"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

THE Greatest Problem In Evangelical Christianity Is Our View of "Authority"

"Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:14-15).
"He that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).

In the mid-1990's our mission team from our church went to Belarus to partner with Christians there to plant churches in the inner cities of the former Soviet republic. We made friendships with many Belarus Christians and the partnership continued for over a decade.

In the late 1990's I received a call one evening from a Belarus pastor who was concerned for a 20 year old  Belarus Christian woman named Natalie. We had met her in Belarus a couple of years earlier, and she had been taken by the Christians in Oklahoma, and through other contacts in the United States, she had come to to Oklahoma to work as an "intern" at an independent, fundamental Baptist church in Oklahoma City. We had no connections with the church, but the pastor said he needed my help. Natalie wished to return to Belarus but was being held captive by the pastor and staff in the basement of the church where she had been given "free" lodging. She had managed to make a short, frantic phone call, where she had pleaded for help from her overseas pastor.

It took me and our missions pastor, John Stam, an hour and ten minutes to get to this particular independent Baptist church in Oklahoma City. I called a couple of police officer friends in the metro and had them meet us at the church. Our missions pastor and myself knocked on the door that had the sign "Church Office" on the front. The fairly large church was locked down because it was after hours, but we saw lights on inside the building. Soon the associate pastor opened the door and I introduced myself and told him that I was there to speak with Natalie from Belarus. He hesitated for a moment and then said that was not possible. I told him that I had received information that Natalie was being held against her will by the pastors of the church, and if they did not produce her within sixty seconds, I would bring every available police officer in Oklahoma City and both print and television news media to their doorstep within the hour. He scowled but went to get her.

When Natalie came to the door her face was tear stained. She sobbed in relief when she saw me. I asked her if it was her desire to leave the United States and return to Belarus. She said yes. I asked her if she was being held against her will. She said yes. I told her that she was to go to the room, collect her belongings, and we would be leaving immediately. We would take her to the airport and buy her plane ticket back to Belarus on the first available flight. I also told her, in the presence of the Baptist pastor, that we would be discussing with the local District Attorney about pressing charges against those who had held her against her will.

The associate pastor was irate. Livid and red-faced from his rage, the pastor verbally harangued me while Natalie collected her things. He told me that the Natalie had willingly come to the church to work for a year. She was only six weeks into her tenure, and her desire to go home was not of God.  The pastors of that church were her spiritual "authority," and her desire to go back to Belarus was spiritual rebellion. I let him talk until Natalie returned with her belongings. He concluded his diatribe against me by pointing his finger in my face and said, "You will answer to God at the judgment seat of Christ for going against the God-ordained authority of this church!" I grabbed his finger, twisted his arm behind his back, and put him face first against the wall and whispered in his ear, "Christ atoned for everyone of my sins at the cross so I will not be answering for them, but I can darn sure guarantee you if you laid one finger on this girl you will answer to the prosecutor and courts of Oklahoma County and no amount of spiritual authority will keep you safe in prison."

 Long story short, we were able to get Natalie back to Belarus and the news media released a story about a year later regarding multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the pastor of that church, resulting in multiple lawsuits. We would later see Natalie in Belarus and her family expressed their gratefulness for our intervention in the United States.

I tell you that story for one purpose. In my opinion, the greatest danger in the churches of America is that pastors and "leaders" have a warped view of authority. Rather than seeing "servant-leadership" and  mutual submission as the norm for Christian living, pastors have this bizarre view that they are "God's anointed" and if anyone does anything to cross them, then God will avenge them.

I do believe that God is up to something great in the ekklesia. Part of the revival is the tearing down of this notion that pastors have some kind of inherent "authority." We pastors are called by our Lord to be servants of all and our personal desires are to be subordinate to the people we serve. By the way, the "anointed" in Psalm 105 are all of God's people, not just preachers. That's something every pastor should remember.

112 comments:

Darrell said...

Brother, some day, hopefully before the Lord comes, I am going to have the privilege of shaking your hand.

I think more need to be slammed into a wall.

an incredible example of leadership

thanks
Darrell

Rex Ray said...

WOW!

I believe some pastors think and act as God-appointed is appointed-God.

Anonymous said...

What did the Christian community at large do to counter this damnable atrocity and disassociate themselves from what sounds like psychopathic criminality done in the name of Christ? Where is the collective outrage against such behavior which so defames the name of our LORD?

Anonymous said...

What a tragic story.

Again, a supposed church leader claiming to be the victim, when in all actuallity, it is one of Christ's own suffering at the hands of a so called "brother in brother in the faith"

You think about this in regards to the cults, but never dream that it really happens to members of the family of God. WOW


bill

Romans 5:1

Cindy K said...

Pastor Wade,

I essentially had this happen to me when we left our four year stay in a church that was ecclesiocentric, though until I left that church, I had no idea what ecclesiocentric meant. Essentially, this is a primary tactic of cults and spiritual abuse.

In good old suburban Baltimore, at a seemingly normal and respectable evangelical church, my husband and I were told that if we left without the pastor's and elders' blessing -- against their will -- terrible things would happen to us. When I asked what terrible things would happen, I was told that those before me who left lost their jobs, got cancer, their children died, and some of them died as a consequence of God's judgment for exiting the covering of the church's authority.

One of my friends at church was locked in her basement for a day, but I was never held under lock and key. But it took quite a bit of time and tears and counsel to recover from the poisonous words of the elder who pronounced this curse on my family.

I'm glad that you were there for Natalie and those like her -- and those like her in the US who hear similar things from pastors who set themselves up as intermediary priests between the people and God.

May God forgive His Church for doing these things, believing falsely that they are God's order and blessed by God's authority that He gives to all believers.

Hillary said...

Thank you for addressing this. There is a facebook status a friend shared that I thought was brilliant:

"Let truth be your authority, instead of letting authority be your truth."

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness he wasn't a Southern Baptist.

Sounds to me like you should have been a policeman.

Anonymous said...

You can always find an extreme example to prove a point. There are thousands of good, Godly, Southern Baptist pastors out there serving God in an honorable way. Perhaps it would be good to write about that from time to time.

Anonymous said...

I wish all Christians would react the same way to free the oppressed.

But a question is raised about the matter of justice. This post seems to say that justice is only for this life, and had the evil pastor in this case not been caught, there would never be complete justice for the victim.

I think it illustrates that the typical understanding of what Jesus' atonement accomplished is not complete; He did much more than pay for sins. But the biggest question is this: what is the judgment for?

We know that our eternal destiny is settled the moment we leave this life, because there are separate judgments for the righteous (bema seat) and the unrighteous (white throne). That is, these separate judgments tell us that the sorting between sheep and goats has already taken place. So why then the judgment?

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Revelation 20:11-12
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it... And I saw the dead, great and small... The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

How would you answer the question of why even believers are to be judge for things they did in this life, even though they are covered by the blood of Christ?

Anon TK421

Sarah said...

I'm a long-time lurker. Thanks for this! My personal experience with Christians "pulling rank" and sanctifying authority structures while neglecting love and mutual submission is thankfully no where near as dark as this. Still, it's been dark enough. I recently celebrated when a friend of mine signed up for leadership training classes at his church, until I found out the first book they were studying was on spiritual "covering" theology. A kinder, gentler covering theology perhaps, but covering nonetheless. Apparently the particular book being studied is quite popular, especially in pentecostal/charismatic circles. *Sigh*

Bob Cleveland said...

Glad you posted this, and even more glad we serve under a pastor who is worlds removed from this sort of behavior.

One of the foundations of Baptist faith is priesthood of the believer. If I were ever told some of the authoritative garbage as some seem to have been, I'd laugh all the way out the door. I long for the day when church members in general are so built up in the Word, and in their faith, that they're not tossed about by such ridiculous winds of doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Wade your experience argues not only against an abuse of pastoral authority but a serious abuse of local church autonomy. You pointed out that this was an "Independent" Baptist church, meaning a congregation with no denominational affiliation and a power unto themselves.

Is local autonomy really good for the church?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted this.

I've never seen this extreme of abuse, but find the whole business of "follow my plans and purposes, leave, or die" mentallity of some pastors to be also devastating to those not deemed "our target demographic."

And usually the "sin" these folks are demonized for is two fold:

1. Old enough not follow the latest guru.

2. Accepting no "lord" in their life except the Lord Jesus Christ.

Revival is breaking out in our area.

It isn't breaking out in SBC churches or other Baptist churches.

It is breaking out in one of those terrible old liberal mainline churches.

Man plans, God laughs.

Linda

rachel said...

That is a sad, amazing story. I'm so glad you were able to intervene. Thanks for sharing the story and your thoughts about it. I agree with you, this problem of "authority" is taking over in a big way.

First time commenter, so I also wanted to say I really appreciate and enjoy your blog. I'm a faithful reader, even if I've never commented before. :)

Steve Bezner said...

Wade,

Great story.

And I'm glad you helped rescue the young lady.

But I wish you would have walked away without physically attacking the associate pastor.

Thanks for sharing.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Once again, a blog that paints pastors in a negative light and thus impresses upon people that we are all this way. Wade, I wish for once you would lift pastors up instead of tearing them down. Rather, you like to pick at the few that fall and darken the calling. Ultimately, the majority of pastors I know are godly men, who love their church, and simply want to lead their church to do what God desires. How about you start acknowledging that all pastors are not bad and quit isolating yourself as though you are one of the only ones that gets it. I admit that you cover your own arrogance well.

shadowspring said...

Thanks for taking a stand against this pastor, including answering his physical assault on your person with overwhelming force! That was a most godly response.

Lydia said...

There are several roads converging to pave a broad highway on the "human authority in the Body" doctrine in Christendom. And it is quite mainstream no matter how many nice humble pastors there are out there. Our seminaries are churning out young authoritarians faster than we can address this serious twisting of NC scripture.

The roads are:

1. The "sign the member covenant" or BFM statement

2. The twisting of the Holy Priesthood doctrine to carve out a class of "specially anointed Christians"

3. Complimentarian as a primary doctrine

4. ESS doctrine

So, the 'human authority in the Body' heresy is in just about every aspect of Christianity whether it is the Seeker mega, the Reformed or the Fundamentalists.

It is a sin problem.

It is everywhere. And it is the man made system that is the problem.

Anonymous said...

"Once again, a blog that paints pastors in a negative light and thus impresses upon people that we are all this way. Wade, I wish for once you would lift pastors up instead of tearing them down. Rather, you like to pick at the few that fall and darken the calling. Ultimately, the majority of pastors I know are godly men, who love their church, and simply want to lead their church to do what God desires. How about you start acknowledging that all pastors are not bad and quit isolating yourself as though you are one of the only ones that gets it. I admit that you cover your own arrogance well."

Anon, Do you have a need to praised a lot or something?

But you are doing to Wade what you accuse of him doing to pastors. After all, we must assume you are the same anonymous on the last few threads that is so negative toward Wade and his blog writing topics.

Why do you read here if it bothers you so bad?

Darin

Anonymous said...

Good job.

I can't believe there are churches like this out there. There are, but every time I hear of one, I am shocked.

How religious people can abuse people in the name of God is unbelievable.

I am glad that you were able to help this woman out.

Louis

Anonymous said...

Wade,
Your story made me tear up. Thanks for standing up for this young woman.

I must have missed this somewhere, but can someone tell me what ESS is an acronym for?

Thanks,

Jenn

Lorene said...

Thank you for sharing this story. On so many levels I needed to read that.

Pege' said...

Wade,
APPLAUSE!
While there are many many Pastors who live in this pride and arrogance,
we as the sheep need to be discerning and mature enough to see this for ourselves. Pastors cannot be have this way unless there are people to support this behavior. We may be sheep but we are not lemmings.
Believers need to study the word and know the truth so they can be discerning in and out of the church.

Dee said...

I know of a church that treated young teen boys who had been sexually abused in a most heinous fashion. When one of the pastors was confronted about his lack of concern, he said, I kid you not, "What about my authority?" Nothing about the boys. He was more concerned abut his precious "authority" to respond in any darn way he chose. One of the person involved in this discussion said to him, "Your authority should be like Jesus', washing the feet of these abused boys."

Anonymous said...

I apologize for this anon post. It is to protect the innocent. Wade knows my identity.

A little over a year year I took the pastorate of a church that had a vicious split from hundreds to 42the first sunday I was there.

Problem was, fear of a 60 year old bully that had been a bully in the area since high school. He once slugged a man and broke his jaw.

Not long after I got there he choked me from behind and said it was a joke. Then one morning we heard loud, angry and FOUR LETTER WORDS being shouted down the hall of Sunday school. After stopping him from picking a fight with a man trying to protect his wife, I sent the troublemaker home under threat of arrest.

Later, I had to be rude with the whole spineless deacon board to get them to act. I told them if he puts his hands on me again I would have him arrested. Long story short, I put him out of the church. He had been 35-40 years of trouble in the church and community and I didn't back down. I made a complete report to a lawyer and the police.

He is not welcome back without a total, public repentence and apology.

Our church is growing and living in peace.

Thanks wade for spiritually and physically getting involved.

We need more men to be men and have a spine when necessary.

"If a man will not take care of those of his own household he is an INFIDEL and had denied his faith."

Taking care of ALL the needs of the sheep

anon1933

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like Wade should have left much of that to the trained policemen. He's not trained in that field and sounds a bit like a Cowboy to me.

Why is it that when anyone questions Wade a bunch of you jump on the bandwagon against that person. He does have a tendency to make himself the incarnation of all that is wise and correct so we're not all bowing down. We do enjoy the blog though but would sure like a few positive things for a change.

Anonymous said...

I have not commented before now, but could not resist exclaiming, "Good for you, Wade!!" Bullies are ridiculously pitiful. If we do not confront them, no matter what "authority" they think they have, their behavior will most likely continue.
Beth

Thy Peace said...

I must have missed this somewhere, but can someone tell me what ESS is an acronym for?

Eternal Subordination of the Son

Under Much Grace Blog [Cindy Kunsman] > A Brief Overview of the Development of Eternal Subordination of the Son Doctrine: What You Must Believe to Fully Embrace the Danvers Statement

Under Much Grace Blog [Cindy Kunsman] > New Trinity Video Challenges the Doctrine of Eternal Subordination of Christ

From this blog ...

And What Is It About Patriarchy That Scares Us?

Growing Semi-Arianism in the SBC and the Consequences for Women If Left Unchallenged

Semi-Arianism Masquerading as Orthodoxy: A Baptist Scholar on the Trinity Weighs in On "Eternal Subordination"

My Prayer For Miss Courtney Tarter: "That One Day, by God's Grace, You May Recover from Your Recovery"

Hoping this comment will get through the spam filters :-)

greg.w.h said...

Wade: the "How to Sed..." post is spam. Might want to delete it.

I saw a very interesting blog on the Houston Chronicle Believe Out Loud Blog regarding pastors and authority that seemed timely.

Greg Harvey

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Wade - I think your life could be the basis of a new TV series where you root out and help bring to justice spiritual abusers of all types, and help bring them to justice. "Wade Bauer" would be the man's name.

You hunt out these spiritual abusers, kind of like a spiritual "bounty hunter".

I'm only 1/2 kidding.

Anonymous said...

Did the Independent Baptist Pastor press charges on you for assault? Because that's what you did right or wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Thy Peace for the links and the description about ESS.

Jenn

shadowspring said...

Anonymous 03:49 wrote:

Did the Independent Baptist Pastor press charges on you for assault? Because that's what you did right or wrong.

White slavers don't usually like the police involved in their business, so I'm pretty sure the IBP pastors did not press any charges.

Anonymous said...

Did the Independent Baptist Pastor press charges on you for assault? Because that's what you did right or wrong.

Mon Oct 04, 03:48:00 PM 2010

Never mind a woman in a foreign country being held against her will by 'Christians".

Assualt charges against the guy who came and saved her would make great headlines though....maybe that is the reason he did not press charges. (wink)


Is this the sort of logic we should expect from pastors?

Anonymous said...

I, too, am posting anonymously even though I usually freely use my name and link to my own site.

My husband and I underwent tremendous spiritual abuse when we met and he made the decision to leave his church. I was Baptist (not SBC) and he was in a Reformed/Pentacostal/Charismatic type church. (Yes, you read that right.)

He was harassed and told he was falling away from the truth because he was taking up with a Baptist woman (before they ever met me). He got phone calls at work from the leadership, telling him he needed to put his foot down with me and assert his leadership and make me submit to coming to his church. (We weren't even officially engaged at this point.)

He was told he would have mental problems if he left, that going against the leadership would lead to his destruction, and on and on.

The pastor was a controlling man who I took an instant dislike to as soon as I met him. I knew in my spirit there was something seriously wrong in that church and with him upon just one visit. The second visit I told my future husband I could not stay and I walked out in the middle of the service. It was so spiritually oppressive I had to get out. I told him I would never go back there even if it meant losing our relationship. It was that spiritually distressing to me to be there. My future husband stayed to the end of the service and never went back.

It was a very hard time in our fairly new relationship, but I was proven right over the next few years. The pastor was removed from leadership and the church had many many problems that surfaced over time.

It took us a number of years to heal and get to the point where we weren't afraid of running into someone from that church. We look back on it now and think - Why did we let those people control us and manipulate us the way we did? But we were younger and had never experienced spiritual abuse before. We've learned and know the warning signs now.

When we look for a church, one of the biggest things for us is the pastor. He has to be humble, sincere and truly understand his role as a servant. We're thankful for the pastor of the church we are now attending. While any man is capable of sin and becoming prideful, this man is both humble and happy to be serving the Lord where he is right now. For that we are truly thankful.

Wade, keep up what you are doing. Your site is so important. Ignore the people who are complaining about what you write. I'm thankful for every post you put up that points people to the truth and the freedom and grace that is ours in Christ.

Blessings,
A sister in Christ

Anonymous said...

I, too, am posting anonymously even though I usually freely use my name and link to my own site.

My husband and I underwent tremendous spiritual abuse when we met and he made the decision to leave his church. I was Baptist (not SBC) and he was in a Reformed/Pentacostal/Charismatic type church. (Yes, you read that right.)

He was harassed and told he was falling away from the truth because he was taking up with a Baptist woman (before they ever met me). He got phone calls at work from the leadership, telling him he needed to put his foot down with me and assert his leadership and make me submit to coming to his church. (We weren't even officially engaged at this point.)

He was told he would have mental problems if he left, that going against the leadership would lead to his destruction, and on and on.

The pastor was a controlling man who I took an instant dislike to as soon as I met him. I knew in my spirit there was something seriously wrong in that church and with him upon just one visit. The second visit I told my future husband I could not stay and I walked out in the middle of the service. It was so spiritually oppressive I had to get out. My future husband stayed to the end of the service and never went back.

It was a very hard time in our fairly new relationship, but I was proven right over the next few years. The pastor was removed from leadership and the church had many many problems that surfaced over time.

It took us a number of years to heal and get to the point where we weren't afraid of running into someone from that church. We look back on it now and think - Why did we let those people control us and manipulate us the way we did? But we were younger and had never experienced spiritual abuse before. We've learned and know the warning signs now.

When we look for a church, one of the biggest things for us is the pastor. He has to be humble, sincere and truly understand his role as a servant. We're thankful for the pastor of the church we are now attending. While any man is capable of sin and becoming pridefall, this man is both humble and happy to be serving the Lord where he is right now. For that we are truly thankful.

Wade, keep up what you are doing. Your site is so important. Ignore the people who are complaining about what you write. I'm thankful for every post you put up that points people to the truth and the freedom and grace that is ours in Christ.

Blessings,
A sister in Christ

Anonymous said...

I, too, am posting anonymously even though I usually freely use my name and link to my own site.

My husband and I underwent tremendous spiritual abuse when we met and he made the decision to leave his church. I was Baptist (not SBC) and he was in a Reformed/Pentacostal/Charismatic type church. (Yes, you read that right.)

He was harassed and told he was falling away from the truth because he was taking up with a Baptist woman (before they ever met me). He got phone calls at work from the leadership, telling him he needed to put his foot down with me and assert his leadership and make me submit to coming to his church. (We weren't even officially engaged at this point.)

He was told he would have mental problems if he left, that going against the leadership would lead to his destruction, and on and on.

The pastor was a controlling man who I took an instant dislike to as soon as I met him. I knew in my spirit there was something seriously wrong in that church and with him upon just one visit. The second visit I told my future husband I could not stay and I walked out in the middle of the service. It was so spiritually oppressive I had to get out. My future husband stayed to the end of the service and never went back.

(continued below...)

Darrell said...

spineless:

only nice word I can think of for mr anonymous that is slandering wade. well, that a "he who hides in darkness."

I bet he supported the attack and near destruction of Mrs Klouda.

I think wade did well. I think that pastor needed a good trip behind the barn and some down home country manners with some stern persuasion. . For me, a few nights is jail would be worth freeing the captive woman.

Hey anon, if you won't like wades stuff why do you stay here. why dont show your face and discuss LIKE A MAN with wade.

Psalms sais "the wicked hide in darkdness." I agree

NOT SPINELESS
DARRELL

Anonymous said...

(continued from above...)

It was a very hard time in our fairly new relationship, but I was proven right over the next few years. The pastor was removed from leadership and the church had many many problems that surfaced over time.

It took us a number of years to heal and get to the point where we weren't afraid of running into someone from that church. We look back on it now and think - Why did we let those people control us and manipulate us the way we did? But we were younger and had never experienced spiritual abuse before. We've learned and know the warning signs now.

When we look for a church, one of the biggest things for us is the pastor. He has to be humble, sincere and truly understand his role as a servant. We're thankful for the pastor of the church we are now attending. While any man is capable of sin and becoming pridefall, this man is both humble and happy to be serving the Lord where he is right now. For that we are truly thankful.

Wade, keep up what you are doing. Your site is so important. Ignore the people who are complaining about what you write. I'm thankful for every post you put up that points people to the truth and the freedom and grace that is ours in Christ.

Blessings,
A sister in Christ

Darrell said...

and to the lady that ADMITS she is afraid of past and present abuse and needs to (this time) be anonymous. AMEN. It is because of abuse in your life FROM AN ABUSIVE LEADER that you must protect yourself.

this othr joker is just................well, i bettr be nice. god bless yo ma'am

natamllc said...

I am just wondering out loud what can be done for the multitude of young women being held against their will in many major and minor cities around the world, extorted by being lied to first, forced into pimped prostitution or domestic servitude?

It is clear, taking action on behalf of one is not enough nor can it be the end of this work of Grace and Truth for your mission!

In any event, you would a fool be not to rejoice after reading this testimony!

All that it takes for evil to triumph is for the Church of Christ around the world to do nothing in their own backyards, or their neighbor's!

Lydia said...

"I saw a very interesting blog on the Houston Chronicle Believe Out Loud Blog regarding pastors and authority that seemed timely."

Ironically, Booker T Washington considered African American pastors one of the obstacles in helping African Americans become literate and prosperous. It was because of their controlling influence over that population.

Anonymous said...

"Sounds to me like Wade should have left much of that to the trained policemen. He's not trained in that field and sounds a bit like a Cowboy to me."

Are you sure he has no previous training in law enforcement?

Anonymous said...

And like clockwork when one person questions Wade a bunch of lackeys jump on the person and the name calling ensues. Spineless? That is certainly a Christian way to respond Darrell. This blog is not the Bible. I know that is hard to believe for some of you.

SIgned,
Austin (would hate to be called spineless :/

Aussie John said...

Wade,

I wish I could say,"Only in the USA".
It seems that our country is well endowed with such termites, even in the more "respectable" churches.

It has been my sad experience to have folk from such situations come to me for counseling, after their lives have been severely damaged.

Your actions are commendable! These fellows are bullies who only understand strong action.

elastigirl said...

Natamllc,

There's an organization called IJM (International Justice Mission) http://www.ijm.org/ which exists to do just what you ask.

It employs christian lawyers, investigators, and social workers to "secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression" (from their webpage). They do this in the US & around the world.

An organization worthy looking at.

From their "About Us" on their website:

International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems.


» Victim Relief
» Perpetrator Accountability
» Victim Aftercare
» Structural Transformation


Our Values

Christian -- IJM is a non-sectarian community of faith that works with all people to seek justice on behalf of all people regardless of race, religion, or any other status. As a faith community, IJM’s core of full-time staff intentionally draw strength and unity from their common commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ and from their communion of daily prayer and spiritual disciplines. Accordingly, IJM staff seeks colleagues who embrace and contribute to the spiritual community through shared Christian conviction and practice.

Anonymous said...

"And like clockwork when one person questions Wade a bunch of lackeys jump on the person and the name calling ensues. Spineless? That is certainly a Christian way to respond Darrell. This blog is not the Bible. I know that is hard to believe for some of you."

So, "lackey" is Christian? :o)

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if the people who held that young woman captive were ever properly prosecuted for their crime. I hope that they were held accountable and that it WAS publicized.

shadowspring said...

Anon 06:03,

With the only person able to press charges hightailing out of the country ASAP (and well she should have!) I don't think it would have been possible to press charges.

You can't arrest people on hearsay evidence, even if that evidence is true.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point.

So. to stop this kind of thing, it is for people like Wade to speak up about it.

Wade Burleson said...

It seems the spam filter did not catch the fourth comment. I apologize and have deleted the spam.

I've been gone all day and could not oversee the forum.

Wade

Wade Burleson said...

Terry and Sarah and Greg,

Thanks for bringing the obscene spam comment to my attention.

Wade

Wade Burleson said...

And Tim Marsh, thanks for the email.

I will be unable to moniter for the next few hours and hope the spam filter catches any other spam.

rebeca cole said...

I won't lie, my favorite part is when you went all Jack Bauer on that piece of garbage.

Anonymous said...

What would have been even sweeter was if a woman with a black belt took the guy out. Getting beat in a physical fight is one thing, but being humiliated goes a lot farther.

Kevin M. Crowder said...

You are awesome pastor Wade! A Galleon of Grace and a Troubadour of Truth!

Happy Pastor's Appreciation Month!

Anonymous said...

This Baptist Pastor is obviously psychologically disturbed. This woman was not the only victim. That entire congregation was victimized by a man who used a conservative misinterpretation of women's role with regards to submission and authority as justification for his own abusive pathology.
Bravo to you for your intervention! But what is being done to ensure that other psychologically unstable men are not allowed into a position that makes so many people so vulnerable to their abuse of power and authority?
I know the Southern Baptists have a very strong stance against women in pastoral roles; perhaps they would be wise to more closely examine the overall psychological and spiritual health of their leaders as opposed to simply making it a matter of gender?
this man was from an "independent" Baptist church. Does independent mean there was no hierarchy of accountability? Beware a leader who sees themselves as the ultimate authority!

Anonymous said...

"Beware a leader who sees themselves as the ultimate authority!"

I agree... but there's a better model than the world's chain of command to deal with this problem.

If we start teaching that NOBODY has authority in the church except Jesus and His Word, then NOBODY who teaches the world's hierarchy will be considered a Christian leader.

If it were this message instead of "covering" that is thundered from pulpits (which are conspicuous by their absence in the NT), there would be no incentive for the power hungry and the predatory to make a career out of abusing others.

What harm can come from the message of equality? If anyone says "heresy" I would point them to church history with its long tradition of multiple heresies, and if they say "chaos" I would challenge such a false dilemma and ask them what happened to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The very chain-of-command structure itself is what enables abuse and is no guarantee of orthodoxy or order.

Anon TK421

Mara Reid said...

Austin: "This blog is not the Bible. I know that is hard to believe for some of you."

(Snicker)

You are right, of course, Austin. This blog is not the Bible.
However, you have completely missed the point.

This blog promotes a couple Bible principles completely lost on some/many(?) supposed 'Bible' preachers and 'Biblical role' promoters.

The concept of Justice is terribly missing in the life of the pastor who held the girl captive in this story, and lost on all who defend him. The concept of defending the weak, poor, widow, orphan from the hand of the oppressor is completely lost to those who want to come in try to shame those of us who appreciate a pastor who will stand up for the oppressed.

Justice and defending the defenseles are very important Biblical concepts that get swept away when men focus on their own authority and importance.

So while I agree, this blog is not the Bible. I must point out to you that it is promoting Biblical principles that have become lost in some circles.

Jeremiah 7:5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor,
VS6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your won ruin,
VS7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

One idol that men seem to chase after is the idol of power and authority and control over others.
Why are you trying to shame those who applaud the just actions of one pastor against the actions of an unjust pastor?
Do you worship at the feet of the idol of 'pastor authority'?

Timothy Snider said...

Wade - If you have time, could you comment further on the 'anointed' in Psalm 105:14-15? Your final comment about 'all God's people' being the anointed intrigued me. I've never heard that verse explained that way. Many of the online commentaries I checked do not come to the same conclusion, and I am genuinely interested in how you are 'exegeting' that (ie context, Hebrew, etc.) point of the verse. Thank you for this consideration. Tim

Lydia said...

Timothy, I know you asked Wade about Psalms but I wanted to point to the New Covenant and our "anointing" if we are saved. It is for all who are saved, not a special few who have the right titles.



"20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.[a] 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will[e] abide in Him." 1 John 2

Wyman Richardson said...

Lydia,

Did I read rightly that you view signing the church covenant as a condition of membership a sign of ungodly authoritarianism? Just curious about that, as our church has adopted that practice for reasons we believe to be healthy and community forming.

I certainly am not of the opinion that all churches should embrace that practice, but are you of the opinion that all that do do so for pernicious reasons?

Thanks.

Wyman Richardson
First Baptist Church
Dawson, Georgia

John Wylie said...

Wyman,

You used to pastor at Jimtown Baptist in OK? That's cool, I pastor in Springer, OK and the guy that currently pastors Jimtown was raised in our church. Small world.

Wyman Richardson said...

John,

Fascinating! Yes, Jimtown was my first pastorate. Two of the greatest years of my life (I pastored while a student at SWBTS and move back east after graduation). Truly wonderful people! Give your friend my regards and tell him to tell the fine folks there I said, "Hello!"

Wyman

Anonymous said...

No, what would have been more exciting is for the other pastor to scissor kick Wade in the forehead for assaulting him. What happened to Matthew 18? What happened to trying to restore someone and not try to break their arm? Wade is just as guilty of using his "authority" as the other pastor.

Wade Burleson said...

Tim,

See Lydia's comment.

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous,

"What would have been more exciting is for the other pastor to scissor kick Wade in the forehead."

Exciting to whom?

Smiling.

Darby Livingston said...

Wade,

I don't disagree at all with any part of the way you handled this situation. I think you handled it quite authoritatively. :)

Lydia said...

"Did I read rightly that you view signing the church covenant as a condition of membership a sign of ungodly authoritarianism? Just curious about that, as our church has adopted that practice for reasons we believe to be healthy and community forming."

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matt 5

I view a church covenant pretty much the same way. An oath that should not be signed.

Personally, in my career, I have seen these covenants misused quite often. I could not sign the BFM because I do not agree with ALL of it. The part I do not agree with is not salvic, either.
I know some missionaries who could not sign it because when the husband who was away in the Bush planting churches, the wife was teaching the native men, in their language btw, since she learned it, too.

Why man made covenants when we have the scripture? Let us come together and study, ask questions and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us together and illuminate truth to us for spiritual unity.

The covenants can create a false unity in many cases.

I realize you disagree and I admit I am looking at this from a different perspective. I have seen them used to brow beat folks and to squealch any disagreement or dissent.

Lydia said...

I don't disagree at all with any part of the way you handled this situation. I think you handled it quite authoritatively. :)

Tue Oct 05, 05:15:00 PM 2010

You mean he did not obey the pastor? :o)

Darby Livingston said...

... as a servant of Christ and lover of others as yourself. Quite pastoral.

Alaskan in Texas said...

In response to the following two responses posted by Anonymous:

“Did the Independent Baptist Pastor press charges on you for assault? Because that's what you did right or wrong.”

“What would have been more exciting is for the other pastor to scissor kick Wade in the forehead for assaulting him. What happened to Matthew 18? What happened to trying to restore someone and not try to break their arm? Wade is just as guilty of using his "authority" as the other pastor.”

Dear Anonymous:

What Wade did by grabbing the associate pastor’s finger and immobilizing him was NOT assault in the state of Oklahoma, or in any other state for that matter. Wade’s actions were self-defense, pure and simple. While the associate pastor was livid, red-faced, and verbally assaultive, Wade was at ease. But after the associate pastor escalated his diatribe with the act of pointing his finger in Wade’s face, the associate pastor met the definition of misdemeanor “assault”.

Section 21-641 of the criminal code of Oklahoma defines “assault” as follows: “An assault is any willful and unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another.” In other words, the associate pastor only needed to attempt or offer with force or violence to hurt Wade. Under the circumstances, pointing a finger at Wade while calling down the wrath of God on him, in close quarters, meets the definition of assault.

One of the many blunders you made, Anonymous, is thinking that “assault” requires some kind of touching. Well, under the law, it doesn’t. The associate pastor assaulted Wade. Wade acted in self-defense to protect himself, immobilize the threat, and thus defuse the angry actions of this ungodly man.

Wyman Richardson said...

Interesting. I wouldn't see signing a covenant as signing an oath, nor would, I think, those earlier Baptists that did so (I fully recognize that not all did so and that some who didn't do so might have seen it as too oath-like). It's a statement of agreement among a group of believers in an age in which it cannot be assumed that we all mean the same thing when we say "church."

I suppose, of course, like you say, that many have used covenants in an oath-like manner and, again, that many have abused them in the way that all good things can be abused.

But there is a long, rich history of covenanted fellowships among Baptists that, approached rightly, can foster understanding, community, appropriate accountability and encouragement. Charles DeWeese's wonderful book, Baptist Church Covenants, has been helpful to me here.

I guess more than anything, I've seen how the covenant has been helpful in our church. We don't wave it over people or use it to hammer people, but it's brought a sense of cohesion in a context that is quickly forgetting what community is. I've been so encouraged to hear of families in our church who've been encouraged in their family devotions, their witnessing, et al. by our congregational recitations of the covenant and by our signing of the covenant upon entry into the membership of the church.

Sorry to ramble. To each his own. Autonomy is a wonderful thing. But at the very least I hope I've cast some doubt on the suggestion that covenant signing for new members is necessarily ominous or a sign of a power-mad despot. :-)

God bless.

Wyman

Darrell said...

When the army of Israel was spineless before Golieth, David told them off and then KILLED THE OFFENDER, THEN CUT HIS HEAD OFF.

WAS DAVID DOING GODS WILL OR NOT? DAVID SAID "I HAVE SLAIN LIONS AND BEAR NOW I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

When Abraham went to rescue his people who had been captured, do you thin he was spineless and do you think he was OUT OF GODS WILL?

I believe God SENT WADE to rescue a woman from a man that had defied the Lord.

And sadly, there are many spineless men, just like the army of Israel, who would not face the work of the enemy to rescue a captive.

enough
Darrell

Wade Burleson said...

Alaskan in Texas,

You seem like a really, really bright man--except for the choice of living in Texas.

:)

Just joken. A ton of good folks in Texas.

Anonymous said...

All I gotta say is that if I was held as a prisoner/ practial slave and possibly being sexually assualted, I would want someone to kick some major @$$ to free me!

Peggie said...

I wanted to say "Amen". I also think
Pege had a good point.
And___I don't think there is anything wrong with being a cowboy.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Anonymous: You got that right.:)

Anonymous said...

Wooooo Alaskan in Texas! Great comment! Anon guy, put that in your Quaker pipe and smoke on it....

Anonymous said...

Alaskan in Texas,

I assure you in no state is pointing your finger in someone's face call for another person slamming their face against the wall with their arm behind their back. Would Jesus have assaulted this pastor? No, actually he told Wade what to do in Matthew 18, but he decided to take justice into his own hands. He did assault the other pastor whether you think he was justified or not. You can't just go rolling in people's churches putting them in full nelsons. That's a good way to get your butt whooped.

Alan Paul said...

Hey I am a Boomer Sooner living in Texas. Gotta have some of us in enemy territory!

Alan Paul said...

BTW: To the pansies who are saying Wade assaulted this guy: Man up and stand up for what is right! Jesus was all for righteous anger!

Lydia said...

Wyman, What do you do with folks who do want to sign? And how will they be viewed by others over time?

Or, has everyone signed? And if they did, how can you know it was not some sort of bandwagon thing?

Did you preach on it and then get them to sign?

Do you also have by-laws? If they leave the church will it be considered 'breaking the covenant'? I have seen that one used. I have also seen it come down to finger pointing later on 'breaking the covenant' with certain words, disagreements, etc.

I am glad it seems to be something different for you.

Lydia said...

BTW: To the pansies who are saying Wade assaulted this guy: Man up and stand up for what is right! Jesus was all for righteous anger!

Tue Oct 05, 10:32:00 PM 2010

Blake, where are you? You have some serious work to do in this thread! :o)

Anonymous said...

In God's eyes, is the sin of enslavement and abuse worse than the sin of, say, homosexuality?

Then why does it seem so clear that the first should be handled decisively and without hesitation, while the second is allowed to fester and grow in the churches?

Is it because of physical harm, or should we also be concerned with the honor of God?

I ask those questions because the ones being raised about how this should have been handled have good points on both sides. Is this a case of situational ethics, or is there one standard of God whereby we are to show zero tolerance?

Anon the Berean

Darby Livingston said...

"To the pansies who are saying Wade assaulted this guy: Man up and stand up for what is right! Jesus was all for righteous anger!"

Or should we say: Woman up? :)

Anonymous said...

Darby, how about just

'Christian up'

Sarah said...

One part of this story that got to me was that, while the senior pastor was eventually ousted for his destructive behavior, the ASSOCIATE pastor not only went along with the criminal act of false imprisonment, violating basic civilized norms much less Christian ethics, but felt so justified in it that he felt confident not only defending the situation but actually called the wrath of God down on a Christian leader who dared challenge the situation and behaved in a physically threatening manner - apparently in the presence of witnesses (the officers accompanying Wade)! How perverted can our little kingdoms get when we presume we deserve the throne?

Alan Paul said...

Nah. I'll stick with "Man up." Jesus was no pansy.

Anonymous said...

"Nah. I'll stick with "Man up." Jesus was no pansy."

Woman = pansy = wimp.
Man = courageous and decisive.

So it's "Me Tarzan, You Jane". Only men can be like Jesus, you women are auxiliaries and helpmeets and secretaries. Forget about being Christlike or fully human, you're only here if the men need you to cook or sew or have babies.

Nice message.

Wyman Richardson said...

Lydia,

I've preached on the covenant before. Our church voted to make it a part of the membership process. For current members, signing was optional. About 98% did so - about 2% didn't...to my knowledge the Inquisition hasn't been hunting down the 2%. We all sit down to pot-lucks together still. ;-)

We've had a number of folks join since this and none have not wanted to sign. We don't keep a signed copy. They sign it in the presence of whoever is teaching the member class (usually me) so we can inform the class that they are in agreement with what we understand the church to be. Our covenant is a series of basic biblical statements: i.e., we'll love one another, pray for one another, etc.

So, that's how we do it. I'll give you the last word on this since this thread isn't really even on it. Initially I was just questioning equating signing-covenants-for-membership with encroaching ungodly authoritarianism, a connection you appeared to be making and that I continue to see as a bit befuddling.

I'm sorry you've had what are apparently very, very bad experiences with covenants.

We're have a very, very good experience.

I wish you well and Godspeed...covenant or no. :-)

Thanks for the space and time, Wade.

Wyman

Anonymous said...

I like 'woman up' Men don't squeeze other humans out of their bodies (often times without pain meds)then think it is a good idea to do it again a few more times.....
;-p

Gene Scarborough said...

Wade--

Thank you for addressing this most important issues. It shows clearly how "total authority" can turn into and excuse for "total abuse.

I am near SEBTS. I cut a tree down for a man just outside Spring Hope where Hwy 98 forks to Wake Forest. After the tree was down I asked what church they attended. It is a rural church with about 60-80 in attendance.

Next I asked if they had had any experience with SEBTS student pastors.

His answer was quick and firm, “We sure did and almost had to go to court to run him off. If it weren’t for a Lawyer who is a member here and one of the litigators in the Attorney General’s Office, we might still be stuck with him.

He came in here and brought a bunch of his Seminary buddies with the intent of taking over this church.

He said he had no problem with women ordained as Deacons when we interviewed him—and instantly ranted against it. We just don’t have enough men right now to fill our Deacon roster, but we have found women do a good job—and he didn’t get rid of them as he planned.

We got rid of him and will never go back to one of those lying candidates from SEBTS again!!!”

Although it's not a dramatic as the Oklahoma City story, it certainly shows a story of abuse--

(1) Abuse of trusting Seminary Students who think they should ruin a good country small church over ordaining women.

(2) Giving these students "marching orders" to carry out the somewhat distorted views of CR over women.

(3) Failing to simply take some of this mess and these leaders behind the wood pile and giving them a lesson on good country misbehavior and how we deal with such.

Anonymous said...

Very sad and very extreme. How often does this really happen? Some in spiritual leadership abuse their authority, but most don't.

It would be sad if people use such examples to assume the worst rather than the best of pastors. Some people who have been abused in churches understandably have a hard time with trust; I feel for them...

Some people with authority issues hide between stories like these to justify their rebellious attitudes. Fortunately, those people are rare too and pastors should not use those examples to justify lording a lording approach.

Anonymous said...

I like 'woman up' Men don't squeeze other humans out of their bodies (often times without pain meds)then think it is a good idea to do it again a few more times.....
;-p

Wed Oct 06, 10:23:00 AM 2010

Up until about 250 years ago, it was considered a sin for women to use anything to help with labor pain. Women were punished who tried to do anything. Even doctors who came out with pain help were punished. It had to do with what was taught about Eve, pain and childbirth and it was a sin for women to try to avoid the pain.

Yes, "woman up"

Men get one kidney stone and think they are dying. How about an 8lb kidney stone and some elder is telling you that alievating the pain is a sin.

Mar

Anonymous said...

Dearest October 6, 10:23

Amen. I am a man, have had a kidney stone and it almost killed me. I once had a foot crushed and almost cut off in an oilfield accident and the stone was far worse pain. I cannot imagine childbirth.
I grew up among certain groups of minorities and late taught school working within this group.
In their world, many women still give birth without medications. Some are required by husbands/elders to do this. Also, if they scream or cry out it is considered a disgraced.
It is a shameful and centuries old tradition that still goes on today.

P M Prescott said...

The old indentured servant idea. It's sad when a church acts as a sweat shop.

Martin Knox said...

Wade,

The following link is to a blog by David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church, El Paso, TX. It compliments this story.

http://loveandlead.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/first-baptist-church-roanoke-homecoming-2010/

Martin Knox

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what things might be considered an abuse of authority.

Is it an incorrect use of authority if a woman is listed as an assistant or similar and does all the work but a man is listed as being responsible for the ministry as in being the covering.

Cindy K said...

Mr. Richardson,

Above you mentioned the use of the signing of covenants as something perceived as helpful and effective. Does the group you cite have anything to do with Charles Simpson, do you know?

I approach manipulative behavior in the church from both a counter-cult and an anti-cult perspective. In the anti-cult groups (those concerned with behavior only) and those Christian, counter-cult groups (those who look at doctrine as well as behavior), the signing of covenants is attached to a long history of abuse and most of it can be linked back to the cultic Shepherding-Discipleship trends of the late '60s and early '70s.

It establishes a type of ecclesiocentric rule and makes the Believer beholden to the church in a way that is unhealthy. We have rules to establish order -- to submit to one another in love. The prophets and pastors are the foundations of a church that bear up the body, like foundation stones bear up a building. They teach, train and support their sheep to minister and to take what they offer and do, essentially reproducing their own abilities in their followers so that the sheep can take go outside of the walls of the church.

With the signing of covenants, what seems to most often happen is that the leadership uses the sheep and takes away their God-given power and authority as Believers in many cases, all for the sake of the good of the group. More often than not, the end of helping the group becomes more important than the means used to accomplish this harmony -- and it comes about at the member's expense. As an exit counselor, I recommend that if the signing of covenants comes into play and if it is called a covenant, people should turn and run. It is not worth taking the risk, as the church member covenant signing is very often associated with cultic behavior and spiritual abuse. It is seen as a negative indicator in the Christian anti-cult circles.

Please understand that I am not saying that every church that asks a congregant to sign a covenant is cultic in terms of behavior, though I would certainly encourage those who do to saturate themselves with writings such as Jeff VanVonderan's material on Spiritual Abuse. Covenant signing has been encouraged in recent years by groups such as Peacemaker Ministries and such (and I don't think their fruit is good in too many cases). Churches may adopt the practice without knowledge of the tendency to fall into spiritual abuse.

(I ask about Charles Simpson because he was a Baptist advocate for Shepherding in the past which is strongly affiliated with covenant signing for church members.)

Cindy K said...

Mr. Richardson,

Above you mentioned the use of the signing of covenants as something perceived as helpful and effective. Does the group you cite have anything to do with Charles Simpson, do you know?

I approach manipulative behavior in the church from both a counter-cult and an anti-cult perspective. In the anti-cult groups (those concerned with behavior only) and those Christian, counter-cult groups (those who look at doctrine as well as behavior), the signing of covenants is attached to a long history of abuse and most of it can be linked back to the cultic Shepherding-Discipleship trends of the late '60s and early '70s.

It establishes a type of ecclesiocentric rule and makes the Believer beholden to the church in a way that is unhealthy. We have rules to establish order -- to submit to one another in love. The prophets and pastors are the foundations of a church that bear up the body, like foundation stones bear up a building. They teach, train and support their sheep to minister and to take what they offer and do, essentially reproducing their own abilities in their followers so that the sheep can take go outside of the walls of the church.

With the signing of covenants, what seems to most often happen is that the leadership uses the sheep and takes away their God-given power and authority as Believers in many cases, all for the sake of the good of the group. More often than not, the end of helping the group becomes more important than the means used to accomplish this harmony -- and it comes about at the member's expense. As an exit counselor, I recommend that if the signing of covenants comes into play and if it is called a covenant, people should turn and run. It is not worth taking the risk, as the church member covenant signing is very often associated with cultic behavior and spiritual abuse. It is seen as a negative indicator in the Christian anti-cult circles.

Please understand that I am not saying that every church that asks a congregant to sign a covenant is cultic in terms of behavior, though I would certainly encourage those who do to saturate themselves with writings such as Jeff VanVonderan's material on Spiritual Abuse. Covenant signing has been encouraged in recent years by groups such as Peacemaker Ministries and such (and I don't think their fruit is good in too many cases). Churches may adopt the practice without knowledge of the tendency to fall into spiritual abuse.

(I ask about Charles Simpson because he was a Baptist advocate for Shepherding in the past which is strongly affiliated with covenant signing for church members.)

wyman Richardson said...

Cindy,

Hello! Thanks for the questions.

I've never heard of Charles Simpson in my life. Covenant signing is not a new practice, however, as at least some of the earlier Baptists did so as well. I am familiar with Ken Sande but was unfamiliar he advocated the signing of covenants - though I'm not surprised he does so (probably as it relates to church discipline and possible litigation, etc.).

All I can say is that when I read your description of what some groups have done with the signing of covenants, it strikes me as so utterly foreign and alien to my own thinking on the matter and to the approach our church has taken that I don't really even know how to interact. I suspect if I were to read that description aloud to our church they would shake their heads in bewildered disbelief and say, "Maybe some are doing that...but that's not us!"

What you have condemned I would quickly condemn as well! I do appreciate the recommendations and would likewise recommend lots of Baptist writings both old and new on the general usefulness of covenants (signed or not). I'll spare you a bibliography because most of these things are fairly easily found, but lots of this can be found in DeWeese, Nettles, Dever et al., not to mention many healthy examples of churches that have embraced a signing of covenants in an attempt to stem the tide on the increasing erosion of the very concept of "membership" and "community" into the kind of porous and almost anarchic thing it is becoming in some quarters.

All of which is to say, I can see your ecclesiocentrism and raise you consumerism-run-amuck with a strong dash of unfettered congregational chaos to the contrary, but then we'd both be trafficking in extremes (something I suspect neither of us would like to do).

All good things may be abused, and I daresay the best things are likely abused the most egregiously.

But, again, I would very strongly dispute the assertion (an assertion you seem perhaps to stop short of making, which I appreciate) that covenants are inherently and necessarily linked to either demagogy, despotism, authoritarianism, or cultishness (yikes!). And, on the other hand, I want to assert that, in my experience and study, many, many churches are using covenants in a healthy, balanced, community-forming way.

Finally this: I would never tell people to "run" when they hear "you must sign the covenant to join," because to do so would be to besmirch a practice that can, if handled rightly, be productive, fruitful, and encouraging to the believer. I would tell them to look closely at the motivation behind such a request and what the church is like. Then I would trust they would make a reasonable decision. I'm not real big on fear-mongering.

I appreciate the exchange.

Many blessings to you and yours!

Wyman Richardson

believer333 said...

"he signing of covenants is attached to a long history of abuse and most of it can be linked back to the cultic Shepherding-Discipleship trends of the late '60s and early '70s."

Cindy, this is very accurate. My first years as a Christian were under the Shepherding Movement. It was a highly destructive movement for women and wives, and indirectly the men who promoted it and lived their privileges.

believer333 said...

"would likewise recommend lots of Baptist writings both old and new on the general usefulness of covenants (signed or not)."

W. Richardson,

yes, I would agree that covenant making can be useful. However, its usefulness is about control and promise making. I've seen churches require their members to sign a covenant that contained a promise not to take any of the leaders to court if their counseling brought harm, and for other reasons. What do you think about requiring members to give a tithe. That would be useful. Whatever a church might require a member to promise to they are removing the freedom of the member to consult and follow the HS on. In addition, some churches will require members to sign acceptance of doctrines, which also removes the member from the responsibility of being a Berean and checking to see if such doctrines are really appropriate and accurate.

In my opinion, the New Covenant with our Lord and Savior should be sufficient for all believers.

believer333 said...

"Is it an incorrect use of authority if a woman is listed as an assistant or similar and does all the work but a man is listed as being responsible for the ministry as in being the covering."

Anon,

The covering teachings are from the Shepherding Movements. The concept that women need someone else to personally oversee (in addition to the pastor) their ministries can sometimes be done in such a way that the woman gets no credit for the work that she is doing. The man does none of the work but the ministry is listed as his, with the woman as his assistant. Yes , I would consider this abusive and dishonoring.

Wyman Richardson said...

believer,

"However, its usefulness is about control and promise making."

No, it's usefulness is about community formation through congregationally expressed articulations of what a particular group of people deem the church to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Control would be an abusive intention of covenants which I would quickly eschew.

Healthy covenanted congregations are not wielding the covenant like an axe. It is an expression of an ideal...as much of the NT expresses ideals. But in a healthy use of it it operates in the greater NT context of grace, patience, etc.

Sure, our covenant has a line about giving. Our congregation voted to approve this because we think we should give. But how this is used is what makes it helpful or hurtful. I have no idea who gives what in our church, nor do I want to...nor does anybody other than our counting committee. We don't police it, stalk people, make people feel guilt over it, etc. It's simply a biblical ideal that we want to agree with. So when we sign the covenant or recite it together, we are seeking to remind ourselves of our goals for mutual encouragement and edification. By signing we're saying, "I agree with this and want to strive towards it in my life."

I agree completely: the New Covenant is MORE than sufficient! And yet it is possible to believe that thoroughly and embrace congregational statements of identity like covenants.

Oddly enough, some who think signing covenants is a bad thing also say that in order to join their church you MUST:

a. be present the morning of joining (unless reasonable exceptions make it impossible)

b. walk the aisle

c. have the pastor or whomever inform the church that so-and-so wants to join

then (and here's the clincher)

d. have the entire church vote or give an "Amen" or somesuch before they are members.

The Lord Jesus doesn't need a vote for me to be a believer, but many churches make you vote for a person to become a member! And, rightly understood, they're not wrong for doing so.

Look, I have never, anywhere argued that all churches should do this. I'm simply saying that signing covenants is not an inherently damaging or controlling thing to do. There are lots of reasons a congregation may deem this wise and helpful.

I'm not big on throwing babies out with bathwater is all. Can covenants be abused? Absolutely. All good things can.

My sincerest best wishes to all.

Wyman

believer333 said...

"Oddly enough, some who think signing covenants is a bad thing also say that in order to join their church you MUST:
............
d. have the entire church vote or give an "Amen" or somesuch before they are members."


I agree that is odd as well. We are indeed all members of the universal body and should be welcomed as such in any church.

IMO the compulsion in signing a statement on giving is against the Scriptures that say we are to give without compulsion. The person who signs such a think has now promised to a particular church instead of saying "yeah" to Scripture and to God.

Lydia said...

"IMO the compulsion in signing a statement on giving is against the Scriptures that say we are to give without compulsion. The person who signs such a think has now promised to a particular church instead of saying "yeah" to Scripture and to God."

I agree. The Holy Spirit may lead me to give to another believer for a time instead of to the building we call a church. Would I then be breaking the covenant I signed?

Rex Ray said...

I grew up hearing one word by my parents to run off stray dogs – “GET!”

It was not the word so much as the tone and loudness of voice.

The dogs would tucked their tail and run.

As long as I live, I’ll remember, “GET OUT OF HERE AND SHUT THE DOOR!”

‘Authority’ had spoken to a woman church secretary.

Gene S said...

Wade--

There is an interesting new development in society today. It is called "Human Trafficing."

Pitt County, NC, has just received a law enforcement grant to research and solve the problems existing outside much exposure. We got our grant because there is no special enforcement between Baltimore and Florida.

What is being discovered already in eastern NC are women and girls who were brought here from foreign places on the promise of work. Their passports are taken away and their handlers are offering them to the men as prostitutes.

Where my father and I dealt with Juvenile Offenders in Atlanta and Raleigh with the HMB in the 1960-80's, we never saw such as this. Now, in the place of petty juvenile crime come juveniles arrested for Prostitution! Wisely, the courts are recognizing their abuse and treating them with kindness and help to get out of the prison of being consigned as lust objects.

This kind of crime would not exist were there not a market for it among, often, church going males. They can find their jollies in trailer parks and other hidden places.

It is growing. It is real. The church needs to address this hidden issue and encourage local law enforcement to get at the handlers.

I am amazed and saddened that it exists here in NC. If it exists here, I assume it is everywhere, but gets on the local news seldom.

Oloryn said...

I've long thought that, to adjust the title of this post, the greatest problem in Evangelical Christianity is our view of the attitude with which authority should be exercised. We readily argue over what the proper structure of authority should be (whether it be church structure or the complementarian vs egalitarian wrangle(which I'm increasingly seeing as something of a red herring)), but from what I see in the gospels, Jesus was repeatedly presented with issues of authority structure (largely of the 'Please give me a high place of authority' variety) and normally responded, not with teaching on the proper structure of authority, but with teaching on the attitude with which you exercise authority. You get the impression He was more concerned with getting leadership's attitude right than with getting the structure right.

Though we at least give lip service to the idea of servant leadership, I get the impression, even with those who don't get abusive like the the pastor Wade described, we get more concerned with getting the structure right than with getting the attitudes right - as though getting the structure right will automatically cause the attitudes to be right (I think experience shows that this is not automatic). This seems backwards to me. A leader with the right attitudes can be effective even in a situation where the structure is 'wrong', but an organization with the 'right' structure but the wrong attitudes is a disaster in the making.

And am I the only one who thinks that Phil 2:5,6 is relevant here? We're told to have the same attitude as Jesus, who 'didn't regard equality with God as something to be grasped'. That seems to be to be directly relevant to our attitude towards whatever authority we are called to exercise - we are *not* to hang tightly to our positions (earned or bestowed) of authority, but hold them loosely. You exercise your authority for the good of those under you, not for your own good or pleasure.

Anonymous said...

In good old suburban Baltimore, at a seemingly normal and respectable evangelical church, my husband and I were told that if we left without the pastor's and elders' blessing -- against their will -- terrible things would happen to us. When I asked what terrible things would happen, I was told that those before me who left lost their jobs, got cancer, their children died, and some of them died as a consequence of God's judgment for exiting the covering of the church's authority. -- Cindy K

In other words, he threatened to put a Hex on you. A Death Curse with a Christian coat of paint.

"O GREAT CHEMOSH! O GREAT BAAL! BRING DEATH AND DESTRUCTION UNTO THESE MY ENEMIES!"
-- some Cecil B DeMille Bible epic, just before a considerably-sanitized child sacrifice to Baal-Chemosh to seal the deal