Friday, September 08, 2006

Hate Mail

I've gotten some hate-mail throughout the process of disaffiliation. It has suddenly increased. All pastors get this kind of thing. I remember when I was pastoring at St. Cuthbert's Parish Church in Edinburgh, Scotland. One parishoner wrote an anonymous poison-pen letter that ended "you Americans should all go home." Interestingly, it was signed, "a friend."

Those opposed to the Kirk’s disaffiliation from the PCUSA attribute a great amount of power to me. Some see me as a mad, Rasputin-like (yes, someone actually used that term) demagogue.

I don’t usually read unsigned letters, but one was so good that it is in circulation around our staff. They particularly like the description of me with which it ends:

Somehow, you’ve been able to entice and mesmerize a group of well-intentioned parishioners to adopt your own personal agenda as their own….Get over yourself, Tom. Take a long, hard look at what you’ve done and what you’re doing. For your sake, I hope you are seeking the care of a mental health professional. Your behavior and the delusional influence you’ve captured over your constituents borders on massive paranoia and unparalleled egotism. You’ve lost control of your ego, and I hope you’ll get help before you lose yourself and your own well-being.

This anonymous writer may enjoy the fact that the staff thinks I should "get over myself," too.

According to various writers, I’ve
  • Single-handedly convinced the Kirk congregation that the PCUSA is in the wrong.

  • Told members they cannot attend EOP meetings.

  • Insisted on being “worshiped” as a “hero.”

My congregation will be thrilled to hear that they are such a mindless mob. I can think back on all the occasions where I’ve held sway. My favorite was the first time I tried to move the choir from the balcony to the front of the sanctuary. Then there was the second. I was so successful that there probably won’t be a third try.

Truth is, members at the Kirk are intelligent, independent, highly educated, opinionated, and vocal. They are also faithful, generous, prayerful, studious, and loyal. Their loyalty is to Jesus Christ before any denomination or pastor. They are the least likely congregation to blindly follow a leader of any I have known.

One thing that critics are ignoring is the possibility that those who are staying in the denomination are the ones being misled. I know of those who remain who do so knowledgably, still in the fight to renew the PCUSA. They have my deep respect. But how many other congregations have really examined the PCUSA and what it believes? How many are there just because they hear one side about the denomination, or nothing at all? What do you think would happen if all the facts were put forward and every congregation had the chance to vote?

The problem critics are having may be that this has been such a unified decision of our congregation. I was actually amazed at how substantial the vote was, even though I knew it would be a sizeable majority in favor of disaffiliation. I believe that the response shows that our move is a Godly one.

The fact that it is Godly does not make it simple. We wrestled with the alternatives. We’ve been told from the beginning that this may mean the property will revert to the EOP. We knew that some people would leave the Kirk, whichever decision we made (even, perhaps especially, if we did nothing). I have spent sleepless nights and expect more to come. I do not believe that our disaffiliation is a panacea; no denomination is perfect, and even independency of a church is fraught with problems.

This decision has not been easy at any point. I don’t expect the path ahead to be any easier. Critics abound, but the truth remains, and we must remain faithful to it.

Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

19 comments:

NetProphet said...

Hilarious!!! I am glad to be crazy for Christ with you Tom.(my hero) Appropriate timing for your sermon series about "Things that Keep us at Night."

Thanks for the laughter of the Holy Spirit!

Signed,

Dillusional Minion,

aka Sam Sibala

Chris said...

Tom,

The same sorts of critics rail against Calvin and call him the tyrant of Geneva. They are ignorant of the facts - and, I suspect, either so nebbish that any strong leader is seen as a dictator or they are so un-nuanced that the only way they know how to lead is through volume and thus suspect that you are the same way. Calvin didn't control Geneva, though he led it well. The same is true for you and the Kirk - as their overwhelming support of the staff has shown.

However, I won't take issue with the fact that you are - in a classical sense - a "demagogue." For while it has come to mean one who leads by manipulation of popular ideas, in ancient Greece it meant a champion of the common people. And that's what you and your session did. You looked at your congregation, you looked at the polls from our church (not that we make decisions based on polls - simply that they show the majority of pew presbyterians cherish the orthodox/orthoprax faith) and you championed their cause.

We need more shepherds like you.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that the left, liberal, other side (insert your favorite adjective) always claim to be all loving and "open minded". This only applys IMHO so long as your opinion matches their's. When people like a majority of the Kirk can have a different opinion, i.e. wish to follow biblical doctrine, we are called stupid, mindless, and other lovely words. Just see all the other left posts in this blog for further example.

I just don't understand how a supposed Christian can be so down right nasty. Anyone from the left care to answer???

If these folks truely are interested in being Christian, they sure have a funny way of showing it. Sure we clearly have a difference in beliefs, but they have gone out of their way to try and bring us down. SIGH.

P.W.

Pamela Cook said...

Pastor Tom,

I first heard of the PCUSA at least 20 years ago. I knew of the nonsense that they were debating. Frankly when I heard that you were a part of the PCUSA a few months back I was absolutely shocked. I just could not believe that someone that was so Bible based could be a part of that denomination. I realized that you must be a very patient man. After the Bible haters became the majority I knew that your decision to leave would be quick.

I find it interesting that the spineless writer accused you of mind control and completely insulted the intelligence of your members. I hope that person was not a member of The Kirk. If so they obviously were not there to grow in Christ.

I'm not a member of The Kirk. It did not take me listening to months of your sermons to IMMEDIATELY agree with your decision. All it took was reading ONE article about the June meeting. Worshiping God by using "Rainbow, Ark and Dove" was enough for me. How dare anyone try to rename GOD????? He can name Himself how He wants to.

We are indeed living in the last days where right is being called wrong and wrong is being called right. The very elect are being deceived. The sad thing is the fact that those in the PCUSA leadership that were indeed born again and agreeing with this trash had to plow past (1) their born again spirit, (2) the Holy Spirit's conviction AND (3) the Bible. They did this willing which to me is very scary indeed.

I know this must be a dreadful time because of all the unfortunate accusations against you. I pray that there is true freedom in your spirit knowing that you are standing firm as a strong soldier for Christ. Enter into the rest of the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Okay, the English professor in me cannot let this stand:

It's "delusional" minion.
"Dillusional" is not a word.

trumpet worship said...

Maybe you need "choir bait". We have no problem like you described. There is only a wall behind the last pew, and we have no choir.

Our congregation will be EPC soon. Hope to see you there!

Mark

Mark said...

Dear Tom,

Even though I don't agree with your position, or with some of your tactics, or with how readily you call liberals apostate, I'm shocked that anyone would cast aspersions on your mental health and the intelligence of your congregation. It grieves me that people would stoop so low.

Please know that the majority of liberals do not think or act this way. Your actions have drawn the attention and criticism of extremists.

I will not apologize for them, any more than I would expect you to apologize for the comments of extremist evangelicals. Try as we might, neither you nor I have control over the extremists. God will find a way to deal with them.

I pray for you, your family, the staff, and the congregation. I pray for EOP and the PCUSA GA leadership. I pray for the EPC. May God bless you all with a pathway to peace.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Anonymous said...

"Maybe you need 'choir bait'."

I can just see it.

"Here, choir choir choir . . . ggggooooooooooooddddd choir."

(Got to wipe the tears of laughter from my face).

I have been in many choirs, and I love choirs. But ANY group, in the church or anywhere, can get so weird about this kind of stuff. ("Artists" are the worst though).

Good to see you know and are willing to acknowledge your limits though, Tom (you "megalomaniac", you :-p).

G.A.C.

Anonymous said...

sure dillusional is a word...the definition is someone that craves pickles...!?!

NetProphet said...

Wow tough room. I could have stayed home to get this kind of abuse. Thank God for taechers!

NetProphet said...

My pickle preference? Kosher obviously.

Paul said...

Mark wrote, "Please know that the majority of liberals do not think or act this way. Your actions have drawn the attention and criticism of extremists."

Maybe my own experience is tainted because the liberals who do "think or act this way" are so loud they seem like a majority. Things I've read over the years in the Witherspoon Network News and the More Light Update echo the same sentiments as the letters Tom reports. If you want denominationally-sponsored publications, see as examples Church and Society or Horizons. I've heard and read these sorts of things in Middle Governing Body reports and meetings. And these are certainly not "fringe elements" in the PCUSA.

One time I had finally had enough. After one every enthusiastic denunciation of corrosive influences in the church and society -- I think it was at a synod meeting -- I privately approached the staff and said how personally hurt and offended I was by the comments.

"Oh, I didn't mean you personally," the person said. "I was speaking about what they're like generally." But they were not present at the meeting, just me, and all those who decided "Yeah, it hurts, but what are you going to do about it; it's just part of being in the PCUSA…"

Maybe, Mark, the majority doesn't feel this way. But sometimes, I have to admit, it feels like they do.

charleswelden said...

Dear Pastor Tom,
Upon review of several past posts by critics. It seems there are only a few individuals who actually believe and defend the stances and direction (I use the word loosely) the pcUSA has been going. Very few. The other critics appear to be arguing for a (lost?) Cause with more delusioned emotion than that of which they accuse you! As I have read their comments I see people who are likely feeling like it is the 'right' thing to do to defend their 'church' which they apparently consider the pcUSA. There are probably many of the critics who would like to depart the obvious negative, unbiblical, non-tradtional changes but are afraid to do so. If the truth be known, many of them are probably angry with you because you AND WE did what was right with courage - something they may well lack.

You are indeed an inspirational leader God is using and will for many years to come.

Mr. Smith said...

Tom - I am quite certain you have hit another nail on the head. My experience, anecdotal though it may be, indicates that many, many PCUSA members have no idea what is going on among the decision-makers in the denomination. After 10 years out of pastoral ministry I activated a PIF about a year ago. I interviewed with only one PNC, and I asked them what they thought of upcoming GA and the PUP report. They were totally clueless about all of it. They were not even aware of the PUP task force. Then last summer I visited a large evangelical PCUSA church in the Chicago suburbs. The pastor is a Gordon-Conwell grad, the associate a Trinity grad. I asked the pastor how his congregation was responding to the GA actions. He told me they didn't bring it up, preferring to focus on their congregation and its ministry/mission. (The image of an ostrich pops into my head as I recall this now.)
Thre are some who recognize how effective a mass exodus might be, creating a situation where the presbyteries could not fight all the battles simultaneously. I wonder whether that will ever happen, given the inertia of pastors and congregations who are stuck in their comfort zones.

Anonymous said...

Tom:

Perhaps the unfortunate type of hate mail you received should not be characterized as "liberal". The writer may have been a liberal, but the hate is something else.

The fact is that there are those who hate those of us who believe in the one true church and in the unique, atoning sacrifice of Jesus. That hate is sin. That sin comes from Satan. It is Satan that has made the PCUSA behave as it does toward those who love Christ.

These types of hate mail are not political responses. They are not "liberal". They are the responses of Satan... evil... sinful ramblings out to destroy the peace and unity of the greater Holy catholic (small "c") church, while trying to prop up a dying apostasy, one which was directed by Satan, and one for which those within and outside of the PCUSA's organization should pray... pray for the institution's repentence, its return to Christ, to His Word, and for its renewal in the Holy Spirit.

The PCUSA cannot do this on its own. It needs the power of the Holy Spirit. Wheter one leaves or one stays, one should be in prayer for the institution and those left behind, whether there by choice, by conviction, or by ignorance.

Just because the PCUSA leadership and structure is decidely politically "liberal" and perhaps "marxist" at most times does not make the church or its remaining members sinful in and of itself. Nor does it make it Apostate. The sinfulness is from creation and the apostasy is from Satan.

What IS sinful and does make the PCUSA apostate is:

-the behavior of the Godless oppressive leadership in dealing with substantial minorities in the heirarchy

-the prideful arrogance of the leadership in its disdain for the many faithful members

-the "secret" and unpeaceful tactics of those in power to threaten and suppress evangelicals

-the schismatic gloating of those who feel they have won a great victory for liberation theology by denying the Word, the Holy Trinity, Christ's Holy bride and the Great Commission.

-the denial of Christ's unique role in Salvation by embracing universalism

-suing individual elders in secular court in disobedience of the scriptures

-the corruption of the Word by reading of other texts as Holy in His house

-the worship of idols of all kinds (including Sophia)

None of these sinful behaviors are decidely "liberal". They are not political. They are simply Godless acts of Satan presence. These are the key issues which must be confronted by the church. These are the truly divisive things that have occurred in the last 30 years.

Sinful application of totalitarian Marxism, support of terrorism and mass destruction, and unbridled sexual liberation are just symptoms of the sinfulness for which each of us are called to repent. We ALL have sins like these in our heart. Only Christ can save us!

Stand strong in the Lord and come out from among them. Do not be unequally yoked with non believers.

Bob Smith

NetProphet said...

The issues we are dealing with is not isolated only to our denomination. This article is Saturday's Tulsa World.

Conservative Judaism: Sea Change is Foreseen: Panel may allow openly gay rabbis
By RACHEL ZOLL Associated Press
9/9/2006

NEW YORK -- A key Conservative Jewish leader is traveling the country to prepare synagogues for a potentially divisive change: The movement will roll back its ban on ordaining openly gay rabbis by year's end, he predicts, with confusion and discomfort to follow.

"It could cause confusion, it could cause tremendous angst, it could cause tremendous tension, it could cause tremendous disagreement," Epstein said.

The conflict over homosexuality within Conservative Judaism mirrors the battles over ordaining gays that are dividing mainline Protestant groups including the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Dozens of individual churches are leaving the Christian denominations because of the disputes.

This is truly a movement of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

"These types of hate mail are not political responses. They are not 'liberal'."

I can only speak for myself when I respond to this, but I have a feeling this is the case with many. When I speak of "liberals" in the church, I do not mean in the political sense. Liberal can also mean "lacking moral restraint" and "not bound by orthodoxy". Those are what I am referring to. The fact that they are usually liberal in the political sense as well, is merely coincidental.

"Conservative Judaism: Sea Change is Foreseen: Panel may allow openly gay rabbis"

One of my good friends is Jewish. She is not observant, but her parents are, and about a year ago they left their synagogue because they were getting tired of the politics, and joined what would be the equivalent, in Christianity, of a "Home Church".

They don't really know what to call it, because it's not a temple, and it's not a synagogue. So they basically call it a "Religious Group". But they meet every week for a Shabbat service, as they would do in a larger congregation. But it sounds it's more traditional. They read the scriptures in Hebrew so her parents are learning it (and I get the feeling that they feel like they're having to do a bit of "catch up"). I think it's brought them closer to the traditions of Judaism, and been much more educational.

Up until then, I didn't know that there was a problem. But it makes sense. They don't have Jewish denominations, but their congregations can be so large (and so far apart, distance-wise), I can see it being a major problem if the one nearest you is getting out of control.

G.A.C.

trumpet worship said...

Tom,

You need to post more! I keep coming here and seeing the same stuff.

Seriously, I am enjoying your blog. Interested in how everything turns out and how the Lord will be working through your congregation. Would be very interested what individuals in your congregation are processing.

Our congregation has voted to ask for dismissal - I am anxious to get through the process so that we can get on with the business that a church should be involved in. Personally I am not concerned about the property issue, and the reality for me is that I would prefer to lose the property and start completely anew.

Keep posting and I'll keep praying.

In Christ
Mark

Melissa Dase said...

I am a little late reading and responding to this post, but I was shocked by the personal attack on Dr. Gray and by the insinuation that my congregation is somehow being brainwashed by Dr. Gray. I am a member of the Kirk of the Hills (and have been for a number of years). Obviously, the initial commentor has never visited the Kirk or talked at length with a cross section of our members. The Kirk is a vibrant church committed to Jesus Christ, the Bible as the holy inerrant word of God and mission work. Our church has a large growing membership of people from many different walks of life -but many are leaders in their respective fields and would not do well with any form of push-down dictatorship. We are largely well-educated, curious, and wanting to grow in our Christian walk by exploring the Bible, praying and trying to find the answers for ourselves. Be assured that one or two individuals could not be responsible for mandating to our large and diverse membership what to do - I know that I had to pray, look at all of the options from a biblical standpoint (as it is a cornerstone of my faith) and decide for myself what I felt was right.

Many of us have joined the Kirk because it was a good fit for our own personal beliefs (the reason that most people join their churches). Since we are in a town that has many Presbyterian churches, the Kirk is not the only option for us. It was just the right fit.

Please refrain from attacking our ministers who are guiding (NOT DICTATING TO) a congregation who feel strongly (on our own) that this is the right move given the circumstances. It was not a move taken lightly or without much discussion amongst all of the members. I personally have gone to many websites (both pro and against what we have done) to find out all of the facts for myself and have talked with many others who have done the same. Please respect the decision of hundreds of faithful Christians.

To Dr. Gray, Matthew 5:11 is all that I can say.

Sincerely,
Melissa Dase