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.