According to the article, at the church's January 4th service her sin will be publicly exposed before the church. Although not stated in the article, it is likely that this is for the church to understand what she is being accused of so that they may vote her out of the fellowship and revoke her membership.
The member has sent the church a resignation letter to try and stop this public revelation, but according to the pastor the discipline process will proceed.
This is so very sad that the church has decided to do this, and I would like to make a few comments:
- this process the church is going through, is likely spelled out in their bylaws as biblical "Church Discipline", much like what is currently in the new bylaws of FBC Jax recently passed in December 2007 with no discussion or explanation to the members. There is likely a group of elders or deacons who once they become aware of some sin or offense in a person's life, they will go to the pastor and determine if it is worthy of discipline according to their bylaws. They then will likely go to the person to confront them of their sin (which apparently a group of women did at the church) to get the person to repent. If the accused does not respond appropriately, then the committee will make a recommendation to the church - which could include expulsion from the church.
- being a relatively new church (founded in 1996) and certainly not a "mega church" like FBC Jax, its likely that their church bylaws originally had this discipline process in it. FBC Jax has NOT had this discipline process in their bylaws, until this past December 2007 when the bylaws were changed adding an article spelling out a similar discipline process that culminates in the offenders sin being brought to the church. Mac Brunson himself stated just two weeks ago that this process of bringing people's sins before the church, and "dealing harshly" with them is to "put the fear of God" into other church members (listen below).
- this process that is occurring at Grace Community Church is similar to the process taking place at FBC Jax with a long-time member who has been accused of dividing the church through ownership of this blog. One strange twist in the FBC Jax church discipline case is that the accused and his wife both were served with Trespass Warnings until such time that they agree to meet with the a discipline committee of six men - without given a copy of the governing bylaws and without any representation.
- what the press should inquire at both FBC Jax and at Grace Community Church as a follow-up (this Grace Community Church story will likely have legs at the national level - I can see a "pinhead" award coming!) is this: how does the church determine what offenses are so egregious that they require this process? Are all sins committed by the members of congregation worthy of such a process? Are there any men at Grace who have been accused of adultery, and were they subjected to this Church Discipline process? Any obese people at the church that haven't repented of their gluttony? What about drunkards who might be seen at the local bar? Same process?
- I wonder if this woman was issued a "Trespass Warning" as the accused blogger was at FBC Jax. Do they issue Trespass Warnings at Grace to try to coerce people to meet with their discipline committee? Do the FBC Jax bylaws specify which sins are worthy of having Trespass Warnings issued barring people from the church, or is it just people who are accused of divisiveness through blogging? What about adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, swindlers, and the greedy and gluttonous? Trespass Warnings for them?
- Just this week Time Magazine declared the Southern Baptist Convention's failure to begin a sexual predator database as one of the Top-10 most under-reported news stories of 2008! So while the Southern Baptists have decided AGAINST taking prudent steps towards letting people know of dangerous clergy in their midst...at the same time churches like FBC Jacksonville, one of the largest churches in the SBC, is clandestinely changing their bylaws to make sure the church's expose the blogging or sexual sins of their own members! And here's the kicker: which I'm sure will be of interest to Christa Brown: to rub salt in the wounds of FBC Jax members a statement was added in the new church discipline bylaws section saying that all members of FBC Jax have given up their right to seek civil remedies against their church. Minister molests your kid? You've agreed to not sue the church. The church doesn't do a thorough background check on one of the Sunday School workers and he fondles your child? Sorry, you forfeited your right by joining FBC Jax to seek any civil penalties for their negligence.
Is there any wonder why people are leaving churches? Maurilio Amorim of the A-Group has a blog article this week reviewing the book "Quitting Church" - which examines why people in America are fleeing churches for home church and worship. And no wonder, when they see the one-way discipline churches seek to exert on members: Churches like FBC Jax and Grace Community want to make sure they exert "discipline" on wayward members who engage in certain sins deemed by the ministers to be worthy of discipline - yet the church leadership seeks to minimize the church's accountability for misdeeds by their own ministers - and banishes members who are accused of blogging about problems in the church.
Below are two sermon excerpts from Mac Brunson explaining his view of church disipline with an example of how he used it in Dallas - and his statement that church discipline is to be exercised by the pastor to "put the fear of God" in the congregation.