"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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Grace under Siege 25: Kangaroo court

     This morning at the end of the first service, the Executive Board of Elders announced a "members only" meeting --with 90 minutes' notice. (The church bylaws require 4 weeks.) As the meeting convened, all nine members of the Executive Board of Elders went gravely up the steps to the stage and gathered around the podium. Since Lou knew that 120+ of us have signed a statement supporting our Statement of Faith, which our elders repudiate, declaring that we would stand with Bear, he started the meeting by having everyone stand.
     One of the elders read a statement denouncing a man I'll call "Bear" for sending out emails that are dividing our church. (These emails contained testimonies by those abused by the leadership over the past 20 years.) The statement called Bear a "sinner" and demanded he "repent." The only time we hear our leaders speak about sin, repentance, and judgment is in relationship to sinning against them, needing to repent to them, and risking judgment ("severe church discipline") from them.*
     The elders took turns in this little charade. Although they admitted Bear had confessed in writing and apologized for hurting anyone by what he has written and for his sometimes imprudent anger and choice of words with them, they indicated that was only the beginning of what would satisfy them. They castigated him for not apologizing for the content of the emails, for which, of course, he has no reason to apologize.
     As his name was read, Bear and his wife moved into the aisle, where at least 30 of us joined them.
     The final elder to speak (before Lou closed in prayer) invited the whole congregation to help bring Bear to repentance and said if that didn't work, they would consider "dismissing" him (a member for twice as many years as Lou and head of multiple church boards and ministries over those years) from membership. But, he added brightly, if Bear repents and is restored to their good graces, we will all celebrate at a party in January!

*Except during this Advent. Suddenly the sermons of all the pastors have been refreshingly orthodox. 


  1. Here's a view from outside your situs: I'm Tom Dunn. I am not a part of your congregation, but I was raised in Brethren schools and have served many years as an Elder in my church. When I was a Brethren student, we had, as your church has had, a Statement of Faith. It was the foundation for our assembly. When great people, like David Hocking, saw fit to take issue with that statement of faith, they eventually saw the wisdom of leaving the Brethren church and started anew elsewhere. That was the proper, God-honoring and congregation-honoring response. What is going on at YOUR church is an embarassement to all members of the Brethren faith. If your leadership is no longer convinced that the Brethren positions concerning doctrine are correct, they are bound by ethics and godly directives to start fellowshiping elsewhere. They are NOT authorized by the Holy Scriptures to disenfranchise and excommunicate those in their congregation who hold fast to the truths of Scripture as expressed in their church's historic Statement of Faith. That your "leaders" have seen fit to embark on this absurdly bizarre calling out of the faithful, when they themselves have removed themselves from the fellowship of Brethren believers by their complete disregard of the charter for their own church, is a farse, an embarassment beyond description, and utterly dishonoring to Christ. Your church has become a joke. I'm personally ashamed of your so-called "leadership," the compromising majority of your congregation that is putting up with this twaddle, and the perverted crapola that is passing for faith in your assembly. Rest assured: God will deal with all of those in your midst who bring disrepute to the Christ of the Scriptures. To put it succinctly: If members of your assembly are no longer comfortable with Brethren doctrine, they should have the good graces to go start a new church somewhere else, where they can make up any old "statement of faith" they care to design. 36th and Linden used to be a place of honor. I was married at the Brethren Church at 36th and Linden. That used to be something I was proud to say. Now, I'm embarrassed and chagrined that I ever had any connection with the place. May God deal with the Laodiceans in your midst. Only His grace, as opposed to my personal wishes, will save such a "leadership" from the thumping it deserves.

  2. Wow, Mr. Dunn, you say it so well and so powerfully it takes my breath away. Yes, why can't they start their own church (or cult)? Why hijack ours? We are praying for repentance on the part of the leadership and for restoration of unity. But if unity has to come at the expense of truth and kindness, we pray God will remove the troublemakers--even if they are us!