Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Outside Family Members: Why Are They Shunned?

After this busy weekend with the court case (no ruling yet), spending wonderful time with my friends and a little birthday celebration, I woke up in a funk.   Two e-mails were pressing on my mind and then I realized, no, there were actually three e-mails that arrived over the weekend that described the destruction of relationships caused by shunning.  They found the story in the media and contacted me.

This is the kind of thing that makes me in a foul mood and then I get upset and so I come to the keyboard and type.  The subject of the e-mails was shunning.

Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all members of the group as a form of solidarity. It is a sanction against association, often associated with religious groups and other tightly knit organizations and communities. Targets of shunning can include persons who have been labeled as,  apostateswhistleblowersdissidentsstrikebreakers, or anyone the group perceives as a threat or source of conflict. Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture.[1] Mental rejection is a more individual action, where a person subconsciously or willfully ignores an idea, or a set of information related to particular viewpoint. Some groups are made up of people who shun the same ideas.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunning)

After receiving the e-mails, I called around to see if anyone could verify the stories.   They were verified.   Ugh!  Later, I spent one hour on the phone listening to one person's story as she shared the heartache of not being able to see her loved ones for a long while.  The pain in her voice was real.  It was gut-wrenching to hear of relationships torn apart.  She did not choose this.  She was not a member at the church.  She was a relative of someone who attends the church.  

All three of these e-mails were from outside family members who are being shunned by people in the church.  These are family members who don't even go to the church, have probably never even visited the church, yet they are being shunned.  People, I am not making this stuff up.  Have you heard of such a thing?  

These family members outside the church could be sisters, aunts, grandparents, brothers, daughters, it really doesn't matter, but what does matter is these relationships are being torn apart because of shunning:  nieces and nephews can't see aunts/uncles, grandchildren cannot see grandparents, brothers cannot see sisters, etc.  

Shunning can be broken down into behaviours and practices that seek to accomplish either or both of two primary goals.

1.  To modify the behaviour of a member. This approach seeks to influence, encourage, or coerce normative behaviours from members, and may seek to dissuade, provide disincentives for, or to compel avoidance of certain behaviours. Shunning may include disassociating from a member by other members of the community who are in good standing. It may include more antagonistic psychological behaviours (described below). This approach may be seen as either corrective or punitive (or both) by the group membership or leadership, and may also be intended as a deterrent. 

2.  To remove or limit the influence of a member (or former member) over other members in a community. This approach may seek to isolate, to discredit, or otherwise dis-empower such a member, often in the context of actions or positions advocated by that member. For groups with defined membership criteria, especially based on key behaviours or ideological precepts, this approach may be seen as limiting damage to the community or its leadership. This is often paired with some form of excommunication.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunning)

Why are they being shunned?  Perhaps they are viewed as a threat.  Maybe they know too much of the inner-workings of the church or family situations and the pastor doesn't want them to talk to their family member and risk losing them from the church.  Maybe outside family members are seeing questionable activities and actions and asking too many questions.   

Julie Anne asks the simple question:   WHY?????????????????????????????

These people were crying out to me asking me what is going on in the church?  Do I think the children are safe?   How long will this last?  What can they do?   I don't know.   I didn't know this was happening when we were there.  So I blog.    I tell what I know.  I encourage them to pray.  

Recently, I saw a reporter on tv fanning a pile of "hate mail" which was evidently e-mail sent to our former pastor.  This hate mail was a result of media attention to the case.  Would there have been any hate mail without the public lawsuit?  I think not.  A couple samples of hate mail were included in the court documents as exhibits, so I assume he must be upset about it.  I saw them.  There were strong words, but they were from strangers who didn't like what they were seeing in the news media and quickly typed out a ranting e-mail.  I've had a few of those.  I usually send an oozing sweet response and hit "delete" :)   

A key detrimental effect of some of the practices associated with shunning relate to their effect on relationships, especially family relationships. At its extremes, the practices may destroy marriages, break up families, and separate children and their parents. The effect of shunning can be very dramatic or even devastating on the shunned, as it can damage or destroy the shunned member's closest familial, spousal, social, emotional, and economic bonds.
Shunning contains aspects of what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause traumas to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.

Maybe I should have printed out all of the e-mails I have received since the inception of this blog to show reporters - hundreds of pages.  Some e-mails I have received have been particularly upsetting to me.  No, I'm not talking about the negative ranting.  Who cares.  There will always be those.  I'm talking about the pages and pages of personal accounts from people telling their stories of spiritual abuse, shunning, abandonment, shaming, etc.  The kinds of e-mails I'm dealing with are people crying out to me describing the pain and anguish of loved ones they know are alive, but are not allowed to see, but long to see.  The relationships were ripped from them.  

Try to imagine having a relationship with a close family member and then it is stopped immediately.  No explanation.  No closure.  Holidays that were traditionally spent together are now without that loved one or family.  No more birthday celebrations together.  No more camping trips, impromptu coffees, etc.  Death would be easier because there is something final, you can move on.  This is heart-wrenching because you know they are alive.  It's always at the back of your mind reminding you of what once was, what should be, and what you cannot have.  You wonder if they think of you, what they are told about you, you remember those precious times together, but you can't have it.  If this happened to me, I think I would go crazy.  I'd probably drive by the house, hoping to see family.  I'd drop off gifts.  I'd frequent places I knew they would go to just to "happen" to run into them.  I don't know what else I'd do, but family is so important and I'd probably do anything to break through that wall.  Good grief, I cannot even type this without getting teared up again.  You guys have got to get a sense of what this does to families, relationships and how destructive it is.  And it is a complete FARCE - totally made-up rule only benefitting ONE person.  :::ja, calm down:::

Remember the post on False Teachers Mark and Avoid Church Members?   The key verse  used to justify shunning people was Romans 16:17.   I explained how false teachers twist the meaning of this verse  to encourage the shunning of congregants (and  apparently family members outside the church).  They entirely missed the real meaning of the verse which is to shun false teachers.  

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  Rom 16:17

I just found what John MacArthur (our former pastor's favorite pastor) says about that verse and how it applies to false teachers (not congregants or people outside the church).  I know some of this is review, but it is so important because this shunning thing is absolutely huge in spiritually abusive churches.  It was found in an article entitled, Love for the Saints, Part 2:

Now particularly in the church the Apostle Paul says, "Look, here's what you do when you come across it, you mark it and you avoid it." Pretty clear. "To mark it," simply skopeo, identify it, look through the scope, take a good look at it, observe it, scrutinize it, identify it, pick it out, see what it is. And if you know sound doctrine you'll be able to do that. Identify it as heresy, identify it as false teaching and then avoid it, or really in this case avoid them because false teaching always has a source a propagator. That means to come away from it, to shun it.

See, we're not talking about marking and avoiding church members, but false teachers.  Here's more of what we're to do with false teachers: 

 . . . . No, we're not to kill and torture the people who don't believe, just avoid them, move away. Nowhere are we told to stay around and argue with them. That's fruitless. We're told to shun them, go away from them. 

And here MacArthur describes the character of false teachers:

And then he gives two reasons why these lying teachers are not worthy of your ears in verse 18. "For they that are such, who bring in divisions and who cause people to stumble and be offended with their lies, they that are such...number one...serve not our Lord Jesus Christ but their own body." Now I want you to understand that this is something that's repeated frequently in the Scripture. They are in it for self-gratification. 


Notice also, will you please, the second reason why we ought not to give them our ears in verse 18, you first of all must know that their motive is wrong, secondly, you must know that their effect is wrong. "They use good words and fair speeches and they will deceive the hearts...they will deceive the hearts of the innocent."
Good words, phrase means smooth speech. Oh they can talk...glib, clever. Well you know that, right? I mean, let's face it, the devil wouldn't put error in the mouth of a klutz if he wanted to get his point across, right? It's going to be smooth speech and fair speeches. That implies the word praise, eulogia, like eulogy. It's the idea of false eloquency, flattery, well chosen lies that sound good and appealing and they deceive the hearts of the innocent. So the false prophet comes clever, eloquent, polished, smooth-talking, praising, flattering. He gains the ear and deceives the heart...deceives the heart. And, beloved, that's why we have to test everything by what? By the book.
Innocent is the word akakosKakosis sort of a basic generic word for evil, aat the front negates that. They deceive the without evil, the as yet uncorrupted. They corrupt the uncorrupted. They're selfish and sensual and sexual and they deceive with cleverness those who aren't corrupt. And as Peter said they are in bondage to corruption and they lead their hearers into that corruption. They did it in Corinth. That church became entangled in that. They'll try it in Rome. And they're at it today. 


I encourage you to read the whole article.  It is good.

Oh, why does this insanity continue?  It is insanity because it is not about God and love and shepherding the Saints.  The false teacher is self-serving for his own self pleasure.  This type of shunning I've described is false teaching.   There is no benefit for the congregant whatsoever.  You don't shun outside family members.  ACK!!  Once again, I urge those of you who are in a church, following a pastor who is telling you to shun people based on Romans 16:17, leave that church at once.  Read Jude.  You cannot dialogue with someone like this.  You must leave and get out from that corrupt teaching.   

At times like this, my only hope is this:  

Psalm 34

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous 
and his ears are attentive to their cry; 

16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, 
to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; 
he delivers them from all their troubles. 

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted 
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 

19 A righteous man may have many troubles, 
but the LORD delivers him from them all; 

20 he protects all his bones, 
not one of them will be broken. 

21 Evil will slay the wicked; 
the foes of the righteous will be condemned. 

22 The LORD redeems his servants; 
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.


  1. The abuser requires shunning of outside family because they might recognize what is going on and try to remove their loved one from the control of the abuser. Even if they know next to nothing about the inner working of the church, they are a threat.

    Abusive spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends work to close down their victim's circle of friends and family that would help them, it's the same kind of control mechanism.

  2. 56 years a Baptist, mostly SBCJuly 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Re Buff @ 10:38 am

    Exactly right. It is typical of cults, both religious and extreme political. Cutoff the person who has even tentatively joined the cult from family and friends from outside the cult, finding some pejorative to apply to them. Tell them that shunning the outsider or former member is necessary or they will divide the group and ruin the spirit of the group.

    From the contacts I have had with people formerly associated with "the church", shunning of ex-members and family members of members is occurring there and it is no longer truly a church but a cult.

    That cult now exists to glorify the pastor and pay him to lead his cult. Shunning is an anti-Christian behavior; it is opposition to the love that Jesus taught us would characterize his followers.

    1. It sure does sound like cult-like behavior.

      I try to bring it back to the basics. Churches are supposed to be spreading the gospel and the love of Christ to unbelievers. Some of these outside family members may be unbelievers. Where's the love? They have virtually cut off any opportunity for a relationship by the shunning practices.

    2. Anyone who might be a source of strength or a voice of wisdom is a threat!

  3. Wow, Ken - that was a whole lot of good info packed in that comment. If you have more on the subject that you've already written up, please shoot me an e-mail. I'm snagging this comment now for future reference :)

    I think a lot of us would agree that we felt guilty going to outside family functions rather than being at church. Yikes. And nothing had to be said at all - - it was like an unspoken rule. Hmm, there's another post.

  4. Ah, yes, I know some Christians have difficulty using secular sources, but the way I look at it is that science is about studying patterns. I've been reading about spiritual abuse for 4 years and it's very clear there are patterns of behavior among pastors who abuse (which is why I jokingly refer to the Creepy Spiritual Abuse School {CSAS} that they all attended). As I read personal stories, my brain acknowledges the patterns of behavior: that's the no-talk rule, the inner circle, etc. Same stuff everywhere, you really can't miss it once you've unlocked the patterns.

    And the double-bind issue - wow, you hit on another subject that we haven't discussed. I was just telling Michelle and friends the other day that there are people I need to apologize to - friends who pulled me aside and expressed their concerns about our former church. I remember arguing with some of them, thinking they were interfering, that they should mind their own business (Ouch!) etc. Thanks, Ken, maybe I'll take a walk, too :)

  5. I once read that it takes a new believer approximately 3 years before he or she pulls away from old friends and an old life and completely immerses in church--how wonderful and how very sad. When we die to our old life and ways, there are sometimes behaviors (and even people) who need to be pruned. But not always.

    We worked at a church for a few years. It was a wonderful body of believers with a pretty controlling pastor. We regularly put in 14-hour days and had to be at every event--no matter what--and something was going on every day.

    One event came up, and it was suggested that we all invite our neighbors. I thought to myself, "Neighbors? We don't have time even to speak to our neighbors because we're busy-busy-busy about 'God's work,' cleaning pews or attending meetings or mulching the flower beds or attending a spaghetti supper or whatever."

    Now, those things aren't bad. They also offered opportunity for fellowship with one another. However, the Bible calls us to be salt and light. If we pull away from everyone who isn't in our immediate body, just to whom are we salt and light?

    If someone counsels another believer to cut off a relationship, there had better be a situation where that relationship would compromise the believer's safety, integrity, or spiritual walk. It's should never be because tension might exist. And if someone counsels another believer to cut off all relationships outside the church--well, that sounds like the smoke of hell to me.

  6. The International Churches of Christ, aka The Boston Movement practices shunning, controlling and isolating members away from their family. I came across this cult when I was attending the U of Pitt. This movement recruits heavily on campuses. A guy in my Attic Greek class asked me if I wanted to attend one of their Sunday services hosted in one of the hotels in downtown Pittsburgh. I went with him.

    The music was curiously militaristic. And during the sermon I questioned to myself some of the things the preacher—a Mr Jack Armstrong, was teaching. After the message the Pastor and his wife went out into the foyer while everyone sang a closing song. I followed the Pastor and his wife to where they had just sat down in some chairs in the empty foyer. This was back in the 90's and I don’t remember exactly what I said to them, but I was humble and probably wanting to challenge him on at least one of my questions. The Mrs, however, was indignant. Who did I think I was talking to? she wanted to know. The man stood up and engaged me in such a way that I realized, absolutely, right then and there what he was. I remember as I was telling him something I knew to be a truth set against him, as I touched his shoulder with my hand and called him brother, Jack Armstrong reacted immediately and took a fighting stance (he’s actually Korean, and having studied a Korean martial art I recognized the posture he was taking), Jack then slowly spoke these words to me, “Don’t Touch Me. And I’m Not Your Brother.”

    I felt the Spirit of God compel me to walk past him and back into the room where the service had just ended, I pulled out a chair, stood up on it, waved my hands and said, "Excuse me! Excuse me for a moment!" When I got their attention I said, "I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and this man, Jack Armstrong, who preaches before you today said that I am not his brother.”

    People just looked at me. I heard one voice, I didn’t see who it was, but it was the voice of a young, black American man who answered me, "You're my brother." His response comforted me a bit, but that's all I got. Maybe the guy didn't know any better, maybe it, too, was his first time there. Meanwhile, some concerned elders switched into security mode and were walking toward me. I got down, that was all I had to say, and was escorted out. I found out later how this group was part of a larger very controlling cult who preyed on college students and systematically cut them off from their families.

    International Churches of Christ
    (a.k.a. the Boston Movement)
    By Dr. James Bjornstad

    Toxic Christianity—The International Church of Christ / Boston Movement Cult (PDF by a former member and leader

    The plan McKean [founder of the movement] formulated is based upon one simple and draconian principle: the demand for absolute submission without question to someone higher ranked in the church for their own good. A pyramidal leadership hierarchy forms a clearly define power structure headed - on the local level - by their church evangelist. After persuading the person to "fess up" to their sins during the recruitment process, they would use when felt necessary whatever personal information they gathered from them both formally and informally to compel the person into compliance with their wishes. A member who dares to questions these leaders or their dictates are branded as weak spiritually and threatened with eternal damnation. Leaders would also make heavy use of scare tactics to ensure obedience, giving intrusive orders on how members should act that have nothing to do with spiritual matters.

    1. Monax,

      What a story. You did something that most of us would not have the guts to do. Stand up and speak out! That is so healthy. But I am laughing to myself as I can just see those elders helping you out. They probably helped out the other guy who said, "I'm your brother." We had a guy at work who was always trying to help me out, problem is I was wanting in. :)

      My wife and I were involved in a Church Of Christ for a short time. It was very legalistic. I would go and feel under condemnation at each service.

      This has nothing to do with shunning, but since you brought up the COC I felt the need to vent just a bit. The pastor from that church used to come on the radio and rant each morning. I would have the radio set to wake me for work. I had to find another station. I couldn't stand to wake up to his voice.

      This was the last church that my wife would attend with me. I think it was the third one. So after that I did my "church shopping" alone. These days my hearing is so bad I don't have to shop. I can't hear unless I have a headset on, so online works best.

      After the COC experience we both entered therapy. That was a really good thing.

    2. a Sheep-Dog with loss of hearing must certainly have some of his other senses more keenly developed, a more discerning sense of smell and sight perhaps?

  7. In addition to the M Scott Peck book I’d personally recommend Alexander Lowen’s 1985 book Narcisissm (Denial of the True Self).

  8. Thanks for caring and posting this, too. I was just on the verge of asking your prayers and thoughts for me, a wife, who didn't want to join after visiting a "church" for a couple of months with my husband. To my great shock I got 'thrown away' by my husband who apparently really liked what he heard there; (but then I believe he is a 'twin' of the preacher's--at least is a zombie 'clone' now.) The 'control' twists to the scriptures that they preach at women(nevermind dozens of others that would contradict their perversions,) apparently really appealed to his sin nature; so he divorced me from his heart and condemned and judged me not worthy of this (little) "church"; I still wouldn't join but appealed and appealed with Scripture to them and was shocked continually at their hard-hearted, disdain for another believer (that I am). I've tried sticking with my husband in spite of this, but not attending what I know is not a 'real' church, for 8 years now but am seeing they are wasted years for he's only getting worse. The preacher only makes him distrust and condemn me more all the time. My original 'sin' when visiting was that I wanted to ask him some questions as to his beliefs, for it is a time when we especially need to 'test and to prove' . So I have been in tremendous pain and realize there is no hope for us; I don't have the funds to seek a divorce and can tell he will still try to remain controling even if we did so I'd need to move off a good distance away from him. He's turned into a kind of 'monster' whereas we were so very very close for years before he got around these people, and he used to be a kind, humble Christian man, I thought). I just really don't know what to do. It's even caused my family to turn away from me too. He's gotten between us all and I don't know what happened to them, so I have no one to turn to for assistance. (And you can see I don't even know what kind I'd need to ask for, but I do know your prayers out there will help tremendously. Thanks!) His attitudes are extremely hurtful, amazingly dishonoring and disrespectful (lke theirs always were)to me, with us trying to live in the same house (but after a few years, in separate bedrooms. So I hear very often I'm defrauding him, but I was defrauded out of a husband, and he defrauded me out of the promises he made me before God on the day we got married; I wouldn't want to be in their shoes on judgment day.)
    thanks for 'going there' in this post. Your caring means much to me. I have found the Lord so faithful and gotten to know Him even much much better, crying out to Him in the nighttimes, searching the Scriptures, praying with all my heart to make sure if there was any truth whatsoever to their false accusations. The Lord's shown me what He thinks of me. He loves and accepts me and long ago (over 50 years now), covered me with His precious Blood when I was saved. So I do praise Him, but I hate that these people call themselves a 'church' here in this small town for they don't properly 'represent' our Lord for He showed me that truly they are 'legalists' and don't understand His Nature at all with their attitudes and allowing our marriage to be torn asunder. Love and prayers from me to you!

    1. Wow, Anonymous 3:08, what you wrote above breaks my heart. . Yet I rejoice with you for the love and faithfulness of our Lord.


    2. Anon - Your story is very sad and I'm sure it's especially difficult because you and your husband are not seeing eye-to-eye. My husband and I weren't at the same place when we were at the difficult church and it wasn't until our friend was fired until he started seeing things differently. Sometimes we just don't see things the same way. It felt very lonely during that time because our whole marriage, we've been in agreement with each other. Your situation has been going on much longer and sounds more complicated.

      I wish there was something that I could say that might be helpful to you, but words fail me.

      Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers and I'm so glad that you are clinging to God in this difficult time.

      Julie Anne

    3. Reply no.1: Thankyou both for sharing from your hearts. That really helps! I have tried to be as gentle with my appeals to my husband over the years as possible, desperately trying to 'share the truth in love' to him; (and I sadly found my anger of the flesh ("old man") too much there too, but the Lord never condemned me but turned my focus to be riveted upon Him so I could be cleansed and grow more into His image. He promised us that, didn't He? However, my husband is so overbearingly harsh with me to the point of cruelty, that it worries me if he ever knew the Lord at all. So I pray for his salvation, just in case he doesn't. It does appear to be a demonic stronghold in him at least. And you out there who've been through it, understand what I'm trying to say here: you give these people with their 'so-called preacher', the benefit of the doubt for years, trying to bear with their hurt they're inflicting upon you, thinking they're just ignorant, as they steal your husband away (yes, with his help'), and they bring false accusations against you to your husband's mind, destroying any trust he may have had in you. As you appeal by mail or phone--whatever ways you try to reach them, you're disregarded completely--truly 'shunned' as being sub-human and disrespected as being another believer--of course they always question that, but don't ever ask them a question; but I think the Lord finally broke through to me that maybe they truly ARE "hirelings", wolves in sheep's clothing who can sound really good to one's husband who may have just been a new believer. I still hope. (if it "walks like a duck", "talks like a duck", etc--may BE a 'duck' right, when it comes to seeing a cult-like group?)
      people whom the Lord showed you from the first day, didn't sound like His voice at all. But it was just so hard to believe there were people like this who could give such a good (surface) appearance and who built up my husband's wanting to be part of a 'high ideal' (sharing the Gospel), that he chose not to observe the lack of 'fruit' and later the rotten fruit; and dumped his own wife to be accepted of them. Well, I thought my husband knew me better--that I love the Lord and want to share Him and the Gospel, but you can't do the right thing in the wrong way. Especially wrong is the idea they give women that they need a "priest" to show them which Scriptures they can apply to themselves and which just apply to men; (since "Eve was deceived" a woman can't trust that the Holy Spirit will do what He said and teach and lead her into all truth, too and renew her mind, etc--all the promises He made in the Bible to build your faith, they deny a woman can avail herself of. That is NASTY and destroys a woman's faith in the Lord--a big sin that I pray they repent of now before the Lord comes. But the preacher has usurped God's place and teaches my husband and the other men to. (Just like the devil who wanted to be 'as God', right?)

    4. Reply no.2 (end of reply)-am truly sorry if I'm too wordy, but I believe this is what the Lord would have me share.Thanks for giving me the space:
      It's been a nightmare. I've tried to go to other churches, but once they get the gist of what's happening they back off too. Or say "err, you need a SHRINK! and excuse themselves to go about other things." It's not like you go in there to get help--just some fellowship anyhow. But it's also sad to see how you will be quickly labeled as being like your husband's "church" if you just want them to go by the Bible and not just a piece or two that a few have decided waa "essential" and decided other parts were not. (sort of making themselves to be 'as God' too it appears) So I quietly have backed away from them also, but I do keep looking :O) After growing in Him during this ordeal, He has given me Christian fellowship over the internet, restored some childhood Christian friends, etc which has given strength, but I see that He wanted me to get closer to Him and allow Him to be my very BEST FRIEND, first so I wouldn't get back to depending upon worldly senses and people first but Him and His Spirit above all first. (Does that make sense? I'm not a good writer like you Julie.) I do write all this though to encourage anyone out there to Hang onto Him, Don't Give up on your personal relationship with Him --these nasty ones don't represent Him at all. Don't let the devil rob you any further. And, when you look back on these years, you will find the Lord was so faithful and true to you and HUNG ONTO you, when you were so wounded that you couldn't even hang onto Him.

    5. You're wrong about one thing, Anonymous--you ARE a good writer. You've expressed yourself so well.

      All I can say in response is that I am so very sorry what you have endured. I will pray for you, for your husband marriage, and for your marriage.

      Keep falling into the Lord's arms. There's no better place.

    6. If by reading your post, my blood pressure has risen, then yes, you have conveyed yourself very well. I agree with Joy, you do write well. I wish I had never read it and that you had never experienced, but it is the reality of what you are dealing with now. The very sad thing is that your experience represents so many others and so I'm glad you shared it here. Someone will read your words and say, "that is ME". So sad, but true.

      I am glad you have found people you can discuss this with. A lot of people balk about online relationships and act as if they are not real. They are real and God uses people in our lives (online and in real life) to support, bring comfort, give words of healing, prayer support, etc. Definitely continue that path.

      What I'm most thankful for is your sweet heart - that you don't seem to be bitter and that you have a solid relationship with God and are trusting Him.

      I'm wondering if your husband's church has patriarchal leanings? That can surely be a marriage destroyer as women can be treated as excess baggage if the teachings are taken to an extreme.

      We do not have the ability to change abusive pastors. We can only change how we respond to them. But we do have clear words in scripture how God will judge those who distort the truth and are false teachers. Here's just a snippet of John MacArthur's commentary of 2 Peter 2:3-5:

      What does he mean by that and what is he saying? Very simply understood it is this, the judgment of liars and deceivers and false prophets and false teachers is all vested in the nature of God as a God of truth. You understand that? Because God by nature is a God of truth, He will judge all liars and deceivers. That judgment is vested in the eternality of His nature as true. He is true and holy, He is the judge of all who pervert His truth and all liars, especially those who say they speak for Him but do not truthfully teach His Word. So the eternal God by His very nature as truth has set in motion long ago the condemnation of those who falsify His Word. In fact, the moment that sin appeared in the created universe, the sentence of God was enacted on anyone who spoke a lie. It was set in motion at that moment. And all liars and all those who teach falsely about God's Word were doomed. The verdict of guilty was in when the first sin was committed against all liars and perverters of truth.

      Divine Judgment on False Teachers

    7. You write, ‘I see that He wanted me to get closer to Him and allow Him to be my very BEST FRIEND

      I don’t always consciously regard my relationship with the Father as a friendship, but it is. I know I have a friend in Jesus, He calls us ‘friends.’ And the Spirit is such a comfort He can only be my best friend. But as I talk to Jesus, I tell him things like, ‘I don’t like you being there, and me being here. I don’t like the separation. I want to see you in the flesh! How much longer, LORD? How much longer?’ No one understands my passions, my brokenness, my gifts and sense of humor and such like He, the Godhead, does.

      Concerning the dynamic of getting ‘closer to Him,’ I find in those times when I’m just so preoccupied with things—good or bad, when I’ve come to somehow neglect the deeper intimacy, the still prayful moments, the one-on-one-with-nothing-else-going-on time with Him. It could be laying in my bed staring at the stars, in the Adirondack chair in the garden. It could be while watching a sunset and drinking a Belgian quad, or me just taking a quick moment, finding a quiet place to connect openly with my Creator, reorienting and re-energizing my heart and soul.

      I know I’m always connected, and life itself is a prayer, But what I’m talking about is the times, and I don’t know exactly how this all works out spiritually, it’s like as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. As we boldly, with confidence, approach His throne of grace, He surrounds us with His presence, fills us with the sweetest measure of peace and joy. And as He comforts and directs me, as He restores my soul. . . I often, epiphanically laugh, Why do I ever neglect communing with You, the very source of my life? How ineffably comforting this intimate time with Him is.

      I think I remember reading how Martin Luther would get up every morning and spend two hours with the Lord in prayer before going about his day. On really busy days when there were lots of demands upon his person he would spend something like an extra hour in prayer. One might think on the busiest of days that he couldn’t afford to take the time, but Luther knew he couldn’t afford not to spend time with His Friend and Master.

    8. Ah, my heart is soothed and strengthened--touched with sweetness from these replies to mine. Thanks Joy, Julie, Monax--I am going to tuck these away to re-read and often. Your replies show the beauty and truth of Proverbs 27:9 "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel." :O)

  9. We still have Amish living in Indiana. The men wear the black hats and women bonnets. You can always spot them. They are considered nice people. Often around my town they will have bake sales. The women set up their goodies in front some store that allows them. Of course they all live in the country.

    My only experience with them is their silly horse and buggies. They still use them, and even on county roads it seems very dangerous. You come up a hill doing 50 mph and all at once there is a buggy in front of you going 15 mph.

    I have heard that they do shunning in the case of a wayward member. But I do not know any of these folks personally. So I can't tell you what kind of behavior they think is so bad that shunning is needed. And I have to wonder if it actually works.

    From the Wikipedia under Amish:
    Members who do not conform to these expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated. In addition to excommunication, members may be shunned, a practice that limits social contacts to shame the wayward member into returning to the church.

    I had one aunt in my family who decided when I reached age 17 that I was a bad influence on her kids. And these two cousins were really close to me. It broke my heart that I couldn't see them any longer. That was the word my mother gave me from a call she had received from my aunt. They basically SHUNNED me. It was not for religious reasons. I had noticed that my one cousin would say, "Mom says I can't be friends with 'xxx' anymore." So it was common practice for her mom to tell her who she could befriend. -- Can anyone say, "CONTROL Freak"? ---

    Many years later when my uncle died, she was ready to make up. But the damage had been done. Those cousins still won't have contact with me. Their mother screwed up their minds.

    The only reason this all came back to me is that I was trying to imagine what it must feel like to be shunned. And that seems to be close in nature. So IMO, shunning sucks! And I can't help but wonder if the expected results ever occur. I have to agree that is a part of Spiritual Abuse when done in the name of religion. If just within a family then I would call it Emotional Abuse. But I am only an armchair psychologist.

    I am not a fan of shaming / shunning people to manipulate them. And I think some pastors are really good at doing just that.

    And for what, in your examples? Sheep-dog has no clue... Now where did that lamb go!

    PS: It is so hot in Indiana that the birds have to stand on pot holders to pull up worms. :) :)

    1. it is so hot in Pittsburgh, i'm getting hot water out of both my taps!

    2. "And I can't help but wonder if the expected results ever occur." In my case, nope. I don't know if I was formally shunned, but I did run into the wife of an elder once or twice who seemed extremely uncomfortable at my stopping to say hello to her. My feeling after that was, if they don't want to talk to me, good and well. I'd had enough of their toxic effects on my life.

    3. wallflower: Based on many personal stories in my e-mail which span over a decade - long before we were there, there was indeed a pattern of shunning even over a decade ago.

      When we were there, we never heard/saw of any shunning going on. However, if this was the normal practice for the past decade, it wouldn't surprise me if an elder's wife did shun you based on old practices/behavior patterns.

  10. I think it is time to clear the air on the First Amendment. The first amendment was never intended as a shield for those who would, for whatever reason, seek to damage others. For example, you cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater. You cannot say things that damage the reputation of others in a way that would compromise their ablilty to earn an income in their field of expertise.

    You can talk about a goverment or a politician as an expression of an opinion.

    It has become a past-time to insult and sling mud at clergy men because of I Corinthians 6. Many bloggers have teed off on clergy knowing that most pastors will heed Paul's warning. However, the law only considers the dollar denominations of damages and not someones justification for getting into heaven.

    Can you imagine someone saying something about your spouse and costing them their $60k a year job with benefits? A judge will not consider the occupation...he is going to look at the numbers.

    Here is a pretty good analysis of the intent of the first amendment. It is really intended as a counter balance to governments going overboard and jailing people for seditious acts against a public - government entity:

    Freedom of speech and of the press served one purpose in America: To remove the fear of the common law doctrine of seditious libel so citizens could freely speak or publish without license their grievances against public policy or conduct of public officials. One of the distasteful things found under the common law was the government practice of criminalizing or shielding itself through requiring license to publish of any criticism it felt made people dissatisfied with their government.

    1. You cannot say things that damage the reputation of others in a way that would compromise their ablilty to earn an income in their field of expertise.

      Sure - let's clear the air. Are you suggesting that Mike McQueary should not be saying that he saw/heard Jerry Sandusky sexually molest a young boy in the shower at Penn State because it might ruin Jerry's reputation and could compromise his income?

    2. You have a duty to report a crime? Not sure of the relevance here.

      I am simply pointing out that the first amendment freedom of speech was not intended as a shield for those that seek to damage other's reputation. If someone unintentionally damages another's physical propperty then insurance pays for it. If someone intentionally damages others reputation, and there is income loss, there is no insurance policy that is going to cover libel. (Maybe some exotic policy from Lloyds of London.)

      The message is that bloggers need to wake up to the fact that the First Amendment is no protection for libel and defamation. And the message from Chuck is that there are varying opinions of what Paul intended in 1 Cor. 6. Don't count on preachers "obligation" to turn the other cheek.

    3. Anon, July 17, 4:37pm.

      "I think it is time to clear the air on the First Amendment. The first amendment was never intended as a shield for those who would, for whatever reason, seek to damage others. For example, you cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater.You cannot say things that damage the reputation of others in a way that would compromise their ablilty to earn an income in their field of expertise."

      If there is a fire in a crowded theater, you can bet I'll be yelling "fire." The only time that's a problem is if there isn't actually a fire. The First Amendment does not protect obscene or defamatory (libelous or slanderous) speech. HOWEVER, in order to be proven defamatory, the accusations must be proven false, and (unless I'm mistaken) the burden of proof falls to the accused.

      "However, the law only considers the dollar denominations of damages and not someones justification for getting into heaven."

      The law is only going to consider the "damages" if the accusations are proven false.

      You also mention that you believe the First Amendment can only be applied to statements or opinions about the government. That is an incredibly narrow interpretation. I hold a degree in a communications field - believe me, the First Amendment applies in a far broader sense than most people think.

      The founding fathers were as much about escaping religious persecution as they were about escaping political persecution. I believe if we could speak to Mr. Washington, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin, or Mr. Hamilton today, they would agree that this blog falls under the protection of the First Amendment.

    4. Julie Anne, I think that is exactly what Anonymous was saying. I hope that with your excellent example, Anonymous (and perhaps others) will reconsider.

      Anonymous was half-right. You cannot say things that damage the reputation of others if they are false--which would be slander if said verbally or libel if written. Truth is a defense for accusations of slander and libel. And opinions--well, opinions are still allowed to be expressed.

    5. One other aspect in defamation that I heard in court on Friday is regarding malice. In defamation, they have to prove that I knowingly said a false statement and that it was done with malice. So in other words, they need to prove the intent of my heart.

    6. Red - More importantly - Not only do the statements have to be true, but you have to prove that it is true. If you want the King James on that "...bear false witness" is keenly, and intentionally, distinguished from simply lying. The concept encompasses lying and carries it a bit further. You have a duty to avoid lying and if you make defaming statements you must prove them. If you cannot prove them then you are better to be quiet until you can absolutely prove them first handedly.

      Judges cannot really tell who is lying or telling the truth. They can judge who can prove their statements.

      Solomon got it right...... "False testimony is among the things that defile a person."

      In early history the person that was judged as bearing false witness would receive the punishment that the accused would have received.

      Today, you get sued, declare bankruptcy, the lawyers get paid, and the plaintiff just loses. Everyone loses but the lawyers...but it is the principal involved.

      You gotta ask: Is it worth it? Am I willing to get sued for what I write? Is it that important? Is it worth risking my families wealth, my marriage, my health, my friends, my own reputation?

      Was it worth it?

    7. "If you want the King James on that "...bear false witness" is keenly, and intentionally, distinguished from simply lying." = TRUE, but this applies to both "suer" and "suee" IMHO.

      "Judges cannot really tell who is lying or telling the truth. They can judge who can prove their statements." TRUE - Judges are only human, but must not show PARTIALITY.

      "Solomon got it right...... "False testimony is among the things that defile a person." Would agree with U on that!

      "In early history the person that was judged as bearing false witness would receive the punishment that the accused would have received." Anonymous, I believe Pastor Craig Vick referenced this from the Word of God as having happened in the book of Esther (the only book that doesn't mention God?) between Haman and Mordecai. A very unexpected outcome.

      "Today, you get sued, declare bankruptcy, the lawyers get paid, and the plaintiff just loses. Everyone loses but the lawyers...but it is the principal involved." Not too sure about this statement. I think Christians have the liberty to declare bankruptcy (year of Jubilee in OT was "debt relief", and as I've thought about this case as a neutral observer,I almost expect that one or more parties will take this route.
      I'm not well-versed enough in the law that applies to 501C3 or whatever type a church that is tax-exempt is classified -

      @ AN ATTORNEY: Would you happen to know if a church can declare a bankruptcy? Or how they would deal with a sudden debt crisis? (I know that megachurches have "defaulted" on mortgages taken out with a Christian mortgage group. Not sure of the legal liability of elders in such situations.
      Perhaps you can shed some light on the subject?

      "You gotta ask: Is it worth it? Am I willing to get sued for what I write? Is it that important? Is it worth risking my families wealth, my marriage, my health, my friends, my own reputation?" AGREE - 100% You are "on the money", my brother! The Word made flesh said we should "COUNT THE COST".

      "Was it worth it?" - Was it worth liberating concentration camps in WW2? (Jesus answered questions with questions.)

      "Everyone loses but the lawyers...but it is the principal involved." - Split decision here. Agree that "it is the principal that is involved'.

      BUT DISAGREE with "EVERY ONE LOSES BUT THE LAWYERS". I know lawyers charge $. But there are REPUTABLE LAWYERS as well as unscrupulous lawyers. Same thing with Church - there are REPUTABLE leaders as well as unscrupulous leaders. "The love of money is the root of all evil." (But it is NOT EVIL for an attorney who is protecting your rights or the plantiff's rights to make money while practicing skills that cost him or her money to learn.)

      I think standing for freedom and liberty can be costly, but throughout history, men of courage and valor have counted the cost and even given their lives for what they believe in.

    8. This is a side issue, but it grates on me. Let me first say that I enjoy reading many translations of the Bible and even some paraphrases. For Bible study, though, I favor two versions in particular because of their faithfulness to the original texts. I won't specify which because I don't wish to start a debate about the "best" translation.

      That said, it seems some people view the King James as the original Bible, with other versions being knock-offs. The original texts were in Greek and Hebrew, not the King James English. If I want to dig into scripture and see what it "really" means as Anonymous 7:21 suggests, I'm going into the original languages, not the KJV.

      This may seem like a bit of a rabbit trail, but I believe Julie Anne once said her pastor insisted upon NKJV and ridiculed other versions. I suppose we all have our favorite version of scripture, but when someone insists on one version, it not only demonstrates legalism but an ignorance of the origin of scripture.

    9. Yes, a church can declare bankruptcy. However, it is usually a dissolution bankruptcy, rather than a planned recovery bankruptcy, since there is no definite income stream from operations, only gifts. Occasionally, a church will get its members to pledge donations and use those pledges to convince a judge that they can make payments on the debt plan.

      Most churches only have debt on buildings or other property, and that secured debt does not go away in a bankruptcy nor is it usually reduced. Interest may temporarily be stopped, but the secured debt will eventually have to be paid and interest will be charged, so the church must either pay or lose the property.

    10. @ Red,

      This is not a big concern of my mine, nor my area of expertise. But as I understand it the crucial difference between the (N)KJV and essentially all Other modern English translations like the NIV, NASB, and ESV is the family of New Testament manuscripts (or text-types) they are based upon.

      The (N)KJV is a translation of the Received Text, based upon the Byzantine family of texts. And essentially all Other modern translations are based upon the Alexandrian family of texts, translations of the modern Critical Text. The debate is really about the Greek texts behind the translations. Some Scholars prefer the Critical Text, others the Received Text.

      Some time ago I came across someone teaching KJV-only. The man was convinced that the Received Text is the only source we should consult in the translation of our Bible. He was a professor, an educated man, so I took some time and looked into it. Some people give their entire academic lives to Textual Criticism, I gave only a few days to this study, time enough to determine that whether or not I’m reading or teaching out of my NKJV or my ESV they are both solid translations. In my estimation it wasn’t worth my time and energy pursuing the debate any further.

      Fwiw, I grew up memorizing Scripture out of the KJV, then the NKJV. In the last several years I’ve been reading and teaching out of the ESV. Why? For one, I feel like it’s the best translation we have. When I’m studying on my own, or preparing to teach or preach, I usually read through the Hebrew or the Greek and translate it myself. I have found that my approach comes closest to corresponding to the ESV than any other translation.

      When my NKJV was falling apart I tried to replace it with the exact same edition because I knew precisely where the verses were, where they were on the pages, familiar things like that. But when I couldn’t find the same edition I ended up buying an ESV. Here’s what I discovered. I had so internalized the music of the KJV that reading it at times became a sing-songy hypnotic experience; I was so in tune with the rote cadence of the words that at times I only heard the music and missed the meaning for being too familiar with the passages.

      When I approached the same verses in my ESV, inevitably there would be differences in word choice and arrangement—enough difference for me to get knocked off rote, forced to pay more attention to the meaning of the words. Don’t know if this makes sense to anyone, but that was my experience.

      It was a good and fresh perspective for me to travel the same Scriptural territory using a different and slightly unfamiliar track. My old NKJV path had become too deeply rutted.

    11. 56 years a Baptist, mostly SBCJuly 19, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      I have some trouble with both the NKJV and ESV, because they pick up on some of the poor word choices of the KJV that support hierarchality and patriarchy, reflecting the fact that the sponsor of the KJV was concerned with some political implications such as the claim of some females to various thrones and the "divine right of kings". There are other translations that also, when there are multiple possible meanings and no good basis for choosing among them, will default to a meaning close to the KJV.

      I am one who has come to prefer the NIV, but usually read five or six different translations when preparing to teach or when trying to resolve apparent surface level contradictions between the teachings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels and some of the Pauline and pseudo-Pauline writings. I usually find that a 17th century English word is one that has a different meaning today that is not consistent with the best understanding of the text and that is the source of controversy.

  11. @ Monax -

    "”Obedience is better than sacrifice” double bind"

    I haven't read the link yet, but just the title has set me free from the religious speak of someone....thanks!

    @Julie Anne -

    Narcissism is something I've spent a good deal of time studying the last few years, discovering that my mother (and some former pastors - but especially my mother) fit (in her behavior) about 85% of the characteristics of a narcissistic mother. It explained so much and helped set me free from so much pain and confusion (an ongoing process).

    One of the classic tactics of cults (as mentioned above by Buff & 56 years and others) is the isolation thing. And they do it for the same reason narcissistic parents or spouses do it. The more contact a target has with outside influence, the more likely they will get varying opinions and be able to see through the control. Another aspect that affects ex-members is that the leader does NOT want the current members comparing notes with those who have left and having any light-bulbs go off.

    My mom vilified her younger sister to me most of my teen and adult years. Why? Well, when I was still under her influence, I thought it was because my aunt was just mean. After I began to see the truth about my mom, I began to talk to my aunt - and I realized why my mom tried to alienate me from her. My aunt was one of the only ones in the family who was willing to call my mom on her bs. My mom wanted to punish her for that by vilifying her, but more importantly, she wanted to discredit her in my eyes so that I would not learn the truth from her.

    Abusive pastors use the same tactic for the same reasons. And remember, narcissists have no empathy. To them, people are simply a means to an end - their own pleasure and propping-up. Anyone who does not conform to this mandate is a threat and needs to be discredited and destroyed before they 'infect' anyone else. Another side to this is that narcissists really don't consider the effects their actions have on people because people only feel what the narcissist thinks they feel. Anyone who says otherwise is lying (according to them). I don't know how many times I told my mother that something she was doing hurt me and she responded in and irritated and dismissive voice: Oh, it does not!

    I know M Scott Peck was mentioned in a previous comment, and his book "People of the Lie" is illuminating on this subject. In it, he discusses accounts of cases he personally encountered as a psychiatrist. It's not a comfortable read. His thesis is that narcissism is the face of evil. He makes a good case.

    Julie Anne, if you would like more info on narcissism, email me and I will send you some links.

  12. Julie Anne,

    As to your question of why family members outside the church are being shunned, I wonder if it is a misguided/misunderstood use of 1 Cor 5:11?

    “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

    I think this whole discussion turns on one fact…is the person that you are shunning claiming to be a believer or not? We are to walk away from those claiming to be believers but who will not repent of their sin…we are to run TOWARDS unbelievers who won’t and prayerfully beg them to turn to God.

    MacArthur addresses this in a sermon entitled “Confronting sin in the church”. (1 Cor 5:9-13)

    "What do you mean Paul?

    I'm not talking about not associating with unbelievers in the world but verse 11 actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so called brother if he should be an immoral person or coveter or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or a swindler. Not even to eat with such a one. In other words, you've got to make sure that you deal with sin that you put out the evil influence of a sinning person and that you have nothing to do with an immoral person.

    Verse 12, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders." Do you not judge those who are within the church? We're not sitting in judgment on the world. We've got to deal with the church. In all honesty, I grieve in my heart that Christians can get so upset, and so anxious, and so distressed, and so disturbed, and so militant, and so aggressive, and so involved in dealing with the sins of non-Christians, but they do.

    They create major enterprises to deal with the sins of non-Christians. Getting involved in matters with regard to pornography, matters with regard to homosexuality, matters with regard to a social injustice; problems in the court system, inequities, matters in regard to the pollution of the minds of children in the education system.

    They get involved with all those kinds of things; trying to stop abortion in our society. And people become militantly involved in those things who wouldn't turn a finger to deal with the sin of a believer in their own congregation. And yet that is the priority. That is the priority.

    We are to be so much heaven on earth that people look at us and see holiness. Something that is utterly other worldly and completely uncommon and unfamiliar to them. The Lord is not asking us to deal with the sins of the unconverted first but rather to deal with the sins of the Christians, who thus through their holy living can become a shining light and the testimony of the power of God of forgiveness, and thus have impact on the Christian -- on the non-Christians who've sinned.”

    1. Very true, OM.

      I'm glad you mentioned 1 Cor 5 with reference to not eating with someone who is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler. In that case, you are not to avoid the person, but you wouldn't be spending leisurely and enjoyable time (this is ja interpretation). There is still somewhat of a relationship, but they aren't going to be taking Communion and they aren't going to be going on the camping trip with you, but there will be a noticeable rift in the relationship that may cause them to reflect on what has happened. This kind of response encourages one to desire the old relationship and work towards repentance and restoration, because that is the ultimate goal.

      And you mention the point about believer vs non-believer, but with the shunning that I'm seeing here, it doesn't matter whether the person is a believer or unbeliever, the practice is the same with all (which confirms even more to me that it is extra-biblical nonsense, twisted scripture, made up by the the powers that be).

      I've mentioned it a number of places throughout the blog how the shunning is done: there is no eye contact made, they turn and walk the other way, they do not say "hi". You are treated worse than an enemy.

      I have a great walking path nearby and it actually amazed me one morning that every single person on that walking path greeted with me a "hi" or "good morning". I had never seen these people before in my life, but as we passed, we made eye contact and we both greeted each other. Pure strangers. Now imagine the same scenario if I was being shunned. If a person shunning me saw me, they wouldn't make eye contact, they would walk the other way.

      This is about hate, not love. There is no way anyone can "see" light/love with this kind of venom spewing out of their eyes and actions. Is the door even opened a crack for further relationship with this kind of response? I can't see it.

    2. Julie Anne,

      You said:

      “And you mention the point about believer vs non-believer, but with the shunning that I'm seeing here, it doesn't matter whether the person is a believer or unbeliever, the practice is the same with all (which confirms even more to me that it is extra-biblical nonsense, twisted scripture, made up by the the powers that be).

      Well, you just right there proved the point that what they are doing is NOT the biblical paradigm of avoiding fellowship with a PROFESSED believer who refuses to admit/repent of their sin.

      As far as avoiding the gaze…SIGH. If anything, those that are doing this shunning (I hate that word), should be trying to catch the gaze of those they believe are in sin and pleading with them with their eyes if nothing else!

      My personal opinion is that there is a certain part of our flesh that just loves rules and regulations and that is why this sort of thing happens. I wish I could wake up every morning with a new checklist next to my pillow and just mark things off as the day went on. I would be a pretty happy camper, and would go to sleep feeling pretty good about myself.

      Instead…I have to wrestle 24/7 with myself as to my motives, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. And I have to go to sleep reminding myself, yet again, that the Christian life is not possible in my own strength because I fail EVERY time to live up to God’s standards; only through grace and the atoning work of Christ am I accepted.

      Martin Luther’s first of the 95 theses:

      “1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

    3. This is all soooo good. Well thought out, Biblically based discussion. Thank you!

    4. As I was reading @Old Mom's comments, one word that screamed out at me in her quote was swindler and how it relates to spiritual abuse.

      swin·dle: v., 1. To cheat or defraud of money or property. 2. To obtain by fraudulent means.

      confidence trick, confidence game: n., a swindle involving money, goods, etc., in which the victim's trust is won by the swindler

      see also con man, trickster

      It reminded me of a series of events my aunt told about her best friend's experience with a swindling priest after her husband's death. The priest told her that he was concerned for her husband's soul (even though the husband was a believer, going to church with her every week, etc.) and that he could be "prayed out of hell"...for a little bit of money. Of course, she was terrified for her husband. That priest swindled her out of the estate her husband left for her as she sold it off bit by bit to give to this priest/church to ensure her husband didn't spend eternity in the fires of hell. When she laid down the last $5 bill she had, he told her "That's a shame. I only had him prayed out to the knees."

      I've heard story upon story of so-called men of the cloth using the camouflage of vestments in order to fleece the flock. On two separate occasions a person I had a close relationship with told me of another close friend from their youth who was a pastor. One pastor was a buddy from high school days known to be an avowed atheist at the time, so needless to say the mutual friend was surprised to find he had become a pastor. The other pastor was the father of a fiancé.

      The stories were so strikingly similar you would swear it was the same pastor they were speaking of but these people lived at opposite ends of the country. The so-called pastors told them outright that they did not believe one word of the Bible. Each said in effect that they saw themselves as just playing a role (like an actor) or that it was just a job (like a salesman who doesn't have to believe in the product he's selling); that they were telling the congregates "what they want to hear" and in return they get a salary, food, clothing, shelter, a car, etc. And the better they were at their "job" the more money they received in the offering plate. (Of course, on each of these occasions, the "pastor" confessed to a non-believer, as confessing to a believer would be detrimental to their livelihood.)

      What is to be done with these false prophets? Are they to be guaranteed a "livelihood" if that livelihood is based on fraud and deceit? Or should they be outed for the frauds that they are?

    5. Ostracon C.E. when you find an answer to the questions you ask, please let me know. I have the same questions.

      I have to say, BGBC is also part of the lawsuit as co-plaintiff with the pastor and it makes me wonder where the funds are coming from to pay attorney fees. I'm trying to imagine being in a church whose pastor is filing a lawsuit (against God's word) and wonder where my tithe money is going.

  13. I want to address the clergy issue. There is a difference between giving grace to a pastor and thinking he can't be challenged. Pastors are people, and as such, they are fallible. We need to extend grace and overlook minor foibles instead of expecting that a pastor should be perfect. My pastor is wonderful, he is kind, and he loves the people in our church. He is not perfect. It is disheartening that pastors don't always receive grace from the body of Christ.

    However, this does not mean that pastors get a free pass. If a pastor expresses a little impatience once in a blue moon, I would chalk that up to him having a bad day or bad moment. If a pastor expresses impatience most of the time, that may be an issue that might need to be addressed with him.

    And if a pastor spouts vitriol, seeks a bizarre amount of control over parishioners, and behaves (I will say it) viciously, then perhaps that pastor should seek making a living elsewhere.

  14. With regard to SLANDER/LIBEL: To be either slander or libel, a statement must be FALSE and MALICIOUS, and not otherwise protected. To be MALICIOUS, the source must either know the statement is FALSE or have WILLFUL DISREGARD as to whether it is true or not. Protected speech includes statements that are opinion and statements about religious belief and practice, which are protected by the First Amendment. So to be slander or libel, a statement must be about an alleged fact that is FALSE. To obtain DAMAGES, the Plaintiff (here, Pastor and Church) must prove the actual damages; damages cannot be speculative. And generally, damages that result from suing the Defendant(s) are not considered, since the Plaintiff did not cause those.

    In the present instances, the following are Facts that can be proved to be TRUE and relevant to whether either slander or libel occurred:
    1. A young man in the church had sexually abused a child or children, but not in the context of the church. The young man is thus a sex offender.
    2. The pastor became aware of the abuse.
    3. The pastor did not report the abuse, and several months elapsed, perhaps as many as nine months.
    4. A pastor is a mandatory reporter for sexual abuse that comes to his knowledge.
    5. The church membership was not informed that the young man was/is a sex offender until after he was arrested and/or charged.
    6. The sex offender was seen in the nursery area of the church during the period after the pastor knew of the offense(s) and before the church membership was informed. The person who observed the sex offender did not observe any other adult with him at that time.
    7. The sex offender was later reported and convicted of sexual abuse of a child or children.
    There is a related allegation that the Pastor had agreed to allow the young man to attend church if under constant adult supervision.

    The key allegation in the Plaitiffs’ complaint that may withstand the First Amendment challenge (either opinion or about a strictly religious matter), is that Defendant Julie Anne said that the pastor had been “harboring” a sex offender. This comes down to whether the actions of the pastor, not reporting and allowing months to pass while the offender was allowed to be in the church building, could be considered “harboring”, so that the statement is factual; or cannot be considered “harboring” and therefore the statement is false.

    Note also that even if the statement is shown to be false, it must also be shown that Julie Anne knew it was false or was willfully ignoring whether it was false. IF it was her honest opinion that the pastor’s actions constituted “harboring” then it cannot be found to be slander or libel.

    Question for all: What do you call not reporting a sex offender for months and allowing him to attend church functions, where he is seen in the nursery without apparent supervision?

    1. I call it harboring, and if a child were abused at a church function by that individual during that time, I'd say the individual who allowed him to attend and did not report him was an accessory to the crime.

    2. An attorney,

      Having just read the statement by the alleged sex offender’s mother, it does seem as though the pastor might have put himself above the law in not reporting what had been told to him. I have a question for you though. Does the alleged offender’s developmental (apparently severe?) disability have any bearing on the mandatory reporting?

      Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    3. Old Mom: I have not seen the statement by the convicted sex offender's mother. Are you talking about someone other than the one involved in Julie Anne's former church?? I have amended your question to address the general matter.

      "Does an alleged offender’s developmental disability have any bearing on the mandatory reporting? Not really. The purpose of the reporting requirement is to protect other children. So the reporting should be done regardless. The issue of developmental disability should be considered in terms of whether to prosecute and/or whether other management of the situation is needed. A severely disabled individual does not belong in the prison system in most states, but could be housed in a different type of facility to protect both the alleged perpetrator and the prospective victims.

      I will say that, if a severely developmentally disabled person is in a household with other children and has the mobility and other ability to sexually abuse a child, steps must be taken to protect the other children. A failure to do so would be grounds in many states to terminate the parental rights of the parents for failure to protect the children.

    4. Correction, to last sentence in first paragraph, Plaintiff should be Defendant: "And generally, damages that result from suing the Defendant(s) are not considered, since the Defendant did not cause those."

    5. No, the developmental disability doesn't eliminate the requirement to report the abuse.

    6. Attention Readers: Please be sure to note An Attorney's correction to the original comment (above mine).

      I was going to try to repost it with corrections; however, on Blogger, I am unable to delete an original post without deleting the comments attached to it. That wouldn't be good. So, just be sure to consider the correction An Attorney noted above.


    7. An Attorney,

      I am talking about the mother of the alleged sex offender in this case, yes. I had another question (sorry!). It seems that while clergy are under the mandatory reporters statute in Oregon there is room to interpret whether the communication was “pastoral” and therefore privileged….is this correct?

      Thanks again for the clarification.

      Page 4 of this pdf file


    8. @An Attorney, Sooo, if the pastor acknowledges that he was aware of the sex offender in his congregation, and did not inform the congregation (so they could take measures to protect their children in what is supposed to be a safe environment), can that pastor then have charges and/or suit brought against him for failure to report?

    9. He could have been charged with failure to report, which is a criminal offense.

    10. More on clergy reporting.

      There are limited circumstances in which a member of the clergy may not be required to report. What is not clear in this case is whether it falls under the exemption from the mandatory reporting. The clergy exemption is not blanket, but in limited circumstances, and I do not have access to the Oregon statute and the court cases interpreting it. Usually it is limited to a "confessional" type situation, where the offender has approached his pastor seeking help with his situation (problem, sin, etc.). Most states with an exemption do not apply it when a third party, such as a victim or family member reveals the offense to the pastor; under that circumstance reporting is usually mandatory.

    11. I have read the portion of law you cited and the therein referenced portions that related to the clergy communication privilege. Whether a pastor in Oregon has an obligation to report depends on what the church or denominations practices are and the context of the communication. If I were counsel for a church, I would recommend a written policy. However, since most state personnel are reluctant to investigate whether confidentiality is an ongoing practice of a church, I suspect a decision would be made not to hold an Oregon pastor criminally liable for not reporting.

      I do think that, unless it is confessional -- abuser to pastor, the defense of confidential communication is fairly weak, and if it resulted in further abuse, I suspect the pastor would be charged, unless it could be proved to be confessional. I also think that circumstance would make the pastor a pariah in the community.

    12. If I recall correctly the pastor in question (and the church elders, I think?) shared the supposed "sins" of the church employee that they had fired, and Julie Anne had questions for the leadership about that termination (please correct me if I am wrong Julie Anne!) If that is correct, I think the pastor is going to have a hard time claiming he had a religious obligation not to report the abuse......unless he wants to try and say the obligation ends once he kicks you out of the church?

    13. An Attorney - your insight is so helpful. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

    14. Buff -I'm confused with your line of reasoning with regard to the firing and the sex abuse. Can you help me out?

      I did not hear about the sex abuse situation until after we had left the church. When I heard about the abuse, my mind instantly went back to the time when I saw the young man in the nursery with me and there was no other adult in the room. Actually, I can recall more than one time this happened, at least one time in the annex and once in the nursery. Others have also told me they remember him there by himself, too. Of course this never was an issue to me at the time because he was the nursery coordinator's son and he was a nice kid.

    15. I don't mean the firing was related to the sex abuse.My point is, when the gentleman was fired, the dirty laundry was aired for the congregation to see the firing was 'justified'. So if he's going to reveal sins of one individual, he can't very well claim he holds confidential communications under clergy priviledge in the case of the sexual abuse. It would seem in my eyes (and I suspect in the court's) that he was abusing the confidentiality of clergy priviledge if he did so.

      Does that make more sense?

      Does that make more sense?

  15. Someone said that the accused (Defendant) has the obligation to prove . . ., when sued for slander or liable. That is not true. The Plaintiff (accuser) always bears the burden of proof, in this case by a preponderance of the evidence, and they must prove all of the things necessary: Falsehood (in fact and in context), malice, damages. Then the Defendant can rebut and prove any of the recognized defenses, including Truth, honest belief the statement was true, context, opinion, and First Amendment defenses related to religious disputes and beliefs. The Court will not engage in a dispute about the interpretation of scripture, which is why describing a pastor as a wolf (in shepherd clothing) is not slander, nor is saying that the structure of his church or its practices are not biblical or are sinful, or are spiritually abusive. Words such as creepy, weird, unorthodox, cultish, etc. are not slander for that reason.

    1. Hi, An Attorney.

      When I said that I meant that the person saying that they had been slandered/libeled had to prove falsehood - I know this is particularly true in public figure cases. When I called them the accused, I was referring the accusations that they considered to be slanderous or libelous.

      Sorry for the confusion.

  16. Julie Anne,

    Parachuting in with a fun link for you. (wife is helping me with URL link- She's better at software and I do hardware and replace the power supply and clock batteries in her computer. We have complementary computer gifts, and use them to help older believers.)

    My friend is still going through "the process" - no legal lawsuit, just a secret tribunal. Pretty similar to your situation - really about freedom to tell the truth.

    My wife looked up the legal definition of "slander" for me today in an online dictionary. Found this fun link to a quiz of 79 sample questions from the GRE - Graduate Record Exam. (Her home school friend, a licensed teacher, gets paid to proctor GRE medical and law school admission exams). She said it was fun to take the GRE legal quiz and showed it to me when I got home from work.

    You might have fun taking this 79 question legal quiz too. You have a lot of legal knowledge now (no need to share scores) but I'm thinking you'd get a lot of these answers right.

    GRE 2 Legal quiz - 79 sample law questions

    praying for Judge James Fun as he prepares his legal decision. (Hope I got his name right - it was on the live Portland interview.)

    Had a cup of coffee and a snack after work, looked at the mail.
    Going out to work on the landscaping project now.

    1. Hey, that was a fun test. I would say that I got a little above 90% - not exactly sure because my score was messed up. (I don't recommend taking it on a smartphone - too easy to hit the wrong answer by mistake.) I have definitely learned more legalese since my lawsuit.

      Thanks, Ostrich. I'm going to have my older kids take it.

    2. "Smart" phone! Too easy to hit the wrong answer? 90% +? ROFL!

      (You don't think the quiz is biased to make it easier for females, do you? There are a lot of diversity initiatives these days, even in law schools...)I took the quiz too, but on a laptop. Also scored above 90%. It was fun! - but it was "multiple choice" on the laptop -

      (My girlfriend - we're over "39", but still do Caribou / Starbucks Bible Studies - told me how cool her new Smart Phone is. But my husband got us "pay-as-you-go" Trac Phones (we had a 2 yr. "non-smart" cell contract once that kind of "put a dent in our vacation budget"). So we'll have to "balance priorites" and talk it over together. (Glad you have one, and I'm not "envious" or "covetous". Honest!)

      Thanks for the before bedtime ROFL - I'll sleep more soundly!

      Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) "A joyful heart is good medicine,
      but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

  17. In response to Old Mom July 18, 2012 5:29 AM:
    "In all honesty, I grieve in my heart that Christians can get so upset, and so anxious, and so distressed, and so disturbed, and so militant, and so aggressive, and so involved in dealing with the sins of non-Christians, but they do."

    "They create major enterprises to deal with the sins of non-Christians. Getting involved in matters with regard to pornography, matters with regard to homosexuality, matters with regard to a social injustice; problems in the court system, inequities, matters in regard to the pollution of the minds of children in the education system."

    "They get involved with all those kinds of things; trying to stop abortion in our society. And people become militantly involved in those things who wouldn't turn a finger to deal with the sin of a believer in their own congregation. And yet that is the priority. That is the priority."

    Amen, Old Mom! I couldn't have expressed it better than you did, so hope you don't mind me quoting your comments. And adding my 2 ¢:

    In past years ago I did volunteer work to help a local ministry. They used a microfiche for ordering books on cults, apologetics, e.g., books by Walter Martin and others. Time changed Christian book distributors, and eventually books were ordered by Internet.

    This ministry received emails from a Christian man that advocated "cleaning up Christian bookstores". At first, this seemed like a reasonable idea. But eventually online discernment blogs started to call for what, in my opinion, amounted to "censorship". I commented this might draw more attention to these books and it might be better to explain the reasons why certain books were not compatible with sound Christian teaching. (Comments were not well-received.) I still do not support censorship in any form. And that is why I appreciate the "free speech policy" on Julie Anne's blog.

    I've seen a lot of money raised for the causes you mentioned and sometimes wonder if the church shouldn't be using a bit of the $ going to this for helping "widows who are widows indeed". I know one of Julie Anne's friends does this type of James 1:27 ministry. People like her don't do things to be "seen and noticed" - they do this "in secret" out of love for those in need, and in response to the Scripture. When noticed by others, this can often be a powerful "witness" to the love of Christ and the love among His disciples.

    I would like to add, a lot of fear is created (and $ made) by "conspiracy bloggers" and authors of Christian books, warning about survival with links to survival supplies. Nothing wrong with that.

    During Y2K people from a Bible Study were trying to build a home in a remote area of the state to prepare in case of Y2K. Later we talked to them and found out they had been "taken" by the builder and the home was never "liveable", title and $ was in a legal mess.

    Other friends stocked up on a few groceries and put water in their bathtub, but many buy things on sale to save a few ¢ regularly and rotate the canned goods. Some people bought freeze-dried meals that probably don't taste as good as a fresh organic chicken dish might.
    Christians have liberty to make different decisions, and that's OK.

    I'm aware of the government and surveillance. I'm also aware of the private sector - e.g., privacy concerns re Facebook, Google. And Internet censorship in some countries. That is a valid concern.

    But, the most shocking and fear-provoking thing I've seen in my lifetime is the "cover-up" and failure to deal with sin in the church - esp. when it involves people in leadership positions.
    There is where I've seen "censorship" used, to great harm.

  18. Not A Rebel,

    WIsh I could take credit for that, but it was from a sermon by John MacArthur. Sorry if I did not make that clear!

    1. Thanks for the correction. I see you did have the proper attribution to Dr. John MacArthur in your original post:

      "MacArthur addresses this in a sermon entitled “Confronting sin in the church”. (1 Cor 5:9-13)"

      you commented: "a misguided/misunderstood use of 1 Cor 5:11?" thanks for your input, AND the MacArthur quote to support it.

      Busy day - novocaine shots for dental work. Those seem to make me tired all afternoon. That's probably why I missed seeing your source. ("older mom" too - with "no line bifocals"! Sometimes I have trouble reading the "prove you're not a robot" verification words! :)

    2. NAR: I almost always have to click for a new robot verification word. I think I am blind.

    3. Julie Anne,

      Your reference to "blind" reminded me of something AWESOME!

      Several years ago (time flies) I worked with some BLIND PEOPLE.
      (In a secular job. No relation to BLIND in the Bible sense.)
      They were mobile and could do just about anything even then.
      Then one blindness group asked U.S. engineering students to take on the challenge of engineering a car that BLIND PERSONS could DRIVE!

      (well, when JFK said there would be a moon landing in 10 yrs. I remember thinking "10 yrs? No way! I'll be driving a car by then, but the MOON?? It happened - I think...(some conspiracy theorists say the moon landing videos were "faked" and filmed in AZ - Whatever!)

      Engineering and technology grew by leaps and bounds - from "geek math nerd guys with pocket protectors and slide rules" to CAD and more Gigabytes and now even drawings that can be made to simulate machine parts moving - I forget what that's called but I've heard from a reliable source that if you put in a wrong size part, the simulation "crashes".

      There IS a car for blind people. Google is patenting it:

      Google's Self Driving Car Takes Blind Man To Taco Bell (VIDEO) 3-29-2012

      Pretty AMAZING - just think of the liberty and freedom the blind can have once this is for sale, or maybe there will be a special rental program subsidized by a group of people?

      God's GRACE is even more AWESOME! He is the Great Creator! (I believe God created things through using engineers, not a MIRACLE in the technical sense of the Word, but I think God gave them some abilities and gifts and creative talents.)

      LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Huffington Post video is in no way connected with Julie Anne Smith or Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Any similarity to any person, living or dead, is unintentional. "Google car for Blind" also was on MSNBC and other media outlets. Huff Post link was the first to come up in the search engine. Not intentionally chosen.")

    4. Very cool!

      PS - No need to apologize for Huffington Post links. I have a Huffington Post article on the case listed in the right side-bar. I just don't get worked up over things like that :)

  19. An attorney seems a little biased.

    1. Some people believe that the only credible unbiased opinion is one that supports their own argument. Wonder if that's the case here. An Attorney seems to have presented legal facts.

    2. I realize that this is your blog...but the other guy has a case. You did write a lot of stuff about him that is not very endearing or complimentary. An ordinary person might think that you might have had it in for him personally.

      An attorney knows that you must prove your statements if the suit moves forward. I am pretty sure that this is not a First Amendment matter. You already know that. If the Anti Slapp is based solely on Free Speech as a defense, then you have already lost. This is not a first amendment matter and a judgement in your favor, based solely upon the First Amendment, would be just utterly absurd.(In my humble unbiased opinion)

      You appear to have a very good chance of winning the suit...so does he.

      An attorney is most definitely in your corner and you have to admit that an objective person would present the pros and cons of each party. It appears that An Attorney thinks that you have a case and the other party has nothing as in 0 chance. Biased by clear definition I believe. Perhaps he has good reason for the bias. We will see.

    3. Anon 8:02 - My understanding is the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.

      I consider my attorney to be extremely knowledgable about First Amendment. It's her hobby :)

      What you say really does not line up with what she's been telling me, but I guess we'll see if she can convince the court that she knows a thing or two.

    4. "An ordinary person" = not applicable to Judge or attorneys

      "I am pretty sure" = not 100% sure YET

      "You already know that." = "spooky", but not really scaring the Judge or attorneys (or me, a neutral observer)

      "If"..."then" statements = highly speculative (prophetic???)

      "just utterly absurd.(In my humble unbiased opinion)" = ???

      "You appear to have a very good chance of winning the suit...so does he." = back pedaling? or "50-50 odds"?

      "Biased by clear definition I believe" = your free speech

      "We will see." - TRUE - We will see. (We may all be surprised, but it's interesting to think about God's character at a time like this. His Omniscience - He likely knows the outcome already, and believers put their Trust(Faith)in Him, no matter what happens. (Daniel in the Lion's Den, the 3 Hebrews in the fire, Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers - all looked like bad outcomes at one point. I'm sure you have knowledge of those narratives?)

      Deuteronomy 10:17
      "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome GOD WHO DOES NOT SHOW PARTIALITY nor take a bribe."

    5. AnonymousJuly 18, 2012 8:02 PM

      While truth is a defense, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the facts of the case: False statements of fact, that the defendant knew were false or had reckless disregard as to whether they were false, and that the plaintiff was damaged in a way that financial compensation will cure (i.e., the damages cannot be speculative, but must be real and proved).

      The Defendant has the opportunity to present evidence that shows: (1) that the statements were true or (2) that the Defendant had substantial reason to believe they were true, and, if not successful, show that the damages are merely speculative (e.g., alleging future income that was not somehow clearly pending and not obtained).

      There are two First Amendment defenses. First, if the statements are opinion and can be shown to be opinion (no matter how vile) the plaintiff will lose; the First Amendment protects freedom of conscience. Saying "I don't like you and I think you are a skunk (creep, weirdo, etc.)" or "He seems creepy to me" is not actionable for defamation.

      Second, there is a First Amendment defense related to matters of religion. This may be critical in this case, because the court will not get into interpretations of scripture, beliefs about proper church organization and authority, etc. So saying that someone did or say something that is "not biblical" or that the matter involved church discipline, will take that allegation out of the case.

      The allegation of "spiritual abuse" is an interesting case that depends on the meaning of the two words, and that puts the issue under the First Amendment religious matter defense, since one is clearly about religious practice. It is also, I think, under the other First Amendment defense, because what constitutes abuse in this circumstance is a matter of opinion.

  20. A different Freedom of Speech case was won today in Portland. In the spirit of "keeping Portland weird", I am posting here: Keeping Portland Weird

    1. Sounds like what was presented in court was...er, the bare facts.

    2. Yes, well, the court is kind of a stuffy place, you know.

    3. Freedom of speech and the right to bear.... butts?

    4. HAHAHAHA Love it, Ostracon C.E.!!!!!!

  21. I loved it!! I've had my own hassles at Portland Airport Security.
    No kidding, a mature woman, only down for a weekend conference, all kinds of questions, and extra checking. What can you do?? Shut up and experience the indignity of it all! Velcom to Amereeca!

    Good for this guy! Do actions speak louder than words?!

    Oh my, that was good for a few laughs today! Hahahaha!

  22. hahahaha!!! I needed a good laugh, proud to be from Portland!
    Keep Portland Weird for sure! And AMEN to free speech.

  23. OK, so our family has been talking about airport security hassles for awhile now.

    So, here's my simple solution: In a changing room, everyone takes off everything and puts it all into bins. (Yikes, how many bins?? Whatever.)

    Then you get a white choir robe to cover the subject. Then you go through the 'gates' in your robes of pure white--with nothing to hide and of course, nowhere to hide it. Everyone happy.

    Simple solution!


    From anonymous responding to Anonymous' post July 18, 2012 11:37 PM

    Reposting this question 7/19/12 to make it easier for you to find:

    "I'm not well-versed enough in the law that applies to 501C3 or whatever type a church that is tax-exempt is classified -

    @ AN ATTORNEY: Would you happen to know if a church can declare a bankruptcy? Or how they would deal with a sudden debt crisis? (I know that megachurches have "defaulted" on mortgages taken out with a Christian mortgage group). Not sure of the legal liability of elders in such situations.

    Perhaps you can shed some light on the subject?"

    1. As I said earlier:
      An AttorneyJuly 19, 2012 7:15 AM
      Yes, a church can declare bankruptcy. However, it is usually a dissolution bankruptcy, rather than a planned recovery bankruptcy, since there is no definite income stream from operations, only gifts. Occasionally, a church will get its members to pledge donations and use those pledges to convince a judge that they can make payments on the debt plan.

      Most churches only have debt on buildings or other property, and that secured debt does not go away in a bankruptcy nor is it usually reduced. Interest may temporarily be stopped, but the secured debt will eventually have to be paid and interest will be charged, so the church must either pay or lose the property.

    2. If your question goes to whether a pastor or elder would be personally liable, that depends on the organizational documents of the church. Most often a judgment becomes a lien against property, such as real estate, investments, bank accounts, possessions. Sometimes judgments can be avoided by bankruptcy but not always. Bankruptcy is a federal court process and civil judgments are normally state matters, and federal law trumps state law. But if the judgment is converted to a lien on property, the bankruptcy will recognize that as a secured debt that will be paid before any unsecured debts.

    3. Thank you. I see that you are sharp and picked this up from the first post. Appreciate your response.

      The other "Anonymous" seems to have a low view of the legal profession. Lawyers do "pro bono" work and many of them offer free consultations. Most will tell you if you don't have a good chance at winning a lawsuit - for no charge.

      A good attorney will save you money in the long run - my Dad died at an early age, without a will. Many years ago when Federal and State Estate taxes were very high. It was a complex situation because some property was held jointly with 3 other family members, and his insurance beneficiaries were never updated. A good lawyer would have caught those items while drafting a will, which would have saved thousands of dollars. (And many hours of my time as well.)

      Dollars that could have been donated to a church or charity.

      Instead the $ went to pay accountants who prepared the tax forms and property needed to be sold to pay Federal & State Estate taxes. (The estate tax forms made Turbo Tax 1040 look like "pre-school" math in comparison.)

      You can't "lose" money you never had - so that didn't upset us. But it taught us the value of an attorney - a lesson we never forgot. Wills protect children too - parents can choose guardians and not leave the choice to the State.

      RE: attorneys not "losing money", don't many operate on contingency fees, where they don't get paid unless the lawsuit is won?

  25. After some thought and analysis regarding the clergy exemption from reporting: If the pastor has often discussed private conversations (or revelations of sin in private conversations) from the pulpit, a prosecutor made aware of that could consider that and charge the pastor because the pastor has waived confidentially by not practicing it. I believe that most courts would rule in favor of the prosecutor in that situation.

    So if a pastor has made such revelations, I believe that the protection of the confessional has been waived for anyone who is aware of that happening. Since the confessional exclusion is there to protect the one confessing, their knowledge of the pastors practice would waive the protect of the information provided to the pastor and the pastor would become a mandatory reporter even in the confidential conversation situation.

    From my reading, I believe that in the case involving Julie Anne's former church, the prior behavior of the pastor in the pulpit has waived any claim of confessional confidentiality or any other confidentiality and he could have been charged with failure to report, which is a criminal offense.

    1. Exactly what I was trying to get across! You can't blab it all out on one parishoner and claim it's protected in the case of the other one......

    2. Wow, that's a good point, An attorney.

  26. An attorney,

    In the case of the alleged offender's parents going to the elders/pastors for help in dealing with the problems with their developmentally disabled son, it does not seem to me to be "confessional". A case might even be made that the offender is unable to understand right from wrong and therefore unable to "confess" any sin.

    How much weight, though, does the court give to the thought that the parents might not necessarily have been trying to enlist the pastor/elders help hiding a crime but seeking help from the person in their life to whom they put the most trust in in regards to dealing with difficult situations? Is that protected under freedom of religion?

    Link to mother's statement:


    1. In Oregon there have been several high profile cases of parents being prosecuted for not getting their children medical attention. Why aren't parents held accountable when they do not get appropriate help for developmental problems or psychological problems, such as this young man seems to have been exhibiting? Do we excuse these parents for possibly putting others in danger because they sought the help of their pastor (who also appears woefully unqualified to have dealt with the problem)? Not that we should always trust wordly treatments for our soul issues, but my opinion is that this was completely mishandled and professionally trained help was needed.

    2. Can the public find out how long he was sentenced for? and also he must have had knowledge of right and wrong to gewt sentenced right?

    3. Anon - My source told me he was sentenced for 8 yrs and thinks he's already served 3 years. Yes, he knows right/wrong. The mom's declaration said he acted like an 8-10 year old. I think he was 15 when we were there and I thought he acted like a 13 old. He really was a nice kid. Quiet and sweet disposition.

  27. Oh my goodness! I am praying for you and your attitude right now!

  28. Ow, we touch some sensitive nerves here. Chuck states "Let every soul be subject to governing authorities for there is no authority except from God." in his sermon given August 10, 2008 Practical Submission to State Authority. It now appears that he didn't mean himself. It brings to mind Raskolnikov's Extraordinary Man Theory from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The idea that men are divided into to two groups by nature and that extraordinary men are possessed of the authority to overstep society's normal bounds and transgress the rights of others by reason of their superiority.

    God sees us all the same, created by Him. Job 34:17-19 states

    17 Can someone who hates justice govern?
    Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
    18 Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
    and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
    19 who shows no partiality to princes
    and does not favor the rich over the poor,
    for they are all the work of his hands?

    We don't get to chose which scriptures or which laws to obey and which don't apply to us.

    1. ::::::as she does the white hanky wave and nods mmmmm hmmmmm yup :::::::::::


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