"Red flags are moments of hesitation that determine our destination.” ― Mandy Hale link
The two posts today are what I like to call preemptive posts. They help our readers to determine, prospectively, the possible pitfalls inherent in choosing a church and a leadership team. I like to call them red flags. This does not mean that such concerns will ever be fully realized; only that they are within the realm of possibility.
Also if churches and pastors do not like this stuff being discussed, then they might want to reconsider being lights on a hill because we should live our church life in full view of the community and be able to answer tough questions about our church life.
Here at TWW we discuss abuse: all kinds of abuse. We believe that we are one of the few blogs discussing the negative aspects of membership covenants which we like to call legal contracts. However, no church can hold you against your will. You can leave a church and rescind your membership contract.
In a few weeks, Dee is going on her annual family vacation. During that time she has set a goal to bring all of our concerns about membership contracts, church discipline and how to leave a church (aka "getting out of Dodge with your psyche, faith and self respect intact.") under one page heading.
In our previous post, I discussed how the tweets of CityView's Director of Content and Communications which led me to this membership covenant. Now, I would like to point out some red flags that I spotted in this documents.
- Always read the membership contract prior to attending the church for the first time if it is available which this one is-well at least until this post is written.
- Never, ever, ever take these contracts lightly. You are responsible legally for anything that you sign, even if they do not tell you that it is a legal contract. Do not sign or verbally agree with the church membership form unless you have had time to think about it. I am not planning on signing one of these contracts again.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not refer you to Tim Fall's post on CityView's membership contract which he, too, discovered by being included in the Twitter discussion. Tim loves ecclesiology and he does a great job with his post!
What is CityView Church?
CityView is a church plant of The Village Church.
In late 2005, the Village’s elders officially commissioned CityView Church to be a plant out of The Village Church. On Easter Sunday 2006, after months of planning and core group meetings, CityView Church had its first worship service at Freedom Elementary in the Keller ISD.
What are their declared affiliations besides The Village Church?
The Acts29 Network is a diverse, global network of church planting churches. CityView has been an Acts 29 member church since 2006.
IX (9) Marks has been extremely generous and helpful to many young churches, including CityView. Our pastors value their firm commitment to Scripture and scriptural church leadership.
Gender is a redemption issue.
This should not come as a surprise. These guys are hard core complementarians and they tie it to redemption which is a salvation issue.
The totality of Scripture speaks to (and assumes) the importance of one's gender as a part of God's original design – and therefore as a part of His plan for redeeming human beings in the finished work of Christ.
Litigation and a deluge of passive aggressive dude-bros.
With the state of church litigation and the cultural pervasiveness in avoiding healthy conflict (and with special sensitivity towards the deluge of passive-aggressive men in our culture) CityView is committed to clarity and action regarding the Christian practices of rebuke, correction, conflict resolution and reconciliation.
Within 6 words, CityView (hereafter referred to as CV) brings up the word *litigation.* We have warned our readers over and over again that these forms are, first and foremost, legal protection for the church. I did get a bit of a chuckle over the "deluge of passive aggressive men. " I guess women are not passive aggressive? I would love to see some proof of this but no go. Just accept it, dude-bros! I have to wonder if some passive aggressive dude-bros questioned authority and are now memorialized under the discipline section…
Did you know that Jesus needs his reputation protected?
In our desire to protect the reputation of Jesus, His larger Church and our particular local church family (while also seeking to maintain consistency with what we see in the Scriptures regarding conflict and correction), we have developed the following process
Jesus does not need help with His reputation. I think that this statement is more about protecting the reputation of the local church. TWW has been writing about churches which cover up child sex abuse for 6 years. One of the most stated reasons for covering up the abuse is "to protect the church."
My pastor had something to say about this. He said that the moment we start covering up our sins is the moment that we show we do not understand the Gospel and the need for grace. We Christians should be the first to accept the sin in our church and not hide it from a world that sees it. We are only fooling ourselves.
You cannot accuse a pastor of this church without 2-3 witnesses along with a humble and right heart! Waving lots of Red Flags!!
If your conflict or offense is with a pastor, approach them humbly and make sure your heart is right in terms of submitting to leadership prior to the confrontation. Realize that approaching a pastor with an actual accusation requires the 2-3 witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19). If you’re not coming to a pastor with an accusation – but rather, seeking clarification on a matter or to simply expressing a hurt that you assume was unintentional – then you do not require 2-3 witnesses. If you are unsure whether a matter will be considered an accusation, ask a deacon or a pastor that you are not approaching what they would think. ALL accusations/charges against pastors require 2-3 witnesses and should be made with careful consideration.
Note how they stress the 2-3 witnesses twice. Oh yeah, you do not need that when you confront anyone who is not a pastor. Can you imagine the potential for abuse in this one? RED FLAG. They can accuse you one on one with no witnesses. You cannot do the same. Can you imagine the charges of a new pastor-in-waiting. You are a hater. No proof needed….See post immediately prior to this one.
Let me give you a well known example of how this can be misused.
Have you ever heard of Paige Patterson and his rising star Darrell Gilyard?
You should. Here is a synopsis from a TWW post. Go there for all of the links, etc. Also, just in case you are inclined to say "Well, that's just the Baptists," make sure you understand that The Village Church which planted CV is the 10th largest Southern Baptist Church. All the Village people and most likely those at the plant are Baptists.
How many wounded women and girls does it take before Southern Baptist leaders will take a stand?
In Florida, hundreds of pages of documents detail the sexually explicit text messages allegedly sent by pastor Darrell Gilyard to 14 and 15 year-old girls. A news account provides details of the molestation allegations against Gilyard.
So this is the Florida news, but look at the history of this pastor. Why didn't Baptist leaders stop him sooner?
As reported in the Dallas Morning News, Gilyard left Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas in 1987 after about 25 women complained of his “sexual misconduct.” The senior pastor, Rev. E.K. Bailey, “assumed that would be the end of Darrell Gilyard’s bright evangelistic career.” How tragically wrong he was.
At that time, the First Baptist Church of Dallas and Criswell College president Paige Patterson were promoting Gilyard in Southern Baptist churches. He was considered a rising star. Despite the many allegations against Gilyard, First Baptist officials “decided there was not enough evidence” to further investigate Gilyard, and, according to Rev. Bailey, Paige Patterson wrote him “an unkind letter” saying that “he would have come out to my church and solved the problem for me if I had told him first.”
Pay close attention to this next part, especially CV leaders.
"Dr. Patterson said, "I was unwilling to call anyone guilty until I had demonstrable evidence that these allegations were true.' Dr. Patterson said that according to Scriptures, action cannot be taken against a minister accused of adultery unless there are two or more witnesses. He also asked for any other proof, such as photographs, videotapes or laboratory tests."
It is interesting that the document does not mention abuse and reporting to legal authorities. I am sure they must have that somewhere else.
Follow these rules in order to leave CV as a member in good standing.
Therefore, we provide the following to help a departing member to leave in good standing.
Think about this. They have decided that they know what you must do to leave as a member in good standing.You apparently do not have the chops to do this on your own. They are going to decide this for you.
Red Flag: They endorse 9 Marks (mentioned above) which TWW refers to as *The Hotel California of the Calvinista Set.* We have written a number of article about this link, link, and link. This should set you up to evaluate CV's recommendations in light of these stories. Could this happen to you? Do not be naive.
Go only to one of CV's officially approved™ churches
Have you thought what might happen if they don't like the church you plan to attend? Even worse, what if you have a rights of conscience issue like Todd Wilhelm did? He left and refused to give a 9 Marks church the name of his new church because he wanted time to think about it. But he was no longer going to attend a church that pushed CJ Mahaney's books. This is NOT allowed. Be careful here, folks. Read Todd's story.
CityView Members are always welcome to leave for either one of our church plants or another like-minded church plant where there is a called, qualified and competent pastor or an established and qualified plurality of elders.
You cannot leave if there is unconfessed sin which included the catch all phrase *gossip.*
This assumes they are leaving with no unreconciled relationships, unconfessed sins – which includes gossip, defamation and divisive practices. Once a member has made their intentions known through our departing member form and the form is clear of any “red flags”, we will gladly release a withdrawing member of any CityView commitments and consider them departed in good standing.
Read these words: gossip, defamation and divisive practices. Notice how they are undefined. What exactly do they mean? Do you know that churches can define these terms in different ways. Have you ever heard of "sinfully craving answers?" One church used it to discipline members.
Then, in the post immediately prior to this one, a member of CV kept saying we spewed hate without any documentation. Think about it. He doesn't have to do so in this setting. His word alone is enough. I would not be allowed to confront him if he becomes a pastor without 2-3 winesses! Red flags!
You can move away so long as you are in good standing
CityView also recognizes that in an area as transient as the DFW metroplex, people will move in and out as a matter of practice due to jobs, family, etc. Assuming a good record of membership, commitment and relational unity, we will almost always gladly bless anyone that’s moving to be released of their CityView commitments.
They get to define relational unity, commitment, etc. It is not prospectively defined and that should cause you to pause and think about it.
What in tarnation is "leveraging our departing member form?"
Again, we will still go through the process of leveraging our departing-member form.
Leverage means to use one's influence or power used to achieve a desired result. Whoa! Ask-Whose desired result??? Red flag!
CV ties leaving to the Gospel™ and they may pursue a former attendee who does not do it correctly.
This has happened with many churches. Do not think it couldn't happen to you. Suppose one of the new pastors decides that you are a hater because you disagree with him?
Leaving CityView as a way to avoid conflict or avoid a sin-issue is not simply a matter of leaving CityView, but a living, breathing picture of abandoning the Gospel – because that same Gospel has the promise of power in addressing sin and healing damaged relationships. If someone were to leave CityView without addressing a relational conflict or a sin-issue, we could not give our blessing to such a departure until the conflict or sin-issue were settled. In such a situation, an individual or family would NOT be considered departed in good standing. In SOME cases, we might make an attempt to pursue a former member with the intention of seeing that relationships reconciled, sin denounced and God glorified through the unity of Jesus’ church. However, the church is a mission-driven entity. If we perceive the pursuit of former members will detract us from leading our standing-members on mission, we would choose NOT to pursue the former member. At the minimum we hope to have the opportunity to have all former members complete a withdrawing member form.
You cannot leave over secondary issues or, pay close attention, matters of conscience without a clear (no definition)written or verbal explanation with possible follow-up.
Absent of a clear abandonment of the Scriptures or doctrinal purity, leaving CityView due to a disagreement on a secondary matter, matter of conscience or philosophy/approach of ministry (Including personal preferences) without a clear, written or verbal explanation (and possible follow-up) will not be considered a departure in good standing .
Remember, this means they can pursue you to your next church or bad mouth you to the congregation.
Worse, if you do leave like this, it means you are abandoning the Gospel.™
Again, such a departure is actually an abandonment of the Gospel…not simply leaving a church.
Do you know what this means? You may not be regarded as a Christian by this church. PS-Do not forget to turn in your paperwork. I do not know what they will do if you forget that…
They claim they might let you go so you can serve with a clear conscience but you darn well better fill out that form.
If after difficult conversations, challenge and teaching, it still seems clear that there is an unworkable impasse and everyone is relationally good, the CityView pastors will gladly release a member from their obligations on a case by case basis so that they can serve with a clear conscience in another church. Again, we will use our member withdrawal form to help guide us through these types of matters.
Years ago my husband and I walked out of a church that we believe mishandled a pedophile situation. We tried to deal with it but we were put in a position of being the problem, not the pedophile who is serving time in prison or the pastors who did not feel it was necessary to report some early on pedophile like behavior.
I have always had a clear conscience about this decision. I also believe that standing up for abused children in the church is a biblical response. Jesus cared greatly for the children and the poor who were often overlooked by the Pharisees.
You have every legal right to leave your church, form or no form, so long as you resign in a documented fashion. Once that is accomplished, any US church can be sued if they continue to discuss you in public. We have written about this here (tons of info) and will be producing a permanent page of resources to help people escape unbiblical church discipline.
Finally, could anyone get us a copy of the infamous form?
We will hold your identity in strict confidence. We always do that anyway.