Sunday, December 21, 2008

Accountability within the Church

Posted by Hannah at 11:13 AM

Rebecca Hancock has been in the news a lot lately, and its brought church discipline into the limelight. I know for myself I did struggle with this, and not because I don’t realize that Jesus wouldn’t condone having relations with your boyfriend out of wedlock. Scripture is clear about this subject. To me it was the way she described the events that bothered me.

I’m NOT going to say that I’m 100% right here, but there are items in this story that do tend to bother me. I got the impression that she had been a member of this church for sometime, and during this time she was given a mentor. I think that’s awesome! She spoke of how she never realized how they deal with church discipline, and that portion was never made clear to her. I don’t know if she was new Christian, and she had never heard of such a concept. If they do indeed use this tool, and if you look at the size of their membership it can’t be uncommon to know about it. To me this would be discussed if in nothing else but general terms, so people would know that the flock does keep each other accountable, etc. They would also realize it has happened before.

If she walked into a church, and this was made clear to her that they do this it would make the story a bit different. I don’t know how long she has been a believer, nor do I know how long she has studied the word. I don’t know if discipline actions were mentioned before she entered a relationship with a mentor. What is just general, or was it specific? To me it does make a difference, because you don’t want people walking into something blind. You would be surprised at things people didn’t realize was clearly sin in God’s eyes.

She mentioned how she told her mentor about her relationship, and how her mentor did rebuke her on this. To me discipline is a very fine line item, because you need to be very careful and loving the way you do this. The way the world is people aren’t always crystal clear on where the line is, and the last thing you wish to happen is for them to RUN in the opposite direction. It must be done with understanding, love, grace, and a willingness to help them in their struggle in this area. NOW I realize that some people can walk away, and not look back. There are others that this step isn’t so easy, and that is an area I feel the church body can be very helpful and supportive. I have seen this happen myself, and it was with different type of sins. Lets say you have an alcohol issue. At times people can’t just jump on the wagon, and stay there for life. Was she helped in this area with her unbelieving boyfriend, and her own urges with a mentor that was willing to listen and help her there? I don’t know if she was or not. It doesn’t really go there.

The next step she speaks about was the time her mentor asked her into a room to speak with her, and she entered to find a group of ladies that approached her about her sin. The part that bothered me about this portion was the comment, “I was at your house when you didn’t come home all night.” Do they have a habit of following people around? Checking up on them in this way? Waiting outside the boyfriend’s place or her place to see if she returns at night? That kind of stuck me funny, and if I felt that church members were stalking me in this fashion that would make me uncomfortable as well. I realize that some people no matter how nicely you approach them they are going to get defensive, but we really don’t know about how she was approached. That one portion did make me wonder I will admit. At this point she told them she was leaving the church never to return.

Now if things were handled properly I can understand the follow up calls by the pastor. You do hope that people will cool off, and think about what had happened. You also have an opportunity once again to help them in this struggle. If this woman KNEW what the purpose was of a mentor program within this church, and she KNEW that dating an unbeliever and then sleeping with him would set off alarms I don’t understand her reaction. She knew what she was walking into. I would HOPE they don’t just pick and choose which parties they decide to do this to. The church it sounds like did persist in communication, and then was asked to leave them be. They didn’t wish further communication, and she would NOT be returning to the church. She spoke of how she struggled with ending this relationship with her boyfriend, and the question does come up did she just choose to sin outright? On the other hand was she helped in that area in regards to support within the fold with this struggle? I have seen in the past that people are thrown scripture, and left alone after that. To me they aren’t fulfilling their end of things if they do this. We are to come along side of people, and help them and support them in this issue.

The last portion was the letter she was sent stating that they were going to bring her issue to the church, and have her removed as a church member. Nothing was mentioned about shunning, but some may question that. I don’t believe scripture calls for that personally. God always leaves that door open, and with shunning you are closing it off. To me God wishes you to turn from your sin freely, and not feel coerced into this. He wants you to do this out of obedience of God’s word, and that you have made a decision to live your life his way and not the world’s way. It’s a decision he wishes you to make personally, and with your whole heart. I see to many people do things in very manipulative fashions, and it seems acceptable because it’s a means to the end. To me that is NOT what God would wish. I guess once again I see a very fine line.

I do not understand her decision to bring this to the media. She states that she didn’t realize the discipline process, but if she tried a number of times to end the relationship as she mentioned you have to wonder. On the other hand, was it a matter of them using her as an example? Their church seems large enough that it wouldn’t be unusual for others to be removed from the church. Do they follow this process for everyone? As you know we speak a lot of domestic violence here, and I wonder if they would deal with that in the same fashion. I guess that is WHY I wonder if they did handle this properly. We see a lot of parties – both men and women – being hurt by this process that wasn’t handled properly. Why go to the media if you don’t want your sins brought before the church, but are willing to tell the world about them? That makes me wonder if she truly cares about what her children think, and about the process to begin with!

To me there isn’t enough information to go on. The world doesn’t have an issue with people sleeping their boyfriend, but within the church body most know this isn’t acceptable. That’s just the way it is. Most people know that God’s word is very clear on this. If she knew enough about the process within her church, and just didn’t feel that they would go for it then she needs to take it. If she was left with support like a lot of domestic violence victims are, “If you just submit more things would be dandy!” neither of them are within the guidelines of what scripture calls for.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with accountability. I think there should be more of it, but sadly we don’t use it properly a lot of the times. Most of the time I don’t see it used at all. Reading this story made me waffle. Was the process done properly with the correct intent? Did she just run because she didn’t want to live God’s way no matter how much loving support she got? The story made me struggle in both directions.

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