DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

January 25, 2008

                                                           

                                      

I Admit I Read Tolstoy

How do we tell people that we are not that type of church?

That question came up the other day when someone suggested that I read an article from the Wall Street Journal. It turns out, I actually do read the Wall Street Journal several times a week; in fact it is delivered to our house every morning. I need to keep up with America’s other religion. You gotta be on top of things if you are in the ministry and the WSJ has a few articles to which I can relate.

But, last week The WSJ had one article to which I cannot relate and it begs the question, “How do we tell people that we are not that type of church?”

The title of the article in the January 18 edition is “Banned from Church.”

The shortened version of the story goes like this. A church in Michigan banned a member. The “bannee” was a 71-year-old woman who was a church member for 50 years and regularly donated 10% of her pension to that church. She “was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff’s officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.” The charge was trespassing. When she was put in jail, one of the other prisoners asked if she “robbed a church?” And she said, “No, I just attended church.”

The real problem, according to the pastor, was spiritual. According to her, she had questioned his authority and was thus banned and “shunned” as she described it. Apparently there is a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, through confrontation, castigation and excommunication if they refuse to repent.

I don’t see this method of crowd control making a comeback in UCC churches or the Methodists, Presbyterians or Roman Catholic churches. The “mega-churches” are not into this either from what I read. “Scholars estimate that 10%-15% of Protestant evangelical churches practice church discipline.”

So why bring this up if it is not an issue with our church or the majority of churches out there? For two reasons I guess. First, the Wall Street Journal made such a splash of the article that they put it on the cover of their “Weekend Journal” section of the Friday paper. It took up a full page inside too…complete with a “Brief History of Shunning” and a timeline that included Adam and Eve, Joan of Arc, Henry VIII, Galileo, some woman in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, the book ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and Leo Tolstoy.

The only things missing on that comprehensive time line were Barry Bonds and the inventers of the Sunday Brunch Buffet (which I personally think is the major reason for low church attendance in America today.) It cast a rather wide net.

 

Second, I mention this “Banning-thing” because when folks read it, they quite often, assume that all churches are like that. I suppose that goes for about anything that one church does, or entire denomination or group of churches do. If it gets publicity, lots of folks who are not in the know, assume that all churches are “like that”.

Several years ago, a good friend of mine was talking about his teenage daughter and how she did not like to go to church because of ___________ (take your pick of topics). The daughter mentioned something that a local church (not ours) was doing___________ (take your pick of topics) and she said that she didn’t attend because Christian churches “are like that.”

Her father pointed out that their church (the church I served) was not like that at all. We were 180 degrees away from the topic as the daughter understood it. Granted, it did not make much of an impression on the girl as she continued to not attend. A few years later, she did come back around when she got married. Last I know she is still active in the church.

Recently, one of my daughters was at a horse show. She owns and rides horses and she got to talking with a trainer. Everything was going fine until, for some unknown reason, my daughter happened to mention that I was a minister. (This is something that my daughters very rarely do.) Everything stopped. The trainer was very cautious for a few moments as she gingerly probed just what kind of minister I was and what type of church I served. (Which is why my daughters rarely mention my profession; people get weird.)

Members of Dublin Community Church will be pleased to know that you (and I) passed the “test” when my daughter explained that I was not one of “those kinds” of ministers and Dublin Community Church was not one of “those kinds” of churches.

You can fill in the blanks as to what topics that horse trainer was hung up on concerning Christianity and church work. You can fill in the blanks as to how my daughter described my ministry and this church’s perspective on Christianity.

I get phone calls several times a month from people visiting our website and then calling me with a list of what they are looking for in a church and whether we believe in this or that. Church shopping. That’s fine with me, I call ahead to Lowe’s to see if they have a particular type of tile for my bathroom, why shouldn’t folks call ahead and see if our church supports this or denounces that. I get asked a lot if we are a “Biblical church.”

I had a friend describe us as “one of those “reasonable churches.” I suppose we are. Horse trainers like us. We haven’t banned anybody for quite some time, though I must admit that it is tempting at times.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing