This letter was sent to us today by an elder who asked to remain anonymous. It is reprinted with permission:
Dear Mike and Amy,
I was listening with great interest to your August 28th podcast regarding spiritual abuse in Churches. I would like to offer a perspective from the point of view of an elder of a church in which the tables, as it were, were turned as the spiritual abuse came from sheep rather than shepherd.
A little background:
Our body belongs to a mainline denomination.
As leaders, we were convicted to care for the sheep by making certain that the spiritual food given to them was pure and the practices of the church were in line with Scripture. I confess that for a long time, we had been less than diligent on this point, but God’s grace brought us to repentance.
For a time of 3 years our church had found herself without a lead pastor. After a providential search, we were provided with a man with an exemplary biblical education, integrity and maturity.Though by no means a “superstar”, preacher or an “alpha” male leader, he was a proven expositor of Scripture and willing to stand for Biblical inerrancy and Scriptural ethics. He also had demonstrated a submissive leadership style that allowed for accountability from the elder board. Simply put, he is an equal elder as we all are, with the added responsibility of preaching.
The elders had, for a while prior to his call, voiced concerns over the leanings of our denomination regarding homosexuality, egalitarianism, and un/anti Scriptural positions.
After much discussion and prayer, we, decided that departing from that denomination was necessary.We would join to a denomination that would stand for biblical inerrancy and infallibility and finality in authority would be the norm. Our new pastor was on board and at the helm.
All’s well so far.
The problem arose, however, when one of our youth pastors was cited and dismissed for ongoing, previously undisciplined sin that affected the youth in painful ways. This youth minister was loved by many in the congregation, yet the sin was unknown to them, when the proverbial, blank hit the fan, many stood in opposition to our decision.
Concurrently, we were also having issues with many of the women in the body who were egalitarian in gender roles, while our church and elder board are had always been, officially complimentarian, though to our regret we were less than consistent when it came to leadership in the church on this point.
Seeking to be biblically consistent, we as a matter of common sense, I believe, asked that all who were on paid staff at our church, understand the positions we held and would be willing, if they disagreed, to discuss the matter. No one was forced to conform, but we did request that as paid leadership/staff, they agreed not to sow discord among the body. Discussion/debate on the subject is welcome, however, we required that the discussions be biblical, limited to the texts of scripture and above all, be respectful (1Peter 3:15)
This was not to be.
Many did exactly the opposite.
The fact is, that discord was sown almost immediately and the rumor mill began to churn. On both fronts, the dismissal of the youth minister and the seeking to be biblically consistent. We were accused of many unmentionable things. The elders were labeled sycophants and the pastor “Satan in the pulpit”. Our congregation suffered much and divisions wounded many.
I can speak as one of those who is still stinging from the epithets leveled my way. I had documented a discussion with one staff person who quit because of their disagreement with out complementarian stance. This individual had been in charge of media and communication for our church. Though no longer an employee, kept control the Facebook page and contacts that rightfully belonged to the Church without permission. This person was now using the page for personal ministry. As an elder, I was asked to confronted the person. Thankfully I documented the written conversation thoroughly and had folks look over the missives to make certain they were written with grace and gentleness. My reputation was smeared by this person, I was labeled a bully and threatened with physical harm.
I was driven to write this to point out that the cry of abuse can be unjustly used as a weapon against leadership. Sheep can bite.
Thanks for your time. Needed to vent that :). Please if you wish to use this letter, do not use my name as I do not wish to cause any deeper wounding.