Church membership, church discipline, Pastor Eric Davis, Cornerstone Church
Church Member Responsibility and Church Discipline According to the Cornerstone Church By-laws
I recently wrote about how Julie Anne and I dared to comment on an article at The Cripplegate which subsequently caused our comments to be deleted and comments to be closed. Pastor Eric Davis provided an entirely too long explanation about how the discussion had run its course, more humbleness in being a part of God’s community was needed, and that there was too much focus on logistics. Let’s not forget that he provided the wonderful 16-point article challenging excuses for not going to church. But who’s focusing on logistics? Continue reading
How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom
“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
― Steven Hassan,
I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading
Phil Johnson, C.J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries Sex Abuse Case, Together for the Gospel, #T4G2016, Survivor Blogs
Street Preacher, Tony Miano, member of John MacArthur’s church, Grace Community Church thinks this is how to stop abortions and win people to Christ.
Phil Johnson, Tony Miano, Grace Community Church and Public Rebuking for Bad Public Behavior
Is Complementarianism the Gospel? Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) Seems to Confuse the Gospel with Their Agenda
Karl Heitman and Matt Tarr come to different conclusions about whether it is okay for young ladies to go to college. Both cite John MacArthur and the Bible to back up their claims. Who is right?
Two Influential Christian leaders offer diverse responses regarding (1) professional counseling and (2) response to [adult] children with same-sex issues or identity.
Commenters share about high-controlling pastors who leave a path of mental health destruction, even suicide, because they cannot get appropriate help.
C.J. Mahaney is pictured in front-row seats at the Together for the Gospel conference after publicly saying he would not participate due to the distraction of the Sovereign Grace Ministries lawsuit.
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Tony Miano, author of Should She Preach?, attended John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference at Grace Community Church, along with Pastor Chuck O’Neal (suing pastor who had minister’s license revoked and currently in discipline), Phil Johnson, Dr. Steve Lawson, all of whom contributed to Miano’s book.
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I apologize in advance for the length of this post. Please read the Facebook status slowly and let it sink in, would you?
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Before I get to the subject of this article, I wanted to give a brief update on my court case: I’ve had a few people asking me on the blog and privately if my former pastor has paid the attorney’s fees. He and/or the church did pay the attorney fees for the two defendants who were dismissed early on. I believe this amount was just under $17,000. Judge Fun has not issued an order for the fees yet for our portion, nor has there been any action on the plaintiff’s side to appeal. So basically, my understanding is we are waiting for Judge Fun to issue the order to get that ball rolling.
|“Church” as seen through the eyes of my now 10-yr old resident artist.|
It appears that my case is winding down or is seemingly quiet for the moment. The case victory means I am free to speak my mind on the internet within the rights of the Constitution. Yea for Freedom of Speech! Other bloggers like me are continuing to share their difficult church stories and their speech is protected, too. My blog did not remove my pastor from the pulpit, but it has served the initial purpose of having a place to tell my story in hopes that others could identify spiritual abuse and we can all learn and heal from our experiences.
Has this blog served any other purpose? Regulars may be familiar with my friend and reader brad/futuristguy. Brad has experienced spiritual abuse and has been compiling information, following trends and patterns regarding spiritual abuse for years. We’ve been observing how bloggers and social media are impacting the views of church by uncovering and creating document archives for church abuse stories, discussing the financial misdeeds and power plays of pastors, watching how churches handle sex abuse in church. The internet has allowed us to get a close-up look at what churches are doing right and wrong.
Disclaimer: I am keenly aware that there are in fact troublemakers in churches who are chronic grumblers and complainers who have posted negative comments online about their church. This article is not discussing that problematic issue, but real cases of abuse coming from pastors and leaders in the church.
It’s interesting to note that my church was a Podunk church of maybe 100 congregants, yet it made the headlines as if it were a mega church. Most people in Beaverton probably didn’t even know of the small church. The church is not on a major road and sits back behind a small housing development. Reader, Kathi, is from the area and had no clue where the church was until I told her, yet, the media attention broadcast the church’s and pastor’s name far and wide around the world so that names Beaverton Grace Bible Church and Chuck O’Neal became publicly known as the church/pastor who sued a mother and former congregants for $500,000. The internet and social media have put churches, regardless of size, on an even playing field. What this means is that my single voice – – – or your single voice – – – from Podunk, USA – – can be heard just as loud as someone’s voice from a mega church with a celebrity pastor. This is very important to note.
Mega-churches are certainly realizing the impact of social media and the effect it has on their reputation. Take my case for example. My former pastor falsely said in his Google review that a pastor from mega church Grace Community Church (Pastor John MacArthur’s church) told him it was okay to sue me. (That is my paraphrase.) This comment was picked up by popular Christian bloggers and went viral. Even mainstream media picked up on this information and added it to their news stories. This false comment threatened the reputation of Grace Community Church, Grace to You, and Pastor John MacArthur to such an extent that Phil Johnson, John MacArthur’s right-hand man, had to involve himself in my Podunk church’s lawsuit mess and issued a press release on behalf of John MacArthur and Grace Community. Do you see the ripple effect?
There is a new reality for pastors and others who may be attempting to hide their spiritually abusive practices. The internet has become a real threat to pastors who once found a safe haven in the walls of their church to continue their destructive behavior. The internet has allowed individuals to voice their concerns LOUDLY. Podunk pastors may not realize this new reality yet, but larger, more popular churches like Sovereign Grace Ministries, Grace Community, Mars Hill, and so many other Christian celebrity people and places are certainly aware of it.
The BGBC/O’Neal lawsuit was pivotal to watch last summer because it discussed freedom of speech regarding church abuse. Because of the clear victory in my case, a precedent has been set, giving bloggers added confidence to know that it is within their rights to publish their stories and express their opinions about their negative experiences in churches or ministries with strong words like: spiritual abuse, cult, creepy. They can even discuss publicly online how churches handle sex abuse or sex offenders.
My case represented spiritual abuse and also discussed sexual abuse and how it is handled by leaders within a church. A huge case that has been in the headlines around the same time has been the handling of the sex abuse case at Penn State. The world has been watching how Penn State staff, administration, and trustees handled (or mishandled) the many sex abuse cases connected with Jerry Sandusky. This case has caused outrage across the nation as we have seen how those involved in that system, one after another, failed to take appropriate measures and/or report crimes to authorities.
We have seen in many news accounts that there were far more efforts in defending the image of Jerry Sandusky and Penn State than protecting and defending innocent children. This story has caused many universities and organizations to take a closer look at their abuse policies. That is good. I recently posted about mandatory reporters at church and how some states allow pastors an exemption from reporting abuse, yet other states will arrest church leaders who fail to report. These are hot topics in churches and organizations across the States. Hopefully, as church abuse cases are coming to light, church leaders will be taking a good look at their policies regarding sex abuse and spiritual abuse.
My strong words were regarding my little church, but they represented a small sampling of what is happening all over the states in small churches and mega churches. There are a number of ongoing church situations similar to mine, with bloggers and members/former members sharing their personal accounts. I think it is important to take note of these situations and observe how they are handled in the church setting, and also observe how other pastors and outsiders are responding. Here are some that come to mind quickly:
Calvary Chapel: Abuses are noted in the Calvary Chapel family of churches. A current situation is Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia threatening to sue 4 former church members for defamation. Other personal accounts of spiritual abuse are shared involving many Calvary Chapel churches.
Sovereign Grace Ministries: The blogs, SGMSurvivors.com and SGMRefuge.com, deal with the heavy-handed abuse, sexual abuse cover-ups in the family of churches, Pastor CJ Mahaney’s abuse of authority, blackmailing former church leader, etc.
Mars Hill: Joyful Exiles and Mars Hill Refuge – these blogs are no longer “active” but the stories are there – permanently archived on the internet. These cover the heavy-handedness of Pastor Mark Driscoll in use of “church discipline,” his use of church memberships in controlling ways, etc.
I will be highlighting one of the above church groups in the next post because there’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on and it is important to keep tabs on this situation in light of church trends in dealing with spiritual abuse and sex abuse.
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Our former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, said in a Google review (now removed) that a pastor from Grace Community encouraged him to sue us. This is the public response from John MacArthur/Grace Community via The Wartburg Watch blog. Dee, thanks for posting the information.
“In a story currently circulating on the Internet, a claim is being made that the elders of Grace Community Church (John MacArthur, Pastor) advised a church in another state to file a defamation lawsuit against a former member.
For the record, we would not approve of such a lawsuit, for multiple reasons.
‘First, Scripture expressly teaches that it is better to be defrauded than to take a fellow Christian to court: “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? . . . It is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7). Here is what John MacArthur says about that passage:
Christians who take fellow Christians to court lose spiritually before the case is heard. The fact that they have lawsuits at all is a sign of moral and spiritual defeat (hettema, a word used of defeat in court). A believer who takes a fellow believer to court for any reason always loses the case in God’s sight. He has already suffered a spiritual defeat. He is selfish, and he discredits the power, wisdom, and work of God, when he tries to get what he wants through the judgment of unbelievers.
The right attitude of a Christian is to rather be wronged, to rather be defrauded, than to sue a fellow Christian. It is far better to lose financially than to lose spiritually. Even when we are clearly in the legal right, we do not have the moral and spiritual right to insist on our legal right in a public court. . . .
. . . If we cannot convince the brother to make things right, and if he will not listen to fellow believers, we are better off to suffer the loss or the injustice than to bring a lawsuit against him. “Do not resist him who is evil,” Jesus commanded, “but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matt. 5:39-40). Contrary to the world’s standard, it is better to be sued and lose than to sue and win. Spiritually, it is impossible for a Christian to sue and win. When we are deprived wrongfully we are to cast ourselves on the care of God, who is able to work that for our good and His glory. [The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Chicago: Moody, 1984), 139-40.]
Second , Jesus was very clear about what Christians should do even when we are vilified by unbelievers: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:11-12). “Do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (vv. 39-40).’
That is our official position, and it is not merely theoretical. Having been at times targets of malicious slander in various gossip-forums on the Internet, we do appreciate the frustration of dealing with relentless character assassination.
But the example we were given to follow by Christ Himself deals with exactly such situations: “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).”
Phil Johnson- Elder, Grace Community Church
But it still doesn’t answer the question: did anyone from Grace Community encourage/suggest/advise Pastor Chuck O’Neal to sue us? I can’t find the answer to that in the public response.
I hope Bill Shannon will respond to my e-mail. I keep checking.
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Side note: I am getting quite a few e-mails about donations to help with our legal fees. I would like to thank all of those who have asked. It warms our hearts to know that you want to support in a real practical way. Thank you so much!!
Does anyone know how this can work with regard to taxes, etc, and how to easily facilitate this process?
|Six More Days Until Court Hearing|
There are a number of Christian bloggers keeping up with our story. Yesterday, two popular bloggers posted articles about our situation and I wanted to give more information so you can see how things fit together.
I’ll give a little background. This is the original Google review that was posted February 25, 2012. It has since been revised one or more times and I’ve had several readers tell me Chuck took it down entirely very recently after the media got the story.
Admin note: If you click on the links below, you will see that the reviews have since been edited (in fact, multiple times). Below is what was on the Google review site as of the date of this original posting.
– Feb 25, 2012DEFAMATION IS A CRIME: Pastor Chuck O’ Neal, his wife, his children, and Beaverton Grace Bible Church as a whole, have suffered JulieAnne’s hateful lying slander for well over three years. After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from JulieAnne’s endless defamation, he recommended that we FILE A LAWSUIT in an appeal to Caesar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state. The lawsuit has been filed in the Washington County courthouse. JulieAnne and many of those involved in her present and historic slander will be served within the week. Her many lies and vicious criminal accusations will not stand in the light of day in the Washington County courthouse or in the coming courtroom before God. OVER THREE YEARS AGO the reviewer known as JulieAnne or “BROWN” was Biblically put out of Beaverton Grace Bible Church for ongoing vicious slander. You can see my 2009 response to her in the reviews below .
This “review” (it’s not really a review of Beaverton Grace Church, it’s a review of me, but strangely, I don’t see “Julie Anne Smith” at the top of the Google site, but Beaverton Grace Bible Church).
Side note: Can someone do me a favor and look up the rules on Google reviews and see if it is okay for a “business owner” to review the reviewer? Also, can someone explain to me how my reviews were mysteriously removed? I contacted Google to have one of Chuck’s reviews removed (one where he is removing me) and they wouldn’t do it. They said they would need me to send them official court documentation before they would do it. Well, nothing has gone to court yet, but many reviews of mine were removed. How did they get removed? Weird. Sorry – that is just one thing that has bothered me for a while. Anyway . .
Back to the story . . . . . after I saw that review stating we would be served, I made a phone call to Grace Community Church on February 27. We played phone tag and I believe we finally connected on February 29. I spoke with a “pastor of the day”. I explained to him my story about the threatened lawsuit, the difficulties and challenges our family had with the church and wanted to know if he had any way of determining if in fact Chuck O’Neal had indeed been told by pastor(s) of Grace Community Church (John MacArthur’s church) to sue me.
I don’t have time to dig them up right now, but there are blog posts (on my blog) and/or comments discussing Grace Community Church’s involvement in this. A number of readers have quoted John MacArthur from his sermons/books/teachings where he discusses that Christians are not to sue other Christians. In all of MacArthur’s teachings that I saw, there was no exception for a Christian to sue another Christian, so that is why the interest in knowing if in fact a pastor from GCC recommended that Chuck O’Neal sue us.
The pastor told me, that as far as he could tell based on their record-keeping system, there was no record of Chuck calling any pastor regarding the lawsuit. I made sure he spelled it correctly “O’Neal”, not “O’Neil”, and he again confirmed it. He did say that if Chuck had a personal phone number of a pastor, then it was possible that he did hear from another pastor. I was a bit surprised that this pastor didn’t volunteer something like: “Based on scripture, Christians should not be suing one another, so I highly doubt one of our pastor encouraged your pastor to sue you. ” John MacArthur does not mince words on this subject, so why wouldn’t his pastors? But that did not happen.
Six days later, on March 1, 2012, my husband received the subpoena. Whoa! It’s pretty weird to see the names in all caps: CHUCK O’NEAL/BEAVERTON GRACE BIBLE CHURCH vs JULIE ANNE SMITH (etc) on an official court document.
The following week, I received a phone call and the Caller ID said “Grace Community”. I thought that was odd – perhaps a follow-up call from the previous pastor to see how I was doing? No, it was a pastor from Grace Community, Bill Shannon. I had no idea who this pastor was, but he said that he wanted to hear my side of the story regarding the lawsuit. He told me that Chuck had requested counsel. Chuck O’Neal and other men from church were in S. California to attend the annual Shepherd’s Conference put on by Grace Community. Bill asked me background questions and said they were planning on meeting with Chuck O’Neal later in the week. At the very end of the conversation he asked what it would take for me to remove my posts off the internet. I gave him conditions.
Later on in the week, they did meet. I had sent an additional e-mail of conditions we would like if Chuck agreed to drop the lawsuit. Chuck did not agree and so I received a follow-up e-mail from Bill that Grace Community could no longer help.
What I failed to do was ask Bill if he could confirm or deny that any pastor encouraged Chuck to sue us.
This is where things take off regarding Grace Community. Of course I personally wanted to know GCC’s stand on this issue, evidently FBX Jax did as well and made it part of the focus of his post.
After I saw FBX Jax’ blog post on Mother’s Day (Mother and Daughter Being Sued by Their Former Pastor – Pastor Claims He Was Told to Sue by John MacArthur’s Church), I remembered I had a draft copy of an e-mail I was going to send to Bill Shannon asking him to let me know whether or not he or any pastor at GCC had recommended to Chuck that he sue us. This had been a matter of discussion on my blog recently, so I finally sent that e-mail to Bill yesterday (May 14) afternoon.
A few hours later, I noticed that Dee of Wartburg Watch Blog also took off on that same topic.
There were a couple things I wanted to talk about regarding the post, so I called Dee. I was surprised to learn that she, too, had contacted Grace Community on the same day – only a few hours earlier, asking about the same info. That was a strange coincidence.
Late night, I saw a reader comment from Phil Johnson:
I just learned about this story for the first time at noon today. I couldn’t locate your e-mail address, bit if you’ll e-mail me, I’ll send you an official statement from Grace Church and John MacArthur that you can publish. If you want to talk further by phone, I’ll tell you what I learned about this situation this afternoon. I’ll give you my cell # by e-mail.
So I left this comment on Phil’s blog since I couldn’t find a place to e-mail him:
Julie Anne said…
Bill Shannon has my e-mail and phone number. Or else you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 25 – Chuck posts review saying he is suing us
Feb 29 – talked with pastor of the day from GCC
Mar 1 – Received subpoena
Mar 5 or 6 – Bill Shannon phoned me to ask questions
Mar 9 – Bill Shannon told me he can no longer help in our situation after meeting with Chuck
Did they or did they not encourage Chuck to sue us? That is the question!
So, now we wait for Dee and Phil Johnson to connect so she can post the official statement from John MacArthur on this situation. Would someone please send me a dose of patience?
Those of us who attended Beaverton Grace Bible Church certainly know how much the pastor admired and respected John MacArthur. I have heard first-hand from a pastor at Grace Community that Chuck O’Neal and others went to the Shepherd’s Conference this year as they have gone many years past.
I’d like to remind my readers of a few quotes aimed at me because of Google reviews I posted. Disclaimer: You might need sunglasses/earplugs for the online shouting.
DEFAMATION IS A CRIME: It is convenient and crafty to wage a three and a half year war of reviling defamation in which you and those with you ACCUSE THE PASTOR AND CHURCH OF HORRIFIC CRIMES AGAINST GOD AND MEN, to then hide behind 1 Cor. 6:7-8.
FOR THREE AND A HALF YEARS JULIEANNE AND THOSE WITH HER, HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN PUBLIC, CHURCH TO CHURCH, AND WORLD WIDE WEB DEFAMATION IN A SELFISH WILLINGNESS TO DISCREDIT GOD, HARM THE CHURCH, HARM WIVES, HARM CHILDREN, AND HARM THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST’S GOSPEL.
IN MATTERS OF GREAT DAMAGE TO OURSELVES OR FAMILIES, WE MAY USE LAWFUL MEANS TO RIGHT OURSELVES. WE ARE NOT BOUND TO SIT DOWN AND SUFFER THE INJURY TAMELY, WITHOUT STIRRING FOR OUR OWN RELIEF;
John MacArthur was interviewed by popular blogger Tim Challies. John MacArthur’s words are very appropriate in light of the lawsuit my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, has brought against me and three others. Read what he has to say about public criticism against those who speak/preach publicly:
One final thought to add is this: I believe that it is appropriate to respond publicly to that which has been taught publicly. If someone has published something in a book or on a blog or preached it in a sermon (which has then been made available online), it is now subject to public critique. I certainly believe this is true with regard to my own teachings. Anything I have preached or published (and therefore made public) is consequently subject to public criticism. And I don’t consider my critics to necessarily be unloving just because they disagree with me. In fact, I welcome their feedback, because it is part of the sharpening process. ( http://www.challies.com/interviews/5-more-questions-with-john-macarthur)
“Harming wives and children? Discredit God? Harming the church? Accuse the pastor and church of horrific crimes?” All of these strongly worded accusations because I, a mere stay-at-home homeschooling mother of 7, posted reviews on Google that the pastor didn’t like? All of this talk of war and crime, harming women and children? I have spent countless hours working with new moms, helping them when they have babies, giving breastfeeding advice, counseling and support for as long as I can remember. I have loved children my whole life, babysat, began a children’s choir at the age of 19, taught children at homeschool co-ops for years and continue to teach my own as well as work with public high school students on a daily basis. I’m a danger to mothers and children? Neither of the last public schools I volunteered with on a daily basis seem to think I’m a danger. I’ve passed background checks in the states of Oregon and Washington in order to volunteer in public schools. Dude, I don’t carry weapons, well, I admit to finding Nerf bullets in my pocket every now and then. Oh wait, do knitting needles count?
(And yes, I actually got out of my nice bed with electric blanket, walked into the family room to get this shot for you, my beloved readers.)
I may be freakishly tall and it is a fact that I have red hair and I’ve heard that red hair can intimidate some, but I’m not that powerful to wage a 3-1/2 yr “war” against God. Does he think I’m that powerful? The reviews are words expressing my thoughts, feelings, experiences, observations, and concerns. Simply words.
It’s too bad John MacArthur’s method of looking at criticisms as part of the sharpening process wasn’t adopted instead of wasting precious time, money, and resources from countless people.