Abusive Church Discipline: How to Recognize It and Escape

“I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody [to no one].” Mother Theresa link

800px-Amish_Outhouse
Amish Outhouse Wikicommons Kyle Kesselring 

I used to work for a major pharmaceutical company. One day, I had a meeting with a man in another division. We had different bosses and our specialties rarely overlapped. While in his office, I saw a lamp sitting in his trash receptacle. I asked him if it was broken. He said he hated the lamp which had come with the rest of his office furniture and he had been given a new one. He tried to return it to maintenance but they said to trash it even though it still worked. My little office was equipped with overhead florescent lights which had the annoying habit of flickering. So, I asked him if I could have it and he gladly gave it to me. I returned to my office, put it on my desk and and enjoyed the less harsh light.

I was much happier, that is, until the end of the week. One of the big cheeses who oversaw my section of the company, came marching through our offices, looking furious. He showed up at my door and, in a loud voice, said "Why do you have that lamp in your office? Where did you get it?" I knew I was in deep trouble but didn't know why. After I explained, he proceeded to berate me, saying that I was not at the level of management which was allowed to have a lamp.

When I said that I had no idea of that rule, he angrily stopped me and said "Hand over the lamp!" He furiously headed for the next division, lamp in hand, where, according to my lamp-giving friend, he berated the man for giving me the lamp. He insisted that it be placed on his desk, even if he never used it, because it was a symbol of his position.

I went through the personnel book, looking for any regulation stating who was allowed to have lamps on their desk to no avail. I even asked human resources about it and they said they had no idea that such a rule existed. But, it was a decree and you can bet I never put a lamp on my desk in that office again. 

The lamp, as a symbol of office ranking, is one of those implicit "rules of the game." It isn't discussed, it isn't written any where, it just has a life of its own. There appeared to be a small group of bosses who knew and enforced that rule. I bet if I had stayed longer in that company I would have found other such commands which were dreamed up by this small group of enforcers.

If I had continued to disobey them and kept a lamp on my desk, I bet I would have been brought up for insubordination and possibly fired. One might argue that he couldn't legally fire me for something so ill-defined. Well, that might be technically true but, if he wanted me fired, he would have found a way to do so.

I believe that the church often functions in the same way. Each church has spoken and unspoken mandates and the church attendee is expected to figure them out.

Years ago, I talked with Jeff Anderson, the famous attorney who has successfully sued the Roman Catholic church on behalf of those who have been sexually abused by priests. Jeff is an awesome man. When I discussed my plans to start a blog, I asked him for some advice. He gave me two pieces of information. The first was to always write what I believe to be the truth. In other words, I could not intentionally make something up (lie) in order to harm another. That has never been a problem since I seek truth.

The second thing he told me is that he could not prevent me from getting thrown out of any church. He said that church membership is outside the purview of the courts. However, there are steps one can take to prevent churches from unduly harassing an individual who wishes to leave a church as well.

Before I begin, I refer you to this post of an example of an effective, low key discipline effort which resulted in a changed life. I am not against church discipline per se. I am against how I see it being applied in today's authoritarian churches. There are good churches out there. There are many good pastors who are actually humble (as opposed to those who write books on how to be humble). However, there are also many churches with pastors and elders who are sinful and self absorbed, truly believing that they are in charge.

What precisely does a church mean when it uses the word "discipline."

This is the crux of the matter. When you read the following two quotes from yesterday's post on a church covenant. what do you think about? What do you think they mean. In fact, do they even know what they mean? 

1. Church discipline is plainly taught in the Scriptures. It is one of the primary means that the Lord has ordained for bringing about repentance and restoration in the lives of His erring children.

  • If it is so clear, why do I have no idea to what they are referring? 
  • Are they referring to God sending people into captivity in Babylon for building idols?
  • What about the dude who was living with his mother in law and said that such a thing was hunky dory? That seems to be pretty serious but I have heard people being disciplined for silly things.
  • Is there discipline for gluttony, greed, arrogance, lying, letting the sun go down on my anger, being snippy with my husband, etc. 
  • What are the parameters? When is it enforced? Do elders/pastors get a pass?

In the past, I would sign such an agreement thinking, "Gee, that wouldn't happen to me because I don't do really bad things." However,since starting this blog, I have seen discipline applied in rather bizarre ways, leaving me to question the arbitrary nature of the whole process.

2. Should a member become guilty of sin that the church deems scandalous, the church may excommunicate him immediately and without prior implementation of less drastic means of discipline, such as private expostulation or public rebuke.

Whoa, whoa whoa…catch this. If you do something scandalous, you get thrown out of the church immediately. Therefore,  this means that regular, run of the mill discipline is for everyday sin matters. What's up with that? Here are some actual events shared by our awesome readers.

  • They told us we would be arrested if we set foot into the place again because, after three years of attendance, we wouldn’t submit a membership application.
  • After asking a question about the church budget: A friend of mine (who has commented here in the past) tried to resign her membership in a local church. She was “church disciplined” after she left and shunned by almost all of her former friends in that church.
  • After becoming permanently disabled with fibromyalgia and other illnesses, said person was excommunicated from church because of laziness.
  • A grandmother was told not to return to church after disagreeing with the pastor's decision to dissolve the deacon board. When she tried to attend a service in this church which she had attended for 50 years, the pastor called the police and she was perp walked out of the sanctuary link
  • In 1994, I moved from Ohio to Texas to co-pastor a Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Elmendorf, Texas. I wasn’t there very long before I realized I had made a huge mistake. After trying to find a way to make it work, I decided to resign and return to Ohio. Imagine my surprise when I was told I couldn’t resign. Since I had to have the church’s permission to join the church, I had to have their permission to leave the church. Well, I resigned anyway and the church exercised church discipline against me. I was excommunicated and to this day I am considered a publican and heathen.
  • This happened with our family. We were placed in church discipline AFTER leaving the church, unbeknownst to us. The pastor also followed my friend who also had left, Meaghan to her new churches she was trying out to “tattle” with the prospective pastors. There is a strong allegiance among pastors to believe another pastor before trusting a congregant. 
  • We were “defacto excommunicated”from a PCA church for the sin of “contumacy” which means disobeying our elders by deciding we no longer wanted to sit under the teaching of a pastor who was out of control.(It was announced just this way on a Sunday morning because they had never written formal charges against us or had any sort of trial.) Even some of the elders and other pastors in the presbytery agreed with my husband who tried everything under the sun to bring accountability into the situation. Following the proper denominational procedure, we filed a complaint with the presbytery who ruled in our favor. Then our elders filed an appeal and the presbytery ruled in their favor because they produced some document that said we had filed our complaint 24 hours beyond the allowed time to file. Righteousness fell victim to a statute of limitations apparently.
  • (Moved from 9 Marks-Capital Hill Baptist Church to another 9 Marks church in Albuquerque) However, due to the delay in my membership process in the new church (waiting for the next cycles of classes to begin), it took about three or four months before I was able to actually finish the classes, sign the church covenant, and become a full-fledged member. During this “interim period,” I received a letter from one of the CHBC leaders, informing me that if I did not contact them before the next members’ meeting, I would be disciplined, and my membership would be terminated, given that it had, apparently, taken too long for me to become a member of the church in Albuquerque! I was absolutely stunned. I had been such an enthusiastic supporter of the “9 Marks philosophy,” both at CHBC and at my new church, yet now, I was being threatened with discipline for, seemingly, not sticking closely enough to one aspect of it!  To be fair, I did contact someone from CHBC, after receiving the letter, and explained that the membership process was taking longer than I had hoped, and that I would soon be a member of the new church– thus averting “church discipline” from the CHBC elders. 
  • The above commenter decided to go back to the Catholic church. Guess what he claims Mark Dever did to him? About the senior pastor/main preaching elder unfriended me on Facebook, without a word, after I returned to the Catholic Church in 2010?
  • A person who asked about the extravagant lifestyle of her pastors was told that he was "sinfully craving answers" and was put on church discipline and was not allowed to take communion. The entire church was notified of this punishment in a public meeting.
  • One woman told us that she had been beaten by her husband for several years. Finally, he knocked one of her teeth out. She finally left him and took the children. The church put her under discipline because she refused to return to her husband.
  • I had a run in with my last pastor because I asked him some sincere questions and was quickly (in one phone conversation) removed from leadership and told to take my whole ladies group and look for another church.
  • My dear blogging buddy, Deb, was unfriended on Facebook by her former pastor's wife after he got mad at Deb for expressing her concerns about Mahaney, Driscoll, and the boys. Unfriending is the latest round in a game called "the shun" practiced by many of these authoritarian churches.
  • A pastor started a successful church and then decided to join an association of churches which has a top down hierarchy. Several months after joining, the association comes in, tells him he is prideful, makes him step down and be a janitor in his own church for one year (to help him become more humble) while they replaced him with a pastor in his 20s.
  • Since we hadn’t signed their papers,(covenant) they excluded us from communion (every week). I loved the connection I felt with many of the men in that group. We stayed for those 4 months because I was hoping they’d see the foolishness of their doctrine that excludes fellow Christians because a man-made document hadn’t been agreed to. We were told we needed to “join” so the pastors’ could know who they were responsible for. (This may not be discipline but it is important to understand that excluding people from communion is a common tactic.ed note)
  • A church member was put under discipline for not attending her care group meeting because her son needed to be driven and picked up from his sports practice which was scheduled during the meeting.

​​Here is the bottom line. You have no idea what the church means by discipline. You do not know how, when or why it might be applied. Unless you have some special insight, you do not know the elders or the pastors and what pushes their buttons.

If they want to get you for some sin, they can do it. Why? All of us struggle with sin in our lives and can be called on it at anytime. So does your pastor but he has the backing of his elder board who will defend him to the hilt. Unless you have an elder board which is filled with sensible people, you will find that they will most likely side with the pastor. That is why they are chosen in the first place. Yes, there are good elder boards but there are bad ones as well. I still remember my former pastor telling us that his elder board only disagreed with him twice in 28 years. 

Therefore, when a church discusses discipline, you need to understand that any and all cards are on the table and that means they can go after you for any little thing they like. 

Which churches do this?

Just about any church that has a thing about "authority." 

How can I tell before I join?

Read the membership covenant. These documents usually give clues about the "authority" structure of the church. Also, later in this post we have provided you with some links to help you evaluate church covenants, complete with a "test," featuring a real covenant with lots of red flags.

If the subject of church discipline comes up early on in considering a church, beware. For example, I know of one church which hired a new pastor. He did one of those typical "Who am I" letters to the congregation. He mentioned his wife and kids in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph he wrote something like this. 

I am sure that we will disagree on some matters. Please feel free to come and talk about it with me. If we can't resolve it, you will need to learn to live with it. If you insist on discussing it beyond that, we will need to consider church discipline.

Recently, I met some folks who encouraged us to try their church. Here is what they said.

You would love it. We have a fine preacher and we practice church discipline.

Note: The emphasis on the preacher and church discipline. Good night!

Think long and hard about signing any membership contract/covenant.

It is imperative that you understand that the covenant was not invented with you in mind. No matter what they say, it isn't some lovey dovey, let's pray for one another and tiptoe through the tulips together. These documents were invented to protect the churches from lawsuits. Why? Because some church are led by dolts who do stupid things that could result in churches getting their pants sued off. (Oh yeah, before I forget: The pew sitters can be jerks as well but that is not my emphasis in this matter. I am addressing decent people who have been on the receiving end of the left boot of fellowship.)

Yesterday, Deb posted a membership contract that was honest about their intent.

Each member of [church name] agrees that he will not initiate or pursue legal action against the church, nor against the pastors, deacons, or church staff in connection with their performance of official duties. Any Christian considering legal action against another Christian is encouraged to heed 1 Corinthians 6:1-8."

Note: The members of the church are separately defined from "pastors, deacons, and staff." There is them "the leaders" and you "the pew sitters." Also, this agreement does not appear to prevent them from suing you. 

Ask yourself a question. Why would you join an organization that is attempting to prevent you from suing them? Better yet, why would you join a church that is having you sign a binding agreement without advising you to consider consulting your own attorney before signing such a document? Isn't that deceptive? 

Here are a few posts that we have written on this matter.

Membership Covenant Red Flags

Spiritual Abuse Final Exam – Analyze a Membership Covenant

Another Mars Hill "Testimony:  One More Reason to Beware of Covenants

Mark Dever / 9 Marks Edict – You Cannot Resign W/O Permission

Peacemaker or Kingmaker?  Beware of "Covenants"

How to Get out of Dodge and Minimize the Damage

The following is an excerpt from a post we wrote on how to get a church to let you go and then shut up about you. How to Minimize Damage When Resigning From a Mark Driscoll Like Churclink dealt with an incident at Mars Hill and their apparent heavy-handed discipline of a young man. We wrote a series of posts about the incident in January / February 2012. You can start here to read through the posts that we think are helpful in assessing church discipline practices.

How to Resign

Three years ago, I spoke with a nationally well-known attorney who informed me that the only power that churches really 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 if, in so doing, they announce the former 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. (See, we tell you to seek legal advice, unlike many of the churches we write about).

The Steps:

  • Resign your church membership prior to the all-church announcement that you are under discipline. 
  • 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 helping us with this format. Understand, this letter is formatted with the idea that you may be put on church discipline for leaving your church. 

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.

We have heard from several people that have employed this method. It has been successful but, as they say on TV, results may vary. Remember, churches do not want to be sued or to be talked about in the newspapers. Chances are good  that they will back off.

For those of you who are new, we repeat one of our favorite clips on "shunning."


 

Lydia's Corner: 2 Samuel 15:23-16:23 John 18:25-19:22 Psalm 119:113-128 Proverbs 16:10-11

Comments

Abusive Church Discipline: How to Recognize It and Escape — 100 Comments

  1. Apparently “Scandalous” is the equivalent of “Hooliganism” under Russian law — so vaguely defined it can be used against the have-nots by the haves on any pretext whatsoever.

    Either that or it’s another example of Redefinition into “Diabolical Meanings”, My Dear Wormwood.

  2. This is such an awesome post! (Love the video clip. :-) ) I’m going to print this out for future reference. I hope I never need it. But, I’m more informed than I was years ago, and I won’t be signing any more church membership covenants. Thank you, Arce, for the legal letter. Although you’re somewhere in my area, I hope I never need to look you up for advice on this.

    We actually did have members from our former church talk to my husband’s employees and others in the community about us. It didn’t work, thankfully. But, it still hurts.

  3. Personally, I would warn anyone who is presented with a membership contract, agreement, covenant, points of doctrine, etc., etc., etc. from actually signing on the dotted line. There’s a reason those documents are being presented to you, and it is not for your benefit. It is for the benefit of the organization. I would bet money that the pastor of a church which uses one of these covenants/agreements/contracts/statements of faith, etc., etc., etc. would turn white as a sheet if you suggested that you needed to consult with your lawyer first before signing. (And then the document would be snatched out of your hands.)

    These contracts are NOT for your benefit. They are for the benefit of the organization. Remember that document posted here a few weeks ago from Elevation Church? If you accidentally slipped and talked about Steven Furtick in a way that Elevation deemed bad, you’d be responsible for liquidated damages (if memory serves, the damages were something spectacular, like $100K). *It’s not worth it.*

  4. I would personally love it if one of the principals of 9 Marks or one of the affiliated operations would show up here and explain to Deb and Dee’s readers why these contracts aren’t abusive and invitations to a legal nightmare.

    Seriously, guys, come here and explain why you think these legal documents are necessary to run your church, and not a way to lord it over the people that you believe God has entrusted to you. (Not going to say God HAS entrusted you those people, because that would be hubris.)

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Apparently “Scandalous” is the equivalent of “Hooliganism” under Russian law — so vaguely defined it can be used against the have-nots by the haves on any pretext whatsoever.

    At least the guys who run 9 Marks don’t have the ability to send you to a labor camp in Perm like Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot (who is also currently on hunger strike)!

  6. I think you would have been amused to watch me read this post — my facial expressions alone told the story: perplexed, angry, confused, laughed at some ridiculousness. Oh my. This was just a terrific post. I have to say: after reading this, I’ve been only too blessed in my various church/denominational experiences (thank God!).

  7. I’ve read another good tip about leaving. Tell them that you no longer believe what they do, (if it is the case) and that for the sake of your spiritual integrity, you do not believe it correct to maintain membership with said organization.

    They may consider you a heathen and publican, as they did to Pastor Bruce, but they cannot suck you into a circular argument with that one. It’s between you and God, anyway.

  8. And most importantly, teach your kids about this stuff because some new guru always comes along years from now. Let us try to keep another generation from getting sucked into these authoritarian churches.

  9. So what do you do if the abusive church you’re leaving has one staff member you consider to be a close friend?

  10. Pingback: Abusive Church Discipline: How to Recognize It and Escape | The Wartburg Watch 2013 UNITED STATES

  11. I am just speechless at all of this stuff.

    I’m a pastor of a small church in rural Australia and I’ve never really “disciplined” anyone- apart from removing from our worship team someone who repeatedly refused to come to music practice.

    We’ve never kicked anyone out of the church, and I would never send for the police to remove anyone just for turning up.

    Perhaps I’m naive- although after 30+ years of pastoring you would think I would know a thing or two- but I thought it was all about loving God and one another sacrificially. Even when people sin… publicly and drastically.

    Sure, there’s a place for discipline- the discipline of grace. I’m so aware of my own failings that go without punishment so who am I to heap guilt on others?

  12. Dee wrote:

    “When I said that I had no idea of that rule, he angrily stopped me and said “Hand over the lamp!” He furiously headed for the next division, lamp in hand, where, according to my lamp-giving friend, he berated the man for giving me the lamp. He insisted that it be placed on his desk, even if he never used it, because it was a symbol of his position…”

    You’re in good company Dee. Those who came before us are in solidarity with us:

    “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress…” ~ Frederick Douglass ~

  13. Keith Bates wrote:

    Perhaps I’m naive- although after 30+ years of pastoring you would think I would know a thing or two- but I thought it was all about loving God and one another sacrificially. Even when people sin… publicly and drastically.

    Keith — Would you please clone yourself 100 times and come to the U.S.?

  14. @ Keith Bates: You’re talking about actual pastoral work, not the kind of autocratic “pastor” that’s in fashion (in certain circles) these days.

    Having grown up Lutheran – where “pastor” is a common title/form of address for people who are ordained and doing bona fide pastoral work – I have NEVER understood why the authoritarian types think that they deserve to slap the title on themselves and proclaim themselves experts. Maybe after 500+ hospital visits and 10,000 hours spent with their sleeves rolled up, doing real work, well…)

    Thank God that there are folks like you in the ministry. Like you, I can’t imagine why anyone would feel the need to persecute people under the “church discipline” moniker, but any excuse for bullying, I guess…

  15. God Bless Boz for this comment:

    Boz Tchividjian: Why is no mention made that the heart of this lawsuit is about a systematic church effort to discourage and eventually prevent the families of children who were allegedly (and repeatedly) sexually victimized by church officials from speaking out and reporting to law enforcement. This lawsuit is less about the abuse and more about an institution that took steps to protect itself and it’s reputation over the victimized souls (and bodies) of little ones. Omitting such a fundamental fact from this statement is a fundamental error.

    Why no mention that CJ Mahaney was actually the Senior Pastor at one of these churches where all of this horrific abuse allegedly occurred AND that discouraged these families from bringing this matter to the God ordained civil authorities? Omitting such a fundamentally important fact from this statement is a fundamental error.

    This lawsuit was dismissed for one reason and one reason only…expiration of the statute of limitation. Isn’t it tragic that the reason why this suit was dismissed – taking too long to file – was the very objective of these church leaders when they discouraged these precious souls from stepping forward.

    Many of these men have not hesitated to write (or tweet) on the Penn State horrors, gays in the Boy Scouts, and Universal healthcare, but have been conspicuously quiet on this issue…just doesn’t sit right with me (and apparently a lot of others). And when they finally speak, what is omitted speaks more than what is said.

    What these men don’t realize is that their silence is pushing a large group of precious souls farther and farther from the Church…and our glorious and gracious God. [sigh]

    Boz Tchividjian, J.D.
    Executive Director, GRACE

    http://netgrace.org

    38 minutes ago · Edited · 20

  16. The YRR faithful will eat this statement up and say it explains perfectly well why they have been silent. But it ain’t over. They have decided to try and protect their reputations with their base and their stupidity by covering for someone who displays narcissistic sociopathic tendancies. This won’t end well.

  17. Anon 1 wrote:

    The YRR faithful will eat this statement up and say it explains perfectly well why they have been silent. But it ain’t over. They have decided to try and protect their reputations with their base and their stupidity by covering for someone who displays narcissistic sociopathic tendancies. This won’t end well.

    Per the comments on T4G’s fb page, there is much disgust at the statement. I don’t know the commentors theology or tie to YRR but those commenting are mainly appaled by the statement. I agree with their disgust.

  18. off topic:
    I just saw this headline on internet news:

    “I-5 bridge collapses in NW Wash.; people in water”

    Has John Piper learned his lesson since the tornado incident? I hope he doesn’t pop off about the bridge collapse (unless it’s to say his prayers are with the people involved).

    Pat Robertson has been saying extremely insensitive things for over two decades now at times of tragedy, so some people never learn. I hope Piper is smarter than Robertson.

  19. SBC Chaplain wrote:

    Per the comments on T4G’s fb page, there is much disgust at the statement. I don’t know the commentors theology or tie to YRR but those commenting are mainly appaled by the statement. I agree with their disgust.

    If I knew how to take a screen shot of those comments I would.

  20. Just a recap on why this is an important (sorry for the length). There are criminal investigations in the works, but 3 defendants have already gone to jail or through the juvenile system for child sex crimes:

    Here’s a few highlights adapted from the lawsuit. GRAPHIC.

    —For the attorneys: Everything from this point on is “alleged”—

    The Sovereign Grace Ministries child sexual abuse lawsuit is a public document and is available online. It is a class action civil suit.
    Download it here: http://spiritualsoundingboard.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/2nd-amended-lawsuit-filing-may-14-2013.pdf

    Nearly every paragraph is horribly graphic, detailing names, locations, and description of sexual abuse.

    Summary of some key paragraphs, which are abridged and not quoted verbatim:

    Paragraph
    #1
    Describes this as a lawsuit seeking damages for all persons harmed by an ongoing conspiracy that permitted sexual deviants to have access to children for purposes of predation.

    #2
    Abuse of children occurred at church buildings, school buildings, during church retreats, and other events.

    #29
    From 1982 to present conspiracy of defendants to permit sexual deviants to have access to children for purposes of predation.

    #34
    8-year-old girl was forced to meet with the defendant who molested her and another defendant and was told to “forgive” the molester. The defendant did not report the molestation.

    #36-37
    Youth ministry leader Morales molested several boys who admitted it to Chris Glass but were cautioned against talking about the facts.

    #51 Defendant David Adams was convicted and served jail time. He was welcomed back into the church without the church taking any effective steps to prevent him from having continued access to children.

    #75-77
    Second-grade girl pushed down and gang-raped by defendants and by others who were wearing masks.

    #109
    Defendants Ecelbarger, Mullery and V. Hinders, conspiring together with Mahaney and Loftness, violated the mandatory reporting obligations and conspired together to cover up [name withheld pending court ruling on defense motion]‘s molestation of children.

    #128
    The church provided babysitting services for Home Group members, many of whom homeschooled their children, but failed to advise them that childcare provider, the defendant, had raped and assaulted Jane Doe.

    #131
    Defendants made a series of misrepresentations to the parents of Jane Doe to prevent them from attending court appearances and to prevent them from filing a victim impact statement…

    #132
    …Defendants falsely claimed that they were speaking on behalf of the parents of Jane Doe, and falsely claimed that the parents did not wish to participate in the court proceedings regarding the sexual assault…

    #138
    Discovery will show that Defendants Mullery, David Hinder and Vince Hinders (sic) spoke with Maryland-based Defendants Mahaney and Loftness, and together conspired to prevent any reporting to the secular authorities.

    #150
    Defendants conspired to permit the pedophiliac to have unfettered access to children…in a back hallway where children routinely played

    #157 – Mahaney alert
    Rather than report the ongoing abuse to secular authorities or take any steps to stop the abuse, Defendants informed the father that his children had reported the abuse. This led to further abuse by the father. In exchange for the conspiracy of silence, the abusive father paid to send Defendants Mahaney, Ricucci, and Layman and their families on vacation to the Kiawah Islands, South Carolina.”

    #173
    …they permitted Griney to teach and have unfettered access to children, and conspired to cover up the facts.

    #177
    On or about August 17, 2011, Defendants admitted during a meeting that they placed protecting the churches from lawsuits over and above the safety of children. This admission revealed ….[they were] acting for financially motivated reasons, had designed and agreed upon a plan to obstruct justice, yet permit predators to continue to have unfettered access to children in church and school settings.

    #178
    Defendants permitted David Adams, a known pedophile, to attend church-sponsored sleepovers without advising parents about his sexual deviance.

    – * – * – * –

    I think the victims deserve their day in court. And if C. J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life School are not culpable (3 Defendants have already gone to jail or gone through the juvenile system for child sexual abuse), then let them be exonerated in court.

  21. Janey, the whole point is they spoke out NOW cos Mahaney is off the hook. Without a Maryland lawsuit he is free from responsibilty for coverning up crimes and not reporting. He was able to actually protect molesters.

    They understand this perfectly and think that they can make their friend they previously hailed as a “strong leader” look like he was knew nothing about it all. Exactly what the Obama admin is doing now. All these leaders are now suddenly clueless about what went on in their departments but we are to believe they are great leaders and keep on paying them!

  22. Sorry but these men have no integrity or shame. From their statement:

    “A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry. No such accusation of direct wrongdoing was ever made against C. J. Mahaney. Instead, he was charged with founding a ministry and for teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals. For this reason, we, along with many others, refused to step away from C. J. in any way. We do not regret that decision. We are profoundly thankful for C. J. as friend, and we are equally thankful for the vast influence for good he has been among so many Gospel-minded people.”‘

    Charged with founding a ministry and teaching doctrines and principles…..

    See what they have done? They have made it about people hating Reformed doctrine. What a great spin. They are deflecting from the real serious issue of covering up child molestations for years!

    These men are eat up with Calvin. Their doctrine is more important than covering up the rape of children. They are despicable.

  23. Anon 1 wrote:

    Janey, the whole point is they spoke out NOW cos Mahaney is off the hook. Without a Maryland lawsuit he is free from responsibility for covering up crimes and not reporting. He was able to actually protect molesters.

    True. But we won’t forget. The outrage on that Together for the Gospel post is wonderful to see.

  24. Janey wrote:

    So what do you do if the abusive church you’re leaving has one staff member you consider to be a close friend?

    That’s when you find out if they are a real friend or just someone you shared a membership card with.

  25. It’s nice to see more heavy hitters protesting on that Facebook post. And yes, I would imagine a lot of people are getting screenshots.

  26. Some of these actions concerning discipline are really absurd and show evidence of immaturity and lack of self esteem on the part of leaders. There are however very credible situations that evoke the need for church discipline to which we often referred to in our Constitution and Bylaws as a “rescue operation to hopefully keep a sinning member from personal destruction and/or the inevitable judgment of God on their life if there is no repentance. This past year our church dealt with two cases: a woman living with a man and pregnant with his child and a man who left his wife for a mistress this committing open ,flagrant adultery. Both were handled according to Matthew 18 and the eventual result of public confession and repentance before the church and with the congregation forgiving and embracing them with great rejoicing. The church even paid for the couple to be married in our church along with reception.. Discipline must be redemptive and not punitive. It does work if accompanied by the royal law of love. However, some of these disciplinary actions by these churches is plainly an effort to build a fortress of protection against anyone that disagrees with them.

  27. K.D. wrote:

    I can see the SBC Churches in this area do this….THIS is why I no longer attend church…

    I don’t blame you, K.D. The wolves are showing their teeth. But we’ve got the Good Shepherd.

  28. Janey wrote:

    So what do you do if the abusive church you’re leaving has one staff member you consider to be a close friend?

    Janey – there may not be a simple way of dealing with this. After we were thrown out of our last church, we ended up losing contact with a lot of our friends because it became clear we were putting them in an awkward position by contacting them. Our real friends, however, had no problem staying in touch with us. In some ways, this episode will show you who your close friends really are.

  29. The T4G response has been a re-confirmation to me from the Lord that I have done the right thing to have withdrawn my membership at a 9Marks church and shun any affiliation with T4G, TGC and 9Marks. Undoubtedly there are some good people in these groups, I especially applaud Wendy Alsup, but I cannot, in good conscience, support these pharisees.

    “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
    “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’”
    Matthew 23:1-7

  30. Pingback: How to recognize and escape an abusive church | Civil Commotion

  31. Of course the T4G statement is exactly what we expected, isn’t it? But I’m afraid that a whole lot of people aren’t buying what they’re selling, judging by the comments on Facebook. I’m thanking God for social media this morning.

  32. I would caution about overlooking Matthew 18 just because some men have abused it, and applied it poorly. Refusal to deal with hardened, unrepentant sin is devastating to a fellowship. I pastor a church that has not practiced church discipline in 55 years. In the first year, I a membership where we have the following: a woman in repeated infidelity and refuses to repent; 4 couples cohabitating; a man who cornered and berated a female church member because she disagreed with his ideas; a woman who came to a business meeting drunk and refused to repent; a man soliciting a female member for a naked picture of her, and that is all I know of a membership that comprises of 60 attenders and 150 “inactives”. When church discipline is abused or totally ignored, it destroys a church.

  33. Anon 1 wrote:

    Here you go. This is how bad it is.

    Now lets see how many YRR Reformed guys link to this statement.

    Here is one YRR SBC pastors blog who have been silent the entire time.

    http://www.sbcfocus.net/2013/05/23/mohler-dever-duncan-release-statement-of-support-for-c-j-mahaney/

    That movement makes me ill.

    From the above link, Chris Roberts wrote: “If he did wrong, if he covered up abuse, if he protected predators and criminals, then he should step down regardless of the progress of civil or criminal proceedings.

    If.

    On the other hand, if he is not guilty of such things, he certainly should not step down but should continue in ministry with the support of the people around him.

    Now we have strong and public support given by highly respected men with very public ministries and a great deal to lose when they put their reputations on the line. They know Mahaney, have access to him, have seen his life and ministry, and have given their support. To me, that says much.” [End of Quotation]

    Gag me.

  34. @ William Birch:

    After reading that, my respect for Don Carson has gone out the window.

    What this also shows is that these guys are monitoring blogs like TWW, SGM Survivors, etc.

  35. Nicholas wrote:

    What this also shows is that these guys are monitoring blogs like TWW, SGM Survivors, etc.

    Secret Police enforcers usually do.

  36. TW wrote:

    “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’”
    Matthew 23:1-7

    HUMBLY, of course.
    With Armorbearers blowing long trumpets before them to announce how HUMBLE they are.

  37. Janey wrote:

    I don’t blame you, K.D. The wolves are showing their teeth.

    These are not even Wolves.

    They’re a feral dog pack strutting around claiming they’re really Wolves.

  38. Janey wrote:

    So what do you do if the abusive church you’re leaving has one staff member you consider to be a close friend?

    1) If he’s on staff at the abusive church, is he really your friend?

    2) You will find where his loyalties really lie — you or “The Party”.

    3) Be prepared to find out.

  39. Well, this just gives me one more reason why I am done with the reformed community. Adios.

    Seriously, I am sick to my stomach over these men and their arrogance. I am thinking a good ol’ shaking up of the modern church needs to happen and soon.

    I guess I am confused, but is the case thrown out by the judge over the SGM allegations over? Is there no other recourse for the victims?

  40. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    What this also shows is that these guys are monitoring blogs like TWW, SGM Survivors, etc.

    Secret Police enforcers usually do.

    And exactly what we’re doing to them.

    Look at the Gospel Coalition’s website and monitor their reader and commenter engagement. They are lucky if they can get more than 10 comments on any article they’ve posted since May 14, 2013, and they’ve posted a lot. Compare that to TWW, which has more than 100 comments in less than 72 hours on most of the posts since May 14.

    And judging from the comments on thegospelcoalition.org they aren’t winning hearts and minds.

  41. 1. I am amused that “Together for the Gospel” and “The Gospel Coalition” are separate entities.

    2. Mohler, Duncan and Devers probably should have read the actual lawsuit before issuing a statement about it.

  42. Also, when did the church become all about worship of itself instead of worship for our Savior?

  43. @ Janey:
    Janey, did they delete the comments? I was following this earlier and now all of those comments are not showing up on my screen?

  44. I am not on FB so I do not know what is going on, but glad to hear some people are speaking up about their lack of compassion for the victims.

  45. Moxie wrote:

    Janey, did they delete the comments? I was following this earlier and now all of those comments are not showing up on my screen?

    Yep, they just deleted more than 100 comments. About 95 of them were harshly critical of Dever, Duncan, and Mohler’s statement.

  46. I agree with others that some form of church discipline is necessary and part of the NT church. Of course people make mistakes, and if they’re sorry for them and try to reform, no problem, even if that means seeking professional help in the cases of, e.g., an alcohol problem. If couples are cohabiting and have not been Christians long I would advise them to seek marriage and wait until they are married before considering them eligible for church membership, as opposed to church attendance.

    In the case of egregious sins like systematic fraud or abuse of children, the courts should in any case make any church discipline unnecessary.

    However I admit I would not wish to expose myself to the sort of church discipline that the neo-Reformed churches mentioned here seem to espouse.

  47. I got through the GC article until they brought out the ubiquitous Prov 18:17 — poor CJ hasn’t had the chance to,state his case!!! I passionately long for Prov 18:17 quoters to apply the surrounding verses to the same situation– especially giving gifts to curry favor with Big Dogs and casting lots to settle disputes. Th KJV (which gives v17 a little different slant):
    15The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
    16A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
    17He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.
    18The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
    Well, actually I think they could use a healthy dose of v 15.

  48. @ Janey:

    For all their alleged manliness, they duck and run at simple FB criticism. They can only stand sturdy when they hear nothing contrary so they erase all criticism from their reality. Hothouse flowers! How appalled John Wayne would have been lol

  49. Dee and Deb: This is a wonderful post! Stalwart and proactive. Returning people’s innate authority. Thanks very much!

    Thanks also to Arce, lawyers and others who contributed.

  50. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Janey wrote:
    I don’t blame you, K.D. The wolves are showing their teeth.
    These are not even Wolves.
    They’re a feral dog pack strutting around claiming they’re really Wolves.

    In my opinion, this is the quote of the day…..

  51. Oh, it is getting nasty and possibly counter legal. I saw on a tweet one of tne Reformed blogs is claiming a survivor threated physical harm to Mahaney? The link was to Anon’s story on survivors.

    Masculine Christianity strikes again.

    Oh and what is this about the surivors being Javert? That is the sin sniffing culture that Mahaney built and ruled over.

  52. Imo, not wolves, a herd of white boars. As in male chauvinists.

    Some of what reformed theology teaches is true because certain verses were actually believed and used at face value, same with any theology or accompanying doctrine, but they’re man made. There are wonderful believers and truth in all orthodox Christian churches, there is also a lot of junk which destroys, uses and confuses. God is exposing tusks and rotten fruit, so bad, even the pigs don’t want it (prodigal son) for the body of Christ to witness first hand so that we can learn and grow, and for justice to be served for those victimized in the name of Jesus Christ. Seeing them making fools of themselves, just with all of their deletions, this fb joke may just sink in for some lurkers who are afraid to leave their unhealthy churches, afraid to read, afraid to think.

  53. Janey wrote:

    And judging from the comments on thegospelcoalition.org they aren’t winning hearts and minds.

    They’re having about as much success being winsome as drone strikes are with the Afghani & Yemeni peasantry.

  54. Anon 1 wrote:

    Oh, it is getting nasty and possibly counter legal. I saw on a tweet one of tne Reformed blogs is claiming a survivor threated physical harm to Mahaney? The link was to Anon’s story on survivors.

    Could that be the comment that Dee is asking about in the next post?

  55. Moxie wrote:

    Janey, did they delete the comments? I was following this earlier and now all of those comments are not showing up on my screen?

    doubleplusungood refs doubpleplusuncomments.
    memhole.
    L! L! C! J!
    L! L! C! J!

  56. @ BeenThereDoneThat:
    Never mind. Bill Kinnon just linked to the comment from SGM Survivors in the next post.

    It really doesn’t sound like a threat to physically harm someone themselves, though. Interesting. Seems like the Mahaney idolaters are grasping at straws.

  57. BeenThereDoneThat wrote:

    Never mind. Bill Kinnon just linked to the comment from SGM Survivors in the next post.

    It really doesn’t sound like a threat to physically harm someone themselves, though. Interesting. Seems like the Mahaney idolaters are grasping at straws.

    What makes the statement so interesting is that it is from someone who was allegedly raped at a prominent Sovereign Grace Ministries member’s home. The Manahey supporters neglect to mention that!

    Deb and Dee have the woman’s story here: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/05/24/the-gospel-coalition-shows-disregard-for-the-pain-of-alleged-rape-victim/.

  58. @ Janey:
    It’s truly sick. Did they really think that people just weren’t going to notice that this was from someone who was raped at 13? I have a feeling they’re going to regret that they drew people’s attention to this.

  59. Patrice wrote:

    For all their alleged manliness, they duck and run at simple FB criticism. They can only stand sturdy when they hear nothing contrary so they erase all criticism from their reality.

    Sounds like a Third World Dictator’s Elite Guard — really great at fighting enemies who cannot fight back.

  60. The same author, Vicki Brown, has also written another recent post:http://abpnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/8529-using-secrecy-to-control#.UaAZtu_D9Mt

    Here is an interesting quote:

    “Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president and task force member, claimed open meetings and records would “rob” history and create a “chilling effect” on other committees. Participants would fear recording meetings if people would have immediate access to the records.”

    Why is Mohler afraid of the people in the pews knowing what goes on in the Great Commission Task Force meetings? What is there to hide?

  61. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Or like a bunch of boys yelling from behind a high-wall enclosure, marching in step on a green lawn, one sunny spring afternoon:

    “Hup two three four
    Christian cadets are we
    And here our wooden swords
    And all our gospelly words
    For God’s best man, Mahaaaneey.
    Abooouuuttt face!
    Hup two three four.”

    Bah.

  62. I missed this one when it was posted. Church discipline is definitely scriptural- see 1 Cor 5.

    But it seems a lot of the stories here (or all of them) do not come close to being what Paul was talking about there.

    My personal take is that we are talking about sins that even non-Christians would see as being evil. That the church shouldn’t be protecting child molesters or those who defraud others. It IS “scandalous” when the church does that, and rightly so.

    When the church fails to discipline child molesters and spouse abusers, it is failing to honor the teaching of 1 Cor 5. Unfortunately, these folks all get a pass while so-called “sins” that don’t even approach the level of sin that 1 Cor 5 is talking about.

  63. Muff Potter wrote:

    They’re having about as much success being winsome as drone strikes are with the Afghani & Yemeni peasantry.

    Muff Potter wrote:

    And judging from the comments on thegospelcoalition.org they aren’t winning hearts and minds.

    They’re having about as much success being winsome as drone strikes are with the Afghani & Yemeni peasantry.

    Winsome drone strikes. I love it. I’ve got to figure out how to use that phrase at work this week.

  64. The silence of “spiritual leaders” and Christians in regard to victims is very complexing but not altogether surprising. It is extremely disturbing that supposed Christian leaders are remaining so silent about the SGM debacle. My husband and I were disciplined out of a Baptist church for a situation that involved very serious bullying against a child. The leadership did not properly deal with the problem, but instead told my husband to “man-up”, and accused us of “playing the victim. We were shocked at the lack of compassion for children being hurt physically and how no serious intervention was made to prevent this from continuing to happen. In fact, the abused was made to look as if they deserved this or somehow brought it upon themselves. An e-mail was sent to the church to address the problem of bullying. It was stated that “tattlers may have a heart issue of self-righteousness or fear”. Also, the following quote from the same e-mail: “It is easy to be judgmental and begin to excuse a bad attitude which displeases Christ by harboring anger toward another child or family that is not responding the way that you believe they should respond. This is a sin that is ultimately more dangerous to your family than the actual bullying. We as pastors are very aware of this snare that can trip up the best of families. Now, every parent assures us that they are the kind of parent that does not take up the side of their child with blind protectiveness. It almost is humorous….but it does mean that we, knowing our vulnerability to be blind to with our own children, have trust that the pastor is speaking to us about our child is doing it from a heart of love and even an eagerness to be fair on behalf of your child.” This very long quote is just a small sampling of rude comments directed our way. We decided to leave the church as their way of “handling” the problem was less than satisfactory. We were told we could not leave because they were the shepherds of our souls. Also, we were told we were being disobedient by not returning to church and that church discipline would be enforced if we did not return and receive counseling for our issues. Sounds very similar to the way SGM handled the little children and their families who were brutally victimized by the “shepherds of their souls”. The leaders of our former church were very worshipful of CJ Mahaney, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John MacArthur, John Piper, etc…. They loved attending Together for the Gospel conferences, Shepherd’s Conference, etc… I am so saddened for the victims of SGM. I pray for them daily that God will heal their wounds and give them peace. I believe God will have a STRONG punishment for “Christian men” who ignore the abuses of little children. Shame on them!!!

  65. Leigh

    I would like to feature this comment as the basis for my argument that church discipline is ill-defined and can be dangerous. I am formulating a post in which several true examples will make my point. I am so sorry for the ordeal that you underwent. 

  66. Yes, you may absolutely use my comment. If you would like to discuss things further please feel free to e-mail me. This happened three years ago, but we are now in a a much better place both spiritually and emotionally. Thank you for your kind comment.

    It took the church nine months to carry out the “discipline”. We were never notified of when it would take place, nor were we informed that it had taken place. The church waited until the week of our child’s birthday to carry out the discipline. Hmmm…makes one wonder if their intentions were entirely pure ;-)

    I discovered your blog shortly after leaving the church while doing some research on spiritual abuse and treatment of children in religios organizations. I have been a silent follower ever since. I HIGHLY respect both you and Deb for exposing men who carelessly toss souls aside and then trample upon them. Bless you both.

  67. Leigh,

    I have a ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying and that includes the actions of these Calvinista leaders. Some of them have been bullying their congregations/followers for years. In recent days they have garnered the attention of some influential individuals outside their movement. Let’s see how tough they are when folks start to challenge them about their protection of Mahaney and SGM.

  68. @ Leigh:
    Bless you for sharing your pain with us. We are merely the paper of the blogosphere. You all write your stories.

  69. Leigh, I’m so sorry to hear of the response you received along with the notice that you were literally “prisoners” of that church. That’s how I perceive that type of discipline threat.

    Thanks for sharing that comment and I’m so happy to read that you have doing better spiritually and emotionally! Blessings to you and your family!

  70. Thank you Dee and Victorious. I appreciate your kind comments :-)

    You’re right Victorious. Discovering that your church feels a certain ownership over your soul and being told you’re not allowed to leave is like discovering you are a prisoner. Fortunately, we were smart enough to stand up to them and say, “No, Jesus is the one and only Shepherd of my soul!”! We walked away in spite of their commands. Of course, we didn’t want to be disciplined out because of the stigma, but so be it. Our child is WAY more important than being worried about what a few men think of us. I will admit, it was very difficult for me to hear that our “sin” was never revealed to the church. They said they were not required to share that because “love covers a multitude of sins”.(I cannot remember the reference) Therefore, our so called sin was pretty much left to the imaginations of the congregants. It makes me sad though to know how many other families are literally afraid to walk away from these control freaks.

    Needless to say, we no longer believe in church membership.

  71. Leigh, I am extremely sorry for what you all endured. This is very typical in my neck of the woods which is ground zero. There is a hard heartedness and callousness in that movement that betrays the Character of God that should manifest itself in some fashion with love and compassion in long time believers who are paid to minister.

    But keep this in mind. What they have effectively done is make you all examples for others. How many people do you think will take situations to them now? There is a method here. And with it attrition will follow until they hvae a base of hard core followers who are more righteous than you vile sinners who could not see the light.

  72. Deb wrote,

    I have a ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying and that includes the actions of these Calvinista leaders. Some of them have been bullying their congregations/followers for years. In recent days they have garnered the attention of some influential individuals outside their movement. Let’s see how tough they are when folks start to challenge them about their protection of Mahaney and SGM.

    I love that part about ZERO TOLERANCE as I feel the same way.

    @ Anon 1, you are spot on…couldn’t agree more.

  73. Gospel Coalition blogger Kevin DeYoung has posted “Should I Start a Grassroots Movement to Change My Church?” which is really a list of things you ought to do if you’re not happy with your church — which is — nothing.

    His bottom line? “What I am saying is that practically you should not spend your life trying to do what has very little chance of success, theologically you should obey and respect your leaders, and spiritually you should not be divisive.”

    • Notice the “No Talk” rule — Point #4
    • Notice the implication that your pastor is “God’s Anointed” and you’d better just be quiet. – Point #7
    • Notice he reminds members of their “vows” of “unity, purity, and peace.”
    • Notice that if you disagree with the “entire history and identity of the church,” (which presumably only his church teaches) it’s best not to try to do anything. – Point #7

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/05/29/should-i-start-a-grassroots-movement-to-change-my-church/

    He’s right about this: You cannot fight him and win. He holds all the power. If you cannot live with that, just use the letter at the top of this post and resign your membership.