Return to Sender

"Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst."

–Reflections on the Psalms, CS Lewis


"This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people."

–The Case for Christianity, CS Lewis



Don’t put away those Blue Suede Shoes because we’re spending one more week “walking in Memphis”.  We know some will be glad, some will be sad, and some will be very MAD!!! 

Today, we’re taking a stroll down memory lane and remembering “the good old days” when “snail mail” was the only way to send written communication.  Here’s Elvis singing about how his unopened letters were being returned to him by the recipient. 


Video to follow

Doesn’t that song remind you of what’s really going on at Bellevue Baptist Church?  The collective attitude of the pastors seems to be:  “Don’t tell us what’s on you mind.  We don’t want to know.  When we want your opinion, we’ll ask for it.  Until then, keep your mouth shut and keep the tithes coming!”

Dee and I have never been involved in Bellevue, so we bring two fresh sets of eyes to the situation.  One of our purposes on The Wartburg Watch is to detect trends within Christendom (both good and bad) and to investigate them.  Sadly, there hasn’t been much good so far… 

If you have been following our blog, you already know that hyper-authoritarianism in churches is a HOT BUTTON issue with us.  This appears to be the primary problem at Bellevue Baptist Church. 

We believe Bellevue has some serious control problems as is typical of hyper-authoritarian churches.  How has this manifested itself?  From outward appearances, there seems to be a concerted effort to control the free flow of information at business meeting and in other ways.  Later in the week we’ll discuss a case in point, specifically the March 25, 2007 business meeting held at Bellevue.  It certainly appears that the voice of at least one individual was silenced.

We have found the internet to be the GREAT EQUALIZER.  If churches prevent the free flow of ideas from their members, those members get hurt when their voices are not heard.  They belong to the “priesthood of believers”, and we believe they have a right to be heard.  The Good Shepherd listens to them and so should their earthly shepherds.  The internet provides an effective outlet for these opinions as has been demonstrated in last Thursday’s comment thread.  Here’s the link:

When people have deep concerns inside themselves, those concerns have a way of festering.  Just because troubled congregants have not spoken out at church does not mean the problems have gone away.  Eventually, these members will find an outlet for their concerns.  Whether they are right or wrong is not the issue.  As churches shift from being congregationally led to elder led, we firmly believe church leaders are making a BIG MISTAKE in squelching the voices of their members.  What are these leaders afraid of?  Since when is a differing opinion a bad thing?  This may very well be a case of IRON SHARPENING IRON.


What follows is an example of how iron can sharpen iron in the context of a blog.  If only churches would permit this kind of healthy dialogue…

Here’s an opinion expressed by a new commenter (Keith) to The Wartburg Watch.  We encourage you to read his entire comment (it’s early in the thread) at the above link:

“There's one bit of information regarding Steve Gaines' mistake that hasn't yet come up. The new pastor was under constant attack at the time by powerful members of the church who were trying to force him out of the pastorate. It's really not surprising that he chose to believe that the issue was fully resolved given the circumstances. 

These men seized upon the incident and attempted to use it as a tool to grab control of the church. It was clashes with this group that gave Bellevue the appearance of insensitivity to victims of abuse. What appeared from the outside to be indifference to victims and their advocates was in reality nothing more than the administration protecting itself from a pack of power-mongers who although saying they were outraged by the abuse were in fact merely using it as a way to appear more righteous. When their efforts failed, they dropped everything and left the victims out in the cold.”


Dee then responded to Keith with the following invitation:

“We would be happy to afford you an opportunity to fully explain your perspective on this situation in the form of a guest blog. We will not edit your thoughts unless they are intentionally demeaning to anyone who posts on this site. It is our intent to look at this issue from all sides. Please contact us through our email at if you or a church leader or spokesman would like to avail your self of this opportunity.”

Lydia posted the following comment to Keith:

“Keith, if all that is true then why wouldn't Gaines allow the victim of the pedophile minister, his son, to speak at the mic during the church wide meeting? Why was HIS mic cut off?”

The dialogue continued with commenters keeping their cool for the most part. 

Then Dee made the following remark to Keith, who is one of Steve Gaines’ staunch defenders:

“The idea behind this blog is to get as much of the truth and feelings out as possible. It is usually those with no "power" or those on the sidelines that are not part of the inner circles whose voices are seldom heard.

The blogosphere changes that dynamic and now allows these other voices a platform. Their perspective can be added to the fray to get a more complete view of the situation.” 

We believe that when people post anonymously or use a pen name on a blog, they are being completely transparent.   Dee and I will continue to encourage this kind of open exchange because we believe it’s the healthiest thing Christians can do.  Of course, we have guidelines for those who post comments on The Wartburg Watch.  If commenters abide by those rules (such as refraining from personal attacks or name calling), we will allow dissenting opinions to remain.              

Here’s a song dedication to all you hyper-authoritarian pastors out there.  


Please give your congregants a chance to voice their opinions, even if they are contrary to your own.  We believe allowing dissent is one of the signs of a healthy church.  More about that tomorrow as we take a look at the response of two pastors to criticism in the blogosphere.

Comments are closed.