- Cartoon used by permission of David Hayward in Canada.
- How Do Pastors/Elders Know You’re A Part Of The Church If You Don’t Sign a Membership Covenant?
I started to wince as he was speaking, the color rising in my cheeks and in my neck, as I turned red from embarrassment. My (ex) senior pastor Cliff McManis at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley was standing at the pulpit during the Sunday service, announcing to church members and visitors that how did he or the pastors/elders know that you were “one of theirs”, were part of “their flock” if you “hadn’t signed a Membership Covenant?”
(He did those so many times, as did elders like Tim Wong, Sam Kim, and Bob Douglas, that Christians who were visiting would get up and walk out of the church service. I don’t blame them. I wish I had left too. )
- My Answer: Because They’re Here
I sat in my pew horrified at his presentation, at the sheer rudeness and immaturity he proudly displayed to members and visitors. I silently retorted, “Because they showed up, that’s how you know. They found the address of the church, the church service time, got dressed and got here. That’s how you know.”
- An Example of Pastoral Confusion For Those Who Didn’t Sign a Membership Covenant
Cliff McManis carried on and with each sentence he said he got horrifyingly worse. And he was smiling. He said to us as an example, “Oh a person told me that I was their pastor and I said to them, ‘Thanks so much for telling me. I didn’t know that I was your pastor! I didn’t know that YOU considered me YOUR PASTOR.'”
He smiled and laughed. With dramatic flair and waving his arms, a smirk on his face, he said, “How do the other elders and I know that you’re one of our flock if you didn’t sign a Membership Covenant?”
- My Response: How Many Pages of a Membership Covenant Did Jesus Make People Sign to Follow Him?
By this time my cheeks were ablaze with color at the galling rudeness Cliff McManis and the other GBFSV pastors/elders showed to our visitors. I wanted to stand up and shout, “Because they’re here, that’s how you can tell! How many pages of a Membership Covenant did Jesus make people sign to follow Him? Correct answer: 0 pages. How many pages of a Membership Covenant did the Apostle Paul make people sign to join the local church? Correct answer: 0 pages.”
There was no talking sense to the GBFSV pastors/elders. They were intractable. They agreed among themselves that this was their right, and they couldn’t see how wrong they really were in their treatment of Christians.
- What Jesus Thought Of Contracts
For thousands of years the Christian church has gotten along just fine without Membership Covenants. In fact, there is a problem with them and the spread of them, particularly among NeoCalvinist and Reformed churches. They aren’t Biblical. They come from the 1970’s heavy-Shepherding Movement in Florida, whose founders later repented for its abuses and repented for the damage they did. They had wanted to deal with the sexual sin in one of the five leaders in their group. They wanted accountability. It turned in to legalism and authoritarianism.
Jesus said let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no’ and that anything beyond that was from the devil. Membership Covenants are beyond the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer that Jesus expects Christians to give. That answer is to suffice.
- What’s Wrong With Membership Covenants
Membership Covenants, on the surface, seem fine. They are filled with Scripture verses. Sign the dotted line. It will be fine. But they aren’t fine. They are a tool of authoritarian control. We don’t need them. We are a priesthood of believers.
Membership Covenants take the role of the Holy Spirit out of Christians’ lives and put pastors/elders in charge, a place they have no business being. The detailed instructions of what we are to do or not do in Membership Covenants are not needed in the Christian life since we are to mature, the Holy Spirit changes us, and we are to do things out of Love
Three articles on the subject of what is Biblically wrong with Membership Covenants were written by Wade Burleson, a Baptist pastor in Enid, Oklahoma, and Tim Fall, a long-time Christian who works in the legal field in California. Dee and Deb, long-time conservative Christians in North Carolina (Dee is a former nurse) and excellent researchers with M.B.A.’s, also addressed the serious problems with Membership Covenants and why Christians should refuse to sign them.
- Wade Burleson
- Tim Fall
- Dee Parsons and Deb Martin, The Wartburg Watch
One man posted on The Wartburg Watch this:
“And on and on it goes, a relentless list of reminders that you are to be obedient, generous — as dumb farm animals who do as they’re told. I know how this goes: “That’s not real Christianity,” somebody will object. It’s not the religion of Jesus, for sure, but it sure as hell is historic Christianity — and it stinks and does harm. Presentation of this ‘membership covenant’ is all any sane adult should need to see what these predators actually are.”
- Getting Out Of An Authoritarian Church. Advice From The Wartburg Watch. [Note: At Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley the pastors/elders REQUIRE that Christians wanting to leave GBFSV go through an ‘exit interview’. That is un-Biblical as well as unlawful in the United States and California since the Appellate Courts have ruled that belonging to a religious group is voluntary and that people can leave whenever they want to. (If you need to leave an abusive church like Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley, send them a certified return receipt letter and resign, no explanations. If they bother you, call the police and an attorney. If need be, have an attorney send a “cease and desist letter” to the GBFSV pastors/elders. If they harass you or order other people to harass you, file police reports, including for stalking. If need be, file a lawsuit against GBFSV pastors/elders.) Also Jesus permitted people to freely leave, no exit-interveiws. Hypocritically, the GBFSV pastors/elders brought their friend a Megan’s List sex offender/child pornographer to church, gave him church membership, a leadership position over a team, access to all church events, and even invited him to volunteer with children at the 5-day Basketball Camp, told no one, and did not vet him with his supervising law enforcement agency, The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office sex offenders’ task force or with the California Attorney General’s Office. Both agencies called the GBFSV pastors/elders Cliff McManis, Sam Kim, Tim Wong, and Bob Douglas’ story about the sex offender ‘all lies’ and ‘total lies’. The GBFSV pastors/elders told me that the sex offender was ‘coming off Megan’s List [of registered sex offenders] because ‘he said so’. Since when do you take a convicted felon’s/sex offender’s “word” and not take “the word” of his supervising law enforcement agency? Since when don’t you vet a felon with his supervising law enforcement, after he got out of prison? He’s got a supervising law enforcement agency for a reason. Yet non-felonious adults who want to leave GBFSV aren’t permitted to without having ‘an exit interview’. Run people, run.]
“How to get out of a previously signed covenant.
You may be able to get out of a covenant/contract by following the advice in this TWW post. We are still working on a resource page on this matter since we seem to be one of the few sources educating church goers of this concerning trend.
Once again, you are signing a legal contract no matter what cutesy, spiritual name they apply to it.
Here is a brief excerpt from that post!
The Membership Covenant
Did you know that most churches consult attorneys to draw up these covenants? Are you aware that they were developed, not for purposes of sweet fellowship, but to protect the church in case an angry church member sues them? Did you know that some angry church members are actually justified? For those of you who have signed such a document (Dee has and has successfully gotten out of one), were you advised that you were signing a document that had been vetted by lawyers? (Dee was not). An open and honest church should advise unsuspecting potential members of this fact and encourage them to seek similar advice.
How to Resign
Three years ago, I spoke with a nationally well-known attorney who informed me that the only power that churches have is the ability to throw members out of the church. They can do that with very little recrimination. But, they could have some legal trouble announcing a member’s supposed “sins” to the full church if said member employs the following procedure. What we are about to discuss has been “run by” legal experts. However, TWW states categorically that this should not be taken to mean it is an official legal position. Please seek advice of an attorney for an authorized opinion.
- Resign your church membership prior to the all-church announcement. Better yet, before harsh discipline is applied.
- Keep your lips sealed.
- Do not tell anyone that you are going to take the following action. You do not want Sally Sycophant (we all know a few of these) to run to the pastors and report this, giving them an opportunity quickly schedule the all church gossip session.
The Letter: (We give special thanks to ARCE, who knows a thing or two, for sending this format to TWW.)
1. Send the following letter, return receipt requested (and tracking, in case the Post Office lets them have it without returning the card).
2. Put the return receipt number on the heading of the letter (you can get the form with the number at the PO, before typing the letter).
3. The format
To the pastors and administrators at ____________ church.
This letter is notice that I am not longer a member [attendee] at _______________ church, effective with the date of this letter.
As a non-member, I am no longer subject to any of your discipline as of (date on letter). After (date on letter), any publication, notice, or speaking about me by any church staff or recognized church leader is no longer authorized by me.
Any negative remark or statement about me, any encouragement that people shun me, or any action other than deleting me from your records will be evaluated for possible legal action for libel or other tort claim against the individuals involved and the organization.
If any one asks about me, refer them to me, any other action may result in a tort claim against you.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. You must desist from any act that may harm my reputation or me or come between me and other persons of my acquaintance. Legal action may ensue.
Sending this letter and the aftermath
- You must mail the letter on the date on the letter and they will not receive it for a couple of days thereafter.
- Keep a copy, print out the tracking showing when it was delivered, keep the green card or, if it is refused, the returned letter (they are legally responsible for the content if they refuse it).
- Document any response or any failure to comply. If they (leadership or staff) call, listen but do not talk, except to say “I disagree” if they make a false statement about you.
- Document the conversation.
- Go to an attorney if they proceed to trash your reputation or that of your business.
- Do not respond by trashing the organization. “
- Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley Pastors/Elders Tell People Who Aren’t Willing To Sign A Membership Covenant Not To Come To Church
The Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley pastors/elders have changed church documents and openly announce from the pulpit that Christians who aren’t willing to sign a Membership Covenant should not come to church. At GBFSV they preach “another Gospel”, focused on themselves, their power, and their (false) claims to authority over Christians’ lives. They even go as far as to say that the Bible “mandates” it and they misuse God’s name for their own ends. (Cliff McManis’ two ‘advanced degrees’ including a “Ph.D.” are from a diploma mill in Independence, Missouri, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The “college” is unaccredited and run out of an old store. A real Ph.D. takes eight years to earn from an accredited university. Christians should close their wallets and not donate any money to GBFSV, or their time.)
Darlene posted this on The Wartburg Watch (9/22/16) about Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley’s Membership Covenant, ByLaws, Statement of Faith and other documents. “By the way…reading the By Laws from your former church [Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley] alone (not even getting through the entire document) reminds me of being put in a stranglehold. Rigid power structure is what comes to mind. And what is it with not wanting people to attend often without committing to signing the membership covenant/contract? Something to the effect of….maybe you should just find another church to attend if all you want to do is come to our services. Very strange.”
Muff Potter commenting on 9/22/16 on The Wartburg Watch blog about Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley’s Membership Covenant and other authoritarian documents. “Holy you know what! That’s quite the manifesto they require you to sign onto. Tell me though, do they recruit many of the kids fresh out of Stanford? Or are they just a lot of wind on their growth projections?”
Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley lacks love and lacks “grace”. Don’t sign and don’t give. Find a healthier church. Jesus welcomed people.