Jan 8, 2006

Hate, Division, And One Lost Soul

The church should be (and often is) the most loving and comforting society in the world; unfortunately the church can also be (thankfully not often) the most bitter, cruel, and heartless group imaginable.

A little over twenty years ago I was unfortunate enough to be in a meeting where four elders attempted to remove and withdraw fellowship from a fifth elder. For months the in-fighting was vicious among the elders and their proponents, and naturally this spilled over and infected (poisoned would be a better word) the entire church. Christian friendships I had previously thought were cemented with love were ended in a flash, and the church was segregated along "party" lines never to reunite.

This ominous general church meeting happened on a Sunday morning held right after the worship service while all the members were still present. The four united elders stood before the church and denounced the actions of one of their own, and labeled him as being liberal and following the teachings of a few radicals (probably change agents.) After the elders presented their case they announced that he would no longer be an elder in their church, and they were withdrawing fellowship from him. This was bad enough, but read on.....

The elder who was removed and withdrawn from (about 5-minutes into his early retirement) rose from his chair, took over the microphone and refused to be dismissed as an elder, and would not accept the elders decision to withdraw from him. This became quite ugly, and resulted in the four elders who were attempting to remove the (renegade?) elder each resigning one-by-one in front of the congregation. If not calamity enough, the deacons who shared the same position as the four now resigned elders, also resigned. When the last round ended only the elder who refused to be removed and two or three deacons who shared his convictions remained to serve the church.

This was the only church split I have ever witnessed. I know of many more, but the scene on this day was far worse than one could imagine if the Democratic and Republican conventions were held together in the same auditorium.

Can it get worse! Read on.... While this church was in the process of ripping itself apart, a man walked in who was not a member of this church and thinking this was the regular worship service took a seat near me. He smiled at a few people around him then settled in for a pleasant commune with God. After a few minutes of yelling, accusations, and finger-pointing he looked around confused, and I watched sadly and embarrassed as he rose slowly, head down, and without a glance at another person walked out the door...possibly forever!

Can you even imagine what this visitor was thinking when he left! I should have followed him out and attempted to explain that this was not a church service and not to get a general bad feeling about all churches because of what he had seen, but I was too shell-shocked by the unholy (yes, unholy) spectacle taking place to think straight. Over 20-years have passed and I still remember how happy he looked when he came in, and how sad he looked on leaving.

Perhaps it's not good to bring up problems a church faced years ago, but we do need to learn by our mistakes. We need to embrace our brothers and sisters wholeheartedly with unfeigned love so that these horrible ungodly events don't happen in the future. After all these years I can still hear the accusations and feel the hate (yes, hate) this church suffered when it divided.

My prayer is for a united and loving church where Gods' children love each other way too much to fracture over trivial matters or personalities.


LEM'S Politics said...

I understand this happened 20 years ago, and I also know this was not the first event of this kind,not The last. I have wittnesed a division in a congregation over having a kitchen in the building in the 1950s and my present church congregation nearly torn apart over a dispute between an elder and the minister as best I can find out over vacation time., we lost the elder and the preacher, we were without a minister until Jan 1st about six months, thank God for him he is a 35 year old moderate, he has preached but three sermons and I believe he is a keeper. He came right out and said I am an agent of change, we have a great little congregation. but remember it is made up of people. you never know when a tremor can shake the whole building

jettybetty said...

I quote you in my post today--please let me know if you have any problems with what I did--and I will edit accordingly!

Larry said...

If I write it ... you can quote it. :)

Just finished commenting on your "emergent" post, and read all the other comments....good stuff.

Larry said...

I can't fathom how Christians can supposedly love each other for years then suddenly dislike each other over the presence of a kitchen somewhere on the "church" grounds.

While I disagree with many of my fellow Christians in the mainstream COC, they are still my brothers and sisters, and I love them...and I think most of them still love me (hope so at least.)

While the church appears fragile at times, it is the body of Christ, and will survive until He decides to take us with him to a better place.