"Leeman and those who advocate a return to some form of 19th Century Baptist disciplinary structure do not want to see church members abused. That is clear. But I believe their recommendations, if followed, make it almost a given that abuse will occur."
An interesting discussion has been taking place over at SBC Voices under a guest post entitled Church Authority and Church Discipline. SBC Voices is a blog that discusses issues of concern to Southern Baptists. Dave Miller serves as editor; however, Dr. Tony Kummer owns and runs the blog. There are 15 contributors who cover a variety of topics, and on occasion they feature articles written by individuals outside their group.
An anonymous poster, who is a friend of Dave Miller, recently shared his concerns in the Church Authority and Church Discipline post. Dee and I are fairly certain we know the identity of the post's author, who is squarely in the Calvinist camp. This individual has been following our blog for quite some time and has become alarmed by how church authority and discipline are being misused in Christendom. No doubt some of the stories we have featured (Todd Wilhelm/UCCD and Karen Hinkley/TVC) have made an impact. As we head toward our 7th year of blogging, it is interesting to go back and read our initial post Who Hijacked My Church?, in which we shared our concerns about church discipline. Don't get us wrong, we believe in church discipline; however, we have first-hand knowledge of cases where church discipline has been misapplied and used solely as a control mechanism.
While we hope you will go over and read the entire post at SBC Voices, we are including two screen shots of paragraphs that definitely got our attention.
As I write this post, the SBC Voices post has around 160 comments. There has been a lively discussion, which we hope will continue over there as well as here at TWW. Jonathan Leeman posted a comment responding to the guest poster's concerns, and Dee has chimed in with several comments (here is just one of them).
Dee Parsons says
August 14, 2015 at 9:43 am
Anonymous and Jonathan Leeman
There is another issue which is rarely discussed and that has to do with a person who can no longer be a member of a particular church due to an unresolvable conflict in philosophy.
As Jonathan knows, a man decided to leave well known 9 Marks church because he could no longer support that church’s continuous endorsement of books written by an SGM pastor whose churches have been embroiled in a sex abuse scandal. His stand was logical, understandable and biblical.
This man was even asked by that church to be a leader prior to his decision so we are not talking about an ill-informed member. He left and decided to carefully assess other churches before committing to attend a particular church. He has since done so.
But according to 9 Marks rules, he was not allowed to resign from the church until he committed to another *9 Marks approved* church. His name was then added to a care list-a term meaning the person is heading for church discipline. They refused to remove his name for months in spite of repeated requests. The church did not allow room for resignation due to right of conscience. This is disturbing.
In my opinion, which is given quite regularly to the dismay of some, this is an example of how even the experts of church discipline, 9 Marks, can abuse bright, thoughtful and committed Christians.
The Village Church is led by one of the most admired Neo-Calvinist leaders. Even they got it wrong, really wrong. If they couldn’t get it, why should Leeman think that others will not practice abusive church discipline?
I believe that Jonathan is nice guy who truly wants to do his best for the kingdom. Until his tribe is better able to deal with the obvious favoritism shown towards their friends, deal with the fact that even their BFFs get it terribly wrong, and admit their disdain for those who see the problems, then the system is deeply flawed and should be viewed with a jaundiced eye.
The conversation has continued since the post was first published. I have enjoyed the discussion, and I thought this comment summed things up fairly well (from our perspective):
We are grateful that some are starting to take notice of church authority / church discipline gone awry and hope that it will continue to be discussed. We believe church discipline has reached a tipping point and pray that some serious changes will be made in the way it is carried out. We fear that we have seen just the tip of the iceberg regarding abusive church discipline.
We are always interested in hearing from our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been wrongly 'disciplined'. If you would like to share your experience with us, you can contact us by email – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com