[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.
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, 2 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.—>