Defence Against Power Abuse in God's Church (Part 3)
by J and J Maring (in Western Australia)
Change of heart?
Some short time after (the end of part 2) the elders indicated to us that the other members regretted their actions and did not want to pursue it any further. That was a great relief and John made a call to express gratitude.
The response was so angry that John despaired and wondered if we had "heard right".
The elders criticized him for "using the phone".
Was there nothing we could do right?
We were by now in excessive confusion and despair. The "whole misery" was bearing down on us and consequently on our children like a great weight from which there was no relief. It did not seem to matter what we did or said. It was all met with criticism.
Our children said: "The minister and the elders are always angry".
At last a different-section elder advised us that these members would never come to see us because they were simply too nervous. So Jenny went there. She suggested that if they were sorry, the matter be put to rest. This time there was immediate relief and acceptance of the suggestion. A follow up visit was promised.
The elders did express some approval of Jenny's visit, but when we put to them that the complaints had obviously not been true, their response was, "That is your opinion," and continued: "The matter may now have lessened somewhat, but Jenny has been a hindrance to others for a long time".
There was no elaboration. The elders seemed to feel no need to elaborate. The whole situation was amazing to us, both then and now. We were very unhappy but did not know a way out of this.
The follow-up visit took place (from the complainant):
There was genuine regret and sorrow expressed for some actions taken. This was accepted with gratitude.
She said however that the elders and pastor were wrong in what they had said. There was total denial about wanting to discuss grievances of their own and on behalf of others.
The statement from the pastor about "Jenny causing these members to sin" was dismissed as "ridiculous".
It was also revealed that the pastor had called a private meeting with these members plus another couple, to discuss "matters regarding John and Jenny".
This again caused a sick feeling of despair in us, as to what was going on and why there was this gossip about us.
The end result of this visit was a promise that they would "sort things out" with the elders".
This promise was kept because one elder eluded to it reluctantly but maintained his stand. Nothing was retracted. In fact it was said "How would we have known things if we had not been told."
He continued that the "complainants" had "come a long way" and since a lot of the original complaints had dwindled away, it would not be wise to bring this up again.
The other elder bluntly said, "Just forget it."
We were seriously disturbed and very upset; the pastor and elders had admonished us in cruel ways for the "sin of refusing to listen to a lot of complaints" and had added a list of their own.
Their wrongful involvement in the matter caused enormous distress to us and completely changed our life in the church.
We now wondered who was telling the truth.
Eventually we decided to ask the CC about this in a letter.
The reply was a letter suspending us from the Lord's Table (putting us under censure.)
What a shock that was. In this whole time not one Scriptural objection was put to us. We had heard none other than opinions and complaints. There was never a "loving admonition" as they claim we received. From the start there were accusations.
The letter stated that there had been a rift (our emphasis) between us and the other members, and the Church Council had been "intensely busy" (a quote) trying to sort it out.
"This work dominated the life and work of the Consistory" (a quote from their letter). Now that "reconciliation had been worked by the elders," we were considered ungrateful, disrespectful and even untruthful about their efforts, and as a result we were censured for "sinning against the 9th commandment (telling untruth) and against the 5th commandment for "not allowing the elders entry into the house." (This related to an attempted visit after John had asked them to sort things out before we had another discussion.
The elders turned up anyway without warning while John was busy with a visiting Veterinarian outside in the evening. Jenny was no longer able to deal with the matters. John had no choice but to say that it was inconvenient. He was immediately threatened by one elder: "This would be reported as a refusal to see the elders". )
Yes we were powerless compared to the Church Council in spite of their dishonesty.
We cannot vouch for the time they spent on it, but we knew (as they did) that the whole matter had no business there in the first place. It was hearsay and gossip. None of this belonged on their agenda. It was very unjust to blame us for it and a disgrace to censure us.
There was no rift at all; therefore the 'reconciliation' was fabricated. A rift suggests a quarrel or difference of opinion. That was not the case.
The Church Council had allowed themselves to get caught up in a web because they decided to discuss gossip instead of admonishing it.
Now that the complainants had indicated that they were regretful and would be very happy to put the matter to rest (as well as saying the elders were not truthful), the CC was in the awkward position of having "taken it on board", "discussing it and perpetuating it".
They (CC) now "owned the grievances" because they had heeded them, and had in fact added a lot to them and refused to give Scriptural proof for it.
Sadly there was not one (that we heard from) on the CC with the preparedness or ability to admit that they were accountable for that.
How simple it would have been if the correct procedure was followed in the first instance: "If you have a complaint, go to the persons concerned and sort it out, or remain silent." (Matt. 18)
With the CC in the embarrassing position, of people withdrawing their "complaints", and even denying having made them, they continued the matter as though we had sinned "anyway".
They were now forced to act as though we had sinned against them.
A new term of a "rift and refusal of reconciliation" was used and it had escalated to suspension from the Lord's Table "until we repented and denied Satan further entry into our heart and mind, and to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to work in us by His Spirit.
The meaning and accusation of this is dreadful.
Of those who are suspended it is said: "We declare to them that they have no part in the Kingdom of Christ." (As the Lord's Supper reading says.) It is pronounced on people who are living and hardening in sin. The pronouncement remains in effect "while they persist in their sins."
How readily censure was used. It was used to force us to comply with the CC. It was used as a tool of power in their hand.
How was it possible that all the elders went along with it? They knew us better than this. Nearly all had know us most of our life.
Granted, the pastor was relatively new. He had been in there for about 3 years but even in the normal church situation persons are not "suddenly" suspended unless there has been a public sin, which brings disgrace upon God and His Church.
This whole matter was a clear breach of Scripture and the Church Order, as any of the CC could know.
John had been an elder in good standing (according to all records) and within the last three months a mutual censure before Lord's Supper had not revealed any objections to a fellow elder. The letter of censure stated now that John had "deliberately" resigned as Office Bearer instead of "asking for permission to be relieved of office."
The letter was quite wicked and we told the elders they should be ashamed of themselves.
We understood full well that the underlying problem was that we did not obey the orders of the pastor. He wanted to us to chase up grievances and we refused. He was trying to bind our conscience with his personal determination on the matter and we refused. The CC continued the actions.
We had questioned them and asked for accountability in the matter.
This was considered to be self-righteous and disobedient.
This was verified later when at a meeting with a witness the pastor and the elders could not come up with any facts leading up to censure and in the end the pastor said: "We may have been hasty with this, but I am convinced that your attitude needed to be censured." That really "summed up" the situation.
At this meeting we had asked when they had ever warned us of pending censure (which they were obliged to do). They excused it by saying they were not made welcome. The pastor also took the opportunity to say that in his opinion Jenny's depression was a sin and not a sickness.
It was unfortunate for him that he had never inquired or counseled Jenny for her depression so he was not able to comment on it (in our view.)
We had broken the unspoken rule that it is not acceptable to express feelings of disagreement, dissent, or anger toward this CC.
We should have kept our feelings to ourselves or suffer censure for expression of emotions. Expression of disagreement was reprimanded. Obedience is expected (in this case against God's clear commands).
There was a summing up of accusations, which was signed on behalf of the whole Church Council. Not one had checked with us before deciding this. This astounded us since we had given each of the members a copy of our concerns so there would be no mistake or lapse of concentration when it was read at CC.
We were shattered by their lack of trust and the manner in which it was done. They knew us well and for so long. Not one visit, not one question.
No answers to the questions we had put to them in our letter.
Remarkably we immediately had no fear that this was "From the Lord."
It is certainly terribly painful to be dealt with in this way by fellow Christians, but not frightening, because of the sure knowledge that it was wrong.
Censure is (according to Scripture) the use of one of the "keys to the Kingdom of heaven" and must be used with utmost care and at last resort.
If used properly it is a loving warning to a member that their spiritual life is in grave danger before the Lord.
In most congregations, it will be a last resort to use it and will be relatively unusual.
By far, most issues can be sorted out without going to these extremes. (See Conflict resolution in part 2).
In churches where "censure" is frequently used, there is grave danger that is it a wielding of power by the CC and a demand to have members "toe their line" rather than use Scripture to show the evidence of sin.
Power hungry leaders in a position where they are only ever mildly reproved (or not at all) by their fellow Elders or church members, work without accountability and are a serious danger to the congregation. They can turn a congregation into what Spurgeon called "A better representation of the law than of the gospel."
(Please read and contemplate the website: http://ubf-info.de/doc/reisinger.en.htm)
We tried to get permission to see the church visitors and asked this of the CC. (These are two Ministers who visit the church regularly to see if all is well in the congregation and CC.) Normally church members are invited to see the visitors if they so desire to discuss a problem. The first time the CC refused it outright and at the second request gave reluctant consent. The Ministers tried to help, but time was short to explain the situation (half an hour).
The CC did not agree with the visitors' opinion.
New Elder and new accusations
In the intervening months a new Elder had replaced one who was due to retire.
On his first visit to us we asked him to tell us please, the grounds for our censure.
We were astonished when he came up with new material. It (censure) was because Jenny was heard swearing in the Church car park after a service. She was maligning the pastor to several other women.
We were almost getting "used to" the dishonesty. We asked for some evidence since this had not been spoken of before. It was refused and we were told we knew "very well" that this was true. The other elder did not protest even though it must have been news to him.
Three times the elder returned with the same accusation. We refused to discuss anything until he showed us evidence. Eventually Jenny gave him a note to take to the "person concerned" to say that it was not true. That evening he rang John and said he was sorry but he had been mistaken. The "facts" had been checked and happily for us, when he asked someone else they said, "Rubbish, that's not true." If this had been the censure reason, it would follow that it should be lifted. It was not of course.
Jenny was spending more time crying day in and out; there were now regular visits to a Psychiatrist. Twice Jenny had withdrawn from the church (and retracted it). It had been announced and the congregation kept their distance (contrary to the reason for announcing it).
It was probably difficult to know what to say. We visited another congregation (on an elder's advice) because we were so sad and unable to join in with our own group. Jenny did have a couple of friends who were very kind at this time. John was having difficulty keeping things together at home and also do his work.
It is amazing how withdrawal of one's social group impacts the family. Many "friends" and "family" started avoiding us.
One member invited us to his home and there with 2 or 3 others we explained what was happening. They were sympathetic but when they asked anything of the Council the "usual" and "repeated" response was, "We are bound by the oath of office and may not discuss the matter. We do assure you however that there is more to it than you think." This was terribly frustrating for us because we knew it covered dishonesty and at the same time we could not force any accountability. Our hands were tied.
Bitterness and resentment certainly took hold of us. Mostly though we were incredibly sad and could not understand why this was taking place. More so that it was "possible". We had not ever had dealings like this or any criticism from a church council. Instead of having a guiding, leading council, we had an abusive one. Individually we were sure however that not all elders would agree with matters.
Two people came to our home to discuss the situation. They started with "you are not allowed to disobey the Church Council" so John sent them away. No questions, just accusations. Two letters of that nature also arrived.
We were still very much under the influence of the "You're not allowed to leave this church" teaching, even though they were clearly ignoring Scripture and Church polity.
The schooling of the boys was also affected. It was a lonely situation to bring children to a previously friendly environment where it was normally possible to "come across" lots of people and have a chat. It became serious when a senior teacher made accusations that Jenny was rude to a staff member. (The staff member denied it but that made no difference).
The situation became worse when the Principle launched into a tirade of "I've seen this and that at the school and can see from a distance you are making trouble."
The boys were then taken from the school.
There were many teachers who were also in various church councils. We could not deal with it any more. Later the principle apologized for "what" he had said but did not explain his actions. This was in the presence of board members. We had no intention of taking the boys back however.
It was a huge relief to find a Christian School where we were welcomed. It was also our first experience in dealing with another Christian group and their generous Godly spirit humbled us.
Appeal number one
We decided that it was pointless to continue in this way and appealed the Censure.
We put together a letter of appeal and sent a copy to both the "Appeal church" and to our Church Council. This is in keeping with fair dealings. It is a matter called "Equality of Arms" where just as in a court of law of the land, each party is fully acquainted with each other's material and can check the truthfulness or otherwise of the matters brought forward in the appeal.
This is knowledge that any Pastor and Elder normally knows.
Again we struck a problem. The CC refused to give us a copy of what they had written. They had put together a 12-page document and some 10 appendices. Copies were given to all the Church Council members of our church and that of the "appeal church" Sixteen in all. (This was to matter a lot to us later when we found what was in it).
A committee was appointed to look into the matter
We had several visits from "representatives" about the appeal. We were asked questions in a situation where they had documents before them and we were addressed with "It says here... ."
Time and again we asked to see the documents because there were such discrepancies that we did not even understand what they were alluding to.
The first line alone already indicated that we were speaking of year no... and the document of a different year.
In one case it made such a difference that we said, "That is impossible because John's mother was killed in a motor vehicle accident in that month and year."
That actually was the first time we saw some concern. Even we could not "make that up". They promised to check matters, but if they did we didn't hear about it.
The papers were withheld and we were told we had no right to them.
Later it was revealed that even the most basic comparison would have shown up differences so great, that it was impossible to conclude anything without discussing it with us in detail and put the documents side by side.
In spite of this the appeal elders said, "We actually did not need your appeal. We had our mind made up as soon as we saw the stuff from the Council."
In the appeal council there was disagreement on the matters that had been put before them to judge, so in the end they voted on it.
Voted on matters, which would decide if they considered us to be continuing "On a path of destruction in the Kingdom of God."
Again we were bound by the personal opinion of people. The majority had not asked even the most basic question of us.
There is a point of great note that we must mention here. In this group of the appeal church we had the support of the Minister and one Elder. Support as in: They started with love and the Scriptures.
They listened; they read carefully, they compared matters, and found major problems, wrongs and discrepancies. At last we were heard without preconceived views. Not only did we get a hearing, it was backed up with a defence in the meetings. These two people suffered very severely for their convictions.
They were the two who prayed with and for us; who encouraged us to have faith that God was watching and He would not be pleased with wrongdoing. We truly were at the end of our energies, but God sent us these two men when it was most needed.
The difficulties they had over this were tremendous though. Heated exchanges that spilled into the churchyard were reported.
The appeal "representatives" blamed us for causing disunity and dissension in the church. This accusation had also come from the other church.
Our appeal was not upheld.
The Appeal Church gave grounds (in short) that:
During the time prior to censure, many admonitions were made in visits and letters and the conclusion of the (original) Church Council had been correct in that this Br.& Sr. had not repented but hardened in sin. They had not shown honour, love and faithfulness to those in authority over them and did not submit themselves with due obedience to the instruction etc.
The only note of disquiet for the CC was that "They had shown evidence of weakness and shortcomings."
We could not believe that this had happened. We had been confident that the evidence was obvious and clear.
There was one consolation however:
Since they said there had been many letters of admonition, we asked immediately to see them, knowing full well that there was not one.
Three times we wrote to the church for these letters. In six months they used a variety of excuses but did not answer us.
We had in the meantime moved house, hoping to get away from the pressures. Our new home was in the "district" of the appeal church so they became our new Church Council.
A normal procedure when moving is to have a letter of (good or otherwise) conduct (Otherwise known as an attestation) to take along. Ours was very lengthy. We had to wait much longer for it.
*It contained a reference to a letter they (church council A) claimed to have sent to John to say that the censure was preceding to the next step (announcement to the congregation). According to the attestation a copy of the letter and the grounds for this decision were sent to the Appeal church (as appendix 4).
*A second letter is referred to (again claimed to have been sent to John) in which they claimed to have decided against carrying out the above step. Again the grounds are in the copy of the letter (appendix 5 sent to the appeal church).
*We did not receive these letters. The elders did not discuss the letters with us.
We did not ever have a discussion about proceeding with censure except for a careless comment of "not yet" from and elder after we asked what they planned to do with the censure.
We do not believe the letters were ever sent, but that "copies" were made for the sake of making it look like we had received some letters in regard to censure.
(Church Council A) also referred to the view that "No essential change on the point of the sins they were initially admonished and censured on was bolstered by the information that came to the Consistory from the congregation as a result of the announcement to the congregation that an attestation had been requested." "These developments," it continues, "lead the Consistory to conclude that there is no option but to proceed with the medicine of church discipline."
We asked the CC what that information was and were told in a letter that we did not need to know, since the CC was the guardian of our souls and knew what was best for us... "Submit in repentance to a Consistory responsible for keeping watch over your souls." (Heb 13: 17)
Quote: "We remind you, as we have in the past, that when office bearers signal sin in a member placed in their charge, then the relation which Christ has established between Office bearers and the congregation members dictates that there shall be humble self examination on the part of that member. God does not call that member to mount a defence when speaking to office bearers, but to take a critical look at him/herself. This is what you agreed to when you made public profession of faith: when you answered you would submit willingly to the admonition and discipline of the church." End of Quote.
There was not one moment of consideration that the Consistory also made these promises and that they are also able to fall into sin and must look at themselves. Members are not allowed to "mount a defence"?? This is not Scriptural.
If a governing body is forcing a wrong upon a member they have a duty to mount a defence. A fair Consistory would also humbly examine themselves to see if they had been wrong.
Listening to further gossip and prepared to censure on the basis of it is contrary to God's commands.
It was beyond comprehension that they would have preceded with censure on matters we were not made aware of. Yet they were their own words.
These statements and actions were quite bizarre.
It was not questioned by the council that sent it or by the council that received it.
We were so tired and despondent.
When we finally were given the 12 page document after the second appeal the appendices were withheld.
It was said (by church council B) that they had been given to us previously. This was untrue, but it was no surprise.
There would have been an anxious holding on to as much of the devious material as possible.
We did not care anymore then. The whole matter was so dishonest that a few more untruths made little difference to us.
Another attempt to reconcile
We were at one stage counseled and advised to try to reconcile with the original church council. Although it was recognized that we had been wronged, it was considered to be of merit to admit and ask forgiveness for any wrongs we had done in our actions along the way. A draft letter was even written for us, for we had no enthusiasm for it.
We sent it to both consistories.
The response was from CC (A) that "now reconciliation is no longer possible" because we showed no evidence of having repented as they wanted us to.
The response from CC (B) was that we were showing all the more a hardening of heart.
It is so difficult when all one's "history" in the church and society that had been ours (and loved) is ripped from under us. We were treated with contempt and as troublemakers. We lost many "friends and family" who did not ask us anything but assumed that we were wrong and felt we should "obey" the church. They must have felt it was safer for their own position, not to be seen with us.
Very few showed any individual thinking of "What is going on here?"
With our past conduct in the church and our contributions, we had really thought that there would be a lot of questions asked.
One person was stunned and concerned. She said we could get some help but it must not be discussed.
We were like zombies by now.
The "person" who could help came around. He was in yet another Church council. He offered to help us with a Second appeal.
(This was quite a normal procedure, but we would not have contemplated it because we were too tired).
There were some "conditions" attached to the help. We were not to speak of it; not be seen at the person's house; only contact him on the phone; he would make sure the appeal would be upheld and if we spoke of it he would deny all knowledge.
This sounded like blackmail to us
We asked our Minister what to do. He was also mystified but said to try it anyway.
The appeal was indeed upheld.
It was decided "To grant us access to all the information in the submission from church (A) which was used by the appeal church to make a decision." (This refers back to the "equality of arms" situation referred to earlier in this writing).
Handing over the incriminating material
This decision must have caused a great deal of consternation in the church because at all costs the submission and the appendices had been kept from us.
A home visit was arranged. It would be (unbeknown to us) the last one. The elders arrived with a document.
It was a miserable sad evening. The elders hung on to the papers as long as they could.
It was accompanied by a letter which they said was "immaterial and quite short" but nevertheless they were reluctant to hand it over. Little wonder, because it stated that:
"The submission is here in its entirety (other than the appendices which you already have)." They knew full well that not one page of anything had been handed to us. It had been refused us for more than six months in spite of us indicating that there were many mistakes and untruths quoted from it.
After this the elders launched into a tirade of accusations.
"There is dissension in the congregation with some saying that you people are right. This can only come from your gossip. The other half is defending Consistory". (It was not said where that information would come from).
"Someone has written a nasty letter to an elder. That is due to you." "The Elder is grieving and suffering a great deal due to you."
"This elder has had the door slammed in his face at your house."
We denied that had ever happened but three times it was told us and we were asked if we let a certain person in the door. We told them to mind their own business. This caused complete outrage and a demand for an answer, "Or you will be in contempt of the 5th commandment (honouring those over you)." We repeated our answer.
(The Elder maintained that we were obliged to answer all questions put to us).
"This division is your fault. There has been yelling and shouting at church and that is your fault."
"An Elder had to ask for relief of office for stress. That is your fault."
"There are elders who cannot go to work (particularly two come to mind) after a meeting about you. That is your doing."
"Pastoral care to the needy is sadly curtailed because of the time wasted on you. People who really need it are missing out."
At this point we asked what they spent so much time talking about then? The answer was that there was just evening-after-evening spent on it.
"You have no love for the church or for the Lord or care about any division."
We asked how so much could be tabled at a meeting without asking us about it.
The answer was, "What the Elders have heard is good enough. It can only come from one source."
"Why weren't you in church on these dates?"
"You should learn to submit entirely to the Elders."
"You should not speak to anyone about these matters."
We refused because of the hierarchy expressed.
We read in http://ubf-info.de/doc/reisinger.en.htm
In abuse situations it is said:
The sheep are in total subjection to the elder because they (the elder) believe that he is "Responsible to God for their soul," and their (sheep) duty is to obey his directives without question.
That applied to this situation exactly.
Along these lines it continued for some time longer and then they went home. We do not recall if they attempted to pray to the Lord, but we would not have been part of that.
Although it is an absolute disgrace that this paper ever saw light of day there is not much that needs to be said about the submission the first church council made in response to our appeal.
It is by now "infamous" because of its complete untrustworthiness, lies, innuendo and deceit.
How anyone could sign his name under that is a mystery. They will have to be answerable to the Lord for that however.
It begins with a rundown of our medical history. Surgery; private matters; confidential matters. It's all there to read. Such was the trust we had in our office bearers being able to keep a confidence!
"Great was the feeling that 16 men had been studying this stuff." Shame on them.
They "diagnosed" that the medical procedures caused Jenny's depression (which later proved to be MS). And sin was the cause of "retarded healing" after surgery.
The dates used are wrong. With intent.
There is a general accusation with no proof that "John and Jenny had trouble for many years with many people -- some are mentioned- plus possibly other persons". Not even an attempt is made to remain honest
It is padded with writing that confuses the best attempt to read it. Names are mixed. Initials are conveniently used when not wanting to be specific. The pastor's actions are portrayed dishonestly as are those of the elders.
Other unrelated issues (many of them) were tabled.
Considering we were dealing with one matter only, and that being the pastor heeding gossip and getting carried away with it, this report is abominable.
The appeal church, which dealt with this report, must surely feel very deceitful.
It is no wonder they hung on to it so desperately.
We did not read more than two pages at first because it made us so sick. Later we tried a bit more but have never managed to read its entirety.
Jenny did write a long response at one stage. Someone typed this out. It did not manage to deal with the whole document before breaking her down.
John decided that evening to withdraw from the church. This is considered a sin. We considered the church so sinful that we could only be spiritually destroyed altogether there.
The next attempt the elders made to visit was cut off at the door.
The person who put the second appeal together volunteered to write our letter of resignation. We accepted that because we did not care less anymore.
We were invited to stay on as non-member visitors at that congregation, but we declined. We needed to get out of all this misery.
To leave it all behind us was at first a release from bondage. A true liberation.
As time moved on we suffered immense sadness that our time with this church had been wrecked in this way. It has been a lonely sad road.
John has a "Natural aversion for anything to do with the church we were in. Even in the district where it was built."
The boys suffered tremendously because with our leaving their friends parents wanted nothing further to do with them. They were afraid we might "influence" them. One relative was even so audacious as to ask one of the boys to live at his home because of his parent's sins. Note that to this day he has not discussed the situation of "what happened" with us. He is not alone.
Jenny had many years of totally debilitating depression and Psychiatric help.
Lots of those things are a lot better now. It took more than 12 years to feel some interest in life.
As soon as we left most people turned away altogether. There was one visit to tell us it was wrong. He did not ask, but told John. There were 5 letters with the same sentiment, and that was that. Forty odd years of our life left behind and we moved on to another denomination. The door snapped shut behind us and we no longer "belong". It was and is indeed difficult.
A few years later it was with immense thankfulness that we were able to welcome one of the elders who had visited last when he asked if we would let him call in. He asked forgiveness for his part in the whole matter. Of course that was immediately granted with much delight.
Several church members have said the same. This is a wonderful blessing.
We are also very grateful to the kind Elder from Church A who took the trouble to contact the Session of the church we are with now and give us a "letter of good conduct" verbally. It made a lot of difference when leaving one church under the cloud of Censure. He said, "They have had a difficult time here; please accept them with love." That's how it was reported to us. Thank you. Bless you.
We thank the friends and family members who have stayed "normal".
Our greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is our Saviour and Messiah. Come Lord Jesus Come with haste.
We urge Office Bearers in Churches to love their people. Take time to get to know them without "preconceived" views. Your task is a wonderful one. You have in your hand the ability to destroy people to a point where "life is not worth living" if you treat them unjustly and in a superior manner.
Such is your responsibility
Your word is not Gospel. People are not required to obey "you" but the Lord through you. Therefore you must bring to them God's good Council. Be honest in all things and you will sleep at night.
People are different. It makes life interesting. Not all will appeal to you but all will respond to a kind approach. God loves many different characters even if you see no merit in them.
You have no right whatsoever to "dictate" to anyone.
You make mistakes like anyone. Have the courage to admit them. Do not be frightened and influenced by strong leaders. Assess what you hear and Test the Spirits to see if they are from God. Speak up immediately you sense a wrong. Don't wait until a lot of water is under the bridge.
A lot of issues can be easily cleared up with a visit and a coffee. Try that first.
Do not dismiss other churches and ministers as false because they do not "do as you do". Some issues are essential for unity. Many issues have different options in the Freedom we have in our Dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Recognize that God has His people all over the world and not just contained in a few congregations that you approve of.
It is not a case of "Yes there may also be believers there but we are the only true church." The church has changed and does change all the time. Your own church may well be rotting under the floorboards while it looks OK on top. Sitting bottoms on seats is no guarantee for salvation. Bottoms on "other church" seats are not of necessity unsaved. God is mightier than that and he does not give wisdom to only one group. No Church is perfect.