"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Glimpses of Grace 23: "With all due respect--"

     This was Jerry's and my response to the unsolicited, one-sided email sent to everyone in the church to tell them not to read or send out unsolicited, one-sided emails. ;o) Although we do not identify the elders or pastors mentioned by those we quote, they pretty much all referred to Lou, Hatchet Man, and Jesus Eyes.

Dear Brothers on the Elder Board, 
     In your recent e-mail (Oct. 11) to all of usyou appealed for everyone to "address concerns in a Biblical and Christ-honoring manner." We heartily concur with this advice. We only wish everyone abided by it!
     Over the years God has sent scores of faithful members of our church to our leaders to show them Scripture and hold them accountable to be true to the Bible and our Statement of Faith. Those with concerns have been careful to follow Matthew 18, documenting them Biblically and taking them directly to those whose teaching has not been in accord with the Bible, rather than spreading them as gossip. As one woman put it, "I came to have concerns all on my own. . . As I have become aware that there are others with similar concerns I have observed that they too developed and examined their own concerns in their own way. . . I have heard 'I thought I was the only one' or 'We thought we were the only ones.' Thus, they did not come to their questions and quest for answers because of 'gossip' that they had heard."
     Unfortunately many of these people  (we personally know of more than a dozen) report that certain of the leaders have not received their concerns "in a Biblical and Christ-honoring manner." They typically report responses to their concerns with phrases like the following actual quotes: 
     "When I tried to bring these (concerns) to (pastor), he blasted me with anger.    When I tried to bring these to (elder) he blew me out in vicious, hateful anger on the phone. He misrepresented what we're saying. (Another elder) too accused me of saying things I've never said. Every avenue I tried to go through to speak to the leaders was squashed." (Woman)
     "You cannot talk to (pastor); he just won't listen." (Woman)
     "When I raised objections to the elders, they became almost militant about it." (Woman)
     "(Pastor) raised his voice in a threatening fashion. . . He was intensely intimidating." (Man) 
     "They wouldn't let me tell them my concerns and said I was being 'divisive.'" (More than one person)
     "Two of the elders confronted me publicly when I came to teach the women. They were standing in the doorway and told me I was not permitted to come in. They told me someone had complained about me and wouldn't tell me who it was. They did not instruct that person to bring their complaint to me directly, as Matthew 18 commands, so I could make amends. On a later occasion when I tried to protest this injustice (a third elder) screamed and yelled at me, called me a liar, falsely accused me, and demanded I sign a list of 'confessions' he had prepared, threatening to bring me before the church for 'severe church discipline' if I mentioned this to anyone." (Former head of Women's Ministries)
     "People I deeply respected had talked to (pastor). Very capable people have questioned him and got no place. I almost gagged at the way (elder) has treated several people. So unkind and abrupt. He needs to repent and go ask forgiveness of the people he's offended. I don't see repentant hearts among the elders." (Man)
     "I felt totally intimidated. They scared me. I was shaking." (Woman)
     "I lost it. I was bawling." (Woman)
     And always, "They told me not to talk about it."
     This lying and intimidation has apparently been a pattern among some of the leadership of this church for years:
     One elder left the elder board when he was instructed to tell people that a decision had been "unanimous." "I told them that was a lie and I would not lie for them," he said.
     One of three staff members forced out of GBC all at the same time said, "They made me leave the church without telling me why. They even wrote up a list of 'confessions' and signed my name to them to present to the church body. If (one of the other two) hadn't threatened to speak up and say it was a lie if they read the 'confession' publicly, they would have gone through with it."
     Another man on staff briefly said, "In the service the leaders told the congregation I was leaving the church to take a job in the private sector. When I got out in the parking lot afterwards I broke down in tears. It was all lies. They told me to leave without telling me why. I didn't have another job."
     Because most of these people did not talk about their experience and subsequently left our church, it was only recently they discovered that almost all of them share the experience of having approached certain elders with truth and having had their concerns dismissed out of hand. They were blamed, shamed, threatened, intimidated, or in other ways verbally abused.
     Others whom we know, still in our church, are currently experiencing this. The two of us personally experienced what felt intimidating by an elder when we attempted to send out e-mails to some of you asking prayer for our church in our capacity as Prayer Coordinators. On two different occasions this elder called and kept demanding to know why we were asking for prayer for our church, who we were sending our letters to and what we were going to be praying. When I (Jessica) asked whether it was all right to pray for a certain meeting which I had not realized was confidential he said, "WE'RE praying!" in such a tone that it was clear the answer was no. When I told him I was feeling attacked and badgered--by this time I was shaking and in tears--he said, "I'm not badgering you!" and kept on making the same demands, even ordering us not to send out letters asking for prayer without his permission!
     We want to hasten to add that this kind of treatment has not been our experience or that of others from the majority of our leaders. But it has been the experience of a significant number of people from the same handful of pastors and elders.
     We have been told by other elders that the elders in question "are human" and "under stress." But that does not excuse sinful behavior on their part any more than it would excuse such behavior in any of usWe're all human and often under stress but anyone who responds in this kind of brutalizing manner to people of sincerity are responsible to confess their anger to God and to ask forgiveness from those they have abused.
Jerry and Jessica Renshaw

P.S. No one has been blind-copied in this e-mail.

No comments:

Post a Comment