thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

bloggers, church discipline, and captain barbossa

The last few weeks, I have had a lot of related thoughts rolling around in my head and finally decided that I would really like to start a dialog on a subject that keeps popping up here and there. Perhaps I will be the only one interested in this discussion; maybe others are as interested as I am in hearing what others are thinking and what Scriptures they believe apply. At any rate, I am tossing this out and hoping someone will join me.

I have read articles and commentary over at Tim and David Bayly’s blog on and off for the past few years. Sometimes I was informed and intrigued by their essays, especially if they were of the pro-life nature. As my husband has been oft quoted, “If the pastor is pro-life and says so, he get a hundred bonus points right off the bat.”

But while I have stopped reading most of the Baylys’ ramblings so my unducttaped head won’t explode, I still have a lingering question about their penchant for demanding the names of the elders and pastors of commenters on their blog, commenters who either question or disagree with the Bayly’s views, particularly if they are women. Their blog was the first place I had ever seen this take place, but it seems to have brought up the necessary question to ask and that is “how far does a church’s jurisdiction extend into the personal blogging life of its members?”

I have heard many of these sorts of stories, where members have expressed their own opinions on blogs (isn’t that the purpose of a blog?) and, as a result, have been prevented from participating in certain aspects of ministry in their own church or have had their ministries removed unless they are willing to recant their views and clean up their blogs.  I also personally know women who have been banned from commenting on blogs because they simply questionned the blog owner’s views.  Of course, that is his prerogative, but is it ok to extend that action by demanding the names of the woman’s husband or church leadership and then contacting them, hoping they will be disciplined for, shudder, having an opinion and expressing it?
I have also witnessed people placing passwords on their blogs so that their horrific views, such as white supremacy and the embracing of kinism, might be hidden from the sight of potential church members or those within the congregation who wouldn’t approve or so it might not cause the church leadership any problems. While this may be a simple solution, I try to picture Winston Churchill password protecting his words. Geesh!

So, where do I stand on this topic? I guess there are lots of variables and lots of questions to be asked and considered and I am opening up this discussion to do just that.

Not long ago, my friend Sallie, asked what her readers thought would be the “next big thing” in the church and I happen to think that determining where the line is drawn between the individual beliefs of a church member as expressed on his blog and the church leadership’s responsibility for member accountability is a phenomena that will certainly come up thousands of time down the road as more and more Christians express themselves on blogs. And since homeschooling moms are typically bloggers, this seems to be one area on the cutting edge we need to examine!

Here are a few of my thoughts….
In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Captain Barbossa, when challenged by the young Elizabeth that he must release her according to the pirate rules, said, “First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”

Somehow this resonates with me. When you join a local church, many times you are never told of the “unspoken” rules, the “guidelines” and as a result, you may write about or hold strongly to beliefs that are really not the essentials of the faith but are “expected” to be followed. What do you do if that is the case?

Also, should the rules be different for church leaders than for a member? For example, should a pastor have less freedom to write what he believes about something because he represents his own church? What about elders? Sunday school teachers? Choir members?

What about higher standards for those in high-profile positions outside the local church?

And what about honestly and transparency on blogs? For example, what if the blogger is presenting a picture of himself that is either misleading and dissembling or blatantly hypocritical or dishonest? Should there be any accountability for that?

Or is it ok for a blogger to simply respond if asked to remove certain things from his blog by replying as Barbossa did “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means “no”?” Is church discipline ever warranted for responding this way and if so, is there any Scriptural precedent for this? I mean, what statements could you make that would be discipline worthy?

These are just a few things that have been simmering on my back burner. Please feel free to add your thoughts so we can all learn together!

Advertisements

20 Comments»

  Lynn wrote @

I’m concerned, not for myself, but for people who may be a tad shy who are just getting on the internet for the first time, who might post their thoughts on forums where the comments then turn into so much chum for a feeding frenzy.

There are “drive-by” commenter who are rude, to be sure, but it is quite offensive to see men who are pastors refuse to answer questions, make assumptions about the characters of commenters that they have no personal knowledge of, and more.

Then when you add the demands for identification on top of the personal attacks, it can be very intimidating. And that is why I think it is good to speak up on these matters.

Rebecca has a recent article on this subject on her blog at http://blogmuse.blogspot.com

  Lynn wrote @

To be a bit more precise:
http://blogmuse.blogspot.com/2008/02/internet-identities.html

  sarah wrote @

I think a lot of this turns on why church discipline is being pursued by the person in “authority.”

In the case of the Bayly brothers, it’s a form or control, threat, and harassment. It has nothing to do with love or concern for another person or even truth.

Personally, I would not join a church with some kind of insane discipline procedure or where I could be judged by church elders for anything I said on a blog or in person or in writing anywhere. The body of Christ is not called to shun and kick people out, but rather draw them close together in God’s love. I suppose there could be a time when severing a relationship will further the goal of unity and love, but I think such instances will be rare and far between.

I do not know why Christians feel this huge urge to point out sin in other people’s lives and treat them poorly due to perceived or actual iniquity. Removing the plank from our own eye comes to mind.

  Cindy Kunsman wrote @

About churches who do not give you full disclosure and informed consent of their views… This is discussed in book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” and is a common feature in many of these churches. There are also the unwritten rules that people tiptoe around. Take for instance, the 2003 version of the “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” that came right out and declared anything other than homeschooling (including Christian school) to be a sin, as well as women working outside of the home. They took heat for this, and retracted the “tenets,” removing the declaration of sin. But did anything change? Is Christian school permitted under some circumstances, and is “stronly discouraged” really code language for “sin” like the use of the term “non-normative”?

I know when we went for several evenings of membership classes at our cultic church in Maryland, we didn’t hear anything about their gender doctrines or their process of church discipline or their real structure, claiming a “Presbyterian form of government.” Yeah, Presbyterian on LSD, perhaps. I would have turned and ran for my life if they had said anything about their actual gender beliefs, their discipline focus and the means by which they exacted discipline (processes and beliefs that were very well-formulated). They said that they had a Presbytery which turned out to be a social lunch with local pastors every other month.

Regarding church discipline in general…

I recently read a blog hosted by a Lutheran church, discussing the misuse of Matthew 18 as a means of squelching criticism and like a list of “Miranda rights.” http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2008/02/more-on-matthew-18.html I speculated that perhaps this is a shift in society in general, causing a trend towards church discipline and away from a focus on communication and interpersonal growth within the church , that which we enjoyed in times past. Did 9/11 have an effect? Is it economics? School shootings? Is it a strange sort of paradoxical revolt against postmodernism in society within and affecting the church, amidst a world that lacks cohesive meaning?

Concerning the internet and moral imperatives…

This will be interesting to watch and probably sad, too. Many ministries enjoyed the internet and all that it promoted for them, but people got wise and every amature and savy critic can have a platform right along side the minstries who took advantage of the media when it first became available. Some claim that our language has been cheapened by it, too, yet some continue to use it like Barbosa, weaving complex riddles and legal loopholes for their own avoidance of accountability. The internet is almost like a brand new Enlightenment (that which authors like Neil Postman said was primarily created by the printing press and the massive increase in the availability of information via print).

Perhaps some of these more mechanistic folks will declare the sins of visiting certain blogs or the sins of visiting blogs that are not on an approved list. For some it will mean more rules rather than greater personal discernment.

Hmmm.

  Light wrote @

I know oftwo specific incidences where bloggers who are quick to demand “who is your pastor” don’t just limit such intimidation tactics to their own blog. One of those incidents is hearsay (reported to me through a third party who didn’t experience it herself), so I won’t mention it here, but the other was experienced by a good friend of mine. She is a member of the PCA, the same denomination as the Baylys, and she had an article published in The Priscilla Papers, which is CBE’s theological journal and held in high esteem among bible scholars. The little blurb at the end of the article identified her as a PCA member. Shortly after publication, out of the blue, my friend received a very rude email from Tim Bayly demanding to know who her pastor was, and asking if X (same unusual last name as hers) was her husband. I suppose he thought he was going to go tattle on her or something. She responded by saying she did not answer personal questions posed by strangers over the internet. Not that Bayly would have gotten very far – her pastors and elders, while not egalitarian like she is, are not dogmatic about secondary matters, and respect her excellent scholarship in egalitarian theology.

For the life of me, I can’t see tactics like these as anything other than attempts to control others and usurp authority.

  Cindy Kunsman wrote @

Light,

You bring attention to an interesting point that will affect all of this… CBMW and patriarchy teach that matters of gender are central doctrines of the faith and not intramural doctrine. Actually, matters of gender for them are matters of Biblical authority. Russell Moore of CBMW and others in their circles stated that the Gospel is patriarchal and that rejection of their paradigm of gender is tantamount to open theism (said to reject God’s Lordship over all creation by extension).

So if there are standards that are agreed upon, we are still stuck with these doctrinal problems that arise between these two groups. The rest of the world could abide standards regarding blogging and the internet, but the patriarchs will find some way to exempt themselves, obviously, regarding gender, that they are the only ones who understand the “truth” that gender arguments are central and to treat them as intramural doctrine would make them guilty of redefining them as no longer Christian.

The factors are complex. We have the net and it’s emerging problems… Then we have this problem of hegemony (aquisition and maintenance of power). We have the problem characteristic of spiritually abusive groups wherein they believe that they are the only group that has a correct view of essential truth. And as you say, there are the ongoing issues in patriarchy that concern authority and patriarchal leadership that avoids accountability. We also wonder about harassment, and there are a growing number of people that attend churches but refuse to join because of this type of harassment that you mention.

Anyone who proposes any kind of workable process will have to be very balanced, wise (versus knowledgable) and temperate. We also have the problem of how we can hold MINISTRY LEADERS accountable to whatever conduct standards develop. Few leaders are willing to hold other leaders accountable, and parachurch organizations present a unique challenge because they are not a ministry of specific churches.

  Anon wrote @

Karen writes:
I have read articles and commentary over at Tim and David Bayly’s blog on and off for the past few years. Sometimes I was informed and intrigued by their essays, especially if they were of the pro-life nature. As my husband has been oft quoted, “If the pastor is pro-life and says so, he get a hundred bonus points right off the bat.”

But while I have stopped reading most of the Baylys’ ramblings so my unducttaped head won’t explode, I still have a lingering question about their penchant for demanding the names of the elders and pastors of commenters on their blog, commenters who either question or disagree with the Bayly’s views, particularly if they are women. Their blog was the first place I had ever seen this take place, but it seems to have brought up the necessary question to ask and that is “how far does a church’s jurisdiction extend into the personal blogging life of its members?”

*****************************

I tend to look upon the pro-life leadership quote a bit differently. I expect pastors to be pro-life, so I don’t give any bonus points (I wouldn’t even sit under the teaching of a pastor who isn’t pro-life. And isn’t this such an interesting topic considering all that has come out about Ombama [our possible future leader] and his quoting scriptures yesterday and saying he is a Christian [he discounted Romans, because apparently he believes the red highlighted parts of the Bible where Jesus speaks is more inline with his views. He directed people to the sermon on the mount when I think he meant to send them to a different scripture, then said the Romans scripture was “obscure”. A pro-choice “Christian” for President. Hmmm…..should be interesting how this all turns out. Sigh!])

Anyhoo………..I don’t really think what the Bayley’s are doing is actually complementarian as much as it is authoritarian. Doug Wilson lets people post, then if you get him upset he will ask for your pastor’s name, then threatens to take away your posts if you don’t cough it up. I was amused when one man said “Sure” then gave his own name because he is a pastor! I can’t remember if his posts were removed our not.

I think some people use scripture as a way to micro-manage their lives (and others) and it gives them an excuse to be a control freak. It also protects them from people smarter than they are! *S* The thing is ………..iron sharpens iron and I tend to feel really bad for people like the McD’s and Bayley’s who claim they are protecting us from other’s comments while they are actually protecting their own ignorance in many cases. The Bayley’s have some good things to say and if they would just let others post more freely they could have some excellent conversations. Surely, only the blatently ridiculous or personally hurtful posts would ever need removed.

I don’t know, Karen, I tend to think they are simply not secure enough in their manliness or intelligence to allow such freedom of posting. And I don’t dislike them, but I won’t waste my time posting at any of their blogs because they have set themselves as above reproach.

The internet is a big playground and what they ha
ved did is essentially cause other people (like you) to start much smarter blogs with more freedom to post and learn. When you stifle people and set up little dictator blogs why would anyone want to even read them when they are gagged from posting if they have questions?

I like what Chuck Smith writes about membership in the Calvary Chapel writings (imagine he doesn’t take a collection, or require membership and yet these churches have grown a lot. They are big on complementarian teachings and homeschooling, but without all the “Me, Tarzan, You Jane!” act. Where is church membership essential in scripture? Can’t we be good members without all this paperwork that follows a Christian if they try to leave a church? Who gains from church membership? It would seem the church gains more from it, and I don’t see the point. Signing a membership agreement does not make one a better member of that church or a Christian. How has it helped the body of Christ? And to think we are to cough up names of our elders or pastors in an effort to scare us into submitting to their whims is really pretty shallow, even if it is being done under the guise of scripture.

I don’t know…….from where I am sitting it just reminds me too much of what I have read about the Catholic Church wanting accountability and control of their members lives. Are they selling indulgences to? tee hee hee

Blessings!

  Light wrote @

I have heard many of these sorts of stories, where members have expressed their own opinions on blogs (isn’t that the purpose of a blog?) and, as a result, have been prevented from participating in certain aspects of ministry in their own church or have had their ministries removed unless they are willing to recant their views and clean up their blogs.

I suppose I could see this in limited cases. If a member had views on something that was diametrically opposed to something that the church felt was important, and the members’ ministry responsibilities would provide an avenue for them to speak against the church’s views, I can see church leadership wanting to set some boundaries. For instance, if a youth group leader didn’t have a problem with premarital sex, and would candidly state such.

But, I think such cases really shouldn’t come up that often if we treat each other with love and respect. Sometimes it’s more respectful not to voice our opinion; more often, it’s respectful to allow all opinions to be welcome in dialogue.

  Julie wrote @

Perhaps a pastor’s wife opinion might be helpful here (or maybe not!). I would agree it’s WEIRD for a pastor to harass people online about what they write. Now, if my husband reads something slanderous online about himself or our church, I think he has every right to approach that person just as if that person were spreading rumors around town. But I don’t think it’s his business what other church members at other places in the world do! That’s the role of their own pastor to shepherd them.

I think this idea of unspoken rules and guidelines to be very important. One of the first things my husband did at this church was to create a new member’s class, approved by the deacons (who function more like elders, but THAT’S another story….), that people who are interested in joining must go through. The purpose is that there are NO surprises. We had one very nice lady who went through the whole class, really wanted to join, but didn’t believe the Bible was the Word of God, just a guideline so to speak. It’s not about wanting to “kick her out” because she’s different. It’s that we wouldn’t want her teaching children’s Sunday School and telling the children that Noah and the flood didn’t really happen. In our “everything goes” culture, if the church steps in in anyway, people are up in arms about it. There are fundamental tenants of the faith that are non negotiable. If for some body of believers, this gender stuff fits into that category, well, I guess let them believe what they want and go someplace else if you disagree. Fortunately, you’re not threatened with excommunication if you disagree.

I will admit that on the spectrum of all this gender stuff I definitely lean more conservatively, but my husband is wise, I think, not to make it an issue of whether or not you’re actually a Christian if you work outside the home. Sure, we’d love some families who are like minded (homeschooling etc.), but we realize the body of Christ is much bigger than that.

I got hardly any sleep last night. I hope this makes sense!

  Julie wrote @

Hey Karen, I posted a comment and it didn’t show up. Do you have to approve it?? Just checking to make sure it didn’t get LOST in cyberspace. Thanks for such great discussion!!!

  Lynn wrote @

I just attneded a Calvary Chapel service and agree with the assessment of a previous commenter. They are really “into” Jesus and service to one another. I’ve noticed this across the board about those churches.

  Julie wrote @

my comment disappeared!

  Lin wrote @

Very good topic! And one I have been thinking about a lot in a different way.

First of all, I am seeing two things happening within the blogosphere and Christendom.

1. Some have jumped on it as a way to attract likeminded followers, donors and even as a way to teach their ‘brand’ of doctrine (Vision Forum, Baylys, etc) as the only right one.

2. It is being used as a vehicle to communicate false teaching and wrong behavior in churches and by pastors, ministries, denominations, etc. by the laity and even some courageous pastors!

Those two are clashing…big time.

I think the blogosphere is great.
Even though some of it is used wrongly, it still has shown me the dismal state of the visible church. I had ideas and had seen some of the horror of the seeker movement up close but BOY OH BOY… it is much worse out there in Christendom than I ever thought. And it is everywhere…seeker, reformed, charismatic, you name it.

If this teaches us anything, let it teach us NOT to join movements or be foot soldiers in anyones army. We should belong to Christ. And the Holy Spirit through the illumination of truth in scripture should be our main teacher.

But one of the greatest benefits is that the remnant ecclesia is finding one another and able to pray for and encourage one another in ehe midst of all this ‘clamor’.

  Cindy Kunsman wrote @

My husband and I discussed this blog topic late last night, and he thinks that some of these churches will end up having blog pastor. His job will be approving blog topics and blog posts.

People at BCA will have to submit things to a VF intern for preapproval.

Then they can get some entrepeneurial minded person who has taken Phillips’ course to open a business that will provide this service for an affordable fee and will make good for you if your pastor calls you on the carpet in protest. Kind of like a church discipline get out of jail free card or like the tax prep services that will go to bat for you if you get audited. Guaranteed to get by your disgruntled pastor or your money back and we will find a better church for you if you get excommunicated.

  Lin wrote @

My husband and I discussed this blog topic late last night, and he thinks that some of these churches will end up having blog pastor. His job will be approving blog topics and blog posts.”

The Georgia Baptist Convention passed a bizarre resolution on blogging. Basically it called for civility, etc., but it was really directed toward not approving of them at all. The leaders of that state convention are concentrated in one large church and that pastor is running for SBC president.

It is funny the outcome of that resolution: No one wants to admit they read blogs…it is associated with sinning if you do. That was the whole point!

But, what it really boils down to is that dirty laundry that used to be kept in the basement is getting an airing and the leaders don’t like it. They can’t hide their shenanagins or living the high life anymore. So, now, blogging is ‘gossip’ and ‘slander’.

Sound familiar?

  Abby wrote @

This is a subject that has come up in my church. The woman in question was deeply disturbed, though. She was on staff, and had a blog, but had started counseling and the counselor was using the “repressed memories” technique. Apparently, the woman started saying some very untrue things about her family, and subsequently, her siblings and parents became part of the problem. Anyway, because she wasn’t willing to recant the lies that had been planted, even though there was so much proof that these things had been planted in her memory, she removed the blog, had a lot of trouble with her family, and because of it all, was asked to leave her position at the church.
It had nothing to do with the theology of the church or her ministry, but her behavior on her public blog HAD affected her credibility and ability to minister to others.

So as far as blogs having an affect on your ministry, it’s really important to be careful what you share publicly. But I think even then, it’s okay to have a blog that even does devotions or something of that nature, as long as you are using wisdom, and acting in love.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it, that we ought to behave in a Christ-like manner, even when we’re blogging, because that is a very public thing–even if you can get away with anonymity it does reflect badly on your blog if you constantly treat others with disrespect. And in turn, if non-Christians frequent your blog, you are not sending them a very good message, either.

I think that pastors and church leaders ought to be held to a higher standard as far as blogging goes, I know I wouldn’t like reading a blog by one of my friends who is a pastor who writes in a negative way or says things that are way off base. It would definitely affect my opinion of those people. Luckily, apart from this one woman, that hasn’t happened. And I think that incidents like that are few and far between.

On the other hand, I have kept some of my blogging separate from what my family reads, because they do the majority of the reading on my main blog. I do this because we have differences of opinions on things such as childbirth and breastfeeding, and I would rather avoid the controversy by having a blog that is private from them. In that instance, I would much rather talk to strangers who agree with me than my family who would treat me with less than respect because of my opinions. Sadly, they are the ones I would love more support from, but they aren’t there yet, and if they ever get there, I would be glad to share my views with them. But to me it’s not worth the trouble of having a family feud over. But I don’t find it to be a problem to write my thoughts to share with others, because maybe my thoughts will help someone who needs support!

  sarah wrote @

Cindy – I am laughing so hard! It sure takes a patriarch make a sin up and monetize redemption (or at least monetize the prevention of sin and/or maintenance of the ideal holy lifestyle ).

  thatmom wrote @

The flu fog is starting to lift and yesterday was the first day I actually thought I might live. Seriously, I was feeling quite troubled at the thought that my family would, perhaps, be destined to a future of only frozen pizza, McDonalds, and Little Debbie snack cakes.

I finally had a chance to catch up with the blog readings today and one thought keeps coming back to me….so much of this depends upon the integrity of the church leadership! While I agree that there are situations where certain teachings might need to be confronted, as in a youth leader teaching that sex outside of marriage was ok, I also think that Julie’s pastor/husband is wise to realize that not all topics deserve the same confrontation and discipline. To me, it comes down to being wise and careful as you choose a church home and being sure that your leadership is more concerned about setting an example of ministry to one another and proclaiming the Gospel than building a little kingdom unto themselves.

I am really excited because Cindy is going to be doing a series of podcasts with me on the topic of spiritual abuse, the danger it poses for homeschooling families, and how we can live in harmony as believers within the family of God and at the same time enjoy our liberties in Christ in the priesthood of believers.

  thatmom wrote @

Anon, I wanted to clarify something.

We do NOT give pastoral bonus points simply for being pro-life. That is a prerequisite. But if a pastor is pro-life and SAYS SO, in other words, doesn’t hide is pro-life light under a bushel, he gets bonus points!

When I first began volunteering with the crisis pregnancy center in our town, it had not yet opened its doors. My friend, Vicki, spent months calling and visiting every pastor in the county. When all was said and done, her stories were really sad ones. She had a VERY short list of pastors who were willing to approach their church boards to ask for financial backing for the center. Her even shorter list had the names of pastors who were willing to publicly speak out on the topic of abortion. As I recall, there was one name on the list at the time. I still hold that pastor in high esteem today because of his willingness to do what, really, all pastors ought to do.

  thatmom wrote @

This week I read an interesting article in our local newspaper about how many employers are using the Internet to find out information about applicants. They especially like to look at Facebook and My Space and some college students have been encouraged to clear off most of their on-line writings and info.

I think Cindy’s husband night not be too far off…I can see some types of churches having “blog” pastors!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: