"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

Friday, January 13, 2012

Grace under Siege 50: Methinks he doth protest too much

      Today we (like many of you) received a 4-page, single-spaced letter from our senior pastor, reading in part: ". . . [A] new charge was [leveled against me, stating] that I did not believe point #9 on our Statement of Faith. This point deals with eschatology. . ."
    Here is the controversial point in question. On February 5th, members of Grace will be voting (among other things) on whether to delete this point from our Statement of Faith:  
     #9. Future Plans of God. Jesus Christ is coming back before the Tribulation to remove His Church to heaven. Following the Tribulation period of seven years, He will return to this earth with His saints and angels to rule and reign for 1,000 years after which "eternity future" follows (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:15-31; I Thessalonians 1:10, 4:13-18, 5:1-9; II Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelation 3:10, 19:11-16, 20:4-6, 21-22).
     Though not written into our Statement of Faith until 1988, the views in this paragraph have been an integral part of the pastoral commitment and teachings of this church for the 98 years it has been in existence--make that 98 minus 21 years.
     Lou went on, "I was told I did not believe [Point #9] because I do not teach it. In other words, an argument based on silence was used to prove my guilt. Nothing was cited from any sermon or teaching I have given in the past 21 years. The only evidence presented was silence. In other words, it's like saying, 'Your silence proves you are guilty of what I'm charging you with."
     Lou, if we have misjudged you because of your silence on these subjects, please break the silence. We want to know what you believe! We are waiting with bated breath. Over the years dozens of members of this church have asked you what you believe on these and other issues and you won't tell us! Your answer to these questions, however politely or privately asked, has been, "Be quiet! You're causing division in the church!"
     We have difficulty imagining Jesus or Paul or Peter being asked, "What do you believe about the last days?" and having them refuse to answer. We find it even harder to believe any one of them would finally burst out, "You're judging me by my silence!'
     For God's sake, man, if you believe in Point #9, tell us! Don't get all huffy about it. This is your opportunity. You could say, "Although I have not mentioned these subjects in any sermon or teaching I have given the entire time I have been your pastor, I strongly support the traditional understanding of the rapture, the second coming, and the millenium as literal, future events, not metaphorical ones." Gosh, is that so hard?
      Giving us more silence does not make a convincing case that our suspicions are wrong. And your indignation is a bit unconvincing when the silence is of your own choosing! 
     Sadly, the silence is not our only evidence. When you speak publicly, we have reason to believe we can't trust what you say. You tell the leadership of our church and new members that although they need to sign the Statement of Faith they don't need to believe it, just acknowledge it is the traditional view of this church. Does that mean when you sign it every year, you do not believe it? You have told some of us privately that you don't preach what you believe and only preach what is expedient in order to steer the Good Ship Grace toward a new destination you will not divulge to us.
     Four years ago, in a series of unguarded discussions with then-member Alan Holdich which you probably now regret, you said the traditional version of the endtimes is all wrong, that the rapture of the church and the millenium are metaphorical. Alan claims you denied the literal future return of Jesus Christ, indicating that the second coming of Christ had already taken place.
     The only reason Alan waited four years to make all this public is because you told him not to tell anyone, to "keep it in confidence,"and when he suggested you were deceiving the congregation you "raised (your) voice in a threatening fashion" and were "intensely intimidating."  (Those were his words).
     To use your own analogy (and the "cheating on your wife" analogy is a good one): if we are telling you we don't believe you love your wife, it is because for 21 years, you have never told her you love her, you have never told anyone else that you love her, have never exhibited signs of loving her, in fact never mention her at all--other than to confide to a couple of people in some detail that you are cheating on her. You repeat your wedding vows to her on your anniversary but have assured people it is okay to say your wedding vows even if you don't mean them, as an acknowledgment that they used to mean something, at least to other people.     
      How about breaking the silence and sharing your heart with us, even if it is full of doubts or reservations? Just tell us the truth.  
      Or are your real views included in what you have your yes-men tell us "we are not supposed to know," that "can't be revealed until everything is in place"?

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