Biblical Counseling, Faith Tabernacle, Homeschool Movement, Patriarchal-Complementarian Movement, Personal Stories, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches, Shunning, Spiritual Abuse, Suicide, Women and the Church

BeenThereDoneThat and Flying Free: Spiritual Abuse, A Personal Story

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This story is a special one to me.  Regular reader, “BeenThereDoneThat” (BTDT) has been commenting on this blog since the first weeks here.  During that time, I have watched her in her commenting as she has been recovering through a very difficult spiritually abusive church experience.

I had the opportunity to meet BTDT and her family this summer when I was visiting their area. I still get teary-eyed thinking about those precious couple of hours.    We shared stories, we cried, we laughed.   I looked directly into BTDT’s husband’s eyes when meeting him and his love for his wife was so beautiful as he spoke about her.

Watching this precious family walk away after the nice visit, I had an overwhelming sense that:  THEY ARE FREE.  To leave the “church” environment they were so connected with emotionally, spiritually, physically was a huge risk.  But they did it. This is one family who will make it. They are free from their spiritual prison.

Meeting them, knowing their background and where they are now has been one of the biggest highlights for me of blogging.  Yes, real people are reading these stories and are finding truth. I suspect BTDT’s story will be read by many and  pray that God will use their family’s difficult experience to speak into the hearts of others who may be facing a very similar situation.

I ask you to pray for this precious family because it’s a big deal to “go public,” even anonymously.   There is risk involved, but they are ready to take the next step.  They are flying free.   ~ja

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BeenThereDoneThat and Flying Free:  Spiritual Abuse, A Personal Story

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My former church is a bit different from what most people reading this blog have experienced, except for maybe Faith Tabernacle. It is doctrinally Oneness Pentecostal. However, since it is an independent church, they have adopted a lot of beliefs and practices from other faiths. From the Anabaptist traditions, they adopted simplicity of dress and lifestyle, non-violence and non-resistance, and the two-kingdoms theology. If you visit their Agrarian Community, you can watch them work the fields with horse-drawn implements, throw pottery on a kick-wheel, build furniture with hand tools, craft metalwork in a forge, spin yarn, weave, make cheese, and take classes on various homesteading skills.

They’ve also incorporated many child rearing practices common to the Homeschool Movement(TM) including the harsh discipline of children. It is Patriarchal in structure and authoritarian. Children are to submit unquestioningly to their parents, wives to husbands, families to their ministers, ministers to the membership board, and everyone to the founding elder. Most children are birthed at home with lay midwives. (Ours weren’t.) It is because of this context that I’ve had direct experience with the abusive nature of authority in the local church. I believe when this type of “order” becomes institutionalized in a church, abuse is not only possible, but likely.

The last straw, for us, happened when my husband found his business to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Imagine how scary this was for him. (He is home schooled with no high school diploma. In fact, one minister told his mother that they realized that many of the kids did not even receive a high school equivalent education. His mother taught to the church’s requirements.) Our minister, and the membership board, advised him to file for bankruptcy. They said that we would probably have to give up our home (a double-wide mobile home), and my husband would work for someone else in the church. During one phone conversation, our minister yelled repeatedly at my husband that he was going to jail.

My husband sought advice from a financial planner, a bank owner, a few prominent, local businessmen, and a new accounting firm. All of them advised against bankruptcy, and determined that he could pull through this with some hard work. He proposed this plan of action to our minister, who then called him stupid, incompetent, foolish, and confused. Our minister was very upset that he had sought counsel outside “the church.” He told my husband to “pray through” (read: agree to our plan) and call him back. When my husband did not call back, my father-in-law showed up with a letter of disfellowship from our minister. This meant that we would now be shunned by all the people we had spent our lives with for the last 25 years. So much for church discipline being reserved for
situations of unrepentant sin. When you belong to a church that ties your salvation to your submission to pastoral authority, abuse of power seems inevitable. Ours is one more story of such abuse.

Just a few months after these events, the first news reports came out regarding five men, who are all now convicted and in prison, who had molested their own daughters, sisters, and other children in our former church. Considering the unquestioning respect that these girls were expected to show their fathers and brothers, this comes as no surprise. What did surprise me was the church’s response. I’ve heard them pronounce from the pulpit and in testimonies that, “we have the answer to what this world needs.”

When the molestations came to light we heard from them, “Well, it happens everywhere.” So, by their own admission, they’re no better than anybody else. Yet, they see no irony in one’s salvation hinging upon submission to authority that is potentially just as abusive as “everywhere” else. This type of patriarchal order leaves women and children vulnerable to the most heinous of abuses. And you cannot guarantee, as we learned in my husband’s business situation, that the ministry will support anyone in a crisis.

In one situation, when a father confessed to a minister of molesting his daughter, it was not reported to law enforcement for a whole year. This man and his wife just cried together and prayed that “something would change.” (Whatever that’s supposed to mean.) Mind you, the nurseries for Sunday services and Friday night home groups were mandatory for all children until age 2. I never thought to question, nor would it have been acceptable for me to do so, whether there were safeguards to ensure that the children in the nurseries were protected from potential abusers. After all, these were such a nice group of people. (Sarcasm)

So where does this put us at today, a year and a half later? My husband has made significant progress on paying off debt. One customer, who was a true victim of this financial mess, continues to refer my husband to other people. Another customer, who we owe a significant amount of money to, repeatedly invite us to attend their Methodist church. I am humbled by their mercy. We plan on seeing this through. It appears my husband did receive sound financial advice that he could work through this. I believe we made the right decision in spite our former church’s objections.

We don’t plan on returning to that church. My husband and I are enjoying full use of our iPhones. Previously, we were only allowed to have them after our minister put a passcode on them to lock down the browser, YouTube, and AppStore access. (We’ve now heard that iPhones are forbidden to all but the ministers. Leadership has its privileges!) We, obviously, now have internet access and enjoy other media.

My girls enjoy wearing jeans. My little ones are big fans of Barbie, Cars, Toy Story. My boys enjoy Batman, Spiderman, and, yes, even Harry Potter. I was very inspired watching Lord of the Rings. My oldest daughter is beginning to experiment with different hairstyles and nail polish. She’s a very intelligent girl.

Some day, I want her to have the option of attending college. That would not be allowed in our previous church. In order to do so, she would have had to leave the church, her family, and everything she had grown up with behind.  (We receive word on a regular basis of other young people who have walked away. One was the youngest brother of our former minister. He is now dead of a drug overdose.)

If my daughters had chosen to remain with the church, they would only be allowed to marry another young man within that church. There are many more young ladies than young men. If they didn’t marry, they would remain living with my husband and I, and serve the church or its ministers in some capacity. (This is becoming a common scenario among the patriarchal “courtship” crowd.)

I still struggle to make simple, basic decisions on a daily basis that many others take for granted. It’s crazy! I spent half of my childhood growing up in England and Saudi Arabia. In my late teens I frequently traveled by myself through international airports half way around the globe. But, for 24 years I submitted many decisions to a minister for “confirmation.” Even after I married, it was not my husband, but our minister who counselled what I should or should not do. My husband got to hear about it when I took my kids shopping with me to Walmart. Our minister said I should get a babysitter so as not to expose my kids to “worldly influences.” I feel infantilized — stunted. Time and finances do not permit me to seek professional counselling at this time. But this blog, and others, have helped me to learn and grow. And I react very strongly to tweets directed at a woman as to how her husband/elders are involved in her discernment activities. Perhaps this letter helps explain why.

And one more thing. There’s been a lot of discussion on some blogs about complementarianism and choosing a husband who can be a “spiritual leader.” My husband is no spiritual leader, and the ministers in our former church repeatedly rubbed his nose in that. But he busts it hard every day to make sure our lights and water stay on, the mortgage is paid, food is on the table, and debt is paid off. He humbled himself to take all his receipts and paperwork into a meeting with a customer and banker to assess how many material and subcontractor bills had not been paid. He drinks a little too much sometimes.(I don’t blame him!)  He’s been the one to suggest several times now that we begin regularly attending the Methodist church. I love this man. He is honest and hard working. Please, ladies, do not cross a man off your list of possibilities because he doesn’t match some image of “spiritual leader.”  You may pass on a really good man. Give love a chance.

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photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

59 thoughts on “BeenThereDoneThat and Flying Free: Spiritual Abuse, A Personal Story”

  1. BTDT, I can hear freedom in your writing. The best part? You are now free to really know Jesus Christ intimately and not the fake version that comes through another human being! The best is yet to come. You are the daughter of King Jesus.


  2. I was really touched reading your story, BTDT. It struck a chord in my heart. I wish you all the best!


  3. Dear BTDT,
    Thank you for sharing your story, you are a courageous lady. Thanking God He has delivered you from this church and His Spirit is leading you and your family in love. May your faith continue to grow in God and that He will continue to lead you to Him.


  4. Dear BTDT,
    I am looking after our little granddaughter as I write this letter (we have 9 grandchildren with another on the way) and I have tears in my eyes. I can hear that you are a beautiful person and that you have a loving, wonderful husband (he reminds me of my own!). I agree with Julie Anne – you are a survivor. If your family was able to extricate yourselves from a situation like that, I believe you can do anything! My heart warms at the thought of your meeting with Julie Anne – that must have been therapeutic for you! It sounds to me like your brand of ‘therapy’ – talking/writing, thinking, reading, and watching your children excel – is working just fine. (oh, and p.s. – you have excellent writing skills! – and that’s coming from an English teacher) I wish you and your family all the best and if you ever want a Nova Scotian vacation, Julie Anne has my e-mail address. . .smile. . .and positive vibes to you all!!


  5. We’re proud of you and your husband, BTDT. Most people won’t have the courage to leave, but you did and are ensuring a good future for your children. I know a 55-year-old man whose father had the courage to leave a high-control group like this 40 years ago, and that example has made him very kind and caring toward people who are trying to escape and rebuild. (He did end up going to college, in fact is a Harvard MBA and is both humble and very successful.)


  6. Thank you all so much for your encouragement. I can already tell it’s going to be very healing just getting our story “out there.”

    I have a feeling I’m going to think of you often as I watch my oldest daughter grow up. I understand your mom’s love for you. Thank you for sharing what you have on this blog. Yours is an important perspective in stories such as these. And yours strikes a chord in my own heart.


  7. Wow beentheredonethat, you’re a brave woman! Thank you for sharing. I’d differ with you on one small point, I do think your husband is a leader (just perhaps not the type that is commonly promoted in Christian circles these days). Not sure if you’ve read her blog, but Jenny Rea Armstrong did a guest post series earlier this year on egalitarianism. I thought it was really helpful to me. Best wishes to you and your family!


  8. Thanks for sharing your story with us, BTDT. It will be healing and comfoting to get your story out in the open, and you have a lot of great people here that will support and stand with you.


  9. Thank you BeenThereDoneThat. Your story is a most compelling warning against the dangers of participating in any kind of fellowship founded on authority as opposed to love. While your situation was extreme, the difference between what you experienced and what I have observed through many years in more traditional “church” situations are differences of degree only. It is difficult for me to see how any kind of an organized, institutional “church” can be founded on anything other than authority. Therefore, all organized religion has become suspect to me. It would be interesting to see what happens if there were ever to be an attempt to do institutionalized church founded on the organizational principle of love, not authority. If I am correct in my view that church consists only of people, with no room for institutions to be brought into the picture, even an attempt at love-based institutional church would fail. I don’t doubt but what there would be a tendency for love to be reinterpreted to mean the exercise of authority.


  10. BeenThereDoneThat,

    You mention having been invited to attend a Methodist church. I grew up in the Methodist church. If I ever decide to participate in organized religion again, it may well be in a Methodist church. When I left Methodism almost a half century ago, they were all about freedom of thought, so long as your thoughts were liberal. Maybe this is changing, but it probably depends on the “pastor.” I do know that, in my small community with 4 churches, it is the Methodist preacher, a woman, who is intimately acquainted with Jesus. Still, while I may (or may not) find myself participating in a Methodist church, or possibly some other organized church, I am resolved NOT to become a member. The price I will pay for this is that I will be largely precluded from contributing according to my gifts, talents, training and experience. Then again, were I to join, I would be allowed to contribute only when and to the extent that my gifts, talents, training and experience serve to promote a predetermined agenda.

    “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, ESV). Membership may have its privileges, but I prefer freedom.


  11. If my daughters had chosen to remain with the church, they would only be allowed to marry another young man within that church. There are many more young ladies than young men. If they didn’t marry, they would remain living with my husband and I, and serve the church or its ministers in some capacity. (This is becoming a common scenario among the patriarchal “courtship” crowd.)

    When I read that, I wondered how long before they introduce “plural marriage (TM)” a la FLDS.


  12. Thank you BTDT for sharing your story. I’m so happy that your family is finding freedom and love in Christ. Speaking out about your situation must be scary and freeing at the same time ~ it’s a way to fight the fear that your former church/community used for control. They use fear as one of their best weapons to keep people down. It’s from the pit of hell. Thanks for your courage 🙂
    I’m sure (and pray) many will read here and be encouraged to escape their spiritually abusive environments due to your courage.


  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! When I read of your freedom, it makes me think of Les Miserables and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” I want to sing it loudly for you!

    I have enjoyed reading your comments here over the last year. Best wishes to you and your family as you enjoy your new life.


  14. BTDT, Thanks for sharing your experiences with abuse in the church. It’s something concrete that we can examine & learn from. I pray God blesses your family. May you grow ever closer to real God of the Bible who has been so distorted by that church, may you continue to heal & breathe freely, & may your losses be restored to you.

    I am so glad your daughters are liberated from this authoritarian “Biblical” control structure that excludes women from their full rights to knowledge & education. It seems to keep men from the blessings of education as well.

    I love what you said about the Complementarian control structure as well. It may sound good, but the facts say otherwise. It’s the “kinder, gentler word” for patriarchy but the facts show it’s patriarchy. Maybe not the extreme end of patriarchy, but it’s patriarchy. There is a default chain of command, based on gender alone. And it demeans those who don’t fit the mold. Why don’t we just call both, “Gender Alone” leadership? I agree with you, BTDT. Leadership isn’t based on gender alone. Your husband should have never been denigrated. And the actions of leaving their control structure show he has more sense & courage than they do.

    One more thing (there are so many!) you said that I just have to echo is how you were treated like a child. You were capable & competent, traveling when you were a late teen. But your independent thinking, competence, & decision-making were discouraged. This is wrong. We hear parent-child model is right for the preacher-laity, elder-laity church structure by Jonathan Leeman, Brian Thornton, Born for Battle, et all. That is the opposite of what the Bible says. We are to grow & mature in Christ.

    When someone thinks for themselves & has an opinion, why not discuss the opinion? Why not respond to the right or wrong of the opinion? When the response to an opinion is, “Are you submitting to elder authority?” they make it clear the chain of command is “the god”. Opinions are not allowed or worthy of discussion. It’s insubordination, the control structure itself prevents questioning. I 100% agree with Eric Fry, it’s a “shut up” response.

    Your experiences teach us. Thank you for sharing them. Your experiences again remind us how the Bible is used by individuals to control other individuals.


  15. Dear BTDT,
    I was so touched by your story, your courage and your resilience. I know that change for a battered woman is often preceded by a transformative experience in which another person, who stands outside of the battering relationship, reflects her reality in a way that enables her to more accurately and objectively assess her risk. I believe that you and all the others who participate with Julie Anne here on this site serve as transformative individuals–people who are changing the lives of others simply by telling their story.

    Abuse hides in secrecy and silence and I love that this community of individuals, including you, BTDT, is breaking that silence in a transformative way. Prayers for continued healing and growth for you and your family.


  16. BTDT, Thanks for getting your story out. It is the time for you to share. This is significant for you as a couple as it is therapeutic in ways that you will find out as time goes on! It is important for others to hear about your experiences and to understand the dynamics ‘behind the scenes’ in church cultures that claim the name of Christian. You have given a description regarding where many of the problem areas begin with belief and then practice in these groups. The evident harm shouts out.

    Trusting that you grow richly and deeply in all that Christ has for you as a couple and as a family. I am sure that you will be a lighthouse on a hill for others to see and be glad. May the Lord grant you peace, love, and joy as you rest in the realities of your freedom in Christ.


  17. Gary, I have been considering Methodist, myself. It is funny but when the SBC split from the North over slavery, my abolitionist SBC ancestors went to the Methodists until around the turn of the century when abolitionists and civil rights beliefs were once again accepted in certain SBC non Calvinist churches.

    Freedom of thought is very important to me, too. And I don’t mind the liberalism (mostly political) if it is not shoved down my throat which can become another form of groupthink as bad as the fundys.


  18. BTDT, I have to agree with another commenter about your husband being a leader. Here is a man who works hard to provide for his family and clean up problems in his business. He had the wisdom to seek out “professional” advisors. What a blessing! You can be proud of his leadership.


  19. Seth and lydiasellerofpurple,
    Thank you for your comments about my husband’s leadership abilities. It will encourage him to read them. Since our former church was the only one he’s ever known, he tends to respond to his experience as if he just doesn’t “cut it” as a Christian. But he wants to be a Christian.
    I’ve seen people here who are well versed in scripture, Greek, and Biblical history. People who are devoted to reading the Bible and prayer. I think it’s wonderful. I’m so grateful to everyone who contributes those gifts on this blog. However, if you need someone to oversee your church’s building project, my husband is your man.


  20. Gary W,
    I’ve paid close attention to comments made here and TWW about people’s experiences in or knowledge of the Methodist Church, mainly because it is the church we’ve been invited to. Like you, I still don’t think I could ever join. The pastor of the church here knows our story, and was incredibly gracious and welcoming. I would enjoy visiting just to have a place to worship, and to spend time around other people so as to not feel so isolated.
    (I don’t mean this to be an endorsement. Just sharing my experience.)


  21. BeenThereDoneThat,

    I’ve enjoyed your comments and am thankful to get to know you better. I’m saddened by all that you and your husband have been through. The assault on his dignity in the midst of a financial struggle was cruel and unconscionable. May God give you both much healing in your new found freedom.


  22. BTDT, I am glad y’all are out from under that mess. But I have a question. Since I believe salvation comes from simply placing our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and I don’t believe that a person who has truly trusted Him as their savior can lose salvation, I noticed you mention a couple times about salvation and church membership. Did the church indicate verbally or was it implied that if you are placed outside the church you can’t go to heaven? In my opinion if they base salvation in church membership then there is more a problem than authority there. Thanks


  23. BTDT, the Book of Proverbs indicates that your husband has demonstrated the wisdom that God wishes us to have in our lives, no matter what anyone might say against him.

    “The good man asks advice from his friends ” Proverbs 12:26a

    “Plans go wrong with too few counselors; many counselors bring success.” Proverbs 15:22
    “What a shame — yes, how stupid! — to decide before knowing the facts!” Proverbs 18:13

    “Don’t go ahead with your plans without the advice of others.” Proverbs 20:1 8a

    “Get the facts at any price, and hold on tightly to all the good sense you can get.” Proverbs 23:23

    “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” Proverbs 24:3,4

    In showing that wisdom what he has done is to, “Commit your work to the Lord, then it will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3 rather than to commit his work to the will of other men. He may not be a teacher in the common sense of the word, but he is displaying true leadership in his example of leading your family out of financial despair into a new life. Don’t ever give up, either one of you!


  24. Darrell,
    I’m not sure if their position on this was because of their Oneness Pentecostal doctrines, or if it was their own interpretation. They interpreted 1John 4:3 “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” to refer to one’s submission to pastoral authority. In their view, when a pastor speaks to you it is as “Jesus in the flesh.” (“We beseech you in Christs’s stead”) So, if you didn’t submit to the pastor you were of the spirit of the Antichrist, and your salvation was questionable.

    Btw, I grew up SBC. I was also taught, as you said, that it is by our faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved. This church was very appealing to me when I was young, idealistic, and wanted to live my life for Jesus. It did not live up to its images of love and community. Sometimes I couldn’t even articulate what was wrong. I have a better understanding after reading some of these blogs. I wanted to add my real-life example as to how some of these teachings on authority and submission actually play out.


  25. Eric Fry,
    I hope my husband reads your last comment. Thank you.

    And thank you to everyone here for your support and prayers. You have no idea how much it means.


  26. BTDT, Wow! As many times as I have read that verse, heard it preached and taught, I never heard pastoral authority come out of that, nor could I even imagine it coming from there. If you don’t mind though, I was curious whether salvation being tied to the church was implied or expressly stated. Thanks


  27. Darrell,
    You know, now I’m going to have to look through their Baptism/Communion covenant to see if it’s more expressly stated. (This covenant is 138 pages with proof-texts to back up the statements. There are dozens of places we had to initial and sign. Takes church covenants to a whole new level.) I’ll leave another comment if I can find something. I can tell you this. It was preached from the pulpit that we would not be saved if we left that church and did not go to another church with “greater light.” (More revelation from God than they had) And, of course, they knew of no other churches “out there” that fit this description, though they were sure there may be one somewhere.


  28. BTDT, you don’t have to go thru all that. You answered my question when you said what was preached. Once again, glad y’all are out of there. And thanks your answers.


  29. Julie Anne,
    I’ve often thought about mailing a copy to Dee or Barb Orlowski. Just skimming through it now it sounds soooo intelligent. These are very smart people. Someone who is more educated can pick up on the errors quicker than I can.


  30. In their view, when a pastor speaks to you it is as “Jesus in the flesh.” (“We beseech you in Christs’s stead”) So, if you didn’t submit to the pastor you were of the spirit of the Antichrist, and your salvation was questionable.

    Not much of a stretch from there to the pastor proclaiming “I AM God”. And personally benefiting from it all the way. Nice racket. Especially for a control freak egomaniac.


  31. JA,
    I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to call it a church. A while back, I ran across a thread about them on an Apostolic forum, and even they called it a cult. It’s extreme even by their standards.
    Yes, we’re in regular contact with a few ex-members. And my husband runs into others all the time in his daily goings.


  32. HUG,
    If I haven’t told you before, I love your comments.

    I agree with you. And a lot of smart people have been sucked into this.


  33. BeenThereDoneThat

    Your story is full of – enCOURAGEment…

    And love your title…
    “BeenThereDoneThat and Flying Free”

    Yup – Once you taste that FREEDOM – It’s hard to put up with anything less.

    Be blessed…
    And continue to be a blessing…

    Jesus love “WE” this I know…


  34. BeenThereDoneThat

    How good could you feel
    If you knew you did NOT have to change “NOW?”

    How good could you feel
    If you knew – Jesus loves you, accepts you, appreciates you, respects you…
    Just the way you are – “NOW.”


    And God would say to you…

    And I love you – The way you are
    There’s nothing you need to change

    You’ll always be – The perfect Ye
    Nothing to re-arrange

    You’re wonderful – You’re beautiful
    Being the best way you can

    And I, the God of ALL creation, love you
    Just the way you am…


  35. Been there done that~

    I just now read your story. Wow… what a beautiful example of how a husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church.
    May God continue to bless you and your family. Rejoicing with you!


  36. BTDT, cheering you and your family on as you continue living in true freedom! Thank you for courageously sharing your story…I could relate to learning how to make decisions for yourself – I struggled with that for quite a while.

    Thanks again for sharing your story.


  37. Dear BeenThereDoneThat,

    Astonishing what you’ve been through. I’m so pleased to hear that you and your family escaped that prison intact, and that God is granting you healing, bit by bit. May He continue to be with you all, and bless you richly in many, many ways.

    A 138-page “covenant”…. and I feel nauseous at the thought of reading through a four-page employment contract. 😦

    Your former church ought to rename themselves “Control Freaks R Us”.


  38. BTDT- Boggles my mind to read your story. O my, my.
    Thank-You for telling/sharing. You are a remarkable woman, & hubby sounds like a glorious man. Rejoicing inside that you got out. Whew, Damn. Wow.


  39. There has been a parallel discussion at The Wartburg Watch on church covenants and abuses of the discipline process. There I commented:

    The church covenant or discipline policy should lay out the specific sins that are to be considered grounds for discipline and what discipline will be applied to each. Second, it should not be in the hands of the pastor or his selected cronies to decide what gets brought to the church. An openly nominated and elected body should have that responsibility. It could be “elders” or “deacons” or a “discipline committee”, the the nominating and election process should be fully open and free and by the members, not the “leadership”. (BTW, I endorse open nominations and elections for all “leadership” positions, including a personnel committee and, when needed, a “pastor search committee”!!!)

    The member joining should be asked to sign the discipline policy including a statement that they have read and understood the policy. The policy should not be changed absent a vote by 2/3 of the members attending a well-noticed meeting. The policy should detail steps for different levels of offense. For example, a child abuser should receive a shorter process before dismissal and a destructive gossip should have multiple opportunities to repent prior to dismissal. And gossip should be defined as spreading FALSE rumors about members, not merely complaining about some issue.

    And, dismissal should be the ultimate punishment, not shunning (Jesus taught to love and witness to the tax collector, and recruited one as a disciple!). Discipline should stop with dismissal, so that a person no longer a member cannot continue to be “under discipline”.
    All of this makes church discipline a difficult choice and a lot of work. That is why most churches do not practice it and those who do generally do it poorly!

    If a church does not have all of the things I have laid out above, then the discipline practices of the church are primed to be a tool of abuse. Shun any church that has a covenant to be signed that mentions discipline as a likely cultic, abusive organization.


  40. Thanks for that info, An Attorney. Those are wise words. The use of shunning among churches really astounds me. It is absolutely evil, so painful, so unnecessary, and contrary to what I see in scripture.


  41. BTDT, please send a good quality copy of the covenant to Dee or Deb to be scanned into a PDF file to send to me. Or they can give you my address off line so you can send it to me. I can scan it, condense it, and make it available to them to post a link on line.


  42. An Attorney,
    I am grateful for your offer to help. I’ll be in touch with Julie Anne about making contact.

    This covenant is very thorough on what this church considers to be a sin. In fact, it is so thorough, I am having trouble picking out any one or two quotes to post here. It would be best for someone to see it in its entirety.

    Going off of the example I gave in the above post, both my husband and I strongly believed it to be unethical to file for bankruptcy unless it were absolutely necessary. He has worked hard to develop his relationships with customers, suppliers, and subcontractors. It hurt him to put all of these people and businesses at a loss. Many of them have become more than just business acquaintances. This was why he determined to find other options to resolve this. It hurt deeply to have our minister insult him for proposing what we saw to be a better option to their suggestion of bankruptcy. It was further painful to be disciplined and shunned for not submitting to this pastoral authority. But, I believe they’ve laid it all out in their covenant with plenty of proof-texts to back up their position.

    I must say, both my husband and I are very nervous at the suggestion of posting this covenant online. If you are ever involved with enough ex-members from this church, you will likely notice we all have a great fear of speaking out. That fear is very telling itself. To quote one reporter who covered an investigative report on this church, “So many people who started to tell their stories backed out for fear of severing ties with family and friends within the compound … many took months to convince to talk …”
    He also said “he’s never had to work so hard to corroborate allegations of an important story.”


  43. Thanks for that info, An Attorney. Those are wise words. The use of shunning among churches really astounds me. It is absolutely evil, so painful, so unnecessary, and contrary to what I see in scripture.

    It’s the Gospel According to Charlie the Unicorn:



  44. An Attorney,

    Something else I thought to add: When this whole situation began to unfold, our minister requested a meeting with the customer we are most indebted to. This customers opinion of that meeting was that it was just damage control. This minister had no interest in helping him or my husband. In the following months this customer had further contact with people in this church. He told my husband, “they act less like a church and more like a vigilante group. And I’m not the only one who feel that way.” This is the same customer who invites us to his Methodist church. He feels bad for US. And we feel terrible that we owe him money.


  45. Obviously, BTDT, this person from the Methodist Church sees GOOD PEOPLE, not a debt unpaid. See why I’m still in church, even though I might not believe in the God everyone else believes in? Because I believe in good people who have good within- this guy’s a perfect example.


  46. BTDT, I am sorry it has taken me so long to comment here (I’ve been traveling all over our state). Your story brings tears to my eyes. You and your husband are so courageous. I don’t even know what else to say except that I am here for you. If you are ever in east tx, I would be honored to meet you.


  47. Holy cow to everything I just read in the OP. This may seem odd to others here, but one thing that stood out to me the most was the whole “only the ministers can have iPhones or tinker with other people’s phones.”

    Yes, there was way more awful stuff in BTDT’s story (I’m glad you’re on the road to recovery. BTDT), such as sexual abuse, but the anal retentive control freak aspect of telling people they can’t owm an iPhone, or that the preacher / staff think they have the right to access church member cell phones and lock them out of its features? The entitlement mentality they have is staggering, down to controlling people’s tech gadgets. That is quite the level of insanity.

    And as far as them saying the singles are expected to marry only other people in the church, which is going to keep some of the women single (because there are more single women there than single men)? The same situation holds true for Christianity across the board.

    For years I believed in Christian hype about “don’t be yoked to an unbeliever” and “wait on the Lord for a spouse” and I am still single in my forties.

    I no longer care if the guy I marry is a Christian or not, and I don’t care what the Bible seems to teach on the topic. I’ve already decided after some big personal changes in my life coming up in several months, that after I get back on my feet again (when I can date again), I will now date (and marry, should that happen) a Non- Christian.

    Telling people they can only marry another person from their church or in the same faith, when one gender out numbers another or does not attend religious services, only keeps some people single way into middle age. I have had enough of that.

    Christian people who are already married have a very easy time preaching at unmarried Christians to only marry another Christian.

    As I have left more and more of the Christian faith behind me, and many of the rules other Christians expect me to follow, I feel more free. I am starting to enjoy living life for the first time ever.

    (I am having issues posting. If this is a double or triple copy of my post please feel free to delete any duplicates)


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