How to Minimize Damage When Resigning From a Mark Driscoll-like Church

"All the best stories are but one story in reality – the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape." AC Benson

 

fly free in space-nasa picture of the day

Free flying astronaut-NASA

 

After reading the events surrounding the resignation from Mars Hill by Andrew and Sophia, many readers have raised concerns about the methods used against church members who decide to get the heck out of there. As recent events have unfolded, we have become aware that some churches believe that a member must “get permission” to leave the church. We have read of a variety of tactics including the euphemism “Meet with us so we can send you off joyfully.” There is no joy in the maneuvering that follows this statement. 

Members and pastors experience a crisis of cognitive dissonance when some people decide they no longer desire to continue associate with their church. Members and pastors must deal with the fact that some people do not appreciate their "most wonderful church on the planet. " They obviously cannot accept that their church and pastor is less than "almost perfect." When people decide to defect, it casts a cloud on these vaunted opinions. Weak people cannot cope with a naysayer because it calls into question their own assessment skills. So, in order to preserve their fragile psyches, they must blame the deserter.  The soon to be former member is then accused of "never having been a Christian," a sinner in need of discipline", a "church hopper", a" backslidden Christian", etc.

So, they make up the euphemism to "meet with us so we an send you out joyfully." When the leave takers say they are still moving on, the "left behind" group must get together to affirm that their church is correct and the people migrating are the problem. As we saw, during the Andrew debacle at Mars Hill, there is one more weapon in the church’s arsenal and that is called the “Full Church Shun.” The full church membership is given a public blow by blow of the supposed “sins” of the prevailed upon member and are told to shun them in public. Listen to the great American theologian, Dwight Schrutte of The Office.

Most everyone fears such public humiliation, especially if it is unwarranted or misrepresented. (Yep, churches and pastors can be wrong, or even worse, deceptive). However, there are some steps savvy deserters can take to avoid this public humiliation employed by desperate churches.

The Membership Covenant

Did you know that most churches consult attorneys to draw up these covenants? Are you aware that they were developed, not for purposes of sweet fellowship, but to protect the church in case an angry church member sues them? Did you know that some angry church members are actually justified? For those of you who have signed such a document (Dee has), were you advised that you were signing a document that had been vetted by lawyers? (Dee was not). An open and honest church should advise unsuspecting potential members of this fact and encourage them to seek similar advice.

How to Resign

Three years ago, I spoke with a nationally well-known attorney who informed me that the only power that churches have is the ability to throw members out of the church. They can do that with very little recrimination. But, they could have some legal trouble announcing a member's supposed "sins" to the full church if said member employs the following procedure. What we are about to discuss has been “run by” legal experts. However, TWW states categorically that this should not be taken to mean it is an official legal position. Please seek advice of an attorney for an authorized opinion.

The Steps:

  • Resign your church membership prior to the all-church announcement. Better yet, before harsh discipline is applied.
  • Keep your lips sealed.
  • Do not tell anyone that you are going to take the following action. You do not want Sally Sycophant  (we all know a few of these) to run to the pastors and report this, giving them an opportunity quickly schedule the all church gossip session.


The Letter:

We give special thanks to Arce, who knows a thing or two, for sending this format to TWW
 

  • Send the following letter, return receipt requested (and tracking, in case the Post Office lets them have it without returning the card).
  •  Put the return receipt number on the heading of the letter (you can get the form with the number at the PO, before typing the letter).

Date

To the pastors and administrators at ____________ church.

This letter is notice that I am not longer a member [attendee] at _______________ church, effective with the date of this letter.
As a non-member, I am no longer subject to any of your discipline as of (date on letter). After (date on letter), any publication, notice, or speaking about me by any church staff or recognized church leader is no longer authorized by me.
Any negative remark or statement about me, any encouragement that people shun me, or any action other than deleting me from your records will be evaluated for possible legal action for libel or other tort claim against the individuals involved and the organization.
If any one asks about me, refer them to me, any other action may result in a tort claim against you.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. You must desist from any act that may harm my reputation or me or come between me and other persons of my acquaintance. Legal action may ensue.
Sincerely,
____________

  • You must mail the letter on the date on the letter and they will not receive it for a couple of days thereafter.
  • Keep a copy, print out the tracking showing when it was delivered, keep the green card or, if it is refused, the returned letter (they are legally responsible for the content if they refuse it).
  • Document any response or any failure to comply. If they (leadership or staff) call, listen but do not talk, except to say “I disagree” if they make a false statement about you. 
  • Document the conversation. 
  • Go to an attorney if they proceed to trash your reputation or that of your business. 
  • Do not respond by trashing the organization.

What we can learn from those leaving Mormonism

Similar advice can be found at the Mormon Exiting site here. It seems that the Mormon church also has euphemisms for their version of shunning. It is called “Courts of Love.” (See any similarities to “sending you out with joy?”) Apparently, if a Court of Love excommunicates an exiting Mormon, there is a permanent record of this action within the Mormon Church.

This black mark, against a former member, can result in hiring discrimination, etc., since Mormons can access these records. This could be devastating for anyone trying to work or go to school in a heavily Mormon controlled area. My guess is that similar circumstances could occur with those leaving evangelical churches. Maybe Mormons learned these tactics from evangelicals or was it vice versa? Better yet, is it a tactic used by any group pretending to be Christian?

This blog helps exiting Mormons resign and avoid this “black mark.” Their advice is directly applicable to evangelicals in many respects. Please visit the site to see how their suggested letters of resignation mirror the one that Arce so kindly suggested.

"Having your name removed from the records of the Mormon Church can be a very emotional experience. It can affect your family, your job (if you work for the Mormon Church), your friends or even your spouse (if your spouse is Mormon). If you currently attend Brigham Young University, or another Mormon Church owned University, you could loose your accreditation and be expelled. The Mormon Church does not forgive, and it does not forget. "

"Still, having your name removed from the records of the Mormon Church can be a very positive and liberating experience. It decreases (although in many cases does not eliminate) unwanted contact from the Mormon Church. It stops the Mormon Church from spending countless hours in trying to track you down and reactivate you. Upon resignation, the Mormon Church must immediately suspend all “Church Courts of Love”, and if you are “Excommunicated” after you have officially resigned, you have a legal case that can be pursued in a court of law."

Some other advice learned from Dee's “school of hard knocks.”

If you attend a new church, do not tell the pastor or other members of your experience at the previous church, at least for a long time.  

Pastors talk with each other and are prone to believe the story of another pastor over the story of a mere church attendee. (Dee learned this the hard way). This directly violates Jesus’ admonition to not show favoritism but that is a story for another time. Also, be aware that some pastors often repeat those things told to them in confidence. 

If a pastor reports your “sins” to a new church after receiving your letter of resignation, seek legal advice.

Consider remaining a non-member in the new church, especially in the short term.

Most churches allow nonmembers to participate in most activities except for voting and church leadership. Also, they will be most happy to accept your donations and your willingness to volunteer in the nursery.

Have you lost the joy in church attendance?

Remember this, no church has any hold over you. You serve Jesus, not some pastor with an overblown ego. If you feel trapped or you have lost the joy of attending such a church, find a new community that stresses grace over legalism or doctrinal “purity.” They are out there.

On Friday-we plan to do a post on spiritual abuse resources and blogs that are reaching out to those hurt by churches .
 


In the meantime, it seems that Mark Driscoll sent out a tweet that reads “There are no monuments built to critics.” This statement gives us a sad insight into the head of a man who seems to have lost his way. Oh, and he is wrong, to boot.

First, who amongst us is concerned about having a monument built? For most of us, that is the furthest thing from out minds

Secondly, for Christians, we look forward to the day when monuments will be built to honor our great God and King.

Thirdly, there are monuments built for all sorts of things. 

We have had a number of our astute readers make these observations.

  •  Monuments to critics: Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, John Hus, William Tyndale, Samuel Adams
  •  Monuments to tyrants: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Saddam Hussein
  •  Monuments to evil: Baal, Asherah

 

Finally, we want to call attention to a humorous blog called Confessions of a Funeral Director written by Caleb Wilde It seems like Caleb ran afoul of the folks over at Mars Hill when he published a humorous article entitled Mark Driscoll’s Top Ten Manliest Ways to Die here.

Apparently, Mars Hill felt that people might mistake these “ways to die” as something that Mark Driscoll might say. So they wanted Caleb to make it clear that these were Caleb’s thoughts, not Driscoll’s. I have one thing to say about this. It is pretty sad that Mars Hill needs to be concerned that people could mistake this humorous list as something Driscoll might say. In fact, this list is mild compared to some of the things that Driscoll "might" say. Things have gotten pretty bad over there for the PR department.

Caleb put this warning at the top of the list. "

As per the direct advice of Mars Hill PR, I am to inform you that this post is fictitious and DOES NOT represent the views or opinions of Mark Driscoll. However, the content of this post is Caleb Wilde’s exaggerated interpretation of Mark’s recent arrogant radio interview with the British radio program “Unbelievable”

I leave you with Caleb’s #10

"10.) If you’re ever put in the position of Jesus — to die a substitutionary death for the sake of the few — you shouldn’t be a limp wristed Jesus and just lay down on the cross. Fight those ********! Make your death glorious, manly, and God-like as you kill the Roman soldiers with every ounce of energy you have left. Pick up your cross and use it as a weapon! And die like a real man!"

Finally, what is about the song “You Give Love a Bad Name “ that reminds me of Driscoll? Here is a version that I particularly like.There are these words to consider "Shot through the heart and you're to blame, you give love a bad name. You promised me heaven and put me through hell. I played my part and you played your game, you give love a bad name. " Hmmm…..

 

Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 30:12-33:9 Galatians 5:1-12 Psalm 63:1-11 Proverbs 23:22

Comments

How to Minimize Damage When Resigning From a Mark Driscoll-like Church — 81 Comments

  1. Dee said:
    “Pastors talk with each other and are prone to believe the story of another pastor over the story of a mere church attendee.”

    Oh yeah! Shame, shame on those pastors…

    Dee also said:
    “Be aware that some pastors often violate those things told to them in confidence. This directly violates Jesus’ admonition to not show favoritism but that is a story for another time.”

    What a sad state of affairs in 21st century Christendom!

  2. Deb
    I too love the Bon Jovi version. However, it s hard to hear the words and I wanted those words sung loud and clear!

  3. Deb
    I plan to do a post, soon, about how I sought refuge in an Anglican church and got a the swift boot of fellowship. Remember?

  4. Agreed! After they hear (and learn) the words on the embedded video, they can rock out with Bon Jovi!

    Great post! I love Dwight’s explanation about shunning. “It’s an Amish technique. It’s like slapping someone with silence.”

    So funny, but so true!!!

  5. Dee,

    I will NEVER FORGET your phone call after you dashed out of the pastor’s office in tears.

    We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we?

  6. I thought it might be beneficial to our readers to post the link to a membership covenant.

    Mars Hill Membership Covenant

    Pay close attention to this section and these specific items:

    “My obligation to Mars Hill Church as a member”

    “I have read and understood the Mars Hill doctrinal statement and will not be divisive to its teaching. I also understand the importance of submission to church leadership and will be diligent to preserve unity and peace (Eph. 4:1-3; Heb. 13:7, 17).”

    “I covenant to submit to discipline by God through his Holy Spirit, to follow biblical procedures for church discipline in my relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, to submit to righteous discipline when approached biblically by brothers and sisters in Christ, and to submit to discipline by church leadership if the need should ever arise (Ps. 141:5; Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 2:5-8; Gal. 6:1-5 8; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9; 3:10-11; Heb. 12:5-11; Rev. 2:5-7, 14-25).”

  7. Sallie,

    I had not seen that yet. Thanks for sharing it!

    Interesting developments from Elephant Room 2…

  8. Sophia (Free),

    Just read Kaelee’s Story. Truly, I’m not surprised. I predict that there are MANY associated with Mars Hill now or in the past who can identify with this tragic story.

  9. Sophia
    Awesome blog. heart wrenching story with some important elements that add validity to the account. For example, it is very typical for these sorts of church people to defriend people as punishment for not seeing or doing things their way.

  10. Yes, Dee, it’s another MH testimony of shunning.

    “SHUNNING = Slapping someone with silence.”

  11. Dee–

    I echo that. It reminded me when upon telling this women Girl who I had become very close good friends with that I was leaving, without a blink of the eye she told me that she sensed that I was going to leave CHBC and that we’d no longer have the same type of relationship anymore. That I should focus on the new friendships I’d build at my new church. I was floored. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this out of the mouth of a person with whom I thought was such a special friendship. Little did I know that others would soon follow suit. I’m so glad they’re all gone. Truly! My life is incredibly much richer and as far as I am concerned, they can have their cultish acting church and fake friendships. I never want anything like that ever again.

    I have learned, like Sophia, that real friendships take time.

  12. I hope they leave in droves from his church. Sad to think that people are coming to Jesus thinking that his church/teachings is Christianity.
    If you are a 20-something neophyte looking for a strong/authoritarian daddy figure, then Mars Hill is for you. If you are a mature Christian who doesn’t need a self-indulgent bullying father’s tactics, find another church. MD might be trying to create a Stepford Wives church, but the dam is starting to leak…a lot.

  13. Does anyone know where I could read MDs life story or testimony? WTH? I really didn’t know much about this man before I started readIng here, but I’m wondering if he had no father or an abusive father? He just doesn’t seem to understand fatherly love.

  14. Pingback: Linkathon 2/1, part 2 | Phoenix Preacher UNITED STATES

  15. Pingback: Linkathon 2/1: part 2 « BrianD blog

  16. Sophia -

    That bio had some strange phrases in it like how they are “taking Biblical Christianity to . . .” I guess Christianity isn’t sufficient. Now it is “Biblical” Christianity. Someone needs to explain to Mark that the bible came after Christ. I really hope Christ is enough for him.

    The other interesting comment was how they specifically reach out and minister to abused and battered
    women??? I’ve only heard him talk about men and manliness. Maybe they have an outreach to women?

  17. Combine Radical Reformission with Confessions of a Reformission Rev and Real Marriage. There’s no real organized bio that I would consider an actual bio but he litters his books with enough personal anecdotes that you can piece some things together. I used to work with a woman whose daughter was acquainted with Mark in high school. Mark becoming a preacher was the last thing people who knew him in high school would have anticipated.

    He has at times given some indication that his dad was a union dry waller who swung a hammer for a living. He has often shared how his dad was a faithful financial provider. In some settings when younger guys fielded questions about emotionally distant fathers Mark said that sometimes a strong emotionally expressive bond with a father just wasn’t going to happen. Whether he counseled that from experience I can’t say for sure since though Mark himself once said I have one of the most formidable memories of anyone he’s ever met I’m not sure my memory is so formidable I could recall if Mark himself indicated had an emotionally distant father or not. I do know that for a number of leaders in the church absent or emotionally disengaged or even hostile fathers were real and challenging concerns. So I learned just enough to appreciate why it’s a sincere concern for a number of leaders who have been at Mars Hill.

  18. It sounds like Mars Hill Churches are lobster trap churches. Easy to get into and next to impossible to get out of. I love creative metaphors.

  19. I like the lobster trap analogy. I’ve also heard “fly paper” applied to groups like this.

    I’m hung up on this clause in the covenant: “I will not function in leadership or as a member in another church family (Heb. 13:17).”

    1. How, exactly, do the drafters define “functioning as a member in another church family?” If membership at MH means signing the covenant, it would make sense that they wouldn’t want their people signing covenants elsewhere (blurring the lines of authority–which church is “responsible” for you?), but the wording here is vague. Membership often means financial giving; if I was a member at MH, could they come down on me for giving money to, say, another church that had been destroyed in a fire or flood? Would I have to get “permission” to be generous? Also, my husband plays the piano and several times a year subs for pianists at other churches. He does this on a purely voluntary basis because he loves to play and has a heart for helping others facilitate worship. Would that be “functioning as a member?” What about attending a MOPS group at another church (since the MH model believes that you can get all your needs met within the community groups, women would have to attend these meetings at other churches)? I’ve heard but cannot confirm that early on, the leadership at MH called traditional evangelicals “consumers” because of the perceived tendency to attend discipleship events at multiple churches. The language here is really vague, and I can see how it might be used against members who fall out of favor for some reason. This breaks a fundamental rule of legal documents: define all terms up front. Disturbing.

    2. How does Hebrews 13:17 teach this principle? I just don’t see it.

  20. I did an interview {on my other blog} with someone whose whole family, was shunned from the Amish for their beliefs and faith. All of this sounds very familiar. Here is part 2 (of 6 parts), the Shunning (link):
    http://ifmeadowsspeak.blogspot.com/2011/11/shunning-interview-with-former-amish.html

    Here’s how she’s healed after more than a decade of it behind her:
    http://ifmeadowsspeak.blogspot.com/2011/11/medicine-interview-of-formerly-amish.html

  21. Amy
    Re Heb 13:17 and “church families” — no to time to expound, but so much wood hay and stubble they build on this verse — UNBIBLICAL!!!!! I and my family were involved in multiple “church families” at the same time for years and there was much much good. I think it may be time for us to do so again. Trying to see a bigger picture in this, I think there’s a horrible flaw at the heart of the Protestant system, underlying a lot of this stuff. Who am I to consider my “leaders” in the city in which I live? If I were a real “church discipline” candidate, I could just go to the new “church family” of my choice with no real consequences, and cause trouble there. Meanwhile, if I move on for reasons of conscience or calling, I’m likely to get shunned.

  22. To put it in the form of a question, “how many churches were in each town in New Testament times?” A Amos Love, I believe, might have the answer.

  23. Quick! How many families are recorded as being excommunicated in the book of Acts? Who did the excommunicatin’?

  24. Last ?. How many are recorded as signing membership agreements ? (hint: slightly smaller number)

  25. The pastor at the last church that we went to believed that anyone who left the church owed it to the congregation to explain why we were leaving since we were a family. I believed that we owed this man nothing since, in my opinion, he was nothing but a bully who wanted control over his little empire. We just stopped going and only told a couple of people why and only when they asked. It was one of the most freeing things we’ve ever done.

  26. Kathi
    Well done. You avoided a lot of pain with your savvy move. More people need to listen to you. If you ever would like to write of your experience, please let us know.

  27. Dave
    Uh,uh,uh….but there must be one. Googling, checking, ummmm don’t see any membership covenants or church lawyers involved in creating them.. Wait, where are the church lawyers????? Googling, checking….ummm don’t see any… Whoa-you may be onto something here. :)

  28. My feeling is, one family is complex enough. Who needs another one??

    An organization of people can still be effective at achieving their purpose without the web of “family” imposed on it all.

    It’s way too much of “the ties that bind”.

  29. Dee,

    When I left my home church in April 2009 (resigned as paid staff organist) one of the biggest concerns of the pastor was not so much my resigning as organist but whether or not I would tell folks about my real reasons for leaving. He did not want disention or division though I doubt that would have happened anyway given that I had folks giving me names of churches more to my liking the last time I played for a service. I had no intention of telling folks things to cause problems though if someone just had to know I was not going to gloss it over as though things did not exist. The pastor wasn’t that big on the organ and told me in the interview for the position that he had considered not even hiring another organist – seems organists tend to be stubborn and not ones to embrace moves to contemporary worship styles – we’re “difficult”.

    By the way Dee – I’ll send you, via personal email, a copy of a letter sent to me from the last music director that I served under at that church and it was his treatment by the personnel committee, pastor and “certain” church members that played a role in my resignation – it wasn’t the key to my leaving but I think it finished turning that key. This info is known and was sent to me from him because he wanted known what really happened but it still needs to be treated carefully but it could be helpful as you help others through these difficult times when they come to you.

  30. Guy from Knoxville

    What is going on with the churches in Knoxville? I have heard from people from at least 5 different churches there. Hmmm, then again, you should see what’s happening around the Triangle.

    This “keep your mouth shut and avoid disunity” is a bit of a game. You see, if others know there is a problem, disunity already exists and pretending it doesn’t is just a way to protect the pastor/leadership. What’s that verse from Jeremiah -The leaders say peace, peace but there is not peace. Of course, we run a blog so you can imagine how difficult it is for us to keep our mouths shut.

    Let me know, in your email, what i can and cannot do with the information. As you know, we hold anything we get strictly confidential unless told otherwise.

    BTW, I have a couple of friends who are organists. They are fun, not difficult.

  31. I am not convinced that a court would ever get involved in a dispute like the one you outline above. A similar case went before the Texas Supreme Court a few years ago. The link to the case is here: http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2007/jun/040838.htm. Granted, the former congregant did not write a letter putting the church on notice, but it seems the courts rarely get involved in these kinds of church matters. I do think it is a good idea to try and protect yourself when you withdraw membership from a church, but it seems it will take special circumstances for a court to step in and assist. This is not a legal opinion, but when reading your (very interesting) blog post, it made me think of this case.

  32. Brian
    Today we will show that, in fact, the courts do side with resigned members who write a letter, as we suggested, outlining their resignation, effective on a particular date. That letter must be registered/certified. The reason that case did not fly was the lack of physical evidence of the resignation. You can’t just say”I am outta here.” There have been judgements involving significant cash when a letter is produced.This is the United States. We have the freedom of association and we have the freedom to end that association. Some churches, today, think they own their members. They don’t.

  33. Brian
    BTW, the courts have sided with a number of Mormons who also use this procedure. You MUST have physical evidence of the resignation, however.

  34. @Amy

    When I started having questions about the membership covenant, I asked this question of an official member, about the other church family thing. I asked what that meant? They said that you wouldn’t be a member of another church or give regularly to another church. I had a problem with that, as I have friends who will be birthing a church in the near future who I may or may not want to regularly support. It was a huge red flag for me that they were going to make me make a pledge, hold me accountable for it if I did not keep up with it (via community group leader questioning) and tell me I could not support a very dear friend if I so chose. I don’t think so.

  35. Sophia
    They pretend they can do this to you. They cannot if you are smart and you sure showed them. This is the United States and we do have a freedom of association or dissociation. Churches liek to pretend you don’t. All over American the “sheep” are waking up and saying bah humbug!

  36. HOPE YOU ALL ARE WELL!
    I am at work and was just checking my email and got this from a member of “Mark Driscoll is an *******” Facebook group.
    I haven’t had time read it yet, but he said it was good article on Mars Hill, so I wanted to pass it on….
    Blessings,
    Frankie

    Church or Cult? by Brendan Kiley – Seattle Features – The Stranger,
    Seattle’s Only Newspaper
    http://www.thestranger.com

  37. Thanks for the clarification, Sophia. That would be a red flag for us, too. We like having the freedom to be generous.

  38. I helped found a church 20 years ago. If what I have read about Mars Hill is accurate (explosive growth, etc.), I can see the concern that they might have for newcomers to try and change the church, to impose a new agenda (doctrinal, missional, cultural). I am sympathetic to efforts to protect the vision that God gave the founders of that fellowship.

    We have not opted for this type of a covenant. We have had people that joined, later disagreed with something and tried to change this or that.

    We do not have any document that forbids them from doing this or that. People will talk. You can’t stop that. And frankly, if people have a different idea about doctrine, how to do missions or the culture of a church, that is eventually going to come out, and they are going to leave and start a new church. I think that’s perfectly fine.

    The church should protect its members, resources etc. from being used in that effort. All the church has to do is organize itself so that the church meetings and facilities are there for the support of the church and its people and to accomplish its mission. The church is not a rentable facility that anyone can use to promote their agenda.

    It seems to me that being careful with the church and its resources is about all that can and should be done to protect the church. Using a membership covenant as an aggressive tool seems wrong to me.

    The shunning thing is incredible. Why not just say what happened – so and so disagreed with this or that and has moved on.

    Again, people are going to talk in church life, and that cannot be stopped. Trying to do could keep you in court every week.

    Let people find the way that seems right to them. If they don’t like something at your fellowship and can’t reconcile with it, they will eventually move to a new place where they can feel more at home.

    Having to send a letter like that to your church when you resign also seems freaky. I suppose it is a response to the freakiness of having a membership covenant that is used as weapon of aggression.

    It all seems very dysfunctional. I can’t imaging living life like that.

    When people come to our church from another church in town the only time that I have been aware that our pastor talks to another pastor is if the pastor calls him, or the people give off a wierd vibe.

    We have never done anything with the information we have learned. If there have been concerns (e.g. the person was ‘divisive’), we’ve just kept that in the back of our minds. We have never had a problem with that same person being divisive. Of course, again, our church is not set up where anyone could join and be divisive to a level that would create a real issue.

    Church doesn’t have to be this way.

    How about some of the other big, booming, fast growth places? Willow Creek? Saddleback? I have never heard that they use their covenants as a weapon. And they seem to have preserved their vision pretty well.

    Mormonism is a interesting phenomena. Being a Mormon has many business ramifications by design and doctrine, not just by percentage in the population. There may be some similarities, but I suspect the Mormon thing is another level.

  39. Anonymous
    One day, soon, I will tell my story when my husband and I tried to join another church and an aggressive pastor “interfered.” Of course, we prevailed but decided to go onto another church. I am really glad it happened. I needed to see this stuff with my own eyes. It’s actually a fascinating story and I think there are some people who could learn from it. I sure did! Oh, I also believe in the value of the “we’re gone” letter. It does nip a few things in the bud.

  40. The Stranger article was fuzzy on the time frame in which Moi stopped being a pastor but since that was something only people with access to The City in early 2008 would have known about it’s not a huge surprise some things mash together in the chronology for the new coverage.

    The pizza is good, by the way, if you’re ever in the zone of Redmond.

  41. Dee
    Thanks for your response. I find this all very interesting and it led to me doing some research on the subject. The best resource I found was at http://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/?LinkServID=CD4A5BA7-E294-805E-A508F5973CB8D60C&showMeta=2. It does seem that (in some jurisdictions) a member can resign before discipline is initiated and have a viable cause of action for invasion of privacy if the church continues the disciplining process after the member’s resignation and reveals private information to the church body. Churches that want to avoid this possibility need to have something in their bylaws or membership agreement that prevents resignation while the member is under discipline. I still think some jurisdictions would rather not get involved in disputes like this – but the cases you mention and those in the article I linked to provide some ammo for argument. I would advise anyone thinking of joining a new church to read through any membership agreement or church bylaws to see if they are waiving any rights by joining. I really enjoy the blog – keep up the good work.

  42. Dave, Dee

    As far as I can tell, the only “Church lawyer” in the first century was Paul, who wrote about us being free, not tied down to a particular pastor and his over-sized ego

  43. “Churches that want to avoid this possibility need to have something in their bylaws or membership agreement that prevents resignation while the member is under discipline.”

    brian, if memory serves that’s what Mars Hill by-laws state. Members under church discipline are not permitted to resign once the disciplinary process has begun. I knew a few folks at MH who resigned their memberships only to discover that 1) they were already under church discipline and weren’t allowed to or 2) that they chose to resign when they were so well-known in the church actually BECAME grounds for church discipline as some leaders took it to be a divisive move in itself. I put together that the smarter thing to do was to just not renew. After all, the elders were cancelling out memberships anyway.

    Eagle, the Mois and I are over here in WA state so I figured it was a long shot that readers here would necessarily be able to go to Lief’s pizzeria. Wanted to put a good word in for it anyway.

  44. Eagle, WTC

    When I lived in Oak Park IL in the ’70s, there was a place called the Old World West or something like that. It had the best deep dish pizza I have ever eaten. They put the cheese on the crust first, then the toppings, then the sauce, and baked it a little slow so the ingredients mixed as the cheese rose to the top. Outrageously good.

    And of course, great Greek, Chinese, ribs, Czech, Hungarian, etc. cuisine.

  45. For a clause in the Bylaws to apply to a member, they must have been given the Bylaws prior to joining, must have received tangible benefits from being a “member” that an attender would not receive, etc. If the Bylaws are amended, members have a time in which to resign under the old Bylaws, since a church is a voluntary association. That is, they can’t change the playbook and then use it without the person having the opportunity to decide whether they want to play or not.

    I still think that most jurisdictions would say that anyone can resign a church at any time without consequences, unless they had signed a very particular form of financial commitment, and then the only consequence would be continuing to pay.

  46. I once worked in a large organization that had a very similar but somewhat smaller division in a Mormon western state (not Utah). The head of that division was moved to be the head of our division. Soon it seemed that one’s religion was relevant to whether one moved up or out, and gradually the upper ranks were populated with Mormons and non-Evangelicals/non-Baptists. One group in the place was a productive department that was mostly older engineers and scientists, in their 50s and 60s. Another department, headed by one of the newly hired in Mormons, wanted to take over the work they were doing. But the lawyers said they could not due to risk of an age-discrimination suit. So they hired in a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings over a year, and then disbanded the department and fired everyone. And the Mormon-headed department took over the contracts and delivered the product.

    I left before all this went down, but had good friends and a mentor in the group that was fired. BTW, many people in the management chain were eventually let go in order to avoid liability of the organization for falsifying time card records on a government contract.

  47. According to the article I posted earlier, most courts have held that members are on notice of all the provisions in a church’s bylaws and consent to be bound to them when they become members. So a member can, conceiveably, waive its right to withdraw from membership by simply joining a church with a non-withdrawal while under discipline provision. But it seems, as Arce noted, that a church could not amend its by-laws to include such a provision without giving current members the opportunity to withdraw.

    I spent several years in Chicago as a grad student and gained several pounds at Giordanos and Edwardos in Hyde Park. Highly recommend both and miss them on at least a weekly basis. Texas pizza does not compare.

  48. Eagle – Deb is right about NYC being a great place for pizza. Ditto for Philadelphia.

    D.C. isn’t exactly a haven for Italian Americans… ;)

  49. Brian
    First, any church which changes structure in any fashion then gives an out to that member who signed a contract when things were different.
    Secondly, any church which does not advise a member that they are signing a legally binding contract may then make that contract null and void. Also, said church is an abusive church if it hides such facts from an unsuspecting member.
    Thirdly, if you noticed the timing in our post, one must withdraw prior to the initiation of discipline. In other words, make sure you get the heck out prior to the all church gossip session.
    Fourthly, the full church need not be informed . In a former church the leaders quietly asked a man to leave who was shacking up with his honey after leaving his wife. The elders then kept kindly calling him and eating dinner with him. he eventually came back to his wife and they both got up in church to talk about how the church made a difference. My guess is the “all church shun” would have chased him away.
    Fifthly-ahhhh Chicago deep dish…

  50. Dee,

    Let’s see if Grimaldi’s will “plant” one in Raleigh. I’ll promise to eat there once a week!

  51. “a division in a Mormon western state (not Utah)”. I wonder where that could be… Wait.. Is that my neighbor the bishop heading down the block to the stake house?”

  52. Best Chicago deep dish- original UNOs, Giordanos and Lou Malnatis. You can have fed ex deliver Lou Malnatis on dry ice to your door- 1-800-Lou to go. It is fabulous!

  53. Eagle

    I was on that train! How wonderful of you to post that link. I loved that trip-so many memories.

    Let me tell you about my lunch onboard that train. I call it “Stephen King Does Santa Claus” Everyone up there eats reindeer meat. It is plentiful. Well, I went to the dining car and there was a guy with a long white beard , white hair and pudgy, wearing a red henley shirt with suspenders. He looked like Saint Nick! Well, I sat down to eat across from him and i got a case of the giggles when he ordered reindeer bacon. I whispered to my husband that Santa was eating Rudolph. I couldn’t stop laughing and then I got a case of the hiccups.. My husband was mortified, especially when I tried, unsuccessfully, to snap a picture when he wan’t looking.I still giggle when I think about it.

  54. Eagle – there used to be lots of good Chinese places near the Verizon Center, ’cause it’s in Chinatown. ;) (Not j/k; has D.C.’s Chinatown moved a few blocks away? I haven’t lived in the area since 2003… and the real estate prices for buildings and lots in Chinatown itself soared due to the Verizon Center…)

  55. Dee

    How about a section on the blog for favorite recipes or recipe of the month?

    We could start with j terry’s if it ever gets shared. :-)

  56. Great discussion! My purpose in writing about church by-laws and membership covenants is to let everyone know that they have to be very careful when joining a church.

    Hopefully, they are seeing the red flags.

  57. Deb
    Numo and others have mentioned this before. Your wish is my command. The new page will be up and running in 5 minutes.

  58. Stephen

    I plan to put this you tube video at the end of today’s post and shall dedicate it to you!

  59. Thanks Dee – no, organists aren’t difficult. That “difficult” comment was what I gathered from the pastor and from other “staff types” who seem to have issues with people in music and the arts. Said pastor told me in the interview for that postion that he had considered not hiring another organist and I got the impression that he was not overly happy about hiring another one either during the interview.

    At any rate, all this isn’t just about the organ or my playing, fact of the matter is that people at all levels in many churches are kept “in line” by various methods and the, so called, “covenants” are all the rage these days and this same church that I’ve referenced on the organ issue sought to have SS teachers sign a “Teachers Covenant” basically to control people in those positions, what was taught, how it was taught, faithfullness to the church in areas of attendance and participation in church life/activities and to “violate” this resulted in dismissal from teaching and more depending on how much had been violated. It’s worth noting that at that time a group of folks lead by a “close friend of the pastor” were studying 40 Days by Rick Warren and, as you well know, control of the sheep is a big issue with him and many churches have been destroyed as a result of his 40 Days teachings. I think the SS Teacher Covenant had some roots in the 40 Days thing that was going on at the time. We had a SS teacher resign his class when this was attempted and at the time I thought he was in the wrong but have since come to realize just how right he was to stand his ground. It took me awhile to see what was happening and looking back on things at that church and the previous one it’s oh so clear what was really going on.

    One conclusion that I have reached is that in modern evangelical churches the covenant idea, for the most part (not always though), seems to be or outright is a way (attempt) to control people and keep them in line.

    Dee – I’ll work on the email for you this weekend….. have several items to send. Also, what are you hearing about other Knoxville churches? I know some are having issues – both mine were SBC churches. Thanks much!

  60. Eagle and Numo,

    My husband used to work in the Verizon Center area and I would meet him for lunch on my way to campus. We loved Chinatown Express, but quickly learned not to order off the main menu. Stick to the noodles and dumplings! Another favorite was Urfa Tomato (kebabs). Sadly, he transferred to an Arlington location and now I am stuck with campus food service when I have to go in.

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  62. I need to get my son out of the MH movement…I need advice, they are already enticing him with a leadership position.