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church discipline

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
We go to a church that is a plant from a large church, which is either nondom or baptist depending on exactly what you think they mean (the church itself doesn't seem to be entirely sure, depends which bit of paper you read as to whether they say nondom or baptist, they are affiliated with the Baptist General Conference).

The pastor of the new church is a former youth pastor and then preaching pastor of a 3rd service at the parent church, the way things were structured there, that meant he wasn't an elder. The elders of the new church are two of the elders from the parent church and the three of them form the elder board. Currently the new church doesn't have any formal membership, some of us were members of the parent church, some were "just" regular attenders of that third service and others have come from either other churchs or are new to the area. So we're a mixed bag, believe in adult baptism, but it's not mentioned on the website and only gets mentioned when a child is dedicated or in the run up to the one baptism service that the church has held. The existance of the church was made public in Sept 08 and our first service away from the parent church was in March 09, so we're pretty new!

This has coincided with a rough time in our lives, I got pregnant in Sept 08, an unplanned 3rd child after a gap when we'd just decided we were definitely done! I had severe PPD with our first, but not our 2nd, but had a horrific delivery, which was very disabling for the first couple of years and I was only 10mths past surgery to fix one of the many injuries.

I think we were actually both thrilled to be blessed in this way, we'd probably never have tried to make it happen, but she was much wanted, but that doesn't take away all the practical difficulties and unfortunately I began to get depressed during the pregnancy and probably should have got help sooner than I did. Our baby was born in May 09 and my depression continued and failed to respond to treatment, I had bad reactions to some medications, including one that landed me on a cardiac ward for 2 days. Finally in late November we found one that began to help, I feel amazing compared to how I was, but the reality is whilst I wouldn't say I feel sad, I have pretty much every other symptom to some extent.

To the outside world, it almost seems forgotten, 2mths ago I couldn't hold a conversation, cried most of the time and couldn't give eye contact, so the fact I can actually talk with some eye contact is a dramatic change, which meant I could engage in our marital counselling sessions, which had begun on the advice of the pastor, our marriage does need help, mostly because I have been so ill which has put an immense amount of strain on DH, he's almost been a single parent whilst holding down a full time job with a zombie in the house that also needed to be fed.

Rightly or wrongly, after I was actually able to engage in a couple of sessions, I expressed to the pastor that I didn't think this counsellor was working, without even listening to why, he instantly asked me to sign a disclosure agreement so he could talk with the counsellor and he could make that decision.

My instant response was rebellion, no, you aren't going to make that kind of decision for me and I'm not doing that.

Christmas stopped the pastor from following up this issue, but I was still meeting with my psychiatrist and therapist, so was able to talk through possibilites. So when I got a message from the pastor's assistant trying to schedule a meeting but also requesting that the form be signed before even scheduling it, I responded that I'd sign, but not undated and that I'd prefer to hold a conference call, which she responded was not what he'd asked and to let her know when I'd done what was asked.

We saw the marriage counsellor again this week and the three of us agreed that we weren't getting anywhere and we should try someone else. At that stage I was at the point of thinking I'd sign the form, still dated, but let them talk without me, but in that session my husband indicated that his expectation would be that the pastor would then talk to the new counsellor before we even met with him, which I knew would cause me issues in opening up to a new counsellor, so we left without me having signed the form.

I contacted the pastor to let him know how things stood and he told me that I'd manipulated the situation to avoid signing the form, by which stage I'd realised that I could still sign and date the form and if a new counsellor accepted information about us before meeting with us then that would be a clear sign that that person wouldn't work for me, so I said I would do that, signing and dating doesn't prevent me signing another form without a date in future, but doing that currently when I know the law allows me to revoke it at any stage and that I would intend to do that would make it dishonest to sign it without a date.

He said he would discuss the issue with the elders with a view to removing me from the church, if I couldn't obey is exact command then that was the appropriate thing to do, he also mentioned in further demonstration of my lack of submission that I was breastfeeding in church without a cover, when I knew that it made some people uncomfortable and that I was not friends with a person he wanted me to be friends with, which was funny in a way because in no way are we not still friends and any cooling has been mutual. I think what he meant was that I was not following her exact command/opinion, which I'm not, but then her exact command would include offering my then 7mth old cheerios, when I haven't looked at the ingredients to see if that's ok (and her doctor had said she wasn't ready for solids), or using disposable diapers when my husband demands that we use cloth etc.

This conversation happened on Wednesday afternoon, on Thursday morning I contacted the counsellor to try and arrange to get the form signed and dated, but we've been playing phone tag and haven't actually sorted anything out.

On Friday morning the above mentioned friend called me and I told her what was going on and she tried to convince me that my now 8mth old doesn't actually need to be breastfed at church, despite it being usually over 3hrs between us leaving home and getting back home. My not yet 15lb 8mth old who was almost a month early and has oral issues that means solids really are only for experimentation and she's getting zero nutrition from them and who has had such issues switching between a bottle and breast that we haven't tried for 3mths because no situation of it being absolutely necessary has arisen.

I got an email from the pastor Friday afternoon saying I needed to make a decision and that he'd spoken to the elders and that they agreed I should sign the form.

I found it very discouraging that two men who don't know me at all, and I do mean that - one of them won't even say hello to me the other hasn't said anything beyond that, can come to such a decision so quickly without even speaking to me.

I'm feeling so distressed by the breastfeeding issue, that I need to know what the policy is on that because if that excludes me from church, I may write to the elders to explain why I disagree, but it's way too emotional for get entangled in right now. If I'm being excluded from the church because of breastfeeding then I can't really consider myself to be part of that church and thus there is no longer any need to deal with the other stuff.

So I responded accordingly, but the thought, prayer and time required to write the response means it got sent after the end of office hours.

My poor husband is stuck in the middle of all this, he thinks I should just sign and be done with it and deal with everything else later and continue to breastfeed in church in the mean time, but he wasn't in on that phone conversation, where the impression that I was given was that to do so would be just as much a crime and thus even if I did sign I'd still be subject to church discipline.

I've had a chance to read a couple of theologians and check the bible references on church discipline, so it seems it has too purposes, to protect the purity of the church (i.e. it looks bad if you keep letting someone committing incest to be part of the church) and to restore the believer from a state of sin (being removed from the church should make them see incest is a sin).

The very few non christians I've shared this with have said how uncaring the pastor is and how on earth does he still have a job as a pastor, so it seems like to them that the purity of the church is compromised, by him! So that leaves my restoration, which is rather confusing, I know I'm a sinner, I know I have a hard time with submission, but I don't see that precise obedience to the demand of the pastor is required, or that if so it should be done without question, the bible reminds us that our leaders are not infallible and also tells leaders to shepherd and be humble, not controlling and bossy. If the church were to decide that to sign and date a disclosure form when asked to sign without a date is a sin worthy of excommunication, I really would worry that they are turning into a cult.

This hurts so much because I care so much I don't want to just cut my ties and leave because I care and it seems that the direction they are headed is dangerous, plus right now my husband would stay in the church and considers me in a very similar light to the pastor, he's demonstrating that his loyalties lie with the pastor not with me. I don't think marriage partners should just church hop together when one is unhappy but that he considers me so sinful that he views the pastor as perfect that he almost seems to be saying that my sins (which are many) justify the pastor sinning against me, that when he has yelled at me, or mocked me that I deserved it.

Life is hard, but God is amazing, this post has been long, well done if you got this far!
post #2 of 25
Is the Pastor trying to take over your rights? That is how I am reading this. The whole ordeal feels wrong to me.
If my minister, I am UU, asked me to sign something so that she could talk to my counselor, my answer would be NO. I have had private conversations with my minister about personal issues, and she has been supportive and helped me with resources- but, to step in and ask to have me leave the church because I won't sign a release form is so over the top wrong, I don't have words.

What are supposed to submit to? You have just come through a very difficult period and are still in a very fragile place. Do not let those men bully you. Seriously, this whole situation is wrong. Yes, your being ill was hard on your partner- but wasn't it hard on you?

I have no real advice. Sending *hugs* - you shouldn't have to go through this.
post #3 of 25
A couple times in the past I've gone through counseling with the church I was involved in at the time. The first was with my ex at a Baptist church, the second was with my current DH at a general Christian church. NEVER EVER were we required to sign any forms like that or would the church had considered passing information about us to the counselor. The types of control that they are trying to exert concern me and honestly it sounds like a borderline cult. It's a real shame your DH isn't on board with how you feel on this. Perhaps on the breastfeeding issue you should tell your DH that this seems like a real issue to you and ask that HE discuss it with the pastor. Let him see the reaction and attitude firsthand. Honestly I would RUN far and fast from this place, I see nothing good that can come from it.
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeress View Post
Is the Pastor trying to take over your rights? That is how I am reading this. The whole ordeal feels wrong to me.
It does feel like that, in fact it is that because he keeps saying to me that this is all about my rights. In some ways being a Christian does mean giving up your rights, but to God.

Quote:
If my minister, I am UU, asked me to sign something so that she could talk to my counselor, my answer would be NO. I have had private conversations with my minister about personal issues, and she has been supportive and helped me with resources- but, to step in and ask to have me leave the church because I won't sign a release form is so over the top wrong, I don't have words.
It bothers me that if this gets out, which it should as to remove someone from the church, the church has to be told, it is actually communicating don't tell me your problems. What does UU stand for? I'm ok with him asking me to do this, but not demanding.

Quote:
What are supposed to submit to? You have just come through a very difficult period and are still in a very fragile place. Do not let those men bully you. Seriously, this whole situation is wrong. Yes, your being ill was hard on your partner- but wasn't it hard on you?
Of course it was hard on me, still is, which I feel isn't recognised, that I'm being punished for having a mental illness, it hasn't been said outright, but it when I process what is being said, it does seem to be communicating that I'm the cause not a victim. I'm a victim of mental illness, that doesn't excuse my wrongs, but it should indicate handle with caution. A few months ago, when I was really ill, I abruptly stopped taking my meds, because of things said by some people at church, stupid thing to do, but I wasn't exactly rational!
post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunshineJ View Post
A couple times in the past I've gone through counseling with the church I was involved in at the time. The first was with my ex at a Baptist church, the second was with my current DH at a general Christian church. NEVER EVER were we required to sign any forms like that or would the church had considered passing information about us to the counselor. The types of control that they are trying to exert concern me and honestly it sounds like a borderline cult. It's a real shame your DH isn't on board with how you feel on this. Perhaps on the breastfeeding issue you should tell your DH that this seems like a real issue to you and ask that HE discuss it with the pastor. Let him see the reaction and attitude firsthand. Honestly I would RUN far and fast from this place, I see nothing good that can come from it.
My mum just made a really good point, that if it is verging on a cult then of course the people in it wouldn't notice, because that's what a cult is!

I actually very specifically asked DH to ask the pastor for what his expectation was regarding breastfeeding, but he refused.
post #6 of 25
Quote:
The types of control that they are trying to exert concern me and honestly it sounds like a borderline cult.
This. Please, with your husband sit down and do some research on the traits of cults. There are varying levels, but this is sounding inordinately controlling *and* signing release forms and being a doormat are *not* what the Bible is talking about when it refers to respecting church authority.

Submission and the laying down of rights in Christianity is individual and voluntary. While we are to submit to each other, I find it very interesting that in all of that there is not one statement detailing methods of "control" or forcing the submission (of spouse or congregants). Those identified as authorities are instead commanded to be humble, selfless, and very, very cautious about what they teach because with authority comes increased accountability to God.

Having experienced both a cult and a borderline cult/church, I do think it's possible to go overboard in the opposite direction when one is hurt by spiritual abuse. If they are going to chuck you out, I would write them a letter with your final statement on the matter, but also acknowledging anything you know you did wrongly. Ie: "I am sad that it has come to this. I understand that you do feel you must excommunicate me. Although I do not agree with your decision or the acts that led to it, I did not respond to you in a Godly way and for that I am sorry." I always prefer to leave a difficult situation with a clear consicience, as I find it makes it easier for me to feel closure and not have it hanging over my head with "what ifs", yk?
post #7 of 25
I agree with previous posters who stated this is scary, cult like behavior. This is not biblical and I would RUN far, far away from this "church", fwiw.
post #8 of 25


I just wanted to say I'm sorry that you are having so much stress dealing with members of your church family. I don't have a lot of advice, but some commiseration, and to let you know I understand what you're going through.

I grew up in a very similar sounding church dynamic (indep. baptist/nondenom style) that I really loved the people and everything, but it did have very strict conservative policy, etc. I was happy there with the pastor and most everyone, but when the pastor retired and a new one came in the dynamic that had been set up seemed to be too much power for him. The church took a turn from very conservative to borderline cult to what I now believe is a cult (a few family members still are active). Very very similar things happened to a few friends and one relative who ended up leaving the church because they were kicked out or were about to be, and some of them are just getting over it (this took place a few years ago). They still don't understand spiritually why this happened.

I am not Christian (so kind of disclaimer, I guess?) and hadn't attended there in many years, but I watched what happened when I lived in the same town and my family kind of was torn apart by the whole situation. It's now 2 groups: the relatives who were kicked out/left after seeing what happened and had to re-evaluate their spiritual views and find new churches and the relatives who are still at the 1st church. It seemed to me that unless it happened directly to them, it was very hard for people to see what was happening. So, I want your DH to see what is going on, but ultimately, I think it will take a lot for him to realize the change in dynamic. If you are removed for something so minor as you wanting to keep confidentiality in your marriage counseling or breastfeeding or whatever else, he may understand and you can go from there. (Interestingly, a very similar situation happened with a couple I know--one was "in trouble" with the church and the other wasn't--and the ordeal made their marriage much stronger and they are in another church that they love.

My FIL is a pastor and I have to say that he would be very sad to see something like this happen. As I said before, I am not Christian, but if there was an "ideal" of service, love, and shepherding that I could point to for a church, it would be him. And he would NEVER start strife, or continue it, in this manner. And I know he's dealt with some difficult parishioners who I could not have had patience with who actually needed more strict guidance. But excommunication would not and should not be the first course of action, or even the 2nd 3rd, etc. It's a last resort that deal with people seriously harming the church/others, if I understand it correctly.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that others have been there and came through well and strengthened in their Christianity--I've seen it. I hope that everything works out for you-I'd seen your story in the Lactivism forum and it broke my heart.
post #9 of 25
I also wanted to add something that DH has mentioned in the past. There's a difference in being out of favor with the church and being out of favor with your God. Two totally different things, and being out of favor with a group of people doesn't mean you're not living your life the way God would want you to. A church is like any other organization, run by people. Some are good, some aren't and most are somewhere in the middle.

I think if you look through the bible you'd be hard pressed to find anything in there that did not support breastfeeding or that required a pastor to have a signed form to recommend a counselor or that indicated the leaders of a church should dictate who your friends are (HUGE red flag for me on that one btw!).

Hugs. I don't know if your DH will come around or not, but I have a feeling this isn't going to be an easy road the next few months.
post #10 of 25
grrrrrr!! I am so mad I am shaking!!!!! I want to go grab you andget you guys far far away from there.
post #11 of 25
DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING! Run far away! This is wrong, so very wrong.

I am also shaking with anger reading this.
post #12 of 25
I'm sorry but I could have no other response for this situation than to let the pastor know that we are no longer seeking his counsel and break contact with him.

He is overstepping his boundaries and behaving in a way that I can hardly wrap my brain around. It is not the job of a pastor to tell his congregation what to do. It is his job to love them, to teach them, to explain his interpretation of the word and then to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. He is abusing his position.
post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
ok, now I'm scared, I did a quick look on wikipedia about cults, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult at the section on mind control, I can check 1 and 2 and possibly 3.

Emotionally distressing situation was bring up breastfeeding whilst I was actually doing it, rather than in a controlled manner at another time, oh and being yelled at to grow up when I was in the pits of depression. Plus removing the children from my care, sure, I was in a bad way, but offering to take the older two would have been glady accepted allowing DH to concentrate on me and the baby for a few days.

At the moment two verses are being repeated and repeated, submit to your leaders and not causing your weaker brother to sin. With very little consideration for the numerous biblical arguements I've presented.

Love for our family is constantly expressed as the motive.

So now I feel fairly sure that this church is on the slippery slope to being a cult, which is a sign to me to cut and run, but to have to communicate that to DH is going to be very hard, he'll think I'm going round the bend!

Additionally, I try to do daily devotions from "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers, today's was on 2 Corinthians 3v18 and explained how you know a man has been beholding the glory of the Lord by feeling inwardly that they are a mirror of God's own character, which is a personal challenge, but was also an oh boy I can pick up on who is and who isn't and saw that our counsellor actually is.
post #14 of 25
I will start by saying the verses they are quoting are being taken out of context. You and DH should read Hebrews 13. and 1st Corinthians 8, and decide the parallels for yourself.

That being said, if I knew the man sitting next to me at church had adulterous thoughts about me and made a display of showing my breat while feeding, that would be sinful. I am assuming that you are not doing anything like that, so I think you are OK.

As far as obeying your leaders, I do not see how changing your marital counselor has anything to do with your pastor's spiritual authority. If I stretched, I could see how it could be if both of you were refusing counseling, but even then I do not see how he would be entitled to discuss things with your counselor, or speak to a counselor for you, or choose your counselors.

I have seen therapists linked to our church and secular therapists. I have also confided in my church staff. None of them have spoken to each other about me. I would not be able to trust a pastor who was forcing the issue like that.

I also do not believe that I am "giving up my rights" because I am a Christian. My rights remain the same, however how I choose to exercise those rights is based on my beliefs.

I am concerned that this pastor is taking advantage of you and your DH in a fragile state. Knowing that both of you have been in very difficult times over the past few years, there is less of a possibility that you would leave. If you do not want to completely uproot yourselves, can you and DH speak to the head pastor at the parent church? That might give you clarity on if the decision needs to be to leave the church entirely, or just to get away from one pastor.

(((Hugs))) as you are going through this.
post #15 of 25
This is spiritual abuse.

There are baptist and other conservative churches that do have strict structures in place but do NOT engage in this kind of manipulation.

It seems like you prefer a more conservative Christian environment, so I will not tell you to avoid that, but I would suggest that you read "Toxic Faith" by Steve Arteburn (might be mispelling his name). You can still attend a mainline conservative christian church and not be subjected to dominance-by-any-means-necessary pastors. He may very well be a nice, well-meaning man, but this is not a healthy church environment for you.

I am a walkaway from a church that was like this. That church helped to destroy my faith for many years. I think the earlier you can get away and get into a healthy, non-toxic church the better. You don't even have to leave conservative Christian churches to do that (though I did).

Your family does NOT deserve to be treated this way. What your pastor is doing is sick and wrong, even if he doesn't realize it and means well. I think that this is not a safe environment for you, I hope you can find a community that will truly love you and care for you, and not be so tied up in procedure and dominance struggles that they damage you in the process. That's not supposed to happen, in any church, and there are so many healthy communities of Christians of all stripes that would welcome and love all of you! I hope you are able to find a community that can truly help you to heal and grow, not beat you down. That is not what church discipline is supposed to be about!
post #16 of 25
This whole situation has me scratching my head - I don't quite get why a church would want you to sign any kind of forms at all. At any rate, the pastor is way out of line and I would suggest looking for another church.
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Funny Face View Post
He is overstepping his boundaries and behaving in a way that I can hardly wrap my brain around. It is not the job of a pastor to tell his congregation what to do. It is his job to love them, to teach them, to explain his interpretation of the word and then to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. He is abusing his position.
God is our shepherd. The pastor is not the shepherd, he is God's servant. His job is to love & serve you. He is abusing his power. If I were you, I would run, fast.

(I'm a Christian and was a member of a Baptist church for several years--never had any semblance of what you describe happen.)
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SwanMom View Post
God is our shepherd. The pastor is not the shepherd, he is God's servant. His job is to love & serve you. He is abusing his power. If I were you, I would run, fast.

(I'm a Christian and was a member of a Baptist church for several years--never had any semblance of what you describe happen.)
This, please find some help!
post #19 of 25
I was raised nondenominational, with a Baptist and Pentecostal area. Full disclosure, I no longer consider myself Christian. Your submission is too God and your husband. Your preacher does not automatically get that from you. He has to earn it. He sounds like he is pushing because you are vulnerable, and he sees to a place to elevate himself. He is not behaving in a loving or godly way.
post #20 of 25
This doesn't sound like the right place for you right now. You're maniplulating HIM by not signing the form? Those are your rights, your privacy and YOU are the one being manipulated. Funny how they used that term. I would suggest taking a break from this particular situation and using that time to pray and find your center and connection with God. DH can continue to attend the church and if you must have an excuse to beg off, use the baby, your tiredness and the BF situation. I really wouldn't sign that form. It's just not right. it's between you, DH and the counselor. You've all agreed to move you and you can thank the pastor his help. case closed!
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