Part 4 of a 5-part series.
“A Badge of Honor” – My Excommunication & Shunning from a NeoCalvinist Church – by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©
TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
“Consider your excommunication as a badge of honor from a church like that!” –
Boz Tchividjian, Attorney/Law Professor/former sex crimes prosecutor/ advocate for child sex abuse victims/founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham, words of encouragement to me on my excommunication/shunning from Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley (California)
- First Church Discipline Case: A Midde-Aged Woman Who Wouldn’t “Obey” and “Submit” To Her Husband According To The Senior Pastor
The first church discipline meeting I witnessed at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley, before Dr. Luke’s excommunication and shunning, was that of a godly, middle-aged professional woman and wife. The senior pastor told church members to stay after the Sunday service for a closed door meeting. There were several hundred church members. The woman was not there.
The senior pastor told church members that they had “worked with [the wife] for a very long period of time and she was now at Step 3 of the Church Discipline process.”
He said that she “hadn’t obeyed and submitted to her husband”, who was still a church member.
The senior pastor denigrated this dear Christian woman before all of us. She is a lovely, kind, generous person. She has a special gift in working with mentally ill adults who live in group homes and evangelizing them as well as with the elderly in convalescent hospitals.
The senior pastor told hundreds of church members to “pursue her”. She responded by disconnecting her cell phone, her email, and moving out of the family home.
When I interviewed her she told me that there was something terribly wrong with Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley and that she refused to return. She went to another church in another denomination that had a solid church structure and outside accountability. She told me that the pastors/elders at our church had screamed and yelled at her, including coming to her home and screaming at her.
If they had done to me when she says they did to her, I would call the police and have them arrested.
The senior pastor told us at a members’ meeting later in the year that they had to “let her go”. Ya think? It’s a free country. She’s an adult and a tax payer. It was unconscionable to me that she was ever treated this way.
TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
- If You Want To Leave The Church You Have To Have An “Exit Interview” With Two Elders. Convicted Felons With Supervising Law Enforcement Agencies Aren’t Vetted When Joining The Church.
The pastors/elders changed the By-Laws and if church members want to leave they are required to meet with two pastors/elders to have an “exit interview”. As the books on spiritual abuse have also said that abusive churches make leaving very difficult.
The pastors/elders at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley however permitted their friend a Megan’s List sex offender who was convicted for child pornography to join the church, become a member, and they placed him in a leadership position over a team. They gave him cart blanche access to all church activities.
He had served prison time and has a supervising law enforcement agency, the Sheriff’s sex offenders’ task force.
The pastors/elders told me that he was “coming off Megan’s List” because “he said so”. You have got to be kidding me? A convicted felon is on Megan’s List, was convicted for sex crimes, served time in prison has a supervising law enforcement agency and the pastors/elders take ‘his word’ instead of doing ‘due diligence’ with his supervising law enforcement agency?
The sheriff’s sex offenders’ task force and the California Attorney General’s Office called my ex-pastor’s and the elders’ stories “all lies” and “total lies”. They said the sex offender is NOT coming off Megan’s List. At this writing, he’s still on it.
17. The Rest Of The Story…A Bruising Meeting With Pastors/Elders About The Megan’s List Sex Offender
As I said in the beginning of my story, the problems at this church – too many to count – came to a head over the issue of the Megan’s List sex offender at church that I had discovered by accident while doing a separate research project on a city’s sex offenders for a former sex crimes prosecutor.
I recognized the man at church as being the man I had seen on Megan’s List of sex offenders. I reported my findings to the church’s pastors/elders. They called me to a meeting.
I thought that we were going to have an adult conversation about child safety. It wasn’ “adult” at all. It was like all of the other things that they had mishandled.
17a. “Child Porn Isn’t A Big Deal”
The pastors/elders told me that “child porn wasn’t a big deal.” I told them it was “a very big deal” and it’s a violation of federal and state laws, felony crimes. I went on to detail the differences between adult pornography which is legal and child pornography which is illegal. I discussed all of the crimes committed against children to make child pornography, including rape, sodomy, oral copulation, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and drugging, to name just some of the crimes.
The senior pastor blushed bright red when I tackled the subject of pornography without flinching.
17b. “Why Are You Calling Him A Sex Offender?”
The senior pastor was furious that I had called the man “a sex offender”. He demanded to know why I was using that word. I replied, “It’s not my term. It’s a legal term. A person convicted of sex offenses is called a sex offender in the criminal codes.”
17c. Megan’s List Sex Offender Invited To Volunteer At Basketball Camp
The pastors/elders told me that they had invited the Megan’s List sex offender to volunteer at the five-day basketball camp that the church puts on for children in the summer time. The pastors/elders did not tell all parents, both church members and non-church members that a Megan’s List sex offender who is sexually attracted to children, could show up at any time to work with their children. It was not posted on the enrollment forms and posters.
What parent in their right mind would trust their children to a church knowing that a sex offender was given access to them by the pastors/elders?
Additionally, the Seventh Day Adventists, who rented their school’s gym to our church, hadn’t been told that a Megan’s List sex offender had been invited to come on to their property.
The Seventh Day Adventists are self-insured, they can be sued for any criminal acts against children that occur on their property, and they have strict child safety policies. Their authority at their own property was not respected by my (ex) church’s pastors/elders. I contacted the SDA school and I asked them.
17d. Had I Prayed For The Sex Offender?
The pastors/elders said that they sex offender was their friend, they had known him for years and they would entrust their children to him. They demanded to know if I had “prayed for him”. I told them that I was there to discuss the safety our church’s children, not prayer time. You do not bet the safety of children with someone who has already shown that when he had a choice between adult porn and child porn that he chose child porn.
Someone who is sexually attracted to children shouldn’t be around them.
(Note: According to a research study by the F.B.I. and the District Attorneys’ Association of inmates in prison for child porn, the majority of them confessed to having gotten away with “on-contact” sexual abuse of children. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people.)
17e. Pastors/Elders Said Mothers Aren’t Permitted To Protect Their Children
The senior pastor said that mothers aren’t permitted to protect their children and that if a father determines that the sex offender can touch his children that his word “is final” over his family and that his wife is “to obey” and “to submit” to him.
I hit him back with, “Mothers are required by God and California law to protect their children! She is NOT off the legal hook of responsibility by obeying and submitting to her husband. If it all goes wrong, she can be arrested and prosecuted for criminal negligence, child endangerment, child abuse, and a variety of other crimes. She can land in jail or state prison. Child Protective Services can take away her children and put them in foster care.”
17f. Had I Confronted The Sex Offender Per Matthew 18:15-17?
“Jeff T on The Wartburg Watch blog”:
God I’m sick of hearing this from fascist church leaders. They NEVER use it to engage in a Spirit-filled discussion of resolving differences. It’s ALWAYS used as an instrument of oppression. Whenever someone in their church raises an issue they don’t want discussed, they stand up and shout “Matthew 18!, Matthew 18!”, the person raising the issue is then hustled off to a backroom and subjected to a process worthy of a Chinese Communist reeducation camp. They are told they are wrong, not on the basis of anything having to do with the issue itself, but because they are refusing to submit to authority, they are being divisive, ergo they are sinners and must repent and if they don’t, they are subjected to “church discipline”, meaning they are shunned and harassed.’
The pastors/elders were enraged that I had written the California Attorney General’s Office about the sex offender, beneath his picture on Megan’s List. He had attended the Bible study that I go to and had whipped the entire Bible study into a frenzy of anger one night about all of the “bad people in prisons”, save me who was staring him down. He had omitted that he was a felon, had served prison time, was convicted of sex crimes, and was on Megan’s List. I went home that night, summarized the evening for the Attorney General and said, “Don’t EVER take him off Megan’s List. He is highly manipulative.”
The four pastors/elders said that I was supposed to confront him pursuant to Matthew 18:15-17 and they told me that I had failed. I shot back with, “It was YOUR job to protect all of us from him. I’m NOT confronting a convicted felon, a sex offender who is more than 6’0” feet tall, when I’m a woman. This is YOUR failing not mine.”
17g. Chairman of the Elder Board Closed The Meeting With A Threat To Me
The chairman of the elder board of Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley, the church that I had belonged to for nearly eight years, closed the meeting about my concerns for our church’s safety about a Megan’s List sex offender at church, by opening his Bible to a pre-marked page and reading it to me in somber tones. He read me a Scripture that I was basically not one of them and that I was destined for Hell.
He and the other three pastors/elders issued a threat to me that they intended to follow through on.
He then called me at home a few days later and told me that he and the other pastors/elders had made “a decision” and that I was to never contact law enforcement again about the Megan’s List sex offender. He also told me that I was to never reveal the name to law enforcement of the church I was a member of, the names of the pastors/elders, or the church’s location. The chairman of the elder board told me that I was “to obey” and “to submit” to them in “all things”.
According to the pastors/elders the Membership Covenant entitles them to control every aspect of members’ lives. In the United States and in my state (California) you can’t “contract” for illegal acts and that is not enforceable.
The “orders” of the pastors/elders can constitute Criminal Conspiracy (an agreement between two or more persons), Aiding and Abetting, Accessory After the Fact (if a crime has already occurred that is being covered up), Obstruction of Justice, Intimidating a Witness, and a Failure to Report as a Mandated Child Abuse Reporter, to name just a few crimes. The pastors/elders can face arrest and prosecution for their conduct.
- Sick, and Finally Sick and Tired Of An Authoritarian, Abusive Church
In 2014, the Chairman of the Elder Board demanded meetings from me about the accusations made about me by the woman Dyslexic. I refused.
I had been acutely ill for five weeks with a serious lung condition, I had been in and out of the hospital, and I was tired. I was tired of their controlling every aspect of my life. I stood my ground with him and told him I wanted an apology for their prior threat to me. Enraged, he told me that I owed them an apology and I was banned from church and church property until I made “it right with them”. I refused. .
- Excommunicated And Shunned…Mine.
Hundreds of church members were told to never speak to me again. That I was under Church Discipline. You know the usual story that the pastors/elders had “worked with me for years” (you mean screamed at me and threatened me) and that it had all been “to no avail”.
The pastors/elders told such a manipulative story about me that friends who had been close to me for years, that said I was one of the only people at church to support them, refused to ever speak to me again.
None of what the pastors/elders told about me was true. It was all lies. Like all of the other lies they told about the middle-aged professional woman who left and Dr. Luke.
“As Stephen Arteburn and Jack Felton [authors of Toxic Faith] remind us, it is often the case that ‘anyone who rebels against the system must be personally attacked so people will think the problem is the person, not the system.” Ronald Enroth, Recovering from Churches That Abuse, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 153., FREE here:
[Note: This book and Dr. Enroth’s other book Churches That Abuse are available for FREE online, here: http://www.reveal.org/development/Recovering_from_Churches_that_Abuse.pdf I recommend them.]
- First Christmas…Empty Mail Box
My mail box used to be full of Christmas cards and gifts. I didn’t get anything from friends I had at church for nearly eight years. I would open up my mail box every day from around Thanksgiving to New Year’s. I did not receive one card or gift. Some members emailed me and told me they would never have anything to do with me again. They told me that they hated me.
And none of what the pastors/elders told them about me was true. The pastors/elders had intentionally withheld what the pastors/elders did to me.
“In his [Ronald Enroth] study of authoritarian groups, public discipline, ridicule, and humiliation become the common experience of participants. The fact that there is little or no feedback available to members from the outside provides an unhindered environment where leaders can demand corporate obedience to them with unquestioning loyalty to the group. The damage created in these groups is that true freedom in Christ is forfeited for human power. Leaders who practice spiritual abuse exceed the bounds of legitimate authority by lording it over the flock. All too often these leaders have the audacity to intrude into the personal lives of members. As many people regrettably find out, abusive leaders are self-centered and adversarial and there is little chance for any type of reconciliation or restoration.” Barbara M. Orlowski, Spiritual Abuse Recovery (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2010), 43.
Related articles in 5-part series