Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Church Discipline or Public Humiliation

Over the past year there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. There was a public brouhaha surrounding the dismissal of a church member named Andrew. 

The facts of the case have been made public. Andrew admitted to his fiancé that he cheated on her. As one would expect, she was devastated. Realizing that he needed to be held accountable, he sought out his "community group" leader, confessed to him, and asked for prayer. Oh, and Andrew admitted to having sex with his fiancé.

From there, all hell broke loose. The community leader told other leaders and the pastor eventually learned about Andrew's indiscretion. The entire church body was informed that there was a "wolf" in the flock and that he was under official church discipline. The members were told to shun Andrew - do not eat with him, do not talk with him, and walk away when you see him in public.

I realize that this is old news to many of you, but I want to address how Mars Hill Church defends its actions in a blog post:

In talking about the difference between confession and repentance, we should first distinguish true confession from various false forms of confession. True confession is agreeing with God that we’ve sinned and naming the sin as God would name it. An example of false confession might be to give partial details in a way that glosses over the severity of the sin. In that case, one’s hidden intention is actually not to bring the sin out into the light, but rather to offer true words as a decoy that keeps the underlying sin in the dark. In any case, confession amounts to bringing sin out into the light by telling the truth about it. To confess is to only to speak of a sin; to repent is to follow up a confession with change.

Mars Hill clearly makes a practice of judging a man's heart, intentions, and truth telling. How dare they claim spiritual authority equal to or above that of God. What happened to "judge not, lest you be judged"?  

I know EXACTLY how Andrew feels. I was accused of having nefarious intentions behind completely innocent actions. One accusation made against me was this goody, "You saw me walking toward you in the hall at church and you turned and walked the other way. I have no choice but to assume you're jealous of me." Crazy? Well, judging the intentions of another person is not only crazy, but also wrong on every level.

I have no patience for pompous Pharisees who practice public humiliation. Jesus went to the woman at the well when she was completely alone. In another instance, men were ready to stone a prostitute, but Jesus silently began writing in the dirt and one by one, the men dropped their stones. It has been surmised that Jesus was writing the sins of the men in the sand. He didn't publicly humiliate or call people out - he just gently reminded them of their own past weaknesses.

Get off the pew of public humiliation. Stop shunning, and get back to some good old fashioned relationship building. Get off the pew (and away from Mars Hill).

P.S. Andrew, wherever you are, I hope you're doing well and that you know how very much God loves you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brenda's Mom is Crazy

Brenda and Eric are 28 years old and have been friends since kindergarten. Eric is gay.

The other day Eric said to me, "Brenda's mom is crazy." He told his story.

Whenever Eric goes to visit Brenda, her mom greets him at the door and then slips into a nearby room where he can hear her pray. She prays for Eric's salvation and for the spirit of homosexuality to flee his body. She prays loudly enough for him to hear her!

How sad it is that Eric uses the word, "crazy" to describe this Christian mom. There are so many other words that seem a bit more Christ-like. Loving. Kind. Warm. Authentic. Accepting. Hospitable. Those are a few that come to mind immediately.

I don't begrudge Brenda's mom for praying, but instead of loving Eric unconditionally, she's driving him away and perpetuating the ugly stereotyping of all Christians as gay-bashers and homophobes.

Get off the pew and recognize that we should be known by our love. Get off the pew.