71-Year-Old Granny Perp-Walked Out of Church – Say It Ain’t So!!!

"But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

Matthew 5:37 (KJV)

Hester Prynne from "The Scarlet Letter" in which Ann Hibbins is depicted as a witch

Credit:  Public Domain

Here is how I came to realize the seriousness of the church discipline crisis and how church discipline is being terribly misapplied in 21st century Christendom.  About a month before we started TWW, I heard a pastor say in person that if the members of his church failed to join a community group and actively participate, then those members would be subject to church discipline.  I was absolutely stunned!  Months before, this pastor had preached through the entire book of Galatians, explaining very eloquently how on this side of the cross Christians have freedom in Christ, not bondageliberty, not legalism grace, not law

That was a defining moment for me.  For several years Dee and I had contemplated starting a blog, and the threat of applying church discipline to someone who doesn't attend a community group was the impetus I needed to take a leap of faith into what I deemed the great unknown – the blogosphere.  It has been an incredible journey thus far…  

A commenter who goes by the moniker "sad observer" expressed our concerns regarding church discipline succinctly by stating:

"What we are arguing over is NOT “should church discipline ever exist when it is needed, or should it be ignored?” That’s what M(ars) H(ill) and other places THINK we are arguing, but it’s because they aren’t listening to us. (Or don’t want to).

What we are arguing is “What is an appropriate definition of ‘church discipline,’ and what is an appropriate USE of church discipline?” Our complaint is that they are using manipulation practices and calling it “church discipline” when it really isn’t.

I’m not sure where the strange, authoritarian notions of church discipline are coming from in the Calvinista circles….is it growing out of their understanding of authority? Of sin? It’s really hard to say. In any case, I wish they’d examine it more closely."

Well, we here at TWW have decided to examine it more closely.  We absolutely affirm that there can be circumstances within the body of Christ where church discipline is necessary because "God desires his people to be pure. He calls us to live holy lives, set apart for his glory. 1 Peter 1:16 restates Leviticus 11:44: "Be holy, because I am holy." (NIV) If we ignore blatant sinfulness within the body of Christ, then we fail to honor the Lord's call to be holy and live for his glory." (link)  In 1 Corinthians, we see one such situation.  A man was committing adultery with his step-mother and flaunting it in the community and damaging the church's witness, claiming that he was not sinning because he had freedom in Christ.  Here is how the Apostle Paul addressed this very grave matter:

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?  For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people —  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

1 Corinthians 5:1-13 (NIV)

I am quoting from the New International Version because it, more than any other translation, spells out in graphic detail the horrible sin that was being tolerated among the Corinthian believers — "a man is sleeping with his father's wife" (1 Corinthians 5:1). 

Let me spell it out again for those who haven't gotten the message:


Church discipline is absolutely necessary with regard to horrendous sin because God calls us to reflect His holiness to a lost world.  We are to be set apart so that others can see His glory.  Paul identifies specific sins that must be dealt with through church discipline — sexual immorality, blatant greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, and theft.

What is incredibly disturbing is in the three years we have been writing this blog, we have been utterly shocked at how church discipline has been severely misapplied

Just five weeks after we started blogging, we featured what continues to be one of our all-time favorite posts  —  71-Year-Old-Grandma Perp-Walked Out of Church — Say It Ain't So!!!  — which we read about in the Wall Street Journal.  We received a whopping TWO comments on the post, and we were thrilled!  Since most of you haven't read it, here it is.

The following is a transcript of a 911 call made by a pastor from his pulpit on a Sunday morning. This is NOT a joke!

11:01 am, June 17

911 Operator: Hello. Thanks for calling 911.

Pastor: Hello? Hello?

911 Operator: This is 911. Can I help you?

Pastor: Yeah. I’ve got somebody trespassing at the Allen Baptist Church.  You need to send an officer out immediately.

911 Operator: What the address sir?

Pastor: 4215 North Eden Road

911 Operator: OK. Is it someone that’s been warned to stay out or what’s going on exactly?

Pastor: Uh, they’re no longer a member at this church, and uh they’ve been told to leave and uh they’re not welcome here and they refuse to leave.

911 Operator: And you name?

Pastor: Pastor Jason Burrick

911 Operator: And what’s the number of your cell phone you’re calling on sir?

Pastor: 23_ – _ _ _ _

911 Operator: And what’s their name?

Pastor: Karolyn Caskey

911 Operator: OK. And she’s just refusing to leave then?

Pastor: Yes

911 Operator: OK. Is she on the grounds or inside the church?

Pastor: She’s in the building and she’s been confronted and um she refused to go, and we need to uh have her out ASAP.

911 Operator: OK. Well, I need to get the basics so I can send an officer.  What’s the nearest crossroad?

Pastor: Route 12 and 49. We’re right on the corner.

911 Operator: OK. All right. We’ll have someone there as quickly as we can. If anything should change or it should turn into a real confrontation, give me a call back.

Pastor: All right. We’ll have someone at the back door waiting for him, so just send him right in.

911 Operator: All right. Very good.

Pastor: Bye-bye.

This emergency phone call should serve as a WAKE-UP CALL for all Christians. What’s going on here? According to The Wall Street Journal article “Banned from Church” in the January 18, 2008 issue, the pastor at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan placed a 911 call from the pulpit when he spotted Karolyn Caskey in a church pew. 

Just who is Karolyn Caskey? According to the WSJ article, she’s a 71-year-old mother and grandmother of three who has been a church member for close to 50 years. Mrs. Caskey has served her church as a Sunday school teacher and has been a regular contributor, donating 10% of her pension. According to friends and family, she’s a very generous lady who loves her church. When funds were low and the church couldn’t pay the electric bill, she sacrificed and gave money to meet these expenses. She even mowed the church’s lawn on occasion, and contributed $1,200 to the church when she sold her van. Mrs. Caskey plans to have an engraved image of Allen Baptist Church on her tombstone.

Imagine the scene. . . This elderly grandmother (who has two artificial knees and a double-hip replacement) is perp-walked out of Allen Baptist Church by a state trooper and a county sheriff’s officer. One of the officers handcuffs her, and the other carries her purse and Bible as she is removed from the sanctuary. Listen to the 911 call in the WSJ article.

While Mrs. Caskey was taken to jail under the charge of trespassing, her real crime (in her pastor’s view) was questioning his authority. She and an older married couple had insisted that the pastor follow the church constitution, which specified that a board of deacons be appointed to help govern the church. Pastor Burrick claimed the congregation was too small to warrant deacons. After much conflict, she and the couple were expelled from the church. In August 2006 Pastor Burrick sent a letter to the congregation informing them that Mrs. Caskey and Patsy and Emmit Church (the older married couple) had taken “action against the church and your preacher”, and they had been dismembered (it probably felt that way to them).

The WSJ article includes several other accounts similar to the situation at Allen Baptist Church. These stories provide a glimpse into a growing movement that is occurring in conservative Protestant churches. This sort of “church discipline” (or might we say “abuse”) is on the rise and may be coming to your church soon.

How does this newfangled church discipline work? Suspected sinners are privately confronted (Matthew 18) and if they refuse to repent, they are publicly castigated and excommunicated from the church. While church discipline seems perfectly reasonable when church members commit adultery or child abuse, for example, it is sometimes being exercised for legitimate questioning (which is now called ”gossip”), skipping a church service, and not participating in a “community/care group” (such as a small group Bible study).

We are still amazed that from the very beginning of this blog, we grasped the seriousness of what was occurring in conservative corners of Christendom.  In the three years that have followed, we have heard testimony after testimony of Christians who have been disciplined / excommunicated because they merely asked questions or challenged church leadership in some way.   Paul Petry and Bent Meyer immediately come to mind.   Is this behavior what the Apostle Paul was referring to with regard to church discipline / excommunication in 1 Corinthians 5?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

What follows is my personal commentary

I believe what we are witnessing in many churches is a power play disguised as church discipline.  When pastors are challenged by those who belong to the priesthood of the believers, these pastors attempt to gain the upper hand by putting members under "discipline".    As stated earlier in the post, the Apostle Paul addressed the Corinthian believers, explaining to them how a congregation is to live holy lives in order to be set apart for God's glory. 

Of course, that doesn't mean we are to be without sin, for that is impossible for us mere mortals.  That being said, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 serves as a mandate for identifying egregious sin in the body of Christ and addressing it.   Here are a few examples of behaviors that have been erroneously labeled as SIN.

Questioning church leadership, wanting to know the pastor's salary, not consistently attending a care/community group, leaving the church to join another congregation, not keeping your wife "in line" at church, challenging methods of infant feeding (Ezzo) and child training, having a child who decides to sin in some outward manner, etc.

These are just some of the circumstances where church discipline has been threatened and/or administered.  Did you notice that none of these show up in Paul's list of sins in 1 Corinthians 5?  Please feel free to add to the list through a comment. 

Sophia has chimed in with her list of actions that some pastors wrongly label as sin:

-Refusing to submit to a Community Group Leader’s requests for meetings
-Refusing to be berated and subjected to an entire group of people questioning you
-Refusing to allow a church you are not a member of “send you out joyfully”
-Disagreeing on secondary issues like complementarianism, spiritual gifts, etc.
-Being female and knowing the Word and having the courage to challenge when someone wrongly divides it, even if it is a man

Administering church discipline where it is not warranted in Scripture is becoming a chronic problem, especially in Calvinista churches.  And it is spreading like a terrible disease!   Membership covenants and by-laws are being rewritten in MANY churches. 

In our upcoming post, we will examine the process of church discipline at an actual church.  We predict that this process will be shocking to some of you, as it was to us.

Lydia's Corner:   Jeremiah 2:31-4:18    Colossians 1:1-17    Psalm 76:1-12    Proverbs 24:21-22



71-Year-Old Granny Perp-Walked Out of Church – Say It Ain’t So!!! — 85 Comments

  1. The pastor was beyond out of line. I went to an SBC affiliated church the majority of my life, and a few years ago my parents’ pastor pulled the same little stunt. He decided to get rid of the deacons so he could be a one man show. Why hasn’t the convention been contacted? I know that these churches are autonomous, but if you read any SBC By-Laws, no where does it say if your church is too small get rid of the deacons. That is absolutely absurd and this is nothing more than a little dictator coming into a church. I am sure the church will eventually disband like my parents’ church did.

    What I find HILARIOUS is that he dialed 911 from the pulpit. If that is all true, why weren’t all the members getting rid of this guy? So many people just stand by and do nothing knowing that this is pure poison.

    Deb, a couple of years ago my home church brought in a new pastor from CA. I am from TN (huge difference). Anyway, about one month ago this fellow preached a sermon on how after witnessing to some people, if they don’t receive the gospel, you should push them overboard just like you would someone who was hanging onto a boat and causing the boat to capsize. Because if you let them hang on, you would drown as well. At any rate, someone in the congregation actually stood up and began yelling at him. The pastor began yelling back and then began crying saying “How much longer Lord will you keep me here?” Then, he began praying and pounding on the pulpit shouting, “I will not compromise” over and over. What a nightmare! Honestly, I think people are losing their minds. By the way, the pastor mentioned above is no Calvinista.

    Do you know what I notice about many of these characters? They always embellish. I mean some of the stuff that comes out of their mouths is so unbelievable! The two pastors I have personally witnessed that behave in this manner both told crazy stories from the pulpit that began to make people wonder how any of that could be true? I would love to have some of these characters have a psychological evaluation. The guy from this most current story you told probably would benefit from one.

  2. After reading this, one day after having e-church could you show us the movie “The Apostle?” Watching that might be biographical. I am still laughing at the absurdity. It is true you laugh to keep from crying!

  3. Two quick thoughts on Church Discipline: I’ve heard that in early Puritan England, if a child couldn’t answer the catechism questions, his/her father would be subject to discipline: It was his job to teach his children. Harsh, or beneficial?

    Also, I’ve heard that in some So. Korea churches, a small group that doesn’t double in size annually, from conversions, is subject to discipline. Talk about intense!

  4. Umm…adding to the list

    -Refusing to submit to a Community Group Leader’s requests for meetings
    -Refusing to be berated and subjected to an entire group of people questioning you
    -Refusing to allow a church you are not a member of “send you out joyfully”
    -Disagreeing on secondary issues like complementarianism, spiritual gifts, etc.
    -Being female and knowing the Word and having the courage to challenge when someone wrongly divides it, even if it is a man

  5. there are a lot of strange churches in S. Korea – as here. I’ve known koreans who cannot understand white America’s infatuation with Christianity in Korea, as the churches we tend to focus on are, from what I have been told, pretty messed-up.

    Forcible “church growth” seems cult-like to me. (A la some of the Unification Church’s strategies and stunts.)

    And Miguel, do you really think people should be punished because their kids aren’t letter-perfect in reciting something?! Sounds like SGM and their tactics re. a lot of normal childhood behavior (like shyness) to me. And that’s not a good thing.

  6. The mis-application of church discipline has nothing to do with Calvinists, conservative protestants, Southern Baptist or C.J. Mahaney.
    It has everything to do with the sin nature of man; there’s not a religious organization that ever existed that didn’t pull power plays. Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox Jews, Ba’hai; you name it, they’ve all done the same thing.

    To suggest the misapplication of church discipline is uniquely a conservative protestant issue simply isn’t true.

    “There is nothing new under the sun.”

  7. Jimmy,

    I am not a Catholic, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew.

    I am a conservative Protestant, and that is why I am deeply troubled by the terrible misuse of church discipline in these kinds of churches.

    I care deeply for my brothers and sisters in Christ and don’t want to see them hurt by pastoral power plays. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to hyper-authoritarianism.

    We are sounding the alarm!

  8. Jimmy: “there’s not a religious organization that ever existed that didn’t pull power plays…To suggest the misapplication of church discipline is uniquely a conservative protestant issue simply isn’t true.”

    That’s right – they all “lord over” their subjects.
    But then there is Jesus.
    And he said to his disciples, “It shall not be so with you.”

  9. I think in regard to church discipline that Calvinism adds what might be a lethal ingredient to the mixture. I’ve never seen it practiced legitimately and it looks like the focus is always on individuals who are either powerless, opponents of the leadership structure, or both.

  10. A friend of mine, some years back, walked in on his favorite pastor on a Saturday afternoon in a compromising position on the church office sofa with a female congregant. My friend, who really liked the pastor, was quite shocked by the scenario. The pastor started, crying, admitted his sin and thanked my friend for helping him come to his sense. The pastor was repentant and thankful.

    The next morning (Sunday) the pastor announced from the pulpit that my friend (pastor named him) was guilty of spreading vicious rumors and undermining the leadership and convinced the congregation to throw him out of the church that day. My friend had not said anything to anyone; not wanting to harm the pastor; found himself tossed out of the church immediately.
    10 years later he could laugh at it but it was certainly traumatic at the time.

    OF COURSE church discipline has been, and is at times, misapplied. But it’s still something churches need to practice if they are going to be faithful to Scripture.

    To this point, churches are not burning members at the stake nor throwing them in public stocks.

    It’s much improved.

  11. How does this newfangled church discipline work? Suspected sinners are privately confronted (Matthew 18) and if they refuse to repent, they are publicly castigated and excommunicated from the church.

    How does this differ from the treatment of Dissidents, Trotskyites, and Counterrevolutionary Bourgeosie Attitudes in the old Soviet Union?

  12. And Miguel, do you really think people should be punished because their kids aren’t letter-perfect in reciting something?! Sounds like SGM…

    Sounds like a Talibani Madrassa and Koran Memorization/Recitation to me.

  13. Deb,
    As a point of clarification, is it your opinion that the list provided in 1 Corinthians 5 is extensive? (Thus Paul meant, “only these things.” If so, what are your thoughts as to who is to be the one who determines what idolatry and slander are? Those two things seem to be very subjective to me.

    Building upon that, what would you say in relation to 1 Thess. 3:6 when Paul commands us to not associate with those that are idle? And same question here; who determines what idleness is?

  14. Danny,

    I do not see the list of sins in 1 Corinthians 5:11 as exhaustive. Of course there are sins that Paul did not list. Physical/emotional abuse of one’s spouse and child abuse certainly come to mind.

    If one is truly in Christ, I believe the Holy Spirit gives us discernment to recognize egregious sin that must be dealt with through church discipline.

    I hope that answers your question.

  15. Deb,
    “Exhaustive!” I knew the word I was using wasn’t right, but for the life of me I couldn’t place my finger on it.

    I’m interested in knowing your thoughts on how church discipline should look practically. In my opinion, even “the Holy Spirit gives us discernment” becomes very subjective. I’m sure we’ve all heard countless times the “God told me” declarations.

    I know that this post is only part of a series and you may be heading to a post that will answer my question at a later date. I’m just curious as to ‘who’ in the church starts the process of discipline according to your view point.

    Full disclosure, as a pastor of only 6 years, I have yet to deal with any of these issues. Which is a large reason for me deciding to take part in this community. If the time comes, I don’t want to get it wrong.

  16. Danny,

    First of all, let me say that I am so glad you are here in our midst. I am honored that you would read what two ordinary, middle-aged wives and mothers (whose vocation is homemaking + blogging) are writing. I mean that with all sincerity.

    I am grateful that you, as the pastor of a congregation, want to “get it right”. I’ll be patently transparent – I don’t have all the answers regarding church discipline. After all, I’m just a lowly woman. 🙂

    There are pastors out there who are getting the church discipline issue right. If a church member is sinning egregiously, I believe s(he) should be confronted lovingly and that the discipline process should happen as confidentially as possible. And I do believe it is a process. Every sin situation would be different, to be sure. I would hope that the leadership of the church (pastors and elders/deacons) would work as a team to try and restore their fallen brother or sister in Christ. The discipline tactic I have the most problem with is “teling it to the church”. Churches need to be very careful with public pronouncements of sin because if a congregant has submitted a resignation letter (whether under discipline or not) the church could get sued, as has already happened in a number of cases. Prudence and prayer must be a priority.

    Again, I have absolutely no theological training in this area, but I know a serious problem when I see it, as explained in this post.

  17. Jimmy:

    You said:”To this point, churches are not burning members at the stake nor throwing them in public stocks.

    It’s much improved.”

    You just do not get it do you?

  18. Danny
    Dee here. I think we have to be very, very careful for applying church discipline to every sin mentioned in the Bible. Frankly, both you and i would need to be in chronic church discipline if everyone were able to read our thoughts . Remember, Christ said that if you lust, you have committed adultery. So, why did he say that. It is important to understand that Christ was the bridge between the OT law and NT grace. During His ministry, he showed us the depth of our sin by statements like this. he was showing the Pharisees that all their laws and rules still did not get at the heart of sin.
    Not one of us can live up to those expectations. This the Cross and glorious Resurrection.

    Do we spend our days, yelping about idleness (of which, from time to time, we are all guilty)? I think it is important to realize that Paul emphasized the stepmother/son deal to show something more important. He was flaunting a sin as appropriate. Most people will admit that they know they are struggling. So, take fat people for example. Why not throw them out of the church for gluttony? Why not throw people out of the church for greed and covetousness? Most of us struggle and succumb to all of these regularly.

    And just because something is present in Scripture, it does not mean that we have to do it in that way. For example, adultery is permission for divorce but the offended party is not REQUIRED to divorce.

    I have written on this subject frequently on this blog. here is an example. Pete Briscoe, Bent Tree Bible Church, was my pastor for years. One Sunday, he got up to speak and simply said, here is a testimony to the church’s intervention. he sat down and a couple got up and told the following story. Husband left wife and kids and shacked up with a new honey. Now, the elders tried to get him to do the right thing. He refused and the quietly told him that he could not attend church. No meetings with internet example on how to shun him. Instead, the elders kept this quiet. Over the next year, they went to visit him, took him to dinner, prayed for him, sent him notes, etc. Guess what? He came to his senses, and asked the elders for help. he moved out of the shack up and set up residence by himself. He then began to meet with his wife. He, and they, received counseling. The elders were there every step of the way. That Sunday, when you could hear a pin drop, the husband and wife had reconciled and their family was once again intact.

    Now could they have made a big deal complete with all church meeting and shun ? Yeah, but do you think the outcome would have been the same. There is one more very important thing to consider. if church correction is harsh, people will NOT seek help. They will plaster on a fake smile and pretend they are just fine basically throwing out a vibe of “Nothing to see here, move along.”

    I would also suggest you read Wade Burlseons’s moving account of how he dealt with a church rebellion. Link

  19. Some people say that self-centered pride is the first and continues to be the greatest sin. I think they might be right. Certainly that is what is at the heart of cases like this.

    And I believe it is more prevalent in very conservative and calvinistic circles because it can be unwittingly fed by an ethos within those groups that seeks very clear answers and delineations of issues, and that is averse to gray areas or ambiguity. Authoritarian personalities are attracted to this ethos, and perpetuate it.

  20. Numo, for the record, I don’t endorse that Puritan practice. But here’s the thing; the results and objectives of these discipleship methods are often worthwhile, but the methods themselves are quite heinous. I think it would be a great thing if every kid in church were well catechized in Biblical doctrine and every small group was multiplying rapidly due to conversion. But to discipline when that doesn’t happen seems quite coercive. What is needed, I think, is methods that work towards noble objectives IN a manner befitting the desired outcome. Do we want people to love Jesus and share him with others? Well, by its very nature, this cannot be forced.

    Generally, I’m sort of a fan of the idea of “religious education” taking place in the home, or parents at least taking an active role and interest in the spiritual development of their children instead of pawning it off on the youth group or something. But I think using the puritan method today would create more obstacles to faith than it would build bridges.

  21. Jimmy
    There are a few guys who, if given the civil power of Calvin, would put people in stocks. It is only the civil authorities that limit some potential responses.

  22. William
    That is why I keep harping on the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Last night, I spoke with a woman who did not know what I was talking about when I mentioned “spiritual abuse.”The church seems to attract powerful egos who have found a place to play mini-despot

  23. Miguel
    i encouraged my kids to go to youth group because they got to hear it from others besides mom and dad. Trust me, they got an education at home. Can you imagine having to live with me? Last night, when I was at an event, the husbands present had to give one word to describe my husband. I was hoping for adorable but he said “entertaining” and supplemented it with “Never a dull moment” and t”he life of my party.”

  24. This story is plain shocking. I’ve never seen discipline used for such power plays, my experience has been more towards the destructive lack of any discipline at all. But I don’t doubt this is happening.

    Another example: There was a Catholic bishop who denied communion to a politician for supporting pro-choice legislation. Is this going too far, or was the bishop just “towing the party line?”

    The thing is that discipline is suposed to be used for sin, but not everybody agrees on what “sin” is. For power mongers, sin is getting in their way. For the Baptist church I grew up in, sin was imbibing alcohol, for which you could be disciplined. For some Episcopalians, there is very little in the sexual realm still considered sin 😛

    Even the 10 commandments seem a little too vague of a standard. We can’t discipline a person for internal sins like idolatry or coveting. I suppose the only valid options are the blatant external sins; adultery, theft, murder, but not coming to worship (think, years…) or even lying can become sticky issues real quick. Who’s to say what does or does not warrant corrective discipline? And who wants the job of deciding that?

  25. “I believe what we are witnessing in many churches is a power play disguised as church discipline”

    Nailed it

  26. Miguel – A lot of us here have seen egregious ills (often committed against us!) perpetrated in the name of “church discipline.”

    I was shunned.

    I’m still recovering from that, and all of the other things that took place, because the private meetings with pastoral staff that I attended were really horrible. (In terms of the accusations – and more – that were leveled against me, and the refusal to listen to me on *anything* at all. They tried forcing me to see it their way – to see myself their way – and it worked, to a great extent.)

    I understand that you are trying to figure this out, but all I can say is that I think it is NOT supposed to be standard practice and that the church has, time and time again, used “discipline” to hurt, shame and abuse people, not help them.

    Also… what happened to me largely happened in private. The “public” (other church members) were told a very different story about what was going on with me, which in itself was extremely hurtful. (It kept the “leaders” above reproach while making me look foolish at best.)

    It was a devastating experience and I am amazed that I am still Christian.

  27. Deb,
    Thanks for that thoughtful response. I’m of the mindset that we can learn from everyone!

    I get completely where your coming from with the public falunting of someone’s sin and that not every sin is discipline worthy. (I hope I didn’t come across as thinking that!)

    That’s a great story you shared of the pastor and Elders who helped the husband and wife. What compassion and grace! That link to Wade’s testimony was a great read.

  28. Numo, you were “shunned?” Yikes! Sometimes I wonder how that practice has even survived at all.

    My bible 101 class in college made explicitly clear that the only objective of church discipline was restoration. I don’t see how shunning works toward that at all. I don’t understand how churches lead by those type of people have anybody attending them at all.

  29. The more abusive stories I hear, sometimes I wonder if it is better to not use corrective discipline at all then to use it as a weapon to beat people. I thought the mennonites were the only ones who still practiced “shunning.” And Mars Hill, of course. I suppose if I’m ever in the situation of looking for a church again, I’ll be sure to examine their history on this issue much more closely now.

  30. Nope. Shunning is becoming more widespread, if anything.

    In my case, it started about (9 & 1/2 years ago. The “pastor” in question was very influenced by Piper, I think, though not just by him. (I think the guy has some serious psychological problems, also that on some level he perceived me as a threat because I asked questions like the following: Why isn’t the Nicene Creed part of our statement of faith? Since he was ordained C of E, I thought it was a softball question at best, but he was taken *very* off guard by it and he got defensive about it. After than, he wouldn’t talk to me after services were over…)

  31. Miguel,

    I really liked your comment:

    “The more abusive stories I hear, sometimes I wonder if it is better to not use corrective discipline at all then to use it as a weapon to beat people.”

    Maybe that’s why church discipline went out of vogue for a while. Now it seems to be back with a vengeance in some churches.

    I do hope we can reach a healthy balance with church discipline at some point. By focusing on destructive church discipline in forums like this, maybe we can help remedy the situation. An awful lot of people are being hurt, and IT HAS TO STOP!


  32. Actually “I get it” quite well. However, here at TWW, people always seem utterly shocked that there are tares among the wheat.

    There’s ALWAYS been tares among the wheat; there will ALWAYS be tares among the wheat.

    I really don’t think the posters and commentors are naive regarding tares among the wheat. But certainly reading the comments and posts; you might think so.

  33. Jimmy – I really don’t believe you get it – “it” being both this blog and the many commenters.

    We’re not blind, but maybe we’re focused a bit differently than you – ?

    all the best to you –

  34. Yes, Jimmy, there have always been tares.

    The problem is with the tares being in places of leadership and protecting each other and being protected by people who don’t want to believe their their beloved, celebrity leader is a tare.

    So what’s the choice?

    Be quiet and don’t mention the tares and let people continue to walk into tare traps, get chewed up, and spit out, and who begin to think being agnostic, atheist, pagan, isn’t such a bad idea after all.

    No. that’s the wrong choice.

    The right choice is to expose the tares for what they are, to warn people, so that the ones who are attracted to the flash and dash won’t get tangled up in it, and those who are being chewed up or thrown into the wood chipper, that they can get out and realize that they aren’t alone and that others see the tares for what they are.

    The problem with your “I get it” is that it is a do-nothing “get it”. Which is completely unacceptable.

  35. Eagle,
    I don’t think church discipline must always equal kicking someone out of the church. It seems recently that’s been the trend, but I don’t think it has to be that way. I think there is a way to disciple that doesn’t end in shunning.

    As to the story of the pastor and music minister you shared. If I fall into such an egregious sin as adultery, though I don’t expect the church to ‘throw me out’ I would expect them to ask me to step down for a season. I’m not above accountability or being held to the standard of pastor.

  36. Danny,

    I wish more pastors could be exposed to the dialogue here. Eagle was a deeply committed Christian until he was terribly wounded by the kind of spiritual abuse we discuss here. It breaks my heart that some fall away from the faith because of how they have been treated in the church (of all places!) Shame on all of us for allowing that to happen.

    Dee and I have had it, and we’re doing something about it! You will not want to miss today’s post. Gotta get busy and finish writing it.


    I appreciate your transparency here. Just know that I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

  37. IMO- official church discipline (being asked not to attend official church gatherings) should only be used as a last resort after all private appeals and personal interaction with the offending brother or sister fails to result in repentance.

    BTW – noncompliance to secondary issues is not a sin issue.

  38. Bridget2 – yep.

    In my case, I was permitted to attend but not to speak to anyone, and a certain group of people (all music ministry folks) were told not to speak to me or communicate with me by phone or email.

    Believe it or not, I did go to services a couple of times, but the final straw was one Sunday when I went and started sobbing – and couldn’t stop. I walked out and never went back inside.

    Lost almost all of my friends in the process.

  39. Shortly after the day I waled out, I started getting calls (which I never answered, let them go to voicemail) from the “pastor” about how they wanted to publicly “send me out.” They didn’t add “joyfully” to that (as in Sophia’s case at MH), but they might as well have.

    I refused to play that game, and they never heard back from me. (The calls were also contingent on a private phone convo that I had with an “elder” in which I said that they were shunning me – a term they adamantly refused to use or accept.)

  40. Eagle,
    Thanks for sharing the article. And to answer your question I doubt a great number of churches would know how to have the grace that is required in challenging times. (My church not excluded. I often wonder how we would handle grace in troubled times)

    I hear you in how many evangelicals view sin as someone else’s problems. I’ve had my fair share of, “except by the grace of God there go I” moments in which I thought of myself higher than those around me. Thankfully, I’m now surround by men and women who look at me and ask the hard questions about my own sin. That’s helped me to grow.

    Of all the avenues for the church to misstep, it’s unfortunate that we do so in an area that causes many damages an heartbreaks.

  41. Jimmy
    This is interesting. You admit that there are tares among the wheat. Yet you become irritated when we write about those tares while at the same time you extoll church discipline. It does sound a bit schizophrenic.

  42. I’m getting a pit in my stomach from reading these comments. I am so glad we have a forum to expose this.

  43. Dee, it’s a bit puzzling to me that you haven’t acknowledged there have always been tares among the wheat; humankind has not suddenly developed a new virulent strain ( you’d call them Calvinistas) but is going on in a totally expected manner. Let us not carry on as if all conservative evangelical leaders are tares to your wheat; they certainly are not. Most of them deeply desire to follow the Bible. Yet the constant bashing of Dever, Mahaney, Piper, Mohler and others suggest an agenda that is simply more then comforting those who have suffered losses. WE ALL have suffered losses haven’t we?

    You may think your calling is that of a “tare weeder” but that would appear to be contrary to Scripture wouldn’t it?

    TWW’s style is Bash-and-then-discuss.

    That seems less then optimum to me.

  44. You can have a profoundly interesting discussion about the use of “sin” in rearing your child without attacking Carolyn Mahaney

    You can have a profoundly interesting discussion about head coverings for women without attacking Dorothy Patterson

    You can certainly have a profoundly interesting discussion about church discipline without bring up C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever or other people who have brought it to our attention.

    How to bring solace to people who have suffered; we all care about that. You don’t have to attack somebody to do it. ( I am touched by some of the stories; always keeping in mind, however, I didn’t hear the other side. Heck, I often feel sorry for people who are broken because of their own stupidity. I understand it quite well – call me stupid.)

    But, taking your hurts and focusing them on people who you believe have offended you never really brought anybody healing did it? Hating John Piper because somebody abused his theology won’t alleviate the pain. It just doesn’t work. ( You’re certainly free to offer alternatives to his theology but he’s not the cause of people going to Hell.)

    You think Mark Driscoll is a little nutty? I think he’s a little nutty. But since when did God use only perfect vessels ( such as W.B.) dryly.

    As far as I can tell God uses ONLY broken vessels. That’s why I’m still in the game.

    Personally, as a broken vessel I’m loath to attack other broken vessels.

    You do remember the whole “mote and plank” illustration. I do.

    BTW, I actually suspect Deb and Dee are pretty fun people when they’re not “tare weeding.”

  45. Only once have I witnessed someone being walked out of church. No police were needed, and it was handled with as much wisdom and grace by the leaders as one could hope for in the situation. Afterward the pastor explained to the whole church that the man wouldn’t be welcome back to without meeting with the elders first. To that request, his response had been, “Where’s the grace?”
    Did I forget to tell you that this man was the most legalistic Christian I’d ever met? And his offense: he stood up in the middle of the service and shouted a number of accusatory things, including, “God’s going to get you!”
    He was clearly hurting the whole congregation, not disagreeing about the need for deacons.

  46. I know my comments are about experiences and do not add much in the way of theology or answers but when reading the comment about discipline from the pulpit, it reminded me of a story from childhood. I was a kid, unaware of the storm brewing. Apparently an affair between church members had been going on and church elders had tried to deal with it using the 1-2-3 method. The pastor confronted first, then the elders confronted them as a group. Yet the sinning continued. So it was time for step 3. After the sermon one Sunday, the pastor started talking about who had sinned, what had been done, what the sin was and the subsequent discipline of removing the guilty parties from membership. Even as a kid I realized that a typical boring Sunday service had just become rather interesting. I was riveted but even then I sensed the embarrassment and pain of the woman accused-she stood up in tears, voiced how sorry she was and how humiliated that this was being spoken of in church. The guilty couple, their spouses, their kids were all in attendance that day and had no idea this was coming! An awkward silence and the pastor told anyone who had more questions to see him after church. So, were the couple in sin and up to this point unrepentant? I guess if the story was true they were, but I clearly remember how angry my father was at how it had been handled in this public forum – he, along with many members of the church spent several hours in heated conversation with the pastor and elders – they took him up on his offer to discuss the situation! This stunt ended up splitting the church, many people left and it took years for them to recover – all from a literal sense of “taking the sin to the congregation” rather than dealing in a caring, loving and discreet manner.

  47. Jimmy,

    Perhaps you have blundered upon something valid here without even knowing it; the virulent strain of toxic spirituality.

    Now, I’ve been calling Driscoll Dris-coli because he’s full of crap now you have inspired me Mahaney, lets see…starts with M…

    MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant form of Staphylococcus aureus.


    Dever, Piper, and Mohler are like part of the immune system that is supposed to go after potentially harmful invaders and members of the body that are not behaving (cancer, for example) and they have ignored MRSA (Mahaney) and are content to spread legalism and anti-woman and anti-science propaganda so they are spiritual autoimmune diseases.

    So Hypercalvinism Calvinitis is a sudden mutation that has overwhelmed a healthy part of the Body and Deb and Dee and a few of the reguaers here….and me are finally waking up, smelling last night’s bean dip and doing something about it…well…at least speaking up.

  48. DB
    The hyperauthoritarians are like MRSA! Now that is the comment of the week! Take a bow along with some antibiotics!

  49. Zech
    Great story. Thank you for sharing it. I contend there is an even darker consequence to this sort of action. At any given time, there are people struggling with all sorts of sins about which they feel ashamed and helpless. They need help and they know it. Yet, knowing of the potential for this sort of response, they zip their lips and suffer in shame and silence.

    I know a woman whose husband struggled with alcoholism (she didn’t know that I knew.) I taught a class in which I said not to feel ashamed about our secret sins. Jesus knows about them and he wants us to go to one another to get help for dealing with them. She came up to me and said she could never tell people in the church any sins because they would look down on her and even ostracize her. I became so angry at the church which should be a hospital for sinners. Yet we hide our pain, in part because we fear the repercussions such as the one you describe. We may actually be successful in making more sins go underground.

  50. Apostle Dave

    Any man that would stand up and do that was probably mentally unstable. I hope the church encourage or helped him to get some counseling. I still get a fit of the giggles as I imagine a sheepish sheriff having to escort grannie from church. I bet her Bible was covered in one of those lacy cloth covers with fabric handle.

  51. Jimmy
    I am a lot of fun to be around. One of my pastors remarked, many years ago, that I would have made a perfect cruise director. Maybe this is why you tolerate us and continue to read this blog? Calisthenics at 7AM in the Forward Lounge!

  52. Danny
    The problem that many churches which follow CJ Mahaney’s sin approach is that they spend more time focusing on sin which can get very, very old. Because there is always more and more sin uncovered. Grace and freedom need to be emphasized or you have a dour Puritan approach to life with some stern man walking up and down the aisles bopping people over the head because they feel asleep during the sermon. Besides the obvious-some sermons are worth deserving of a snooze, the whole church gets into deciding which is the sin of the week.

  53. Wow numo!! My heart hurts and is also pissed-off at how you were treated. Let me say it loud and clear for all to hear. There is no such thing as justification by faith alone. Faith without action is as empty as a CERN vacuum. There is NOTHING that dismays and pisses God off more than meanness and cruelty to others, both human and beast.

  54. Jimmy:

    You said:”BTW, I actually suspect Deb and Dee are pretty fun people when they’re not “tare weeding.”

    You are also probably a fun person when you are not ignoring or dismissing the painful realities of others.

  55. Muff: your “empty as a CERN vacuum” analogy and description of the NOTHING that dismays God reminded me of 2 things: 1: my favorite CS Lewis quote, “Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is took weak and fuddled to shake off.” I think this can be applied to many church activities.
    2: I have a deep lingering fear that the CERN vacuum might malfunction and swallow up planet Earth. Authorities will put out a statement, “Mistakes were made, and the parties responsible have been let go.”

  56. Jimmy: “You think Mark Driscoll is a little nutty? I think he’s a little nutty. But since when did God use only perfect vessels?”

    Jimmy, you fun loving guy you!

    Driscoll is not just a little nutty.
    ~He twists scripture to make it say what he wants rather than what it actually says. (Excellent Quote: “Driscoll uses the Bible as a sock puppet that always agrees with him” –Nick Bulbeck)
    ~He has issues with pornography as displayed by his obsession with finding kinky sex under every rock and tree in The Song of Songs and as displayed by his porno visions.
    ~He has manhood issues.
    ~He has misogyny issues.
    ~He has very serious authority issues.

    He’s not just a little nutty, somewhere short of perfection. His doctrine and attitudes are abusive.

    But he sure does present well, and he’s a good speaker.
    Neither of those things are enough to cover all of his issues. People are getting hurt, being broken, and being thrown away because of his issues. There is no excuse for that. ESPECIALLY the “nobody’s perfect” excuse that simply isn’t enough to cover all that’s wrong.

  57. Zech’s story reminded me of one I heard from a Baptist minister in a rural Colorado district. After he had been serving a congregation for some time, gossip started to be spread all around the small town, not about him, but about his kids. It was, of course, all untrue. So he listened to the gossip and wrote it all down. In the sunday service, he got up and said, “Ok, here’s a list of everything that’s being said about my family. Here’s some proof that it isn’t true. I demand these rumors stop TODAY, or next week, I will reveal the name of those spreading these harmful lies about my family.” Immediately, 8 families stood up and walked out of the church. 10 years later, 6 of them had returned and apologized. The moral according to him was, “Sin doesn’t live when exposed to the light.” Not sure if this even qualifies as discipline, but it was a certainly a bold move!

  58. Miguel
    Jesus often answered his detractors in a clever way. Today’s pastors who rely on heavy handed discipline may do so because they have no imagination.

  59. The Calvinista’s would be much more credible minus Mahaney and Driscoll but for some reason they can’t let them go. I am really amazed that Dever and Piper who want to return to their Puritan roots actually throw a bone at Driscoll. I am sure that the Puritans would think MD had a demon and might even burn him. Those folks didn’t play around so to speak.

  60. Numo
    So many people want to hear your story. Just know that you can tell you story as a post if you ever wish to do so.

  61. The sad observer is not so sad today, because she has been quoted by a highly respected blog! 🙂 I’m truly honored.

    I thought, since my quote apparently sparked a debate about “church discipline abuse” being more prevalent in Calvinist circles, that I ought to own what I said a bit and explain my reason for saying it originally.

    I was not trying to imply that Calvinist circles are the only ones to mis-handle church discipline, or that there is something inherently wrong with Calvinism that causes them to do so. My comment was speaking to the fact that I keep hearing these kinds of stories coming out of Calvinist circles, and I’m wondering why right now at this point in history that seems to be the group that it’s coming from.

    I can’t claim to know, of course, exactly what the spiritual abuse dynamics are in every Christian group across the country, so I certainly am no expert on who is doing it “more” than others. I’m just making an observation based on the fact that I hear about it in relation to Calvinist churches much more these days.


  62. Eagle – I didn’t go to CHBC. There’s more than one church on Capitol Hill, after all. 🙂

    Muff, dee and everyone – thank you. It was such a terribly hard time, and I’m still ambivalent at best about setting foot in a church while a service is going on. Some days I want to, while on most others, i would have no problem with visiting an empty – or largely empty – church for a while, just to sit in a pew or in a chapel and think and pray.

    Problem is, it’s almost impossible these days to find a church that’s actually open during the day. It used to be the norm for Catholic churches to be open for anyone who wanted to pray (or just sit quietly, for that matter), but times have changed.

    dee – I’m not sure if I’m ready to write down details as a post. I feel like it might be a painful thing to do (what the psych people call “retraumatizing”) and I’m not sure if I’m up to it at this point – or if I ever will be.

    Am still processing a lot of things that happened after the church deal, and concurrent with a lot of other things (my moving and extreme culture shock, the aftermath of getting booted, etc. etc.).

    I know other people have been hurt at That Church, and i wish we could band together and speak out, but I don’t even know how to get in touch with them – and we’ve all moved on in – and with – our lives, you know?

  63. Eagle – I forgot to answer your question about phone calls. Can’t remember exactly (since they were few and far between), but it was in the neighborhood of 4-5 months.

    As I said, I let them go to voice mail, and it’s a good thing I did. In one case, the “pastor” was extremely angry and I was not about to talk to him when he was ranting. (Or at any other time, for that matter.) His angry call came within hours of my having spoken to the “elder” I mentioned above, when I used the word “shunning.” And I knew he would call, because it would be reported to him ASAP.

    I could have set my watch by it, in fact.

  64. Eagle – This one.

    though I’m not sure that you’ll see much in the way of weirdness via their site… although *you* might pick up on it, given the time you’ve spent around Third Wave (etc.) practitioners.

  65. Miguel,

    I noticed your comment very early in this thread about a Catholic bishop refusing communion to a politican who voted for a pro-abortion law.

    Here is my Catholic view. The politician is a public figure, whose decision about the proposed law was made public, by voting for it. It is also a well known fact that the Catholic Church opposes abortion.

    He or she was denied one sacrament, one time. Had they gone to a Eucharistic minister, there would have been no denial. (speaking purely for myself, I wouldn’t know them from Adam or Eve. We EM’s are taught not to make denial decisions, it is only for the priest or bishop)

    I would also hope that the bishop or others had tried to talk to the person privately either to reconcil themselves to the teachings of the Church or at least not to take communion.

  66. Numo –

    Thanks for sharing some of your experience. I know it’s somethng you don’t want to keep revisiting, which is very understandable. I’m sorry you were treated in such a manner and that anyone is treated in such unloving ways. It almost seems as if we are getting to a point where there is more people in certain areas warning of why NOT to partake at certain churches rather than sharing reasons to attend a certain church. At this point the institutionalized church has, in many ways, become a stumbling stone.

  67. Dee, “Too many pastors rely on heavy handed etc.. because they have no imagination.” That’s a really good summary. But who wants to be creative when dealing with sin? We all want an easy to follow cut and paste formula with three steps. It’s safer. Of course, what could be safer than following after Jesus, right? 😛

  68. RE: Dave A A on Fri, Feb 24 2012 at 07:01 pm:

    Here’s a blurb on a Nostradamus quatrain that can be construed (if one is so inclined) to be about the Hadron Collider:


    BIG CAVEAT! On the one hand I do not endorse Nostradamus as a prophet in the sense of what Scripture says about prophets. But on the other hand, too many of his quatrains eerily fit various happenings (where’s Scully & Mulder when ya need em’?) down through the centuries. The same of course can be said about the so-called Bible Codes which were all the rage amongst the Chuck Missler & Hal Lindsay crowd a few years back.

  69. Bridget2 – thanks so much. It’s not something I sit around and think about, although sometimes things surface.

    Life has continued to go on, and I’m going along with it! : )

  70. Thanks Muff for the link! I feel much safer now! The 1st commentator has a detailed analysis where he figures the combined risk from MBH’s, monopoles, and strangelets to be no more than 11-25%!!! Move along folks, nothing to see here… I like the 1st of Nostro (Jr.)’s lines, ” Leave, leave Geneva, every last one of you!”
    Was he actually warning us to flee Calvinista-ism? Warning us to leave the type of church discipline practiced in Geneva back in the day?

  71. Dee,

    Re: “Today’s pastors who rely on heavy handed discipline may do so because they have no imagination.”

    Viewing the Bible as a literal guidebook with stark instructions on how to do this, that, & the other leaves little room for imagination.

  72. So I sent in ‘the letter’ to a well known calvinista church–will keep the identity vague for now– and haven’t heard a peep from them. I did this months after speaking with an elder about grappling with churchianity’s pet peeves–oh, just the small stuff: hell, heaven, homosexuals, the possibility inclusivism.

    I was upfront with my thinking, no B.S.ing on my part. They must think I worship satan by now.

    So what do you all say ?

  73. I have done a little more digging into the Karolyn Caskey debacle and came across this:

    Karolyn Caskey Arrested Again

    “According to one of the long time attenders, Burrick’s bouncer’s wouldn’t let Karolyn Caskey enter Allen Baptist Church this morning, the church where she has been a member for 48 years, and from which she has never been constitutionally excommunicated. When Karolyn, who is 71 years old, got to church, they warned her not to enter, but she went in anyway. Her brother and brother in-law were with her, so Burrick called the police. Shortly thereafter, the bouncers brought her out and sat her in a chair in the front porch of the church and surrounded her until the police came. When the police arrived, she was put into the police car and taken away. Her brother and brother in law followed the police car to go bail her out.

    That’s the account from one of her supporters who was too afraid to enter the church but stayed outside and watched.”

    This happened back in 2007 (I think). When did Mark Driscoll begin having “security guards”? Just wondering. Driscoll does seem to have a problem with grandmas…

  74. we have cossetted narcissism and enshrined narcissists as our leaders. jesus, come quickly.

  75. My husband and I were asked to leave a church where we had been members for 34 years. My husband was a Deacon and a member of the choir and on the building committee. I help where I can as I have an incurable disease and never know when I will be able to walk. I did mostly telephone work and checked people in at our monthly Senior Luncheon, sold tickets, etc.

    We were called into the preacher’s office and he asked us to leave HIS church as three people (women) had said that I was sending out nasty e-mail to them. Not true. I receive a Nasty e-mail from one of the women as I was helping her with the Angel Tree. She is a very pushy person and has only been a Baptist for a few years. (Previously Catholic& remarried after a divorce). She got with two other women that didn’t like us for some unknown reason and made up a bunch off untrue statements about us.

    They went to the Pastor and told him all this stuff. We had heard nothing about all of this going on behind our backs. The Pastor called us to come to his office and didn’t give us a chance to say anything. Just told us to leave HIS church. What can we do about all of this?