"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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Grace under Siege 43: Lou's new views on church discipline

     Twenty years ago Lou did not believe in church discipline. When a member of the church abandoned his wife, the wife (Linda Shields, now Linda Hart) came to him and implored him to confront her husband. All Lou would promise was that he would tell her husband (not her), "We love you."                        
     This is from that wounded wife, with her permission: ". . . For me it is not a matter of cartharsis, it is a matter of  'telling the truth'. . .  I do know that our God does keep His Word and that nothing is hidden from Him, and 'our sins do find us out' at His timing.
     "I will relay to you what happened with Lou.  When my husband abandoned me--he left for work one morning and never came home--I thought, 'This can't be possible. I love and have served the Lord, I've been a Christian since I was seven, I'm a good, loyal, loving wife, and a good mother!' I was devastated.
     "I went to Lou immediately. I didn't know him well but I thought I should start with my pastor.  I asked him to go talk to my husband according to the Bible, Matthew 18.  Lou said, 'I will go talk to him, but I won't go into it with him. I will only tell him we love him.  I do NOT believe in church discipline.'
     "I thought as I left his office, Now you're telling me I'm going to be abandoned by my pastor, too. To my knowledge, he never did go to talk with my husband.  He never prayed with me or visited me, or offered any comfort, help, or encouragement.  .  . I eventually had to leave the church because there was virtually no contact, no support, from my pastors, elders, deacons, no one.
      "I had a friend whose husband had abandoned her while she was at Grace, just as mine had abandoned me. She had already left our church because she was hurt by the leadership. The leaders at her new church assigned an elder to her through her crisis, to help her with every aspect of her life--like paying bills, (I didn't know what bills we had), how to pay the mortgage, (my house was repossessed). They met with her weekly, counseled her, supported her emotionally and spiritually, helped her out in the regular business of life. I had nothing like that. Nothing. 
     "Incidentally, my dad [Bob Thompson] was the Executive Director of Brethren Home Mission Council at the time the Grace Brethren search committee was looking for a new pastor. Dad knew Lou very well.  When the head of the Executive Board of Elders at that time asked Dad for his recommendation, he suggested Lou as THE candidate for the job. Dad said, 'There's a man who is dynamite and you need to go after him.'
     "When Lou would not help me, at that moment I knew he was not what my dad thought he was. I knew we had a pastor who had no compassion, not a shepherd, and that the church was in for a rocky road.
     "During the year my dad was dying of cancer--he was bedridden 4 months--I asked Lou, more than once, to visit him.  He did only once at my urging. I couldn't believe it.
     "Dad would have been mortified at finding out these truths about Lou's character. This is self-evident in Lou's willingness to sign a Statement of Faith he admits he doesn't believe. If my father were alive, he would be out here in a minute to ask Lou, 'What are you doing? If you're on the red team, you play for the red team. If you don't agree with their rules, go play for the blue team.' My dad would have been leading the Supporters group. He would have gone toe to toe with Lou and said--in love--'These supporters were all here before you were. They have been supporting this church financially. It's their church. They are saying they don't like what you are doing. What kind of man are you to keep on doing it?'    
     "You may quote me to whomever you feel needs to know.  If they want to contact me they may, since my story deals directly with the 'church discipline' of [Bear]. My heart bleeds for [Bear].
     "My heart is broken over Grace. I still love that church but what is happening there breaks my heart."
     Twenty years ago Lou refused to discipline a sinning church member. Now he has no compunction about disciplining a church member whose only sin is to expose Lou's own sins.

1 comment:

  1. A member of Grace Brethren emailed me the following comment and gave me permission to post it: "Ten or 15 years ago, when I was on the elder board, Lou told the elders that he did not believe in church discipline except in the case of heresy."