"Just as freedom to worship is protected by the First Amendment, so also is the liberty to recede from one’s religious allegiance."
Guinn, 775 P.2d at 776
Statue of Liberty
It is hard to fathom in the land of the free and the home of the brave that CHURCHES ARE IGNORING THE LAW OF THE LAND in order to impose their will on members (and in some cases, regular attendees).
Bobby Jamieson, Assistant Editor at 9 Marks, just posted an article entitled:
Jamieson begins with these words:
"Does your church let people resign into thin air?
A church member simply submits a letter or has a conversation with a pastor, and then poof!—they’re gone. And your church couldn’t say whether the person has joined another evangelical church or dropped off the face of the earth.
My brothers, this should not be. . .
An encouraging number of evangelical churches seem to be regaining meaningful practices of church membership and discipline. But I’m concerned that even some of these churches, however unintentionally, are leaving their back doors wide open."
Doesn't it sound like he's talking about sheep or some other kind of farm animals that must be corralled? Please take the time to read the entire post. Truly, it's unbelievable!
Here are Jamieson's practical implications:
"1. The troubler of First Baptist Smallville needs to either reconcile with that church or join another one where he can be more content.
2. Churches’ membership procedures should reflect the fact that the church, not the individual member, has authority to accept and dismiss members.
3. Churches’ governing documents (constitution, by-laws) should reflect the fact that individual members do not have the unilateral right to terminate their membership.
4. The pastoral specifics of how churches handle individual resignations will vary."
Jamieson ends his article — directed at church leaders — as follows:
"KEEP AN EYE ON THE BACK DOOR
So pastors, just as you pay careful attention to the front door of your church, keep a close eye on the back door, too. Make sure that the sheep can’t simply open the gate themselves and disappear from sight. Refuse to allow people to resign into thin air, both for the sake of your church’s witness to the gospel and for the good of every single sheep—especially those who tend to wander off."
I hadn't come across Bobby Jamieson's name before, so I did a little investigation. SBC Voices posted an interview with Jamieson last summer, which included this brief bio:
"Bobby writes new web and print material and helps edit the eJournal. After graduating from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies, Bobby was a pastoral intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He is an MDiv student at Southern Seminary, and he lives with his wife and daughter in Louisville, Kentucky."
For those who might be curious as to how Mark Dever's 9 Marks of a Healthy Church came about, the following is offered at the SBC Voices link provided above:
"At Matt’s (Schmucker) prompting, Mark wrote the self-published booklet “9 Marks of a Healthy Church,” which several years later became the Crossway published book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. As more and more pastors found the conversations begun by Mark and Matt helpful, an organization was birthed in the late nineties, which has grown little by little since then."
Fascinating! So Dever's 9 Marks started out as a self-published booklet…
Before we move on with this discussion, let's take a look at Mark Dever's associations, particularly those at The Gospel Coalition. Dever serves as a Council Member along with Mark Driscoll, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, the newly resigned James MacDonald, and others.
Here is the first comment in response to this 9 Marks post. Jaimeson wrote the following, which the commenter highlights:
"Churches’ membership procedures should reflect the fact that the church, not the individual member, has authority to accept and dismiss members. A member cannot unilaterally resign. A member can submit their intention to resign to the church, and the church will either accept or reject that intention."
The commenter stated:
"While I think this is the way it should be, there are practical problems. In the UK, this will not work – by law you cannot refuse the resignation and, I believe, churches have been sued for trying to do so. Our church has a clause in the rules that people assent to on becoming members to say they will not resign to avoid discipline, but we were advised it may not hold up in law, even though the person agrees to it freely."
"I was not aware of the situation in the UK on that point. Is your church Anglican? Or does that law even extend to dissenting/free churches? Thanks, Bobby"
Folks, this is scary! 9 Marks is advising pastors regarding church by-laws and governance issues, and the advice they are doling out appears to fly in the face of recent civil litigation. These guys are so worried about their "kingdoms" eroding that they are willing to take drastic measures, even to the point of being ignorant of the law.
H. Wayne House, a Council Member for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, discusses these matters in his book Christian Ministry and the Law. On pages 73-74, he highlights the Guinn v. Church of Christ of Collinsville. This case made its way all the way up to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Guinn. House (a Juris Doctor) includes portions of the ruling made by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in his book, which are:
"Upon her withdrawal…the church was precluded from sanctioning her as if she were a current member. By continuing to discipline her as if she were a practicing Church of Christ member, the elders are alleged to have invaded her privacy and caused her emotional distress…Just as freedom to worship is protected by the First Amendment, so also is the liberty to recede from one's religious allegiance…The First Amendment clearly safeguards the freedom to worship and the freedom not to worship." (p. 74)
Although we are presenting one particular case, there are others which received similar judgments.
These brilliant scholars at 9 Marks could be setting churches up for a fall because if pastors follow their advice they could get their pants sued off of them! Not only that, 9 Marks may be called to testify in a lawsuit. Since Jamieson is working toward his M.Div. at Southern Seminary and Dever has been teaching there during the January term, we must ask the question: What are they teaching at Mohler's seminary these days?!
Wake-up pastors! This is a very serious matter. Here is one resource we believe will provide lawful recommendations for how to write your church by-laws.
The Alliance Defense Fund has published an informative article called Seven Things All Churches Should Have In Their By-Laws, which you can read here. This is one of those seven things.
"#3: PROCEDURE FOR RESCINDING MEMBERSHIP
Just as the church should have a written policy for terminating membership, it should also have a written policy for how members can disassociate from the church. Indeed, courts have held that church members have a First Amendment right to terminate their membership. Once a member has rescinded her membership, she is no longer consenting to the church’s doctrine. This could limit a church’s legal protection if it is sued for disciplining someone after they have revoked their membership. With a formal revocation policy, it is easy for all parties involved, including the court, to identify when the membership was terminated – otherwise a court will decide on its own."
Leave it to two women, who aren't even "allowed" to read Scripture or pray in some Calvinista churches, to tell men how to run a church properly. Oh, by the way, the sheep may not be as dumb as the shepherds think they are… Case in point, we have copied and pasted this 9 Marks article into a Word document just in case it accidentally disappears, which appears to have happened before with certain 9 Marks resources.
Even though we have been focusing on Mark Driscoll (and related issues) in recent posts, rest assured we are still monitoring developments involving Sovereign Grace Ministries. As we recently pointed out, C.J. Mahaney has been reinstated as President of SGM, albeit for a short "season". C.J.' s BFF — Dr. "Nine Marks of a Healthy Church" Dever — wholeheartedly endorses his friend and is probably relieved that Mahaney has been restored as captain of the SGM ship.
Now that the three panels appointed by the SGM Board have ruled in favor of Mahaney's reinstatement, Larry and Doris Tomczak have responded.
The following excerpt from the Tomcak's explosive response ties in with today's post:
"Scripture calls us to “restore” struggling Christians in a “spirit of gentleness” (Gal.6:1). Although most of the leaders have come forward to repent and ask forgiveness for what was done to us (as the report reveals), what needs to be understood are the aspects of betrayal and levels of deceit that forced our departure from a ministry we co-founded and never intended to leave.
“Did you leave without the leaders’ blessing?”
Yes – we believe we had no alternative."
What is it about this video that speaks to us???
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 33:10-36:22 Galatians 5:13-26 Psalm 64:1-10 Proverbs 23:23