A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Letter of Resignation from an Abusive Church

This post is a partial re-publication of a post from The Wartburg Watch blog which was written by Dee, one of TWW’s administrators, in Feb 2012. The original post was titled “How to Minimize Damage When Resigning From a Mark Driscoll-like Church.”  You can find the original post here. We are re-publishing this excerpt of Dee’s post because we know that some of our readers have been excommunicated and slandered by their churches for having divorced their abusive spouses.

Dee’s post contains a letter of resignation designed for leaving a church that is abusive, cultish, etc. Some of our readers may like to use the wording of this letter should they want to resign from their abusive cultic churches.  We emphasize that we’re passing this letter on for those kinds of uses only. There are cases of valid, biblical church discipline set out in Scripture, and the Bible says nothing about a person being able to simply leave and resign and thereby stymie the church discipline process (telling the church, the decision bound in heaven, etc). That is to say, for example, an ABUSER who is being disciplined by the church must still be disciplined even if he were to send in a letter like this in his attempt to prevent his victim or anyone exposing his sin to the church.

We also don’t want to encourage sinful anger or retaliation, even in someone who has been abused by the system of the abusive ‘c’hurch — although we completely understand feeling that way or even being that way in one’s thoughts from time to time during the process of coming to understand what happened, and healing from all the trauma.

Here is our excerpt from Dee’s post:

* * * * *

Three years ago, I [Dee] spoke with a nationally well-known attorney who informed me that the only power that churches have is the ability to throw members out of the church. They can do that with very little recrimination. But, they could have some legal trouble announcing a member’s supposed “sins” to the full church if said member employs the following procedure. What we are about to discuss has been “run by” legal experts. However, TWW states categorically that this should not be taken to mean it is an official legal position. Please seek advice of an attorney for an authorized opinion.

The Steps:

  • Resign your church membership prior to the all-church announcement. Better yet, before harsh discipline is applied.
  • Keep your lips sealed.
  • Do not tell anyone that you are going to take the following action. You do not want Sally Sycophant  (we all know a few of these) to run to the pastors and report this, giving them an opportunity quickly schedule the all church gossip session.

The Letter:

We [Dee and Deb] give special thanks to Arce, who knows a thing or two, for sending this format to TWW

  • Send the following letter, return receipt requested (and tracking, in case the Post Office lets them have it without returning the card).
  • Put the return receipt number on the heading of the letter (you can get the form with the number at the PO, before typing the letter).  [note to non-USA readers: your postal system may work differently, so explore the best way for you to achieve this same goal in your own country]

Date

To the pastors and administrators at ____________ church.

This letter is notice that I am not longer a member [attendee] at _______________ church, effective with the date of this letter.
As a non-member, I am no longer subject to any of your discipline as of (date on letter). After (date on letter), any publication, notice, or speaking about me by any church staff or recognized church leader is no longer authorized by me.
Any negative remark or statement about me, any encouragement that people shun me, or any action other than deleting me from your records will be evaluated for possible legal action for libel or other tort claim against the individuals involved and the organization.
If any one asks about me, refer them to me, any other action may result in a tort claim against you.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. You must desist from any act that may harm my reputation or me or come between me and other persons of my acquaintance. Legal action may ensue.
Sincerely,
____________

  • You must mail the letter on the date on the letter and they will not receive it for a couple of days thereafter.
  • Keep a copy, print out the tracking showing when it was delivered, keep the green card or, if it is refused, the returned letter (they are legally responsible for the content if they refuse it).
  • Document any response or any failure to comply. If they (leadership or staff) call, listen but do not talk, except to say “I disagree” if they make a false statement about you.
  • Document the conversation.
  • Go to an attorney if they proceed to trash your reputation or that of your business.
  • Do not respond by trashing the organization.

[end of excerpt from The Wartburg Watch post]

* * * * *

We at A Cry For Justice are not legally qualified in any way, but in our non-professional opinion we think this letter may be worth using to try to stop church leaders defaming the ex-member after she or he has resigned. We are thinking particularly of  the kinds of defamation that may occur as part of a formal church procedure conducted by a legalistic patriarchal church when it is ‘excommunicating’ the ex-member (what an oxymoron!). We have heard of such cases. We know of women who have been formally excommunicated for divorcing their abusive husbands, and the excommunication process involved a public hearing where the woman’s supposed sins were documented in a List of Charges and presented to the congregation for them to all read and consider.  In cases like this, a stiffly worded Letter of Resignation like the one above might give the resigning person a good starting point from which to sue the former church for trashing their reputation. It may not stop the church from engaging in its kangaroo court-of-excommunication, but it may help the civil magistrate to bring the arm of the law to restrain or punish egregious forms of slander, libel and defamation that the ‘c’hurch might make against the departed person.

The false excommunication of true Christians from the Church of Christ is just Satan’s way of attempting to destroy the true Church and Her believers, just as in the days of the inquisition. It seems that more and more true believers are being put out, for standing up for what they believe and what is right.

26 Comments

  1. Wendell G

    It is so very sad that this kind of thing would ever be necessary! While I understand the necessity of such actions, the very fact that a Christian would have to sue a church really hurts the cause of Christ. Of course, it already hurts that same cause when churches treat their members as mind numbed robots, punishing anyone who doesn’t toe their party line.

    Would that someone in the congregations such as these have the guts to stand up and call the leadership out, asking some very pointed questions to make the pastors actually have to defend their positions!

    It is just a tragic situation all the way around!

    • Barnabasintraining

      Would that someone in the congregations such as these have the guts to stand up and call the leadership out, asking some very pointed questions to make the pastors actually have to defend their positions!

      They do. They’re the ones that get tossed.

      Mark Driscoll calls that “sinning through questioning” and rather than answering questions, Mark Chandler has something to say about anonymous commenters being “narcissistic zeroes” while simultaneously saying –in the most uninviting way imaginable — the leadership at his church are open to anything the congregation has to say.

      Trigger warning on both vids.

      http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-so-much-angst-about-anonymous.html

      • Wendell G

        Well, I for one will refuse to be silent in these cases now. I don’t care if I get tossed or not. I have come to the point in my life that I will owe no allegiance to a specific church to the level of ignoring wrongdoing and blatant sin. The real Church, the ecclesia, was never intended to be this way!

      • Memphis Rayne

        Uh? WOW? My head has just fallen off my shoulders. Not to sound mean, but he really gives new meaning to the word hillbilly. In light of his moronic assessment of how unintelligent one is to question any kind of authority (although I get he just didn’t want his authority questioned) I feel so much more enlightened by his neanderthal approach to Christianity, I mean, I no longer have to think for myself anymore, or question the motives of any living being..or wonder why I have opposing thumbs?…gosh darn he is smart! Referring to this woman as having an infantile mentality?…what a shining example he is….plus what the heck is wrong with juice boxes??? I wonder what he drinks in his morning latte? Bet its not decaff. I never seen him before, but he looks and sounds like he would be BFFs with MIW. Somebody should let him on the fact, he is not all that funny…..and he should find a different day job, perhaps as a bouncer in a sleazy night club, or maybe a bouncer in the local daycare so he can be close to those juice boxes……the latter makes as about as much sense as him being a pastor.

    • Anonymous

      When are the men who hold Mr. Driscoll accountable, if there are any such men, going to take him out of the pulpit and call him what he really is? This is exactly the sort of misuse of authority that bends to the shape of a man working under his own authority, not God’s. Men in leadership are called to lay down their lives for the sheep, and it also seems here, that Mr. Chandler needs to have a dose of that lesson taught to him as well. Basically, they answer to God for the care they deliver to us, whether it be good or as is the case here, really bad. I would hate to be one of these kind of shepherds, when I had to stand before God. I just don’t think they get how serious their abuse of the sheep is, in God’s eyes. They want to have free reign over the sheep, to do as they please, even battering the sheep into submission to them, with no real sense of leading them to God to submit to Him. One thing’s for sure – they really want to know your name!

      • Barnabasintraining

        The men who sought to hold Driscoll accountable, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, were fired immediately after he preached the sermon where he said this:

        Here is the account of the whole thing from the Petrys.

        http://joyfulexiles.com/

      • Anonymous

        Here are the verses he is using, to defend his threats to beating people up and breaking their noses.

        “In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” Nehemiah 13:23-27 ESV

        What do these passages, have to do with beating up people in your congregation because they won’t do what the pastor wants them to do? Knowing Driscoll, the imagination is left wide open, as to what his demands of these other people were. He is a dangerous man, that gets away with being this way and doing the things he does, because his peers don’t care that he is injuring the true Church of Christ. What does that say about all of those men? Do you hear the people listening to him, laughing about his threats and power mongering? So many people are deceived by this kind of leadership. It appears that Driscoll cannot even “try” to look like a true shepherd of GOD’S sheep. I think he forgot Who’s sheep he is tending, a long time ago. Entitlement. Ownership. Power. Control. It all adds up to one word and it’s a word we are all familiar with here.

      • Wendell G

        Too many pastors get caught up in the personality cult their followers create about them. Once the cult of personality develops, everything the pastor says is automatically anointed and inspired by God. They can say no wrong and people hang on every word. God help those who come against them!

      • Memphis Rayne

        I just short circuited …..my daughter and I sat and read the entire story from Joyful Exiles, I believe I was much too softly spoken towards Mark Driscoll…I also am familiar with his church, originally from the area it presides. I am not at all surprised, I experience the lonely, fearful, desolate exile the exact same way….with these kind of people the are simply evil, entitled to tell anybody “Put up, or shut up” and if you ask why? They lop off your head to make themselves look taller. He is a disgrace in every way, and I am amazed by the strength of the people he tortured for sport, slaughtered them mercilessly for a dollar in his pocket. The same thing happen to us. The promise of the MIWs money made people look the other way, they sold my kids and I out in the exact same way, betrayed us, humiliated us, shunned us, but hey they got a new rock wall for the fireplace in the sanctuary lobby. Mark Driscoll and other pastors like him, are lining there pockets with blood of the innocent.
        Good luck to them because in the end thats about all they are going to have.
        I am pretty sure this guy knows the MIW, and most likely bond over whos next on the list for a good nose crackin. = * (

      • Barnabasintraining

        I am pretty sure this guy knows the MIW,

        Really??

      • Anonoymous

        My family is well acquainted with some of the strange things that can happen in a Church or among groups of people from a Church. They know the “signal” well. When they hear me say, “all of my children, to the vehicle now and don’t drink anything on the way out”, they know we are in a bad place!

  2. This is a fantastic resource. I so wish I had had this a few years ago!! 😦 Tucking it away for future!

    • Memphis Rayne

      BIT most likely yes, because this is the type of pastor he would intentionally seek out. Plus the significant way Mr. Driscoll approaches theology, and his notoriety? Plus they both lived in the Kirkland area, and now that I put two and two together they were made for each other, match made in hell……pretty much all i can say about it without giving the MIW a shout out. yeeeeeuck!!! True about birds of a feather.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Hmm. Wow. 😦

  3. Ellie

    I’m going to say that I’ve heard Matt Chandler go after anonymous emails but in what I thought was a good way. Village requests that their members give feedback. They have ways in place for people to give that feedback. Chandler reported that several members sent vicious emails, instead of using the channels they had been asked to, that were very disrespectful and that if the people who sent those emails speak to their families the way they spoke to their pastor, he is seriously worried about those families. I liked that. I like to hear that he thought about the families having to endure the obnoxious sorts who swear at parking attendants at the church parking lot (Chandler says he’d love to tow their cars 200 miles away). I really like that. There are many many things I like about the way Chandler handles things. He’s not perfect, but he’s got my respect.

    And about anonymous emails or anonymous anything, I have serious reservations about anonymous and I’ll tell you why. I used to work for a woman whose husband was violent. After enduring years of his abuse, she committed adultery. He gathered evidence and made sure all their friends heard/saw it. Of course he left out his abuse from the story. I’d really REALLY like to ask him on fb if he beats his current wife, or ask the church fb page if anyone there prays for his current wife, you know prays that he won’t beat her like he beat the first one… Anyway, I was standing at the mailbox with her one day and she got an anonymous letter with words cut from a magazine, real old school (but this was 20+years ago). She showed me the letter and I’ll never forget what she said. “You see this, Ellie? The person who sent this is a coward. I AM an adulterer and I know it was wrong. I want to please God. If the coward who sent this really cared about me, if he or she LOVED me and cared about my soul, that person would come here and rebuke me to my face. He or she would show me my wrong in the Bible and plead with me to turn from my sin and try to deliver me from Hell. This letter was sent by a coward who doesn’t care about my soul.”

    I know there can be crippling fear associated with confrontation. But for me, I can’t confront with a good conscience unless I have found a loving basis for it. Being there when my friend got that letter has made a big impact for me in that. It was like that when I left my ex. I couldn’t do it until I saw how much his behavior hurt him. Forgive me if I sound pious. I’m sharing how my brain works and I have read that this is somewhat common for some survivors.

    • Thanks Ellie, that’s a very instructive anecdote. And you didn’t sound pious to me at all. 🙂

    • Barnabasintraining

      I’m going to say that I’ve heard Matt Chandler go after anonymous emails but in what I thought was a good way. Village requests that their members give feedback. They have ways in place for people to give that feedback. Chandler reported that several members sent vicious emails, instead of using the channels they had been asked to, that were very disrespectful and that if the people who sent those emails speak to their families the way they spoke to their pastor, he is seriously worried about those families. I liked that. I like to hear that he thought about the families having to endure the obnoxious sorts who swear at parking attendants at the church parking lot (Chandler says he’d love to tow their cars 200 miles away). I really like that. There are many many things I like about the way Chandler handles things. He’s not perfect, but he’s got my respect.

      I’m glad to hear he has other ways of handling these things. However, I did not get that message about caring for families from him in this video. If he wanted to address the tone or attitude of a complaint/comment and ask people to be respectful, being respectful himself, he could certainly do that. That is not what he did here. Here he demands the respect of self disclosure while giving the very strong impression it is not safe to do so. If I were sitting in the congregation when he said this I’d be asking myself, If he’s going to blast an anonymous person publicly like this, what is he going to do if he knows who they are? Or if I were the sort that liked to use this approach myself, I would feel vindicated and entitled to do so because I just saw the pastor do it himself publicly from the pulpit, no less.

      Frankly, if what is in this video is at all characteristic of him, I am not surprised that he is having the kind of trouble with rude parking attendants, etc. that he is. He is setting the example for them. They are doing what he teaches them to do. Here he demonstrates from the pulpit how to handle emails you don’t like, for example. He shows it’s perfectly OK to call someone a “narcissistic zero” if you don’t like their approach. Of course they are then going to go swear at parking attendants they likely don’t know and are thus anonymous to them. And further, the pastor is going to set the tone of the church to a large degree. The kind of person who cuts down parking attendants and their own families, etc. is going to find someone who uses Chandler’s approach attractive, so he’s going to draw the kind of people who behave like this when does it himself.

      No matter how you slice it, whatever his positives might be, Chandler is misusing his pulpit here. It would be a very good thing for him to publicly repent of his “narcissistic zero” comments and approach to dealing with issues and set a better example as befits a pastor of God’s people. I bet he’d get better fruit in his congregation out of it too.

      • Barnabasintraining

        People being rude to parking attendants, I mean.

      • Anonymous

        I am not in agreement with people sending nasty emails anonymously and venting their anger or concerns to Church leaders. However, it just sounded to me, like Chandler was not really laying down his life for the sheep. It sounded like it was all about him being insulted and he was really angry that anyone could have sent him those emails. He verbally trashed the people who did it, and I agree BIT, he was definitely out of line and if I were in that Church, I would remain anonymous with my comments as well, (or just keep my mouth shut) because we all know with anger like that, the next step is knowing who you are, so they can throw you out and/or publicly humiliate you and make it so that no one would believe anything you said from that point on, all with the intent to make you unable to pick up the pieces. Pretty much what Driscoll did to at least the one pastor he fired. It continues to amaze me, how “c”hurch leaders can go out of their way to lie and falsify documents and records, all in an attempt to destroy someone, and never bat an eye. Maybe it would have been better, if Chandler would have just made a comment that he would no longer read any emails that were sent “anonymous”, because he had encountered such negative feedback. He then could have said that he was praying for the people who sent those emails and that he appreciated their responses, but saw that he needed to preach from the pulpit, a sermon on how to lovingly address concerns or just how the Church should handle disputes or disagreements. Would have gone a lot better for him and we wouldn’t be writing about it here, except in a positive light.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Maybe it would have been better, if Chandler would have just made a comment that he would no longer read any emails that were sent “anonymous”, because he had encountered such negative feedback. He then could have said that he was praying for the people who sent those emails and that he appreciated their responses, but saw that he needed to preach from the pulpit, a sermon on how to lovingly address concerns or just how the Church should handle disputes or disagreements. Would have gone a lot better for him and we wouldn’t be writing about it here, except in a positive light.

        ^ This.

        And while I think the matter of anonymous communication per se is secondary, I should say I agree with both of you about anonymous communication being used abusively. The letter Ellie’s friend got is horrible no matter whether it was sent anonymously or not.

  4. Wendell G

    I followed the link to the Petry’s story and have been reading it off and on since this morning. I am shocked at Driscoll’s behavior and even more shocked.that he is still so popular. I guess the sheep have really had the wool pulled over their eyes.

    It makes me want to ask to see the bylaws of the church we are now attending….

    • Barnabasintraining

      Yeah. The thing was, the original by laws were (I take it?) OK. Then Driscoll somehow took over everything such that he was not accountable to the elders but they to him. He’s the King there and the new by laws reflect that. And the first victims on the altar of sacrifice were these two pastors, one of whom was a lawyer before he gave up his practice to serve as a full time employee at Mars Hill. But somehow this lawyer is not qualified to critique the legal document of the church? Huh?? And when he gives his very astute feedback he gets canned? Huh???

      As I recall Driscoll also canceled everyone’s membership and made them sign up again under the new bylaws.

      Not a good situation there, for sure. Bad juju. Bad bad.

    • Yes, Driscoll is something else, isn’t he? And he gets away with it because of his reformed Soteriology. People give him a pass because of all the people in his church who are learning the Gospel.

      The thing is, Driscoll is very public about his behavior. You don’t have to make assumptions or guess- he literally says he wishes he could punch people in a sermon. What is that teaching people who listen to him?

      Other things he’s taught is that an example of being a “man” is physically threatening men who were living in the same dorm as his wife (when try were dating) and driving several hours to check on his wife in another city when she didn’t answer the phone. What is that teaching men about how to interact with others, especially women?

      If people are learning the real Gospel in his church, it’s in spite of this kind of stuff, not because of it. Being able to enunciate good Reformed atonement theology means nothing without love (at least, my Bible says so), and these kinds of things are not loving.

  5. Ellie

    “Maybe it would have been better, if Chandler would have just made a comment that he would no longer read any emails that were sent “anonymous”, because he had encountered such negative feedback. He then could have said that he was praying for the people who sent those emails and that he appreciated their responses, but saw that he needed to preach from the pulpit, a sermon on how to lovingly address concerns or just how the Church should handle disputes or disagreements. Would have gone a lot better for him and we wouldn’t be writing about it here, except in a positive light.”

    I am writing about what I was present for in a positive light. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the insight he offered when he pointed out that the authors of the mean spirited emails he received must be terrors to their families. X was sitting next to me. You see, X thought that he only showed his ugliness to me and it was my fault. But X is mean to slow people in parking lots, yells at folks who drive outside his rules, is very confrontational about certain areas where he is certain he is superior to others. And to hear this pastor who is our age call men out who behave that way, to hear him say that they are likely terrors in within their families, was liberating and validating. I am grateful for the way he phrased it.

    The Village as I have experienced it has been a tremendous blessing in my life and in the lives of close friends who are also close friends with the Chandlers. I don’t attend there, but I enjoy their sermons. No one is perfect. But the way he handled the out of bounds email topic when I was there was exactly what I needed that day. Exactly.

    • Barnabasintraining

      That’s good he was a blessing to you.

    • Anonoymous

      I am glad that you were blessed by it Ellie, and that it was exactly what you needed on that very day! For me, the name calling and anger in his voice, no matter what else he said, would have been just too over the top for me, and I would have been very nervous and uncomfortable. That is just the way that would have triggered me, but that is just me. : )

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