When Matthew 18 Breaks Down — by Persistent Widow, one of our readers
[Note from Jeff C and Barb: We are publishing this post to hold churches accountable and to expose the injustices they effect.]
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 ESV
Dear A Cry For Justice Friends,
Earlier this month, I wrote the following letter to my previous pastor after my son disclosed that the pastor had discussed some of the content of what I assumed was confidential information. This teenager’s misbehavior was the reason that I sought help from the church at the onset. The thought of filing for divorce was not even in my mind at the time I first contacted the church several years ago-I just wanted to get help for my son. I thought that this was biblical. Even when this church conducts baptisms, part of the congregational response is a commitment to help raise the child. My original purpose in confiding with the church was to seek discipline for my husband’s civil disobedience that was influencing my son.
Dear Pastor ______,
I felt it inappropriate that you would send details of your and my private conversations, stating my fears and concerns about _____(my ex), in an open letter to ______(my ex) considering his violent nature. I also found it embarrassing that you would encourage my situation to be open to scorn by the ______ (Church A) children, which was overheard by my daughter at the swimming pool. However, I have largely overlooked those incidents.
_______(my son) contends that he spoke with you concerning the issues that I brought to the_______ (church A ) session, and that you gave him details about the mediation and your own personal opinions. This alleged conversation provided details, which have been used discredit me, and to give validation for his father’s actions. If what ________(my son) contends took place, it has caused a lot of damage to my family.
I am writing to ask you if it is true that you discussed my information with _______(my son). Also, I would like to know what assurance I have that any information that I provided to the session, has and will be kept confidential, and handled in a professional manner. Because _______(my son) is leaving soon, I would like to have clarification of these matters beforehand. I am requesting the courtesy of a reply before May 1st.
This letter was sent to church A and I sent a copy of it to my new PCA church which I will call church B. I would like to add that my son passed the information that he gleaned from the pastor to my ex-husband. His response was to threaten my life — this breach of confidentiality had serious consequences. Also, it made parenting my son very difficult with his taunting me about how the church would not support me. I thought by bringing this to their attention, they would finally see what damage their mishandling of my case caused, and I thought that I might at least get an apology.
I asked, in writing, that church B follow up for me, informing them that previously church A had sent me a letter that they would no longer respond to any mail that I sent them, I had to bring any issues to my new church, Church B, and they would bring it to Church A.
After a distressing morning at church, I wrote a brief synopsis of my current situation on a recent post here at A Cry For Justice. I can’t help but think that this sermon was designed to guilt me for not being forgiving and pressing the issue with church A, but never have I ever received anything that remotely resembled an apology from them. Also the in the sermon, people who did not forgive their brother were equated with the Boston bombers — often being goaded by others in the background. I think this is in reference to A Cry for Justice. He also stated that he didn’t like all of the sheep, although he had to shepherd them anyway. Shortly after the oppressive sermon, I was told by the pastor that Church B would not get involved in following up on Church A. I asked Church B to put their response in writing. The pastor seemed loathe to do so, knowing that I keep a file, but said that they would. I can’t wait to see that explanation!
Yesterday, I was surprised to receive a letter from church A in my mail. I wondered, could it be an apology for all that they put me through? I thought it might even be a “We’re sorry that you were offended” letter, or “Rest assured, your information is safe with us” letter.
Here it is:
We received your letter dated March 29, 2013. In our last letter to you May 25, 2012 we wrote the following: Now that you are under the shepherding oversight of ______(Church B), and its elders, we consider that any requests you might have should be brought first to them and no longer directly to us. That means that if you have further need to interact with the _____(Church A) session, items should be first brought by you to your current session, and then the session of ______(Church B) will bring them to us if necessary. Any further letters from you directly to us will be returned without response.
Therefore, in keeping with what we wrote, we will not be responding directly to you concerning your letter. This does not indicate any type of positive or negative response to any questions you may have posed in this letter. We are only following the process we said we would.
Signed The Session of _______(Church A)
By Moderator, Clerk of Session and a Ruling Elder
So, in the content of Matthew 18, I was pressed to forgive my brother, (the pastor at church A, who never apologized), who, when I brought my grievance to him, told me to contact church B. But church B refuses to get involved! What to make of this breakdown of Matthew 18?