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! "
-Hotel California, Eagles link
At the end of last week, we heard that other people who have been hurt by Heritage Bible Chapel have come forward, and one is interested in telling her story. This is sad yet affirming information. It is sad because others have been hurt by the actions of Heritage Bible Chapel. It is affirming because these new stories are remarkably similar to that of Marie Notcheva. In other words, multiple stories appear to indicate a disturbing Heritage Bible Chapel playbook on how to treat abused women.
1. Why we think the two pastors at Heritage Bible Chapel are prone to discipline abused women who seek a divorce.
Tim Cochrell is the lead pastor.
Tim recently earned his Ph.D. in Leadership from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This seminary is the flagship seminary for for the NeoCalvinist movement and is the home of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the nexus of the complementarian movement. Women are not allowed to serve on the Board of Directors. It is also the seminary from which the controversial Eternal Subordination of the Son theology sprang. This seminary admires John Piper who does not believe that divorce and remarriage are permitted for anything, including adultery. He observes, with a chuckle, that a married women should endure abuse for a season.
Kevin Wright is the pastor of counseling and family ministries.
He has a Masters of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and is working on a Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Counseling at SEBTS. Southeastern rides the coattails of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary so one can be sure that his theological bent is identical to Tim.
Folks, let this be a warning to you. If you see that men in a particular church are being educated at either of these seminaries, you will guaranteed yourself a heavily authoritarian leadership style which embraces the right to control your comings and goings at a church.
Women, in the complementarian system, are to be submissive to their husbands.
Many pastors teach that a wife must submit to her husband, even if he is abusive. They believe that such blind submission will eventually cause the man to stop his abuse. It doesn't.
If we are to uphold this golden standard, we must confront abuse, shelter its victims and provide the tough love and counseling necessary to heal troubled relationships. And we have no business telling women to stay in marriages that actually could put them or their children in danger.
New England is a hot bed for church planting by the Calvinist Baptist crowd.
It is helpful for people in Massachusetts to be aware that the Baptists believe that Boston and its surroundings are the hot place to plant authoritarian based churches. We calls these Calvinists – *Calvinistas* since they believe they are the really committed Christians. They are involved in an incursion into the *dark* states of New England and they are not just planting churches. They are planting NeoCalvinist churches. My guess is that Heritage Bible Chapel believes that they are the only true gospel™ church in the area. Here is one statement from Church Planting Affecting Change Across New England by the Baptist Convention of New England that reflects this attitude.
“God planted a seed in our hearts to come back to New England and begin planting a church in New England,” Rogers said.
By any measure, the six states that comprise New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) have some of the lowest percentages of religious believers – including Southern Baptists, evangelical Christians and people that adhere to any religion – in the United States. a
While these statistics may seem discouraging, a surge in church planting is beginning to make a difference in the lives of individuals, as well as the Baptist Convention of New England as a whole. More than 115 of New England’s Southern Baptist churches have been planted since 2010 – a full one-third of the total Southern Baptist churches in the region – and many more planters are in the process of organizing new church plants.
This attitude amuses me because I was raised in a non-Christian home, but I became a Christian in that desperately dark town of Salem, Massachusetts.
2. My phone call to Tom Cochrell
As soon as I heard Marie's story, I knew we would be dealing with a church which follows the SBTS mantra lockstep. Hope springs eternal, but reality always gets in the way.
Tim barely spoke during our conversation. He refused to make a statement regarding the stand of his church. He perked up when I mentioned 9Marks but became quiet when I told him even 9Marks is loosening up in the guidelines for leaving a church. I begged him to consider letting Marie go, emphasizing that she has been abused enough by her husband. I told them they could let this whole thing wither away by simply declaring her not to be a member of their church. However, Tim was silent. Sadly, he didn't ask one question about Marie. That speaks volumes to me. This is not about caring for Marie or he would have at least attempted to show he was concerned about her well being. Nada- not a peep. I believe this baloney is all about controlling Marie and has nothing to do with love, no matter what how they try to spin it.
3. Another women from Heritage Bible Chapel steps forward
Sadly, two years ago, another woman appears to have been treated exactly the same way by the Heritage pastors. She has agreed to tell her story anonymously and we hope to have it for you sometime in the next week. However, she elected to share this email exchange with us,. The church was harassing her after she left the church. She asked them to stop contacting her, to no avail.
Once these men get their hooks in you, they don't let go. Remember this if you are considering joining this church.
Here is a letter she wrote to Tim Cochrell.
The following email from Tim Cochrell is astonishing in its coldness and in its defense of their reprehensible behavior towards an abused woman.
(Name redacted) thanks for your communication. I am sorry that you
It is obvious to this observer that this church has stepped over all boundaries in order to control an abused women, both now and in 2014. Do they really think that their harassing advice is going to bring reconciliation with their abusive husbands. And they have the gall to pretend they are competent to counsel? Good night!
4. A shout out to Cana Community Church.
Thankfully, Marie found another church which is supporting her in this trying time. Her pastors are loving, thoughtful and they know how to care for an abused woman. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope that the pastors from Heritage will give you all a call and learn how it is done in the real world.
There is much, much more to write about, and I will try to do so at the end of the week. There is activity going on behind the scenes, and we will keep you all informed as things develop.
I am absolutely dying to hear how our thoughtful readers view that ridiculous, shameful letter from the pastors.
5. A representative court case worth reviewing by churches who think they own their members.
In 1984, the NYT wrote Church vows to appeal $390,000 verdict in woman's privacy suit
Mrs. Guinn, who is divorced and a mother of four, successfully sued the elders and the church for invading her privacy by confronting her about her relationship with the town's divorced former Mayor.
Other elders said they were still stunned by the verdict, returned Thursday, and by the realization that their beliefs, which they say are based on Scripture, may be so far outside mainstream thinking.
…On Oct. 4, 1981, the elders took the pulpit to denounce Mrs. Guinn for the ''sin of fornication.'' This was a few days after she resigned her church membership. Unanimous Verdict
Twelve Tulsa jurors, only four of whom called themselves regular churchgoers, unanimously decided that Mrs. Guinn's privacy had been invaded. They awarded her $205,000 actual and $185,000 punitive damages.
Jurors also said they never doubted that the elders had erred, Two jurors said the panel wished it could have awarded her damages for harassment. ''He was single, she was single, and this is America,'' said one juror, Bodonia Freeman.
On the website Church Discipline, this case was reviewed in 2008.
By voluntarily uniting with the church, she impliedly consented to submitting to its form of religious government, but did not thereby consent to relinquishing a right which the civil law guarantees her as its constitutionally protected value. The intentional and voluntary relinquishment of a known right required for a finding of an effective waiver was never established. On the record before us Parishioner – a sui juris person – removed herself from the Church of Christ congregation rolls the moment she communicated to the Elders that she was withdrawing from membership.
WHEN PARISHIONER WITHDREW HER MEMBERSHIP FROM THE CHURCH OF CHRIST AND THEREBY WITHDREW HER CONSENT TO PARTICIPATE IN A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP IN WHICH SHE HAD IMPLICITLY AGREED TO SUBMIT TO ECCLESIASTICAL SUPERVISION, THOSE DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS THEREAFTER TAKEN BY THE ELDERS AGAINST PARISHIONER, WHICH ACTIVELY INVOLVED HER IN THE CHURCH'S WILL AND COMMAND, WERE OUTSIDE THE PURVIEW OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT [775 P.2d 778] PROTECTION AND WERE THE PROPER SUBJECT OF STATE REGULATION.
While the First Amendment requires that citizens be tolerant of religious views different from and offensive to their own, it surely does not require that those like Parishioner, who choose not to submit to the authority of any religious association, be tolerant of that group's attempts to govern them. Only those "who unite themselves" in a religious association impliedly consent to its authority over them and are "bound to submit to it." Parishioner voluntarily joined the Church of Christ and by so doing consented to submit to its tenets. When she later removed herself from membership, Parishioner withdrew her consent, depriving the Church of the power actively to monitor her spiritual life through overt disciplinary acts. No real freedom to choose religion would exist in this land if under the shield of the First Amendment religious institutions could impose their will on the unwilling and claim immunity from secular judicature for their tortious acts.
Let's repeat this again for pastors who just don't get it.
…The third point though is one many conservative churches most certainly went against the notion of church covenant. The court held that binding commitments to a church had no effect in law.
…All religious activity in the United States is consensual, a person who publically claims not to be a member of a church is legally not a member of that church and church discipline cannot continue without consent. A church attempting to discipline a person that has withdrawn can be found to be engaging in a form of harassment.
Think about it, Tim and Kevin. The jurors in this case were upset when a church went after a member for a sexual sin after she quit. Can you imagine how ridiculous you will be viewed for wanting a woman to return to her abusive husband? Good night! This is not even a biblical mandate. The fact that John Piper thinks it is will not play well in court.
Let our sisters go!