“Although I express myself with some degree of pleasantry, the purport of my words is entirely serious.” ―
I want to thank Todd for covering for me this past week. My husband and I got Covid, and our symptoms involved fever, congestion, etc. Our doctor put us on antivirals which helped out. I was diagnosed on Monday after being sick for about a week with a cold and having two negative tests. My doctor said to test myself for four days after my husband tested positive. I thought it was overkill, but he was right. Our local health department gave us 24 tests to use at home. We sure needed them since most of the family locally became positive.
Years ago, one of my pastors (a good one) asked me why I wanted to post a letter that had been received by the church asking for my ex-communication. He said the church didn’t believe the letter, and even the LCMS spoke against it. I told him that it was important for others to see what sometimes happens when people pursue the truth and understand why it is essential to stand firm against this nonsense. As TWW readers know, I often post difficult letters that I, or those we write about, receive. I sat on the following letter for a few weeks but felt that publishing it would clarify a few issues. I do not doubt that leaders from Chapel Hill Bible Church will read this, and I hope it will help amidst the well-deserved turmoil they are experiencing. I did not seek this letter and was surprised when I received it. The writer said it was meant to be sent to me, not my blog. I’m afraid I have to disagree. I am the blog editor, along with Todd, and these comments are directed toward me as the blog editor.
I know this elder who is, in fact, elderly and appears to have a poor understanding of how to communicate effectively on social media. I will not use his name. He is a long-time elder at Chapel Hill Bible Church. The church has all these weird terms for their multiple elders, like sitting elders, standing elders, etc. I suggest another: “falling flat on their faces” elders. He helped. I have known him since we first attended, and I liked him. That was the old Chapel Hill Bible Church which carefully (and he was one of the founding members) set up its bylaws to avoid authoritarian behavior. Unfortunately, that changed the second time around with the advent of the Calvinist hardliner, Jay Thomas, who is, in my opinion, authoritarian by nature. My husband and I left; the rest is history as the church has changed for the worse, as many of those we left behind discovered.
Sadly, this elder, along with others, failed us and never attempted once to understand why we left CHBC quickly. We saved ourselves a lot of heartaches. But, we often wonder why none of that myriad of elders ever acted like elders and reached out to us. After all, we had been there for a total of 10 years. In particular, this elder is involved in a Christian medical community group to which my husband and I gave our time. So we would see him, and nothing was said until I noticed a comment that might have been from him in an EChurch, of all places. That is where those who wish can come to worship quietly, not put up with challenging comments, especially from church leaders. The people who visit those posts have seen enough pain in churches. The comment stated that I should post more positive things like that EChurch. I retorted that his statement seemed a bit passive-aggressive to me. Then I received this email.
Good morning, Dee-
I think you got my comment wrong, as it was not passive-aggressive but truthfully encouraging you to intermix joyous, positive items
along with your raking churches and persons “across the coals –not sure it is physically healthy for you !!
(This contninues as a personal Christmas note which I have deleted) (Then) –We are on the same page in Him!!
So, let’s “rake this comment over the coals,” as it were.
“I think you got my comment wrong,
Given this comment alone, I’m beginning to understand what happened in the last year at CHBC. I wonder. Do churches train elders on how to be elders? Do they point them to resources in effective communication? An elder who wants to open an effective dialog with a person they have known for years does not start with the statement, “I think you got my comment wrong.”
Instead, an effective communicator who cared to dive deeply into what was going on would wonder, “Why do they think that? Maybe I should ask them?” Sadly, this is part of what happened at CHBC. The elders appear to have set up a “we vs. them” paradigm, and the “we” were right regarding difficult interactions. The church missed an opportunity when communications started with you may be “wrong.”
(“I think you got my comment wrong) as it was not passive-aggressive.”
Once again, this is a statement of fact by the person issuing it. This elder again misses the mark. I assume he wanted to communicate something, but he lost me with his absolutist statement, “It was not passive-aggressive.” If he genuinely cared about what I thought, he should have asked, “Why do you think it was passive-aggressive?” Again, this statement is a look into the failure of communication by elders at CHBC. As you will see, he demonstrates what appears to be a passive-aggressive statement in what follows.
“but truthfully encouraging you to intermix joyous, positive items.”
You should have done your homework if you genuinely cared what I write about on this blog. Since you appear to find EChurch@Wartburg a positive post, why do you say I should intermix more positive items on the blog? I searched and found I started EChurch@Wartburg sometime in 2013. That is nine years with 52 posts per year. I posted @468 EChurch posts during that time. So let me ask you a question. Are 468 posts not enough “positives” in your book? Did you not take a moment to figure that out? Was it not important to you?
Let’s go a little deeper. Do you know the type of reader you might find at EChurch? Many of them are the ones who have been poorly treated or abused by the local church. I started this because many people are so wounded by churches like CHBC that they turn their backs on the local church. I started this to give people a place they could go where they wouldn’t have the likes of Eric McKiddie disparaging them or Jay Thomas telling jokes that wounded them. The fact that there is a need for an EChurch is an indictment of the failures of the local church. Yet, you didn’t even wonder, for a minute, why I did this and have done it for so long. That is a shame.
“along with your raking churches and persons “across the coals.”
Again, this comment is a witness to the passive-aggressive nature of your note to me. You do not appear to have an understanding of what it is that I do. I cover stories of abuse in the evangelical and broader Protestant church. Are you familiar with the Ravi Zacharias stories? How about Sovereign Grace Ministries? How about what happened with Mark Driscoll? Why is the DOJ investigating the Southern Baptist Convention? Are you aware I wrote a story about a woman whose youth pastor abused her? Maybe you don’t believe that sexual abuse is rampant in churches. I left a Raleigh church where a Southeastern Baptist Seminary student abused over 13 young teen boys. What about John MacArthur? Whoops, I almost forgot John Piper. Does Thomas ever mention this in any detail?
If you care enough to read about what I do, here is an article from the Washington Post in which I was featured. The Crusading Bloggers Exposing Abuse in Protestant Churches: No one was paying attention — until these armchair investigators came along.”
Yet you use a derogatory term, “raking churches and persons across the coals.” The term “raking across the coals” is demeaning and shows little understanding of what I have accomplished in almost 14 years of writing. There is no love in this comment, and you know it. Sticking on a Merry Christmas doesn’t cut it.
“not sure it is physically healthy for you !!”
You are a long-retired GO doctor. Surely you know that you have no data to suggest that you know if I am physically healthy or not. Now that I think about it, you showed little interest in me in my ten years at CHBC, so what makes you think you know enough to make this statement? My PCP is quite impressed at my accomplishment so late in life. If you want his contact information, I will forward it to you, and you could tell him why I think what I’m doing is not “physically healthy” for me. I’m sure he would find your thoughts amusing. PS I love the little exclamation point after this statement.
“We are on the same page in Him!!”
Given what has happened to many members of CHBC, I paused at this statement. You might not understand what I’m about to say, but I know many people who are abuse victims will. When we confronted the abuse of young teens at our former Baptist church, the head elder (I don’t know if he was sitting, standing, or flat on his face) was speaking to my husband and said, out of the blue, “It’s not that we question your salvation.” My husband thought, “Where in the world did that come from?” One of those “aggressively calm” comments raised the question, “I’m not sure that you are saved, but I’ll say it nicely.”
Given the implications of this entire conversation, I can truthfully say that you sound like that elder who is “Not questioning my salvation.”
If we were on the same page, you would not have said some things the way you told them. However, I now understand why things have not been resolved at the church. The good intentions at the start of the church have ended on a sour note. I don’t care if Thomas tells you that losing a boatload of people is OK. That is something that Mark Dever says. Lose the ones who don’t count, and your church will be stronger, right? Not right. They end up on my blog, and many have trouble trusting another church and a group of elders. I don’t blame them. Read the 9Marks materials carefully. I have, and I’m not impressed.
I would imagine that you have little idea how far this blog reaches. I have covered stories in Africa, Scotland, Australia, and more. Church abuse is rampant around the world. Recently, I received this from a pastor who lives in another country. He reads my blog and Julie Roys’ TRR.
I’ve had another thought about yours and Julie’s writings. I think they have opened my eyes to a gentler, kinder and more generous Christianity. Where there is room for the hurt, questioning and the broken. I realise I’m being influenced less and less by the “hard Calvinists”. I hope you’ve had a good Christmas and I wish you a very blessed and peaceful 2023.
I wish that CHBC, as well as you, had exhibited a gentler and kinder Christianity in your interactions with me and the others who have left. One thing is sure. I now see the underlying problems at the church and am so glad to be in a beautiful church that is kind, loving, and gentle. It reminds me of the OLD CHBC, and that is how I will choose to remember you.