A couple of weeks ago the blogosphere was all abuzz with Andrew’s story, the story of a former member of a nationally prominent megachurch who became a victim of church discipline gone monumentally awry. (You know this church, you know where it is, and you know who the pastor is. If not, you can easily find out by reading what others have written on this story. Bashing this church and/or its pastor is a full-contact sport in some parts of the Christian blogosphere, and I have no desire to get into that here.)
By now the 24-hour news cycle of the Christian blogosphere has left this story well behind. And I probably should too. But I just can’t seem to let it go. So I will post a few of my own thoughts on this affair.
First, a brief summation of what others around the web have written about Andrew’s story:
—In a follow-up post, Matthew Paul Turner speaks to the broader issue of abusive spiritual environments.
—Chaplain Mike over at internetmonk.com recounts Andrew’s story and suggests that the historical practice of confession and absolution, specifically as practiced in the Lutheran tradition, is a much better way of doing church discipline.
—In a follow-up post, Chaplain Mike suggests that relational wisdom is lacking in many Christian communities, and that greater relational wisdom on the part of Andrew’s community could have kept this thing from ever rising to the level of a church discipline issue.
—Blogger Wenachee the Hatchet, a former member of the church in question, sheds light on discipline and pastoral accountability issues that have long been of concern, and suggests that the Andrew situation is a storm that has been brewing for a long time.
Now to share some of my own thoughts and move toward wrapping this up.
First: You may disagree with how the leadership of this church has handled the Andrew situation, or even with their overall approach to church discipline and pastoral accountability, if the things Wenachee the Hatchet has to say are any indication of the true state of affairs there. But it is very important to remember that there are good Christians who go to this church, who have worked very hard to build the community of this church and who have poured a lot of themselves into it. No doubt this is a very trying time for them. And if the negative publicity resulting from the Andrew situation leads to the downfall of this church and/or its pastor, they will be affected very strongly. They need to be in our prayers during this time.
But here is the main reason why I can’t let this story go: Andrew’s story is my story too. And it’s your story too. The details may be different–you probably didn’t act inappropriately with a woman other than your fiancee (or maybe you did, I don’t know). You may still be a well-accepted and valued member of your church. The bottom line is still the same: We all need mercy. We all need forgiveness. In short, we all need Christ. And when we sin–and you will, if you haven’t already–we need places and times where we can confess our sin, individually and corporately, and receive the forgiveness that comes from Christ by virtue of the cross.
In short, we all need the Gospel. We need to experience it in word and deed. We need to be told regularly–whether it be through word, ritual, art, music, celebration, or any other means–that we are forgiven, that we are part of the family of God. And this isn’t something that we can just hear once or twice and then move on to the biblical parenting/money management seminars. We need to keep coming back to this, over and over again.