A little over a month ago, while I was still living in Washington state, I began searching for a church home in the Chicago area in anticipation of my upcoming move. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’m kind of hoping to find a church with a female pastor on staff.1 I found one such church and after learning some details about the congregation in e-mail, I asked to speak with a pastor on the phone.
She called me a few days later, and at first the conversation went great. Her congregation sounded nice and we shared a lot of common beliefs. Then I brought up the issue of my husband being LDS and my need for a church that can be understanding of that situation. Things did not go so well from there.
I decided to write to her and respectfully challenge her attitude toward Mormons—and more specifically, her attitude toward what most Christians would regard as a part-believer family that was interested in coming to her church. The letter describes the specifics of how the phone conversation played out.
After writing this letter, I thought long and hard and deliberated with several evangelical friends (including Tim & his wife) on whether or not I should post this letter and whether or not I ought to identify the pastor and her church. People had differing opinions between letting it go and calling her out. Ultimately, I decided to give the pastor a month to respond and see if she would reconsider her attitude toward Mormons. It has been a month now with no response from her whatsoever.
Since I’m not identifying the pastor or the church involved, you may be wondering why I’m bothering to post this at all.
One, because this is a Mormon-Evangelical discussion blog, and this letter is probably going to be of interest to most of the participants here.
Two, because I hope it gives my fellow evangelicals something to think about. Regardless of our differing opinions as to what Mormonism is and how it should be approached, I hope we can all agree that Mormons should not be forbidden from visiting our churches just because they are Mormons, and Christians who are in interfaith marriages with Mormons need church homes, too.
Three, I hope my letter provides a good example of respectfully challenging a fellow Christian who is in error. If there was a better way to handle this situation, I’m certainly open to feedback.
My one fear in posting this letter is that it will add fuel to the fires of some persecution complexes out there—that there will be Latter-day Saints who read this and say, “See? This is how evangelicals always treat Mormons.” That doesn’t jive with my experience though. For my own part, while I believe people like this are a problem that needs to be addressed, I’m firmly convinced that evangelicals who act like this are the exception, not the rule.
Anyways, here is the letter.
Dear Pastor XYZ,
Our conversation has really weighed on my heart since we spoke last Monday. I’ve put much thought and prayer into this letter and I hope you’ll give honest consideration to what I have to say.
It was probably fairly obvious to you that I was disappointed by how our discussion went. I’m not a very assertive person in real-time exchanges; writing is and always has been my strength. As such I didn’t really tell you everything I wanted to say as you were speaking. It felt like when I began trying to explain to you my history with Mormonism and my interfaith family’s needs, it was as though your guard went up and the tone of our conversation completely changed. I don’t doubt for a moment that your concern was genuine.
I’m not really bothered that you hold the views on Mormonism that you do: that Mormonism is a false gospel which preaches a different Jesus (“the brother of Satan”) and that Mormons are deceived and going to hell. I wasn’t completely clear on your opinion of FreeMasonry and by extension the LDS temple ceremony, but you seem to be one of those people who holds its origins to be Satanic and/or occultic. I know very well that such an attitude is fairly common among evangelicals who have studied Mormonism, which is precisely why I’m trying to screen potential pastors and churches to see how they will react to my interfaith family situation. My husband has heard all those things before; they aren’t helpful. What he needs when he visits his wife’s church are people who will welcome him and treat him with love and respect.
What did bother me about our conversation was how you presented your information. As I began trying to explain my family’s needs, you repeatedly cut me off to inject your views on Mormonism. I could not even finish a sentence without you correcting me on how bad Mormonism is. Is that how you do ministry at your church? Interrupting people and lecturing them on how bad their problems are instead of first listening to them and letting them describe their situation in their own terms? Let’s say Mormonism is every bit as bad and as dangerous as you say it is. If I had told you that my husband was a raging alcoholic, would you have launched into a diatribe on how dangerous alcoholism is?
I may offend you horribly by saying this, but here goes: I really came away feeling like you misunderstand the purpose of church. It isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (Mark 2:17) If you really believe Mormons are lost and deceived, shouldn’t you be doing everything in your power to get Mormons into evangelical churches where they can hear true preaching? And when an evangelical woman calls you and says, “My husband is Mormon and he wants to come to church with me once a month,” shouldn’t your reaction be, “Praise the Lord! Bring him to ours”? You’ve indicated that you feel like your church fills a special niche and you only look for a certain type of worshiper, but I’ll admit that confuses me horribly. I’ve never heard of a church which does not minister to the spiritually sick, or is selective in which types of sicknesses it tries to minister to.
One last thing. I understand that my husband was the one who picked up the phone when you called and that he decided to immediately quiz you on your views regarding Mormonism. I’ve since talked with him and he has agreed to let me be the one to discuss Mormonism with potential pastors. I have no idea how confrontational he may have been about it, but either way, that was completely unfair to you, and I apologize for that.
In February 2000, there was an article published in Christianity Today called “A Peacemaker in Provo: How One Pentecostal Pastor Taught His Congregation to Love Mormons,” about an Assemblies of God church in Provo, Utah. That church was my home while I was attending Brigham Young University and I believe the article shows how Mormons should be approached. I hope you will read it and think about it.
As you may have guessed, I won’t be visiting on the 23rd of August. I think we both know that currently your church would probably not meet my family’s needs, nor would I be the type of congregant your church seeks. My church hunt is going well and I have several very promising prospects to check out over the next few weeks, so I am going to devote my time and energy to those. I wish you and the congregation at [Church Name] all the best and I appreciate that you took the time to speak with me on the phone last Monday.
If you have anything further to say to me, feel free to contact me again by phone, mail or e-mail.
Bridget Jack Meyers
While the letter was still traveling in the mail (before she could have received it), the pastor e-mailed me. This is what she said:
Since our goal at [Church Name] is to release our people into ministry, I believe after our conversation that it would not be possible for me to release you into ministry. Therefore, I believe you need to continue your seach [sic] elsewhere for an appropriate church home for you and your family. We will not be seeing you, then, on the 23d of August.Sincerely,Pastor XYZ
It sounds little different from a certain leader at another church, fearfully disinviting people from taking the pulpit…
While I’ve heard many evangelical pastors say bad things about Mormons (partly because they’ve heard only anti-Mormons describe what Mormons believe), I’ve never heard one say that the spouse of one would be unwelcome to come to his/her church. That seems a bit bizarre.
Just out of curiosity: How big of a church was this?
Eric ~ I’ve e-mailed you some details. I don’t want to give away too many details about her church so that I can protect her identity, and the field is already considerably narrowed by revealing her gender.
Jack, there were a couple of un-diplomatic rough spots in your letter that could have used some polishing/editing, things that would be seen by her as impolite, even beligerant. Your “brazen hussy” side came out. A bit.
You wear your heart on your sleeve. And I think your passion about religion is one of the things that Paul must admire about you.
“What he needs when he visits his wife’s church are people who will welcome him and treat him with love and respect.”
Uh, yeah. When General Kindness is ignored, Captain Obvious is called in. It’s unfortunate that you needed to point this out in your letter—but it really needed to be said.
If you were going for a “balanced” letter, then you failed: you bent over backwards here. “Balance” would have been more attacking on your part with no offer of sympathy, apology, or show of respect (all of which you did show).
Respectfully disagree with Bookslinger on the brazen hussy part. You did great.
I’m guessing “release into ministry” means go out and do evangelism or something? Yeah, you’d totally suck at that, what with your even-tempered approach to things and genuine attempt to understand other people’s perspective. (end sarcasm)
My big question: how can someone who must be discriminated against in her own right (a.k.a. a woman pastor) be so freakin’ closed-minded?
The wonders of human nature never cease to amaze me.
Still, really nice letter.
It’s clear to me she has a unBiblical understanding of her role as a shepherd and an unBiblical understanding of the purpose of the Church.
I think it’s a strength of Protestantism that you can use your own to discernment to evaluate a pastor and the ministry of a church and decide if they are meeting the standards of the Bible. (though she apparently has preemptively excommunicated you)
The weakness is that a church like this can be formed, the strength is that such a church can non dominate all Christian practice.
I thought the letter was spot-on (not getting the “brazen hussy” vibe from this at all.)
Quite simply, your lines here are golden:
If you really believe Mormons are lost and deceived, shouldn’t you be doing everything in your power to get Mormons into evangelical churches where they can hear true preaching? And when an evangelical woman calls you and says, “My husband is Mormon and he wants to come to church with me once a month,” shouldn’t your reaction be, “Praise the Lord! Bring him to ours”? You’ve indicated that you feel like your church fills a special niche and you only look for a certain type of worshiper, but I’ll admit that confuses me horribly. I’ve never heard of a church which does not minister to the spiritually sick, or is selective in which types of sicknesses it tries to minister to.
But from her email back to you (rejecting YOU before she even got your letter!), I guess it’s no surprise that your letter hasn’t gotten a response.
I am sorry this happened. I don’t get the “released into ministry” part she mentioned. I can not fathom any Christian Pastor not “welcoming” a Mormon or any other person to their church to hear God’s word! That is what blew me away from the exchange you shared!
That has truly not been my expierence with Churches and pastors. As you know, I am in an inter-faith marriage and never never has my pastors ever treated me or my husband in such a way. If anything, the few times my husband has come to church with the kids and I , he has been met with love, kindness and respect.
I think you are wise to keep searching for another Church home, Jack. Even if that means you have a male pastor. ( I know how much you would like to have a female pastor on staff).
I will be praying for you — that God will order your steps and you will be led exactly where you need to be.
He will guide you, I am confident of that ~
I don’t want to de-rail the thread by going into details here, but I’d just like to state that I haven’t blown off any churches just because they have male pastors. The female pastor thing is on my “would be nice” list, but what I’m looking for are established egalitarian practices. The gender of the head pastor is flexible.
Oh and just to clarify, I’ve jokingly self-identified as a “brazen hussy” in different places around the Bloggernacle. Bookslinger isn’t calling me a brazen hussy himself. 😉
For what it’s worth, I didn’t see the “brazen hussy” in the letter. I thought it came across as appropriately assertive.
As to the release-into-ministry thing, I assume that meant you wouldn’t be able to lead any small groups or teach Sunday school or anything like that.
Like i said earlier, it seems kind of bizarre. (I haven’t checked my e-mail yet.) While it wouldn’t be common for a woman in the church to be married to an active Mormon, certainly it wouldn’t be uncommon for women in the church to be married to men who have little or no interest in church (or in some areas, to be married to a Muslim or some other non-Christian). I think if I were an evangelical pastor and saw someone with your credentials, I might instantly think of you as someone who might be interested in working with women or couples in situations like that. Or does this pastor only want people who do everything the “correct” way?
For what it’s worth, I’ve known a Relief Society president who was married to a nonmember (although I’d be quite surprised to see a bishop in that situation).
Jack, you’re right that’s a phrase I picked up on. But I also meant “brazen” in the part where you were not respectful of the pastor’s authority, calling her out with those “What the heck are you *thinking* ?” type of questions. She can’t interrupt you in a letter, so you can afford to be less forceful. In fact, countering her force (that she illustrated on the phone by her interrupting you and lecturing) with your own force is not the Christian way either.
IE, fruits of the Spirit: Long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance, Galatians 5:22-23.
Or the LDS version in DC 121: 41-43;
… by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes (quickly, in a timely manner) with sharpness (clarity, precision, to the point), when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
Paul (the apostle) illustrated respect for position by apologizing for his sharp words when he realized the high priest Ananias was speaking to him (Acts 23). He wanted to respect the authority of the office even though he knew the chief priest was in the wrong.
Even if she was deserving of you scolding her, she’s not going to recognize you as one with authority to scold, therefore your scold would have less effect. Gentler words would have had a higher chance to get her to re-think and re-consider her position.
After all, what was _your_ purpose in sending the letter? To make _you_ feel better by calling her out from your high-horse, or to help her arrive at a position that is (or what you consider to be) more biblical and Christ-like?
Perhaps you care too much what others think of you. And its my opinion is that it’s pointless to care about what people-who-are-in-the-wrong think about you (especially in the matter in which they are wrong.)
Practically the whole matter of schisms between various Christian religions and denominations is a matter of interpretting what is “biblical” and what is “Christ-like.” In the very Protestant paradigm you are in, you (that is you BJM) have no jurisdictional or ecclesiastical authority to determine for someone else (except maybe your husband and child) what is biblical and Christ-like, especially a widely disputed topic of how to treat or relate to Mormons and those Non-Mormon Christians who marry them.
Sure, you have your ideas and opinions, which have been well-reasoned and based upon years of study and interaction. But if you want to get others to subscribe or buy into your ideas and opinions on the subject, a softer “sell job” (via Gal 5:22-23 or DC 121:41-43) will garner more results than scolding people for not seeing things your way (no matter how much more sensible, logical, and apparently bible-based your way may be).
Rather than scold, an attitude of “respectful consumer feedback, wishing you a greater degree of future success” may have had more chance of sinking in with her.
As you are now having adult-level-to-adult-level interactions with full-time paid clergy (well, not totally, since you’re still in the relatively subordinate position of student, even in grad school), you’ll eventually see that when you give full-time paid clergy such ecclesiastical feedback, you’re attempting to “mess with” the other person’s job and career. It then becomes more than doctrine or biblical interpretation, you’re attempting to fiddle with their _livelihood_. Another dimension to deal with, just as deep and real as the spiritual side.
Another aspect on it: think on the change you wanted in her, or your call-to-action on her part. Was your letter what she needed to help her see the bigger picture that you wanted her to see?
Jack, I would like the name of the church so I can organize picketing.
Bookslinger ~ I’m surprised that you think I was too harsh on her. Compared to how I’ve rebuked people in the past, this was pretty mild.
I put a lot of thinking and re-writes into the letter before I sent it off to her, and yes, thinking of the best way to get through to her and make her change her mind was very much on my heart. So I’m surprised that you think I missed the mark so completely.
Perhaps you care too much what others think of you.
Honestly Bookslinger, it’s hard to take you seriously when you indulge psychobabble like this. If you want to believe that I erred in my approach to this situation, okay, but please don’t question my motives. I wrote to her because I was genuinely grieved that there was someone out there calling herself a pastor who was treating Mormons so poorly. If this had been about making myself feel better, I would have just blogged about the exchange immediately and named her and her church along with my usual short bus treatment. I’ve continued to avoid naming her out of respect for her, and because I hope she’ll think about what I wrote to her and the article I sent her and God will work on her heart—if not now, maybe someday.
I will take your words to heart and try to consider being even gentler next time something like this happens, but this was pretty darn toned-down for me as it was, and the earlier drafts of the letter were much harsher.
I thought it was a great letter, Jack. And I’m completely flummoxed by the pastor’s attitude. My entire experience is that any evangelical church would be absolutely thrilled to have me, a Mormon, walk through the door. Sure, some would ham-handedly try to witness to my erring ways, but in my experience I can’t imagine any trying to keep me out.
Well written as usual Jack. I’m sorry to hear your quest is not moving as quickly as it could. I am also likely was curious what releasing into ministry means exactly.
I would hope that God leads you to your new home soon. He is watching over you.
“releasing to ministry” means this. . .
There is a bit of a heresy among Evangelicals that “ministry” is a full-time paid position or that the church’s ministry is done by its paid professionals. So, to correct this notion a number of churches have started to emphasize that it is the paid staff’s job to empower and equip the lay members to go out and do the ministry.
This particular pastor has swung the pendulum WAAAY too far. She has set up a congregation exclusively of people that she expects to go out to become full time missionaries, church staff or set up para-church organizations (or something of the like). There is ZERO justification for this approach. As Jack expresses in her letter, the church is not just for the healthy, it’s for the sick.
What church wouldn’t want to pick and choose it’s members? Unless you have some specific reason due to safety, egregiously unrepentant sin or public disruption during services there is no justification for informing someone not to attend your church.
Maybe I should show you the letter I wrote to one of my mom’s bishops, Jack. Of course, it wasn’t nearly as respectful as yours. And the face-to-face confrontation… Well, I called him a b@stard. LOL. So yeah, I think your letter was respectful and did a good job of conveying your feelings. Any luck with other churches lately?
Tim ~ That’s actually very illuminating, and I think that’s exactly what was going on with this pastor.
Alisha ~ Calling a bishop a bastard? This is why you were my favorite roommate. 🙂
I did a comment updating my church hunt status here.
If I could pick and choose congregants, I’d have a church filled with people exactly like Jack.
Paul, otoh, I’m not so sure about. He quietly reads teh blogs and apparently he’s an 8-ft tall sword master. Makes me nervous… 😉
Paul, otoh, I’m not so sure about. He quietly reads teh blogs and apparently he’s an 8-ft tall sword master. Makes me nervous…
Yeah. He’s like Cloud, only less emo.
And if I could pick and choose a church, LDS & Evangelical Conversations would be my church!
“LDS & Evangelical Conversations would be my church!”
I love it! Time to start filling positions….
(Seth, of course, is in charge of scouting.)
Yeah, Bookslinger, I don’t know how you think people should approach authority when that authority is clearly in error, but I think Jack did a great job.
As a mainline Protestant myself, I am fully prepared to approach my church’s leadership when something seems amiss, and indeed, I have seen members of my former congregations do the same. Sure, the merits of that pastor’s position on interfaith marriage is open for debate, but for her to so abruptly close the door to her church before even meeting Jack is rude as a matter of principle, and completely un-Christ-like as a matter of practice. I don’t recall Jesus shooing away prostitutes or tax-collectors just because he didn’t feel like he could “release them into ministry” as a matter of first impression.
Frankly I find your attitude appalling. Jack didn’t write to this pastor saying “You’re a raging b—– who is an embarrassment to Christianity.” She wrote to her saying how how this approach affected her personally and offering her thoughts for more constructive dialogue on the subject in the future. Jesus Christ certainly did not hesitate to rebuke religious authorities when they were out of line in their treatment of those seeking to worship God (see: violently overturning tables in the temple). And whatever your thoughts about Jack’s approach, a pastor who cannot honestly process heartfelt feedback is in the wrong line of work and is hardly in a position to lecture others on the state of their own souls.
I have no clue why you don’t out the name of the pastor and the Church. Paul was never afraid to call out fellow-Christians by name when they were in error. It puts the rest of the Church on notice, at least.
I speculate that if she did offer the name of this pastor, the community of Chicago pastors is small enough that there would be several unintended side effects, not least of which would be a change in attitude towards Jack which impedes her purpose there.
Part of the reason is because it concerns a phone conversation for which there is no hard record. Calling her out by name invites a she said/she said scenario for which there is no proof of what really happened; the only hard evidence I have of her misconduct is the e-mail she sent me, and it doesn’t provide much. Last time I recapped something appalling on my blog that a fellow evangelical had said to me in a phone conversation, the person in question came by and denied ever saying it. Granted this was years later, but who’s to say this pastor won’t do the same thing and deny as much as possible?
Had the entire thing been an e-mail exchange, I probably would have given more consideration to the “call her out” option.
I came across your blog via Google Alert and found your story here heartbreaking. I am a former Mormon and have spent the past twenty years combatting this attitude in certain circles. Thankfully, I know plenty of good churches who would welcome you and your husband with open arms, although in this case it would do you no good since you are inChicago and I am in Swansea, Wales (UK).
I recall many years ago taking ages to pluck up the courage to visit a local Christian pastor to address my questions and doubts. I got a very cold reception when, as a nervous young man, I mentioned my Mormon faith and all he could emphasise was “the great gulf between you and us”. I didn’t even get to sit down and went on to remain a Mormon for many more years. Fortunately, there were others, more enlightened Christians, who helped me.
I think your letter, while saying what it needed to say, is a model of self-restraint and diplomacy and you are quite right to refrain from “naming and shaming”. It shows a maturity and sense of responsibility that seems sadly lacking in the pastor in question. Someone has to do the right thing and you did. Bless you for it.
Hi Mike, good to see you over here.
Jack, the letter sounded about right.
One thing I guess you can take comfort in – as you mentioned, the “Body of Christ” is meant as a hospital for the spiritually afflicted.
So the fact that it includes people with the problems that this pastor has can be taken as a positive sign on that score at least.
Either way, I’ll be the first to say that this does not seem at all to me like a systematic problem, or anything unique to Protestantism of Evangelicalism (as we noted, the LDS Church isn’t immune to this sort of thing by a longshot – same for other religions I imagine). Seems like it’s pretty-much just this pastor’s own personal problem.
I do wonder why someone would choose to call out an unnamed Pastor at an unidentified Church. I am baffled that some people feel completely comfortable condemning an unknown pastor from an unknown church with only one side of the story. We do not know what questions BJM’s husband asked this unnamed pastor or what tone was used in that questioning. All we have a very small portion of one side of the conversation. I am sure that I can understand how this pastor, unable to defend herself in this forum or even to explain herself, could find herself on the defensive after being grilled on her beliefs, not on a particular doctrine, worship style, or nursery schedule as she could expect from a perspective congregant, but on her views of Mormonism.
I was not going to comment on this post despite being floored by the ability of people to judge this pastor as “closed-minded” or having an “unBiblical understanding of her role as a shepherd” and an “unBiblical understanding of the purpose of the Church” from the limited material presented in this post. Maybe I am missing something or am out of the loop on some critical piece of information. You changed my mind on posting when pointed out that you didn’t name the pastor because it “invites a she said/she said scenario for which there is no proof of what really happened”. Did you bother to let her know that you were going to post your letter to her on the internet? Because sadly you created a she said/she said situation as soon as you posted this thread, with the exception that you did not have the decency to give this unidentified pastor the courtesy of defending herself.
Have you gone to her Elders or Church Council (not even knowing the denomination of this woman I can only assume that there is a governing ecclesiastical body that this unnamed pastor answers to). I do not have enough information from your brief account of this episode to judge the propriety of the letter you sent, what I can say is that if my minister acted in “close-minded” or “unBiblical” fashion I would want the Session or Church council made aware of it so that the appropriate steps could be taken. We do not know this could be another act in a history of questionable behavior that the Session should be made aware of.
Surely this pastor has had ample opportunity to respond and explain in private conversation? I know from reasonably recent experience that an “ecclesiastical authority” is sadly all too willing to take the part of their man/woman and why shouldn’t they since they don’t know Jack but do know the pastor. Finally, surely posting the story here is rather helpful because it serves as a cautonary tale to both church members and leaders to be more sensitive and attuned to the fundamental pastoral role of the church.
It also sets a good example of grace under fire and demonstrates an uncommon degree of maturity in telling a helpful story without incriminating the party concerned. No one is hurt but anyone reading is educated.
Many here have been gracious enough, both Mormon and non-Mormon, to recognise that this is not endemic in the church but my own experience is that neither is it untypical. I seem to have spent much of my twenty years in ministry correcting the Christian Church in its attitude and approach to Mormons etc. and it is this experience that makes jack’s story ring true for me.
Thanks. I am glad to get out once in a while you know.
I am sure that I can understand how this pastor, unable to defend herself in this forum or even to explain herself, could find herself on the defensive after being grilled on her beliefs, not on a particular doctrine, worship style, or nursery schedule as she could expect from a perspective congregant, but on her views of Mormonism.
Why do you assume that I did not do this, Gundek? I did, long before I brought up the subject of Mormonism. In fact, the one thing I never asked her was how she felt about Mormons—she asserted her views on the subject when I began to discuss the fact that my husband was LDS. Frankly, throughout my church hunt I haven’t asked any pastors how they feel about Mormons. People can have some pretty hostile views of Mormonism and still treat Mormons with love and respect, so my main concern is how they’re going to treat my husband, not what they’re going to privately think of his religion.
Here’s some relevant information along those lines that I didn’t cover in the post: I had made an appointment with this pastor to call me on the preceding Friday at around noon. I was waiting by the phone to take her call and she never called. She called the following Monday at 6 AM my time with no prior warning, and that’s why she got my husband. He was awake, I was still asleep. (She had forgotten about the time difference, though 8 AM Chicago time is still pretty damn early to be calling people.) So I’m sorry she initially got my husband on the phone instead of me and that he grilled her on Mormonism, but it was partially her own fault for not keeping our appointment and then calling me so early in the morning. She knew that there was an interfaith situation in the family that I wanted to discuss with her (I had said so in e-mail).
I figured that someone would complain that you only have my side of the story though, and I think that’s a valid objection. I did consider that. I chose not to name her because I did not want it to look like I was aiming to humiliate her or her congregation, and I was worried that publicly shaming her would only embitter her and harden her treatment of Mormons. I realize that has the detriment of her being unable to defend herself, but that’s the call I made—and I did ask for feedback from other evangelicals before I made it.
I also chose not to tell her I planned to blog about this. That felt too much like saying, “You repent or I’m going to use my [paltry] influence on the Internet to embarrass you!” I did not want her to feel like I was trying to apply pressure like that. Had I named her, I most certainly would have notified her of what I was writing.
Have you gone to her Elders or Church Council (not even knowing the denomination of this woman I can only assume that there is a governing ecclesiastical body that this unnamed pastor answers to).
I would have if it had been an option. Please believe me that it was not.
All in all, if you’re saying that you think I should have warned her of what I was going to write publicly about what happened and should have named her, I’ll certainly give that further consideration if a situation like this ever comes up. But those were really the only options I had.
Also, since this is Tim’s blog, I’m going to note that he voted that I just let it go and not blog about it at all. This was my call.
I think you should have, because I don’t feel like people should be allowed to do [poopie] stuff and face no consequences.
Wow, I had no idea just how dangerous we Mormons really are!!!
I need to get a Harley and some leather riding gear and maybe a tattoo. I’m just feeling baaaaaaaaaad.
Jack, thanks for sharing this. I hope that this will be used charitably and responsibly by LDS and Evangelicals alike. I think that it can benefit all of us in our mutual quest to be more respectful and understanding of each other.
Bridget Jack Meyers,
I am not assuming anything except that your confrontation with the unnamed pastor occurred after your husband “grilled her on Mormonism” and that this may have had some influence on how she reacted to you. If I am incorrect in that assumption then my understanding of your letter is in error. I said that I do not have enough information to judge the propriety of your letter and I meant that.
I am not disputing your version of the events I only think that if her response to you was so out of line as to provoke your letter and this blog post then an e-mail to the “stated clerk” or one of the members of the Church Council (once again I do not know the form of ecclesiastical government so I am using terms that are familiar to me) is called for. In fact I think that there is an arguable biblical mandate to bring this to the ecclesiastical government no matter how ineffective it may be. As I commented earlier this may be another case of poor behavior that would give her session a reason to act. If I received an e-mail like the one you received I probably would not stop with informing the session but I would feel compelled to inform the presbytery, primarily because it could be seen as a violation of our Book of Church Order to preemptively dis-fellowship someone. I can only speculate about the rules for this unnamed denomination.
In all honesty I just cannot see how people can come to the conclusion that this pastor is “closed-minded” or has an “unBiblical understanding of her role as a shepherd” and an “unBiblical understanding of the purpose of the Church” from the limited material presented in this post. I am not questioning your motives for the post, you said that one of the reasons was to provide a good example of respectfully challenging a fellow Christian who is in error. I just do not see how this is an effective course of action unless you “tell it to the Church.”
dblagent–Jack already has a Harley.
Jack, I am sorry that you had to deal with it. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with posting it, because it opens up avenues for people to consider how people should be treated–and both you and Paul have experienced a measure of being shut down for your respective faiths within the other’s. You posted about what happened to you in Paul’s ward; it makes sense that you would continue in that thread and level the playing field.
Exactly. There’s no harm done even if Jack has totally distorted the events in question, since she has left the participants anonymous. She could have made it up and it would still be a worthy example of how not to treat people.
For what it’s worth my wife thought Jack should name the pastor and the church and thought Jack had every Biblical justification to do so. . . .and she doesn’t even care about this stuff.
Gundek, I see you are off-put by a couple of things I stated. If the facts are as Jack presents them, I feel I’ve got more than enough justification to stand by those statements. It’s my assessment of the situation as presented.
IF Jack had included the pastor’s and church’s name, I probably would have held back to hear a defense from the pastor before casting that judgment. But for all practical purposes pertaining to me, this is a fictional story. I can condemn the unnamed pastor just as I can condemn Hannibal Lecter. No real person’s reputation has been harmed.
From a little bit more that Jack has told me about the situation, there is no one else she can appeal to within the church. The pastor has set up her own little kingdom and not only controls the draw-bridge, she controls who controls the draw-bridge.
I think you wrote a very thoughtful letter. You said all the right things, and you asked all the questions that needed to be asked. I am Community of Christ/RLDS, but I’ve met many Evangelicals who have this exact same attitude. I grew up with this all my life before I became born again. I saw it all the time when I was Evangelical (but I have to admit that your “Pastor” here has taken things to a new low– I don’t know that any of my Ev pastors would have taken it that far–excommunicating someone before they even set foot in the door.)
Obviously, both you and your husband are better off not being regular attenders of this church. I would think that one hallmark of Christ’s church is that the congregation of believers is willing to accept people where they are. We are all imperfect people, if she’s only willing to accept into her congregation those special people who meet her standards, then she definitely is the one with the problem.
You see this “for all practical purposes pertaining to me, this is a fictional story.” Looking at this from that perspective I may in fact be overreacting. Unfortunately this is a real story and was told in a manner that a curious individual would not have to work very hard in figuring out what pastor and Church this is. Then there is always the possibility that someone may come to the wrong conclusion about what pastor or congregation is represented in this post, further complicating matters.
Not knowing the denomination in this matter it is difficult to say what recourse can be taken. If this is a non-denominational setting or a Congregationalist Church I understand that there is no higher ecclesiastical body to address this to. If this is the case then bringing the matter to the congregations ruling body is the only option despite fears of ineffectiveness. There is always a possibility that this incident may spur the congregation to action or function as the seed for a future correction.
I must acknowledge that preemptive dis-fellowship is so anathema that I understand the strong reaction that people have to this story. The gravity of this charge is one reason that I do not question the letter that Jack wrote. The seriousness of the charge only heightens the responsibility of addressing this in a serious biblical manner. I think that the biblical justification is to “tell it to the Church” and to trust that God will work in His ordained means.
We even have an atheist who attends our church on a regular basis.
We are happy that he is in the path of the Living Word.
We just would not let him spread his views in our church.
Other than that, he is as welcome as anyone else would be.
1) There’s a couple of good evangelical churches in the Chicago area, let me know if you need some pointers. But it looks like you’re on a pretty good hunt.
2) This pastor is clearly wrong. Even if she was challenged by Jack’s husband about Mormonism, even if she had mixed feelings about having him visit, the e-mail indicating Jack was not welcome is wrong on all accounts. Why ?
a) E-mail is a bad communication mechanism
b) More appropriate would have been an invitation for a face-to-face to discuss. Perhaps some guidelines such as how to engage in LDS vs. Evangelical discussions, etc.. Then if people don’t stick to the guidelines you can have a conversation whether it’s beneficial to both sides (both the body and the member) to continue. Just like one would do with an alcoholic, spouse abuser, divorcees, thief, etc, etc..
c) I can understand perhaps the pastors concerns that you guys may not have been a good fit within their Church, but that’s no reason for blatantly slamming the door. See b) for perhaps a better approach.
But unfortunately I’ve seen it happen too often.
3) I sense some people thought you were a little harsh, others think you weren’t harsh enough. For those interested, here’s an excerpt of “Political correct” writing 101: Sentences should never start with “Shouldn’t you” or “You should” or anything similar. It’s purveys a sence of hostility and attacking the other person. Way better is to write something like “I feel that one in this situation should”… now the focus is on your feelings of how some things should be approached and you’re not giving the impression of telling the other person what to do. How do I know ? Work sent me to a class to learn this kind of stuff since it nearly cost me my job once. 😉 But besides those little nit-picking things, good letter.
4) Calling the person / pastor / Church out in public ? Depends on what your intentions are. Are you highlighting and trying to debate a larger more wide-spread challenge ? Or are you trying to correct this particular pastor ? In the case of the former. you don’t call them out. If the latter, you call them out, give them sufficient notice, and take certain steps like gundek is suggesting. Considering that, from the introduction of this post, I believe the intent is the first, don’t call them out and gundek’s suggestions are besides the point. We’re not attacking or asking the pastor to defend herself. We’re debating a larger problem out there where Evangelicals don’t know how to handle, let alone witness to, LDS members.
Overall.. keep searching.. there has to better out there. Can you keep track on how much longer this particular Church survives ? They’ll have to run out of healthy people to minister to real soon 😉
gundek, I think it has been made very clear that there is no ruling body of this particular congregation, other than the pastor herself. Tim has explained that this woman started the congregation on her own and controls it on her own. This is not a case of a church board hiring a pastor to lead. So suggesting that Jack appeal to another authority is impossible.
I am rather shocked by the reception Jack received, as well. While I was on my mission in California, I was invited to attend worship services with some very large evangelical congregations that were about as deeply-rooted in the counter-cult ministry as one could be, and I was still welcomed and shown a large amount of respect. Even in my community here, I have been treated with love and respect from an evangelical pastor who, even though he knew I was LDS and happy with my beliefs, brought cookies to my home and invited me back any time. I can’t imagine why a minister would turn away someone from their church services.
I did not understand either Jack’s or Tim’s comments to mean that there is no ruling body that this unnamed pastor answers to, only that she has such control over her congregation that any appeal to the congregations ruling elders appears to be pointless. If in fact there is no church council at the congregation or a denomination to answer to then I am mistaken and this would be a remarkably unique church that has no form of government outside of the pastor.
I completely agree with you that for a pastor to turn someone away preemptively is extraordinary.
Hmmm . . .
Open rebuke and examination of personal calls and letters?
I thought that is only what fundamentalists do on the internet.
It depends on where you are and what has been your experience. I faced a situation about three years ago in which I was excluded, lied about, and my name dragged through the mud by a pastor who then emailed me to tell me exactly what he had done; talk about twisting the knife. I was a member of the church and, hand on heart, can say I did nothing to remotely deserve it. Turns out he had done the same thing to any number of people over the previous eight years and had (and still has) his congegation cowed by his bullying. My “sin” I suppose was that I wouldn’t be cowed (it takes a lot believe me).
That (Baptist) church was quite unusual, but I would not say unique, in having no government outside the pastor. Experience has taught me that such things don’t incline you to pursue redress in the way you, otherwise reasonably, prescribe. I didn’t get to church for two years after that I was so blasted by this man. Now I am in a Baptist Church that is the very antithesis of that one and beginning to find my feet again in fellowship but I can assure you it isn’t over and trust, once lost, is incredibly difficult to find again.
Thanks everyone who has given me feedback. I have to be brief because I have a class to go to.
Gundek ~ Since it seems to concern you so much, with your permission, I’ll e-mail you some details on why your church government suggestion would not work. Otherwise there simply isn’t more that I can say about it here.
Todd ~ I thought that is only what fundamentalists do on the internet.
Well, you know what they say… even a broken clock is right twice a day.
You are welcome to e-mail me. I do have an example, different from you own, where a pastor was publicly rebuked for his behaviour that I did not want to post about publicly. I think by replying to you privately you will be able to better understand where I am coming from. Part of the problem for me is that this situation came to mind as soon as I read your post, unfortunately I do not feel that I should post on it publicly. I hope that by explaining this privately you will understand more clearly what I have been trying to explain. I am not trying to be cryptic, I think you will understand.
Gundek ~ Kk, I will e-mail you tomorrow, probably after classes, at the address that you comment here with. This class isn’t getting out for another hour or two and it will be bedtime for me by the time I get home.
One last thing I need to say. I know that comparisons to what happened with my husband’s ward a few weeks ago are well-meaning, but I didn’t mean for this to be an eye-for-an-eye thing or something. I was actually a lot harsher on my husband’s ward than I was on this pastor. I immediately posted what had happened, I identified the ward where it happened (which was as good as naming names), and I did not consult with anyone on it before I posted. I knew something had happened to me which would get people’s blood boiling and I practically rushed to air it out.
The sad part is, my husband’s bishop and first counselor really didn’t deserve it. If you’ve been reading my private blog, you know that they have tried to reconcile with me—albeit somewhat clumsily—but the effort is there, and they seem sincerely grieved that they hurt my feelings so deeply. If I’d given them the same time frame I gave this pastor, you’d have never heard about it.
I also think their error was much less grievous. Barring an unbeliever from speaking at their pulpit was arguably within their rights (but not common in the LDS church and therefore it stood out as rude). Barring an unbeliever or a fellow believer from coming to your church altogether based on a single phone call is just outrageous.
Anyways, thank you everyone who read the post and gave me feedback. Even if you disagree with the route that I took, please know that I only took it after a lot of thinking and prayer, and I waited this long to make sure I was not simply posting out of anger and hurt feelings.
So, Katyjane and the kiddos and I are about ten minutes from the Myers’ apartment. If you never hear from us again, call the police.
And if you never hear from them again, we swear we didn’t do it.
LOL Kullervo. I was just about to post that you were coming over here, too.
We’re having felafels and the rest of you aren’t. Suckas.
I am personally offended that I was not invited. I drive for good falafel.
What’s a fellafella?
It’s sort of a Scorsese webisode, I think.
Are you seriously asking, or is that a joke I don’t get?
On the off chance that you’re serious, felafel is a Middle Eastern dish. The actual felafel part is a fried patty or ball made from fava beans and spiced chickpeas.
You put it in a pocketed pita with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and hummus. I’ve thoroughly bastardized the recipe by offering steak, hard boiled egg and cheese as well. I usually put them all out in bowls and plates and let people choose how to build their felafel pita.
I learned how to make it in my modern Hebrew classes. It’s one of the four things I can cook that don’t require a can opener…
Anyways, it was fun to meet the Ks. My husband only threatened to throw Kullervo off the balcony once, so I thought the meeting went really well!
A joke! Honest!
I love hummus. And the snarky 12 year old living in that corner of my brain just goes “heh, heh! spiced chickpeas! heh! heh!”
Sorry, couldn’t help it.