Learn to Discern: A Pastor’s Response to a Young Man’s Question about His Sexual Past

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Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel to File Defamation Lawsuit Against Son and Blogger?One of the primary purposes of this blog is to discuss spiritual abuse and to learn and be aware of patterns that can lead to abuse. Some people who stop by here are at various stages of discovery and recovery.  I recently read this article from the Gospel Coalition website:  You Asked: Am I Disqualified from Ministry?    If I had read this article just after leaving our spiritually abusive church experience, I probably would not have had any problems with what I had read in the article.  However, yesterday, when reading it, a warning flag went off.

 

It’s not a long article and because of that, I’m only going to post one excerpt.

The article is in a question/answer format and a question came in from a 23-yr-old young man who had dealt with sexual immorality in his past.   At the time, he was a worship leader and became convicted by his sin of sexual immorality and so he confessed it to older men from his church.  After confessing his sin to the older men, he  was removed from his music ministry position in order to deal with the sin.  A couple of years later, he’s still concerned about that old sin and asks:

My question comes still, am I disqualified from ministry? I wasn’t married during that time, but I fear sometimes I’ve just sinned too much to be used in formal church ministry. I was sinning as a leader in a ministry. I’m not doubting my salvation, just haunted sometimes about if I’ll ever be able to be used by God or not.

A pastor was asked to respond to the question.  I liked a lot of the pastor’s response, but am deliberately not naming the pastor in this article because I don’t want this to be about him personally (or for search engines to find this article).   But one part of the pastor’s response left me feeling uneasy.

Can you find what set me off?  Click here.     As of this posting, there are 16 comments and none of them have addressed my issue of concern, but I don’t want to give it away yet.   Maybe you can find something else that I didn’t find.    Discussing this can be a great way to learn from each other.  So, before you get tempted to read comments here (trusting there will be some eventually – lol), go ahead and see for yourself and then let’s talk!

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*Putting some blank space in here so if comments come in, they won’t be seen as easily and give away any responses 🙂

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100 comments on “Learn to Discern: A Pastor’s Response to a Young Man’s Question about His Sexual Past

  1. I’m not certain what red flags were raised for you, Julie Anne, but the whole tone of the pastor’s response is one of moral superiority–in other words he is in a position to judge because he has attained the office of spiritual leader. And he says that it is the elders’ responsibility to “safeguard the peace and purity of the congregation?” Really? Is that scriptural? The undercurrent of his message is that leaders can be trusted to judge because they have attained a higher level of spirituality than the rest of the congregation–kind of flies in the face of the “priesthood of the believers” idea.

    But the other issue embedded is his idea of leadership in the church is the atmosphere of dishonesty that it has to engender. What leader in his right mind would confess a moral failure in this atmosphere? The leader has to keep secrets in order to maintain the power he has been given. Power and moral superiority together lead to all kinds of abuse so wonderfully documented on this site. So the natural outcome of this philosophy of church leadership is a good ole boys’ club with an oath of silence and pledge to hide the misdeeds of the club’s membership. Yuck!

    And what does safeguarding “the peace and purity of the congregation” entail? Burying the ugly in order to maintain the illusion?

    If I’m a sinner (which I am), why would I want to join an organization that is committed to safeguarding “the peace and purity” when I know that I am neither?

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  2. I feel really sorry for the poor fella. Having to ‘tell all’ (that SIN thing again!) and then being told that he has to confess again – to a larger audience this time (so they can be sexually titillated???) gives me the heeebie-jeebies. People makes mistakes, then clean ’em up. It’s that simple for me. Sounds like the guy’s on the right track . Sorry folks, I can’t see the merit in constant reminders about how sinful someone is – it just doesn’t work for me.

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  3. There are two things in that pastor’s response that concern me, Julie Anne.

    First off is this:

    “…your current elders will need to know more of the specifics, so they can safeguard the peace and purity of the whole church. This will probably involve their talking with the leaders of the church to whom you first offered your confession and repentance. This will give them important history and perspective, and an understanding about how the larger community was affected by your sin.”

    The use of the purity metaphor is a telling thing in the attitudes of this pastor. At some level, they do not fully believe in the cleansing power of Christ’s blood, as they are still worried that they might become contaminated by this young man. The psychological power of the contamination over shadows all else, and the fear of the contaminant affects everything in the church life. This has huge implications on how a congregation will treat and love “the least of these.”

    Not all sexual sin affects a congregation or the ‘larger community’ as he put it, unless your worldview is dominated by the purity/contamination metaphor. Sexual abuse of minors or anyone certainly affects the congregation as a whole and within the community, but the actions of two consenting adults only affects those outside of that relationship if one party decides to use it as a weapon within the church or if people of the congregation focus primarily on the sins of other people in a bid to protect their purity. You’ll see this dynamic mentioned often by people who have left the Church. It changes the sense of “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come'” to “The Spirit says ‘Come’, but the Bride wants you to take a bath first.”

    Second is this:

    “Make being a good husband a much higher priority than leading God’s people in worship. Stay engaged with her, pursue her heart, and take her on this journey of restoration with you.”

    This may just be an unfortunate choice of words, but it gives the sense that the young man’s wife is somehow in need of restoration and redemption. This is a natural attitude for people who operate under the purity/contamination paradigm, and it needlessly marginalizes and sacrifices innocent people on a false altar of self-righteousness.

    “Jesus is a great and gracious redeemer.”

    Indeed He is, but all too often the words and actions of some Christians indicate that they don’t really believe that fully, at least not where other people are concerned.

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  4. I posted this article on the SSB Facebook page without giving my $.02 and Pastor Ken Garrett immediately picked up on my concerns. I know he won’t mind me copying it here. It’s so good, too! (No wonder I picked up on the same thing – I’ve learned a lot from Ken.)

    Ken quoted the article:

    “Appropriately, you didn’t give me any of the details of your sexual sin; but your current elders will need to know more of the specifics, so they can safeguard the peace and purity of the whole church.”

    Ken’s response: My first thought: “Danger, Wil Robinson, Danger, Wil Robinson!” Drudging up old, forgiven sins often has a way of re-empowering them, so subtle and cunning is our Enemy. Also, the Word tells us to confess our sins “to one another,” and I presume such confession is best entrusted to a close friend or mentor, and not necessarily to one’s (professional) peers and supervisors, which is really what the above counsel is asking this young man to do. Finally, confession of sexual sin, to a married person, involves not only the person who is confessing, but also his/her spouse–the above article doesn’t address that fact, or suggest that perhaps this man’s wife should be consulted before he shares “the specifics” with his elders–even if those sins occurred prior to marriage.

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  5. Brenda said:

    But the other issue embedded is his idea of leadership in the church is the atmosphere of dishonesty that it has to engender. What leader in his right mind would confess a moral failure in this atmosphere? The leader has to keep secrets in order to maintain the power he has been given. Power and moral superiority together lead to all kinds of abuse so wonderfully documented on this site.

    Brenda, I wish you could have heard me woo-hooing over here in the desert of WA. You picked up on some very important points. The above one is very important. This is something that is sometimes so subtle, you don’t realize it until it’s too late. Excellent response, Brenda. Thanks!

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  6. Carmen said: “I feel really sorry for the poor fella. Having to ‘tell all’ (that SIN thing again!) and then being told that he has to confess again – to a larger audience this time (so they can be sexually titillated???) gives me the heeebie-jeebies”

    Yes, me, too! Are they forgetting that once you ask God to forgive your sins, He remembers them no more? Are they trying to invent a new sin-forgiveness process? This could be positioning themselves above God with this stance. Whoa, that’s some lofty position there.

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  7. Eric said:

    The use of the purity metaphor is a telling thing in the attitudes of this pastor. At some level, they do not fully believe in the cleansing power of Christ’s blood, as they are still worried that they might become contaminated by this young man. The psychological power of the contamination over shadows all else, and the fear of the contaminant affects everything in the church life. This has huge implications on how a congregation will treat and love “the least of these.”

    I hadn’t thought of it this way – good observation. And it kind of ties in with Carmen’s thought about sin and having to repeat the confessing of it. Does God forgive sin or does He not? If God is done with it, why are they hanging on to it.

    And I’ve got to say – – I wonder how many leaders from that church have had any sort off sexual immorality before marriage. Are they holding to the same purity standard with their past that they put on their people?

    If Ken or Craig are reading this, I’m curious: did either of you have to sign any kind of form or discuss past issues of sin before becoming a pastor?

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  8. Yes, the telling of the current elders the specifics of the sin was what set the red flag off for me.

    Also, the statement, “This will give them important history and perspective, and an understanding about how the larger community was affected by your sin.” How has something in his past affected his new church congregation? That’s absurd!

    Run, young man, run! You still have time to get away!

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  9. I’ll clarify my last statement of how has something in his past affected his new church….Since we don’t know the sin in question, I’m assuming that it’s something he has done with another consenting adult. If his sexual sin relates to children or abusive behavior toward other adults, then, yes, he should make the church leaders aware of his problem because it could affect the church down the road.

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  10. Neon flashing red flag:

    “Appropriately, you didn’t give me any of the details of your sexual sin; but your current elders will need to know more of the specifics, so they can safeguard the peace and purity of the whole church. This will probably involve their talking with the leaders of the church to whom you first offered your confession and repentance. This will give them important history and perspective, and an understanding about how the larger community was affected by your sin. But it will also encourage everyone about your ongoing commitment to grow in grace and to serve the Lord Jesus.”

    1. Many in ministry today,especially in this movement are obsessed with sex. Too many sermons on sex. It is like they are running around telling people to NOT think pink. If you listen to these guys long enough you know they are obsessed with it.

    2.The whole elder thing in that movement is out of control. They are starting to resemble the Mormons. ‘safeguard the purity of the church’is gobblygook that is meaningless

    3. Talk to past church? Well if he offered confession and repentance, why is that necessary? The elders are starting to sound more like the Gestapo.

    4. One of the problems with this entire movement is they are all about “making dates with Satan to contemplate their sin. Sounds real pious but there is no moving on from it. Repentance is not enough. Anyone remember what happened to the poor guy at Mars Hill who confessed? So on one hand they talk about sex al the time keeping it front and center and on the other hand you must make dates with Satan about your sin and pay for them over and over.

    YET….they (TGC) support Mahaney protecting child molesters.

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  11. And I am confused. I thought all sins were the same. Why the wrangling over his past repented of sexual sin but Mahaney’s treatment of child molesters is not a sin? Shouldn’t this young man be treated like Mahaney was by TGC?

    Let us not forget Mahaney’s running away and how that was treated by these men. Why shouldn’t the young pastor get the same treatment? Why does his former church have to be contacted?

    Perhaps more of the young followers will start waking up that there are different rules for sin depending on who you are.

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  12. “3. Talk to past church? Well if he offered confession and repentance, why is that necessary? The elders are starting to sound more like the Gestapo.”

    If you have been following the 9Marks stuff, they recently put out something about when you go to a new church, the leaders from the new church should contact your old church to make sure you have not left any unfinished business from your old church. This is a disturbing trend. So, what if you say you left because the pastor was spiritually abusive (and he truly was)? What if your new pastor sides with your old pastor – – danger, danger.

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  13. “Lydia: I double-dog dare you to post your 8:27 comment on the TGC site. Shoot, why didn’t I think of that? Get a screen shot if you do!”

    Well, a double dog dare is mighty enticing! However, I stopped going into the internet wolf pen years ago for many reasons. Years back they would get your IP and wreck havoc on your life. And they have such hard hearts it only makes their resolve more intense.

    I would rather talk to those who are on the fence and questioning the whole system. I avoid wolves at all costs now. However, I think the use of twitter is changing that a bit and you have used it quite well. I was especially cheered a while back to see Justin Taylor delete some ridiculous tweet that went something like this” discussion with a divisive person on the internet is a sin”. See, he gets to decide what is “divisive” or not. But it did not last long. For crying out loud, someone needs to take John Piper’s twitter account away from him. He is not mature enough. But twitter is doing more to out this movement than anything I have seen since blogs started. I have seen so much bad theology on their twitters that has ended up being deleted but others have screen shot them and run blog posts about them.

    They built this movement with the internet but now social media is being turned around on them and outing their bizarre theology.

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  14. “If you have been following the 9Marks stuff, they recently put out something about when you go to a new church, the leaders from the new church should contact your old church to make sure you have not left any unfinished business from your old church. This is a disturbing trend. So, what if you say you left because the pastor was spiritually abusive (and he truly was)? What if your new pastor sides with your old pastor – – danger, danger.”

    Hard to believe they are Americans. They sound like church/state magistrates.

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  15. The thing I picked up on was the whole “confession and repentance” process. Who is he in repentance to? the whole church? the elders? Repentance is only a process that is designated between to you and God. This is a major red flag to me! Sounds Catholic. Now asking forgiveness is another thing, but getting absolved from a sin is not anything that a church or elder can possibly do.
    Also, I do not believe in confessing to a whole church about sins, UNLESS it would have harmed the church as a whole (like pedophilia), should be implemented in a church. Boy! the danger of that happening is a recipe for abuse, for an elder or pastor could use it to keep that individual who sinned in his or her control.

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  16. Brenda wrote:

    And he says that it is the elders’ responsibility to “safeguard the peace and purity of the congregation?” Really? Is that scriptural?

    Yes. Yes, it is. Off the top of my head (well, no, I actually had to do a bit of page-turning):

    The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

    I Peter 5:1-5. There are similar passages elsewhere in Scripture. Does one really need to provide the citations? One might as well ask a Christian to prove that Scripture says to love one’s neighbor.

    I know I’m being a bit facetious, and probably overly so, but the problems raised in this post can’t reasonably be a question of whether a church’s leadership should exercise some oversight and care for the well-being of its flock. Now all of that, of course, is principle. It’s good principle (to be a good shepherd, that is, but it is also important to keep in mind (as anyone drawn to this Web site will likely know all too well anyway) that a good many of those who believe they have the keys to the kingdom in fact possess nothing of the sort. Surely I have, for instance, no sweeping trust for whoever the elders or pastors may be in the young man’s parish.

    If what he did was a crime, it should have been reported. If it was tortious, very possibly someone should have sued him. If it was one of the more (alas) “garden-variety” sexual sins, and he repented and in open confession back in the day, I indeed too am wary of going to a whole new gang of very possible no better than self-appointed elders with the story. It’s a tricky thing, this business of being taught and shepherded: one could wind up with an odious teacher or a cruel shepherd. As I said, many who think they ought to be the leaders have it on no genuinely God-given authority, and such folk are dangerous.

    By the way, in response to part of Eric Fry‘s comment, I don’t think that believing that sin (of any kind) is infective to a community is contrary to believing in the cleansing power of Christ or His Blood. Even if a particular act or set of acts have been put squarely in the past (and even indeed if the sin was of the so-called consenting variety), what of the state of mind of the man who sinned? This is most obviously a problem in the case of a man, such as the young fellow in the post, who puts the sinful deed away and yet continues to torment himself with prayer over his fear that he may commit it again. Sin has consequences far beyond and often more subtle than the proximal consequences of specific deeds. Knowing this does not mean that one finds no grace or forgiveness through Christ: it is merely a realistic understanding of human frailty, the imperfections of the world, and the infectious consequences of sin.

    The main thing that bothered me in the letters, by the way, were the “I’m not doubting my salvation” and “I’m glad you don’t doubt your salvation” parts, but that’s really on a different topic than the thrust of this post, and I’ve typed far too much already.

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  17. Virgil – Great to have you here and join in on the discussion. I do not remove comments if people don’t agree with me, so have at it. 🙂 Let me take a look at your comment and see if I can fix the formatting. No need to repent for formatting issues – lol.

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  18. I was teasing (sort of) about putting a comment on the site. Many times they won’t get published, but if you are of a differing opinion, it does cause others to think – just like what we do here.

    I may have had something to do with that particular Justin Taylor tweet – lol. I do know that I am blocked on Twitter now.

    You are right, social media is giving them a little push back to be accountable to their words and dare I say it, biblical.

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  19. I’m not going to waste my time trying to turn any of my thoughts into a comment nice enough and deferential enough to get posted on their site.

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  20. Virgil:

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this:

    The main thing that bothered me in the letters, by the way, were the “I’m not doubting my salvation” and “I’m glad you don’t doubt your salvation” parts, but that’s really on a different topic than the thrust of this post, and I’ve typed far too much already.

    I think it is definitely on topic (not that we always stay on topic here anyway – lol).

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  21. I don’t recall ever having commented on this person’s blog. I have had some respectful dialogue at times and always appreciate it when that happens.

    And also want to say that we are only looking at one simple response, so that is not always the most accurate picture of what is going on, but it can give clues. And that is what we do here – look for clues that fit in a bigger picture.

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  22. “I may have had something to do with that particular Justin Taylor tweet – lol. I do know that I am blocked on Twitter now. ”

    Good for you! If you notice, Justin Taylor thinks he gets to decide what is “divisive” for the rest of us. I am still trying to figure out why young men and women born in the land of the free refuse to think for themselves and instead decide to follow man and allow other men to decide such things for them. It really is scary for our future on many fronts.

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  23. Lydia said: ” I am still trying to figure out why young men and women born in the land of the free refuse to think for themselves and instead decide to follow man and allow other men to decide such things for them. It really is scary for our future on many fronts.”

    Some of us drank some pretty purple Kool-Aid and raised our kids that way. 😦

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  24. Oh, I understand. I was part of the non thinking kool aid for years. I was asking rhetorically. I think we should keep asking for the sake of our kids.

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  25. What is missing if full confession and restitution to his victims. He hasn’t yet dealt fully with the scope of his crimes or the root of his sin. I say crimes because he may have seduced minors. If he is sincerely repentant he would go to all of his victims and apologize. He may need to do more. What if he got any of his victims pregnant?

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  26. The reason the young guy feels unforgiven is because he hasn’t been honest with God in confessing his sin. He’s really missing it. He feels the guilt because deep down he still lives with it. He wants cheap grace. He doesn’t want to have to deal with the deep issues of why he did whatever he did. He doesn’t want to consider the devastation in the lives of the people he used. He just wants to move on. Somebody slap that man!

    If he had come to me with his dilemma I would’ve made him (not told him to or counseled him to) face each and every one of his victims. That may have involved their parents. That may have involved the police. Maybe someone would’ve put a millstone around his neck and saved some other young ones..

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  27. Gary – – I see nothing in his note about the extent of his sexual sins. Maybe he’s talking about having sex with a former girlfriend. We just don’t know to make those kinds of assumptions.

    He is so humble in his question, I suspect that he probably did make full confession and restitution based on the fact that he is even asking this question. Someone who is unrepentant would have signed up for that position without a concern in the world for past sins.

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  28. My wife says that’s a violation of trust. She would hold the senior pastor responsible. (She also agrees with what I said 🙂 )

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  29. He feels sorry but he just wants to feel better. Since he doesn’t name his sin we can’t assume but if he was having sex with his girlfriend he needs to apologize to her. Then he’ll feel God’s forgiveness and stop feeling unsure of his salvation.

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  30. Gary – – Where are you seeing what this young man did? Help me out here.

    Gary said:

    “My wife says that’s a violation of trust. She would hold the senior pastor responsible. (She also agrees with what I said )”

    What’s a violation of trust? I’m lost, what should the senior pastor be responsible for?

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  31. Gary – Have you considered that he could be at Neo-Cal churches where they don’t understand that once you ask forgiveness and restitution is done, it is done? Keep in mind, this letter was posted The Gospel Coalition site represented by lots of Neo Calvinists. I can’t tell you how destructive this type of thinking/belief is. You can never measure up. To me, this guy sounds like a victim of NC doctrine.

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  32. I see where I missed it. He was 23 doing college ministry. Probably no minors but he may have been having sex with someone he was in leadership over.

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  33. Probably no minors but he may have been having sex with someone he was in leadership over. That would be a violation of trust.

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  34. Probably no minors but he may have been having sex with someone he was in leadership over. That would be a violation of trust.

    He may have been having sex with someone he was in leadership over . . . . . or he might have gotten sex “favors” from a college friend in the back seat of his car. The letter doesn’t say.

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  35. Julie Anne, thank you for correcting the formatting of my comment.

    Since you ask, let me see if I can say something reasonably pertinent concerning my misgivings about “I’m not doubting my salvation…” and “I’m glad you don’t doubt your salvation….” As I said, I fear it could veer off course, but I’ll take your permission to veer and roll with it. 😉

    The larger issue that I hesitate to write about it just, what does salvation mean to these gentlemen? Is it an instant of justification–getting right with God, as they say–the sinner’s prayer, inviting Jesus into your heart, or any such “decisions” that are nowhere to be found in the Bible? This is a matter of some division between East and West that produces some tedious commentaries online, and, as an Orthodox I should note that Orthodox as well as heterodox Christians can be pretty doggone tiresome in their debates about this. Perhaps you can understand then why I feel odd about side-tracking the conversation into a discourse on Eastern Orthodox soteriology.

    I think, though, that there is one aspect of this that is very much relevant to what you are doing here (or perhaps I’m about to show myself trying too hard). Could it be that there is a bizarre kind of exclusivity to this idea that one should never doubt one’s salvation? That, once you have that “I just got saved” moment, you’re part of the club, and, on the flip side of that, if you have not had such an instantaneous moment (whatever the feeling is supposed to be that “convicts” you), you are an outsider or a lowly initiate and thus susceptible to all manner of unkind discipline or ostracism from those who are sure that they are saved?

    I note also that even the Apostle Paul said that he himself–a man who received about the most direct revelation of Christ one could receive–struggled lest he prove unworthy in the end. The Lord warned that many would say, “Did we not [do this or that] in Thy name?” and he would tell them, “Take a hike.” (I’m not sure if this last sentence is an exact quote.) Anywho, here I start to get into the soteriology again, so let me cut that there and conclude with one other point.

    Note how each of the two fellows concludes his remarks about being saved. Their respective sentences in full:

    I’m not doubting my salvation, just haunted sometimes about if I’ll ever be able to be used by God or not.

    I’m glad you don’t doubt your salvation; but I hope you don’t doubt God’s love for you either.

    Think about those eerily similar sentiments. There’s something pathological about them to my eye. I don’t doubt that I’m saved, but I feel useless in the eyes of God and It’s good that you know you’re saved, but, gee whiz, I hope you know God loves you too. What kind of salvation is it, if one is rendered damaged beyond repair in the eyes of the Savior? What kind of perception of one’s salvation is it, if one does not realize that God’s love is an intrinsic part of salvation? Does He save those whom He does not love? More to the point, what sort of perception of God and salvation would think such a thing? Think either of the two things these men have said?

    So, at the risk of inviting criticism for reading too much into this, I detect in these men’s words a state of mind that is subtly unhealthy. If, after all, you think you are ruined beyond repair for having committed sexual immorality, then one should wonder: are you truly repentant? or does salvation mean anything to you other than a ticket into Heaven that you can’t lose?

    Good gravy, this comment is long.

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  36. “one should wonder: are you truly repentant?” What I said.

    Congratulations, but please, Gary, note my use of the disjunctive in my whole statement. Is one truly repentant? or does salvation mean only a ticket into Heaven? I should also say, I’m not questioning whether the young man feels guilty, and let me just bring this out, although I think it’s in between the lines of the many lines of my comment.

    I suspect this young man genuinely feels horrible about his sin, whatever it was. The problem is, he continues to struggle with it in a way that seems to continue to cast blame on himself or regard himself as useless. When I ask, is he truly repentant, I’m asking whether he’s truly experienced metanoia (a reorientation of one’s spiritual mind), and he doesn’t sound like he has. I have little doubt that he feels guilt, though. Real, painful guilt. I’m not so sure about his concepts of salvation or repentance, though.

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  37. “I suspect this young man genuinely feels horrible about his sin, whatever it was. The problem is, he continues to struggle with it in a way that seems to continue to cast blame on himself or regard himself as useless. When I ask, is he truly repentant, I’m asking whether he’s truly experienced metanoia (a reorientation of one’s spiritual mind), and he doesn’t sound like he has. I have little doubt that he feels guilt, though. Real, painful guilt. I’m not so sure about his concepts of salvation or repentance, though.”

    This is it. This is ONE of the problems with the YRR/Neo Cal movement. The Gospel contemplation/navel gazing. You can hear it a lot if you are listening to them. There cannot be any REAL forgiveness of sin or repentance because you remain totally depraved even though saved.

    In the case of Mahaney, the same TGC guys simply redefine sin and he is off the hook. (except for the bad publicity which became an embarrassment)

    If this young man repented why can’t he move on with a renewed mind? Because his doctrine will not allow it.

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  38. Virgil said:

    I suspect this young man genuinely feels horrible about his sin, whatever it was. The problem is, he continues to struggle with it in a way that seems to continue to cast blame on himself or regard himself as useless. When I ask, is he truly repentant, I’m asking whether he’s truly experienced metanoia (a reorientation of one’s spiritual mind), and he doesn’t sound like he has. I have little doubt that he feels guilt, though. Real, painful guilt. I’m not so sure about his concepts of salvation or repentance, though.

    Virgil, this ^^^^ can be a direct result of Neo-Cavinism teaching which is what I was talking about earlier. I have never seen more people go round and round and round on sin/forgiveness and even questioning their salvation. They even say to preach the gospel to yourselves daily. Why? Wasn’t once enough? Didn’t it work the first time?

    Pretty much daily I can find tweets like this from Neo-Calvinists:

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  39. Hi Virgil,

    You just wrote: Good gravy, this comment is long.

    I was preparing to write a response to your earlier post, and now I know that you haven’t seen many of my comments in past discussions! 😀

    And since you haven’t seen much of my prior commenting, I hope I can clarify my position in regards to this part of your response:

    By the way, in response to part of Eric Fry‘s comment, I don’t think that believing that sin (of any kind) is infective to a community is contrary to believing in the cleansing power of Christ or His Blood. Even if a particular act or set of acts have been put squarely in the past (and even indeed if the sin was of the so-called consenting variety), what of the state of mind of the man who sinned? This is most obviously a problem in the case of a man, such as the young fellow in the post, who puts the sinful deed away and yet continues to torment himself with prayer over his fear that he may commit it again. Sin has consequences far beyond and often more subtle than the proximal consequences of specific deeds. Knowing this does not mean that one finds no grace or forgiveness through Christ: it is merely a realistic understanding of human frailty, the imperfections of the world, and the infectious consequences of sin.

    Speaking in a purely theological sense, you’re absolutely correct. I’ve come to where I look at theological statements and interactions from a psychological and sociological view, and that brings some differing conclusions. For instance, the young man may very well be feeling only fears of judgment from other people rather than a fear of recidivism.

    Regarding the purity/contamination metaphor that is being used, it comes from a very basic emotion in people, the sense of disgust. Characteristics of disgust, as laid out by Richard Beck in his book Unclean are that it’s 1) a boundary psychology, monitoring inclusion, 2) expulsive, causing withdrawal, rejection, or elimination depending on the level of disgust, 3)promiscuous, meaning that it links itself to areas of our lives unrelated to keeping us safe from bad foods, and winds up regulating moral, social and religious experience, and 4) it involves Magical thinking, overriding reason and logic. This magical thinking regarding contamination makes us feel that minimal amounts of the contaminant cause harm, once contaminated, damage is permanent, and that the pollutant is stronger than the pure object. We can honestly assent to points in theology regarding remission of sins and cleansing, but the disgust psychology will override our logical acceptance of these points and manifest in our behaviors if not well understood.

    When this disgust psychology manifests in a church setting where purity and holiness are given emphasis, it tends to express itself as behaviors that cause exclusivity, withdrawal, or expulsion. For me, these behaviors go against the example of caring, acceptance, hospitality, and redemption that Christ demonstrated. This boundary psychology shows up prominently in the preaching and practices of many churches, and is the source of the common feeling from the public that people somehow have to become ‘good enough’ before becoming a Christian

    Hope that clarifies my position for you, Virgil. Glad to have you here, and that you mentioned being Orthodox. Too many Americans understand little about Orthodox thought and doctrine, and I look forward to the chance to learn more about it.

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  40. For 18 years I was sorry for my sin but I was powerless to stop or to change. I was powerless during my religious upbringing and I was powerless during my pagan teen years. I knew I was powerless. When God came knocking on my door and reminded me I didn’t get it. It wasn’t until God showed me that He fully understood my problem and that He made the way to fix it that I could allow God to help me. I had to do it on His terms. Confession and repentance. I could only tell God I was sorry for messing up my life and ask Him to come in and change me. I was going the wrong way. I turned around. I agreed with God about myself and my sin. I accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He took my guilt. I no longer feel it because Christ took it.

    Being sorry isn’t enough. I have to be honest with God. If not then maybe I’m just fooling myself and I still have my guilt. People who feel guilty may be guilty. That’s why so many doubt their salvation. I don’t know that it has so much to do with denominational theology. I’m sure there are orthodox church members who trust in their doctrine and never consider whether they are ‘saved’ or not. There may be some Pentecostals who know they are saved.

    When you are free you can see more clearly to go to those you’ve used or hurt and make it right.

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  41. Coming late to this discussion ~ out of town guests for a while ☺
    Anyway, I had a question for Virgil.
    You said:

    “I suspect this young man genuinely feels horrible about his sin, whatever it was. The problem is, he continues to struggle with it in a way that seems to continue to cast blame on himself or regard himself as useless. When I ask, is he truly repentant, I’m asking whether he’s truly experienced metanoia (a reorientation of one’s spiritual mind), and he doesn’t sound like he has.”

    What does the “metanoia (a reorientation of one’s spiritual mind) mean. I hope you mean he doesn’t have to keep beating himself up anymore and just move on. He can believe and rest that his confession has cleansed him and know that he is loved.

    Unfortunately, these elders want to keep bringing it up as JA stated:

    Virgil, this ^^^^ can be a direct result of Neo-Cavinism teaching which is what I was talking about earlier. I have never seen more people go round and round and round on sin/forgiveness and even questioning their salvation. They even say to preach the gospel to yourselves daily. Why? Wasn’t once enough? Didn’t it work the first time?

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  42. Monique, The Cals will have a fit when I say this but what I have seen in practice and understanding is that the P in TULIP really means you won’t know if you are truly “elect” until you die. That is pretty much how it works out in practice. And that is because they do not have the same definition of Justification. What confuses people is that the celebrity Neo Cal leaders are very assured. When you start talking to their followers….the pew peasants, there is a lot of angst and concern.

    I am all for going deep into repentance and renewing our minds. That is not what this is at all. In the Neo Cal construct, that is impossible because humans have no volition. It is a dark religion.

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  43. NOTE: Verse 24…What a terrible failure I am…

    All this talk about shepherds, etc., and no one is quoting scripture?

    Romans 7:15-25 (NIRV)

    15 I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do.
    16 I do what I don’t want to do. So I agree that the law is good.
    17 As it is, I am no longer the one who does these things. It is sin living in me that does them.
    18 I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can’t.
    19 I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do.
    20 I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me.
    21 Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
    22 Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law.
    23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.
    24 What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body?
    ******************25 I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.

    No matter how you slice it, Paul thought of himself as a terrible failure, but rejoiced that Jesus will save him from THIS SIN (whatever THIS sin is) that brings death to his body.

    How did all of the leadership, elders, old men with gray beards, old farts, shepherds for the purity, etc., not advise reading the Bible on the subject?

    Ed

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  44. Hey all: I just wanted to officially let you know that SSB has a new moderator. The growth of the blog has necessitated an extra set of eyes. “Fiat Pax” has been quietly moderating behind the scenes for a week or so and I’ve been so pleased with his discernment. Today is his public debut. I put up an info page about moderation here.

    I’d like to introduce Fiat Pax to you:

    Fiat Pax

    Fiat Pax is Latin for: Let there be peace. FP has been reading the blog since the inception of Spiritual Sounding Board (Jan 1, 2013), so he is very familiar with the atmosphere and regular readers here. He has a long history of moderating forums and can smell a troll from a mile away (he has already proven this to be true – lol). Most importantly, he has great knowledge of spiritual abuse and high controlling abuse systems and a heart to help people. I am very thankful to have another set of watchful eyes at SSB.

    ~ja

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  45. Greetings! One is grateful to be of service. One enjoys the passion of the passionate commenters here and wants that to continue freely in continuance. One’s moderating will be moderate and only when necessity makes it necessary.

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  46. Welcome, FP! Thank you for being here and helping out. Hey, did we used to have avatars here? I thought we did. Am I losing my brain? (no need to answer that last question – lol)

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  47. One is not having a memory of remembering avatars, but one’s recollection of such a remembrance may be faulty.

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  48. The subject “pastoral” response to the self-described and apparently self-torturing former sinner includes the statement that “It’s Jesus’ righteousness, not ours, that makes us beloved sons and daughters of God.” No, I contend that this is a fundamental and pervasive error having grave consequences, some of which manifest in the form of an obsessive call for ongoing confession to organizational “church” leaders. We seem to see such a call in the subject “pastoral” response. I recall that some have described such an emphasis occurring in CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries churches. In her book, “Twisted Scriptures,” Mary Alice Chrnalogar describes how obsessive calls to ongoing confession tend to be a defining characteristic of abusive fellowships.

    Here is how I think it works. To say that even Jesus’ righteousness makes us beloved sons and daughters is to make God’s love conditional. I contend that God’s love is unconditional. It is not premised on anybody’s righteousness, including His Son’s. God’s love is simply inherent in His nature. While I suspect there is more mystery involved than I recognize, I would understand that our adoption as Children of God is ENABLED by Jesus’ having taken our sins upon Himself. However, God’s love was never absent. His love certainly was not, and cannot be, purchased. God is not a prostitute.

    The misguided notion of God’s love being conditioned on Jesus’ righteousness is intertwined with the concept of Christ’s righteousness being “imputed” to us. (According to Scripture it is faith, not Christ’s righteousness, that is imputed/counted to us as righteousness.) Because our adoption is thought to be conditionally grounded on purchased love, and because the righteousness of Christ with which this conditional love is supposedly purchased is merely imputed, God’s love is effectively and practically viewed as being LIMITED as well as conditional. That is, God’s love is viewed as being limited to the Platonic, dualistic, notion of a guarantee that we will go to Heaven when we die—but without any practical outworking in this life. We continue to be seen as worthless, depraved, degenerate worms that are not worthy of the trust and full acceptance of those who would claim supposed spiritual authority over us.

    I contend that the true Gospel involves, not an imputing if Christ’s righteousness, but an actual IMPARTING of God’s NATURE—especially His love, but including his righteousness. This imparting is accomplished as His empowering Holy Spirit dwells within us.

    When these leaders fail to grasp the efficacy of the TRANSFORMING work of the Spirit in those they claim to shepherd, they must inevitably seek to manage us by resort to works of the flesh, including but not limited to this obsessive emphasis on ongoing confession to those who claim to be their spiritual betters. In what sense is a call to and participation in obsessive, ongoing confession a work of the flesh? In the sense that, for example, Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria for identifying authoritarian cults include a “radical level of personal confession to unburden people from their crimes (real or imagined) against the organization.” See http://tinyurl.com/lg7psbs

    I find it very instructive that the subject “pastoral” response to a confessing (former) sinner is, in the end, focused more on church organizations than on the person making the confession.

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  49. Fiat Pax – – – You now have your avatar showing. I know why I was confused last night. When I look at comments on my phone, it was showing Avatars through the Word Press App, so I was confused when I didn’t see them here. Now I added them here. (Ric – I changed the Avatar theme – hope you like it better.)

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  50. One had mistakenly applied an incorrect setting to one’s avatar in error. One has corrected the error with a correct setting that represents a non-erroneous application of said avatar. This is not to imply that one is inerrant as that would be an errant appraisal of one’s inerrancy.

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  51. All of this “One is” talk is reminding me of The Prisoner.

    “Who are you?”
    “The new Number Two.”
    “Who is Number One?”
    “You are Number Six.”

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  52. The Prisoner was a great tongue in cheek concept. The whole series was about getting the Brit spy to divulge why he retired after his previous show, Secret Agent went off the air. I forget his character name but the actor was Patrick McGoohan. He was held captive in “the Village” on a secret island somewhere in Europe.

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  53. Number Two was the current spy in charge of the Village. If he failed to get Number Six to divulge any info he was replaced. The script cleverly said “You are Number Six” when it was actually saying “You are, Number Six.”

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  54. Monique:

    What does the “metanoia (a reorientation of one’s spiritual mind) mean. I hope you mean he doesn’t have to keep beating himself up anymore and just move on. He can believe and rest that his confession has cleansed him and know that he is loved.

    If he’s not committing the sin any more, then OK, and of course he should know that God loves him. Surely I don’t think that one should “pretend” move on, though, if he still finds his mind riddled with sinful thoughts, but what are the sinful thoughts anyway? Of course we don’t know, and it would be a shame if the young man in the post above doesn’t have at least one spiritual elder whom he can trust for good counsel on this, because maybe he’s tormenting himself over something he gravely misunderstands. If he believes in the total depravity of man, this would be easy. For instance, just looking at a woman and finding her attractive is not lust. Perhaps he thinks it is and loathes himself every time his eye lingers for a second on a good-looking woman.

    Really, if the young man caused some calculable harm in whatever his past sin was, I hope he made it right as best as practicable. If his wrongdoing was the sort that one can’t so precisely pay back (as one would, say, give back stolen money), then I hope he’s made good as best he can with whomever he harmed, if anyone. If he has serious psychological issues, he should deal with them of course. If he’s one of these crazies who thinks that lingering with the eye or the imagination for a few seconds on an attractive woman is lust, then he needs more help than I can come anywhere close to describing here. I’m not that smart, you see.

    About metanoia, which is, of course, one of two Greek words for repentance (the other one, exomologesis refers to confession of the sin, whereas metanoia refers to the internal change), I think it is spiritually dangerous to understand this as either a mere “change of mind” or as a legal, albeit internal, accounting for a bad deed or thought. To change one’s mind is such a common expression for the most mundane things, that the phrase hardly conveys the transformation that metanoia should entail. The Apostle Peter did, after all, tell us in his second epistle that we would escape corruption and be partakers of the divine nature. That’s quite a path to walk and quite a metamorphosis to experience.

    This begins to take us into a realm of spiritual pursuit that I think is really irrelevant, though, because, if this chap’s beliefs are anything close to what I imagine them to be, he’s very far removed from any kind of Orthodox understanding of managing sin and pursuing divinity (which is how I’m inclined to talk about it). That’s fine. Mainly I think the kid should just behave with decency and compassion and don’t go making love to anyone other than his wife. I feel bad for him, if the counsel he would receive from his “elders” is foul or abusive, as it very well may be.

    The author of the blog Defeating the Dragons recently began a post with the story of how, as a girl she wore a lovely dress to church for the first time and was very happy with her feelings of beauty and maturity. Then afterwards the pastor’s son–no doubt inculcated into his vile worldview and pathological self-image by his dad–took the girl aside and told her that her dress had made him “stumble.” Made her feel like dirt, of course.

    Reading that made my blood boil. If that’s what we’re talking about here, then Heaven help that poor misguided young fellow, and if that’s the type of church he’s in, then he won’t be getting any help there. If, on the other hand, he’s got a decent set of elders to talk to, maybe there’s hope. It springs eternal, I hear.

    P.S.: Eric Fry wrote a bit explaining his comments further. Thank you, Eric.

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  55. Hi Fiat Pax, Your hare hair is rather strange. Is it really pink? No need for wigs, bald is beautiful, IMO. 🙂

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  56. OK, I am a bit lost here. Did I miss something? Did we just go off on a tangent?

    Fiat Pax…hmmmm…is that like Faux Pa? Look at the definition

    A faux pas (/ˌfoʊˈpɑː/ plural: faux pas /ˌfoʊˈpɑːz/) is a socially awkward or tactless act, especially one that violates accepted social norms, standard customs, or the rules of etiquette.

    That’s like a perfect definition for a person who is a moderating other’s faux pas!!

    Ed

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  57. One is wondering how one becomes “chapmaned”. One has never engaged in chapmaning before. Does one need to go chapmaning 24 times to become properly chapmaned?

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  58. One has also discerned that being chapmaned is possibly an uncomfortable condition requiring talcum powder.

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  59. That’s funny…I was accused of chapmaned’ing on youtube when I was debating religious stuff. I guess it’s a term used from the guy that killed John Lennon, Mark David Chapman. At least, that is what I am told, that chapmaned is a term.

    Ed

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  60. One is concerned about chapmaning occuring here now. One believes that is why one was appointed Inquisitor, er, Moderator.

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  61. ROFL – Oh, why didn’t I get another moderator a long time ago.

    I needed to laugh today. I had a new first today – – my daughter flew half way across the States to go away to college. My older 2 went to college locally.

    It’s funny because as I’ve been distancing myself from the Homeschool Movement, this daughter had in her mind to go away to school and my first internal response was hearing Homeschool Movement tapes that you never allow your daughters to go away to college. That thought left quickly, thankfully. She obviously did not get the memo from Doug Phillips et al, about staying home, learning how to quilt and serve daddy. She already knows how to quilt, so she would have been bored.

    I’m so glad. I think this will be a great experience for her. But now after having spending a lot of time with her the last 2 years, traveling with her club volleyball team to weekend tournaments, I’m left with a house full of testosterone and burps and other boy noises. Oy! Adjustment time for me.

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  62. Hare today, flies tomorrow.

    My daughter taught herself how to quilt. Her first project was a geometric masterpiece.

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  63. Ever get the feeling the only difference between Christians and Communists is which Party Line gets recited chapter-and-verse?

    …but the whole tone of the pastor’s response is one of moral superiority–in other words he is in a position to judge because he has attained the office of spiritual leader. And he says that it is the elders’ responsibility to “safeguard the peace and purity of the congregation?”

    The Party Can Do No Wrong.
    Ees Party Line, Comrade.

    P.S. That should be “The Collective”, not “the congregation”.

    I feel really sorry for the poor fella. Having to ‘tell all’ (that SIN thing again!) and then being told that he has to confess again – to a larger audience this time (so they can be sexually titillated???) gives me the heeebie-jeebies.

    Enlightened Self-Criticism before Party Commissars.
    Repeated at the Show Trial.

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  64. I know I’m late to the conversation — work has been insanely busy lately.

    After I had been caught in a sin while at seminary, I asked my pastor back home what steps I should take next with regard to the members of our church. Since some issues regarding my sin were exposed on-line, and since information spreads like wildfire in our very small community, there was nothing hidden to confess: everyone knew what I had done.

    My pastor said that my sin, like everyone else’s sins, is between them and God. If I have asked for forgiveness, and desire to live my life in a spiritually healthy manner, then there should be no need to “go before the church” and confess my sin, begging for forgiveness, placing myself under some imagined authority figures, though some people thought that I should.

    Honestly, I was already so devastated from my own behavior, coupled with the public humiliation, that to stand before the people I loved and rehash it all would have crippled me emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I think the wisdom of God directed my pastor, and he as well as many others in that church contributed to my healing and spiritual well-being. I picked up on what others picked up in pastor Smith’s response: there is some unhealthy authority issues in too many of our churches. People are trying to usurp the ministry of the Holy Spirit Himself, and He is very jealous over His ministry.

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  65. I feel really sorry for the poor fella. Having to ‘tell all’ (that SIN thing again!) and then being told that he has to confess again – to a larger audience this time (so they can be sexually titillated???) gives me the heeebie-jeebies.

    P.S. How else can the Church Ladies get their oh-so-Respectable porn fix?
    (“JUICY! JUICY! JUICY!”)

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  66. William, thank you for sharing this. Your story is so important. It sounds like your pastor was great. What a good shepherd. I need to get your story posted soon! I haven’t forgotten!

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  67. Julie,

    Please, feel neither rushed nor obligated to do so. What matters most are the victims of spiritual abuse in our churches, including churches with authoritarian problems.

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  68. Thank you for your response Virgil.
    The problem I see is his idea that somehow God will never use him again in a formal ministry, that somehow he’s sinned “too much”. It doesn’t sound like there’s any criminal issues, so how much is too much??? He sounds humble and doesn’t want to continue in this kind of sin. It’s like he doesn’t believe that he’s really forgiven and can move on. I think dragging it up again with elders just makes him feel condemned all over again.

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  69. “Condemned all over again.” I like that. One may be assured one is forgiven, but then to what extent is having to consult the “elders” (and repeatedly) a matter of dominion rather than pastoral care? Good point.

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  70. Some of the accounts I’ve read make me wonder if these organizations are really “gospel centered” council meetings with officials governing over the constituents, instead of churches full of servants doing God’s will & work here on earth. As citizens, we fiercely protect our civil, legal & protective rights, only to give them up once our tooshes hit the pews.

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