Another ARC Church, Another Pastor “Affair”; How to Look for Red Flags in a Church: Grace Fellowship, Toronto.

“Red flags are moments of hesitation that determine our destination.” ― Mandy Hale.


Jeremy Foster, Pastor of Houston megachurch, Hope City, has resigned due to an affair.

I have written previously of the rather bizarre actions of the ARC (Association of Related Churches) leadership in swooping in, sending the offending pastor on a vacay with his spouse, and then restoring them to a pulpit after having a time preaching with Chris Hodges at The Highlands. It has gotten so bad that Hodges admitted that there were ARC pastors who were “falling” and is planning on building a “lodge” on the grounds of the Highlands to house pastors who have had indiscretions and also those who are feeling stressed and need mental health. Read about it here in The ARC Takes on Luke MacDonald’s (James’ Son) Church While Planning on Treating the Sex Abuse and Mental Health Problems of Pastors and Part 1: Dino Rizzo and Pastors/Leaders of the ARC Get Sued Over Allegations of Sexual Abuse and Coverup.

Julie Roys just wrote: Pastor Resigns From Houston Megachurch After Admitting Affair.

This week, Pastor Jeremy Foster has confessed to an extramarital affair with a woman not affiliated with Hope City,” Mark Briggs, a Hope City overseer and pastor of Riverpark Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, announced in a YouTube video. Briggs added that Foster would be replaced by Pastors Daniel and Jackie Groves, and he encouraged people to continue supporting the church’s mission.

Stop and ask a question when dealing with this crowd. What do they mean by an “affair with a woman not affiliated with Hope?” My first reaction was that I was relieved that it was not anyone in his church- clergy abuse and all that. But, I found it interesting that the response was specific to the church. Did his affair have anything to do with the roiling mass that is the ARC and those who do business with them? Was it anyone who got to know him because he was a pastor and entered into a trust relationship with him? I’m not sure he thinks he’s going anywhere. Here is what it says on his personal website.

Looks like he is hanging in there.

Back to the ARC. Jeremy and his wife built the church to the attendance of @ 14.000 on weekends. Now that is a success, Arc style. Here is my prediction if Jeremy (and his wife) do what Chris and the boys will tell them, all will be well.

  • Don’t say a word. Let us do any talking.
  • Your name will be wiped clean from mention at Hope.
  • You are your wife go on a vacay for a month at our expense.
  • Spend some time at the lodge Chris Hodges is building.
  • Then, you will get to preach at one of the churches that the Overseers run.
  • Finally, you will be restored. Just stop talking.

Let’s see if I’m right. ARC folks, keep me posted.


Recently, someone on Twitter asked me if Tim Challies had actually said that he had decided not to learn anything about CJ Mahaney and the SGM lawsuit because it was poor time management. He sure did. I wrote about this in 2013 in Tim Challies and SGM: “I Have Deliberately Avoided Learning Too Much.”

I never forgot that garbage answer. So, I got to thinking, “To What sort of church does Tim Challie lend his insights as a pastor?” So, today I visited the website of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. It’s amazing what I discovered.

I saw some red flags and got an idea. Why don’t I get you to assess their church covenant and the rest of the website? Most people can avoid trouble by never walking into a potentially abusive church. So, today’s assignment is to look for potential red flags in this church.

Let’s start with the church covenant.

There are hints of potential abuse here, but I will hold my observations until I hear from you.

Membership Covenant

MEMBERSHIP COVENANT
This statement will be read (or repeated in certain instances) by each new member upon their reception into the membership of Grace Fellowship.

Having been led, with assurance, by the Spirit of God, [1] to receive Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, [2] and upon profession of my repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, having been baptized by immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I engage therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit; to walk with you in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this Church, in knowledge, holiness and comfort – even to the laying down of my life in service for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and my brothers and sisters, and if called upon by my Lord, to hazard my life for the gospel’s sake; [3] to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain true Biblical worship in it, observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s table, discipline, and doctrines as revealed in the Word of God; [4] to contribute cheerfully and regularly of my income as God has graciously prospered me for the support of this church, relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel throughout all nations. [5]

I also engage to maintain family and private devotions; to biblically educate my children; to seek the salvation of my family and acquaintances; to be zealous in my efforts to advance the kingdom of my Saviour [6] ; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in my dealings, faithful in my engagements, exemplary in my deportment, abstaining from all appearances of evil; [7] and, to avoid all backbiting, gossiping, and unrighteous anger [8] .

I further engage to watch over you, my brothers and sisters, in brotherly love; [9] to remember you in prayer; to aid you in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; [10] to be slow to take offence, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the commandments of our Saviour to secure it without delay. [11]

I also understand that if I am overtaken in any fault, I will be subject to biblical discipline which seeks my restoration. [12]

I moreover engage that when I remove from this place I will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church of like faith and practice, where I can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word. I also realize that Grace Fellowship Church has already entered into this covenant one with another and that she is also responsible to me in like manner.

[1] (Romans 5:5) [2] (Romans 8:14; 10:9-10; John 3:8) [3] (Galatians 5:13-16; Romans 8:13; 16:3-4; Acts 15:26; 1 John 3:16; 2 Peter 1:2-8; 3:18) [4] (Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42)[5] (Malachi 3:8; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; Galatians 6:6-8; Philippians 4:14-20;1 Timothy 5:17-18; Hebrews 13:15-17) [6] (2 Timothy 3:15; Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Ephesians 6:4) [7] (2 Corinthians 6:3-10; Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 3:13-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 5:22) [8] (James 1:26; Ephesians 4:25; 5:7; Colossians 3:3-17; 1 Timothy 5:5-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15; 1 Peter 4:15; Proverbs 6:16-19; 8:13; 26:20) [9] (Matthew 22:37-39; John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:18; 4:11; 2 Peter 1:5-8; Romans 5:5; 12:9-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; 2 Corinthians 8:7-8; Galatians 5:6,13-14; Ephesians 4:2, 15-16; Colossians 3:14) [10] ( 1 Corinthians 12:26; Colossians 4:12, 13) [11] (Matthew 18:15-17) [12] (Galatians 6:1, 2; Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 16:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-14)

Other areas of the website to explore for potential red flags.

Now, here are some other areas to explore. In each of these, I saw some problems.

  • Affiliations (Hint: Explore the Sovereign Grace Church-Which branch does it belong to. Read the link at the beginning of the post again which was about Challies response “Not learning too much.”
  • Under affiliation looks at the final paragraph. “We also find significant affinity and fellowship with many ministries including:”
  • Constitution: Look at all membership procedures
  • The “unique” Letters from Walter. Look at the one about women. The church leaders seem to think this is rather amusing. I think that Walter is……

Well, there’s more, but this is enough. I’ll chime in later in the weekend.


Comments

Another ARC Church, Another Pastor “Affair”; How to Look for Red Flags in a Church: Grace Fellowship, Toronto. — 95 Comments

  1. Parts of the covenant have a bit of the feel of military hierarchy, in which a superior has authority to order a subordinate to undertake tasks that may cost the subordinate his life.

    I’d like to know a great deal about the characters and dispositions of the superiors in this particular situation. To whom is one entrusting one’s life?

    More generally, there is a lot of nice-sounding language (and a lot of it drawn from here and there in the Scriptures), but I worry that there may be a great deal of flexibility in how the language is interpreted by the enforcers of discipline. Perhaps a less spiritual sounding and more specific and detailed, and much longer, statement of rights and responsibilities would be better.

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  2. From the covenant which Dee cited above: “…to strive for the advancement of this Church, in knowledge, holiness and comfort – even to the laying down of my life in service for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and my brothers and sisters, and if called upon by my Lord, to hazard my life for the gospel’s sake…”

    Not even my wedding vows included language asking me to lay down or hazard my life. (Though, now that I mention marriage, I’d point out that women of childbearing age take this risk whenever they have intercourse due to risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, but that’s a bit of a tangent.)

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  3. And behold, cricket:

    England were dismissed for 294 in their first innings, with Johnny Bairstow eventually falling for 113. Australia are batting aggressively in their second innings, and human observers will be expecting them to declare once Usman Khawaja gets his second century of the match (he’s currently on 87, but I’m not going to spoil it). He and Cameron Green (who’s just made his half-century) have put on 141 for the fifth wicket so far, the hosts having been 86-4 when Green came in.

    Best regards,
    God

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  4. Wild Honey: even to the laying down of my life in service for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and my brothers and sisters, and if called upon by my Lord, to hazard my life for the gospel’s sake…

    It seems to me that this would be between the individual and God, rather than the subject of a church contract. Some people do feel “called upon by the Lord” to “hazard their life” (point of the archaic vocabulary is?). However, the inclusion of the phrase in the contract makes me think the church bosses want to get between the congregant and God. The bosses will tell the church member whether the Lord is calling him to hazard his life.

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  5. Constitution:

    Membership eligibility, anyone

    “who expresses substantial agreement with the teachings, aims and organization of this church shall be eligible for membership. [3]”

    I worry that the language here is mushy, and open to interpretation, and of course the interpreters are the ones in power.

    Let’s say I (notionally a member) ask a valid question of a church leader at a public meeting, but the leader is offended by the question.

    Not being in perfect conformity to the venerable London Baptist Confession. when this upset leader charges me with heterodoxy and my deviations come to light on examination (they were previously passed over on examination for membership, where only a few core principles were explored), the question of whether my deviations are “substantial” or not will determine whether I am found to be at fault and placed under discipline. My deviations being conscientious (and a famous person, name escapes me, who played an important role in the early stages of the Protestant Reformation, affirmed that it is never wise to go against conscience), I will not utter recanto and it will be simply leader discretion whether I am punished for my conscience.

    It would be better IMO to subject candidate members to the full doctrinal evaluation, at the level that ministry candidates get, to determine beforehand or not whether their conscience will in future become an occasion for persecution by the leaders.

    Or, perhaps simpler, having read this far into the membership covenant and constitution, one should simply stop and “run away”. Which I will now do.

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  6. Grace Fellowship’s Core Values page only mentions the word “love” once, and only in and odd way. This core value appears to be more important to them than love:

    Authority
    We believe both authority and submission are good, right, and pleasing to God. Authority and submission are modelled in the Trinity and should be lived joyfully both in the church and in the home.

    It’s all about power and control. Replacing “authority” with “love” would be more appropriate. I wonder if this church supports ESS.

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  7. Ken F (aka Tweed): mentions the word “love” once, and only in and odd way.

    Good find. The thought occurs that the wording might be carefully chosen to denote that these are aspirational goals. Being publicly proclaimed goals, when members fall short, there will be consequences. But being aspirational goals, when leaders fall short, there will be grace.

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  8. Ken F (aka Tweed): Grace Fellowship’s Core Values page only mentions the word “love” once, and only in and odd way.

    It’s very similar on their Elder Qualifications page – love is not a qualification. Here is one of the items listed under “Proper Management of His Family: – “He exercises a loving rule over his wife and children.” Families are to be ruled and managed, lovingly of course.

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  9. Cynthia W.: It seems to me that this would be between the individual and God, rather than the subject of a church contract.

    Completely agree. Or between two individuals (a parent for their kids, for example). Or individuals going into law enforcement, Doctors Without Borders, etc. who know ahead of time what specific risks are entailed in the profession/calling. But a church community in the US? Other than potentially to mental health, what kind of hazards to one’s health do they think are likely?

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  10. Samuel Conner: It would be better IMO to subject candidate members to the full doctrinal evaluation, at the level that ministry candidates get, to determine beforehand or not whether their conscience will in future become an occasion for persecution by the leaders

    Samuel, so spot on, as ever. I asked my friends intuitive and innovative questions about the meanings of the standard “doctrinal statement” which seems to me neither fish nor fowl, and the ensuing silence feels ever so faintly quizzical. They ARE very kindly, though. I think your “examination” will be you examining them, but they might not be willing. “We ask the reifying questions here.”

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  11. That membership covenant is way, way over the top in how much ink is spilled on sacrificing for the church. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before that has members covenant to lay down their life for the local church.

    What do I think about ‘Walter?’ It’s the pastor or someone at SGC (in full knowledge of the pastor) posing as a rando farmer to spout SGC views on things. Why this seems like a good idea is beyond me.

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  12. Jeremy Foster should quit ministry, maybe take up plumbing.

    Instead he’s going to be brought back with smiles and hugs and tears from the men who ‘restored’ him and a standing ovation from his church, beaming in the miracle before their eyes, the details of which (both the sin and the repentance) they have no idea.

    Again, for the love of Jesus and the women in his church, someone plead with that man to walk away completely. It does his soul no favors to smooth off all the edges of his sin and pre-package his forgiveness like this.

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  13. Ken F (aka Tweed): It’s all about power and control.

    Thanks for digging down to the “Core Values” statement.

    It’s disheartening that the posture of the power hierarchy in this religious corporation is not closer to something like Paul in 2 Cor 4:5 (ESV)

    “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”

    —–

    It definitely is not the Apostolic Age any longer.

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  14. Ken F (aka Tweed): I wonder if this church supports ESS.

    It seems to me that the clause, “Authority and submission are modelled in the Trinity” is code for ESS. If they wanted to say something about Jesus Christ, how He was sometimes in positions of obedience (to His Father, to His earthly parents) and sometimes in positions of authority (in the Temple, in His teaching, over the Apostles), they could just say that.

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  15. Praying for you and your Mom, Dee, and hoping that you both can avoid contracting CV. Active case prevalence in NC appears to be above 1% in all counties. I don’t know how one avoids exposure for long in such a situation, if one has to be out and about. I hope your NPIs are effective.

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  16. re: “even to the laying down of my life in service for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and my brothers and sisters, and if called upon by my Lord, to hazard my life for the gospel’s sake;”

    I think it’s important to acknowledge that this intimidating language has at least some warrant from Scripture. Particularly, the “other 3:16”, I Jn 3:16, which says (ESV),

    “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

    (the whole chapter, indeed the entire book, is highly challenging and edifying)

    —-

    Of course, one would hope that a lofty aspirational goal like this would be modeled by the leaders, so that it would not be necessary to document (and enforce) the obligation in a membership contract.

    Rather, the leaders, by exemplifying the beauty of Christ in their own self-giving for the flock, would call forth imitation on the part of the flock, so that it would not be necessary to lay bonds on the flock’s consciences.

    That these bonds are laid in this way suggests to me that it is not expected by those who drafted this document that the flock’s conformity to Christ will be the result of its imitation of the leaders.

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  17. Ken F (aka Tweed): It’s very similar on their Elder Qualifications page – love is not a qualification. Here is one of the items listed under “Proper Management of His Family: – “He exercises a loving rule over his wife and children.” Families are to be ruled and managed, lovingly of course.

    Uh huh……. Sounds a lot like the relationship my granddaddy had with his mules — bits, harnesses, and all.

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  18. Ken F (aka Tweed):

    It’s all about power and control. Replacing “authority” with “love” would be more appropriate. I wonder if this church supports ESS.

    It does, apparently for both Jesus and women:

    “ These relationships are proven to be eternal (ie. they exist in the immanent Trinity and are not limited to the economic functioning of the Trinity while Christ was on earth) for several reasons. It is easily seen that the Father created the world through the Son (see above). Even before the creation of the world, however, the Father chose his elect in Christ to be reconciled to him through Christ (Eph. 1:4-5). Furthermore, passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 make it plain that it was the predetermined and definite plan of God the Father that Christ would come and suffer for the sins of his people (interpretation affirmed by NT preaching; Acts 2:23). Moreover, it is plainly visible in John 17, at the end of Christ’s earthly ministry that he viewed both his words and his own followers as those which God the Father had given him. After the defeat of death, at the consummation of all things, Christ remains under the authority of God the Father who has always held all authority (1 Cor. 15:26-28).
    God is one and all parts of the Trinity remain equal in holiness, worth, beauty, etc., yet there is clearly presented within the Trinity an authority structure relationship. All this has yet said nothing about the Holy Spirit who is portrayed as being under the authority of both Father and Son, yet is himself in authority over neither of the others. We must allow this picture to form our understanding of value and authority in a culture that views being in authority as great and being under authority as horrible. The picture of submission within Scripture itself shows that submission to a rightful authority is a beautiful, noble, even wonderful task because it models the Trinity itself. Thus the husband is seen as a picture of Christ (because he is an authority over his wife, as Christ is authority over man) and the woman is seen as a picture of Christ (because Christ is under the authority of the Father and gladly submits to his will). Both positions in the relationship are godly and God-glorifying.”

    From one of the church’s articles.on the relationship between men and women:
    https://www.gfcto.com/articles/theological-issues/god-ordained-relationship

    The article is a bit long, and focuses mostly on Paul’s writings.
    Kicker: Jesus’s death and resurrection set things back in their “proper order”: submissive, obedient women with men “lovingly” ruling over them.

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  19. dee: Hey all
    Please pray for my mom and me. Things are not going smoothly and I am spending hours each day trying to give and get her the care she now needs. Please pray I will be loving in my demeanor and also have the time to do other things in my life.

    Dee, sometimes it’s the things that ‘don’t go smoothly’ that end up giving us the most strength to continue. Your comment is in itself a prayer, and so then is the good will towards you from the people who read it and who already know that life’s bumps in the road also have a ‘purpose’ we may not understand yet. Sit quiet for a moment’s rest, with a cup of something warm, and hole the little Holly for comfort . . . the little dog you ‘rescued’ because she was in need. Let the good will you have sowned return to you now in the prayers of people you have tried to help in your work. In time, ‘all shall be well’. Be encouraged.

    “It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
    we have come to our real work
    and when we no longer know which way to go,
    we have begun our real journey.

    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
    The impeded stream is the one that sings.” (Wendell Berry)

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  20. marco: Instead he’s going to be brought back with smiles and hugs and tears from the men who ‘restored’ him and a standing ovation from his church, beaming in the miracle before their eyes, the details of which (both the sin and the repentance) they have no idea.

    Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
    Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
    Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

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  21. Cynthia W.,

    The authors knew perfectly well that the chances of anyone who ever subscribes to this covenant actually risking life and limb for the gospel are small. This is Toronto, not first century Rome. So, I wonder what the real function of this “hazard my life” language might be. I can think of several possibilities. Most cynically, I wonder if it is not a form of grooming. After all, if I were to make such a promise sincerely, how could I balk at any lesser sacrifice I might be asked to make “for the gospel”? To make such an extravagant but essentially empty commitment would be to write a blank check for the spiritually unscrupulous to coerce and exploit me.

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  22. In my area there used to be a “home” up in the hills for retired priests, some of whom had sexual issues (mostly pedophilia). Nobody knew except the diocese until one of the priests was found to be abusing a mentally disabled man (they also had a home there for people with different neurological disabilities). People who are “sent away” don’t always get better, and I don’t think little lodges for married couples with adulterous husbands are going to help ARC’s reputation at all.

    The facility was quickly shut down after that incident.

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  23. Nancy2(aka Kevlar),

    What does this do to the children, including the boys? I didn’t believe in ESS when I was a kiddie, I believed Jesus sent the Comforter, that there wasn’t a wedge between the sexes nor between God and people including blokes. I had a problem in 1969 when the date rape advocates invaded my school advocating date rape.

    “Male-and-female he created them” is a JOINT category, not two separate ones.

    CMT: “hazard my life”

    Sounds like the hymns we sang at secular primary school where we understood perfectly well that not only hymns were like that, and they spoke for people in different circumstances than us, but above all that this was not for religious hegemonists to decide for us as if we were their subalterns.

    The only one that should persuade you is you. I’m of the last generation that were taught we are allowed individuality (and that increasingly wishy washily).

    CMT: Toronto

    What a blessing!

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  24. Nancy2(aka Kevlar): the article is a bit long, and focuses mostly on Paul’s writings.
    Kicker: Jesus’s death and resurrection set things back in their “proper order”: submissive, obedient women with men “lovingly” ruling over them.

    Umm, like the rest of complementarian scribblings, this author assumes that adult women are mostly married. That is not the case here in the USA. In fact, slightly over 50 percent of adult women in the USA are not married.

    So this “gospel” means zero, zip, nada to the millions of us who don’t happen to be married. I have yet to have any comp explain to me how comp works for not married persons. I’m pretty sure I know why that is–because the cat would be out of the bag. Comp is all about authority and has nothing to do with love…or God, for that matter.

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  25. Samuel Conner:
    re: “even to the laying down of my life in service for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and my brothers and sisters, and if called upon by my Lord, to hazard my life for the gospel’s sake;”

    I think it’s important to acknowledge that this intimidating language has at least some warrant from Scripture. Particularly, the “other 3:16”, I Jn 3:16, which says (ESV),

    “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

    Very true.

    But the context in which this Scripture (as I’m sure you know 🙂 ) was originally written was a time and place where Christians were being actively persecuted/jailed/executed for their faith. It’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison to the US. (Or is that too political of a statement these days?)

    It seems to me more of an attempt to make the church sound holier and more important than they actually are. “Look, we may be persecuted just like the early church was!” Just my opinion, but it cheapens the actual persecution experienced by members of both the early church AND areas around the globe today that are actively hostile to Christians.

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  26. “to strive for the advancement of this Church, in knowledge, holiness and comfort”

    Immediately you really do, they stamp on you for it – either directly, or by “nice”, indirect means. Beyond cynical.

    “to walk circumspectly in the world” Wish people of that sort would.

    Formal prayer was damned as “not spontaneous” and teaching individual prayer was also damned as “not spontaneous”. I’m hereby praying that all our past and present religious leaders will be open to Jesus’ and Holy Spirit’s teaching. Amen. Including to paraphrase the host of the Enemigos, those “we used to like”.

    Body theology (sex obsession modelled on Reich and the cliquey mentality of Scheler), ostentatious intensity, and “animating” (material dialectic), were not the right replacement for prayer and brought the Bolsheviks in, far from fending them off.

    Wild Honey,

    St Paul wished he would go “to hell” if it ensured someone else would go to heaven (he knew it doesn’t work like that, but at least he’s not like the people in the bad song who rush forward to grab their crowns).

    Some fairly important people seem to wish they would go to (temporary) hell if they can drag others with them?

    About the “covenant piece”, it would be better to recite the Nicene Creed weekly (eek – it’s got Ascension in it 😮 ) and leave Holy Spirit to bring out deep meanings through unique us-ones.

    Early catechesis took maximum 4 years in which a lot of meaning would be conveyed (increasingly diluted by Plotinism). Now, in some churches, 8 months of 1 hour minus a couple of months’ breaks, but still a fair bit, and not much in real obligations to follow.

    Anyone that has signed is terrified of implying to “want to know” anything. Questions – which are a bonus – should be free. Jesus asked the questions when He was a whipper snapper of 12, which was the format of study in those days. Believing Thomas asked the best questions and Our Lord was liberal in His answers.

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  27. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: I’m pretty sure I know why that is–because the cat would be out of the bag. Comp is all about authority and has nothing to do with love…or God, for that matter.

    All about power. The male myth, the marriage myth, unveiled. Can a woman be a 100% person w/o being under a man? Can a man be 100% person w/o being over a woman?

    Next cat out of the bag: can a Christian be 100% w/o being under a pastor? Yes, this works. Ask the Dones. Ask Max. Pastor myth dispelled.

    Pastors can be nice or not nice but they are not necessary. Pastoring is 1 of 18 gifts, and BTW, one doesn’t pay for a gift.

    If God is all you’ve got, He is all you need. John was on the Island of Patmos and received God’s Revelation. Mary was visited by an angel with God’s message for His son. In the Garden, another Mary received Good News to share. Paul traveled and was imprisoned, fully equipped by God, networking among various churches.

    No one in the NT quotes a pastor, name drops a pastor, sells their books, or attends conferences. Time to weed capitalism out of church and spiritual formation.

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  28. It’s a quiet Sunday morning in a small town and I’m taking a break from work and looking across the street at the jail. And in that jail there’s an alleged perp accused of indecent liberties with a young person. Last Sunday morning he was an alleged youth pastor. Just past the jail is the largest church in our small town. I wonder what they’re going to say today, and their services are online. I suppose I’ll look it up when I get off work. I’m not acquainted with the perp/pastor— they probably hired him from out of town. I’m very likely acquainted with the victim but I may never know who that is. It’s getting to the point where hiring a youth pastor is probably just not worth the risk.

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  29. marco: What do I think about ‘Walter?’ It’s the pastor or someone at SGC (in full knowledge of the pastor) posing as a rando farmer to spout SGC views on things.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the Grace Fellowship Church people (probably the people in leadership) wanted the Letters from Walter to be something like Paul’s letters (like his letter to the Corinthians) in the way the letters were read to the congregation.

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  30. marco: Nobody else has any thoughts on ‘Walter?’

    marco,

    I started (and finally got posted) my reply to your earlier comment before I read this comment of yours. 🙂 (And I’m not intending this to sound as a pity party, merely an explanation as to why my comment on the Letters to Walter might seem like it was in response to your question….it usually takes me a long time to write comments….and I often find (many) others have posted comments before I’ve finished writing and posting a comment….)

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  31. To strive for the advancement of *this* church. Huge red flag. Are they in competition with other churches? Christians are to work for the advancement of *the* Church not *a* church of *the* kingdom not some pastor’s kingdom.

    Another red flag: lots of talk about the Holy Spirit in the first category, but spelling out all the specifics means that the leaders don’t really trust the Holy Spirit to do much. Rather than “Walk by the Spirit,” members will walk by the specs in the covenant.

    Not a single human being now on earth could live up to all those expectations all the time. But apparently they will be “caught up in a fault.” each time they do not. Explosive stress. Lots of deceit to look better on the outside than you are.

    Lastly, I don’t see any part of the covenant for leaders. The verse about being overtaken in any fault” for instance, admonishes leaders to restore the person gently. This just says the one “caught up in a fault” must be “subject” to something. Most of us wouldn’t use the phrase “to be subject to” to describe a process in which someone kindly and gently came alongside us to help.

    And by including “any fault” the leaders can take control of your entire life. “Any fault” will be their interpretation of what constitutes a fault. There can be no legal recourse on the congregant’s part; they signed the contract and agreed to whatever form “discipline” takes.

    This “church” will not make it easy on someone who realizes what they’ve gotten into and wants to leave.

    Anyone who signs their name to this is signing on for a cultish environment of control.

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  32. dee: Please pray for my mom and me. Things are not going smoothly and I am spending hours each day trying to give and get her the care she now needs. Please pray I will be loving in my demeanor and also have the time to do other things in my life.

    I’m so sorry, Dee….hopefully things will go smoother….

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  33. Prayed for you and your mom, Dee. I pray for patience and grace for you and the wisdom to know when and how to set a boundary.

    The role reversal that happens when an adult child needs to care for a parent– whose judgment may not be what it was—is hard on both parties.

    May God give you grace, strength, wisdom, endurance, and rest.

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  34. Dave A A: in that jail there’s an alleged perp accused of indecent liberties with a young person. Last Sunday morning he was an alleged youth pastor

    This is far too common. “Youth” pastor is not an office you will find in Scripture. Instead, you will find that old saints are to teach young believers (Titus 2). The American church seriously needs to reconsider its youth ministry model.

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  35. researcher: Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the Grace Fellowship Church people (probably the people in leadership) wanted the Letters from Walter to be something like Paul’s letters (like his letter to the Corinthians) in the way the letters were read to the congregation.

    I had the same thought. It’s such a weird, artificial schtick though. Really, who thought it was a clever idea for the church to pretend it is giving a random letter-writing crank access to its platform?

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  36. Eyewitness,

    Good points. I also noted there was suspiciously little said about the Holy Spirit or Jesus except to sort of bracket the long list of rules. I’m not sure I agree that the stipulations are all that specific though. What counts as “laying down my life?” How are “gossip” or “unrighteous anger” defined? Of course this could play into the control aspect.

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  37. Max: There’s a lot to be said … which isn’t being taught … about soul competency and priesthood of ‘the’ believer.

    Stated perfectly. Thx. Needed to read this, Max. God bless. Soul competency and the priesthood of each believer prolly doesn’t do much to feed the black hole of the Religious Industrial Complex, I’m guessing… so never preached. Gotta feed that pulpit et al, the bottomless pit, personal airplanes, global travel and all.

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  38. Ava Aaronson: Soul competency and the priesthood of each believer prolly doesn’t do much to feed the black hole of the Religious Industrial Complex, I’m guessing… so never preached. Gotta feed that pulpit et al, the bottomless pit, personal airplanes, global travel and all.

    Those Biblical truths work against the agenda of authoritarian ministries. That is exactly why those long-standing Baptist doctrines were diminished in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 revision, when the New Calvinists moved into SBC by stealth and deception to takeover and plunder a once-great evangelistic denomination. Authoritarian pulpits don’t want the pew to know who they can be in Christ … free to access and hear God directly through Jesus … pulpits are called to facilitate not restrict freedom in Christ.

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  39. Ava Aaronson: priesthood of each believer

    … was replaced by priesthood of “all” believers when the New Calvinists took over the Southern Baptist Convention and revised the Baptist Faith & Message statement of faith. That little twist of words changes the meaning of that doctrine by implying that you must be a part of the church (NeoCal church, of course) in order to be under the appropriate priesthood of the elect … which is bondage in Calvinista churches. I’m tellin’ you … these are bad-boys!

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  40. Max: … was replaced by priesthood of “all” believers when the New Calvinists took over the Southern Baptist Convention and revised the Baptist Faith & Message statement of faith.

    The Collective, Comrades, NOT the Individual.
    By changing only ONE of The Enemy’s Words – Screwtape would be proud of them.

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  41. You just never know where you will see a red flag. Yesterday I decided to visit by video one of the larger SBC churches in my region. During the music set they were talking about who was not there with their instrument, since they had been sent to a big name conference. Little warning bells went off in my head, so I looked up the conference. I won’t name it publicly without more research, will to Dee by email if she asks, but from what I can read, it is for older high schoolers and early college folks. What chilled me was reading that parents, youth pastors, pastors, etc are not allowed inside to see what is going on. I have not confirmed that yet, but if it is true, would you send your kid somewhere that doesn’t want you, or your youth pastor, or you pastor to know what goes on in the meetings?????

    HUGE RED FLAG.

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  42. linda: but from what I can read, it is for older high schoolers and early college folks. What chilled me was reading that parents, youth pastors, pastors, etc are not allowed inside to see what is going on.

    If it is the large conference I think it is (in Atlanta), it seems to be aimed at 18 through 25 though High School seniors can attend (so 17 year olds but presumably only with parental permission). Leaders of student groups can attend even if over 25. Other over 25s can volunteer to work at the conference. I would be more concerned about a large conference not apparently caring much that we are in the middle of an epidemic surge (the venue requirements were mask unless the stadium roof was open, apparently the stadium roof was not open but plenty of people did not mask up, admittedly stuffing tens of thousands of people together even if masked isn’t wise right now).

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  43. Ava Aaronson: By priesthood of each believer, I take that to mean that each of us does our part in the Body of Christ.

    Whose job is the ministry? Every believer has a part!

    “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ … so the body is not made up of one part but of many … God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be … there should be no division in the body, its parts should have equal concern for each other … you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

    Just as God wants us to be, not what “Pastor Bob” thinks we should be! Here’s the deal … all of the parts (you, me and Pastor Bob) have equal standing before God … we all are priests … Pastor Bob ain’t any more important to the Body than believers in the pew. His job is to lead, feed and protect the Body of Christ, not rule over it while the rest of us fulfill our individual calling. Without us, Pastor Bob is only a crippled part … it takes a Body working together, each as priests in order to be all as priests. If this ain’t happening, it ain’t Church.

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  44. Max: it takes a Body working together,

    A text that does not get a lot of attention (in my experience, which admittedly is growing increasingly stale) is Eph 4:25 (ESV)

    “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another”

    the whole chapter is really interesting (4:28 is an eye-opener, and of course 4:30 ‘grieve on the Spirit’ is well-known).

    A lot of discussion of ‘the Body’ metaphor (again in my experience) tends to be outward oriented — missional. My perception is that in Paul’s thinking, the Body’s principal task is to care for itself . Most of the ‘gifts’ are oriented toward ministry ‘one toward another’, and in 4:25 Paul asserts ‘we are members of one another’. My neighbor’s well-being in a sense is also my well-being (the same idea seems to be in view in chapter 5 in Paul’s command to husbands to love wives as themselves, on the theory that no-one hates his own body, his own material embodiment, but rather cares for it).

    I suspect that one of the things that has been lost in the centuries since the apostolic age is this preoccupation with concern ‘one for another’ that seems to have existed in the first churches. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples …” Or, as was said by on-lookers at a time not that long after the apostolic age, ‘see how they love one another’.

    There is an outward-oriented consequence to this — this kind of community is highly attractive (Acts 2:47, for example) — but I suspect that it’s not the primary point. The primary point, I suspect, is that the churches would be a people who manifest the character of God in the midst of the nations (kind of like Old Israel at its best).

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  45. Ava Aaronson: Semantics. Priesthood vs gifting of every believer, and yes, equal standing, under authority of Jesus, not under a pastor playing god.

    “You [believers], like living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house for a holy and dedicated priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 AMP)

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  46. Erp: I would be more concerned about a large conference not apparently caring much that we are in the middle of an epidemic surge (the venue requirements were mask unless the stadium roof was open, apparently the stadium roof was not open but plenty of people did not mask up, admittedly stuffing tens of thousands of people together even if masked isn’t wise right now).

    I have zero patience with idiocy.
    Especially the variety that will ignore time proven protocols with regard to Epidemiology and safe guarding the public health.

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  47. Muff Potter: I have zero patience with idiocy.
    Especially the variety that will ignore time proven protocols with regard to Epidemiology and safe guarding the public health.

    Agreed. I’m a Baby-Boomer older-than-mud Wartburger. If my generation had displayed such rebellion against public health science as we have now, most of us would have succumbed to polio, measles, mumps or one of the other deadly diseases which surfaced during our tenure on earth.

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  48. Regarding the Grace Fellowship website, I found the “Letters from Walter” section rather interesting. Supposedly “Walter is a friend of Grace Fellowship Church who lives somewhere in Northern Ontario. All that we really know about him tends to come from the letters he writes to us. He does appear to know a great deal about our church and a great deal about how we ought to live as Christians.”

    https://www.gfcto.com/articles/letters-from-walter

    His letters are essentially reformed indoctrination … how we ought to live as New Calvinists.

    I suspect the letters are really written by one of the brethren at Grace. If so, it’s a cute deceptive way to get their message across … everybody wants to tune into the next letter from Walter! Reminds me of when Mark Driscoll used to troll the blogosphere disguised as William Wallace II … when he got caught doing that, he sorta repented. Yep, there’s lots of reasons to read church websites before you visit … church leaders like to open their mouths and reveal who they are if you listen with discerning ears.

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