Saturday, December 26, 2009

I get the boot (UPDATED) & miss Church for the first time

I have been forbidden, to enter my church or come to it's grounds:
"Dear Hugh,

We, the elders of Covenant OPC, are agreed that we must ask you not to attend any worship services, classes, or any other church events, or go onto the church property, effective immediately, and until further notice.

These are our reasons: 1. Your words posted on your blog on 12/23/09, 'It won't be long until my passion spills out into the aisles of my own church, and I can't tell you what will happen then,' have been understood as extremely threatening to some in the church, and they have caused real fear in their hearts. In reading your words in context, the session does not understand them as an intent of physical violence; however, they are so incredibly inflammatory that it has raised even more serious concerns about you. You sound like a very angry man. We have a responsibility to protect the well-being of the flock, and we will take whatever actions are necessary to do that. 2. Our boundary with you has been that you do not talk with church people about your views about polygamy. By sending your email to the church list, in violation of presbyterian government, you effectively (if perhaps unintentionally) violated that boundary by virtually insuring that more church people would search and find your blog. 3. Our reason for having welcomed you to attend services was that you might grow under the preaching of the Word under the oversight of church leadership. Your words and actions indicate that you have rejected that oversight. That being the case, we have even greater concern about your stated agenda to spread your false teaching, and we must do whatever we can to protect our brothers and sisters from it.

Hugh, we hope and pray that this will not be a permanent requirement, but that you will repent of your errors and publicly repudiate them. As a first step we would like to have from you in writing immediately an explanation of the words from your blog quoted above. Second, if that explanation is satisfactory to us, we would be willing to meet with you at our regularly scheduled session meeting on January 11, 2010, to discuss our decision with you, to pray for you, and review your status. Please let us know if you would like to meet with us then. Again, though, we insist that you do not attend any COPC functions before that time.

Sincerely,

Pastor Carl Durham, Mike Breen, Chris Liff, and Andy Selle

The Session of Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church"
Let me explain the excerpt then:
"Your words posted on your blog on 12/23/09, 'It won't be long until my passion spills out into the aisles of my own church, and I can't tell you what will happen then,' have been understood as extremely threatening to some in the church, and they have caused real fear in their hearts."
"Spill(ing) into the aisles of my church," means only that the discussion, would move to that physical location. I can't control others, I don't know what will happen when the discussion is public and at church. Only in my wildest imaginations would I ever think that it would become threatening to anyone. I am not, a violent man. I would not come to church armed in any way. I am not skilled in the martial arts, nothing would happen at my initiation. Any encounter would have to be initiated by another person. All responses on my part would be verbal.

The session ignores the rest of the post in which I condemn John Brown, who took matters moral into his own hands, violently. The session ignores my condemnation of the "Freemen." The session is in fact ignoring my absence from the Thursday Night Christmas Eve service. I thought I would give a chance to cooler heads, to prevail. While saying that in context they didn't see it as implying violence, but turning around and saying that I am an angry man, I don't think the session is being truthful.

In addition, the visits to my blog, which have now started by the congregation, did not start until A.) The session ignored me, again. B.) The session emailed everyone and told them essentially, where to look. In fact NO one in Vermont, from the church, visited my blogs until AFTER the session told them the INTERNET was the best place to look to discover the source of the controversy. (Elder Michael Breen acknowledged this to be a fact.) Additionally, the session through Andrew Selle, fully knowing my intent to send the letter out TWO DAYS in advance of sending that letter, only plead that it was "Christmas Time" in an effort to stop me, and offered more delays. Had this been against Church Law so to speak, then it was really an appropriate time to tell me that, but it was not said:
Dr. Andrew Selle - "It is a time when we invite those outside the Kingdom to taste the joys of knowing Christ. Do you not see that such a communication at this time would bring discouragement to the Body? and in so doing would undermine our evangelistic efforts? In the end, I'm not afraid for the church, yet I care for these concerns mentioned above, and I hope you will, too. At the least, I hope you will see reason and let this sit until the new year."
I have reviewed all communications with the session prior to my sending out the letter via email. No one warned me that it was a grave violation, only the pleading that I be nice at Christmas time. Not once has my inquiry about the topic coming up in session as Pastor Durham seemed to promise been answered. The session is covering up their neglect, and by doing so, making it worse.

UPDATE - One of the elders sent the following:
"I am writing on behalf of the Session of COPC.

While we find your answers to our email somewhat reassuring, we must repeat our request that you not attend any activity at Covenant Church until this matter can be satisfactorily resolved. We have several members who have indicated that they don't want to come if you are there. We believe our request of you is necessary for the peace of the church, and that worship may not be hindered.

Would you please confirm, at the earliest possible time, your intention to comply with our request not to attend Covenant Chruch [SIC] tomorrow. Thank you."
I then got a call from another elder whose talent seems to be experience with "Exit Interviews."

I've no sympathy with either in the current narrow context. I have heard from neither prior to this evening and it seems as if they are rotating from "unsuccessful" people in the interpersonal arena, to other ones in the hope that they'll match up better.

I've no respect for the request of nameless brothers or sister in Christ that won't come to church for fear that this post represents a threat of violence of some sort. I suggest if they are still reading at this late an hour, that they call the elders and withdraw their complaint. No such threat of violence exists.

In my conversation on the phone I was not kind. I would have to characterize my dealing with that elder as angry, something at this point, that I do not regret. I was lied to. It has been held up to me that continued exposure to the teaching and preaching at COPC would cause me to see the error of my ways. The elder calling me expressed that they thought there was "no hope" of changing my mind and thus no reason to meet with me and discuss it.

"Which is it" I wanted to know? Was I being placated with language of the faint hope of discussion or was I intractable and unable to change? Either view made the other offering a lie.

I asked WHAT argument was offered to me that was in the view of this elder, convincing. He could give me none.

I offered the two arguments extended by seminarian Stewart Lauer, and pointed to the fact that the word on which "Woody" (Stewart) hung his argument in fact meant quite a different thing, offered to prove it by examination, and this elder refused to look. He also would not discuss what it meant for a reformed seminarian to declare that Christ quoted scripture from the Old Testament, and then chose to change those words meanings and appealed to a sort of progressive revelation where God "Finds" meanings that didn't exist before.

His conclusion was that we weren't going to debate it. (From a how to fire advice article)
US News - "Don't enter into a debate. Your decision is final, and while you hope the employee understands it, the time for back-and-forth is over. Let the employee know your decision and then cover logistics, like returning keys and other property, the final paycheck, COBRA, etc.
Sound familiar?

How do you convince someone when you refuse to debate? How do you hold them responsible for correct teaching if you won't explain it? He also did not want to know that Luther or Augustine agreed with me. It seemed to make no difference that the father of the Reformation would not be welcomed as a member.

POST SCRIPT (December 27th) Not that faithfulness is measured by church attendance, or even that I would suggest genuine belief is signified by it either, but I had not missed church all year. That occurs to me as I am sitting here at home this morning, and not in church on the very last Sunday of 2009.


Sphere: Related Content

4 comments:

I_hate_bigots said...

Deep down inside, I think the elders know you don't pose a real threat, they were just looking for a reason to kick you out of their church because of your views on polygamy.

They are the ones who will have to deal with the problem of making false accusations (Isn't that one of the commandments?).

They were looking for any reason to kick you out of their church. Your post, provided a politically correct reason for doing so.

The real reason they want you gone is you have become a public supporter of polygamy and they don't want their church to reflect your attitude. They couldn't kick you out for your beliefs, so they found a reason which sounded better.

Kicking you out in such a manner, was cruel and very un-Christian like. The way they worded they e-mail, they were egging you on to say something nasty in return.

I hope you say, write them a letter saying you won't go and then don't.

I hope you find a better church - one with true values.

I_hate_bigots said...

The two big excuses for destroying rights are terrorism and child abuse.

Accuse someone of one of those and any behavior is justified.

The terrorism excuse was used to kick you out. After all, any other reason would have been deemed un-Christian.

Pretty sleazy of your church - they should be supporting your efforts at exposing corruption instead of worrying about how their church might look.

The Pharisee said...

IHB,

I am inclined to agree that the "threat" issue is one of convenience. It's one of the reasons why the "threatened" individual(s) remain nameless. I agree that it is "politically correct." The elder I spoke to essentially elevated current circumstances (fear of crazies doing God knows what at churches) over Christ's own words of Matthew 18.

Christ did not say "By all means, protect yourselves" but instead he said you go to those with whom you have trouble and confront. He did not say "unless you feel too scared to do so."

I'm not planning to go. Anyone who bothered to know me, and examine what I have said in life, as these men have had ample opportunity to read and to hear, would know that I have no love for rebellion. Men in authority are placed their by God for our own good. That does not mean they will do right, and it does not mean their words are Holy Writ, it means God specifically placed them there to guide us along the way.

The High Priest of the year, who condemned Christ, was probably a Sadducee, those not fond of the miraculous. He is said by the scriptures, to prophesy with regard to Christ. In his office he uttered it, because of that office, only he did not know what was meant.

Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was preached out of spite. Why? Because the Gospel was preached and the word of God does not return void.

Men in authority do not do the right thing simply because they are in office, but they do provide for us the opportunity to do the right thing ourselves.

I like this church well enough. Despite heated exchanges of the last week, I like the men, even the ones I have called cowards to their faces. I believe them to be men of God, but if I can be in error, so can they.

The Pharisee said...

Sorry I missed your additional comment IHB, I wouldn't use the word "sleezy" since all sin is that way, and I am a sinner.