“Just Want To Talk” Trojan Horse

“He wouldn’t talk to me about the real issues.”

“We just wanted to talk with her.”

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This was a favorite Trojan Horse of my now ex-wife. It was employed with “Christian” counselors, “friends,” and family as our marriage headed to its ultimate demise.

I thought about it as The Village Church debacle hit the fan and have decided this tactic needs a bit of exposing for my readership. Clearly, hiding behind the alleged “We NEVER Talk” sign is a common controlling tactic as marriages go sideways with unfaithful spouses involved. And it is kind of ironic that a cheating spouse would use this considering all the infidelity he or she did not talk about with the faithful spouse.

The reason this tactic is so successful is how it preys upon reasonable expectations. One expects a spouse to talk about major issues and decisions with his or her spouse. A pastor might expect his or her parishioner to keep them abreast of marital developments if they were already involved in handling that couple’s marriage crisis. That seems reasonable.

What is not reasonable is how this “We NEVER Talk” sign actually is used to dominate. What it really means–as I experienced it–is that the one employing the sign was not satisfied with the outcome of the conversation. In other words, they did not get their way. The “not talking” line was used as cover for an actual power struggle. It was a Trojan Horse hiding the real agenda of the one employing it–i.e. the attempted domination of the other.

I see this Trojan Horse at work in the response The Village Church as quoted from their FAQ section in the email dated May 23rd, 2015:

To be clear, there may be times when there are biblical grounds for divorce (Matt. 5:31-32; 1 Cor. 7:15), and members can be given the support to pursue that path after attempting the steps of marriage reconciliation according to our Membership Covenant. In this case, due to the severity of Jordan’s actions, the Dallas campus elders communicated to Karen their desire to hear her side of the story in order to determine whether there were biblical grounds for divorce. Unfortunately, the Dallas elders were never given the chance to help determine whether there were grounds for divorce, as Karen declined the invitation to meet with the elders and moved forward with the annulment on her own.

From this part of the email, one might say that the TVC leadership just wanted to hear Karen’s “side of the story.” It paints Karen as being unreasonable for “not talking” with them. But that obscures the agenda disclosed in the other language. It is a Trojan Horse. This “conversation” was to determine whether she could divorce Jordan Biblically. As I say elsewhere, this was not their decision to make any more than they get to decide who is allowed to marry whom. Pastors can say whether they support or do not support a marriage or divorce/annulment. They can even refuse to provide church resources–their time to marry included–to support the decision. However, anything more smacks of ungodly control.

It is domineering.

Hiding behind a church covenant does not change that fact.

This was not about just talking with Karen. It was about control–i.e. deciding for her about her marriage.

Now, TVC has issued an “apology” of sorts, but nowhere in that apology do they say they were wrong to insist on deciding the fate of Karen’s marriage to Jordan. As far as I can tell, they do not see this role as improper. They continue to act as entitled to make this decision for their members. In fact, I see them doubling down on their controlling response of earlier by saying they stand by their theological and pastoral care convictions. Quoting from their “apology,”

Regarding Covenant Membership, we have not changed our theological or philosophical convictions on our Membership Covenant, member care and church discipline.

The only thing they say about the annulment of the marriage is that they ought to have been better prepared to provide a practical theology lecture to Karen more promptly. Quoting from their letter:

Specifically, as it pertains to her desire for an annulment, we know that it would have served her better to have a clearer understanding from us as to what we do and do not consider biblical grounds for divorce or what we understand the Scriptures to define as divorce. In hindsight, we wish that we would have provided clarity to Karen in an immediate fashion and are saddened by our unpreparedness.

They do not even have the balls to be straight with everyone and say that they do not believe her annulment (or divorce as they claim it is) is unbiblical in their view; so, they would not have supported it. At least, that is how the silence on that contentious matter sounds to me. Instead, we get a lame apology that sounds more like regret over failing to better control/persuade Karen to not end her marriage to Jordan through an annulment. Well, that’s my opinion on it, and I know others will likely disagree with me.

I am concerned reading TVC leadership’s earlier words and reading their “apology” that TVC leadership does not see that they over-reached and were controlling on this matter. It strikes me as an apology primarily over poor “packaging” as opposed to poor substantive care. The domineering spirit is left ultimately unchallenged. It was slapped on the wrist for being too public is all.

The issues I raised in my last post about the possible Mark Driscoll influence remain unchanged. While they do make a nod towards not having a more gentle and humble approach, they are not saying in their “apology” that they had too much power and are seeking to divest themselves of this power. Rather, I hear them saying that they did not wield–what they seem to think is still legitimate power–more acceptably.

I will credit them with acknowledging they did not wield their power with the Biblical gentleness and humility Scripture calls elders to exhibit here. However, I challenge them to go deeper. Are they God so as to determine who gets to marry or end that marriage? Or are they priests who humbly offer their best counsel and entrust the decision to adult Christians to be be accountable to the Holy Spirit’s direction in the end?

 

3 thoughts on ““Just Want To Talk” Trojan Horse”

  1. After all the information I’ve digested regarding this, the thing I find hilariously laughable is how the church basically tried to administer church discipline to someone who’d already chosen to end their membership. “Sister, we love you. You must come back so that we may crucify you”. Yeah, okay. Be right there!

    1. Exactly. I was thinking about it more and thought it is like signing a church covenant that says you will submit to the elders’ family planning decisions for your family. Don’t want to have 10 children? Well, we have a church discipline process for you because you signed the covenant. Try to resign without having those ten kids…well, we won’t accept your resignation! Madness. In other words, it misses the point. They ought not to have such power at the start. It isn’t healthy.

  2. I think that many church’s abuse the intent of Matthew 18, cloaking it as a form of “reconciliation process”, having that as a goal. But reconciliation was never the goal of Matthew 18. And, the church leadership has no authority over Matthew 18 to begin with, the church body does. But it is never to get to the church unless it’s the LAST resort. There are three steps:

    1. Someone sinned against you personally (You must identify the sin, i.e. “He stole my ipod”)
    a. That person that sinned against you personally denies it.

    2. Someone else, or others besides the one sinned against witnessed that sin, for out of the mouth of two or three may every word be established. If there are no witnesses, it’s your word against his word, and it stops right there.
    a. But the accused still denies the sin.
    b. All parties who witnessed that sin is to confront the one who denies the sin,

    3. The accuser, along with the witnesses take the case to the church BODY, not the leaders. If there are no witnesses, the church never gets the case to begin with, it stops at step 1.
    a. If the person still denies it, in the face of witnesses present to testify, you kick him out of the church, and that is not discipline, in other words, that is not “corrective action to correct a deficiency”. That is getting rid of a wicked person.

    This is not about “reconciliation. It’s about owning up to your sin, and if you do, then you are to be forgiven. We do have a right to BIND sin, i.e. not to forgive. We are not obligated to forgive an unrepentant individual. In addition, we have NO authority to forgive a sin that was committed against another person. The church has no authority to “corporately” forgive anyone. That responsibility only lies with the ONE PERSON that was sinned against.

    Note: If a crime was committed, dial 911. Crimes are not 1 Corinthians 6:2 material. 1 Corinthians 6:2 discusses “smallest matters”. I think that felonies are not smallest matters.

    Final note: Church Covenants are not worth anything. It’s worth less than the paper and the ink used. Will we find any example in the Bible for this, i.e. “Just sign on the dotted line”?

    Ed Chapman

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