“Blogging is a conversation, not a code.” – Mike Butcher.
Yesterday I got a call from a woman who was being subjected to retroactive discipline. The story was the typical abusive behavior of a church that would most likely invite CJ Mahaney and Mark Dever to speak to their church. I spent some time commiserating with her, encouraging her, and coming up with positive steps which might be effective. However, I receive frequent calls from people suffering unjust church discipline every week. Many people do not realize that 50% of my work is talking with people who have been hurt. They call me. They ask my opinion but ask someone to believe them and support them even if a situation cannot be changed. However, it can be redeemed.
I had a reason to think more about this a few days ago when a discussion on Twitter ensued after Sharon Hodde Miller asked a challenging question on Twitter. According to CT:
Sharon leads Bright City Church in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, Ike, which they planted together in 2018. Sharon earned her MDiv from Duke Divinity School and her PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where she researched the topic of women and calling.
The pejorative “discernment blog label
The discussion was about a group of well-known blogs, such as Julie Roys and Warren Throckmorton. Surprisingly, I was among the folks mentioned, although I am different from them.
How to be discerning about “discernment blogs”:
If a “watchdog site” is not making a transparent effort to adhere to journalistic ethics and integrity, you are probably getting half truth and half agenda.
— Sharon Hodde Miller (@SHoddeMiller) March 20, 2023
What is The Wartburg Watch, and how does it express what Todd and I are doing?
I read the news before I started blogging, especially about faith. I was shocked as I read or heard of abusive behavior by church leaders. I was raising children, and when I would bring up the subject with Christians, I got the “eyes glazed over” stare. I thought people weren’t interested. However, I continued to find the subject exciting and read everything I could find. As the internet became more available, I would download articles of interest to me. I developed a two-year course on church history. No, I was not a history major, but it was a hobby.
I seemed to know more than others and found others interested in church history. I started leading classes on the subject and would post some information on “Did you see this in the news?” articles on church issues. I was surprised that folks found what I said interesting. Over time I thought, “I need to start a blog.” A friend recently told me that he thought I would never do it.
Most of you know the rest of the story. I watched a church that I believed unjustly handled an abuse situation that may have affected up to 30 young teen boys in my church. To this day, I think it is some of the most disgusting and depraved abuse of teens that I have heard. I have been at this thing for 14 years, so my opinion counts unless you don’t wish to accept it, which is fine.
Early on at TWW, I often received criticism that we were just “another discernment blog.” Consider me stupid, but I thought that discernment was a darn good thing. How in the world was I supposed to look at an abuse situation and not “discern?’ It was a silly pejorative term. It meant “shut up, you’re upsetting me.” The same thing happened with the word “watch-blogging.” It was denigrated in certain circles. Once again, I could understand why. I had been watching the Christian world and abuse for decades. Was I supposed to shut my eyes and not write about what I saw?
In the end, I wrote about Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney in the early days. I was roundly critiqued because they were all “cool,” and all the big guys at The Gospel Coalition loved them…until they didn’t. Then, they removed articles and pretended like, “Driscoll, I never knew ye.” I still remember one guy who used to work for John Piper until he didn’t. He was irritated when I pointed out John Piper clapping at his son’s second wedding. That was something that was a “no, no.” Piper didn’t usually believe in second weddings after a divorce if the spouse was still alive. I was thrilled he remarried. But…I shouldn’t have talked about it. He wrote a complaint about my “tone.” I told him that he was mansplaining. He denied it. I stopped the discussion. I was a woman commenting on a man’s world, and I was just a bit too “out there” for the “subtle boys” who overlooked the over-the-top manifestations of people like Doug Wilson (loved by the TGC boys), Owen Strachan of CBMW, and others.
Who am I?
Todd can describe himself if he wants to, so this is about me. I am not a journalist. I am not trained to be one. I didn’t study “journalistic” codes and practices. I have a BSN (Nursing) and an MBA, which means I have some training in looking at people, businesses (which the church has become), and finances. When I discuss something a person did, I have links to prove it. I tell the truth, and I never knowingly spread something untrue. For example, when I wrote Blindsided: The True Story of the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Iain Campbell, I caused a bit of an uproar in Scotland and the US. I posted some emails that Campbell wrote to his lover. I explained exactly what happened when he died. I never will tell anyone my source, but it was impeccable, and many in Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland knew it. I don’t know what “journalistic standards” may be, but I know I told the truth and will go to my grave protecting my source. I don’t care if people don’t like that. I know it is accurate, and it has helped so many people. For example, a particular tribute to Campbell was canceled after the revelation.
Since becoming a Christian, I have been intensely interested in “how the church works.” I still remember sitting on my kitchen floor with my two little girls as they played. I was reading an issue of Christianity Today and read about a conflict in a church I had not heard of. I spent some time looking through books I had collected to see if I could find out more. Then, one day, Google was born! What a gift! I could finally research and learn things so quickly.
Why my blog?
Yes, I wanted to fight abuse. What happened in my church was sickening. I also wanted to share other things I found upsetting. Pastors making exorbitant salaries and living in mansions are one. Pastors and church leaders who covered up abuse to “protect the church” were another. Attempting to figure out how churches work and discovering the abuses and strange theologies of the Church of the Highlands and other ARC churches was another. CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Churches shocked me, and I shared the shock with you.
Last night my husband said, “Your blog is your opinion, perceptions, and love which comes out of your lifelong interest in trying to figure out the church.” I have been writing for 14 years this month. I’m not sure I can describe exactly what I do, but I share with you the things I care about, some so profound and disturbing that I have trouble sleeping at night. During the Twitter discussion, I perceived rightly or wrongly that my “lack of a board” was a net negative for some. My lack of board is not the issue for an opinion blog. I get more feedback on this blog than many get from a board. Look at how many people comment. I allow many comments that are negative. (I even allow HUG-an internal joke.)
I am sharing with the world what interests me. I share my love for others. I deeply care about churches that mess up and then profoundly care about those that do well. I do not need a board to tell me what I can share from my life. On this blog, you are getting me: my strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge gained from years of observation. I am not a journalist, nor do I pretend to be one. But I care about truth and believe I can discern some stuff like anyone else.
This kind of some it up.
I just remembered that this month marks 14 years since I started blogging. Sometimes time is the best witness to others about one’s personal integrity. Not the lack of sin but a desire to do what is right and to apologize when one gets it wrong. And we all get it wrong every once… https://t.co/kUshZm3agK
— Dee Parsons (@wartwatch) March 21, 2023
I have been writing for 14 years. The sum of my work is a testament to my integrity and my weaknesses. If that is not enough, then there are many blogs, websites, and journalists to discover. I would imagine that my truthfulness lines up with many of them. How many of them have an EChurch, which is there to help those who cannot attend a church for many reasons? That is not something a real journalist would do.
This blog is Todd and me looking at the world of the church. I have often said, “Having my own blog is a wonderful opportunity to get some things off my chest.”