Churches Attempting to Force Mediation and Limit Members’ Right to Resign Under Discipline™

“Do you know what your problem is? You can't live with the idea that someone might leave.” ― John Green link

"Last thing I remember, I was  running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
'Relax,' said the night man, 'We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.'" Eagles Hotel California link

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=115755&picture=display-of-prison-bed-in-cell
Prison Bed

Subtitled: Are you ready to sign the Hotel California clause? You can check in but you might not be able to leave.

I am placing my thoughts at both the beginning and the end of this post. I am not a lawyer and do not purport to give any legal advice. Seek out competent legal advice outside of the church/agreement that you are considering. However, I believe my suggestions to our readers are prudent in light of the documentation that follows.

Summary: Unless you have time, money, reputation and energy to burn:

  • Do not prospectively sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that limits your right to leave a church while you are under discipline.
  • Do not sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that mandates mediation instead of seeking legal protection by the courts.
  • Do not sign such an agreement which also mandate mediation by a pre-selected organization.
  • Do not sign any agreement that allows the pastors wide latitude in discussing your confidential conversations with others.

I had a feeling that this day was coming. As TWW has demonstrated, under US law, a church member can rescind their membership in a church simply by writing a letter to the church and documenting that the letter has been received. If a church then continues to publicly (at church meetings, at church events, etc) discuss the former member, that person can sue the church. The United States, unlike other countries whose rules are different, recognize the individual person's right to cease being a member of a church whenever they wish.

In many instances, churches attempt to prevent the leaving of people without their say so. See our recent post on City View Church. This post is nearing 400 comments, most of them decidedly negative towards their policies.

Example one: Rights of conscience: Not a chance  

Authoritarian churches are not inclined to let people leave their church without the *permission* of the leadership. In fact, churches have been known to dream up *discipline* and *unresolved conflicts™* with which to further harass members attempting to leave abusive churches. In one instance, the 9 Marks church in Dubai, UCCD,  refused to remove a former member, Todd Wilhelm, when he quit the church due to a rights of conscience issue. (Todd is the official TWW hero.) That church was pushing CJ Mahaney books which Todd believed was objectionable in light of the SGM child sex abuse scandal. 

The church refused to remove Todd from their stealthily named care™ list because Todd wanted to take his time in joining another church to avoid such a dust up in the future. That was not allowed according to their membership contract.™ When you leave their church, you must go immediately to another 9 Marks™approved church or you are put on the unctuously named care™ list.

The care™ list means that said person is not doing things the way 9Marks insists things need to be done.This list is available to the members of the church and can be discussed in their church meetings.  In other words, Todd was naughty boy and he needed the firm hand of UCCD to make him do things the gospel™ way. Todd had little recourse except constantly calling them since this was in another country and he did not have the same protections that our readers have in the US.

Example two: Pastoral confidentiality: It might not exist.

 Julie Anne Smith wrote an interesting post in which a man confidentially revealed difficult details of his life to his pastor. The pastor, after the man's resignation, then allegedly told members of the congregation the details of this conversation. is this what you respect from pastoral privilege? In fact, some membership contracts have statements that allow the pastors' to gossip consult with one another for gospel™advice.

Always ask the users to define their terms.

It is vital for those who have not heard about incidents like this to understand that, in today's authoritarian churches, one can be disciplined for any old thing the leadership decides. In many instances, discipline is used as a means of revenge, hidden under the "oh-so-biblical-sounding" church discipline. Might I suggest that whenever any term gets throw at you like *church discipline* or *keys of authority* or *grace*-you ask, "What in the world do you mean by that and how do you apply it?" Insist on real examples.

Most churches will not tell you what they will or will not punish because they want leeway. Beware of giving any sort of leeway! Remember- we are all positionally holy but are functionally sinners. That means ALL of us, including your leaders. Never, ever, ever forget this.

What do they mean by church discipline? It is like the judgement day that is coming! (I am not kidding.)

I went to a website that I haven't used before to get a new perspective on church discipline. In case in of our critics say "Here she goes again, going after Calvinistas!" read until the end of the post. The Center for Reformed Theology (CRTA) provided this description of discipline which I found a bit disturbing.

The leaders of the church, fulfilling a commission from God Almighty Himself, solemnly pronounce judgment, as it were as a proleptic enactment of the judgment day itself, but with a glorious, gracious difference: there is still time for repentance! By providing a forum wider than our own private ruminations — which, after all, are prone to be twisted, evasive, and self-deceptive — church discipline affords a chance to be examined and to "make it right" in the sight of God. Thus, we should all view church discipline as a tremendous blessing.

 In the church court, on the other hand, it is a privilege and not a disadvantage to have one's motives cross-examined in the context of getting right with God. Excuses are out of the question. If I am being examined because of fornication, it would be highly appropriate to mention any personal history of a struggle with lust: the more sins that can be straightened out, the better!  (  Ed. note Does anyone remember Andrew's story at Mars Hill?)

A number of practical issues have been left untouched here: for example, the biblical rules of evidence and why these are important; the times when appeal of a judgment is proper; the problem of personal animosities thwarting the true goal of discipline, etc. I have tried to show that church discipline is Biblically required, and like all Biblical requirements once understood, is not only an obligation, but a thing of great beauty.

Now, look carefully at the type of sins they believe they can discipline: any old sin will do.

Having briefly sketched out the grounds for church discipline, we may now examine its scope. The example presented in I Corinthians 5 at first glance would seem to support the commonly held view that church discipline is warranted only in cases involving outbreaks of sin of the most egregious and scandalous sort — "such as is not so much as named among the Gentiles". It is significant, however, that as Paul develops the argument for excommunication, he cites broad categories of overt sin as illustrations of the kind of sin to which this response is warranted (I Cor. 5:11). Already in this list we see instances of offenses in rather surprising categories. In addition to extortion, Paul cites

  • offenses that go far beyond those that people universally recognize as punishably wrong (fornication, drunkenness, idolatry),
  • "victimless" crimes (fornication, idolatry, covetousness; drunkenness?),
  • an offense which is largely inward in its manifestation (covetousness, or greed), and
  • an offense often excused as being either merely "temperamental," or too universal to warrant counter-action by the church (railing, reviling, slandering).

The desultory nature of this list shows that it is hardly meant to be comprehensive. Clearly, any sin persisted in to the point where such sin becomes scandalous to the church warrants the discipline Paul describes.

The misuse of church discipline

This means they could go after you for covetousness, railing, reviling, and the infamous catchall term consistently misused by churches...slander. Ask yourself a question. When you sign your membership contract, are you expecting to be told you are a *reviler?*

We are sitting on a huge story of the despicable misuse of church discipline that we believe will take many by surprise since it involves a well known church with a pastor that is held up as an example of reasonableness. We will be posting it in the near future with an explanation of what took us so long. That story will be the icing on the cake regarding church discipline-complete with proof! 

In 2008, Russell Moore spoke on the subject of church discipline. Of course, he was for it! What I found interesting was the pushback in the comments. Several people said that church discipline was being misused. 

1. That was a very good answer, though I personally cant even imagine it. From the inference the pastor spent some time talking to this person under discipline. I have never seen that actually happen, church discipline had two purposes, getting rid of people who question the leadership, and as retaliation. I have been given the left foot of fellowship one time in my life, it took about 1 minute, which of course is five minutes to long. In that I lost every friend, fellowship in two churches and ten years of service. As completely irrelevant as that is that is basically happen in church discipline.

2. I have been told church discipline is to gain repentance and restoration, I wish that was not said because it is just plain not true. I have been a Christian for 29 years and have never, not one time ever seen it used for that, ever, even with the people wanted restoration, even begged for it, even on their knees. But other then that it sounds good.

3. Also interesting is that from what I have seen over the years, most formal discipline cases (ie, when things get to the point that someone is kicked out of the church), are actually for dissent. One friend of mine in my own fellowship was asked to go recently for just that; basically, for being a troublemaker. In other circumstances, such as adultery, people have moved on /before/ the problem has become apparent to the church leadership.

Enter the Alliance Defending Freedom link

Read their description carefully. It seems wrapped in the flag and apple pie. They just want nice Christian to be able to live out their faith in America. Nothing to see here, right?

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Recognizing the need for a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom, more than 30 prominent Christian leaders launched Alliance Defending Freedom in 1994. Over the past 20 years, this unique legal organization has brought together thousands of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations that work tirelessly to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world.

Who are the leaders of this group?

They seem to be made up for conservative individuals, including Focus on the Family.

What are their goals?

Here is where it gets quite tricky. The following PDF was spotted by @XianAtty online. (Thank you XA!) The title of it is "Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits." So I started scanning the PDF and it seemed to focus on people in business who got sued for discriminating against LGBTQIA individuals and groups. I almost stopped reading because there was nothing new, or so I thought.

I knew Xian Atty and others were discussing the freedom to leave churches on Twitter and referring to this document.( Digression: Numo- this is why I love Twitter. I learn things that show up on this blog.)

Then, I continued to read and suddenly choked on my new favorite drink- Vanilla Coke Zero!  Go to Page 16 in the document. The numbers in parentheses refer to footnotes which are in themselves interesting. (Advice, always read footnotes in legal discussions.)

Why do churches need to change their membership contracts? Because they could get sued if they don't.

4.1.2 Formal Membership Policy: Procedures for Member Discipline

Generally, churches cannot be held legally liable because they discipline church members or terminate their membership.(20) But courts have found exceptions to this rule. The most common exception occurs when church leaders reveal to the congregation the behavior that led to discipline, without having in place church policies that allow them to do so. This can lead to lawsuits against the church for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and so forth.(21)

A church can avoid these types of lawsuits by implementing clear procedures for member discipline and membership termination. If the church believes it may be necessary to reveal to the congregation the reason for church discipline or membership termination, the timing and means by which this can take place should be clearly set forth in the procedure for member discipline. The church should also consult legal counsel before discussing any details related to the discipline and termination. 

Members can leave while under discipline if something isn't done! (Good night-Armageddon is upon us!)

4.1.3 Formal Membership Policy: Disassociating Membership

Just as the church should have a written policy for becoming a member, it should also have written procedures in its bylaws for how and when members can disassociate from the church. Courts have held that church members have a First Amendment right to terminate their membership.(22)

But courts have also held that a member’s right to terminate his or her membership can be waived as long as the waiver is knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.(23) Therefore, the circumstances and timing of when church members may terminate their memberships must be clearly set forth and agreed to by both the church and the member.

Once a member has rescinded her membership, she no longer consents to the church’s doctrine and authority, potentially limiting the church’s legal authority to discipline her. At least one state court has allowed a suit to proceed against the elders of a church who attempted to discipline an individual after she formally withdrew her membership.(24) A formal revocation policy clarifies for all parties involved, including the court, when the membership terminated. 

 This next part is important and I am going to present it in snippets.

Prohibit a person from voluntary leaving while under discipline by putting a clause in the membership policy.

Because at least one court has ruled that members can voluntarily waive their right to terminate their membership, churches should consider including in their membership policy a provision prohibiting the voluntary resignation or withdrawal of membership once the disciplinary process begins 

The member must waive that right to leave while under discipline both voluntarily and intentionally.

Because church members can only waive their right to rescind membership if it is voluntary and intentional, 

Make the members sign an explicit statement about giving up this right.

it is a good idea to have church members sign an explicit statement that they have read and agree to this provision. 

There is a potential out if you sign one of these and get abused. However, that means you must go to court to fight it and there is another little hooker (discussed below) that slows this down and makes it expensive.

If these steps are followed, courts are much less likely to consider a lawsuit against a church for its internal discipline process, unless the church’s conduct was so “extreme and outrageous” that a court finds intruding on its religious liberty justified.(26 )

Fast forward to Page 33

A sample church discipline policy in a membership agreement.

 You must initial next to this following statement.

C. Statement on Church Discipline

The threefold purpose of church discipline is to glorify God by maintaining purity in the local church (1 Cor 5:6), to edify believers by deterring sin and promoting purity (1 Tim 5:20), and to promote the spiritual welfare of the offending believer by calling him or her to return to a biblical standard of doctrine and conduct (Gal 6:1).

The Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted the local church with the authority and responsibility to discipline members for flagrant sin or serious doctrinal error, with the goal of the restoration of the offender. This discipline is entrusted to the Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body] and is to follow the biblical pattern as set forth in Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:7-8; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10-11; and 2 John 7-11. Any member of this church who practices or affirms a doctrine or conduct that, in the judgment of the Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body], is opposed to the teaching of the Word of God, or is threatening to the testimony of this church, or is divisive to the body, shall be subject to church discipline.

Discipline will follow the said biblical pattern, and is an effort to bring the individual to repentance and protect the church from unrepentant sin. Discipline may involve exclusion from participation in ministry and communion, as well as dismissal from the fellowship of this church. An individual be disciplined by the Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body] short of dismissal from the fellowship, as they deem appropriate for the specific circumstance (for example, an individual may remain in certain circumstances a member of this church but be denied the privilege of serving in a particular ministry). The Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body], as is required by Scripture, may report to the congregation the names of those who have lost membership by reason of church discipline, and the reason for that discipline, as described in Matthew 18:15-20. 

The optional clause to be signed: You can't leave during discipline

 [Optional provision] The members of this church further knowingly and voluntarily agree that a member cannot voluntarily withdraw or resign his or her membership in the midst of the discipline process, and may only voluntarily withdraw or resign his or her membership if they are not the subject of a discipline proceeding at the time or only after a disciplinary process, of which they are the subject, has been concluded as determined by the Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body]. 

It gets worse: You must allow mediation. This must be initialed. (Note: This is the hooker mentioned above.)

This means you must go through mediation before you go to court. This is a time consuming process. Worse yet, Peacemakers gets to decide who is your mediator if you don't agree with the church leaders. TWW has written about our concerns on Peacemakers which appear to be tipped in favor of the church leadership. How many of you have the money to fight this sort of thing?

D. Statement on Mediation

Members of the church agree to submit any legal dispute with the church for mediation before a mutually agreed-upon mediator, or if none can be agreed upon, one selected by Peacemaker Ministries. Lawsuits between believers, or threats of lawsuits between believers, are a matter of grave concern for the church, are contrary to biblical and church teaching, and mediation is an effort to resolve disputes in a biblical fashion. (1 Cor 6: 1-7.)

Mediation will be governed by the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation of the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC Rules), unless modified as stipulated by the parties. (Visit: http://www. peacemaker.net/site/c.nuIWL7MOJtE/b.5335917/k.D8A2/Rules_of_Procedure.htm to access the ICC Rules.) In particular, subject to the more detailed provisions of the ICC Rules, mediator(s) will attempt to assist us in reaching a voluntary settlement of any disputes through mediation.

The confidentiality of the mediation process will be protected and these matters will not be discussed with people who do not have a necessary interest in them. If settlement can be agreed upon, the conciliators may, at their discretion, issue an advisory opinion. Neither the opinion, nor any communications exchanged in the mediation process, will be admissible for any purpose in any subsequent legal proceeding. 

Charismatics are going down this road as well.

Now, for those of you breathing a sigh of relief that you are not involved in Reformed ministries, here is an article on this exact subject written in the Enrichment Journal which is a publication of the Assemblies of God.

One of the easiest ways to document that a member has read, understood, and agreed to the church doctrine and practice is to hold church membership classes that explain the church’s vision as well as the requirements for membership. During the class the prospective members should be given a membership manual that includes written copies of the governing documents as well as any other written requirements for church membership, including the conflict resolution and discipline policy for the church.

The membership manual serves as clear evidence that the member received and is aware of the obligations of membership. Opportunity for discussion of the church policies should be given to all prospective members, and any questions should be answered to each member’s satisfaction.

When the membership class concludes, all new members should sign a membership card that includes, among other things, that the member has read the governance documents of the church and agrees to abide by the standards governing church membership. While courts are slow to become involved in church conflicts, the one area of review for the secular court is whether or not a member was aware of the provisions of the church-governing documents and whether those written procedures were followed as written. Membership classes would be strong evidence that a church clearly identified its doctrine and practices to the members of the congregation.

For the purposes of church discipline, at least, it is important to keep a current and accurate roll of active members. The courts have made it clear that only members of a church may be disciplined. Although it is possible for a member to resign from a church, that resignation does not necessarily mean a church is unable to take disciplinary action. If the membership card signed by the member waives the right to resign from the church while under discipline, then the church would be able to continue discipline even if the member attempted to resign — as long as the member had signed the waiver with knowledge of what exactly was being signed.

Jonathan Leeman, a member of Mark Dever's Capitol Hill Baptist Church, the mother-ship of the Hotel California clause, had this to say. You cannot unilaterally decide to leave a church. You are trapped. We know that 9 Marks is not big on the rights of conscience because of Todd's situation.

Yet this doesn’t mean that a church can simply reject a person’s resignation regardless of what they’ve been teaching, what they communicate to new members regarding church discipline, and what their official documents say regarding church discipline. In order for a church to legally protect itself in such matters, it must clearly teach these things to incoming members. It must also clearly describe the church’s practice of discipline in its governing documents. In both of these ways, churches need to be clear that an individual does not have the unilateral ability to resign his or her church membership. 

What do lawyers say? Is this stuff enforceable?

I ran this by one lawyer who had this to say. This cannot be construed to be legal advice since you cannot be sure that the lawyer isn't my pug dog, Tulip, or the Pizza Hut guy.

(1).  That depends on the jurisdiction.  Some states would not allow a "we agree not to leave if under discipline" agreement and others would,  with some variation as to duration, etc. 


(2) Similarly a mediation clause may be enforceable and arbitration clauses are almost always enforceable due to federal law. 

However, a requirement to use a specific out of the area mediator or arbitrator can be a different issue, depending on whether the burden on the person is onerous or not.  There are mediators in most counties in the U.S. and a mediator by law or rule is required to be a neutral.  In addition, no one has to agree to the outcome of a mediation and professional mediator is mandated to secrecy and no one is supposed to talk about anything that occurs in mediation unless an agreement is reached and they agree as to what can be public.

I asked Law Prof (who could be Petunia, the pug for all you know)if this could be a way to set legal precedent on the matter since we know some churches have money to burn. See Steven Furtick's house! Wowza!

Sure, everyone loves a test case that could potentially establish a principle they favor as precedent. The problem is it’s nigh impossible to imagine such a precedent as that salivated over by the Hotel California Neverending Church Membership set being established in any court, the notion is so reprehensible and so inconsistent with the body of common law in the U.S., I just think their argument is a laughable dead bang loser. 

And to establish legit precedent, you’d have to have a number of federal circuits signing onto the notion, or, of course, the U.S. Supct. Fat chance of that happening, it’ll happen around the same time the 1964 CRA is repealed.

Law Prof (or Lily the pug) supplied this comment.

Many legal documents are written with risk management in mind rather than accurate legal principles. And they have the practical effect of dissuading many from doing what they have the perfect legal right to do because people assume if it sounds legal and scary, best just not to mess with it. They have no clue the level of bluff and bluster that passes for law (except in a courtroom before a judge, when lawyers generally know their horse manure arguments are going to be scoffed at by the one in the robe). 

I read excerpts of the Speak Up Movement church protection document cited above, and I read over the state court case referred to in footnote 12 of that document twice. It’s a laughable argument that the Guinn case stands for the notion that all a church has to do is construct a really clear waiver and voila! they have a church covenant that can prevent a parishioner from leaving. That language in the decision is pure dictum, meaning it has no precedential value whatsoever, even in the State of Oklahoma from whence it came. As a point of fact, the Guinn case cited in that document establishes that if church elders try to discipline you and reveal your personal sins after you’ve given notice to leave the church, that they can flat have their butts sued off. This is essentially what D&D have been saying all along. 

The little aside that the writers of the unfortunate document latch onto, where the writer of the appellate court opinion said words to the effect of there needing to be a darned clear waiver before any church could try to tie someone down against there will should not be read as a statement that the would ever find any waiver, no matter how explicit, sufficient to accomplish this. It’s dictum, just something said as an aside, not in any way essential to the decision made by the court, more accurately obiter dictum, essentially worthless stuff. A 1L law student learns this in the first semester.

The way you can tell someone doesn’t have jack squat supporting their proposition is when the only authority cited is 26 year old dictum from a state court case in Oklahoma.

So, I am back to my original statement. Remember I am not a lawyer, merely a daughter of Stan (sic) and a minion of Satin(sic).

 Unless you have time, money, reputation and energy to burn:

  1. Do not prospectively sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that limits your right to leave a church while you are under discipline.
  2. Do not sign any clause, contract, covenant or membership agreement that mandates mediation instead of seeking legal protection by the courts.
  3. Do not sign such an agreement which also mandate mediation by a preselected organization.
  4. Do not sign any agreement that allows the pastors wide latitude in discussing your confidential conversations with others.

I do not intend to ever sign one of these agreements. If I do, will someone call my husband? He'll stop me for sure. However, if you think it is a great idea, I am dying to hear why!

Wacky Christian Weirdness Fact of the Day (I need to do this more often.) Remember- one of the guys who believed this could be disciplining you!
From Wikipedia:

The metaphorical character of the story related in the lyrics has inspired a number of conjectural interpretations by listeners. In the 1980s some Christian evangelists alleged that "Hotel California" referred to a San Francisco hotel that was purchased by Anton LaVey and converted into a Church of Satan.

 

Comments

Churches Attempting to Force Mediation and Limit Members’ Right to Resign Under Discipline™ — 415 Comments

  1. I laughed about the lack of advertising link or TM for your drink, then sobered up realizing Coke is less likely to sue you for blogging about them than several churches. What’s wrong with this picture. (That’s rhetorical, hence no question mark.)
    I’ve been waiting for this post all day. Sounds about as expected. Terrible. Thanks for writing though. Necessary.

  2. Dear “Satin” (sic),

    Great job on the article and your research,Dee! Thank you so much. At my former church (the one that does the excommunications and shunnings for any kind of dissent), they wouldn’t even permit members in good standing to leave without having an “exit interview” with two elders!

    Love and hugs,

    “Velour”

  3. dee wrote:

    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    God?? Is that you? You are always first in my life!

    No – it was just me. An easy mistake to make – I’m just so ******* holy it’s amazing more people don’t buy my books.

  4. The last bit was informative–Thanks Law Prof/Lily/Dee’s Vanilla Choke Dreams!–I’ve wondered what they could actually do to you, if one were to, for poops and giggles, sign a covenant and then find a way to get disciplined and leave in the middle of it. It sounds all scary and law-voodoo-y, but where’s the actual teeth? What’s the worst case scenario, in other words. I’m certainly looking forward to the story y’all have coming down the pipe.

    Of course, even if there is no real teeth to these things, the fact that churches would try to grow some incisors and keep their church members in line with it is certainly enough to dissuade me from touching them with a 10-ft pole, but still. Some will look at this and say, who cares, they have good doctrine, I’m still joining – as long as I’m being a good gospelly Christian I’ll never run into an issue. What’s the big deal, if I’m living right, hayman?

  5. dee wrote:

    Coke is the real thing unlike the gospel™ boys.

    Not if you live in the birthplace of Dr. Pepper.

  6. GovPappy wrote:

    Of course, even if there is no real teeth to these things, the fact that churches would try to grow some incisors and keep their church members in line with it is certainly enough to dissuade me from touching them with a 10-ft pole, but still.

    I think it’s time I skimmed through the 136 page covenant from my former cult that I signed and initialed. I’m afraid of what I’ll find now that I know what to look for.

  7. Any member of this church who practices or affirms a doctrine or conduct that, in the judgment of the Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body], is opposed to the teaching of the Word of God, or is threatening to the testimony of this church, or is divisive to the body, shall be subject to church discipline.

    Here’s a question for the attorneys or the pugs: How can I sign a waiver if the determination of what is “threatening to the testimony of the church” or “is divisive to the body” is not specified and is left up to the “judgment of the Pastoral Staff” which cannot be questioned because they could construe that questioning as “threatening to the testimony of the church” and no doubt “divisive to the body?” How could I possibly know what I was waiving?

  8. Michaela wrote:

    At my former church (the one that does the excommunications and shunnings for any kind of dissent), they wouldn’t even permit members in good standing to leave without having an “exit interview” with two elders!

    On a tangent, at my last place of employment (Prudential UK, who were actually not at all bad as employers go), they also do the “exit interview” thing. Which is much more understandable for a commercial employer than for a church, unless said church is a business. Oh… wait…

    Anyway, long story short; I’m currently unemployed, but that’s not the whole story. Slightly bigger picture is that I’m attempting to solve the problem of unemployment for myself and others, and if I can do that, then I’ll have a Ministry which I’ll have proven by testing it on myself. I didn’t know this when I resigned from Pru 8 years ago; I just felt that it was the next stage in my life and that God was calling us (me and Lesley) onto new things.

    Whilst trying to put that into meaningful everyday English in my exit interview, my then manager and I reached the “next employer” section. I observed, “Hmm… we can’t really put ‘God’ for that…”. To which he replied, “Aye, we can!”

    So, according to my exit interview record at Prudential, I work for God.

  9. BeenThereDoneThat wrote:

    I think it’s time I skimmed through the 136 page covenant from my former cult that I signed and initialed. I’m afraid of what I’ll find now that I know what to look for.

    136 pages? They probably told you how to butter your toast and which kind of jam you were supposed to use!

  10. GovPappy wrote:

    @ BeenThereDoneThat:
    Good Godzilla man. Did it start with “In the beginning, God….”?

    Well, there’s enough proof-texted scriptures that “In the beginning” might be in here somewhere.

  11. Michaela wrote:

    136 pages? They probably told you how to butter your toast and which kind of jam you were supposed to use!

    You’ve seen it then?

  12. @ Gram3:

    “Any member of this church who practices or affirms a doctrine or conduct that, in the judgment of the Pastoral Staff [Board or similar body], is opposed to the teaching of the Word of God, or is threatening to the testimony of this church, or is divisive to the body, shall be subject to church discipline.”

    That is the section that stood out to me as the section that says, “The elders (governing body) can do anything we darn well please.”

    To which I say, “NO THANK YOU!”

  13. It looks as though being a part of a local brick and mortar church is being made much too complicated.

    Lots of these church guys claim to be upset over the “nones” and “dones” but stuff like this sure won’t attract people.

    Why don’t these types of churches just build dungeons with chains and shackles on their premises and be done with it?

  14. I’ve always been the kinda gal to ask, “why.” And often, “why” of the “whys.”
    Why do these contracts exist? I mean, why are churches requiring these for membership nowadays? Because either growing up in the FUMC sheltered me from this nonsense, or it’s quite the new phenomenon.
    Deep down, why? Is it really all about control? Nothing more? What are they really afraid of losing, above and beyond bodies and tithes? (Although as I understand it, a large percentage of church goers struggle to give even close to 10%…but maybe that’s often a guilt trip used on the congregation to up the ante)
    I really want to know.

  15. @ Bridget:
    To reapeat my comment of a couple dis ago, the ADF has this Perfect Protestant Popes Provision:
    “It is impossible to anticipate every doctrinal dispute that a church could encounter. Thus, churches should include a statement in the bylaws that its governing body (e.g. elder board, executive committee, etc.) is the church’s sole authoritative interpreter of Scripture. This will allow the governing body to issue an interpretation of Scripture whenever a dispute arises that cannot be questioned by courts.”

  16. Melissa wrote:

    I’ve always been the kinda gal to ask, “why.” And often, “why” of the “whys.”
    Why do these contracts exist? I mean, why are churches requiring these for membership nowadays? Because either growing up in the FUMC sheltered me from this nonsense, or it’s quite the new phenomenon.
    Deep down, why? Is it really all about control? Nothing more? What are they really afraid of losing, above and beyond bodies and tithes? (Although as I understand it, a large percentage of church goers struggle to give even close to 10%…but maybe that’s often a guilt trip used on the congregation to up the ante)
    I really want to know.

    I understand the desire to dissuade goofball lawsuits by passersby or passers-through, but why not just say it? Stop trying to pretend it’s good and godly and gospelly and biblical discipliny.

  17. GovPappy wrote:

    I understand the desire to dissuade goofball lawsuits by passersby or passers-through, but why not just say it? Stop trying to pretend it’s good and godly and gospelly and biblical discipliny.

    According to lawyers who research the subject, the No. 1 reason that churches get sued is: child sexual abuse.

    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/

  18. The thing that’s really concerning to me is the next generation.

    Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the churches/men pushing and adopting these guidelines are good and godly and would never twist or abuse these things for their own ends (bear with me now). I’m sure some would staunchly defend their church/favorite pastor/etc and say this is just about preventing the outsiders from creating a frivolous lawsuit out of thin air just to tear a church down, you just don’t understand today’s sue-happy culture, etc. I mean, i can’t help but think at least some of the churches adopting these things are for innocent reasons of that nature. Again, if you’re doing right, what do you have to be afraid of in the church, the house of God?

    What would you respond to that?

    Not everyone shares my (our) distrust of church leadership – not everyone has been burned twice (almost 3 times). To some, church abuse is an “out there in the world in those crazy Jim Jones cults” sort of thing that would never happen at my SBC establishment!

    My concern is for the next generation of pastors and church leaders – the ones sitting at the feet of the current batch and drinking up every word. The tendency for some is always going to be to take things further, to be more radical than their teachers. That’s scary to me.

  19. Michaela wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

    I understand the desire to dissuade goofball lawsuits by passersby or passers-through, but why not just say it? Stop trying to pretend it’s good and godly and gospelly and biblical discipliny.

    According to lawyers who research the subject, the No. 1 reason that churches get sued is: child sexual abuse.

    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/

    Well that’s telling – where in that website does it go into that?

  20. @ Daisy:

    Daisy, I’m with you. If I ever join a church again, it won’t be some off-the-cuff evangelical outfit with reams of paperwork to sign. I have such a different notion of church community and membership from my youth…

  21. GovPappy wrote:

    My concern is for the next generation of pastors and church leaders – the ones sitting at the feet of the current batch and drinking up every word. The tendency for some is always going to be to take things further, to be more radical than their teachers. That’s scary to me.

    That’s a concern of mine as well. What are these young seminarians learning? Is this topic of membership contracts being encouraged, pushed in seminary? A way to become more radical and relevant?

    I keep thinking, though, “no new thing under the sun…”

  22. @ GovPappy:
    And I’ve already run into this with a friend – “I don’t really see what the big deal is”. This is no idle musing on my part.

  23. GovPappy wrote:

    Michaela wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

    I understand the desire to dissuade goofball lawsuits by passersby or passers-through, but why not just say it? Stop trying to pretend it’s good and godly and gospelly and biblical discipliny.

    According to lawyers who research the subject, the No. 1 reason that churches get sued is: child sexual abuse.

    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/

    Well that’s telling – where in that website does it go into that?

    GovPappy wrote:

    Michaela wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

    I understand the desire to dissuade goofball lawsuits by passersby or passers-through, but why not just say it? Stop trying to pretend it’s good and godly and gospelly and biblical discipliny.

    According to lawyers who research the subject, the No. 1 reason that churches get sued is: child sexual abuse.

    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/

    Well that’s telling – where in that website does it go into that?

    The Church Law & Tax website is a bit tricky to navigate. Here’s one partial article http://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2013/november/child-sex-abuse-is-still-top-reason-your-church-could-go-to.html The entire thing used to be posted.
    Now it’s only available to those who are paid subscribers.

  24. Bridget wrote:

    @ Michaela:

    It doesn’t seem to occur to churches that are getting sued that maybe they should be getting sued?!

    You got that right, Bridget. But then these are the same churches that ardently defend child sexual predators in their midst (including doing same in court), attack child sexual abuse victims, and order that the victims and their families be shunned.

  25. What a horrific perversion of Jesus’ preaching! I see little difference between living under this unholy ‘covenant’ and Maoist China. It’s nothing more than an exercise of totalitarian power and control with not even a hint of love. I’m calling BS.

  26. Regarding being required to do mediation, there is an account of a Peacemakers mediation nightmare by Persistent Widow at Cry For Justice. This is from part 5:

    I will be paying for this debt for a long time on a credit card….

    I explained that the nearly $3000 was excessive and financially burdened my family at an already difficult time.

    http://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/02/13/i-wish-i-knew-this-about-peacemakers-before-i-went-part-5-of-persistent-widows-story/

    The ~ $3000 she was expected to pay was the cost for the Peacemakers mediation demanded by her pastor.

    Further, from part 2:

    Because my husband was laid off for so long and now an apprentice truck driver, I did not have the $2800 for mediation, so the pastor said that if I paid the first $1035, the church would pay the rest. I reaffirmed our agreement by asking him twice if this was all that I would have to pay and he agreed.

    http://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/02/04/the-nightmare-of-peacemakers-counseling-for-domestic-abuse/

    The whole 6 part series is worth reading.

  27. GovPappy wrote:

    Michaela wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

    I understand the desire to dissuade goofball lawsuits by passersby or passers-through, but why not just say it? Stop trying to pretend it’s good and godly and gospelly and biblical discipliny.

    According to lawyers who research the subject, the No. 1 reason that churches get sued is: child sexual abuse.

    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/

    Well that’s telling – where in that website does it go into that?

    Here is a Church Law And Tax graph showing that child sexual abuse is the No. 1 reason every year that churches get sued:
    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2014/july/top-5-reasons-churches-end-up-in-court.html

  28. Understand the following (from a former pastor and church elder- but not a lawyer)

    1) Churches use these covenants to protect themselves from lawsuits. No.Other.Reason.
    2) Signed agreements are legally enforceable unless you are agreeing to something illegal.
    3) Churches want to protect themselves from being sued over church discipline because they intend to engage in church discipline. Ergo, if they are sued, instead of being defrauded and letting the other party have what they wish, they are going to engage in a court battle to protect themselves. Think about that…do you really want to join a church that is basically saying: I will kick little YOU out of the church if you get out of line from what the Bible teaches (according to me), but if BIG me and my church are threatened, forget about what the Bible says.

  29. roebuck wrote:

    Daisy, I’m with you. If I ever join a church again, it won’t be some off-the-cuff evangelical outfit with reams of paperwork to sign. I have such a different notion of church community and membership from my youth…

    Yep. I don’t like anal retentive, control freak, paper pushing types who are overly fond of long lists of rules. So I doubt I’d ever join this type of church.

    Due to my extremely introverted nature and couch potato, home body preference, I’d not be suckered into one of those church-cults highlighted on previous threads (the ones that insist you show up to their church 546 times a week, go to Bible study 45 times a week, and join the church softball team). Not gonna happen. I’ll be sitting on my comfy sofa sipping diet soda watching re-runs on Food Network. 🙂

    Funny (to me anyhow) that being a couch surfing introvert would keep me safe from the church-cults.

  30. srs wrote:

    They ever discipline for gluttony?

    I can’t speak for all denominations, but Southern Baptists are fond of weekly pot lucks, consisting of chocolate cake, fried cat fish, and fried chicken. A lot of Baptist preachers are quite tubby.

  31. @ Bridget:
    I haven’t clicked his link, but I assume he’s referring to the recent Driscoll speech he gave about the topic of forgiveness at some big church, where Driscoll went on and on about how important forgiveness is, and how he’s going to forgive all the people who were mean to him and who threw rocks into his backyard. Because you know Driscoll is the victim and was never, ever the bully to anyone.

  32. @GovPappy,

    I have some more links you requested, about the No. 1 reason that churches get sued (child sexual abuse), that are waiting in moderation right now.

  33. I’m not nearly as cute as the average pug dog, though I do sometimes slobber and have a wet nose.

    One thing in which I agree whole heartedly with the other attorney you cited is that you can absolutely, positively waive your rights to go straight to court in the event of a dispute. Mediation and arbitration clauses are generally going to be enforceable absent extraordinary circumstances.

    So while I scoffed big time at (and am still scoffing) at the enforceability of the Jean-Paul Satre “No Exit” Church Clause, it’s absolutely true that people can waive their rights to go to court and be forced into mediation or binding arb, and generally, with an arbitration, once you sign you will be stuck even if you didn’t read the arb provision in question.

  34. Am I the only one who came away from this thinking, Huh. They are making stuff up and taking away individual rights in order to make sure they can keep gays out of church? That is sure what it sounded like to me.

    On a related note, if you do want to leave a church and it practices manipulative and unchristian membership practices (I speak from experience),  just leave.

  35. GovPappy wrote:

    The last bit was informative–Thanks Law Prof/Lily/Dee’s Vanilla Choke Dreams!–I’ve wondered what they could actually do to you, if one were to, for poops and giggles, sign a covenant and then find a way to get disciplined and leave in the middle of it. It sounds all scary and law-voodoo-y, but where’s the actual teeth? What’s the worst case scenario, in other words. I’m certainly looking forward to the story y’all have coming down the pipe.
    Of course, even if there is no real teeth to these things, the fact that churches would try to grow some incisors and keep their church members in line with it is certainly enough to dissuade me from touching them with a 10-ft pole, but still. Some will look at this and say, who cares, they have good doctrine, I’m still joining – as long as I’m being a good gospelly Christian I’ll never run into an issue. What’s the big deal, if I’m living right, hayman?

    The teeth were in the Guinn case (that was disingenuously cited as precedent by the attorney author of the ADF document): what appears to be a small, authoritarian cult sought to discipline a member for alleged fornication with a non-church member. The member was stalked by elders, confronted and told they were going to broadcast her sin to the congregation. She told them “I resign, I’m out of here, you keep your mouths shut”, they responded to the effect of “You can check out any time you like, but…” and proceeded to tell all in front of the congregation. This was one of those dinky towns where everyone knows everyone, so upon the elders doing that, her reputation was forever shot. The Scarlet Letter. That’s what can happen. Thankfully the state court of appeals upheld her right to recover from the church and elders for broadcasting her sins after she gave notice of resignation, but of course, her reputation was already damaged in this little town. So there are teeth, no one likes to be smeared.

  36. @ Gram3:
    It is the waiver that must be signed “knowingly”. You are knowingly waiving certain rights. But anything within the scope of the church statement of what matters can result in discipline can be very loose and you would have acquiesced to their interpretation of it.

    The law on waivers is generally that you know what you are waiving, not anything else. So in this instance, you are waiving the right to leave, not the subject matter of discipline which is covered by your signature on the document since it is not being waived.

  37. Thanks for the blog dee I did contact some folks for help.

    On to the article, be careful folks what you sign, I read some membership contracts covenants what ever they are called. There is some seven pages of what can get you booted, nothing about pastoral responsibility and accountability. Not a good sign.

  38. The general rule is you can waive your Seventh Amendment rights to a civil trial even without reading the arbitration provision. You sign the document, you’re probably going to be stuck with arbitration. I and co-counsel for a defendant in a breach of contract suit got summary judgment in a case some years back when we discovered the original contract had a binding arb clause. I don’t know if either party had actually read it when originally signed. Just a boilerplate thing to my knowledge, but no mind, we still got the case tossed out on those grounds.

    But I’m still asking someone to cite me a good case for the proposition that one can waive their rights to leave a church, job, club, etc. I have yet to see that one, and Guinn certainly isn’t it.

  39. Ugh. Talks of a “membership class” are currently circulating in my church, and if that class is indeed a gateway to a covenant that they want members to sign, I’ll most certainly be hunting for a new church. I like the people there, but not THAT much that I’d agree to basically sign my rights away and become a prisoner of the church.

  40. I’m so glad to see TWW exposing these contracts…not because I believe that they have any chance of being upheld in court (rights of free association and all that) but because they reveal so clearly that a church that uses them has leaders who are either (a) astonishingly arrogant, or (b) inexcusably ignorant, or (c) both.

  41. In Dee’s summary she provided four bullet points beginning do not sign….. Can this be just shortened to a single bullet point: Do not sign. ? This is not a rhetorical question.

    Is there a reasonable reason I should ever sign a membership agreement, typically one sided, to join a church? Outside of all the bad reasons, I can’t come up with a significantly important positive reason for requiring a signature that outweighs all the bad reasons that have been articulated here.

  42. rike wrote:

    a church that uses them has leaders who are either (a) astonishingly arrogant, or (b) inexcusably ignorant, or (c) both

    I’m leaning towards (b). Until recently I was totally in the dark myself. Even before I would likely not have signed one but now I bristle at them.

  43. srs wrote:

    They ever discipline for gluttony?

    Nope, stuff of a sekshul nature however, is the absolute worst in these circles. Your hash is settled, your goose is cooked*. Never ever get caught with yer drawers down!

    *This can vary depending upon who you are, but as a general principle, little people are treated harshly.

  44. Daisy wrote:

    Why don’t these types of churches just build dungeons with chains and shackles on their premises and be done with it?

    Please don’t give them any ideas.

  45. AnonInNC wrote:

    Ugh. Talks of a “membership class” are currently circulating in my church, and if that class is indeed a gateway to a covenant that they want members to sign, I’ll most certainly be hunting for a new church. I like the people there, but not THAT much that I’d agree to basically sign my rights away and become a prisoner of the church.

    Last church I tried out for 6 months or so had one of those membership classes. Elders kept asking us if we had considered joining, etc. I wanted to attend and watch awhile – see what the church was about, having been a part of 2 awful churches already. Guess they weren’t into patience and prudence. Now I’d love to get my hands on their membership covenant, because I’m sure they had one.

    Indicative: One of the elders asked me my name, then proceeded to ask if I had considered membership. Just think about that for a second. How backwards is that? You barely know who I am, what I’m about, why I’m here, but you’re pushing membership?

    No wonder you need darned covenants to prevent lawsuits – you’re not getting to know your own people! You don’t really know the people you’re signing up!

    How did we get this far??

  46. Bill M wrote:

    rike wrote:
    a church that uses them has leaders who are either (a) astonishingly arrogant, or (b) inexcusably ignorant, or (c) both

    I’m leaning towards (b). Until recently I was totally in the dark myself. Even before I would likely not have signed one but now I bristle at them.

    While most church goers are ignorant about the perils and abuses of membership covenants, I think most of the church leaders who espouse them are arrogant, controlling and abusive.

    The pastors/elders usually believe in patriarchy/submission/blind authority over their wives (and children) and that comes out in the tyranny over church members, including good and godly men.

  47. @ Michaela:
    I recall Dee had a similar response the last time I gave a soft answer. My take is few think things through and instead take their lead from their trusted sources, this includes elders.

    In the case I’m currently dealing with the elders are not on the church payroll and seem reasonable. I’m very curious if my objections will be considered. I just don’t wish to prejudge and burst through the doors guns blazing.

    I need to get out on a trail somewhere. There is little snow out west, and the alpine areas are almost clear of snow. Unfortunately rain is forecast this week.

  48. Bill M wrote:

    @ Michaela:
    I recall Dee had a similar response the last time I gave a soft answer. My take is few think things through and instead take their lead from their trusted sources, this includes elders.

    In the case I’m currently dealing with the elders are not on the church payroll and seem reasonable. I’m very curious if my objections will be considered.

    @Bill M,

    We all have different ways of handling things. But in my view, if the church’s leaders “seem reasonable” then they wouldn’t even have a church covenant. I have lived through its abuses at my last church:

    *a good and godly doctor, married to his wife for 40+ years, loving marriage, loving dad to his grown children was ordered to be excommunicated and shunned for questioning the pastors/elders about how they were leading the church

    *other good and godly (primarily) men (including men in their late 20s and early 30s) were likewise threatened and driven out of the church for asking solid Biblical questions

    *a godly Christian brother, older and from East Asia, who had been attending the church for six years was told by the pastors/elders that he was not permitted to attend the church anymore and that God ‘obviously hadn’t called him’ to be a part of that church because he didn’t believe in membership covenants and declined to sign

    *I was ordered to be excommunicated and shunned — for discovering that a new church member was a Megan’s List sex offender while I was doing research for a prosecutor about other sex offenders. The pastors/elders defended him, put him in positions of trust and authority, didn’t tell parents and members about him, and said he was ‘coming off Megan’s List’. His supervising law enforcement agency and the California Attorney General’s Office called that ‘all lies’.

    I’ve tracked down so many people that were harmed by that former church and apologized to them. They said I was the only person from that church to ever contact them and to ever apologize for how badly they were treated there. I said I always knew it was wrong. A few more folks have just come to mind. I need to find them and apologize to them too.

  49. My advice: if they so much as talk about “church discipline” or a church membership “covenant” – run!

    Or, as the doctor says (northern accent): “Run, run for your life! (BTW, I’m the doctor.)”

    The mere fact that they call it a covenant instead of a contract shows that they’re out to deceive you. “Covenant” has a nice “churchy” feel, we know that the old covenant and the new covenant between God and men are for our salvation, therefore a covenant must be a good thing, yes?

    As the Deebs have written numerous times – just because they call it a covenant doesn’t mean it’s not a contract. Only that most people would be a lot more wary and compelled to do due diligence and ask a lawyer before signing something that says “contract” on the first page.

  50. Melissa wrote:

    I’ve always been the kinda gal to ask, “why.” And often, “why” of the “whys.” Why do these contracts exist? I mean, why are churches requiring these for membership nowadays? Is it really all about control? Nothing more? What are they really afraid of losing, above and beyond bodies and tithes? I really want to know.

    I can speak from first-hand knowledge here.

    They think this is the way to fix American Christianity.

    In their POV, evangelicalism is awash with “cheap grace”, the membership rolls are filled with non-attenders and “twice-a-years”, and the pews are full of nominal Christians. IOW, American Christianity is too easy, and that explains the mess we are in as a church and as a country. What is needed to counter this is, of course, more discipline.

    This does have an attraction to some folks…

  51. Bill M wrote:

    Is there a reasonable reason I should ever sign a membership agreement, typically one sided, to join a church? Outside of all the bad reasons, I can’t come up with a significantly important positive reason for requiring a signature that outweighs all the bad reasons that have been articulated here.

    I wholeheartedly agree! Caveat emptor.

  52. GovPappy wrote:

    My concern is for the next generation of pastors and church leaders – the ones sitting at the feet of the current batch and drinking up every word. The tendency for some is always going to be to take things further, to be more radical than their teachers. That’s scary to me.

    I don’t blame you, Pappy. C.S. Lewis seemed to agree.

    “It is always the novice who exaggerates. The man who has risen in society is over-refined, the young scholar is pedantic.” — “The Screwtape Letters”, #24

    I’ve mentioned my own concerns on Julie Anne’s blog re: devotees of John Piper. From his harmful and ignorant teachings in marital relations, to his utterly nonsensical tweets, I fear for those who seem to think he’s the Wisest Man on Earth. And if some graduates are indeed promoted to the position of “pastor” fresh out of seminary, they could very well end up letting it get to their heads.

  53. “We are sitting on a huge story of the despicable misuse of church discipline…”

    Have you guys looked into RC Sproul Jr? I know the story is old. Very old by internet years but it is a text book example of the high handedness of authoritarian churches. It’s got an interesting twist to it as well.

  54. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    Exit interviews were started in the US (I do not know about your country) in order to see if an employee had a grudge on the way out the door that could come back to bite the employer.

    Nowadays, most employers will not say anything about an ex-employee other than “she worked here from this date until that date” to decrease their liability. Bad mouthing an employee lead to lawsuits that had a legal term that I have forgotten but it meant “Burger King is bad mouthing me and I can’t earn a living.”

    Please let us know more about your ministry. It sounds fascinating. One of the best thing one can do for people is to help them out when they are out of a job.

  55. BeenThereDoneThat wrote:

    We do have all three LOTR movies.

    Well then, mom, enjoy your weekend. Get taken to dinner, have the family do the chores and you sit in front of the screen with popcorn, made by others for you, and lose yourself in the story.

    The story always makes me cry. The fellowship of those who travel through danger together is beautiful. It is what our Christian walk is supposed to be.

  56. GovPappy wrote:

    I’m sure believing evolution is plausible grounds for severe church discipline.

    They probably will declare you a heretic and remove you from fellowship.

  57. Bridget wrote:

    That is the section that stood out to me as the section that says, “The elders (governing body) can do anything we darn well please.”

    Now that sums it up!

  58. Several thoughts come to mind: Why would any organization want to hang on to someone who no longer believes in the mission? As adults, why aren’t we free to say, I no longer agree with your teachings and am moving on to ABC? How exactly are they going to discipline a person? In a city, I would think it’s pretty ez to just move on and have nothing to do with the church. I can see that in a small town they could destroy your reputation and business but really? For the people foolish enough to sign one of these things – sorry. For those intimidated by one of these things – Really?

  59. Melissa wrote:

    Deep down, why? Is it really all about control? Nothing more? What are they really afraid of losing, above and beyond bodies and tithes

    Only 4% of church goers tithe. Some of those are like us. They give money to Christians orrganizations which they trust. When it comes to the local church we have some thoughts:
    1. We give enough money to pay for our seat, heating and air-conditioning.
    2. If we cannot find out the pastor’s salary, we deduct for that.
    3. New fog machines and canned stage decorations-deductions
    One church had a stage decoration that looked like the Crystalline Entity from Star Trek. “Sir, I know Star Trek and I can tell you that you are no Gene Roddenberry.” That got a double deduction.
    4. Fancy new building-deduction
    5. Too many talks on authority-deduction.
    6. Quoting CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll-deduction
    7. Planting churches in high income areas already flooded with churches-deduction

    I could go on and on. Then , we use the money we deducted to give to outside ministries, missionaries, etc.

  60. srs wrote:

    They ever discipline for gluttony?

    I wonder if they use a church credit card to go out for steak dinners like was alleged at Mars hill? Gluttony is cool so long as its on someone else’s dime.

  61. Michaela wrote:

    According to lawyers who research the subject, the No. 1 reason that churches get sued is: child sexual abuse.

    Too bad that wasn’t mentioned in the discipline section.

  62. GovPappy wrote:

    assume, for the sake of argument, that the churches/men pushing and adopting these guidelines are good and godly and would never twist or abuse these things for their own ends (bear with me now).

    I am barely hanging on for dear life but since its you, I will.

    GovPappy wrote:

    Again, if you’re doing right, what do you have to be afraid of in the church, the house of God?
    What would you respond to that?

    Here is my answer. If you believe that then you do not fully understand the Gospel-the real one.
    Everyone sins. We are positionally holy but functionally sinners. Therefore, it would stand to reason that there will be sinful men in leadership. Therefore the system should be set up with checks and balances that protect the sheep as much, or even more so, than leaders.

  63. Bridget wrote:

    It doesn’t seem to occur to churches that are getting sued that maybe they should be getting sued?!

    Even better, some of them are theologically dishonest. John Piper claims that a tornado hit a Lutheran church because it was gay affirming. He believes that everything happens for a purpose. Knowing the theology of the folks that brought the CityView contract, my guess is they believe that as well.

    Therefore, if they get their butts sued off, maybe God is punishing them for what they are doing since He is sovereign, after all. They should rejoice in the lawsuit since God has a purpose for it!

  64. Adam Borsay wrote:

    how gracious Mark Driscoll is being by forgiving all you haters for what he had to endure due to people being mean to him.

    You made me laugh this AM. We do need to write something about that.Yep- he is a hero alright, just like William Wallace 2

  65. GovPappy wrote:

    “I don’t really see what the big deal is”

    Something came up last evening and I am hoping to show you what a big deal the CityView contract really is in the near future. Then we shall tie it in with the big story that is coming. Big deal will be revealed.

  66. JeffT wrote:

    I see little difference between living under this unholy ‘covenant’ and Maoist China. I

    That just about sums it up. If HUG sees your comment, he will have fun with the Mao stuff.

  67. @ formerly anonymous:
    I want to thank you for drawing my attention to this. I am putting the info in a post. It will be an important addition to the info I want to place on our church discipline, contact page.

  68. samuel smith wrote:

    Ergo, if they are sued, instead of being defrauded and letting the other party have what they wish, they are going to engage in a court battle to protect themselves. Think about that…do you really want to join a church that is basically saying: I will kick little YOU out of the church if you get out of line from what the Bible teaches (according to me), but if BIG me and my church are threatened, forget about what the Bible says.

    Then, they chastise little person for seeking legal redress. This comment was excellent!

  69. Law Prof wrote:

    One thing in which I agree whole heartedly with the other attorney you cited is that you can absolutely, positively waive your rights to go straight to court in the event of a dispute. Mediation and arbitration clauses are generally going to be enforceable absent extraordinary circumstances.

    Readers: pay attention to this comment

    Whether or not he is Tulip the pug, listen to what he just said.

    Law Prof wrote:

    people can waive their rights to go to court and be forced into mediation or binding arb, and generally, with an arbitration, once you sign you will be stuck even if you didn’t read the arb provision in question.

    Note this: You can be forced to go to mediation even if you sign the form! Please beware of this.

    Law Prof wrote:

    I scoffed big time at (and am still scoffing) at the enforceability of the Jean-Paul Satre “No Exit” Church Clause

    Another laugh for my morning.

  70. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist wrote:

    f you do want to leave a church and it practices manipulative and unchristian membership practices (I speak from experience),  just leave.

    My husband and I did just that in our last church. Let me add: do not wait until they notice you might not agree with them. They can begin discipline on the turn of a dime.

    However, we hope to be able to publish as story in which someone did just that-left- and then got pursued.

  71. @ Law Prof:
    This is a great analysis of the Guinn case. I do not get it. Churches should tell the person they are in violation of the church rules and then let them leave.

    There was another case in Texas with Watermark Church. A member of their church was having an affair with a member of another church. He quit the church.Not only did they go after him, they went after the woman, threatening to call her place of employment as well as her church. Boy did that blow up in the face!
    http://www.religionnewsblog.com/15961/texas-churches-at-center-of-controversy

    I believe that after the legal hoopla, it got settled out of court and the couple reconciled with the church. But, I believe the lawsuit prompted further attempts at reconciliation.

  72. @ Law Prof:
    Shunning and public humiliation meant something different back in the early church. Those who joined in the Christian faith were considered to be joining a cult and were rejected by many in the community. Within the community, people had friends and even had help with obtaining food, medical care, etc. The early church was a haven. Being thrown out could lead to poverty, etc. Not so today.

    Also, the US laws protect the rights of those who seek jobs to support themselves. A church should never, ever interfere in that process. They can get in big trouble for doing so.

  73. brian wrote:

    There is some seven pages of what can get you booted, nothing about pastoral responsibility and accountability.

    Great observation! I am keeping you in my prayers.

  74. Law Prof wrote:

    The general rule is you can waive your Seventh Amendment rights to a civil trial even without reading the arbitration provision.

    Another comment everyone should read!

  75. AnonInNC wrote:

    Talks of a “membership class” are currently circulating in my church, and if that class is indeed a gateway to a covenant that they want members to sign, I’ll most certainly be hunting for a new church.

    If you decide to leave and could get me a copy of their possible membership contract, I would love to see it and I promise you confidentiality!

  76. rike wrote:

    they reveal so clearly that a church that uses them has leaders who are either (a) astonishingly arrogant, or (b) inexcusably ignorant, or (c) both.

    Well said!

  77. Bill M wrote:

    .. Can this be just shortened to a single bullet point: Do not sign. ?

    It could be. The reason I added all the points is to demonstrate what might be put in those contacts, It is a short summary of the post.

  78. @ Bill M:
    My husband andI signed one about 5 years ago. Back then, we knew the church leaders and had for decades. However, it all changed in a flash and became on of the typical Calvinista situations. We resigned immediately.

    We have decided that we will not sign one of these again. Things can change, and change quickly. The churches are happy to have us come and give money without signing the contract.

  79. GovPappy wrote:

    ndicative: One of the elders asked me my name, then proceeded to ask if I had considered membership. Just think about that for a second. How backwards is that? You barely know who I am, what I’m about, why I’m here, but you’re pushing membership?

    Do you know if they were part of the 9 Marks network? 9 Marks says that people who attend the church for a period of time(?3,6months?) need to join. Even if they do not join, they are in essence agreeing to be disciplined/discipled by the church by their mere presence.

    I also know another church which states that after you have attended the church 3 mites, you must meet with the pastor since you cannot attend the church without joining. That church is a major fan of the 9 Marks stuff.

  80. Bill M wrote:

    I just don’t wish to prejudge and burst through the doors guns blazing.

    Of course not. I will be interested to know of the outcome. Does the church have any affiliation with 9 Marks or Acts 29?

  81. Gus wrote:

    r, as the doctor says (northern accent): “Run, run for your life! (BTW, I’m the doctor.

    You sound a lot like my husband who beats his patients over the head about exercise! He has a Northern accent as well!

  82. Eeyore wrote:

    n their POV, evangelicalism is awash with “cheap grace”,

    It is hard finding a church that takes things seriously yet doesn’t get authoritarian.

  83. Serving Kids In Japan wrote:

    It is always the novice who exaggerates. The man who has risen in society is over-refined, the young scholar is pedantic.”

    See my post about my encounter with young *scholars* of Twitter.

    As for John Piper, I am shocked that people keep letting him get away with all of his nonsense. The twitter stuff is getting weird.

  84. Jonathan wrote:

    Have you guys looked into RC Sproul Jr?

    I know the basic-defrocked from his congregation due to heavy handed behavior. Rescued by dad and reinvented by The Gospel Coalition crowd.Some question about wife spanking which he denies.

    Could you point me to something that gives more detail?

  85. Michaela wrote:

    BeenThereDoneThat wrote:
    I think it’s time I skimmed through the 136 page covenant from my former cult that I signed and initialed. I’m afraid of what I’ll find now that I know what to look for.

    136 pages? They probably told you how to butter your toast and which kind of jam you were supposed to use!

    And whether to break your eggs on the Big or the Little end…

  86. Gus wrote:

    Or, as the doctor says (northern accent): “Run, run for your life! (BTW, I’m the doctor.)”

    “You’re the doctor? Show me your TARDIS and your sonic screwdriver.”

  87. Churches Attempting to Force Mediation and Limit Members’ Right to Resign Under Discipline™

    “We never had to build a wall to keep our people in!”
    — JFK, Berlin Wall speech

  88. dee wrote:

    JeffT wrote:
    I see little difference between living under this unholy ‘covenant’ and Maoist China. I
    That just about sums it up. If HUG sees your comment, he will have fun with the Mao stuff.

    Maoist ‘Christianity’

  89. dee wrote:

    My husband and I did just that in our last church. Let me add: do not wait until they notice you might not agree with them. They can begin discipline on the turn of a dime.

    However, we hope to be able to publish as story in which someone did just that-left- and then got pursued.

    Did they send Blow Teams after them like Scientology Gold Base?

  90. Serving Kids In Japan wrote:
    I’ve mentioned my own concerns on Julie Anne’s blog re: devotees of John Piper. From his harmful and ignorant teachings in marital relations, to his utterly nonsensical tweets, I fear for those who seem to think he’s the Wisest Man on Earth. And if some graduates are indeed promoted to the position of “pastor” fresh out of seminary, they could very well end up letting it get to their heads.

    The fact that so many young, ambitious men treat John Piper like he’s nigh on the Second Coming is proof that the Lord knew exactly what He was talking about when He said that elders should never be newer believers. Young men are stupid; young men who think they’re fit to lead a church about the stupidest thing walking the earth.

  91. Serving Kids In Japan wrote:

    I’ve mentioned my own concerns on Julie Anne’s blog re: devotees of John Piper. From his harmful and ignorant teachings in marital relations, to his utterly nonsensical tweets, I fear for those who seem to think he’s the Wisest Man on Earth. And if some graduates are indeed promoted to the position of “pastor” fresh out of seminary, they could very well end up letting it get to their heads.

    The fact that so many young, ambitious men treat John Piper like he’s nigh on the Second Coming is proof that the Lord knew exactly what He was talking about when He said that elders should never be newer believers. Young men are stupid; young men who think they’re fit to lead a church are about the stupidest thing walking the earth.

  92. dee wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:
    ndicative:

    I also know another church which states that after you have attended the church 3 mites, you must meet with the pastor since you cannot attend the church without joining. That church is a major fan of the 9 Marks stuff.

    That church is a cult.

  93. dee wrote:

    Nowadays, most employers will not say anything about an ex-employee other than “she worked here from this date until that date” to decrease their liability. Bad mouthing an employee lead to lawsuits that had a legal term that I have forgotten but it meant “Burger King is bad mouthing me and I can’t earn a living.”

    Side effect of this is you have two choices to keep from getting stuck with a Bozo:
    The Expensive Way: Hire a Private Eye to check out the REAL scoop on the newhire.
    The Cheap Way: Hire only those you know — close friends and especially relatives. NOBODY ELSE.

  94. I visited a church locally that is in that vein, and the pastor told me that if I did not want to join a small group, I was not welcome to join. He later was found to be banging his secretary, chronicled here about 6 months ago.

  95. Law Prof wrote:

    Serving Kids In Japan wrote:

    I’ve mentioned my own concerns on Julie Anne’s blog re: devotees of John Piper. From his harmful and ignorant teachings in marital relations, to his utterly nonsensical tweets, I fear for those who seem to think he’s the Wisest Man on Earth. And if some graduates are indeed promoted to the position of “pastor” fresh out of seminary, they could very well end up letting it get to their heads.

    The fact that so many young, ambitious men treat John Piper like he’s nigh on the Second Coming is proof that the Lord knew exactly what He was talking about when He said that elders should never be newer believers. Young men are stupid; young men who think they’re fit to lead a church are about the stupidest thing walking the earth.

    I was a victim of that thinking. I was voted in as pastor far too early in my Christian life. Disastrous.

  96. samuel smith wrote:

    3) Churches want to protect themselves from being sued over church discipline because they intend to engage in church discipline. Ergo, if they are sued, instead of being defrauded and letting the other party have what they wish, they are going to engage in a court battle to protect themselves. Think about that…

    And how Who Pours The Most Money Into Their Lawyers WINS.
    And the church has More Money Available than you. Period. (Remember ToJo & Julie.)
    “TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”

  97. Bob M wrote:

    I was a victim of that thinking. I was voted in as pastor far too early in my Christian life. Disastrous.

    Did you manage to get rich as a pastor?

  98. Bob M wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    Serving Kids In Japan wrote:
    I’ve mentioned my own concerns on Julie Anne’s blog re: devotees of John Piper. From his harmful and ignorant teachings in marital relations, to his utterly nonsensical tweets, I fear for those who seem to think he’s the Wisest Man on Earth. And if some graduates are indeed promoted to the position of “pastor” fresh out of seminary, they could very well end up letting it get to their heads.
    The fact that so many young, ambitious men treat John Piper like he’s nigh on the Second Coming is proof that the Lord knew exactly what He was talking about when He said that elders should never be newer believers. Young men are stupid; young men who think they’re fit to lead a church are about the stupidest thing walking the earth.
    I was a victim of that thinking. I was voted in as pastor far too early in my Christian life. Disastrous.

    Yep, I served on the paid staff (not even pastor, just a youth director) of a church in early middle age, and even at that relatively advanced age, I was too young and immature for it (slow developer). I shudder to think of what a pompous fool I was. Naturally, after one year, the older and wiser elders (average age about 65, an appropriate age for an “elder”) did not renew my contract.

  99. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Bob M wrote:

    I was a victim of that thinking. I was voted in as pastor far too early in my Christian life. Disastrous.

    Did you manage to get rich as a pastor?

    No. My salary, which was self employment income, was less than I make now. It did not include benefits. To equate it to what I make now, it was about 60% of my current salary, and my wife was not permitted to work outside the home for most of that time.

  100. dee wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

    assume, for the sake of argument, that the churches/men pushing and adopting these guidelines are good and godly and would never twist or abuse these things for their own ends (bear with me now).

    I am barely hanging on for dear life but since its you, I will.

    GovPappy wrote:

    Again, if you’re doing right, what do you have to be afraid of in the church, the house of God?
    What would you respond to that?

    Here is my answer. If you believe that then you do not fully understand the Gospel-the real one.
    Everyone sins. We are positionally holy but functionally sinners. Therefore, it would stand to reason that there will be sinful men in leadership. Therefore the system should be set up with checks and balances that protect the sheep as much, or even more so, than leaders.

    I’m sorry – I’m just generally around folks who have grown up in a bubble and don’t see the dark underbelly of churches. I’m also not good with explaining things – i believe my instincts are good, but can’t always explain why. It’s frustrating. Just trying to anticipate apathy. =/

  101. formerly anonymous wrote:

    Regarding being required to do mediation, there is an account of a Peacemakers mediation nightmare by Persistent Widow at Cry For Justice. This is from part 5:

    I will be paying for this debt for a long time on a credit card….

    I explained that the nearly $3000 was excessive and financially burdened my family at an already difficult time.

    http://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/02/13/i-wish-i-knew-this-about-peacemakers-before-i-went-part-5-of-persistent-widows-story/

    The ~ $3000 she was expected to pay was the cost for the Peacemakers mediation demanded by her pastor.

    Further, from part 2:

    Because my husband was laid off for so long and now an apprentice truck driver, I did not have the $2800 for mediation, so the pastor said that if I paid the first $1035, the church would pay the rest. I reaffirmed our agreement by asking him twice if this was all that I would have to pay and he agreed.

    http://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/02/04/the-nightmare-of-peacemakers-counseling-for-domestic-abuse/

    The whole 6 part series is worth reading.

    I just read this story this morning – somehow i missed it earlier this year.

    I’m going to forward this on to any of my friends who might want to downplay the fact that “Good, godly” pastors can be completely unworthy of the title. It’s a good complement to the issues addressed in this post.

    Just sickening. All the way through.

    Dee, i just like to be sure of myself in this stuff. It’s too easy to think the worst in this point in my life, so i try to talk myself out of things in anticipation of questions and to make sure I’m not just believing what i want to see. It resonates deeply with me, and if i don’t know the issues well enough to articulate them clearly, i can’t warn my friends.

  102. GovPappy wrote:

    It’s too easy to think the worst in this point in my life, so i try to talk myself out of things in anticipation of questions

    This is most wise. I have a friend who attended my Sunday school class. He asked the most difficult, but thoughtful questions. I always prepared my lesson with him in mind.

    I don’t want anyone to think the worst. I also do not want anyone to think the best. I want everyone to think that either could be a possibility. Christ Himself taught us this. Thinking the best of the Pharisees was possible by people in that since they appeared to follow the laws. But, they were dark inside and Jesus called them on it.

    I have found that believing either could be true sets me up to enjoy the possibilities of good things and prevents me from let down when the bad things happen as well.

    Frankly, in my own life, I am a combination of both. Just like Paul who was frustrated that he didn’t do the things he wanted to and he did the things he didn’t want to. So, if Paul is my role model, I see the Epistles but I see a man who could screw up and hurt others. This gives me peace in all situations.

  103. Bob M wrote:

    I visited a church locally that is in that vein, and the pastor told me that if I did not want to join a small group, I was not welcome to join. He later was found to be banging his secretary, chronicled here about 6 months ago.

    I shouldn’t have laughed but something similar happened to me. Two church leaders who judged me as being a liar and bitter: one came out of the closet, divorced his wife, dropped out of his leadership at a conservative seminary and is now involved in the arts… The other divorced his wife. All of this in fairly short order.

    Hope for the best and expect the worst-its a good place to be. All gets taken care of eventually.

  104. Bob M wrote:

    I was voted in as pastor far too early in my Christian life. Disastrous.

    So, if you ever want to tell you story, even anonymously with details changed to protect you, let us know via email! I think you have much to teach us.

  105. On a different topic:

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been commenting occasionally on an article by Kevin DeYoung on the TGC site. (TWW covered it a while ago.) I’ve gone back and forth with two commenters there in particular, but the conversation — such as it is — has pretty much petered out at this point.

    One of my opponents was Ms. Rhymes-with-Vanilla, who is convinced I’m a fool for believing the plaintiffs in the SGM lawsuit. She kept harping on one charge in the suit in particular, picking on its apparent inconsistencies, and insisting that Thompson must therefore be lying about what happened to her. The other DeYoung defender (or defender of his article, at least) kept trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, and to convince me that there is some value in what DeYoung wrote, even if he’s a covert-aggressive hypocrite.

    I did my best to explain my opinions, and to call out DeYoung’s behaviour, while trying to be calm and respectful. I might add another comment or two, just as a final reply to Cody.

    Anyway, if anyone here has the time and inclination to check it out, my comments are still there. (I’m pleasantly surprised that none of them got trashed.) I hope I haven’t said anything I need to apologize for, but if any of my words were false or foolish, please feel free to let me know.

  106. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist wrote:

    if you do want to leave a church and it practices manipulative and unchristian membership practices (I speak from experience), just leave.

    Exactly. Shake the dust from your sandals and do your best not to look back.

  107. dee wrote:

    I will be interested to know of the outcome. Does the church have any affiliation with 9 Marks or Acts 29?

    I’ll keep you posted. No to the latter question. The church has been around for 50+ years, same pastor for decades. Every thing looked great till I saw the membership agreement, one sided, and it required a signature. Possibly some of their elders rubbed shoulders with Saddleback types and picked up bad habits.

    If anyone in leadership ever quoted Driscoll I’d make a quick exit and not come back.

    Likely church “company people” wouldn’t like it, but a web site that outlined all this stuff for a particular church or denomination would be a big assist. While the relationships draws us, unfortunately it takes months to a year to discover all the important stuff that is hidden away, like signed memberships. If I’d been aware of it beforehand I wouldn’t have started but now wish to take it to some sense of completion.

  108. nmgirl wrote:

    Why would any organization want to hang on to someone who no longer believes in the mission?

    This, a thousand times. These churches are simply engaged in petty vindictiveness, exacting their own ‘revenge’ on someone who has displeased them under the name of church discipline to justify themselves. If they’d reach the New Testament beyond their favorite passages (the ones about disciple and the ones about women), they might learn something about the Holy Spirit’s role in conviction of sin (if sin indeed exists) and just rely on that instead of their own made-up disciplinary procedures.

  109. Bill M wrote:

    Possibly some of their elders rubbed shoulders with Saddleback types

    It’s my understanding that the membership contract trend originated with Saddleback. Anyone know if that is true?

  110. Law Prof wrote:

    Young men are stupid; young men who think they’re fit to lead a church about the stupidest thing walking the earth.

    Thumbs up

  111. GovPappy wrote:

    What’s the worst case scenario, in other words. I’m certainly looking forward to the story y’all have coming down the pipe.

    The worst case? Horrific. Dee and I have seen and have the evidence. We have reasons for sitting on it for now. This story is coming. Light needs to shine. Mountains of darkness and deceit need to be moved. Captives need to be freed. Voices need to and will be heard.

  112. These membership forms remind me of prenuptial agreements, although the enforceability of prenups in many jurisdictions depends in large part on whether each party was represented by an attorney when forming the agreement.

  113. Tim wrote:

    These membership forms remind me of prenuptial agreements

    I hope not…as someone with significant assets and rather complicated intellectual property I’ve had to acknowledge that a prenup will be necessary for me, no matter how uncomfortable it seems, and no matter how much I just want to trust my SO and believe that there will of course never be a problem because *love*. But it will provide for and protect both parties, unlike these church contracts.

  114. Gus wrote:

    @ Michaela:
    Go, girl, go! You’re one of the reasons why it still makes sense not to give up on christians completely.

    Thanks, Gus! I couldn’t believe how many of my former church members thought it was ok for the pastors/elders to malign the good doctor and others. It was atrocious and wrong, wrong, wrong. Even the church secretary (married, mother, and very conservative) was do disgusted by the pastors/elders that she left our former church. When they had her ‘exit interview’, she (wisely) brought her new pastor without telling the pastors/elders. What could they say to her in front of him? They couldn’t attack her in front of him.

  115. rike wrote:

    It’s my understanding that the membership contract trend originated with Saddleback. Anyone know if that is true?

    Interesting question. I mentioned Saddleback as they were so influential in these parts 10-15 years ago. I initially like the concept of being more deliberate but it ended up be formulaic, more method than purpose. The purpose drive church stuff lost sight of the purpose.

    Some of the contract stuff may have come from Peacemakers that was also influential.

  116. rike wrote:

    Tim wrote:
    These membership forms remind me of prenuptial agreements
    I hope not…as someone with significant assets and rather complicated intellectual property I’ve had to acknowledge that a prenup will be necessary for me … But it will provide for and protect both parties, unlike these church contracts.

    Prenups are important in the right situation and when formed as required by law. The main reason the membership agreements do not fall in the same category is that they are stacked against the member.

  117. dee wrote:

    John Piper claims that a tornado hit a Lutheran church because it was gay affirming. He believes that everything happens for a purpose.

    Piper would then have to try and explain why the Almighty rolled the dice with the devil and bet on Job in the first place. No argument here about everything having a purpose (Ecclesiastes), just whether or not the purpose is predetermined.

  118. Sorry…but I am shocked by how you’ve managed to misunderstand or mischaracterize ADF. Give them a call. Ask them to explain the purpose they have suggested that legal language to churches. It is to have language in place as to church policy when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…even if the hopeful participants claim a church membership.

  119. Lynne wrote:

    when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…

    I believe that is somewhat along the lines of what DrFundystan thought it was. But this signed covenant thing has been around since before the gay marriage issue got to where it is now, so I am thinking there may be more to it than just that.

    And I assume you meant to say opting to not perform gay marriages. Is there something I am missing? Might there be lawsuits about churches opting to perform gay marriages?

  120. A pastor or elder who chooses to pursue a no-exit if in discipline, mandatory mediation with church chosen mediator, etc., is engaging is a serious sin and is well outside what Jesus taught his followers were to do. That sin then disqualifies that person from being a pastor or an elder, so to keep that position, they must confess, repent (repeal the covenant requirement), and atone (apologize to the congregants and any who have left or been disciplined.

    My word to such a pastor is this. Do not call yourself pastor around me — you are not qualified and you are not worthy to wash my feet let alone stand in a pulpit and teach or preach.

  121. Lynne wrote:

    same-sex marriages

    If they want a policy on same-sex marriage, they could draft one. These membership documents are about controlling members, not same-sex marriage

  122. Lynne wrote:

    Sorry…but I am shocked by how you’ve managed to misunderstand or mischaracterize ADF. Give them a call. Ask them to explain the purpose they have suggested that legal language to churches. It is to have language in place as to church policy when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…even if the hopeful participants claim a church membership.

    The No. 1 reason that churches have been getting sued year after year is child sexual abuse cases. From Church Law & Tax’s website:
    http://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2014/july/top-5-reasons-churches-end-up-in-court.html

    Like Tim pointed out, membership documents are about exercising control over members.

  123. I haven’t read all the comments, but I did want to throw this out there for your consideration: U.S. courts will absolutely NOT get in the middle of a doctrinal discussion. Judges will drop-kick cases if they determine it involves religious dogma.

    This happened to the Garcias, who spent a couple of years in a Florida federal court trying to get back donations from Scientology. Judge Whittemore dismissed the case because Scientology has an arbitration policy it put into place as part of getting its tax exemption in 1993.

    It does not matter that the Garcias can’t go on church property.

    It does not matter that the Garcias are disconnected and Scientologists in good standing (who would be part of the arbitration) can’t talk to them.

    It does not matter that the arbitration process doesn’t seem to have ever been used.

    What matters is that the Garcias signed an arbitration agreement in 2006 and 2007.

    Based on this, Judge Whittemore felt like he had to dismiss the case due to the First Amendment Abstention Doctrine and order the Garcias into an arbitration that they can’t attend if it’s in an org nor can the people who would be in the arbitration talk to them! Here’s his ruling; I think it’s well worth a read to see how far the rabbit hole this could go.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/258646796/Garcia-v-Scientology-Order-to-compel-Arbitration

    The Garcias are trying a Hail Mary motion of “Scientology is not a religion,” but I don’t expect that to go anywhere.

    Folks, read that decision and then promise yourself you will NEVER, EVER sign anything a church presents you. You could be getting yourself into the Garcias’ position!

  124. Deb wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

     Is there a list of 9 marks churches?

    Here is the link to the “Church Search” page over at 9Marks. Just put in your area, and a list of 9Marks affirming churches will be listed.

    http://9marks.org/church-search/

    Yep. We were in one. I knew something was off. So did the missus.

  125. Lynne wrote:

    It is to have language in place as to church policy when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…even if the hopeful participants claim a church membership.

    Currently, churches can refuse to marry whoever they wish, including heterosexual couples, without concern of legal ramifications. It is at the pastor’s discretion to officiate the ceremony or not. No court is going to get involved in that. Why haven’t these legal covenants been necessary before now to prevent a church getting sued for not marrying a heterosexual couple?

  126. Amy Smith wrote:

    GovPappy wrote:

    What’s the worst case scenario, in other words. I’m certainly looking forward to the story y’all have coming down the pipe.

    The worst case? Horrific. Dee and I have seen and have the evidence. We have reasons for sitting on it for now. This story is coming. Light needs to shine. Mountains of darkness and deceit need to be moved. Captives need to be freed. Voices need to and will be heard.

    Amy, I’m very much looking forward to more ammunition on this issue. Y’all don’t have to convince me – I’m trying to help a friend see the light. His words after I sent him 3 TWW links, and I quote, “I don’t see what the big deal is.”

  127. @ rike:

    That was the first place I heard of anything like this back in the 90’s. it was nothing like the document suggested in this post from what I remember. It was more about the power of positive thinking and projeting that image to the world about the church and leaders. I call it totalitarian niceness these days. But back then that was all the rage in the seeker world. Dying of cancer? SMILE! Say only positive things about your leaders!!!

    In a very general way I have seen a lot of this progress into what this blog post covers. Many mega’s had a “what we believe” sort of class AFTER you joined. (there is a reason for that) where expectations were covered. It was mainly “be positive” and use Matt 18 if there is a problem. (Matt 18 is impossible in cult of personality megas no matter how much it does not fit the situation but people believed it)

    Then came the big problems with insuring these monstrosities. They wanted a one stop spiritual mall with life centers, coffee shops, gift shops, children’s wings that resembled disney land, etc. But all that comes at a price. Now, they had to have trained people to oversee it all because of insurance demands. This only progessed until you have to sign your life away for your kid to play basketball in the church gym or on a church little league.

    That only desensitized people to signing such things at church over the long haul. It made sense to people because of liability. And “real” Christians would never sue anyway so they signed because they could trust those personalities on stage.

    People have become very desensitized to signing things everywhere they go. They cannot even see the doctor without signing some “agreements” and they are assured privacy even though the IRS now knows all about your health insurance and can penalize you over it. People will tell the store clerk their home address to be put in a computer. It is everywhere. People can even tithe by credit card these days.

    The document like we see in the blog post is totally unncessary unless they have another agenda (which is obvious to me). If a church does not want to perform SS marriage all they have to do is have a policy stating such as Tim pointed out. They do not need to control every member in order to not be sued over such a position. And more and more churches are adopting policies of performing SS marriages so there are more to choose from even in my neck of the woods. I know of two Baptist churches who have made it public they do perform these marriages. And there are several Unitarian churches who do, too.

  128. Lydia wrote:

    People have become very desensitized to signing things everywhere they go.

    I was thinking about this very thing last night. Most of my credit card agreements have arbitration clauses. Does anyone ever take the time to read the End User Licence Agreement for a software update on their PC or any device? Or do we just click “accept” and move on? I think you’re right. I think we’ve just grown accustomed to such “contracts” and consider them a part of life. We don’t really stop to think about it until something goes wrong and we have no recourse. So, people who think that a “Christian” will always do the right thing so there’s nothing to worry about are in for a big surprise.

  129. Lynne wrote:

    Sorry…but I am shocked by how you’ve managed to misunderstand or mischaracterize ADF. Give them a call. Ask them to explain the purpose they have suggested that legal language to churches. It is to have language in place as to church policy when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…even if the hopeful participants claim a church membership.

    Let me be very, very, VERY blunt here. The ADF is using this as a scare tactic. Under the First Amendment, churches and pastors CANNOT be forced to marry anyone. Let me give you three examples:

    1) Catholic churches will not marry you unless you’ve gone through their pre-Cana process and have no previous unannulled marriages. This is perfectly legal.

    2) Mormon churches will not let you marry in their temples unless you have a temple recommend, which requires paying 10 percent tithing and not drinking coffee, tea or alcohol (among other things). Again, this is *perfectly legal*.

    3) There have been stories in recent years about churches refusing to marry interracial couples, and again, this is PERFECTLY LEGAL.

    Go read what I posted above about First Amendment Abstention. If a church believes that marrying gay people is wrong, and it’s their doctrine, no court is going to force them to do it. Any law trying to force this would be declared unconstitutional.

    You’ve bought into the lies and swill that the ADF has been putting out for years. CHURCHES CANNOT BE FORCED TO MARRY ANYONE. And the ADF is LYING when it says otherwise.

    If the ADF’s Scottsdale HQ wasn’t in a soulless office park next to a freeway, I’d protest there, just because of LIES like this.

  130. @ Tim:
    Thank you for that link. Unfortunately, some of the Neo Calvinist crowd has turned around the obedience issue to say the following. If you come to Christ, you are them free to obey. So, obey and do the right thing. In other words, if you don’t do the right thing, perhaps you are not a Christian. Not only of us can get right. That is why Jesus came.

  131. @ Tim:
    BTW-did you notice their discipline is like getting judged on Judgement Day except you have time to repent? Good night! Call in the Inquisition.

  132. mirele wrote:

    Let me be very, very, VERY blunt here. The ADF is using this as a scare tactic. Under the First Amendment, churches and pastors CANNOT be forced to marry anyone.

    Totally agree with you. In fact, In Norway which has a state church and has legalized same sex marriages, has given an out to pastors who object.

    Finland tried to force it and had mass resignations from their churches which is quite problematic for them.

  133. Tim wrote:

    If they want a policy on same-sex marriage, they could draft one. These membership documents are about controlling members, not same-sex marriage

    Totally correct! I agree with you.

  134. Tim wrote:

    Lynne wrote:

    same-sex marriages

    If they want a policy on same-sex marriage, they could draft one. These membership documents are about controlling members, not same-sex marriage

    This. Couldn’t you say the same sex marriage issue in this is just a red herring to scare people into thinking they need this covenant BS?

  135. Lynne wrote:

    Sorry…but I am shocked by how you’ve managed to misunderstand or mischaracterize ADF. Give them a call. Ask them to explain the purpose they have suggested that legal language to churches. It is to have language in place as to church policy when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…even if the hopeful participants claim a church membership.

    Undoubtedly, some of what the ADF is about is protecting churches from being arm wrestled into performing same sex marriages, but that is not the topic of our conversation here. And why would the ADF draft a document that has a commentary on the notion that a church could insist (with the full force of contract law behind them) that a church member wanting to bully the church into performing a same sex marriage remain a member whilst being disciplined? It makes no sense at all.

    The provision we’re discussing is about controlling members and taking away certain rights to follow their own consciences via cleverly-drafted contracts. If you have a comment on those provisions, bring them to the tale, I’d be glad to engage you.

  136. GovPappy wrote:

    Tim wrote:
    Lynne wrote:
    same-sex marriages
    If they want a policy on same-sex marriage, they could draft one. These membership documents are about controlling members, not same-sex marriage
    This. Couldn’t you say the same sex marriage issue in this is just a red herring to scare people into thinking they need this covenant BS?

    Yes, both for the ADF and, apparently, Lynne. One of the first things I thought of with Lynne was that she was a rather obvious shill for ADF throwing a red herring into the conversation.

  137. Law Prof wrote:

    Undoubtedly, some of what the ADF is about is protecting churches from being arm wrestled into performing same sex marriages, but that is not the topic of our conversation here.

    How so? If I hear correctly some folks here are saying that this can’t happen because of the first amendment. So what are you saying would be arm wrestling and how would the ADF have something to offer in that area? My question is whether there is some real threat, this one or another one, that ADF does actually know how to protect these churches against. Or is the whole thing a shebazzle?

  138. Eeyore wrote:

    In their POV, evangelicalism is awash with “cheap grace”, the membership rolls are filled with non-attenders and “twice-a-years”,

    Speaking of which. Years ago, my father went church shopping.

    He tried a different church each Sunday for a few months to find one where he felt comfortable.

    Between his career that forced my family to move about every two years, and my mother being too sick to attend church regularly after awhile, we had stopped going to church much.

    But when Dad decided to go to church after he retired, and to go alone (my mom was not well enough to get out), I went along with Dad to a few of these church shopping visits he went on.

    I was considering going back to church at that time.

    One Sunday we went to a new church. It happened to be Easter Sunday.

    I was turned off at one point when the preacher made a comment shaming and reprimanding people during the service.

    The preacher made some kind of comment about how lazy or bad people are who only show up to a church service on Easter, and maybe Christmas, and no other time of year.

    The preacher seemed to assume that everyone he was addressing from the pulpit that morning was a regular, long term member of his church. Or, maybe he saw the new faces in the crowd (Dad and me) and was directing those comments at us, I don’t know.

    As I just said, that was my dad and my first time to that church, which happened to be on an Easter.

    The preacher was basically faulting people like my father and me, assuming we were the “only once or twice a year” type of church goer.

    Even if we were, so what? Why would you fault someone who only shows up on the holidays? Isn’t that better than nothing, would you rather they stay home watching football on holidays than go to your church?

    Churches wonder why they can’t attract or keep members, and I submit this is one reason of 56 billion why. Church people can be judgmental, rude, and jump to conclusions. They are not welcoming to new people.

  139. @ dee:
    Boo on Finland.
    @ mirele:
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting it so clearly. Spot on.

    In regards to the article. Stuff like this is why I will never be part of an organized religious organization again. No Unitarians or Humanists even. Nope, do not want.

  140. dee wrote:

    Bad mouthing an employee lead to lawsuits that had a legal term that I have forgotten but it meant “Burger King is bad mouthing me and I can’t earn a living.”

    I don’t know about a legal term, but the regular Joe term for that is “black balling” or “black balled.”

  141. GovPappy wrote:

    I’m trying to help a friend see the light. His words after I sent him 3 TWW links, and I quote, “I don’t see what the big deal is.

    If the story that’s coming doesn’t help your friend see the light, I’m afraid that nothing will.

  142. Nancy wrote:

    How so? If I hear correctly some folks here are saying that this can’t happen because of the first amendment. So what are you saying would be arm wrestling and how would the ADF have something to offer in that area? My question is whether there is some real threat, this one or another one, that ADF does actually know how to protect these churches against. Or is the whole thing a shebazzle?

    I wasn’t very precise there, they’re certainly right (for now); I don’t mean to say that there’s a present threat that your neighborhood church will be forced to marry any two people who roll through the doors demanding a priest or pastor. However, there has been significant encroachment in that area: state and federal laws passed with overwhelming bipartisan support a generation ago are now being chipped away and are considered shaky at best (e.g., DOMA). We’ve all heard of the people forced by courts to photograph or bake cakes for same sex couples in violation of their consciences and religious beliefs. This disturbs me (I never have quite gotten the notion that discrimination based on behavior–as opposed to a non-behavioral immutable characteristic such as pigmentation or nationality) as in my opinion the camel’s nose is now in the tent; personal religious convictions are most decidedly not beyond the reach of the courts.

    But let’s assume arguendo that there is no real chance that churches will be forced to do a thing. Even if, I can understand the ADF’s concern here and their desire to dissuade litigation, because even if state law and jursiprudence is clearly on your side, that does not prevent anyone from filing a lawsuit against you. Your only recourse is to settle it and marry Tom to Dick or Harry or fight it out and hope you can get the case dismissed at the pleading phase or get a motion for summary judgment during discovery, barring that, you’re in for a trial, and excepting potential appeals, you could be talking $50K+.

    So even if the law’s on your side, it doesn’t hurt to have a knowing waiver to dissuade people from filing a lawsuit in the first place. Even a frivolous lawsuit filed against you that you’re guranteed to win is expensive, time-consuming, bad all the way round. Very few people get their attorney’s fees reimbursed even when trivial, vexatious claims are filed against them.

  143. NOTE: I don’t want my previous post to be interpreted as unconditional support for the ADF or for the notion that Christians ought to inject themselves into any particular political debate “in the name of God”. First, the ADF gives me the willies and I think represents some pretty ugly stuff intended to protect the institutional church at the expense of the True Church. Second, all public Christian (or “Christian”) figures who make their god the Republican party or political conservatism or family values drive me bonkers. I think for the most part they love their power and influence, it’s hard to see Jesus in much of that scene.

  144. dee wrote:

    @ Tim:
    BTW-did you notice their discipline is like getting judged on Judgement Day except you have time to repent? Good night! Call in the Inquisition.

    Just to recap: “The leaders of the church, fulfilling a commission from God Almighty Himself, solemnly pronounce judgment, as it were as a proleptic enactment of the judgment day itself,”
    I had to look up “proleptic”. The only time I ever witnessed “church discipline”, this enactment was the grand finale. The members were asked to gather for a special meeting at which the pastors solemnly turned the former member over to Satan. The sanctuary was darkened. The only ones who spoke or prayed were the pastors. Half the members were missing, as was the disciplinee, who’d left the church 2 months before. Members had already been given all needed “tax collector and gentile” instructions at the “tell it to the church” meeting the previous Sunday, so this proleptic enactment perhaps had mystical significance to the angels and demons. I have it on good authority that, for at least one member (who’d asked all pastors that the enactment not take place) it was the last darkening of that church’s doors.

  145. Lynne wrote:

    Sorry…but I am shocked by how you’ve managed to misunderstand or mischaracterize ADF. Give them a call. Ask them to explain the purpose they have suggested that legal language to churches. It is to have language in place as to church policy when the lawsuits start being filed over churches opting to perform same-sex marriages…even if the hopeful participants claim a church membership.

    As I posted earlier, according to Richard Hammer (Harvard attorney at Church & Tax Law), the No. 1 reason that churches get sued every year is child sexual abuse cases.

    Here is Mr. Hammer’s article about the US Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage:
    http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/168778-7-must-know-facts-about-same-sex-marriage-and-the-supreme-court-ruling.html/2

    “5. Neither of the Supreme Court’s rulings questioned or limited the right of clergy to refuse to solemnize marriages that would violate their religious beliefs:

    Including marriages of same-sex couples.”

  146. mirele wrote:

    The ADF is using this as a scare tactic. Under the First Amendment, churches and pastors CANNOT be forced to marry anyone.

    Of course not. And 4 or 5 years ago, under the First Amendment, a Christian baker could not be forced to provide a cake for a same-sex ceremony, or a photographer photos, or a florist flowers. And a Christian company could not be forced to PAY for their employees’ selective abortions or abortifacients (it took the Supreme court to recently agree that one is true). And a Christian T-shirt printer couldn’t be forced to print shirts for a Gay-Pride event. And Catholic adoption services couldn’t be forced to place children with same-sex couples. /sarc

    And how in the world did **I** introduce a red herring when the blog post itself, brought ADF in through a link to their “Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits”, a 44 page document which is quite clear in the introductory page that its purpose is to prepare churches to deal with potential legal threats stemming from “sexual orientation, gender identity ordinances”…not to give Mark Driscoll wanna-bees the power to create mini-dictatorships.

    The ironic thing is…since I’m being accused of being a shill promoting church contacts/uber-control or something: I would never sign a church covenant agreement AND those Mark 9/Acts 29/John Piper clone churches would probably refuse to recognize the President of ADF (whose profile you also linked to) as a fellow Christian anyway since he’s Catholic.

  147. Dave A A wrote:

    dee wrote:
    @ Tim:
    BTW-did you notice their discipline is like getting judged on Judgement Day except you have time to repent? Good night! Call in the Inquisition.
    Just to recap: “The leaders of the church, fulfilling a commission from God Almighty Himself, solemnly pronounce judgment, as it were as a proleptic enactment of the judgment day itself,”
    I had to look up “proleptic”. The only time I ever witnessed “church discipline”, this enactment was the grand finale. The members were asked to gather for a special meeting at which the pastors solemnly turned the former member over to Satan. The sanctuary was darkened. The only ones who spoke or prayed were the pastors. Half the members were missing, as was the disciplinee, who’d left the church 2 months before. Members had already been given all needed “tax collector and gentile” instructions at the “tell it to the church” meeting the previous Sunday, so this proleptic enactment perhaps had mystical significance to the angels and demons. I have it on good authority that, for at least one member (who’d asked all pastors that the enactment not take place) it was the last darkening of that church’s doors.

    Oh. My. Earsandwhiskers. That is bizarro. I was at a church where a church-ordained and supported missionary decided he believed in polygamy and spoke publicly about it. Even in that extreme (!) circumstance, he was simply informed that his support would be withdrawn and asked to leave the church. He did, and the church body was then informed of what had happened. No voodoo ceremony, no declaration of shunning, and certainly no chasing him down after his affiliation with the church was over. If someone in open sin withdraws from the church, what more is there to do?

  148. @ Dave A A:
    Oh my. This would be hilarious if it was a skit.

    But no, they’ve entered Poe’s Law territory, just like hard-core Fundies.

  149. Lynne wrote:

    brought ADF in through a link to their “Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits”, a 44 page document which is quite clear in the introductory page that its purpose is to prepare churches to deal with potential legal threats stemming from “sexual orientation, gender identity ordinances”…

    No matter what the ADF titles their document, much of it does not apply to potential gender identity lawsuits. Whether this is ignorance or negligence or intent on their part, I have no idea. But it is certainly appropriate to discuss here the impact of such a document on church members in general, as it is those members who would be bound by it.

  150. Dave A A wrote:

    The members were asked to gather for a special meeting at which the pastors solemnly turned the former member over to Satan. The sanctuary was darkened. The only ones who spoke or prayed were the pastors. Half the members were missing, as was the disciplinee, who’d left the church 2 months before. Members had already been given all needed “tax collector and gentile” instructions at the “tell it to the church” meeting the previous Sunday, so this proleptic enactment perhaps had mystical significance to the angels and demons.

    This reminds me of the “disciplinary meetings” at my former cult. I have since come to the conclusion that the ministers are all just a bunch of drama queens.

  151. @ rike:

    The farther we get from the “where two or three are gathered together in my name” dynamic, the crazier churches seem to get.

  152. Lynne wrote:

    And how in the world did **I** introduce a red herring when the blog post itself, brought ADF in through a link to their “Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits”, a 44 page document which is quite clear in the introductory page that its purpose is to prepare churches to deal with potential legal threats stemming from “sexual orientation, gender identity ordinances”…not to give Mark Driscoll wanna-bees the power to create mini-dictatorships.

    They can state their “purpose” any way they like. And we can read the document which absolutely gives Mark Driscoll wannabes the power to create mini dictatorships.

    They only way florists, bakers and others can avoid being forced to facilitate gay marriage is to become a church. Mega’s have coffee shops and gift stores, why not florist and bakers? :o)

  153. Dave A A wrote:

    Just to recap: “The leaders of the church, fulfilling a commission from God Almighty Himself, solemnly pronounce judgment, as it were as a proleptic enactment of the judgment day itself,”
    I had to look up “proleptic”. The only time I ever witnessed “church discipline”, this enactment was the grand finale. The members were asked to gather for a special meeting at which the pastors solemnly turned the former member over to Satan. The sanctuary was darkened. The only ones who spoke or prayed were the pastors. Half the members were missing, as was the disciplinee, who’d left the church 2 months before. Members had already been given all needed “tax collector and gentile” instructions at the “tell it to the church” meeting the previous Sunday, so this proleptic enactment perhaps had mystical significance to the angels and demons. I have it on good authority that, for at least one member (who’d asked all pastors that the enactment not take place) it was the last darkening of that church’s doors.

    Sounds like the ceremony the Jewish synagogue of Amsterdam held when they threw out philosopher Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza#Expulsion_from_the_Jewish_community

  154. Lydia wrote:

    They only way florists, bakers and others can avoid being forced to facilitate gay marriage is to become a church.

    All this gets nuts after awhile.

    I just saw something in the news about two weeks ago about a swingers club whose community was trying to get them closed. Their club is next to a Christian high school or Christian college or something.

    The swingers club then redefined itself as a church. So I think they can stay open now (?).

    (I’ve not really kept up with this story, so I’m not sure of all the details.)

  155. Lynne wrote:

    Of course not. And 4 or 5 years ago, under the First Amendment, a Christian baker could not be forced to provide a cake for a same-sex ceremony, or a photographer photos, or a florist flowers. And a Christian company could not be forced to PAY for their employees’ selective abortions or abortifacients (it took the Supreme court to recently agree that one is true). And a Christian T-shirt printer couldn’t be forced to print shirts for a Gay-Pride event. And Catholic adoption services couldn’t be forced to place children with same-sex couples. /sarc
    And how in the world did **I** introduce a red herring when the blog post itself, brought ADF in through a link to their “Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits”, a 44 page document which is quite clear in the introductory page that its purpose is to prepare churches to deal with potential legal threats stemming from “sexual orientation, gender identity ordinances”…not to give Mark Driscoll wanna-bees the power to create mini-dictatorships.
    The ironic thing is…since I’m being accused of being a shill promoting church contacts/uber-control or something: I would never sign a church covenant agreement AND those Mark 9/Acts 29/John Piper clone churches would probably refuse to recognize the President of ADF (whose profile you also linked to) as a fellow Christian anyway since he’s Catholic.

    Lynne,

    There’s a fundamental difference between being a minister of the gospel and running a business baking cakes, making t-shirts and photographing ceremonies for all comers. The former are protected by the First Amendment for their opinions. The latter are not. It’s not like the courts haven’t been down this road before. The only difference here is that unlike 1964, the rights of GLBT are being handled piecemeal jurisdiction by jurisdiction (and I hope this changes).

    Why don’t you go back to the ADF and ask them if they want to overturn Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S. or any of the other civil rights cases? For those of you not familiar with the case law, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could use the Commerce Clause to force private businesses to obey the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because of that and other cases, publications like “The Negro Motorist Green Book” went out of business and that’s a good thing!

    Why don’t you ask the ADF if it gives a d*** about the evil and deleterious effects of Hobby Lobby? Federal judge David Sam in Utah ruled last fall (confirmed over the winter) that a male member of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints did not have to submit to a deposition by the Labor Department in a child labor case. Because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Hobby Lobby. *shakes head* You know children as young as 10 are put to work on construction sites, right? And yet a federal judge thought a man could slip out of a deposition based on his religion. That is *odious.* I haven’t heard a *peep* out of the ADF. I have to assume they have no problem with this abuse.

    I didn’t mention Heart of Atlanta Motel for nothing, either. I’d note the same rhetoric used by the ADF today was used 50 years ago by segregationists who were staunchly opposed to providing services to people of color.

    The ADF and, by extension, you are doing no favors to Christianity by trying to cloak your bigotry in religious belief. Segregationists really, really believed that African-Americans were not as good as white people, and if quizzed, would tell you that God intended it that way. People like you tell me today that gay people are just horrible sinners that need to repent and go straight. Or you might be nicer and say that GLBT persons have to remain celibate all their lives. I have seen up close and personal what it’s like to try and force GLBT persons to be straight to conform and it is *destructive*.

    The church has lost me because I won’t stay in a place where my GLBT brothers and sisters are treated like garbage. There was an article last week about the “dones.” I showed it to a friend of mine, a person in her early 50s who is transitioning to be a woman. She told me, “I didn’t know there was a word to describe what I am.” And it wasn’t “transgender.” It was DONE. And I’m DONE.

  156. @Lynne,

    Mirele just beat me to the punch. I was looking up the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding Congress’ power to prevent race discrimination at private businesses (The Deep South) using The Commerce Clause.

    http://www.americanbar.org/publications/insights_on_law_andsociety/14/winter-2014/civil-rights-act-of-1964–enduring-and-revolutionary.html

    “Judicial Validation

    Title II became an immediate target in the courts. In particular, the owner of the Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, and the owner of Ollie’s Barbe­cue, in Birmingham, Alabama, brought separate suits arguing that Title II was unconstitutional and seeking injunctive relief. The cases worked their way to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on them together and ulti­mately upheld Title II in two separate rulings. The Court ruled in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. U.S. (1964) that Congress had plenty of authority under the Commerce Clause to ban racial discrimination at the hotel because the hotel catered to interstate travel­ers and it therefore affected interstate commerce. The Court ruled the same day in Katzenbach v. McClung (1964) that Congress had plenty of author­ity under the Commerce Clause to ban racial discrimination at Ollie’s Barbecue because a good portion of the food used by the restaurant was imported from out of state, and the restaurant there­fore affected interstate commerce. The Court said in both cases that Congress had an impressive legislative record tying racial discrimination in places of public accommodation to interstate commerce. And it flatly rejected the claim that Congress could not ban race discrimination—and enact this kind of “morals” legislation—under the Com­merce Clause.”

    I honestly can’t get all hot and bothered about bakery cakes. And I just came out of a conservative, evangelical church. About 50% of the straight people (including Christians) who order cakes will divorce, there will be adulterers amongst them, batterers, and the like.

    As to Christian businesses having to pay for their employees’ ‘birth control’, apparently many conservatives (I am one but am reasonable) never thought about “The Change” that women go through and they will need to take The Pill to control excessive bleeding. All we heard was that women on The Pill were immoral and vile. Nonsense!

  157. Lynne wrote:

    “Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits”, a 44 page document which is quite clear in the introductory page that its purpose is to prepare churches to deal with potential legal threats stemming from “sexual orientation, gender identity ordinances”

    That may have been the stated purpose. However, that is not the outcome of the stated purpose. The suggestions are far reaching-well beyond the stated goal. It is wide reaching.

    I am afraid that some Christians are using the fear of gays forcing churches to perform their marriages in order to advance a more controlling church contract. If this was 6o years ago, they would have used the fear of force integrating churches as their cover.

    No matter the stated purpose, if a church were to develop their contract as stated, it would affect many more people who happen to be in a church with a bunch of control freaks at the helm. It is happening now and that document makes it even worse.

    If their stated purpose were limited to the LGBTQ marriages and usage issues, that would be stated in the church membership contract example. It wasn’t. I know. I read it very carefully. It was a generic purpose agreement. You can’t leave while under discipline-sign here. It didn’t say, you can’t leave while under discipline for some LGBTQ issue that was against church policy.

    So, either the people who were writing this are not really smart or they are smarter than you think. I believe it is the former.

  158. Michaela wrote:

    apparently many conservatives (I am one but am reasonable) never thought about “The Change” that women go through and they will need to take The Pill to control excessive bleeding.

    I was one of those women. I was facing a major surgery to remove my female organs because of that very problem since I was rapidly becoming anemic. Thankfully, after many tries of various combinations of birth control pills, I saved myself the operation. I have a young relative who also is prone to fainting from severe cramping in her cycle. Birth control pills allow her to live more normally during that time.

  159. Law Prof wrote:

    We’ve all heard of the people forced by courts to photograph or bake cakes for same sex couples in violation of their consciences and religious beliefs. This disturbs me (I never have quite gotten the notion that discrimination based on behavior–as opposed to a non-behavioral immutable characteristic such as pigmentation or nationality) as in my opinion the camel’s nose is now in the tent; personal religious convictions are most decidedly not beyond the reach of the courts.

    It disturbs me too because now the State is being forced to play Solomon with an infant on his dais as the Captain of his guard is ordered to draw his sword and divide the baby in two. All because of two things; the gay or lesbian couple is not ‘big’ enough to go elsewhere for their cake or pics, and on the flip side, neither is the shop keeper ‘big’ enough to just bake the cake or take the pics as just a business transaction and nothing more.

  160. I don’t think I’ve struggled with a post as much since visiting here. I’m often one of the first, or only, to speak against a prevailing point of view so I know well the social pressures involved.

    Lynne’s posts seemed easy to dismiss for some, and although there were some good points in rebuttal, unfortunately anyone reading here that had sympathies with her point of view would be equally dismissive of counter arguments given the imputing of motives and an accusation of bigotry.

    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

  161. dee wrote:

    BTW-did you notice their discipline is like getting judged on Judgement Day except you have time to repent? Good night! Call in the Inquisition.

    I thought the same, Dee. How can they preach the free gift of salvation by grace and then say that repentance will save us on judgment day? It’s just another control gambit not based at all on the gospel of grace.

  162. Lynne wrote:

    mirele wrote:
    The ADF is using this as a scare tactic. Under the First Amendment, churches and pastors CANNOT be forced to marry anyone.
    Of course not. And 4 or 5 years ago, under the First Amendment, a Christian baker could not be forced to provide a cake for a same-sex ceremony, or a photographer photos, or a florist flowers. And a Christian company could not be forced to PAY for their employees’ selective abortions or abortifacients (it took the Supreme court to recently agree that one is true). And a Christian T-shirt printer couldn’t be forced to print shirts for a Gay-Pride event. And Catholic adoption services couldn’t be forced to place children with same-sex couples. /sarc
    And how in the world did **I** introduce a red herring when the blog post itself, brought ADF in through a link to their “Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender identity Lawsuits”, a 44 page document which is quite clear in the introductory page that its purpose is to prepare churches to deal with potential legal threats stemming from “sexual orientation, gender identity ordinances”…not to give Mark Driscoll wanna-bees the power to create mini-dictatorships.
    The ironic thing is…since I’m being accused of being a shill promoting church contacts/uber-control or something: I would never sign a church covenant agreement AND those Mark 9/Acts 29/John Piper clone churches would probably refuse to recognize the President of ADF (whose profile you also linked to) as a fellow Christian anyway since he’s Catholic.

    Lynne – All we’re saying is there’s a heck of a lot more there than protecting churches from SS marriage mandates (a point I’ve made it obvious I agree with you on–and you also ought to be able to see I share your cynicism about the trend of federal common law on this issue) and if you’ve even given that document a cursory glance, you have to know it’s so and that you were being unfair with your opening salvo and your aggrieved victim follow up. We mischaracterized nothing about the ADF document. I don’t care about titles and headings, I read documents and see what they actually say–kind of a big thing in my line of work.

  163. Bill M wrote:

    If this were the first thread I read [counter-arguments to Lynne’s post], I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    @Bill M,

    I have learned a lot from reading the well-thought out responses, and disagreements, to Lynne’s post. Everyone is always free to put in their .02 here, you too.

    I am a conservative Christian but the lack of love that is characterized in today’s evangelical churches is sickening, both the attacks on fellow members as well as outsiders.

  164. mirele wrote:

    The ADF and, by extension, you are doing no favors to Christianity by trying to cloak your bigotry in religious belief. Segregationists really, really believed that African-Americans were not as good as white people,

    I think that may be going a step too far.

    I don’t support homosexual behavior or forcing businesses or harassing them into servicing homosexual wedding ceremonies. That doesn’t make me hateful. “Bigot” is a loaded word.

    People do hold some of these stances not out of hatred but out of moral convictions.

    Even given my quasi agnostic state, I am not a fan of homosexual supporter’s tactics, which includes harassing or intimidate others into getting their way, or getting people fired from their jobs or forcing them out of business.

    I don’t equate someone’s skin color to someone’s sexual behavior, either.

  165. mirele wrote:

    Or you might be nicer and say that GLBT persons have to remain celibate all their lives

    mirele wrote:

    Or you might be nicer and say that GLBT persons have to remain celibate all their lives.

    I’m hetero and celibate… because I was a Christian for years and still pretty much retain traditional values, that sex outside of marriage is wrong.

  166. Michaela wrote:

    I honestly can’t get all hot and bothered about bakery cakes. And I just came out of a conservative, evangelical church. About 50% of the straight people (including Christians) who order cakes will divorce, there will be adulterers amongst them, batterers, and the like.

    But if you are a baker or florist or what have you, if a guy and a lady come in to order a cake from you, are you going to necessarily be able to tell just from looking at them if they are divorcees, or if one committed adultery? Probably not.

    Most of the bakeries, florists, and so on that I’ve seen involved in these cases have been serving homosexual couples for years and years, in other contexts (for birthday parties and so on). They’ve only been drawing the line at servicing weddings in particular.

  167. dee wrote:

    That may have been the stated purpose. However, that is not the outcome of the stated purpose. The suggestions are far reaching-well beyond the stated goal. It is wide reaching.

    I agree that when a group draws up a list of rules claiming it will only be applied for one thing, they will sometimes broaden it, or apply it differently from its stated purpose.

    I once worked at a job where we had to keep time sheets of how long we spent per project. Nobody there (other than the bosses) wanted this.

    The bosses tried to placate us by assuring us that the time sheets would never, ever be used against us in any way, shape, or form.

    Well, well, well, one of the horrible bosses did just that. As the months went by, she’d beat us up over the time sheets, and nit pick, and chew us out for spending what she felt was too much time on X and not enough of Z, etc and so forth.

    My gut feeling is that these churches will abuse these membership agreement things to keep people in line for any and all reasons, not just to prevent SS marriages on their premises.

  168. @ Bill M:

    Quite so. Stick around. There are some of us who present counter ideas at times and it gets lonely. Well, not actually lonely–more like sparse on some issues.

  169. dee wrote:

    Bob M wrote:

    I was voted in as pastor far too early in my Christian life. Disastrous.

    So, if you ever want to tell you story, even anonymously with details changed to protect you, let us know via email! I think you have much to teach us.

    @Dee I would love to. It almost ruined my family and faith.

  170. Bill M wrote:

    I don’t think I’ve struggled with a post as much since visiting here. I’m often one of the first, or only, to speak against a prevailing point of view so I know well the social pressures involved.

    Lynne’s posts seemed easy to dismiss for some, and although there were some good points in rebuttal, unfortunately anyone reading here that had sympathies with her point of view would be equally dismissive of counter arguments given the imputing of motives and an accusation of bigotry.

    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    This. Few things make me more uncomfortable in being a part of these things than the sort of one-sided-ness that can pop up in a community. An opposing view or a question does not necessarily a bigot make. It might, but after one comment? Let’s not become what we hate.

    Bill, nothing strengthens my faith more than seeing others who have gone through the ringer and still hold on to their faith. It means 10x more to me than what all the theologians can expound. I’d love to see your story.

  171. Bill M wrote:

    I don’t think I’ve struggled with a post as much since visiting here. I’m often one of the first, or only, to speak against a prevailing point of view so I know well the social pressures involved.
    Lynne’s posts seemed easy to dismiss for some, and although there were some good points in rebuttal, unfortunately anyone reading here that had sympathies with her point of view would be equally dismissive of counter arguments given the imputing of motives and an accusation of bigotry.
    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    I very much appreciate the fact that the Deebs let me put up the law and spell out the consequences of same.

    As for the accusations of bigotry–as long as you keep it within your church walls, you won’t hear me complain about it. The moment it rears its ugly head within the laws we all have to obey, then I will use the “bigot” word. Because I’m very, very tired of Christians cloaking their bigotry–which has real world effects–in Jesus.

    I’ve had Christians (ignorant, I think, but some most certainly are not) tell me that gay rights are special rights. I then point out to them that in many places, it’s perfectly ok and legal to tell a GLBT person, “no job, no housing.” And whenever an anti-discrimination ordinance comes up (examples during the last year include Houston and Little Rock), the people who speak against are all pastors from big conservative churches in town who want everyone to know that they want to be able to continue to discriminate in jobs and housing against GLBT persons.

    To me, housing and employment are not special rights. They’re basic rights. If you can’t put a roof over your head and be gainfully employed, a lot of being able to keep yourself alive is knocked out right there. And yet there are many Christians who engage in this–let me be blunt–bigotry because they fervently believe that GLBT persons are a special kind of evil and deserve to be treated this way.

    Nobody deserves to be treated this way. Nobody.

    To wrap back around to the church contracts…suppose someone changes their mind after much prayerful consideration and decides that he can’t support the church’s anti-gay stand. That she’s going to vote for the candidate(s) in the next election who are not campaigning on a “repeal the anti-discrimination amendment” platform. (Running a city is far more than that. Folks, if you’re voting in someone based on that or any other single issue, you’re doing yourself and your neighbors a disservice.) Under these onerous church contracts, that person could end up at the pointy end of a church discipline action for failing to follow along in the decidedly political expression of a religious belief, given the ways some of these contracts are worded. (Not even the Scientologists make you do that in their arbitration clauses!)

    So I don’t apologize when bigots pop up outside their church walls and decide their bigotry should be enshrined in law, or that laws should be rolled back to accommodate their bigotry. I call it like I see it. And yeah, I’ve been called a religious bigot before, because I’ve been blunt about telling the Scientologists that they’re members of a money-grubbing, life-stealing cult. (Somewhere on the intertubes, there’s a poster of me with that very description. It was spread around the neighborhood. It backfired when a radio talk show host saw it and asked me on her program.)

  172. mirele wrote:

    There’s a fundamental difference between being a minister of the gospel and running a business baking cakes, making t-shirts and photographing ceremonies for all comers. The former are protected by the First Amendment for their opinions. The latter are not.

    I think that everybody knows what you are saying, but I also think that it would be incorrect to underestimate the number of people who believe that this is wrong, that individuals also need to be protected for their religious opinions. And that would be both in church (in spite of covenants) and on the job (in spite of the government.) And they are every bit as convinced of the moral rightness of their opinion as you seem to be convinced of the moral rightness of your opinion regarding on the job stuff. It is not that people somehow do not understand how things are; it is that they vehemently oppose how things are on this and some other issues.

    Personal note and example: I have said before that my father was a lawyer and I have said before that he and I argued over ‘the law says’ until any hope of any decent relationship between us was long since destroyed. That was not the only issue-that was just the method of argument. He never seemed to understand why ‘the law says’ was not for me ever the final word on some subject. He would say ‘the law says’ and I would say ‘but the bible says’ or ‘but research shows’ or ‘but common sense will tell you’ or ‘maybe if you would get your head out of some law book and look around at the world then perhaps we could have a conversation.’ Eventually it got to where I said ‘who cares about what a bunch of drunk and *** chasing politicians in Frankfort wrote down, the law is wrong/wrong/wrong.’ It was ugly. I was ugly. I still am.

    I just deleted a paragraph about how this sort of thing is part of our system of government-trying to stay away from politics. However, it looks to me like whether we are talking about church covenants which try to control people’s thinking and beliefs (or else the church will be mad at you) or whether we are talking about baking cakes (or else the government will be mad at you) it is all the same issue-religious freedom, its definition and application. Am I free as a church member to disagree with the leadership, and am I free as a citizen to disagree with the government when it comes to religious beliefs.

    And ‘the law says’ is only the beginning of the argument, not the end.

  173. Dave A A wrote:

    so this proleptic enactment perhaps had mystical significance to the angels and demons. I have it on good authority that, for at least one member (who’d asked all pastors that the enactment not take place) it was the last darkening of that church’s doors.

    Thank you for the explanation. I thought they were talking about enemas so I didn’t read further. Now that I have read your explanation, I believe my interpretation was not so far off base. 🙂

  174. mirele wrote:

    And yet there are many Christians who engage in this–let me be blunt–bigotry because they fervently believe that GLBT persons are a special kind of evil and deserve to be treated this way.

    True words. I just ‘left’ a fb group called God’s Word to Women because I dared to suggest that the admin’s disgust at finding a lesbian speaking at a XTian conference was a bit OTT & in fact many of the issues faced by LGBTQ Xtians are very similar to those faced by women, & previously people of colour: ‘the Bible CLEARLY says’, ‘It’s obvious from nature’, ‘It’s an abomination & of you can’t see that you’re opposing the Holy Spirit’. I got back a huge list of the admin’s academic qualifications in hermeneutics, so then obviously she must be right, & singling out LGBTQ people in a thoughtless, knee jerk & closed minded way is okay then. I know that is LGBTQ issues had been my personal struggle I’d have been totally destroyed by most of the church by now.

  175. @ Law Prof:

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

    I think churches should rethink the whole marriage thing anyway. Churches should only allow weddings of their members or regular attendees. That would take care of most of the problems around this issue. Gay affirming churches would marry whom the wish and non gay affirming churches would marry those who have agreed to their doctrinal stance. In England, a couple is first married by the state which has its laws. Then they proceed to the church to have a church sanctioned wedding.

    No system is perfect but I think this would eliminate most issues surrounding such weddings. Also, sanctuaries and meeting halls should be used just be members or regular attendees. Again, this would decrease problems.

    People involved in serving the public need to be aware that they will be challenged in the years to come. I wonder how the Christian slaves functioned in Roman households in which they had to prepare food for bacchanals or help set up a room dedicated to the gods, etc. Did they protest and go to their deaths for that? From my reading of the early persecutions, most Christian martyrs went to their deaths for being forced to worship Roman gods and Roman emperors who thought they were Gods, not for carrying wine to drunken orgies.

    The US allows everyone to participate in the political process and everyone has a right to stand up for what they believe. I believe, however, that gay marriage will be the law of the land. The more I read statistics on your evangelicals/millennials, I also realize that even in the Christian community there is growing support for this.

    So, what do we do? A friend asked a good question at a retreat that I helped with last week. Pharmacists who are pro-life have refused to dispense an abortifacient. She asked “What is your opinion of a pharmacist who takes a job at store which states up front that they expect the pharmacist to give out such drugs?” The speaker, a conservative evangelical. responded “Don’t take the job.”

    I am a pragmatist. If I were an OB/GYN physician working in a facility which suddenly demanded me to do abortions, I would quit and even retrain to avoid doing so.

    Is it *fair* that the law is like this? Having had a child who s*unfairly* uffered with a brain tumor, I would often answer my kids when they whined about things not being fair like this. “No, its not fair. Who told you life would be fair? Your should fight for fairness but expect to be confronted with unjust laws and behaviors all your life. Figure out how you will respond.”

    Some are willing to fight, losing their life savings in a battle which they may lose anyway. Others choose to work within the system but figure out ways to deal with their beliefs in that systems. Others just compromise and give up.

    Let me end my long comment by saying that I believe strongly in the rights of conscience but how do I deal with others whose rights of conscience cause them to butt up against mine? It is not an easy question.

  176. rike wrote:

    No matter what the ADF titles their document, much of it does not apply to potential gender identity lawsuits. Whether this is ignorance or negligence or intent on their part, I have no idea

    I totally agree.

  177. Bill M wrote:

    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    Since we have atheists, as well as conservative christians, writing here, somehow people, in general, are doing OK.

    I had to make a decision as long time ago about discussion on this blog. i want to hear from people who are staying their opinions in their own way. I m not going to control people except for a few items. No highly sexualized expression, minimum of foul language, and expressing concern for victims who have been abused. That’s it.

    The church has controlled the expression of people by telling them how and what to say. Any deviation from that standard gets people thrown out of churches, etc.

    I do not control the expression of people who post here. I believe that we are all big enough to stand the courage of our convictions. If people cannot feel comfortable arguing their POV here, they will fry in the general public.

    Very soon we will be discussing a church discipline story that is beyond belief. This isn’t coming from an expected “funny” church. It will involve some graphic details. Those details will be necessary for me to make my case that the church behaved in a despicable manner.

    I will be putting the words *graphic* and *trigger warning* on all of those posts to help those who have been similarly hurt.

    We all learn from communication. Your comment will serve as a reminder to us how we might be perceived by others.

  178. Daisy wrote:

    I once worked at a job where we had to keep time sheets of how long we spent per project. Nobody there (other than the bosses) wanted this.
    The bosses tried to placate us by assuring us that the time sheets would never, ever be used against us in any way, shape, or form.
    Well, well, well, one of the horrible bosses did just that. As the months went by, she’d beat us up over the time sheets, and nit pick, and chew us out for spending what she felt was too much time on X and not enough of Z, etc and so forth.

    Great comment!!!

  179. GovPappy wrote:

    I’d love to see your story.

    You will. We have been communicating. Timing is the issue. You will understand when you finally read what happened.

  180. @ mirele:
    You have always struck me as a woman of great conviction and compassion. I appreciate you very much. You have opened my eyes to the issues surrounding Scientology. Even better, you have shown me where evangelicals can sometimes act like Scientologists.

  181. Beakerj wrote:

    I know that is LGBTQ issues had been my personal struggle I’d have been totally destroyed by most of the church by now.

    Also in many churches if you had been poverty stricken, or divorced or failed to meet any number of contrived social requirements including pretty and compliant, or adopted, or an immigrant or any sort of racial anything other that anemia-pale, or if you were the only one from your family who went to church, or if your second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side went to jail for a spell about twenty years ago, or if you failed to espouse every wacky idea that was popular at the time, or if you voted for the wrong candidate in the last election-or and or and or.

    If country songs are about ‘somebody done somebody wrong’ it is time we wrote a few songs about how the churches have done people wrong over the years.

  182. O/T I got some interesting mail this week. One was a packet from Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter. Someone put Mrs. Mirele on their list. I’m Miss Mirele. My mother is the Mrs. I also got a flyer from one of the two local megachurches, (the one that has guys like Creflo Dollar breeze through) which is starting up a branch just three miles drive from the three-domed mothership. Today is their hard opening. I knew it was happening, because I’d seen the banner over a space in a half-empty strip center near my house. When I drove by earlier this morning, the banner had been blown over and it’s not in a position to be easily tacked back up before church this morning. I just got the feeling this isn’t going to turn out the way the three-domed mothership expects it to.

  183. Bill M wrote:

    Lynne’s posts seemed easy to dismiss for some, and although there were some good points in rebuttal, unfortunately anyone reading here that had sympathies with her point of view would be equally dismissive of counter arguments given the imputing of motives and an accusation of bigotry.

    My main issue with Lynne’s post is that there is no need to defend the rights of ordained minsters to marry or not marry anyone. They are free to say yes or no to whomever they please. To claim that a membership agreement is needed to protect the pastor or church from having to perform a marriage ceremony is bogus. There is some other reason for the push for church membership contracts.

    What makes a marriage legal is the marriage license. Once one is obtained, depending on the state and the church, a couple can be married in a church by a minister or by a justice of the peace, who then signs the license.

    The bigotry accusations go a bit far to me. It is probably true that some people are and use Jesus as an excuse. But I couldn’t claim that about everyone who might refuse service for religious reasons.

    I, as a christian, don’t understand the refusal to bake a cake or take pictures for a same sex wedding. That is my “in good conscience” decision. OTOH, I would not be able to “in good conscience” support most abortions. The ‘most’ does have a purpose. But these are all my personnel convictions and I have to allow others to have theirs, as long as they are not depriving other people of their well being.

  184. mirele wrote:

    I just got the feeling this isn’t going to turn out the way the three-domed mothership expects it to.

    That might be a good thing . . .

  185. Bill M wrote:

    I don’t think I’ve struggled with a post as much since visiting here. I’m often one of the first, or only, to speak against a prevailing point of view so I know well the social pressures involved.
    Lynne’s posts seemed easy to dismiss for some, and although there were some good points in rebuttal, unfortunately anyone reading here that had sympathies with her point of view would be equally dismissive of counter arguments given the imputing of motives and an accusation of bigotry.
    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    The Deebs are kind enough to allow me to comment. I sometimes feel like the lone civil liberatarian here and yes I have been piled on by other liberal commenters when I challenge something…mostly political because I think the left is just as tyrannical and vitriolic as the right. I am just not into being popular or liked by the group when it comes to discussions about real serious issues. Those days are over for me.

    I don;t have time to go into the challenges I have with the Gay Lobby in America right now but I have had some experience with their blackmail tactics. I am busy with my one day off each year! :o)

  186. @ dee:

    Amen and amen. I especially liked ‘don’t take the job.’ That is going to have to be preached from some pulpits again (it used to be; I suppose everybody knows that) as a way to live life within the confines of both conscience and the demands of the culture. And we have to understand that some people will take the job and some won’t and we just have to understand that and move on.

    And I want to say a special amen to your comment ‘it is not an easy question.’ As one who had to decide something about dealing with changing circumstances on the job resulting in my having to do ultrasound (or at least sign off on it) for fetal age determination for abortion compliance with the law while at the same time being a single parent of two and needing to earn a living I hashed through every philosophical and moral argument I could find–it is no way easy. Sometimes it boils down to how much distance is enough distance. Specifically, how bad is it if you are not actually doing the procedure or making the decision to do the procedure or assisting in the procedure but rather just furnishing information that will be used/misused by other people for such a decision. Complicate by the fact that the information may actually let them know not to abort in some cases. That is a very difficult moral call. We need to cut each other some slack-forgiving people on both sides of these issues. But I did not have any peace about being involved even to that extent. I found another job but mostly for other reasons. In retrospect I wish I had resigned on the spot for this reason–as solely a matter of conscience and as a public statement of such. But retrospect does not change anything. (End of public mea culpa.)

    I feel for the bakers and florists and photographers and I am to that extent on their side even though I do not see how selling a cake or some flowers or taking pictures can remotely be said to be giving approval for what the customer uses the product for. None the less, the arguments about cakes and flowers and pictures are very close to the arguments I dealt with in my own life. If they believe it is wrong then they should not do it, including sell the business and do something else, if possible. And I think that those in the church who are able and agree with the bakers and florists and photographers should financially help them make that transition if necessary.

  187. Bill M wrote:

    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    Quite the contrary Bill, there is probably no other faith-based blog out there with the tolerance level that TWW has. Some of the others are like war zones, complete with Shiites and Sunnis blowing up each others Mosques like they do in Tikrit and Mosul. The metaphor is not lost on many of us here.

  188. @ Nancy:
    I like what you have said in your latest two comments, and I do think we need to find a way to protect the freedom of conscience of individuals. We need to find a win/win or at least we need to think about how to minimize the overall burden to conscience and freedom.

    There are some big differences between the social and legal circumstances prevailing in our country during the Civil Rights era and today. Before Heart of Atlanta, blacks were routinely denied accommodation in restaurants and hotels, and their freedom to travel was severely restricted as a result. IIRC and in my neck of the woods, the reason is that the business owners were concerned about the impact on their business if they served black customers. The anti-black white customers would stay away due to the prevailing cultural prejudice against black persons. And that judgment by the white business owners was a pragmatic one rather than a principled one of conscience. So, IMO, the burden to the black community was very great before HoA, and the burden to the individual business owner was much less since after HoA since every business would be subject to that ruling.

    I think that the cake baking and florist examples are not the same thing, at least when considered from a balancing-the-interests POV. The individual baker who objects to same-sex marriage on grounds of conscience bears a great burden if forced by the state to supply personal services. The same-sex couple does not face the same kind of restriction of freedom that black persons faced before HoA. There are multitudes of bakers ready to bake a cake for whomever, so I don’t really see the point of forcing a few to refuse to do so unless it is a political point that is being made rather than one of principal.

    That said, I think that the church has mixed up orientation and practice and made orientation or gender dysphoria or intersex conditions sins when I don’t see how that makes any sense at all, and I do think we have created unnecessary pain for some brothers and sisters. I don’t know about the issues involved, so that’s as far as I can go. However, practice is a whole other thing for many Christians, just as it is for heterosexual practice outside of marriage.

    Now, on to Mother’s Day.

  189. Back in the 80’s there was a second round of roadless areas reviewed for inclusion into the wilderness designation. I was part of a group that was working to gain support for an area nearby. I came at my support from a different direction than most everyone there. Mostly the one area had very unstable soils and the cost of roads and maintenance would make it a poor place to log.

    Unfortunately meetings and communications were almost always filled with a lot of other agendas associated with the political left. These other agendas drove off a lot of potential supporters. The attempts to get the area included as wilderness failed, the area was logged, within the first year there were massive slides and the roads destroyed.

    I believe the area of abusive churches reaches across any political or religious divide. As Dee stated, comments are not policed, I’m not trying to either. But comments here are read and I would desire that there would be a great deal more sympathy for victims and understanding of abusive systems. This becomes much more difficult when people are labeled, from either direction, and a lot of other agendas are brought in.

    I’ve read enough outside these forums to know they are considered a hotbed of malcontents. Don’t get me wrong, I do love healthy debate, but I am a “done” on politics. Politics, and in the case of the whole LGBT debate, both “political” sides have used the issue to divide and intimidate.

  190. dee wrote:

    In England, a couple is first married by the state which has its laws. Then they proceed to the church to have a church sanctioned wedding.

    That’s the way it is in most of the world.

    Marriage is, in fact, two institutions.

    One of them is important to civil society, which appreciates it as a commitment of a couple to stay together and support each other. This is NOT a religious institution, it’s purely secular (even if it grew out of religious practice, it exists in all religions, and must therefore universally human, and not tied to one particular religion.) The civil government recognises that this is socially desirable, because it helps look after the weakest members of society – children, the sick, the old. Therefore, if two people decide and declare in public that they want to stick together, the government supports this – in different ways in different countries.

    The other institution is religious – various religions see the same and additional values in marriage, perform wedding ceremonies declare the couple married in the eyes of god and the assembled worshippers.

    That American churches perform weddings on behalf of the state is actually the exception rather than the norm. In Austria, for instance, the Lutheran church will not perform a wedding for you unless you are legally married at the registry office – there are very few exceptions to that in special cases.

    I think that American churches should get out of the business of performing wedding ceremonies for the government altogether. People should get legally married at the registry office/town hall/wherever. The church can then perform an additional ceremony for those who wish this – mostly its own members and their families.

    Since these are two different institutions, different rules can apply.

  191. Muff Potter wrote:

    Bill M wrote:

    If this were the first thread I read, I would deem it an unsafe place to disagree.

    Quite the contrary Bill, there is probably no other faith-based blog out there with the tolerance level that TWW has. Some of the others are like war zones, complete with Shiites and Sunnis blowing up each others Mosques like they do in Tikrit and Mosul. The metaphor is not lost on many of us here.

    I was part of a Facebook page run by a high-profile ex-fundy where comments were being deleted without explanation, any even remotely moderating comment was shouted down, etc. It was the wild west.

    Given the tough, nuanced issues often brought up by the posts, the comment section here is very fair, often hugely insightful and helpful – sometimes I get as much knowledge out of the comments as I do from the post. That’s a good place to be, and it’s very hard to maintain the necessary balance.

  192. @ rike:I have scratched my head over this as well. Our former church had an unwritten “leave well” policy as well. As best I can figure out, if you feel the need to leave for *any* reason (except a geographical relocation), *you* are in the wrong, and the whole exit process is designed to point out your wrong, so you can correct your thinking, and then, why, there’s no more reason for you to leave, is there?

    (Bright, beaming smile)

    After all, your wanting to leave implies some sort of criticism of their theology or practice, and we cannot have that. They are doing nothing wrong, and if they actually *did* do something wrong in the past, they’ve already corrected it, so it’s not a reason for leaving, because now they are doing everything right — or at least, right-er than any other church out there.

    If you are allowed to leave peaceably, without being put squarely in the wrong, some of the other pew sitters might get ideas.

  193. Bill M wrote:

    Politics, and in the case of the whole LGBT debate, both “political” sides have used the issue to divide and intimidate.

    I agree. I would have emphasized the word ‘both’ instead. 🙂

  194. Bridget wrote:

    To claim that a membership agreement is needed to protect the pastor or church from having to perform a marriage ceremony is bogus. There is some other reason for the push for church membership contracts.

    Yes…but don’t underestimate ignorance coupled with a desire to control.

  195. @ Gram3:
    Oh, and I was once a member of a church in the era when SBC churches did not do mixed-race marriages. The pastor was approached by a young couple, one of whom was a member, to perform the wedding. The pastor said he would since they were both Christians and therefore there was no “unequally yoked” issue. Some members were very irate, including some deacons. The pastor said they could fire him but he was going to marry the young couple. He did and they didn’t fire him. Some people left the church during that time, but the others learned a valuable lesson, I think.

  196. Gram3 wrote:

    SBC churches did not do mixed-race marriages. The pastor was approached by a young couple, one of whom was a member, to perform the wedding. The pastor said he would since they were both Christians and therefore there was no “unequally yoked” issue.

    Good golly! Non-Christian mixed race couples would be considered unequally yoked then, but Christian mixed race couples weren’t?

  197. Gus wrote:

    I think that American churches should get out of the business of performing wedding ceremonies for the government altogether. People should get legally married at the registry office/town hall/wherever. The church can then perform an additional ceremony for those who wish this

    I agree. The church can perform a ceremony if the couple wish. It should not be mandatory.

  198. Victorious wrote:

    Gus wrote:
    I think that American churches should get out of the business of performing wedding ceremonies for the government altogether. People should get legally married at the registry office/town hall/wherever. The church can then perform an additional ceremony for those who wish this
    I agree. The church can perform a ceremony if the couple wish. It should not be mandatory.

    I’m wondering if churches will then ‘require’ couples to be married in the church as a prerequisite to membership? In other words, will churches accept the civil ceremony as a viable marriage?

    To this point, it seems churches have been doing a service for the government by performing the actual marriage ceremony. It seems that states may need to add employees to perform the ceremonies if they disallow ministers to perform the ceremony on behalf of the state.

  199. Gus wrote:

    I think that American churches should get out of the business of performing wedding ceremonies for the government altogether. People should get legally married at the registry office/town hall/wherever. The church can then perform an additional ceremony for those who wish this – mostly its own members and their families.

    Sounds good to me. Some fringe groups, like my former “church” and Michael Pearl, would have a fit, since they don’t even believe in obtaining state marriage licenses to begin with.

  200. Bridget wrote:

    I’m wondering if churches will then ‘require’ couples to be married in the church as a prerequisite to membership? In other words, will churches accept the civil ceremony as a viable marriage?

    All this is coming very close to differentiating between sacramental and non-sacramental marriage. I am not seeing how churches with no sacramental theology would justify that. There is some irony here, because just look who has been in bed with the gov this time.

  201. Nancy wrote:

    There is some irony here, because just look who has been in bed with the gov this time.

    Yes and no. Many churches want to be in bed with the government, but they do not want the government to be in bed with them. (Not possible of course.) They want their cake, but not the weight that often comes with it. In some cases, believers think the church should be the government.

  202. Bridget wrote:

    I’m wondering if churches will then ‘require’ couples to be married in the church as a prerequisite to membership? In other words, will churches accept the civil ceremony as a viable marriage?

    Imagine this scenario. A couple starts to attend a church and presents as being married. Who would actually know whether or not this was true? Would the church have to resort to “policing” couples by checking marriage certificates? Do they check divorce certificates if someone appears to be a non-married/single person?

    Churches can only have the amount of control that is afforded them imho.

  203. @ Gus:
    Here is CS lewis’ quote from Mere Christianity

    “Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is quite the different question—how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws.

    A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.

    My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members.

    The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

  204. @ BeenThereDoneThat:
    I had a guy in my small group a couple of decades ago, who had just gotten out of jail. He related to some Christian bring groups and didn’t get a driver’s license nor did he pay his taxes because both were “unbiblical” and “unconstiitutional.”

    He spent a couple of years in the slammer beating his head against the wall that he bought into some of that stuff. He was actually quite interesting to talk with.

  205. GovPappy wrote:

    sometimes I get as much knowledge out of the comments as I do from the post. That’s a good place to be, and it’s very hard to maintain the necessary balance.

    Trust me. I am at war with myself all of the time. What is good, what is bad.

    I still remember a number of years ago posting a you tube video of a country song. I had three choices for the singer-LeeAnn Womack,Dolly Parton, and believe it or not, Tina Turner. I got critique for the one I put on-Womack’s version because it showed a bit of cleavage. Well, Dolly would not have gotten around that issue, nor would Tina Turner.

    I decided that i would keep the video up. I had not trouble with it and people who did were under no obligation to view it.

    Anyway-here is the link.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV-Z1YwaOiw

  206. @ Victorious:

    I’ve never heard of church asking for proof of marriage in the past 35 years. It would be strange if they started doing so now. But with membership contracts making a surge right now, I wouldn’t be surprised. My understanding is that marriage licenses were developed mainly as a way to protect women and children from abuse. Until their time, there was not much recourse against powerful (and not so powerful) men who wished to have their own way. Henry the VIII comes to mind. The church tried, unsuccessfully, to reign him in. Sometimes governments are the true arm of justice. Not always though.

  207. Bill M wrote:

    t I am a “done” on politics.

    I have problems with political discussions. I get in so much trouble with what I do write, I have decided I do not want to go down that road with this blog. I, too, am done with politics although I was very involved for a number of years. I want to spend the rest of my life concentrating on faith issues that can hurt people and drive them away from the love of Jesus.

  208. Bridget wrote:

    Henry the VIII comes to mind

    What a start to the Anglican church. Imagine if Henry started new churches for each of his marriages?!!

  209. @ dee:

    Disaster! It did in fact happen as his different offspring came into power and the religious affiliation of each one took power. Not a pretty sight, and all the more reason to keep church and state separate.

  210. @ Nancy:
    The other thing that bothers me is that their decision is often portrayed in the media as the “evangelical” response. I would have responded differently in those situations and I would have done so with my theology intact. Those folks only represent one groups evangelicals.

    However, they do represent those of us who believe in rights of conscience. But, we have to be prepared that it goes both ways. For example, a Muslim cabbie refused to carry a family because he noticed a bag from a liquor store in their possessions.

    Then, there is the ongoing struggle with Hasidic men and the airlines because they cannot sit next to women on the plane due to conscience. They have held up many flights because the airlines have tried to accommodate them.

    I could go on and on. This is difficult area. From my perspective, this is how I could handle situations. Unless my life was in imminent danger, i would not force my tastes on anyone that rejected them.

    So, if a gay baker didn’t want to make me a cake for my Bible study, i would say thank you and move on to another store.

    I would have jumped out of that cab and called another one. I would have stood up on the plane and offer to switch seats with someone if a man didn’t want to sit next to me due to my gender.

    I would try, as much as possible to put others ahead of myself so long a I was not the person who had to perform a voluntary abortion.

    However, i have no problem with people who feel otherwise so long as they understand that their choices do not necessarily make them heroes or give them brownie points with God.

  211. Gram3 wrote:

    The same-sex couple does not face the same kind of restriction of freedom that black persons faced before HoA.

    This has been particularly galling to many of the black professionals I know. To cast the issue in terms of being just like the civil rights fight that blacks faced is pretty unjust for many reasons. The gay lobby is chocked full of high paid professionals and they have many big corporations and big money donors on their side.

    That was not the case with the civil rights movement at all. Just walking into a room people would know you are black.

    I have an extended family member who married his long time companion in Boston when it was legalized. They are delightful people we vacation with every year. But they were very involved in the national movement and work in international aids prevention. But even they started to cringe at some of the tactics used.

  212. I don’t really understand the whole idea of sacramental marriage. I do understand it from a historical view but not from a spiritual view. To me, it seems to be more of a contract no matter how you are married. As a libertarian, I do not see how marriage can be denied to SS couples.

    In the area of rights groups I am wondering when there is going to be special rights for overweight people. Years ago, someone I know was vacationing in an exclusive area and was out shopping. She is a large sized woman. Over the course of a week, she was told by 3 different boutiques upon entering there was nothing for her there. She got the impression they did not even want her in the store! Even though she was there to buy something for her nieces. Not herself. Should she sue? Demand equal treatment?

    I am seeing more and more discrimination in the area of weight with insurance plans, etc. And how I see overweight kids at school treated is a travesty.

    Yet, most people would not view this as discrimination. We tend to worship thinness and youth in this country. But above all thinness. They would view it as they need to change because it is what is best for them and we know best for them. We should monitor their grocery shopping and exercise choices. (Our state is on the Obamaexchange and is requiring everyone to go and have their waists measured if they want lower cost health care)

    This would have been a disasster for my long time secretary who had several diseases including Lupus and was on drugs that made her balloon like crazy.

    So how to change people to force them to accept overweight people? They should not be denied jobs in fashion and beauty companies, for example.

    I use this as an example to make a point about being other people’s consciences and using the law to try and force them to comply with every day decisions concerning what they believe and how they msut live their lives. They will be in danger for having a different opinion even if they never deny anyone their rights.

  213. Lydia wrote:

    To cast the issue in terms of being just like the civil rights fight that blacks faced is pretty unjust for many reasons.

    I agree, it is not the same and it is unjust to equate the two. That minimizes the whole racial issue.

    Another thing that is not the same is the same-sex marriage issue and the remarriage after divorce issue. To somehow demand that churches (or cake bakers) view them as the same is ridiculous, and to his credit Russell Moore has written about this and how they are not the same. I know, I know, but I though his take on this was solid.

    When it comes to heated rhetoric vs solid argumentation IMO the heat is disproportionately represented.

  214. One possible alternative that I think has some merit would be to have the wedding officiated by whomever the couple wishes, and then go to the govt. office for a certificate after informing them that a marriage has taken place. No more getting a license first. They would probably have to furnish some proof though, or the officiant would have to sign some document anyway, so maybe it’s a wash.

  215. @ Lydia:

    There is enormous bias against overweight people. Young daughter has PCOS type insulin resistance and maintaining her weight is a constant problem. She recently got referred to the local Joselin diabetes center at the local university medical center. BTW, they are doing a lot of good stuff in this area. Anyhow the new endocrinologist saw her, told her about the difference between different kinds of insulin resistance and the differences in how each must be managed and such, and then she reached over and patted young daughter on the knee and said: ‘We don’t blame you for this. Here we practice grace and mercy. We know you did not do this to yourself.” As soon as the doctor left the room young daughter called me on the phone. She was crying. Nobody in the health care industry ever before had done anything except accuse and blame.

    I am hopeful that some of the more recent research in this area will prove helpful to lots of people. The Joselin doc said that in america PCOS type insulin resistance is associated with overweight but in Europe it is not and nobody knows why yet. Something seems amiss in america about this.

  216. Lydia wrote:

    The Deebs are kind enough to allow me to comment. I sometimes feel like the lone civil liberatarian here and yes I have been piled on by other liberal commenters when I challenge something…mostly political because I think the left is just as tyrannical and vitriolic as the right.

    Don’t worry Lydia, as an old school FDR style Socialist (to which I freely admit ownership), I’d rather interact with you a Libertarian, any day, rather than most of the 20-or-30-something Orwellian goof balls at the ‘progressive’ sites.
    ===> (smiley face goes here)

  217. @ Amy Smith:
    Maybe my dh, too. He sees discernment blogs and commenters as a bunch of whiners and complainers. Whenever I bring up something that concerns me, he immediately has to become the devil’s advocate. I give up.

  218. dee wrote:

    So, if a gay baker didn’t want to make me a cake for my Bible study, i would say thank you and move on to another store.

    I agree, I’m not sure what I’d say, I’d likely be tongue tied, but I wouldn’t start a war over it. Thankfully we have a free enterprise system where we can go to a competitor who is not so small minded.

    But then what if the competitor beats his wife? Lots of choices. It is getting pretty bad when buying a cake becomes a political statement.

    There was a commercial on the tube some years ago where the shopper was asked, paper or plastic? The guy stood there paralyzed while he had visions of various pros and cons. Even bagging your groceries is political these days.

  219. Bridget wrote:

    Good golly! Non-Christian mixed race couples would be considered unequally yoked then, but Christian mixed race couples weren’t?

    Just to clarify my unclear comment, the greater culture did see race-mixing as a very bad thing. The one drop rule and such. It was something that was simply not questioned at the time. This is very difficult for some younger people to wrap their heads around. But that is the way things were.

    The pastor considered a Christian and a non-Christian to be unequally yoked because their fundamental orientation to life would be different. Not that one is bad and one is good, but that they would not be pulling in the same direction.

    The pastor said that since this young couple were both Christians, they were also equally yoked and that race is not a consequential issue, the prevailing culture notwithstanding. He warned them of the cultural pressure they and their children would be facing, but their families were supportive and they wanted to marry. The pastor, rightly IMO, saw that the issue was one of culture that was propped up with tradition and bad interpretation, so he married them and took the heat. Good for him, I think.

    Younger people have no way of understanding the way things were and the way people just naturally thought. Or didn’t think.

  220. @ Victorious:

    Bridget wrote:

    Bridget said:
    “I’m wondering if churches will then ‘require’ couples to be married in the church as a prerequisite to membership? In other words, will churches accept the civil ceremony as a viable marriage?”

    Victorious said:
    “Imagine this scenario. A couple starts to attend a church and presents as being married. Who would actually know whether or not this was true? Would the church have to resort to “policing” couples by checking marriage certificates? Do they check divorce certificates if someone appears to be a non-married/single person?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    what about people from other cultures if not other religions, where whatever it means to become married is very different. is it null and void?

    these kinds of things have caused me to rethink what the heck does being married mean, anyway? is it not sheer commitment? who needs a man in a black suit making his canned pronouncements?

    I have a friend who, along with her soul mate, married themselves to each other on top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Does this not count?

  221. Nancy wrote:

    Young daughter has PCOS type insulin resistance and maintaining her weight is a constant problem.

    The cystic acne doesn’t do much for one’s self esteem either. Oooooo, I could take over this thread on PCOS issues. Btw, has young daughter discovered the SoulCysters website? Lots of support and info. Best wishes to her.

  222. elastigirl wrote:

    I have a friend who, along with her soul mate, married themselves to each other on top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Does this not count?

    It would count to me as a commitment they have made to each other. I don’t know if it would be recognized by the state as a legal marriage without a license and the proper officiating and witness.

  223. Bill M wrote:

    But then what if the competitor beats his wife? Lots of choices. It is getting pretty bad when buying a cake becomes a political statement.

    And this gets to the difference between the ambient culture now regarding gay marriage and the ambient culture during the Civil Rights era toward serving black patrons. Bakers who are happy to bake cakes for gay couples can actually make that willingness a selling point for their services, and many heterosexuals would be inclined to buy their cakes from that baker for that reason.

  224. elastigirl wrote:

    what about people from other cultures if not other religions, where whatever it means to become married is very different. is it null and void?

    these kinds of things have caused me to rethink what the heck does being married mean, anyway? is it not sheer commitment? who needs a man in a black suit making his canned pronouncements?

    I have a friend who, along with her soul mate, married themselves to each other on top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Does this not count?

  225. Gram3 wrote:

    And this gets to the difference between the ambient culture now regarding gay marriage and the ambient culture during the Civil Rights era toward serving black patrons.

    Yes, but also in referring back to your prior comment about how younger people do not understand how it was I don’t think that it can be explained so that they do understand. They think that people did such and such so therefore they must have been thinking thus and such, and that is not accurate. I get so frustrated with the attempts to make the two attitudes similar. I lived during segregation up to and including my young adult years, and by then lots of people had grown uncomfortable with it. The ‘feel’ of societal attitudes about same sex marriage is a very different ‘feel.’ For example, most people in my circle did not see segregation as a moral/biblical issue but rather as a social and political issue, never mind what the fundys were saying since most of us were not fundys. If people miss that distinction they have missed a large part of the whole issue. On the other hand most of the quarrel over same-sex marriage is seeing it as a moral and religious issue. Very different thing going on. It is much easier to alter a social or political concept than to alter a strongly held religious concept.

  226. elastigirl wrote:

    these kinds of things have caused me to rethink what the heck does being married mean, anyway? is it not sheer commitment? who needs a man in a black suit making his canned pronouncements?

    There was a lengthy discussion on another board about when two people were married in God’s eyes. There was never a consensus reached and no one could actually find scripture that stated what determined the validity of a “marriage” in God’s eyes. Some thought it was a sexual union, but were forced to rethink that after realizing that would include rapists, predators, etc. Interesting thoughts with no solid scriptural support were presented.

    I have a friend who, along with her soul mate, married themselves to each other on top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Does this not count?

    I believe the presence of at least two witnesses would be proof that two people had committed their lives to one another and might be considered valid in the eyes of many. But that wouldn’t get a thumbs up from Christians I don’t think since it diminishes the importance of clergy in the union.

    There’s a very funny piece on the web called “10 ways to find a wife” and is based on numerous methods used by men to get wives in scripture. If you’re interested, check it out here:
    http://wearegoonies.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/top-ten-10-ways-to-find-a-wife-according-to-the-bible/

  227. GovPappy wrote:

    elastigirl wrote:

    what about people from other cultures if not other religions, where whatever it means to become married is very different. is it null and void?

    these kinds of things have caused me to rethink what the heck does being married mean, anyway? is it not sheer commitment? who needs a man in a black suit making his canned pronouncements?

    I have a friend who, along with her soul mate, married themselves to each other on top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Does this not count?

    Ha. Accidentally hit Post.

    I’ve asked this same question of several friends and people I respect. The answers were mostly “I don’t know”, and a few agreed that it was probably the moment of “cleaving”. One tried to spin “leaving” as being the public ceremony, but I think that’s reading our culture and tradition into the verses. Interesting question.

  228. GovPappy wrote:

    ”, and a few agreed that it was probably the moment of “cleaving”. One tried to spin “leaving” as being the public ceremony,

    Of course that couldn’t be for the simple reason that it was only the man who is told to “leave and cleave.” 🙂

  229. Lydia wrote:

    This has been particularly galling to many of the black professionals I know. To cast the issue in terms of being just like the civil rights fight that blacks faced is pretty unjust for many reasons. The gay lobby is chocked full of high paid professionals and they have many big corporations and big money donors on their side.

    The point that I, and I believe Mirele too, made about the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the discrimination ruling in Heart of Atlanta, was that it is constitutional for Congress to outlaw various forms of discrimination (race just being one form).

  230. Gram3 wrote:

    And this gets to the difference between the ambient culture now regarding gay marriage and the ambient culture during the Civil Rights era

    In a similar vein there seems to be a lot of push back from the culture against organized boycotts, regardless of which end of the political spectrum does the boycotting. No doubt there are exceptions but there appears to be a universal dislike for bullies.

  231. @ Bridget:

    “It would count to me as a commitment they have made to each other. I don’t know if it would be recognized by the state as a legal marriage without a license and the proper officiating and witness.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    You are a very reasonable person — no doubt you’d consider it a commitment. Good point about the license and officiating/witness.

    perhaps i’m still recovering from my own wedding 19 years ago — so stressful. have no clue what my vows were — I don’t remember them. too crazy of an experience for that. because unfortunately the last thing typical weddings are about is the vows. in practice, at least. (it’s all about event planning!)

    and so I look back and think to myself “THIS?? this is what all the fuss is about? this is what makes a marriage legit?” and I look at the people I know with common law marriages, fully committed to each other, living out a successful life partnership… a marriage.

    I never really wanted the big event, anyway. others talked me into it. as soon as my man & I get to know each other again (so preoccupied with all manner of life in general & specific), I want us to marry ourselves to each other, with a new set of vows from our hearts and our journey thus far of experience.

  232. Common law marriage is not recognized in my state. It has nothing to do with some preference for clergy on the part of the state, christians or not. That does not mean that shacking up is not done a lot, it just is not considered marriage by the state.

  233. @ elastigirl:

    On the other end of the spectrum my wedding cost $87 all told. I borrowed my clothes, and we got some daisies from the florist. We got married in a little chapel like place in a cemetery-a place used for weddings, and the preacher was an old school buddy of my husband’s. They used to be on a weekend evangelistic team together in college. The reception was on a card table back at my apartment with minimal people. We had no honeymoon. We were poor. And $87 bought a lot more back then–really a lot more. For us it was the equivalent of two weeks grocery budget. The next day I graduated from med school with a rented academic gown. Did I mention that I was poor? The preacher later became an atheist and an hard core socialist and the marriage eventually ended in divorce. But the kids turned out well. Sounds like a plot for a short story.

  234. Bill M wrote:

    there seems to be a lot of push back from the culture against organized boycotts

    I guess the one I remember most is the organized Disney boycott. The problem was that a lot of conservative Christians discovered that, oops, they work for corporations with a similar policy or they prefer products that are sold by corporations with a similar policy. So it didn’t make a lot of sense, and it made their kids/grandkids mad. In a nutshell, I think that the Disney boycott was just as unwise as the firing of the guy at Mozilla and the Chick-Fil-A boycott/anti-boycott. It just gets to be polarizing and counter-productive and produces ill-will rather than reasonableness where people might find common ground.

  235. @ GovPappy:

    “I’ve asked this same question of several friends and people I respect. The answers were mostly “I don’t know”, and a few agreed that it was probably the moment of “cleaving”. One tried to spin “leaving” as being the public ceremony, but I think that’s reading our culture and tradition into the verses. Interesting question.”
    +++++++++++++++

    to me, it causes me to rethink the foreboding mantra “NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE!!!” (or for added religious fun, FORNICATION!!!!).

    I remember a female intern at the church I grew up in, and her being brought before the entire church with her fiancée to confess that they had had sex prior to their upcoming wedding day. oh, the scathing humiliation…. i’m sure the sting of it lingers even now 35 years later (& they are still married, happy to be together it seems).

    good grief, they were 100% committed to each other — why in the world was all that public shaming necessary?!

    I do not believe it was. I believe it was the result of narrow-minded, non-thinking people whose religious beliefs are to a certain extent knee-jerk reactions. (& this was an extremely casual non-denom church)

  236. @ Nancy:
    I wonder if it’s a difference in grains? A French bakery we used to go to, imports its flour from France. It makes a difference in the flavor of the breads and pastries.

    I hear there’s a difference in American wheat and European wheat. Doesn’t Europe ban GMOs?

    I have been heavily involved in figuring out the food-health equation. Although I have heard people point to studies that GMO/non-GMO organic/non-organic makes no difference, I can point to very real differences in my chronic pain level, depending on what I eat. Believe me, it’s not just a placebo effect.

    I really wish I could eat the way I used to, but if I want to be (mostly) pain-free, I’ve come to accept that I can’t.

    (Nancy, your daughter might check out “paleo auto-immune protocol” for that PCOS, if she hasn’t already. I’ve heard a number of success stories from people I know.)

    I don’t mean to go off topic, but I suffered for years with my weight and got no joy from conventional methods. After finally finding something that works for me, I just wanted to mention it to Nancy. If I’d had her email address, I’d have emailed her privately.

    Apologies.

  237. @ GovPappy:

    “I’ve asked this same question of several friends and people I respect. The answers were mostly “I don’t know”, and a few agreed that it was probably the moment of “cleaving”. One tried to spin “leaving” as being the public ceremony, but I think that’s reading our culture and tradition into the verses. Interesting question.”
    +++++++++++++++

    (awaiting moderation…. let me try this again, with some adjustments, to keep the conversation going)

    to me, it causes me to rethink the foreboding mantra “NO S*X BEFORE MARRIAGE!!!” (or for added religious fun, F0RNICATI0N!!!!).

    I remember a female intern at the church I grew up in, and her being brought before the entire church with her fiancée to confess that they had had s*x prior to their upcoming wedding day. oh, the scathing humiliation…. i’m sure the sting of it lingers even now 35 years later (& they are still married, happy to be together it seems).

    good grief, they were 100% committed to each other — why in the world was all that public shaming necessary?!

    I do not believe it was. I believe it was the result of narrow-minded, non-thinking people whose religious beliefs are to a certain extent knee-jerk reactions. (& this was an extremely casual non-den0m church)

  238. Nancy wrote:

    The ‘feel’ of societal attitudes about same sex marriage is a very different ‘feel.’ For example, most people in my circle did not see segregation as a moral/biblical issue but rather as a social and political issue, never mind what the fundys were saying since most of us were not fundys. If people miss that distinction they have missed a large part of the whole issue. On the other hand most of the quarrel over same-sex marriage is seeing it as a moral and religious issue. Very different thing going on. It is much easier to alter a social or political concept than to alter a strongly held religious concept.

    I think this is true. It “feels right” to oppose civil government approving/accepting something that we deem sinful, but we just really need to try to think clearly about issues like this. Any given government is going to do things that various people or groups disapprove. The trouble is that there are groups within our civil society with various definitions of “sinful” or “wrong,” so where do we go with that line of thinking? Nowhere productive, I think.

    Perhaps this stems from the misuse of “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear their voice and heal their land” (my paraphrase from memory.) It is, once again, identifying America with Old Covenant Israel. The funny thing is that even dispensationalists would quote this verse as if it applies to anyone but theocratic Israel. But, again, it sounds “right” so many people just accept it without thinking through the implications. Jesus advocated paying taxes to a corrupt and oppressive government which did very many sinful things. I am not my government and my government is not me.

  239. dee wrote:

    However, they do represent those of us who believe in rights of conscience. But, we have to be prepared that it goes both ways… So, if a gay baker didn’t want to make me a cake for my Bible study, i would say thank you and move on to another store.

    @Dee,

    Nicely said. I do understand the point of view of the Christian bakers who did not want to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Given all of the hypocrisy and immorality that I’ve seen in the conservative evangelical church, I don’t hold such hard-line views any more. Many Christians would fail a ‘morals test’ questionnaire if the Christian bakers chose to give it out before agreeing to bake a wedding cake.

  240. Thanks for the suggestions for young daughter. I will pass these on to her. I appreciate this.

  241. @ Victorious:

    “…no one could actually find scripture that stated what determined the validity of a “marriage” in God’s eyes.

    …I believe the presence of at least two witnesses would be proof that two people had committed their lives to one another and might be considered valid in the eyes of many. But that wouldn’t get a thumbs up from Christians I don’t think since it diminishes the importance of clergy in the union.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    and the importance of clergy in the union is where in the bible??

    (rhetorically asked, here)

  242. Gram3 wrote:

    anti-boycott

    Good examples. Anti-boycott or rather wait for the other side to do something stupid. Eating a chicken sandwich should be on the list of non-political things to do.
    Speaking of boycotts I would never buy Wisk because of their extremely irritating “ring around the collar” ads but anyone here under 50 wouldn’t know what I’m talking about.

  243. @ Bill M:

    i’m under 50. I know exactly what you’re talking about (“Ring around the col–lar!” (neener neener neeeeeeeeeeeener) I still won’t buy charmin TP (the memory of Mr. Whipple standing there, holding this crinkly package of 4 rolls of TP, and….. ok i’m done here)

  244. @ Gram3:

    Good ideas there, gram. The churches already can’t agree on a lot of things. I think that will get worse when the court does whatever it is going to do, and I think there may be some people choosing some church realignment for themselves before this is over. If there are tax repercussions like the lead counsel for the gov told the court in arguments all kinds of strange things may happen. Once you get sex and religion and money and politics all going at once it could get dramatic. That could be a nightmare for the church covenant people if they have people wanting to leave and others wanting to join all at the same time.

  245. Nancy wrote:

    If there are tax repercussions like the lead counsel for the gov told the court in arguments all kinds of strange things may happen.

    I didn’t follow the arguments, so I’m not sure what you mean. Let me guess that the charitable deduction might be jeopardized if churches refuse to marry same-sex couples because the charitable deduction is considered a tax expenditure? Something like that? If so, things could indeed get interesting.

  246. @ Gram3:
    Maybe if people would stop and think about the fact that same-sex marriage is primarily about full civil rights for gay people, who cannot obtain all the legal rights/privileges of marriage (the list of these, per legalities, is quite long) automatically granted to all heterosexual couples, they might stop long enough to consider that there’s no justice in it.

    We can hope.

    At any rate, Canada made same-sex marriage legal almost 10 years ago, and I’ve yet to hear reports of its moral or civil or social collapse…

  247. @ Gram3:
    Currently, the NAR just loves that verse and repeats it so much that most adherents could probably say it in their sleep.

  248. @ numo:
    I think that is a good reason to separate the church marriage from the civil marriage, as several have suggested. We attended the wedding of some European friends who are Christians. They did the civil marriage one day and the church wedding the next, but they did not consider themselves “husband and wife” until after the church marriage. Separating the two certainly seems better to me than forcing or coercing churches or ministers to solemnize marriages which offend their doctrine or conscience. I’m not a lawyer, much less a constitutional one, but I hope that we can reach a place that reasonably protects everyone’s rights. The state recognizes but the church affirms. I’m in favor of gender equality, but I would oppose coercive state action against churches who have exclusively male leadership as a matter of doctrine or conscience.

    Coercive states are not good and coercive churches are not good, IMO. They have different purposes and mandates, ISTM, so why not separate them?

  249. Lydia wrote:

    At the very least we can irenically debate the subject over a bottle of my new favorite, Apothic Red

    Ah Lydia ! Alas I cannot drink like a gentleman, I’m a drunk, and we drunks drink for only one thing. Oblivion. Fortunately and with the help of my higher power, I have not taken a drink today, and not for 19 years of days before that. In addition to my higher power, I credit Mrs. Muff. She helped cure me of the wickedness of unrestrained drink and such.
    (think of the character William Munny in the film: The Unforgiven)

  250. elastigirl wrote:

    and the importance of clergy in the union is where in the bible??
    (rhetorically asked, here)

    Nowhere. It was usually more of a father making an agreement regarding the future of his daughter with another man. Once the agreement was made, there was a series of traditions that took place, according to local customs, that led to the wedding night. The agreement usually guaranteed the girl was a virgin.

  251. @ elastigirl:
    Exactly. Some folks fairly close to me are in the same boat – I’m hugely thankful that my family is for the most part graceful in handling and accepting the couple, although there was a bit of a rocky start.

    I love the good old-fashioned wedding, myself, but i think the focus should be on keeping those awful “out-of-holy-matrimony” folks committed to each other like the rest of us married folks rather than shaming them for a deed already done. However bad prematiral relations might be in your eyes, shaming a couple away from the church seems infinitely worse to me. Again, a longterm focus seems prudent, over temporary outrage.

  252. Bill M wrote:

    There was a commercial on the tube some years ago where the shopper was asked, paper or plastic? The guy stood there paralyzed while he had visions of various pros and cons.

    “But on the other other other hand…”
    “But on the other other other other hand…”
    “But on the other other other other other hand…”
    “But on the other other other other other other hand…”
    “But on the other other other other other other other hand…”
    “But on the other other other other other other other other hand…”
    “But on the other other other other other other other other other hand…”

    If you’re The Second JFK From Massachusetts (“When I Served in Vietnaaaam…”), you call this “nuance.”
    If you’re anybody else, you call it “Analysis Paralysis.”

    Even bagging your groceries is political these days.

    Everything Ees POLITICAL Matter, Comrade.

  253. Dave A A wrote:

    I had to look up “proleptic”. The only time I ever witnessed “church discipline”, this enactment was the grand finale. The members were asked to gather for a special meeting at which the pastors solemnly turned the former member over to Satan. The sanctuary was darkened. The only ones who spoke or prayed were the pastors. Half the members were missing, as was the disciplinee, who’d left the church 2 months before. Members had already been given all needed “tax collector and gentile” instructions at the “tell it to the church” meeting the previous Sunday, so this proleptic enactment perhaps had mystical significance to the angels and demons.

    Sounds to me like an attempt to imitate a Medieval High Liturgical Excommunication Rite by someone who had NO idea what they were doing.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell,_book,_and_candle

  254. rike wrote:

    nmgirl wrote:

    Why would any organization want to hang on to someone who no longer believes in the mission?

    This, a thousand times. These churches are simply engaged in petty vindictiveness, exacting their own ‘revenge’ on someone who has displeased them under the name of church discipline to justify themselves.

    And if you Make an Example of one, a hundred will fall right into line and stay there.

  255. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    “But on the other other other other other other other other other hand…”

    Reminds me of Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof, “There is no other hand”. I recall his character offered some good examples relevant to the discussion. He was willing to step outside the beliefs and restrictions of his culture.

  256. @ Lydia:

    No apology required Lydia, it’s all good. It no more requires an apology than if I had a food allergy to shrimp or peanuts. And yes I bet we could argue politics like two Jews in TelAviv… L’Chaim !

  257. Victorious wrote:

    Imagine this scenario. A couple starts to attend a church and presents as being married. Who would actually know whether or not this was true? Would the church have to resort to “policing” couples by checking marriage certificates? Do they check divorce certificates if someone appears to be a non-married/single person?
    Churches can only have the amount of control that is afforded them imho.

    I can’t tell this to my mother because she would come stark staring unglued, but she wasn’t married to my dad until I was nearly 13 years old (i.e., when we all moved to Texas and they held out as married). My parents actually did have a white wedding with a newspaper announcement and all, but the license was never filed because the pastor keeled over dead the next week while my parents were off in Oklahoma on a honeymoon. For the record, my parents got a “certificate of informal partnership” when I was 36. And they only did that for Social Security purposes. The certificate states the wedding date as September 1959 instead of March 1973, because my mother (tiny, could barely see over the counter) got belligerent with the clerk about making her children illegitimate.

  258. dee wrote:

    I had a guy in my small group a couple of decades ago, who had just gotten out of jail. He related to some Christian bring groups and didn’t get a driver’s license nor did he pay his taxes because both were “unbiblical” and “unconstiitutional.”
    He spent a couple of years in the slammer beating his head against the wall that he bought into some of that stuff. He was actually quite interesting to talk wit

    There are quite a few people out there like that, Dee. They are “sovereign citizens” and there are various flavors. I’m going to Kent Hovind’s retrial on May 18 in Pensacola, where I fully expect to hear a whole boatload of sovereign citizen crazy, wrapped up in creationism and persecution for Jesus.

  259. Lydia wrote:

    This has been particularly galling to many of the black professionals I know. To cast the issue in terms of being just like the civil rights fight that blacks faced is pretty unjust for many reasons. The gay lobby is chocked full of high paid professionals and they have many big corporations and big money donors on their side.
    That was not the case with the civil rights movement at all. Just walking into a room people would know you are black.
    I have an extended family member who married his long time companion in Boston when it was legalized. They are delightful people we vacation with every year. But they were very involved in the national movement and work in international aids prevention. But even they started to cringe at some of the tactics used.

    Not everyone in the GLBT movement is well-heeled and well-off. There are a lot of GLBT people who are older, retired and barely getting along. Younger GLBT persons are suffering through what is basically a very rotten “new economy.” I have a very close friend who I have regularly encouraged to try and get a job with a national company before she actually transitions. If she were able to work at my evil too big to fail employer, for example, she could actually go in and change her sex on her personal profile! And they don’t care! But her regional employer would fire her in an instant if she came in dressed as a woman. And she’s not wealthy, not by any stretch of the imagination. She can’t afford to lose her job, it would devastate her economically. Most GLBT people are in this position. It’s very, very few GLBT people who are these wealthy ones you talk about.

    And I’m going to be blunt here and say the GLBT rights fight is very much like the Black civil rights fight. The African-Americans who deny this have a vested *religious* interest in playing down the connection. They want to make sure everyone understands that from their point of view, they are not connected with those awful sinning gay people who just want the same rights to housing and employment that Black people got with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I do not see how people do not understand or get the similarity at all.

  260. @ Muff Potter:
    L’chaim. I just celebrated 7 years clean of narcotics a couple of weeks ago. Congrats on 19 and counting to you, well done.

  261. Mirele’s post reminded me of the talk I heard at women’s ministry events at my former church: relentless attacks on gays. I always found it curious that the people who were the most opinionated, talked about it the most (including on the phone), used it to deflect from working on their own glaring flaws, too many to count. If they spent as much time improving themselves as they spent talking badly about others, they would be far nicer people to be around. I just…couldn’t stand them.

  262. @ mirele:
    Not to mention that there are lots of poor people of all colors and age groups who are LGBTQ. it really *is* a civil rights issue, imo.

  263. @ Gram3:
    I don’t think anyone is going to be coerced into marrying anyone. Honestly, that’s on a par with Red Scare tactics, imo, at least.

    The big difference will be (for those states holding out): gay people can get legally married and have the same rights and privileges in that case as straight couples.

    I can only hope that nondiscrimination statues re. housing, employment (etc.) happen ASAP. it is *not* illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in these areas in a vety large number of states, but imo, it should be unconstitutional in all 50.

  264. I remember when my former Acts 29 church first began to consider legal implications of church discipline.

    We were a small church plant – less than 50 members, less than 100 Sunday attendance, but the pastor and some of the elders had gone to some TGC or Acts 29 conference and had come back in paranoid/panic mode about potentially being sued by a member placed under church discipline.

    So they hastily cobbled together a makeshift waiver that every member was required to sign. At the time, I was unaware of the dark side of A29/MHC/TGC, and I naively believed them when they insisted that this was to protect against “troublemakers” and “wolves.”

    For the record, they knew that the document wasn’t really legally enforceable, and that it was really more like a bluff to keep people from pursuing legal action.

    Little did I know that 3 years later, I would become one of those “troublemakers” for defending some of our members from abusive and manipulative elders…

  265. Bridget wrote:

    it seems churches have been doing a service for the government by performing the actual marriage ceremony. It seems that states may need to add employees to perform the ceremonies if they disallow ministers to perform the ceremony on behalf of the state.

    Yes, but I see it also as a “separation of church and state” issue. For me, as a European, it seems unnatural, that churches should perform civil marriages on behalf of the government.

    If the issue were handled like in other countries (civil marriage, performed at the registry office/town hall be the local government on the one hand, plus – for those who wish this – church wedding performed at the couple’s church), the whole freedom of conscience issue (“We’re a church, but we don’t want to be involved in gay marriages.”) just wouldn’t arise.

    But then again, some churches seem to jump at anything, literally anything, that allows them to cry “persecution”.

    The daily dose of alarmism that they think they need to keep the pew sitters coughing up their tithe seems to be increasing. Maybe they could spread some “good news” instead.

  266. i) I’ve almost never been in a church that actually practiced church discipline – it has all but disappeared from the UK (and Germany too) as far as I can anecdotally see. But it’s in the NT and therefore not wrong in and of itself. (I know the abuse of this is the subject here, but it is easy to view all discipline as negative if you’re not not careful.)

    ii) What did churches used to do before the suing culture arose? Presumably they had memberships without all the legal nonsense attached.

    iii) It struck me there is an assumption here (which I frequently share) that people only ever leave churches for negative reasons. Yet it could be someone leaves because they have a gift or ministry lacking in anonther church down the road and they think they could be useful there rather than being fed up with where they are. Similarly, ‘freedom of movement’ between churches allows those with gifts a church may lack to join, this turnover of membership can be beneficial all round.

  267. @ dee:
    @ Gus:
    This is a cliché I know but I try to look at what Jesus would do in this type of situation (as far as a baker or photographer, etch.) my focus is how we can be a witness and show Christ but yet keep our convictions? Why not just do the service for free so that one does not get money from the transaction? Or locate for them another baker or florist and then offer to pay a small portion of the service as a courtesy? Why the negative when you could turn the situation into a positive?
    I feel that Christians are making a mountain out of a molehill and creating for themselves more trouble and a poor witness. There are ways to implement the wisdom of Solomon.

  268. I saw a post on Facebook to this effect:

    If making a cake or providing flowers is participating in a wedding why is not selling a gun participating in the murder committed with it? And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?

  269. Gus wrote:

    But then again, some churches seem to jump at anything, literally anything, that allows them to cry “persecution”.

    Maybe. And yes, some do seem to do that. But the Q&A during the arguments between the lead counsel for the gov and (I think) chief justice Roberts regarding the tax implications for churches if gay marriage is ruled by the court is right there for anybody to see. If it could not happen why would Roberts ask the question and if it would not be an issue why would the gov counsel say that it would be-to the detriment of his own arguments?

    Now, perhaps we would have better religion if tax exempt status were not there, but if tax advantages are doled out by the gov according to compliance by the church on this issue that opens another whole can of worms. And it would certainly impact what was or was not grounds for covenant breaking and church discipline. It would move this area way up on the list, I am thinking. I am not getting to politics since it is forbidden here, but these issues overlap and IMO people are legitimately concerned based on the actual evidence, not just the hype.

  270. @ Gram3:
    This is the exact reason we have separation of church and state. It seems that both sides (both right and left) would like to see the church controlled in some form or fashion. I am neither of the extremes-
    I use to be one on the right to stand up for myriad of issues, but after I left the IC I started to soften up (not morally or conservatively) in how I would approach issues. I do not think the “bulldoggish- I am going make my stand as a Christian” works too well. In fact, I think it makes Christians look angry and defensive. When the abortion issue was so hot and heavy 10-20 years ago it was all about getting your voice heard and picketing. That did not work. When people started to educate, provide alternative services (such as mobile vans with the state of the art ultrasound equipment and homes for unwed mothers) and grief counseling for those who did abort, peoples sentiments started to change. Now abortion is not look upon as fondly as it use to be.
    We need to be a voice of the love of Christ without giving up our convictions. This can be done, but if we keep acting up emotionally/irrationally with membership contracts and calling out the media (on both sides) to voice our complaints we will lose our witness. We need to ask Him for more wisdom and discernment in these things and this is what the world needs to see desperately!

  271. Nancy wrote:

    Maybe. And yes, some do seem to do that. But the Q&A during the arguments between the lead counsel for the gov and (I think) chief justice Roberts regarding the tax implications for churches if gay marriage is ruled by the court is right there for anybody to see. If it could not happen why would Roberts ask the question and if it would not be an issue why would the gov counsel say that it would be-to the detriment of his own arguments?

    I have a solution for that.

    Tax the churches.

    It would bring in needed revenue. And churches would pay for infrastructure that their members use in going to said churches. (You know those thousands of trips a week to Ye Olde Mega have got to be wearing on the roads, for starters.)

    It would bring some transparency to a lot of organizations (e.g., three domed mega here in town with the sketch background and nepotism in its church plants).

    It would free the churches to be as political as they wanna be.

    Churches want to have it both ways. They want to be able to endorse candidates, but the tradeoff for the 501(c)3 exemption is that candidates are off limits. Issues, yes, candidates, no.

    After seeing what Scientology’s been able to do with its tax exempt monies (e.g., the leader spied on his father with PIs, for goodness’ sake, and he was just one of four I know of), I’m of the opinion, tax ’em all and let them take deductions for their good works. You know, like the rest of us. I understand that most churches are very small, but you know, if even the threat of taxation gets the larger ones to clean up their acts (I mean, a $65 MM plane, *come on* that is EXCESSIVE), then I’d be happy.

  272. Faith wrote:

    I do not think the “bulldoggish- I am going make my stand as a Christian” works too well.

    I agree. Especially when the leadership does not have its own livelihood at stake. It they can convince Joe Baker to dig in his heels, Joe will lose, but those urging him on will only get a larger following. That has a name. Something about some cat’s paw.

  273. @ mirele:

    That has a lot going for it-tax everybody. My concern is that the gov could use preferential tax exemption as a form of social engineering and in the process bash religious freedom. But tax everybody and have it done with would indeed be a solution.

  274. An Attorney wrote:

    If making a cake or providing flowers is participating in a wedding why is not selling a gun participating in the murder committed with it? And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?

    Now this is the best questions I think I have ever heard on this subject!

  275. @ mirele:

    I think there is a misunderstanding. I was specifically referring to the gay lobby (not sure of the current terminology at the moment) not the rank and file. We will just have to agree to disagree over this issue being exactly the same as the black civil rights struggle.

    I am a big believer in individual civil rights which means I think

  276. Nancy wrote:

    My concern is that the gov could use preferential tax exemption as a form of social engineering and in the process bash religious freedom.

    Which it already does.

  277. @ Nancy:
    I think maybe a lot has to do with fear for many Christians- it was in my case. I feared that if me, as a Christian, did not take my stand against these issues I was disappointing God and the left would take over (“persecution would ensue and end was near” attitude). The leaders and rightwing media on the right know this (as does the leftwing media)- they are scamming the American public.

    It is all about control and WHO has the narrative.

  278. Lydia wrote:

    I am a big believer in individual civil rights which means I think

    oops, hit send too soon! I think SS couples have a right to marry.

  279. An Attorney wrote:

    And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?

    I am thinking that if the seller of the gun knew that the gun was going to be used for a crime and he deliberately sold the gun in order to facilitate the crime then he would be prosecuted.

  280. An Attorney wrote:

    I saw a post on Facebook to this effect:

    If making a cake or providing flowers is participating in a wedding why is not selling a gun participating in the murder committed with it? And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?

    What if the gun protected you and your family from being murdered?

  281. dee wrote:

    An Attorney wrote:
    If making a cake or providing flowers is participating in a wedding why is not selling a gun participating in the murder committed with it? And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?
    Now this is the best questions I think I have ever heard on this subject!

    Yes that is good! I mean there are so many variables we could be looking at – so this does open a whole can of worms.

    What if you knew the cake you were making was for a mafia family’s wedding or what if you knew the woman that was getting married was on her 4th marriage and she was a gold digger? Where would this stop? There are tons of marriages that are unacceptable in my opinion.

    My view is your business is to make a cake and that is what you do- it is a business and you don’t go looking into anyone else’s business. It is not your responsibility (in a business) to focus on a social issue unless it directly affects you and your family. However, if you knew because of your business YOU (or someone else ) were going to harm someone physically or emotionally through your business then that is a conflict. I do believe that people have the right to act based on conviction without governments (being a libertarian conservative) interference, but realize that you could be sued. People sue for all kinds of reasons, so this is not a new thing at all.

  282. Ken wrote:

    t is easy to view all discipline as negative if you’re not not careful

    Until the system involves checks and balances, with a priori descriptions about what they will and will not discipline in a church, I do not trust the entire system. It is set up to be prone to problems because it is administered by single men.

    I am sure that there are individual churches who handle it well. That is the problem. It is an individual church thing and therefore it is impossible to say prospectively how it will be handled by other churches.

    Church discipline wad different in the early church. The church community supported their own since welfare was not widely available. Communities were small and shunning was very difficult because one was a part of a small religious movement that was held in disdain by others.

    Today, people can leave and hop on down the street to a new church. They can sue if things are not handled properly. It is my opinion that the church should just tell someone they are no longer welcome and then keep their mouths shut.

    Jeff Anderson, the famous attorney for child sex abuse victims, told me something interesting. He said that the one thing he cannot do is prevent a church from throwing you out of the church. The courts have said this is a right that churches have. However, those same churches cannot continue to publicly go after you. He said that such a thing is easily dealt with in a legal sense.

    I refer everyone to Pete Briscoe at Bent Tree Bible Church for the way that he handled a discipline situation. he did not announce it to the church, he did not call for shunning, he did not put it on a so called “care” list, he dealt with it and the outcome was wonderful.

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2011/10/26/wade-burleson-and-pete-briscoe-two-pastors-who-really-get-it/

    Do you think shunning would have worked here? Would public humiliation have been better? It is my opinion that discipline should be dealt with in this manner. In the end, his actions resulted in reconciliation.

  283. Mr.H wrote:

    Little did I know that 3 years later, I would become one of those “troublemakers” for defending some of our members from abusive and manipulative elders…

    So, did they go after you, citing that you had signed the agreement? What was the outcome?

  284. @ Albuquerque Blue:
    @ Muff Potter:

    Both of you are amongst the kindest commenters on this blog. I always smile when I see a comment from you.

    I am impressed with the perseverance of both of you. Overcoming substance abuse is insanely difficult and requires an inner strength beyond belief. You have both wowed me this morning and I said a prayer of thanks for both of you and also prayed for continued strength in your journey.

    I am blessed by your presence here!

  285. dee wrote:

    An Attorney wrote:

    If making a cake or providing flowers is participating in a wedding why is not selling a gun participating in the murder committed with it? And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?

    Now this is the best questions I think I have ever heard on this subject!

    Well, I get the point, but I don’t think the analogy is water-tight. If a baker knowingly bakes a wedding cake for a gay wedding, he KNOWS that his cake is going to be used in the celebration of a gay wedding.

    When a (legitimate) gun dealer sells a gun, he doesn’t KNOW it’s going to be used for a murder. Presumably, he assumes that it is not going to be so used, and that background checks have been done, etc.

  286. @ Lydia:
    Muff won’t mind. He is a great guy. However, I will take you up on that offer. I, too, have recently discovered Apothic Red and have ordered it several times while dining out.

  287. dee wrote:

    Today, people can leave and hop on down the street to a new church. They can sue if things are not handled properly. It is my opinion that the church should just tell someone they are no longer welcome and then keep their mouths shut.
    Jeff Anderson, the famous attorney for child sex abuse victims, told me something interesting. He said that the one thing he cannot do is prevent a church from throwing you out of the church. The courts have said this is a right that churches have. However, those same churches cannot continue to publicly go after you. He said that such a thing is easily dealt with in a legal sense.

    You know what Dee if this was the case there would not be as much of the abuse if these leaders would just “let be”. Those who were told to leave would be upset for awhile but would eventually get over and move on. No these guys just have to hold on to their pride and not “lose” control. In my opinion, this is such a waste of time and money, but in the end narcissism gets the best of many.

  288. @ Bill M:
    I ate at ChikFilA when it was being boycotted. I went to DisneyWorld when it was boycotted. I am an equal opportunity anti boycotter.

  289. Faith wrote:

    not “lose” control

    I believe this is the nasty motivation many who get into this. Men wanting to be in charge make lots of mistakes.

  290. dee wrote:

    @ Albuquerque Blue:
    @ Muff Potter:
    Both of you are amongst the kindest commenters on this blog. I always smile when I see a comment from you.
    I am impressed with the perseverance of both of you. Overcoming substance abuse is insanely difficult and requires an inner strength beyond belief. You have both wowed me this morning and I said a prayer of thanks for both of you and also prayed for continued strength in your journey.
    I am blessed by your presence here!

    Ditto the fact of overcoming such obstacles!

  291. Faith wrote:

    I think maybe a lot has to do with fear for many Christians- it was in my case. I feared that if me, as a Christian, did not take my stand against these issues I was disappointing God and the left would take over (“persecution would ensue and end was near” attitude).

    Don’t forget “And GOD Will Hold YOU Accountable!”
    AKA “OR GOD WILL PUNISH YOU!!!”

  292. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Don’t forget “And GOD Will Hold YOU Accountable!”
    AKA “OR GOD WILL PUNISH YOU!!!”

    Yep! He’s up there with a scoreboard and tape recorder amassing all the evidence against you!

  293. @ Lydia:
    By the way Lydia, watched a commentary on Castro/Cuba last night. Some of his first orders were to ban homosexuality, adultery, etc…… Look where that ended up. All Cuba does do now is immoral behavior from lying, killing to sexual slavery. Trying to moralize culture ends with disastrous consequences.

  294. actually all the immoral behavior is sanctioned by the government so I guess in his mind it is then ok now.

  295. Faith wrote:

    provide alternative services (such as mobile vans with the state of the art ultrasound equipment and homes for unwed mothers) and grief counseling for those who did abort

    Totally agree with the positive approach taken now, and I personally believe that the baby portrait ultrasound is making a big difference in attitudes because it is no longer plausible to think of the unborn baby as a mass of undifferentiated cells.

    In fairness to the peaceful demonstrations and picketing, etc., there wasn’t much else to do. Ultrasound was not what it is now in the 1970’s. People do what they can do. Some people who were pro-life at the time were also pro-woman and advocated for things like grief counseling and did not make abortion the unpardonable sin.

    It seems that we always need to have one or more super sins that Other People are guilty of committing but which Good People are not. In my lifetime it has been divorce, adultery, abortion, SSA. There are probably others I’m forgetting. Why not accept repentance while keeping in mind that we are sinners ourselves. I don’t mean sin leveling at all but rather that we not make people into categories.

  296. dee wrote:

    Do you think shunning would have worked here? Would public humiliation have been better?

    I can’t think of any NT reference that would require people to be humiliated (as opposed to humbling themselves, which is different in both cause and effect). In fact I don’t think it is ever right to humiliate someone.

    I’ve noticed the word shunning crop up lot here on this subject, and the word is completely foreign to me. It’s obviously intended as jargon for Paul’s injunction not to associate with fellow-believers who are into some very obviously public sins. I don’t see any personal rejection here, nor crossing the street to avoid exchanging polite pleasantries, but I do see a withdrawal of normal fellowship – such has inviting round for a meal – until the issue causing the problem has been put right.

    If this is miss-applied to mean anyone who has not reached sinless perfection, then no-one would ever fellowship with anyone. It should never be misused as means of suppressing dissenting opinions amongst believers.

  297. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Don’t forget “And GOD Will Hold YOU Accountable!”

    If you are talking about manipulating people with threats then to that extent I agree. But at base level does not God in fact hold people accountable? And do we not say in the prayer of confession that we confess and ask for forgiveness for what we have done and for what we have left undone? The trick is to know what requires to be done and what does not. I fail to see that habitually being uninvolved (some people even refuse to vote as a matter of principle) is the best path for most people. There would have to be extreme circumstances to justify that.

  298. Gram3 wrote:

    In fairness to the peaceful demonstrations and picketing, etc., there wasn’t much else to do. Ultrasound was not what it is now in the 1970’s. People do what they can do. Some people who were pro-life at the time were also pro-woman and advocated for things like grief counseling and did not make abortion the unpardonable sin.

    Yes did see those who were providing good services also in the 80’s but the ones the media picked up on were the ones who bombed or led antagonistic campaigns against abortion. I did not feel that these did any good for the cause of those who were not like this. Such as today, there are those of us who try to do things peacefully but it those who are like Westboro Baptist who get the media attention unfortunately.

    your comment about accepting repentance is key- Jesus wants the sinner to be redeemed and He wants the redeemed sanctified. Sanctification in my mind are the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, self-control, patience, goodness and it is NOT about a dogma, agenda, or denomination. If we were practicing these things in large, Christians would be “dominating” the culture right now.

  299. mirele wrote:

    And I’m going to be blunt here and say the GLBT rights fight is very much like the Black civil rights fight. The African-Americans who deny this have a vested *religious* interest in playing down the connection. They want to make sure everyone understands that from their point of view, they are not connected with those awful sinning gay people who just want the same rights to housing and employment that Black people got with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I do not see how people do not understand or get the similarity at all.

    I get the similarity, but I also see differences, too. I don’t know about the motivations of some black persons who object to the comparison, but it sounds like something we humans are prone to do.

    The similarities are that the issues have to do with civil rights regarding employment, housing, etc. The differences are also important, IMO, lest we minimize what happened to real people who happened to be born with darker skin. There was absolutely pervasive discrimination, though it took different forms. In the South, it took a legal form and a social form, and in other parts of the country which did not have discriminatory forms, it took the social form. I think the social form lingers today, but it is no longer socially acceptable to be outwardly racist. It used to be.

    Those conditions are not pervasive today in America for people who are not heterosexual in the same way. While black persons were nearly universally excluded by law or convention, non-heterosexuals are protected by non-discrimination laws. They have many alternative choices with regard to housing, employment, and services of any kind. Whether the laws against discrimination go far enough or how they should be implemented are different matters. That doesn’t mean that non-heterosexuals do not face social stigmatization in some places by some people. But the consensus view is acceptance. That is a huge difference.

  300. Nancy wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Don’t forget “And GOD Will Hold YOU Accountable!”
    If you are talking about manipulating people with threats then to that extent I agree. But at base level does not God in fact hold people accountable? And do we not say in the prayer of confession that we confess and ask for forgiveness for what we have done and for what we have left undone? The trick is to know what requires to be done and what does not. I fail to see that habitually being uninvolved (some people even refuse to vote as a matter of principle) is the best path for most people. There would have to be extreme circumstances to justify that.

    Yes surely but this I believe is where as a Christian the best accountable partner or co-laborer is the Holy Spirit Himself. We cling to and trust in Him and He will surely show us the way. Also, choices have consequences. You cheat on your spouse be prepared not to be trusted ever, etc…..

  301. 1 Corinthians 10:22-24New Living Translation (NLT)

    22 What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?

    23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”[a]—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

    I think this verse is a pretty good rule of thumb.

  302. Faith wrote:

    actually all the immoral behavior is sanctioned by the government so I guess in his mind it is then ok now.

    Well now, we have seen that process in this country regarding public opinion about abortion after Roe for example. And divorce (after no-fault was enacted.) And to some extent adultery with changes in the laws regarding divorce, alimony and child custody–as in now who cares, certainly not the court or the church. I don’t know where the various ‘phobia’ phobias will take us, but the ever expansion of hate speech laws seems like the next step and it will be amazing how many things people will declare that they believed all along after that. We have not even scratched the surface of the number of things which can become issues for both state and church.

    So, maybe church covenants might be a good idea if and only if done correctly and fairly and with built in safeguards.

  303. An Attorney wrote:

    I saw a post on Facebook to this effect:
    If making a cake or providing flowers is participating in a wedding why is not selling a gun participating in the murder committed with it? And why is not the seller of that gun prosecuted?

    That is a reasonable question to ask. In the case of the baker, they are refusing to participate in a celebration of something to which they morally object and which offends their conscience. There is no uncertainty about it. Their work/art will be used to do something that is objectionable to them. The gun seller, OTOH, has no such certainty either way since he/she cannot know what the purchaser will do with it and cannot control that. There are objectively good reasons for purchasing a gun in the minds of many, though others disagree.

    Another difference is that the baker does not refuse to make cakes for other celebrations such as birthdays for non-heterosexuals. To me that is important because the line is drawn not at the person but at the particular instance which involves a moral/conscience issue. I think the baker would probably refuse to bake a cake for a wedding anniversary for the same reason.

    A pacifist store owner should not be compelled by the government to sell weapons because that would offend his/her conscience. And the pacifist store owner should not be forced to sell weapons even if that inconveniences someone who wishes to purchase a weapon from that store.

  304. 1 Corinthians 1:12

    4-Paul Gives Thanks to God
    4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Divisions in the Church
    10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,[c] by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,[d]” or “I follow only Christ.”

    I think these are such great verses and show that Paul was NOT some controlling elder coming in beating everyone up with a sledgehammer (like you see today in churches). First off he was thankful for them and praised them. Next, he states that God will definitely keep them; they are free from blame and are in partnership. Third he implores/ APPEALS (NOT controls, berates, abuses, made to feel in shame, holds in contempt, manipulates) for them to be in unity. All of the letters Paul writes is in APPEAL, not I DEMAND.

  305. @ Nancy:

    Let me add that I have seen (once) someone disfellowshipped and the process was necessary and fair and for the good of the congregation, so no doubt that impacts my thinking in this area. I am not advocating abuse or bullying or micromanagement of persons.

  306. @ Faith:

    Yep. And also, however, in the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus demands that a woman teaching heresy and sexual immorality be made to stop–or else. Which he himself apparently plans to do (scary description) and he threatens those who are part of her evil. Looks like discipline to me. The bible shows both Paul and Jesus exercising disciplinary measures in egregious circumstances, but not as a matter of course over lesser issues.

  307. Faith wrote:

    Also, choices have consequences. You cheat on your spouse be prepared not to be trusted ever, etc…..

    But then again, we are seeing something very sinister in that respect, too. The demand by many church leaders that the cheated upon confer reconcilation immediately after the cheater says sorry.

    Personally, I am aghast at how much influence the church has on people’s private lives. It does seen to communicate the Holy Spirit is not alive and well in the parishoners to the extent one would hope.

  308. Nancy wrote:

    but the ever expansion of hate speech laws seems like the next step…

    This scares me more than anything and has become downright Orwellian. It is right out of Lifton’s thought reform tactics.

  309. @ Faith:

    A colleague of mine had a son working on a PhD at Columbia who went to Cuba as part of his research on aids back in the 90’s. The Cuban Government literally quarantined all people who tested positive with aids. He was pretty appalled at the extent of the quarantine. It was nothing like what was being reported here about all the help aids patients were getting by the Cuban government.

    BTW: Her son is gay and had gone there with great expectation of making the case for how the US gov can better deal with aids.

  310. Lydia wrote:

    Nancy wrote:
    but the ever expansion of hate speech laws seems like the next step…
    This scares me more than anything and has become downright Orwellian. It is right out of Lifton’s thought reform tactics.

    And the Republique of Perfect Virtue (complete with unicorns farting rainbows and free ice cream for everybody) continues to beckon seductively from the other side of the “regrettable but necessary” Reign of Terror.

  311. Faith wrote:

    Sanctification in my mind are the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, self-control, patience, goodness and it is NOT about a dogma, agenda, or denomination. If we were practicing these things in large, Christians would be “dominating” the culture right now.

    Instead of plotting to Outbreed the Heathen, take over by Divine Right, set up a Christianese Caliphate, and Dominate like the Draka.

  312. Victorious wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Don’t forget “And GOD Will Hold YOU Accountable!”
    AKA “OR GOD WILL PUNISH YOU!!!”

    Yep! He’s up there with a scoreboard and tape recorder amassing all the evidence against you!

    For public playback at the Great White Throne a la Jack Chick’s “This Was Your Life”.

  313. mirele wrote:

    Churches want to have it both ways. They want to be able to endorse candidates, but the tradeoff for the 501(c)3 exemption is that candidates are off limits. Issues, yes, candidates, no.

    You bet they do, good point about wanting to have it both ways. In my area there’s a mega-biggie that fired two science teachers (one of whom had 20 yrs. faithful service) from their K-12 school because they wouldn’t sign on to the lead pastor’s belief statement on YEC (young earth creationism). Your argument about the tax-supported infrastructure that they enjoy with the rest of us holds much water with regard to deciding which laws they feel they’re exempt from and don’t have to abide by like the rest of us.

  314. Nancy wrote:

    @ Faith:
    Yep. And also, however, in the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus demands that a woman teaching heresy and sexual immorality be made to stop–or else. Which he himself apparently plans to do (scary description) and he threatens those who are part of her evil. Looks like discipline to me. The bible shows both Paul and Jesus exercising disciplinary measures in egregious circumstances, but not as a matter of course over lesser issues.

    Yes but that was when direct harm was done to someone else. If there is harm emotionally and/or physically then I agree discipline is necessary.

  315. Nancy wrote:

    but the ever expansion of hate speech laws seems like the next step and it will be amazing how many things people will declare that they believed all along after that.

    You put your finger on that one. The price of living in a society with a robust first amendment is that sometimes people are going to express themselves in ways that are offensive. If we don’t want people holding cartoon contests because it makes people mad, then we shouldn’t allow people to display art that is offensive to Christians, either. And vice-versa. It’s always the vice-versa that trips us up when talking about principles instead of applications. Hate Speech laws and their informal equivalent of Political Correctness seem to me to be the secular version of “don’t talk about things we don’t want you to talk about” that people like me in the church have heard. It makes the pastor uncomfortable and could cause division in the ranks, so we are not allowed to say it, even if it is true.

    I think the exemption of churches from certain taxes and the tax deduction for donors is up for debate, and I think there are arguments which favor both viewpoints. As a practical matter, I don’t see the charitable deduction going away because that would also impact other powerful non-profits who have interests to protect as well. The idea of making churches subject to the same health-safety-nuisance requirements as other entities makes sense to me since the churches are not being singled-out for that kind of scrutiny. That, of course, assumes an objective enforcement of the laws/regulations.

  316. Bill M wrote:

    dee wrote:
    I ate at ChikFilA when it was being boycotted
    Please tell me you didn’t buy Wisk.

    Wait. Are you calling for a boycott of Wisk? 😉

  317. Gram3 wrote:

    Some people who were pro-life at the time were also pro-woman and advocated for things like grief counseling and did not make abortion the unpardonable sin.

    Amen to your sentiments. From what I can tell many young women receive a lot of pressure to abort their unborn child. I think it is a dreadful case of abuse of a young woman at a most vulnerable time, to pressure her to kill her unborn child. If the opportunity presents itself, providing non-judgemental and unconditional love and support can go a long way.

    It sure beats getting in peoples faces.

  318. Gram3 wrote:

    It’s always the vice-versa that trips us up when talking about principles instead of applications.

    Agreed absolutely. Everyone has a right to speak and of course they also have the right to be answered. I’m sure you’ve heard of those awful Westboro Baptist protester types, the God hates *insert target here* sign people. As awful as they are they of course have a right to legally express their public speech. However some of the answers other people have come up for them are brilliant, ranging from the hilarious to the poignant.

    The way I think about it is this. If I don’t stand up for your right to free speech, who will be there when I need to stand up for mine? I don’t have many absolutes but free speech is a core one.

  319. Gram3 wrote:

    It’s always the vice-versa that trips us up when talking about principles instead of applications.

    Very true. It seems it has almost become that people feel they have a right not to be “offended” in any way. Not sure that is possible unless we simply talk about the weather all the time. :o)

  320. @ dee:
    Funnily enough, I did stop eating at Chick-Fil-a during the boycott, though in all honestly it wasn’t giving up anything since I’m just not that fond of their food. But then I read this article about the CEO and an activist. It’s HuffPo (boo) but a good article. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html After reading though that story my wife and I rescinded the boycott, though again to no big deal since I don’t eat there. I admire the way that turned out if you’ve never read the story I’d recommend it.

  321. Bill M wrote:

    Please tell me you didn’t buy Wisk.

    I am sorry but ring around the collar is a serious issue. Now I can only shout it out because I cannot find Wisk anymore.

  322. Lynne wrote:

    And a Christian T-shirt printer couldn’t be forced to print shirts for a Gay-Pride event

    If you are implying that a Christian t-shirt printer was forced to print shirts for a Gay-Pride event, then you are either misinformed, out-of-date, or lying. (http://tinyurl.com/o7nk8fd)

  323. Lynne wrote:

    And a Christian company could not be forced to PAY for their employees’ selective abortions or abortifacients

    And if you are referring to the Hobby Lobby case, then you are hopelessly misrepresenting what the issue was. The company did not want to provide, as part of their health plan offerings, coverage for certain prescription drugs. The company itself didn’t PAY for the drugs – that would be the health care company who paid. I’m pro-life, but I am horribly disappointed in the decision in this case.

  324. Albuquerque Blue wrote:

    @ dee:
    Funnily enough, I did stop eating at Chick-Fil-a during the boycott, though in all honestly it wasn’t giving up anything since I’m just not that fond of their food.

    We rarely eat at Chick-Fil-a anyway (like maybe once every 3 or 4 years). Boycotting or supporting them is a moot point for me. However, I will never set foot in Hobby Lobby again. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Supreme Court ruling, but the fact that they support Bill Gothard.

  325. Through a glass darkly wrote:

    The company did not want to provide, as part of their health plan offerings, coverage for certain prescription drugs.

    Ummm, let’s see. Would that be Azithromycin? Insulin? Prednisone? Tamoxifen? Wait, just wait, I will think of it in a minute.

  326. @ BeenThereDoneThat:
    Eww, bad on them. I only occasionally participate in boycotts because sometimes I want to protest an action but I’ve worked so many customer service jobs I don’t want to make some poor customer service agent have to try to answer an unanswerable question in regards to their employer. Nobody needs that at work, so I can take away my few dollars and put them towards businesses that are local or involved with causes I’m into to register my dissatisfaction. Of course, like I said it’s not like Chik Fil-a lost much business. Especially since if we do fast food it’s a treat and usually on a Sunday, so irony strikes even further. Most ineffective boycotter ever.

  327. Through a glass darkly wrote:

    The company did not want to provide, as part of their health plan offerings, coverage for certain prescription drugs.

    You know, my insurance carrier, the one that pays for meds, that would be the one I get as part of my federal employees retirement benefits package, the one the government signed off on and for which I pay premiums, that one. They notified me that as of 1 January 2015 they would no longer pay for two of the four meds I take. Asthma meds for crying out loud. There is no law that says that any and all insurance companies must pay for any and all meds that some doctor prescribes. This other thing is politics, pure and simple. Politics written into health insurance regulations. Sexual politics to be specific. What? I can’t have my tried and true combination inhaled steroid with long acting bronchodilator to keep me breathing but somebody else has a ‘right’ to have somebody provide them with some abortifacient and some birth control pills? Where is any justice in that? But it is not about justice, nor do I think that anybody owes me my meds. Nor do I think that anybody owes somebody the meds in question in the case. This is about, like I said, social engineering and who gets to tell whom what to do, and to *** with anybody’s conscience.

    But I don’t like Hobby Lobby for other reasons.

  328. Albuquerque Blue wrote:

    Especially since if we do fast food it’s a treat and usually on a Sunday

    Same here. I like slow food. I let a lot of my culinary skills go by the wayside after our crisis departure from our former cult. I wondered if I’d ever be interested again, since there’s been so much baggage to process. I finally, after patiently babying them, revived my milk kefir grains. I also want to make lacto-fermented sodas again, and teach my oldest to make naturally leavened bread. This stuff just fascinates me.

  329. Nancy wrote:

    Through a glass darkly wrote:
    The company did not want to provide, as part of their health plan offerings, coverage for certain prescription drugs.
    Ummm, let’s see. Would that be Azithromycin? Insulin? Prednisone? Tamoxifen? Wait, just wait, I will think of it in a minute.

    Nice snark, Nancy. I was referring to Lynne’s presenting it as HL not willing to pay for selective abortions – which it wasn’t, it was about specific BC prescriptions. Whether those drugs are actually “abortifacients” is in dispute. Let’s be honest, Hobby Lobby’s problem is with Obama and the entire Affordable Care Act, not the sexual politics of prescription drugs.

    I agree that it isn’t fair that some administrator/politician somewhere gets to decide that you don’t get coverage for your asthma meds. That’s why I’m generally in favor of universal health care in which doctors* and patients figure out the best course of action.

    *No lobbying from pharmaceutical companies allowed – but that’s not going to happen in the real world unfortunately.

  330. Speaking of church ‘issues’, I just today got a letter from the district superintendent on church stationery to the effect that the church where I have been a member for some time is–again–in deep trouble. The bishop and the superintendents have “discerned” to remove the pastor and send in a professional conflict resolution ministry (my wording) and try to teach people to deal with stuff ‘in a more christian’ manner.

    This stuff is so destructive. In this case, however, this particular church has a few chronic malcontents who cause repeated problems. There is no way to exercise church discipline regarding these people, no system in place. I am thinking that it would be better if there were and some of this mess might be averted.

    But this is the last straw for me. I am going to proceed with the process of transitioning to my kids church, for several reasons but this mess is right near the top of the list. Anyhow, I can see how people would give up on church after too much of this sort of thing.

  331. @ Through a glass darkly:
    The printer had a disclaimer on their website they reserved the right to refuse to print what they deemed inappropriate. So why did the GLSO target them? I think it is because they knew they were evangelicals. There are plenty of screen printers in Lexington who would have liked the contract.

    I think a lot of this stuff is targeted by the gay lobby. No matter the ruling, they win at PR. They want lots of court cases.

  332. Through a glass darkly wrote:

    That’s why I’m generally in favor of universal health care in which doctors* and patients figure out the best course of action.

    In your dreams! You mean if the government doctor is allowed any leeway. The best course of action will already be decided. The cheap one not the best. Unless you are part of the ruling oligarchy that exempts themselves.

  333. Albuquerque Blue wrote:

    The way I think about it is this. If I don’t stand up for your right to free speech, who will be there when I need to stand up for mine? I don’t have many absolutes but free speech is a core one.

    Yes indeed it is. IMO it is the very essence of a free society, and a just society, and a good society to the extent that we can have one. The Westboro cultists have revealed themselves for what they are. It heartens me that people show up to offer more speech against what they are saying rather than having the Westboro cultists banished. If someone’s argument consists of “shut up” or “you are not allowed to say that” or “go away” then I conclude they don’t have much of an argument. The people showing up at the Westboro events are doing the best possible thing, IMO.

    What is happening at universities WRT free speech is frankly very scary. There is too much “you can’t say that” and not enough “let’s hear what people have to say and make our own judgments without having everything pre-digested for us.”

  334. @ lydia:

    Yep. Health care spending now is just slightly under 20% of the GDP (depending on whose stats you look at.) To give the gov free reign on that would be a tragedy of massive proportions.

  335. Gram3 wrote:

    What is happening at universities WRT free speech is frankly very scary. There is too much “you can’t say that” and not enough “let’s hear what people have to say and make our own judgments without having everything pre-digested for us.”

    How things change. When young son went off to public university some 25 years ago he signed up for a special program which encouraged free speech, open argumentation and that particular learning style. It was a great experience in which he developed some skills which he has since used professionally. When I read about some of what is no longer permitted in some universities I can’t help but wonder what we are thinking. As a nation do we want people who are unwilling and unable to think? Or who cannot defend their ideas? For that matter as churches do we want people who are unwilling and unable to think and unable to defend their ideas? Something smells bad about some of this stuff.

  336. Nancy wrote:

    As a nation do we want people who are unwilling and unable to think? Or who cannot defend their ideas? For that matter as churches do we want people who are unwilling and unable to think and unable to defend their ideas?

    It certainly seems that the elites of various kinds like uninformed and unquestioning followers. I don’t think that advances human freedom or good, but it sure seems like people either do not know how to think anymore or are too lazy to do the hard work required to work through difficult issues. I guess I was raised to ask questions and find answers. My mother’s favorite thing to say to me was “Go look it up.” It used to be that we had to write papers which defended a thesis. The best of us could produce papers on both sides of an issue. That does not happen anymore in schools, probably because it isn’t very efficient.

  337. Through a glass darkly wrote:

    in favor of universal health care in which doctors* and patients figure out the best course of action.

    I haven’t seen this occur in my experience.
    That’s all I’ll say on the subject of politics.

  338. Nancy wrote:

    In this case, however, this particular church has a few chronic malcontents

    I must be lucky because all the cases I’ve seen were a misdiagnosis. I’ve found that 75 percent of people just go along, even worse the same 75 percent of people will objectively choose the wrong thing just to fit in without even realizing they are doing so, I have research to back it up. Of the remaining 25 percent only one in four or one in five will actually speak up.

    Thus if you are one of those rare one in sixteen or twenty that can think for yourself and then be able to speak up you are then identified as a malcontent. When you agree you simply are part of the crowd, but when there is disagreement, you are typically the only one who will speak up. Those who fit into this category are then marginalized. Once labeled some then respond by ramping up their rhetoric, thus looking more the malcontent. Others realize the system is broken and leave.

    The way to properly diagnose if someone is a chronic malcontent is to examine their environment. Is debate or an alternate point of view encouraged or sought after? If you voice a concern over a potential decision, do people in the room ask for further insights or clarifications, do they value your input by altering their trajectory? Or do they simply restate their opinion as if you weren’t in the room the first time they said it?

    I’m not casting judgement on your situation, I’m not there. I’m definitely projecting a lot of my own experiences, but also hopefully giving a few tools to help make judgements of your own.

  339. Bill M wrote:

    The way to properly diagnose if someone is a chronic malcontent is to examine their environment. Is debate or an alternate point of view encouraged or sought after? If you voice a concern over a potential decision, do people in the room ask for further insights or clarifications, do they value your input by altering their trajectory? Or do they simply restate their opinion as if you weren’t in the room the first time they said it?
    I’m not casting judgement on your situation, I’m not there. I’m definitely projecting a lot of my own experiences, but also hopefully giving a few tools to help make judgements of your own.

    I once brought up a counterpoint in a meeting of elder, it was a simple question about polity–as in, should there be any checks and balances on the pastor’s actions, and for that inquiry, I was told I was “in idolatry” of church polity models that included checks and balances. The accusation came from a 23 year old “elder” who of course was neither competent to be an elder nor really understood what he was saying. He probably didn’t truly think I was an idolater, he possibly had been put up to it in a pre-meeting meeting by the powers in control, but that sort of word–idolater, heretic, apostate–is the period that stops all conversation, you’ve been accused of such serious sin that either you throw a fit because of the extraordianry unfairness of such an accusation (and confirm their suspicions that you’re a trouble-maker) or you shake it off and just take it (and then they get what they want: you shutting up). I’m sure that’s all they wanted: for me to shut up.

  340. Law Prof wrote:

    I was told I was “in idolatry” of church polity models that included checks and balances.

    If you went to each person prior to the meeting and gave each person this statement they would very likely give the proper judgment that it was a stupid thing to say. But in the group they either agree with it or sit mute.

    The valuable lesson I found following reading numerous studies that show about 75 percent of people will not just agree with something they otherwise would think wrong but their judgement is actually altered to the point they will believe it and will defend it. The cases we are typically discussing here are more subjective in nature but the studies show most people will adopt the judgement of a group even when it is objectively wrong. Also it is not 75 percent of the time, it is 75 percent of the people.

    This is the reason for bicameral legislatures. This is the reason a leader should present questions and not answers. This is the reason a leader should provide the background for decisions and let everyone come with an informed decision before meeting. A leader that comes with an answer will receive all yes votes except for the few “malcontents”.

    I will have to say I’ve never been accused of being an idolator as you did. Did that make you feel special?

  341. Bill M wrote:

    hopefully giving a few tools to help make judgements of your own.

    Well, Bill, that is just amazing. You have assumed that the majority is wrong because it is the majority and you have stats to prove a pattern of error of the majority. And apparently the majority are wrong specifically because they want to cooperate and move on. Which I suppose makes whatever they want to cooperate about also wrong. Though perhaps it would not be wrong if it were the minority position but since it is the majority position it is wrong. Incredible.

    You have tacitly dismissed the investigation into the situation by the district superintendent and concluded that the methodist bishop for the western north carolina conference is an incompetent and perhaps should be removed from office for his mishandling of this business. It does not matter that the church has lost about a third of its membership, the preschool had to close, two pastors and one youth worker were run off and now the bishop has brought in professionals in conflict resolution to give it a shot. All of us are wrong and should capitulate to the few who have been the instigators of this mess because after all they speak up. I tell you what, Bill, ****no!

    And of course you discount any idea that after 50 years on the job with the public I might recognize nasty in a person when I see it. All of this to defend people you never met and about whom you know nothing. My word.

    I have been worshipping at my kids episcopal church for a while now and wish I had found it sooner. I love liturgy, I agree with their doctrines, the music is awesome, it is as close to being a catholic as I can get and that is important to me, I like and am at ease with the people and they with me, and my whole family is there except me. I see no reason to throw good money after bad at my old church nor any reason to waste any more of my life putting up with unsolvable problems. Nor do I think that people should do that. It is bad stewardship of one’s life and resources. It wastes time and money and harms the people involved-that would be me. And it forfeits power to chaos, which should not be done. Time to walk away and turn off the lights and close that door.

  342. @ Nancy:
    Sorry apparently my diatribe wasn’t relevant to your situation. In my disclaimer I mentioned I’m not there. I didn’t make the assumptions you attribute but was doing a take-off from your statement. Sorry I framed it to sound like I was questioning your judgement.

    I could take this time to make to do a better job or re-phrase but that would take away from a simple statement that I’m sorry I offended

    At the very least take away that, in other situations, when someone is referred to as a malcontent, there is often a large back story. Again, apparently not in this case.

  343. Nancy wrote:

    recognize nasty in a person

    Starting out on a different foot, I’ve not run across one of these in a church yet, at least not one that had influence because they discredited themselves.

    I feel bad that you have seen your church pulled apart by people who are so disagreeable. Why do these people have a following? I’m truly interested? Is there a reason they have influence or a following?

  344. Bill M wrote:

    If you went to each person prior to the meeting and gave each person this statement they would very likely give the proper judgment that it was a stupid thing to say. But in the group they either agree with it or sit mute.
    The valuable lesson I found following reading numerous studies that show about 75 percent of people will not just agree with something they otherwise would think wrong but their judgement is actually altered to the point they will believe it and will defend it. The cases we are typically discussing here are more subjective in nature but the studies show most people will adopt the judgement of a group even when it is objectively wrong. Also it is not 75 percent of the time, it is 75 percent of the people.
    This is the reason for bicameral legislatures. This is the reason a leader should present questions and not answers. This is the reason a leader should provide the background for decisions and let everyone come with an informed decision before meeting. A leader that comes with an answer will receive all yes votes except for the few “malcontents”.
    I will have to say I’ve never been accused of being an idolator as you did. Did that make you feel special?

    At the time, I was so surprised by it, just laughed it off, said words to the effect of “Oh well, ha ha, guess you zinged me there.” Trying to make peace, get along. It was only later, after I thought of it and how danged unfair and silly an accusation it was (how many people are really in idolatry of church polity models, really? How can anyone make such a judgment based on one person questioning one thing one time?) that I got incensed and angry. It was so absurd and random…or was it? I now think it was a set up job. This was the eager, youthful, upwardly-mobile minion of the local supreme leader, I think the two local leaders put him up to throwing out extreme accusations against anyone who questioned their plan to assume absolute, undisputed control of the local fellowship. That’s the issue, if you’re anything approaching a normal person, you’re not always on your game, ready to slander or thinking of how you’ll respond to it, you tend to think the best of people. As an interesting postscript, the eager beaver later latched onto some even more powerful leaders at the denominational level and turned on the local supreme leader and had him excommunicated, eager beaver, still in his ignorant 20s, is now pastoring a church plant. What a place that must be!

  345. Law Prof wrote:

    That’s the issue, if you’re anything approaching a normal person, you’re not always on your game, ready to slander or thinking of how you’ll respond to it, you tend to think the best of people.

    This is so true. It often makes discovering the truth about what is going on all the more difficult.

  346. dee wrote:

    Mr.H

    They did not come after me, actually. I scolded them pretty strongly for what they had done, and I took two men from my small group with me, both of whom shared my perspective on what had gone wrong.

    So, when I finally resigned our membership, the elders decided to say that it was because I had recently gotten a new job, and so no further confrontation happened.

    I decided not to push anything. Perhaps I should have. At that point my family was so confused and hurt, that I felt it best not to get into a protracted conversation. Thankfully, I heard from friends that the church slowly imploded, with most of the long-term members leaving. So, I think the Lord resolved that situation without my help…

  347. Bridget wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    That’s the issue, if you’re anything approaching a normal person, you’re not always on your game, ready to slander or thinking of how you’ll respond to it, you tend to think the best of people.
    This is so true. It often makes discovering the truth about what is going on all the more difficult.

    It took over a year for my eyes to be opened. The supreme leader, the one who was later excommunicated himself? His eyes opened as well upon being excommunicated, and he seems to have since repented. I now think he may become a friend. So a happy ending is possible.

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  349. Law Prof wrote:

    how many people are really in idolatry of church polity models, really?

    This is the reason that i say not to sign those dadgum blasted membership thingies. Kookball leaders can make up anything they desire.

  350. Mr.H wrote:

    At that point my family was so confused and hurt, that I felt it best not to get into a protracted conversation. Thankfully, I heard from friends that the church slowly imploded, with most of the long-term members leaving

    There are hills to die and then there are not hills to die on. Your family comes first in these situations. I left two churches in two different ways.

    One church mishandled, IMO, a pedophile situation. Child sex abuse is my hill to die on. I left loudly!
    One church hired a Calvinista. I deal with them all week. I wasn’t going to listen to that nonsense on the weekend. I left quietly, citing theological differences. (Although I bet he breathed a sigh of relief.)

  351. Wow. This post is a definitive warning for the modern day Christian Liberty playbook. I can’t believe it has escalated to such extremes in the last decade. And we thought what we signed at our former church was wack! When our former pastor likened joining the church to a marriage ceremony we thought ‘how corny can you get?’ and we were ‘elders’ at the time – in title only of course, as a long trail of others were before us. (In that church to become an elder was the kiss of death in that it was the final attempt to bring change to a hopeless situation – and it also appealed to our spiritual egos or else we wouldn’t have said yes.)(We are embarrassed about this now.) Even though we had our eye on the back door we were still signing documents that said wine shouldn’t touch our lips and our allegiance is to the lead pastor of the ‘house’, among the long list of covenant stipulations. But if it had been 5 or 10 years earlier we would’ve agreed to even more – so I can see where people can find themselves ready and willing to sign covenants drawn up by their church leaders who are so revered and worshiped. We can become far to trusting and lazy in the sense we’d rather have someone do our thinking for us. It’s so embarrassingly humbling to admit that we fell for the whole pastor covering thing, but it’s part of our story so we can’t conveniently leave it out. (regretful sigh.) Looking back we see we only too willingly gave our pastor too much power. We didn’t realize at the time in doing so we had made him (and his family of nepotism) an idol. However, it was a bill of goods sold to us heavily from the pulpit on Sundays – extra meetings during the week – in conferences – until the church ate up our entire existence practically, which is where we begun to become disenchanted. Fortunately we had a few outside interests we were always fighting to get to and we lived in frustration half the time. Also we serve a Jealous God who steers those who seek him, who underneath it all desire truth, into truth. Sometimes the only way out though, is through, and he knew we’d never grow up entirely until we went through the vortex he already knew we’d be ashamed of later. When we finally REALLY woke up out of the fog of that strange hypnotic love affair with the former First Family (they have actually called themselves that!), we remembered we were born in America and we could actually choose to leave if we wanted – that we didn’t have to live like that anymore. Yes, we’d pay a price for getting out, but another life was an actually an option. It was such an epiphany. But it shouldn’t have been! How did we lose sight of the true gospel and of what it really is to live in a free country (free at least for now)? We have discussed this at length over the last 10 years – my good friend and processing partner calls it free talk therapy! Talking it through and reading blogs and books, as well as indepth study of the Bible in a non-church environment – all part of the healing and hopefully will keep us on the road to spiritual health. We’ve concluded that part of why we fell for the pastor authority thing is we are victims to our own sub-culture. We had to go through another experience at yet another church that we thought was different than the first to realize more fully that it’s how the Christian church today does church. We found that even though the style of the pastor of Church 2 (8 years in attendance) had many differences than the former authoritarian Church 1 (20 years in attendance), underneath it was built on the same supposition that the pastor is the one in charge of the money and the elders are in name only. What they have in common is stunning. Questions asked are considered contrary or insubordinate. The pastor is building a kingdom he has no problem asking professionals to give to sacrificially in time and in money. Blatant Nepotism. Vasts amount of money spent to build the lead pastor’s legacy and to live in plain sight in front of the poor among us as upper class Americans because to date the IRS is reluctant to investigate churches. (Here’s a couple NPR interviews on the subject although they are talking about TV evangelists and talk shows, it applies to any church set up as a 501c3: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/01/282496855/can-a-television-network-be-a-church-the-irs-says-yes)(http://www.npr.org/2014/04/02/298373994/onscreen-but-out-of-sight-tv-preachers-avoid-tax-scrutiny)

    How did we come to think the church is more powerful than the freedom our forefathers fought for? How on earth did we get to the place within the christian community where we forget we live in America where the vote still exists, at least outside the church; and why do we so willingly relinquish our ability to think critically and vote according to our own consciences to opportunistic leaders of a tax exempt organization that exists only by the enabling (give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize) of the people who attend and give weekly donations?? Once we come to that conclusion as Americans who still have at least some freedom of choice, then we can, as my good friend often reminds me, vote with our feet. So we need to realize WE DON’T HAVE TO SIGN ANYTHING WE DON’T WANT TO SIGN. But first we need to look at why we are tempted to sign: 1) Just like the Israelite’s in the Old Testament, we are looking for a king because we are prone to idol worship 2) God calls himself Jealous for a reason – he didn’t intend for us to give our power to any member of the 5-fold ministry spoken of in the New Testament – an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher; 3) It’s easier to let others make decisions for us but in the long run it’s much more labor intensive to extricate ourselves, so we may as well gird our loins at the beginning and do the work of ministry each day at the by listening to the Holy Spirit ourselves, thinking and researching for ourselves. Like my good friend often reminds me God wants us to be grown up Christians rather than being children to the pastors who call themselves fathers even though the Word of God specifically warns people not to call themselves fathers.

    Bottom line – if church leadership is asking for your signature to a covenant they’ve drawn up, that is the red flag telling you to vote with your feet and get the heck out of there. It’s better to be in relationship with a few close friends seeking God than a roomful of unsuspecting people who feel comfortable listening to one man – and it’s usually a man lol – give his opinions on the Word of God every week. It may not be the high one has grown used to but the level of sanity is worth the sacrifice.

    Ok – didn’t really plan to make this comment this long. But signing church covenants must be some kind of trigger!

  352. Lydia wrote:

    Faith wrote:
    Also, choices have consequences. You cheat on your spouse be prepared not to be trusted ever, etc…..
    But then again, we are seeing something very sinister in that respect, too. The demand by many church leaders that the cheated upon confer reconcilation immediately after the cheater says sorry.
    Personally, I am aghast at how much influence the church has on people’s private lives. It does seen to communicate the Holy Spirit is not alive and well in the parishoners to the extent one would hope.

    …but it also depends on whether the cheater is male or female, doesn’t it?

  353. @ Gram3:
    One of our teens had a couple of essay assignments recently that your comment made me think of. For one, the students in her class were given two sets of arguments, for and against standardized testing, and had to write an essay taking a stand one way or another, citing the evidence they’d been given. For another, the exercise had the students write an essay for or against immunization.

    They were given the evidence rather than having to research and write a paper, because it was an in-class writing exercise (practice for standardized testing, ironically enough) and they had only 45 minutes, or maybe an hour, to write as much of an essay as they could.

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  355. dee wrote:

    Serving Kids In Japan wrote:

    It is always the novice who exaggerates. The man who has risen in society is over-refined, the young scholar is pedantic.”

    See my post about my encounter with young *scholars* of Twitter.

    As for John Piper, I am shocked that people keep letting him get away with all of his nonsense. The twitter stuff is getting weird.

    A lot of his tweets are kind of like inside jokes. You have to be a calvinist follower in the TGC realm to understand them.

  356. Bill M wrote:

    The valuable lesson I found following reading numerous studies that show about 75 percent of people will not just agree with something they otherwise would think wrong but their judgement is actually altered to the point they will believe it and will defend it. The cases we are typically discussing here are more subjective in nature but the studies show most people will adopt the judgement of a group even when it is objectively wrong. Also it is not 75 percent of the time, it is 75 percent of the people

    This is so true. It is why we should really encourage our kids to think issues through from not only both sides but the unintended consequences of each issue. Groupthink is so powerful. (Adults should too)

    The problem is that people who dare disagree in certain groups are marginalized. They are called racists, bigots, jezabels, etc depending on what group they are in. So shameful silencing occurs. And it happens everywhere…church, politics, etc.

  357. Lydia wrote:

    Bill M wrote:

    The valuable lesson I found following reading numerous studies that show about 75 percent of people will not just agree with something they otherwise would think wrong but their judgement is actually altered to the point they will believe it and will defend it. The cases we are typically discussing here are more subjective in nature but the studies show most people will adopt the judgement of a group even when it is objectively wrong. Also it is not 75 percent of the time, it is 75 percent of the people

    This is so true. It is why we should really encourage our kids to think issues through from not only both sides but the unintended consequences of each issue. Groupthink is so powerful. (Adults should too)

    The problem is that people who dare disagree in certain groups are marginalized. They are called racists, bigots, jezabels, etc depending on what group they are in. So shameful silencing occurs. And it happens everywhere…church, politics, etc.

    Hm. When my church was voting on the new pastor, he was 34, and in my opinion, arrogant and unqualified. I voted against. So did 7 others. But 882 voted for. We are malcontents, disgruntled, trouble makers, bitter, not in God’s will.

  358. Bill M wrote:

    The valuable lesson I found following reading numerous studies that show about 75 percent of people will not just agree with something they otherwise would think wrong but their judgement is actually altered to the point they will believe it and will defend it.

    And there’s also an 80/20 rule in play. Once a consensus in a group reaches 80% agreement, groupthink sets in HARD and the 20% are purged for thoughtcrime.

  359. dee wrote:

    This is the reason that i say not to sign those dadgum blasted membership thingies. Kookball leaders can make up anything they desire.

    “I just clicked ‘Accept’ on the Licensing Agreement. I am now indentured as the towel boy at Bill Gates’ swimming pool for the rest of Eternity.”
    — Dilbert

  360. Law Prof wrote:

    I was told I was “in idolatry” of church polity models that included checks and balances. The accusation came from a 23 year old “elder” who of course was neither competent to be an elder nor really understood what he was saying.

    Pastorjugend bucking for a pat-pat-pat on the head and the black tunic from Pastor.