Two of the letters are from the Discipline Committee to the member of FBC Jax and his wife - a member in good standing who he and his wife have served in the church for many years. One of them is the reply letter from the church member. He is accused of being the owner or controller of this particular blog. When you read the list of 16 sins ("A" through "P") it sounds as though they are accusing the owner of this blog of single handedly destroying the ministry of and fellowship at FBC Jax.
Letter #1: The Indictment of the Watchdog
This 11/25/08 letter accuses the man of owning and controlling the blog, and lists 16 specific sins which are "derogatory, devisive, destructive, and demeaning"...reads almost as a Jerry Vines alliterative 4-point sermon outline. According to the accused, the letter was hand delivered on the eve of Thanksgiving, by two long-term staffers who first called and hung up on him to ensure he was home, rang the doorbell, refused an invitation to come in, and pulled out a sealed envelope and gave it to the accused man and left.
According to the man who received this letter, this was the FIRST and ONLY correspondence or notice or communication in any way of this matter. Very interesting if this is true, since the letter claims that the committee is acting in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20; which it most certainly is not if the FIRST action was to drop off a letter and trespass warnings. Greek scholars are pouring through the text to find the discipline process in scripture where step one is a crank call, step two is to drop off a letter at the man's house, and step three is to ban the members from the church property until the accused comes to meet with a committee. So far no luck in finding that process in scripture.
This letter makes the accusations, and then informs the accused that he and his wife are forbidden from coming on the property ever again until they meet with the "Discipline Committee", and that failure to meet with the Discipline Committee within 10 days will result in expulsion from the church. Another reason why the December 2007 bylaw changes have significance: did the bylaws grant the authority to this new Discipline Committee to vote members out without the approval of the congregation?
The letter has been signed by the six members of the Discipline Committee: the Chairman of the Deacons, the Vice Chairman of the Deacons, and four other members of the committee - one of them which also is the President of the Trustees of the church. So who in the world would he speak to at the church to protest such treatment? The pastor? He appointed the committee members. Certainly not the Chair or vice chair of the deacons - they are committee members. President of the Trustees? Nope, on the committee. And without a copy of the bylaws (as of Friday last week no bylaws have been provided as requested) it is impossible to know if they prescribe some sort appeal process as was outlined in the Bellevue Baptist Church bylaws that also provided for an ad-hoc discipline committee. According to some posters here, the old bylaws DID contain a type of appeal process where an accused could call for a hearing in front of the church, but that the new bylaws have removed that - this story on the bylaws is developing. Names and signatures of the FBC Jax discipline committee have been removed as requested.
Here are the trespass warnings issued which I believe were attached to the 11/25 letter: one for the man and one for his wife. These forms were shown to a law enforcement expert, who confirmed these forms prove the persons have been warned to stay away from the premises, and thus the two members could be arrested for trespassing if an official at the church wanted to report them as trespassing. The forms had the man and his wife's name, address, date of birth, weight, height, race, sex, etc. The reason stated on the forms for the warning issuance was: "willful misconduct of a church member" for the man, and "association with member engaging in willful misconduct of a church member" for the woman. So based on this its clear to me that the woman is not being accused of owning the blog, just that she is accused of "associating" with her husband who is accused of owning the blog.
This 12/1/08 letter is the man's response to the accusations and trespass warnings. He states his intention to meet with the committee, but requests a copy of the bylaws, states his intention to tape record the meeting and to have counsel present, and also asks that the trespass warnings be lifted so that he and his wife may attend church services on 12/3/08 to watch their daughter sing in the choir. He also is asking for the basis of the accusations.
2nd Letter from Church
This 12/3/08 letter is the committee's response to the accused's 12/1/08 letter. This letter ignores the request to provide the bylaws, and states that the committee will never allow the man to have representation in any meetings with the committee because of the "ecclesiastical" nature of the meeting. The committee acknowledges that the man and his wife have a desire to see their daughter perform in the 12/3/08 service but insists that the man and his wife must first submit to their demand to meet with the committee prior to the service else the trespass warning is "in full force and effect". They state:
"Your non-response, unwillingness or unavailability to meet at this time will prevent you and your wife from being granted permission to attend this evening's service."
So this committee apparently has been granted such power by the church's bylaws (or by the pastor or pastor's wife's decree) that they can dictate the terms to members by which they are allowed to attend worship services. Its worth noting that attendance at the 12/3/08 meeting would not have lifted the trespass warnings, but would only permit attendance for that one service: "...the committee...is willing to allow you on the premises, for tonight, if you have an initial meeting...this evening."
A church like FBC Jax that allows its bylaws to be significantly changed by just a few men and a pastor with no explanation or discussion of the changes, especially the addition of a discipline committee, is asking for trouble - now we have a committee deciding the terms by which members of the church can and cannot attend worship services. We were warned here, here, and here.
The man says he did send a response to the 2nd reply from the church, and says he has decided to not make that one public, at least not at this time.
What is next? His wife has been removed from her Sunday School email prayer distribution list. For the time being the man and his wife have trespass warnings against them that are "in full force and effect" and he says they will comply and will worship elsewhere and don't plan on coming back. He tells me his wife is taking it all pretty hard but is coping well. The worst part he says is the total silence toward his wife - only one staff member called her - he is one of the young, very humble ministers at the church who did not know why she was not able to fulfill her ministry anymore at the church. Apparently not all of the staff had been informed of the trespass warnings.
So it appears to be a stand-off since the committee requires a meeting under their conditions only, and doesn't seem to want to meet what seem to be reasonable requests of the man and his wife prior to a meeting. If there are any "appeal" processes or procedures in the bylaws for members who are being mistreated by the committee, they are unknown to the accused as the church still has not complied with his request for a copy of the bylaws or even an explanation of the basis of the accusations. The man says its likely that the committee is following through on their threat to revoke their membership unless they meet with the committee.
So there you have it: Church Discipline - FBC Jax style. Not according to the Bible. Matthew 18 church discipline? Not even close. Its church discipline according to Team Brunson.
These events should concern every single member of FBC Jacksonville. Lest you think Mac is a disconnected party to all of these shenanigans, consider this: Mac preached Wednesday night 12/3, the very day that Mac's committee tried to force the man and his wife to meet with them without representation as a condition of seeing their child perform in church, Mac stated that scripture teaches that one function of a pastor's "dealing harshly" with sinning church members is to "put the fear of God in YOU [the congregation]". I don't find this in scripture that a pastor is to "deal harshly" with sinners, or that church discipline is designed to put "the fear of God" into people. But that is Mac's view and intent in all of this: to put the FEAR OF GOD IN YOU, THE GOOD PEOPLE OF FBC JACKSONVILLE. Just a coincidence that he makes this statement on that particular day that the man and his wife were refused entrance into the church? I don't think so.
So FBC Jax I ask you: Is Mac successful in putting the fear of God in YOU? Or is it time perhaps for the congregation to put the "fear of God" into Mac and the discipline committee and demand that they stop their abusive ways?