SHUNNING II: The Explanation


To add more insult to injury, at the end of the church punishment meeting, The Preacher made reference to the symbolic ‘line in the sand’ account of Moses’ when he discovered that the Children of Israel had made and worshiped a golden calf image while he was on Mt. Sinai.  Moses asked the question, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me.”  Then, The Preacher put forth the same challenge to the church.  He said, “As Moses asked the Children of Israel in the wilderness, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side’, I am asking all who will agree to support stand up.”  
Paul was in his place on the front row.  I was sitting a few rows back feeling very empty and alone while watching him to see what I should do.  My immediate thoughts were, “if we stand, we could lose credibility with our kids.  If we don’t, we could cause a church split (since Paul was well-loved by many there, they might have themselves been emboldened by his refusal to stand enough to join him).

 I did not know for sure what he would do, so I watched and waited.  Everyone in the church slowly stood up except three: my son, his girlfriend and my daughter, two of the three were among the shunned.  They would not stand as a public commitment to support an action that they could not and would not support.   I waited for Paul.  He finally, reluctantly stood so I stood also.  We had no time to determine what was right so we least for the time being. 
That night, we told the two of our kids being punished, that they could choose not to go through with it.  They both decided that to refuse would mean certain banishment from all their friends for The Preacher would surely judge such an act as open, defiant rebellion.  Rather than “dishonor their parents” and risk losing their relationships, they agreed to submit to the punishment.  So, they actually didn’t have a real  choice in the matter.

My husband insisted on a meeting with The Preacher as soon as possible.  There was a home school bowling activity on the very next morning and Paul had to drive the bus.  There was no opportunity to discuss anything then. 
A day or two later, The Preacher was smitten with shingles and was not able to meet with us for around six weeks.  God’s Judgment?  Naw.  It had to be the stress, at least that’s how they explained it.  Maybe they would never consider it, but I have to wonder if he didn’t provoke just that--God’s Judgment-- with his presumptuous closing statement.
During the time when The Shunning was in effect, and The Preacher was somewhat out of commission with Shingles, we started digging into the study of church discipline.  We also utilized that time to review all the events leading up to it in order to specify exactly what actions The Preacher took that we had issues with and why.
The following is a list of acts where we earnestly believe he violated our trust and created a role of authority for himself that also violated scripture.

They are:
*He knew for a whole day about the dance before telling us when our kids were involved.
*He discussed what his son had told him about the dance with his father as well as other members of his family before ever telling us--his closest family (outside his immediate family), when our kids were directly involved.
*He over-reacted--something he should have been mature enough to avoid after more than 20 years in a pastoral role.
*He made decisions alone, apart from counsel of the church and only consulted with two preachers both of whom were accountable to him.  
*He did not seek counsel outside of his own realm of authority and prejudice.
*He did not recognize or acknowledge the probability that his judgement would be non-objective given the delicate nature of our two families’ relationship inside and outside the church.
*He did not recognize or acknowledge that his judgement could be skewed since he had children involved which is why it was so necessary for him to seek counsel outside his realm of authority.
*He had obviously displayed much intolerance and antagonism towards our children especially but also others who did not openly embrace his views.
*He did not give himself time to cool down but acted in the heat of the moment (a week was not enough time for him to separate himself from his anger).
*After the young people apologized before the church, he claimed he forgave them while secretly and without the knowledge and consent of the parents, continued to question them in search of incriminating testimony against one particular person.
*He treated the young adults involved as children when commanding they be subject to being constantly supervised and acquiescent to their choices being controlled even into their futures by their parents, but as adults in their maturity, spirituality and compliance to his punishment. 
*Since he believes that young people should be under their parent’s authority even into adulthood, until they are married, he usurped that authority thus contradicting himself by ‘disciplining’ young people still living with their parents.  Also, three of those ‘disciplined’ were minors which was a definite intrusion into The Home. 
*He commanded that no one talk about the incident in which they were personally involved and affected by, preventing parents from investigating the truth of their own kids’ actions and involvement.  All were expected to accept his solitary findings without question. It is not “gossip” or “sowing discord” to discuss or even argue about actions in which one is personally involved.  
*The young people were actually acting according to Matthew 18 by discussing (whether arguing or otherwise) their conflicts with each other.  For some reason he decided he needed to intervene probably because he needed to maintain that control.  Had he stayed out of it, they probably would have worked it all out on their own.  
*He gave no warning to us or the other parents that he had decided to command the church to shun them before the afternoon of the actual event being held that night giving the effect of a ‘surprise attack’.  This prevented anyone from mustering up the courage or information to challenge his decision. This is not in the spirit of positive, loving scriptural correction, but more on the level of a military maneuver that has no place in the church.  
*His overall countenance was smug and proud--likely due to the fact that he had taken complete control and squashed what he viewed was rebellion, in order to make the church into his image of a ‘pure’ church.  He even seemed like one enjoying a kind of revenge over a bunch of ‘bad’ kids.
*One of the biggest issues of all that we have in this matter is that the church was so full of strife and contention that it was in no condition to be disciplining the young people whose problems were a direct consequence of the bad example of their elders.
*The charge of “gossip” as the reason for the shunning was a double standard since The Preacher and those on down the hierarchy had indulged in gossip themselves for many years prior to this incident.  If there was any disciplinary action taken for gossip, it should have started with the leadership first, then on down to the older adult lay persons.
*Apologies were made personally to The Preacher before he announced he was going to hold an official ‘church discipline’ (shunning) but he dismissed them as insincere without giving space to see the fruits.
*The so-called “gossip” of the “offenders” was not gossip at all, but discussion about events that they were personally involved in.  His censorship actually aggravated the conflicts between them since no one was allowed to talk it out.  This should not have been a church discipline action and could more lovingly and effectively been resolved with minimal (if any) guidance from the leaders.
*The ‘church’ did not make the decision to shun, but only submitted to what The Preacher commanded. He appointed himself, 'judge, jury and executioner'.

When we finally did get a hearing with him, a discussion ensued which lasted about 5 hours.  We questioned him as to how he got this ‘shunning’ practice out of Scripture.  
Our summary of his answers:

*Early in the meeting, he named off the particular young people he considered “rebels”. 
*He stated that God had given every institution the right to discipline. 
*He pulled out a sermon he had previously preached about early churches in America and how they viewed and administered church discipline.  He surmised that those churches would have laughed at so mild a ‘discipline‘ as the one he administered.  They were under persecution so they were probably closer to God, making them a good example to follow.
*When Jesus “withdrew” himself from his disciples, he went away from them making it impossible for there to be any communication--thus, where the Bible says in II Thessalonians 5 for the church to “withdraw from those who walk disorderly” it had to mean to be cut off from them with no communication of any kind.
*“The Bible doesn’t say anything about any steps” , was his answer when we asked him how his rendition fit the Matthew 18 model.  I haven’t found a single source of information on the subject that does not emphasize the absolute necessity of following the scriptural process BEFORE ever considering any kind of excommunication.
*When we asked about the passage where ‘elders were to be rebuked before all so that all may fear’ how that applied to a group of young people, he tersely replied that “ the Bible doesn’t say that elders(pastors) could/should be rebuked.  Hmmmmmmmm.
*The church was full of strife and contention and was not spiritually ‘fit’ itself, so therefore was not in a position to discipline anybody.  The young people were only reflecting what they had witnessed by their parents and other church leaders
*He said “God told him to do it”. 

At the end of all the discussion at this meeting, he admitted that it was “a judgment call”.
Then, we had another meeting with him about 3 months or so after we left the church to talk about how we could reestablish our family relationship in light of all the changes.
I can’t remember as many details about this second meeting even though it was a lengthy as the first.  I do remember that by this time he came up with an explanation to answer our questions to him before as to why he didn’t give them any warning.  He described 3 occasions when some incident had occurred and he either talked to the kids or rebuked them, but he NEVER warned them that he would have an official shunning as a disciplinary action. 
The person he considered the ‘instigator’ in all the evil and the one he punished the most harshly.....was not even involved in those incidents nor in attendance at any of his three lectures he claimed were warnings.  This was just another of his feeble attempts to justify his actions.
By the way, six months after he acknowledged and accepted this person’s verbal resignation from the church, he found another ‘cause’ to bring this person before the church as another act of ‘discipline’.  He actually went to the trouble to establish whether she joined any other churches since leaving and called her in another state to rebuke her and tell her that he was ‘disciplining’ her again unless she ‘repented’.  To our knowledge, he has never done this to anyone committing the same kind of ‘sin’ before. Fixation?  Absolutely!
He considered anyone leaving, still a member of his church as long as they did not join another church, even though he does not send out letters requesting membership to any church within driving distance of his church, or any church that does not believe and practice most of what he does which is a very rare and difficult proposition indeed.
I also remember in that second meeting, The Preacher’s Wife explaining that she ‘supported’ him in the ‘discipline’ because she watched how much he “agonized” over it the week before. { NOTE:  He “agonized” over many things--money, church members’ behaviors, fishing trips, the weather, plans etc. so this was completely irrelevant.  More than likely his “agonizing” was due to the fact that they had embarrassed him than over his decision process toward punishing them.}
He also took that opportunity to ‘apologize’ for spurning our sincere concern and advice to him (at his wife’s near desperate pleading) when his second son had been caught sneaking out at night.  My husband had confronted him at an earlier time with the fact that he NEVER apologized for anything.  I felt this was more of a token apology (knowing he was in the wrong), so that we couldn’t accuse him of that anymore. 
We left that meeting full of hope that we could eventually move into a new relationship--one separate from the confusing church/family one we had developed over the 19 year span.  That didn’t last long as he caused calamity after calamity finally killing off what was left of the family bond between us.
For those of you still in The Baptist Taliban who are reading this (and I KNOW you are), here is a list of links for information about ‘church discipline outside the one-man source that you depend on.  While some are heavy on the ‘one-man-pastoral-authority‘ idea, (a practice that we believe unscriptural and provocative of the abuse that we all have experienced) you will see that even the most conservative contributors interpret the scriptural process to be loving, tender, gracious, longsuffering and merciful--attributes seriously lacking in this church.

When reading and studying books of the Bible in their entirety, I began to get a better understanding of the Bible altogether.  I then realized how much we depended on ‘proof-texting’ as the primary means for arguing our beliefs.  We also realized that most of the preaching we had been exposed to was mostly topical and very little, if any  expository chapter by chapter, book by book exhaustive study.  There was little to no background information, only lip-service consideration for the culture, situation and specific people being studied.  Once I realized how much I was missing, it made a tremendous difference in clarifying my beliefs.
This was especially evident in my understanding of church discipline.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, where the church there is commanded by Paul to “withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly, a reading of the rest of the book explains why.  There were some who believed that the resurrection of the dead had already come and they became lazy, idle--unwilling to work.  Because of this they began meddling in the affairs of the others who were working.  The Apostle Paul instructed them not to listen to those who taught this.  He told them all to follow his example in that he did not accept anything that he didn’t pay for.  He warned the idle ones and commanded the others not to join in with them, but to stay away from them as long as they continued this behavior.  
But he also told them NOT TO COUNT THEM AS ENEMIES!!!  To reject and shun one’s own brother or sister is to treat them in the same way as one would treat an enemy.  
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminded the church that he came to them tenderly, lovingly as a mother cares for her children and treated them as a father does his own children.  He was careful of how he behaved to them and before them so that he would not hinder their accepting his message.  
Had the young people of The Baptist Taliban been treated with such tenderness and encouragement there would have been no reason for them to hate what they had once so loved.  Had The Preacher been as gentle as the Apostle Paul in his correction, none would have wanted to resist him.  

These were the young people who had worked so hard to do the right things before. And here they were being treated as if they had committed sins equivalent to the young man in I Corinthians 5 who was excommunicated from the church because he slept with his father's wife!  

There had been others in this church, who had actually committed adultery and were not dealt with so severely (his word).  Can you imagine how it must have felt to them to have been punished as if they had committed adultery and incest?  

What changed?  It was the attitude of The Preacher followed by the demanding expectations without any affirmation by him as well as their parents and other adults in the church that caused them to change. It wasn't "The World", or "The Flesh" or "The Devil" in them that spawned the 'rebellion'. was wolf-like behavior of their 'pastor'.  

 It is when the good things they chose to do of their own accord was turned into rules that they were forced to do that they began to burn out.  No one should be expected to work so hard, while constantly being rebuked for every little imperfection and ESPECIALLY NOT ONES WHO ARE STILL VERY YOUNG AND IMPRESSIONABLE!!! 

The 'church discipline' action enforced on the young people was purported to bring correction, purification to the church, and restoration of the 'offenders'.  If it was supposed to bring about such good things, why then did it result in devastation to the church as well as half, if not more, of the young people involved? 

While I am sure The Preacher would argue that it didn't bring about the desired results because of our opposition to it, there is no way that he could know for sure, so of course he would say that!  He's not about to take responsibility for the catastrophe it caused. We couldn't help but believe that his lack of grace and mercy was the best evidence that he was not at all concerned about the effects it would have on the kids.  No, he was demonstrably more concerned about losing control over them and losing the image he had enjoyed before they began to question...  

If we had any confidence at all that this shunning was divinely appointed and sanctioned, then surely we would have supported it.  But, as long as there was discrepancies between The Preacher's understanding, the Bible's teachings and the testimony of our own consciences, there is no way he should have expected us to support him in such a potentially spirit-crushing action!  

The following quote from an entry in Wikipedia on shunning gives a pretty adequate summation of what we experienced:

Disruption of established relationships certainly causes pain, which is at least an unintended consequence of the practices described here, though it may also in many cases be an intended, coercive consequence. This pain, especially when seen as unjustly inflicted, can have secondary general psychological effects on self-worth and self-confidence, trust and trustworthiness, and can, as with other types oftrauma, impair psychological function.
Shunning often involves implicit or explicit shame for a member who commits acts seen as wrong by the group or its leadership. Such shame may not be psychologically damaging if the membership is voluntary and the rules of behavior were clear before the person joined. However, if the rules are arbitrary, if the group membership is seen as essential for personal security, safety, or health, or if the application of the rules is inconsistent, such shame can be highly destructive. This can be especially damaging if perceptions are attacked or controlled, or various tools of psychological pressure applied. Extremes of this cross over the line into psychological torture and can be permanently scarring.
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.

I can most certainly relate...