss, you still don’t interact meaningfully with any of my points. What is the problem? Are things unclear? More on the material later; for now we’ll stick with the following point. but the basic meaning of “Article 17-a” is that there is not wrong-doing – certainly not; Have you read the Article 17 document they produced? How could one not conclude that there has been wrong-doing? In spite of the little consolation prize at the very beginning, the grounds are essentially, Pastor Templar makes people feel inferior, doesn’t listen, walks all over everybody and has cost the church members’. What isn’t wrong in that? ‘Lording over’ people isn’t wrong? Being unwilling to listen or cooperate isn’t wrong? Then what are these allegations? It’s not quite the same as, ‘I like chocolate, he doesn’t’. The document, while it isn’t clear, nevertheless clearly makes him bear the blame for the church’s ‘current course’, with no spiritual insight on the state of its members, which is thoroughly imbalanced. I found it very telling that 11 ended his awkward read-through of his excerpts with a shaky, ‘we hope this is the right decision’. Gulp. What does that mean? I thought it was ‘with firm conviction’, though there was no mention of prayer. your Dad is a highly moral and rigorous Christian. Article 17 is necessary when the relationship between a pastor and a church is so strained, and the breakdown so severe, This is assuming there’s been ‘breakdown’, and that he is the cause of it, since he is the only [one] mentioned and being held responsible. that healthy ministry cannot continue. Can this ‘strain’ and ‘breakdown’ be described, and the way it came about be laid out in a timeline? I want proof of what I believe to be an alternate reality, since my dad’s future hangs on it. [Author’s note: a pastor in another Classis has been recently terminated from his church via an Article 17 due to charges, to which he confessed, of plagiarism. Just what exactly is the spectrum of issues the Article 17 covers? If a pastor can be fired with an A-17 because of behavior that is or borders on criminal, how can that not color the reputation of pastors who are sacked under the same article due to ‘communication breakdown’? And how can the A-17 not carry connotations of ‘wrong-doing’? It’s LUDICROUS! Also, see author’s note at the bottom of Exhibit P., 28 March 2016]
All of it seems so unfair. What does this mean? That in reality it is fair? How does this idea connect with the next sentence? I am puzzled. And, early in this process, How long ago was that? You’ve only been in the picture since September. I seem to remember that, ‘early in this process’, I provided some clear arguments that demonstrated that the people ‘on the other side’ are full of it when it comes to their judgment calls on ministry of the Word. Now it’s ‘late in this process’, and I haven’t seen any evidence that any of what I wrote was taken seriously. we tried very hard to put things in place What things? I don’t see how that would be confidential at this point. that would give some breathing space what does that mean?…tried to find ways to heal this divide. This sounds fluffy, like the phrase ‘No-fault divorce’. And, this again assumes there is a divide, and that the people involved know its nature and origin; what are they? Those attempts were not successful. Again, I mentioned what may have been some of these ‘attempts’ in my longer letter; and again, no interaction? Yes, I know ‘stuff’ was ‘done’, but was it appropriate, relevant ‘stuff’? Did anyone ask that question? And like I said in my email, the ‘instructions’ had ZERO to do with what went under the Art. 17 ‘grounds’. It’s like they were meant for two different people. I’ll make my question on that clear: do you think the latter is remotely informed/shaped/inspired by the former? (on the former, a Baptist friend of mine who read it wondered if they’d picked the items at random)
When your Dad and I met, just the two of us, months ago, I shared with him what does this mean, ‘shared’? That you don’t think he has/had self-awareness about what he believes? Give him a little credit. that he has a core set of beliefs about God, and the church, and of what it means to be a pastor. These things within him cannot be altered, because it is his Christian are the two qualifiers ‘his’ and ‘Christian’ of equal value? worldview. At least there’s finally some acknowledgement that this is the foundational issue. The Council, and the core there’s that word again; who is being categorized under ‘core’? of the congregation, has convictions, beliefs, and a Christian worldview also. I have been a member of this church and known many of its members very well. I still don’t know who the ‘core’ is, but those I’ve known best I’ve believed to have the same convictions as my dad, if they take the Bible seriously. There still has been no interaction with my assertion that I HAVE WITNESSED FOR MYSELF that many of the others supposedly in ‘good standing’, including people much older than myself, in A., do not know what the Bible says on MAJOR issues, both moral and theological, and when people think they can decide whether God has spoken or not, or that they can decide what they want to call Him, whether ‘he’ or ‘she’, I would argue that that is sub-Christian, and is therefore wrong. But anyway— Is there more than one Christian worldview? I am shocked to hear this. But since the assertion is made, can the two of them be defined and the distinctives which make them so unmeshable be explained? (As pastor myself, I know how my own worldview is stained with sin and personal blindness – and of how true this is of any church, also). Those two worldviews (your father’s and A.’s) are not meshing, and have not for a long time, and the breakdown in health and function is severe. I actually know a bit about philosophy, presuppositional issues, epistemology, theology, the history of Christian thought, and the way the outside culture impacts and shapes our thinking, even as believers, but this idea that you can have two worldviews that are ‘Christian’ that so seriously conflict with one another, I find very surprising and disturbing.
This idea of there being multiple, or at least two (I assume you imply also ‘valid’) ‘Christian’ worldviews, I simply cannot let go by without saying something. In my line, we talk about intertexts: e.g.,‘This passage in Valerius is obviously influenced by both Homer and Vergil. But it has more echoes of Homer, therefore it is more Homeric than Vergilian’ (there is also discussion of whether something is ‘competently’ Homeric or Vergilian, but we’ll leave that to the side for the moment). The point is, while it may have Vergilian influences, we have determined that it has more of Homer; it cannot be majority Homeric, and majority Vergilian at the same time. [Author’s note: since this is going on the web, I’ll admit here that intertextuality is more complicated than this brief sketch indicates! 9 April 2016] There is either more watermelon than peach in the fruit bowl, or there is not. The amounts could be equal, but it is contradictory to say that more than half is one thing, and more than half is the other. It’s impossible.
No one’s worldview this side of glory is going to be perfect, because we don’t yet see as God sees. As humans, we are going to be influenced by both the Bible and the world, and the way it thinks. But there are two opposing premises: yours seems to be ‘there is more than one type of worldview that can properly be defined as Christian’. PT holds one, A. holds another, and both are valid and can claim ‘Christian’ as a qualifier with the same level of meaning (and merit?). How can it be that they don’t ‘mesh’? Well, here’s my premise: assuming that this worldview clash isn’t over a legitimate Christian doctrinal issue (infant baptism, for example, where both positions can be defended by orthodox exegetical appeals to Scripture…so then it wouldn’t be a worldview clash at all), I can only assume, for myself, that one ‘worldview’ is MORE Christian than the other, or that one or both is/are not Christian at all.
There is a gradation in quality—a Christian worldview, properly defined, is one that is shaped by God’s Word, which is held in highest esteem according to the confessions of the Church and as laid out, for example, in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Therefore, differences in two divergent worldviews, held by professing Christians, are owed to the different degrees to which their minds are shaped by scripture. Therefore, you can have a Christian worldview in the sense that people think, more or less, biblically, than others; but to say that ‘unmeshable’ and contradictory positions stemming from divergent ‘worldviews’ (you yourself put it this way) are both equally Christian is a fallacy. Either ‘gay marriage’ is consistent with a Christian worldview, or it isn’t. Either recreating God in your own image is consistent with a Christian worldview, or it isn’t. Either pluralism is consistent with a Christian worldview, or it isn’t. Either abusing fellow-believers is consistent with a Christian worldview, or it isn’t. Either engaging in gossip is consistent with a Christian worldview, or it isn’t. The Bible has something to say on all these things; if a person consistently subverts the Bible on moral and theological issues, that person’s worldview, cannot, by definition, be (predominantly) Christian, and certainly someone who, in contrast, honors, or tries to honor, God’s Word, on these same issues, must by definition have a (more) Christian worldview (than the other). The first person’s worldview is actually, majority-worldly, not Christian. One parting shot: God is not a God of confusion. He has spoken clearly on the essential tenets of the Christian faith, and His will for how we live our lives is equally clear. If people claim to love the brethren but steal from them or blacken their names, then they are lying and don’t love, or they have an unbiblical idea of what love is (in which case they still don’t love).
I can assure you that the Council is of heavy heart in this, If the council has such a heavy heart about the situation, why was it done in such a hurry? Why did they bully my dad about the ‘list’ after giving him the completely superfluous 3 weeks to think about it? Why didn’t they actually use the three-week suspension rather than rushing this decision through with that murky, morally lazy document? And why, if they were so heavy-hearted and ‘love’ us so much, did they have to add insult to injury (and humiliation) by reading excerpts (all the “he’s an a—hole” ones) aloud during the congregational meeting? MY WORD, I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS! 13 is not heavy-hearted. He’s dishonest—he’s toxic. Why won’t he talk to me now that I’m gone? Supposedly he was all eager to do so while I was in Michigan… And [28’s husband], for example, isn’t heavy-hearted either. He doesn’t even understand what they’ve done. They think they can continue to pray for ‘opportunities’ for him when they’ve skinned him alive and called him a dictator to boot? What does that tell you?
and that there is love in the congregation for your dad and your family. This is another impersonal (and odd) construction. How about a subject, an active indicative transitive verb, and an object? Who loves whom? On the content: how do you know the congregation loves my family? Again, I was in that church regularly for nearly four years; I was a member of the small group; I’ve been back for visits twice a year and kept in touch; and I did several ‘interviews’ when I was home in October. I know this church well, more than half of them danced at [or at least attended] my wedding [reception]; I’ve made a substantial effort to talk to several people, one-on-one, to assess where they’re at in all this. I know who cares and who doesn’t, who’s changed and who hasn’t. How many people have you spoken to? And yes, I even know who’s been gossiping and complaining about my dad for YEARS. THAT ISN’T LOVE!!!!!!! Love is shown through one’s actions, and love for God informs and strengthens our love for others. People don’t throw under the bus those whom they love.
You aren’t listening—no one’s been listening, they’ve just been hurrying the process along, insisting they love everybody and ‘it’s so tough, sorry’. This isn’t a natural disaster. People have made this happen. If my husband and I were having marital problems, would that be the counsel? Sometimes things just don’t work out? People have obligations in life, to God, to each other. If my dad hasn’t met his obligations, then say so. If that’s what’s caused ‘breakdown’, then say so. But then also demonstrate that the congregation knows and has met their obligations, since they get off scot-free, and since the fact they sin is given as a last-minute concession. OF COURSE THERE IS SIN IN EVERY CONGREGATION! The point is, do they know that? They think and act like they don’t—you should have seen the letter my sister got from a woman in the small group. My pagan female coworkers would be scandalized to see a young person with her issues dealt with in that cold way by a Christian mother.
Also, the Council went over-and-above So I should be grateful for the money. What about the moving date? Also, how did ‘Classis people’ know they had to schedule a special session BEFORE my dad even got his walking papers? It’s unbelievable that people can keep pouring on the platitudes without even seeing all this for how sketchy [author’s note: not to mention unprofessional, 19 April 16] it looks. in its financial care package in this potential separation. The mention of the package is not reassuring; how is he to continue with those personality-bashing insinuations standing against him on his record? You didn’t interact with that either—the COUNCIL (TWO ELDERS!) told me there’s nothing to any of this baloney, it’s about the numbers—WHY ISN’T THAT WHAT’S ON THE GROUNDS? IF THEY DON’T BELIEVE IT, THEN WHO GAVE THOSE GROUNDS, AND WHO WROTE THEM DOWN?!?!?!—the severance package is more evidence of how much they just want it to go away, and that they know they haven’t got a leg to stand on. I suppose, too, the bigger the severance package, the bigger the weapon with which to threaten the ‘terminated’ one if he gets out of line.
Also, there were serious and heartfelt attempts to avoid this. You say ‘serious’, ‘heartfelt attempts’. Answer me this: is that what that list of instructions was, or the suspension? Serious and heartfelt attempts? What would silly and hasty attempts look like? And again, can I get an explanation? To avoid WHAT? And–am I being asked to take your word for this? And how much time, really, was devoted to finding the mind of God? Some of the most committed people in the congregation were completely blindsided by this. This was a quickie, and it was not transparent. It was a real joke having members vote on everything from soup to nuts in the congregational meeting, and yet the council could just hand down this directive from on high—‘this is the way it is, take our word for it’. SINCE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN at A., as a member or her pastor, how do you know ‘how long it’s gone on’, which seems much longer than I am aware of? I mean, has someone told you this? Is this person on the council, and has this person known such things the whole time? What does that mean, that so many people are only finding out about this now? Conspiracy?
None of this, I know, takes away the pain, and there is nothing adequate to assuage the suffering you are surely experiencing. Stop treating me like a child or an irrational woman. This is not about my pain or my suffering. This is about Christians not doing the right thing, signing their own church’s death warrant by permitting sin of this kind, and scapegoating my dad for their discomfort in the light of God’s word. Why should I believe you know these people better than I do? And again, how about interacting with my examples? This just isn’t good enough. As I said in my cover latter, the two of you accepted (moral) responsibility for your involvement in this when you agreed to be CVs, and in spite of your initial claims that you weren’t there to offer suggestions or make decisions, everything the council has done, they’ve presented to the congregation as something they’ve done with your ‘approval’ and with your ‘guidance’. If all this was done with your guidance and approval, you should be prepared to justify your actions & advice, not necessarily by naming names or talking about what goes on inside the consistory room, but by interacting with what I’ve written to you. Why won’t you do so? Why can’t you look at one example (e.g., calling Paul a ‘sexist’) and tell me how you believe it squares with a ‘Christian worldview’ that is as biblical as, say, my dad’s? That rings of relativism to me.
Even this course of action—an Article 17—how does that square with a Christian worldview when it’s full of baseless, unexplained accusations that have been drawn from the ether, and the man against whom they’re directed has no chance to defend himself? The Law of God is always crystal clear—‘two or more witnesses’, let the accused speak, go to your brother in private (nothing to say on the fact that there are two sides to that story?). How can it be ‘Christian’ to pass off this muddled mess as official and church-sanctioned? People in the world get treated with more respect! And now, all those people in A. who heard those ridiculous, vacuous ‘grounds’ are going to have their view of him tainted. And why not interact with what I had to say about 13? Your perspective on him is not, I trust, confidential. And what about the Absalom spirit? Being willing to engage with me on that is NOT conceding my point. Beyond that, what about the fact that this sort of thing is addressed in I don’t know how many books, articles, and other Christian resources—pastors are being kicked out for no other reason than that people don’t want to hear the truth, succinctly put by a couple of Welsh retirees. And the discontent fomented by the devil in a few rebellious hearts spreads like a contagion if it is not dealt with in a timely and godly way.
But I wanted to respond to your letter, even in this brief form. This is not a response to my letter. My letter dealt with issues on a biblical level of intercourse, gave examples, specific examples in evidence of this all being a rush to please the consumers. There has been no interaction with that material, there has been no demonstration given that the ‘core’ (For Pete’s sake, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, AND CAN I GET A DEMONSTRATION THAT THE PEOPLE DEMANDING THE FIRING OF MY DAD ARE “CORE”!?) of the congregation is more committed and biblical in their thinking and priorities than I believe they are (and I can back my assertions, again, with examples). What does it take to get someone to meet me halfway, with some intellectual integrity? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a question of will or ability when it comes to careful reading.
It blows my mind that so much of what I’ve read coming out of the A. corner these past few weeks could have been written by non-Christians in secular business situations, or be notes from group-therapy. Guess I’m just used to people who speak more spiritually than they do in the [denomination], and I guess I’m used to people being able to write what they mean, using words they can readily define, and desiring to be understood.
Sometimes things don’t work out, and sometimes people pull the trigger. How can it be determined what’s the case in a given situation? You have to look, you have to talk to multiple people, you have to ask the Holy Spirit for discernment.
ekkles, I cannot do more than this with you. I can only suggest that you seek out counsel a lot of the counsel, or feedback, that I’m getting from the believers around me consists of references to passages like Matthew 10:14 and comfort from the believers around you. With this letter is prayer for your strength and peace,