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Dumb on so many levels

DRUDGE is currently running this headline: Woman Says Church Threatening To Make Sins Public:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A divorced Jacksonville woman said her former church has threatened to "go public with her sins" and tell the congregation about her sexual relationship with her new boyfriend.

Rebecca Hancock said harassment from Grace Community Church in Mandarin over her sex life caused her to leave, but she said that didn't put an end to the problem. She said she received a letter from the church's elders telling her the church plans to make her personal life very public.

"I'm basically run out. I'm the church harlot," Hancock said.


She said the issue caused her to leave the church. However, she said the church has not let go of her.

The letter Hancock received from the church states that because she has refused to end her sexual relationship with her boyfriend, "you leave us with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ" ... "In accordance with Matthew 18:17 we intend to 'tell it to the church.'"

"On January 4, my sins will be told to the church, publicly, with my children sitting in the church and my friends," Hancock said.

Apparently the TV station wasn't interested in finding out anything about the ironically-named Grace Community Church, but a quick run-through of their website indicates that they are a thoroughly Fundamentalist Protestant church -- their doctrines include plenary (that is, literal word-for-word) Biblical inspiration and complete inerrancy of the Scriptures, a literal 6-day understanding of creation, and the pre-Tribulation Rapture. It would appear that Grace Community Church is led by a pastor who views mainline Christianity as iconoclastic, and who wishes to protect his people from moral corruption at any cost.

The TV station also failed to explain how they came across this story, or what they hope to accomplish by reporting it. And how ignorant is this statement:

Pastors with whom Channel 4 spoke on Monday said announcing a sin to a congregation is not abnormal. They said it's written in the Bible to punish sinners who continue to sin.

Really? Which churches? Which pastors? Most of us should be able to agree that this kind of thing rarely -- if ever -- occurs in most churches, unless the congregant is involved in something that truly poses a grave danger either to themselves or others in the church. And which passages of Scripture back up their assertion? The Matthew 18 passage quoted in the church's letter plainly describes how to handle an incident where "your brother sins against you." The "church" is to be involved only if the one who committed the offense refuses to repent after being confronted privately. Obviously there is more to this story than we are led to believe by this report.

Rebecca Hancock is probably still dealing with an enormous amount of pain and uncertainty in her life. It is reasonable to argue that she is probably not a good candidate for a church leadership role, and that she is still in great need of prayer and counseling. But calling her out publicly and then shunning her? If Ms. Hancock's story is true, then the leaders of her former church are dangerously arrogant and presumptuous.

Bill Jempty hasn't given out a "Knucklehead of the Day Award" in a while, so I think I'll close this post by naming both Jacksonville's News 4 and Grace Community Church as big-time knuckleheads, for a sloppy understanding of Christianity and an incredibly sloppy job of investigative reporting.


Upon further reflection, the statement made by the TV station about punishing sinners seems to be more "ignorant" than "stupid." I have amended the sentence accordingly.


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Comments (30)

What they are doing is what... (Below threshold)

What they are doing is what they Bible clearly instructs the elders of a church to do. Just because it is not practiced very often in North America or Europe doesn't mean is is wrong. Why do you say that it is a lack of grace to try to help someone overcome their problem. Tolerance of sin and all kinds of errant behavior is popular today, but it is not right by God's standard.
Eventually, only His standard will really matter when we are all judged by our actions and our words.

Jesus dealt with something ... (Below threshold)

Jesus dealt with something similar pretty well himself, when confrontend with the crowd that wanted to stone the Adulteress. He knealt and drew in the sand and said to the crowd, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone." I've always believe what he wrote in the sand was the names of the girlfreinds of the men in the crowd...

but a quick run-through of their website indicates that they are a thoroughly Fundamentalist Protestant church -- their doctrines include plenary (that is, literal word-for-word) Biblical inspiration and complete inerrancy of the Scriptures,

I've dealt with such churches for decades and have found that their literal interpetation gets pretty thin when it comes to forgiveness, grace, love and charity. Anybody that doesn't beleive, exactly like their pastor, is an apostate of some sort or another. In most churches they are quite satisified when a non-repentant person leaves the church. I would hazard a guess that this lady has offended the church leadership in some other way, such as not being duly impressed with their declared Holiness, and isn't related to the church leadership in any way.

Well, we know who the media... (Below threshold)

Well, we know who the media is pretty much in the tank for. Just another lame attempt to make Christianity look bad by equivocating poor judgment with a belief. Unfortunately, many people not seeing the underlying motive will buy into this story, hook, line, and sinker.

One of the consequences of ... (Below threshold)

One of the consequences of being born again into a fundamentalist sect is that you may have them chase after you if you leave, or don't leave and criticize the elders. Of course there is no parallel to Scientology here...

Guess she just saved said c... (Below threshold)

Guess she just saved said church the problem inasmuch as she's gone even more public than they might have. Einstein, that one...

Jesus told the woman brough... (Below threshold)

Jesus told the woman brought to him for the sin of adultery that he forgave her, but he also told her to leave her life of sin (John 8: 1-11). Part of the problem with this particular biblical example was that the adulterous man wasn't brought to him as well. It could have been one of the group of men who was convicting her. We just don't know.

You don't have to be a fund... (Below threshold)
Dodo David:

You don't have to be a fundamentalist to acknowledge that the woman's sexual behavior is sinful accoding to the Bible. Thus, the leaders of her former church had just cause to confront her about her sexual behavior. Apparently, instead of changing her behavior, the woman chose to change churches instead.

I agree that the woman's former church need not pursue the matter any longer, because the woman outed herself by complaining to the Press. However, the woman isn't an innocent victim of a rogue church. She is someone who was confronted about her sin and who chose not to repent.

When Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery, he didn't condemn her, but he did tell her to stop her sexual sin.

This current situation isn't improved by people pretending that the woman has done nothing wrong.

It has been said that even a broken clock is right twice a day. That Florida fundamentalist church may have its flaws, but ignoring the reality of sexual sin isn't one of them.

In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, sexual sin is a serious matter. In my opinion, the "Knucklehead of the Day" award should go to any blogger claiming to be a Christian who fails to acknowledge the what the New Testament says about sexual sin.

There are a lot of churches... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

There are a lot of churches that I would not wish to be a part of, as I don't agree with their doctrine. However, if I did decide to join one of those churches, is it reasonable for me to expect that they modify their doctrine to comply with my sensibilities (or with those of the media or Michael Laprarie)? That really would be the height of arrogance.

Fortunately, most of us in this country not only believe that the government should stay out of religion, but also that we don't mock the religious beliefs of others.

Knucklehead indeed.

The church over-reached whe... (Below threshold)

The church over-reached when they continued to pursue action against her after she quit the church.

That said, you missed the delicious irony in a woman going to the press because she's upset that her sins will be made public.

if this cult, and it IS a c... (Below threshold)

if this cult, and it IS a cult, is going to expose her publicly, why shouldnt she be the one to break the news?

if she is a fairly reasonable woman, she probably wont be very concerned about the info itself. after all, what are they likely to have against her... that she has sex just like any single person?

hah. but to have it announced directly to the congregation is something that needs to be confronted just as publicly. this church will lose far more than it could have ever gained... great!

Myronhalo and Tammy are on ... (Below threshold)
Red Five:

Myronhalo and Tammy are on the right track. Matthew 18 is one passage dealing with this issue. The adulterous woman was about to be stoned to death, and they didn't have the other half of the sinful duo. The situation with Ms. Hancock is somewhat different, in that there is no danger of execution by anyone.

There is a long-accepted procedure which the Church follows when dealing with blatant sin. Basically, it boils down to:
1. Dealing with the sinner one-on-one, such as a minister counseling the sinner
2. If the sinner doesn't repent from #1, bring the matter to the church elders
3. If the sinner still doesn't repent, bring the matter to the congregation as a whole
4. If there is still no repentance, then the unrepentant sinner is excommunicated.

There is no indication in the newspaper story that steps 1 and 2 have occurred, and I wouldn't expect that information to be there, since newspapers often display a remarkable lack of understanding of church matters. However, if the church is following the instructions from Matthew 18 and other New Testament passages, they have performed those first 2 steps, so the article is reporting on the church going to the next step in dealing with sin within the body.

If a person has cancer, he doesn't allow it to grow and grow, just accepting it; he fights to kill it, remove it, whatever he can do to make it go away. Sin (especially sexual sin) is cancer to the Church. Churches that try to obey Christ's teaching do everything they can to deal with the cancer within.

The article is not reporting the whole story; therefore, I am giving the church the benefit of the doubt. To commenter Matt: grace and forgiveness are all well and good, but that's not the whole story. Part of forgiveness is that the sinner will repent and sin no more. As the Apostle Paul said, "Do we continue to sin, that grace may increase? By no means!" We forgive the sinner, and exhort him or her to stop sinning. The church in this case seems to be trying the "exhortation to cease", but the woman is not ceasing. Sounds like it's her problem, not the churches. Barring any further information, which isn't likely to come, I think the church is in the right.

red five - thats pretty cra... (Below threshold)

red five - thats pretty crazy. having a church publicly announce sexually related info that it considers to be a "sin" is outrageous behavior and there is no benefit of doubt that changes that

why shouldnt she be the ... (Below threshold)

why shouldnt she be the one to break the news?
Well, for one she is taking a issue that would have been made "public" in front of what, 50 - 100 people...

...and instead made her sins "public" in front of a national audience.

If she didn't want people to know what happened then she has made the situation much, much, much worse.

"If she didn't want peop... (Below threshold)

"If she didn't want people to know what happened then she has made the situation much, much, much worse"

we can all be pretty sure she already considered that carefully and correctly. i think shes more concerned about that fact that she is being blackmailed by a church than by what the church is actually blackmailing her with

further, the church hasnt even made the details public yet so she can at least try to keep the details squelched by making the overall situation public

good for her. she could have caved in to these abhorrant cult leaders but she is resisting

Suddenly following God's wo... (Below threshold)

Suddenly following God's word is a cult. Suddenly obeying Jesus Christ instead of men is wrong.

I don't understand the reasoning behing excommunicating the "lady" now that she has already excommuncated herself - but at the same time - why are her kids going to be there is she has left the church.

Maybe we should quit jumping to conclusions based on a media that is always looking to perform Satan's work and trust the church leadership to be doing God's will.

Maybe we should read the Bible instead of pretending we know what it says. The Bible is very clear on the steps to be followed when an unrepentant sinner refuses to stop. It appears to me the church leadership is following those directions.

Grace is important, but it is more important to obey God. If that makes me a member of a cult, racist, and intolerant - ok. I know who will have the final say in my final judgement - and it won't be the MSM.

Michael Laprarie, Methinks ... (Below threshold)

Michael Laprarie, Methinks it may be you that has a "sloppy understanding of Christianity."

This is not a cult. Good grief people. It is a conservative evangelical Christian church that holds to the authority of the God and the Bible (ya' know the book Christians say that God authored--yeah, yeah, of course, through human agency). This includes holding to biblical views of sex, marriage, church membership, and church discipline/restoration.

Frankly, Fox did blow the coverage and the reporter, just by his tone of voice, shows he has an axe to grind. And he says the pastors stated that this process was to punish, but he does not provide a quote. My money says he was editorializing at that point.

*sigh* opps. Should be "a... (Below threshold)

*sigh* opps. Should be "authority of God", not "the God". Technically the same meaning, but I don't want to give fodder for response.

"This is not a cult. Goo... (Below threshold)

"This is not a cult. Good grief people. It is a conservative evangelical Christian church that holds to the authority of the God and the Bible"

yes, or in other words: a cult

Thanks for all the great co... (Below threshold)

Thanks for all the great comments so far.

Hopefully there IS much more to this story than what the News 4 article is telling us. Really -- if you're afraid of being called out as a "sinner," broadcasting your story over the air seems like a pretty dumb way to react.

On the other hand, public harassment seems like a pretty poor way to gently restore a sinner or help shoulder his burdens for him (Galatians 6). As far as we know, the extent of Ms. Hancock's sin is simply having a sexual relationship with her boyfriend.

There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that sexual relationships outside of marriage are sinful. I am not arguing that at all. But the truth is that most sexual sin is the result of brokenness, pain, confusion, sorrow, etc. The Church should function as a conduit for grace and healing; not to ignore immoral behavior, but to aid in the spiritual restoration of the sinner. Perhaps Grace Community Church has done that. We just don't know. It is also worth noting that there is no indication of the church having any interest in the "boyfriend." That seems rather odd, and just a bit too "Old World" for my comfort.

Unless Ms. Hancock's boyfriend is a deacon or minister in the church, her relationship with him does not reasonably pose any kind of a grave threat to the church at large. If the pastor or a consensus of church members believes otherwise, then they have problems much more serious than Ms. Hancock.

And let me say something else, which coincides with peabody3000's observations. In my own personal experience, what I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears, extremely fundamentalist churches are not known for treating "black sheep" graciously. I have personally known several people who left fundamentalist churches because either they or a friend had the misfortune of raising the ire of the pastor, who then proceeded to make life a living hell for them through public abuse and humiliation. So yes, I am a bit biased with regard to how I view this story.

I know that I hold a somewhat "liberal" view of this incident, but as far as I am concerned, when a pastor enforces a "Scarlet Letter" culture within his congregation, it becomes very difficult for him to remain a vessel of God's grace.

mike it might comfort you w... (Below threshold)

mike it might comfort you well to know that you are nowhere near holding a liberal point of view on this


She belonged to the congreg... (Below threshold)

She belonged to the congregation and it has rules. As member she knew the rules. She should have left before starting the relationship knowing that she would have to face her sin being made public

The Bible does see extra material sex as a sin. The Bible has many ways to discipline believers. This church is exercising one way of I doing it. As long as the Church remains consistent in the application of this Biblical principle it is not a problem. Example the men who engage in extra material sex also must be asked to stop and if they refuse they should be publicly rebuked

Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
1 Timothy 5:20

hcddbz - sincerely no offen... (Below threshold)

hcddbz - sincerely no offense intended but you would make a great muslim. not the extremist woman-stoning kind... but still....

Even the news reported that... (Below threshold)

Even the news reported that "She received a letter from the church elders", but some bloggers jumped to the conclusion that "the pastor was a dictator" and abuser of the sheep. That's quite a stretch! Maybe the news people did overexagerate; but don't make it worse by judging the church leaders without a fair trial. Besides, who gave you the right to pass judgment on these people that you don't even know? Perhaps they are the really loving, graceful, humble people who are trying to help this woman out of a life-destroying situation.
If you so handily judge them, how much grace and love do you have? At least the church leaders know the woman and her life. You don't know beans about them, except that they claim to be Christians and believe the Bible. For that, they are condemned.
Part of true love is trying to stop people from destroying themselves.

peabody The sin app... (Below threshold)

The sin applies to both men and women equally. If you have some one who will not stop stealing then church should rebuke that person. If you have man who is womanizer and sleeps around they his sin will be made public. This is the last step in the process. If they ignore it then aren't these people acting as enablers to this persons sin? In most churches once they have done the rebuke they do not kick person out. They instead try to minister to that person; in order for them to correct the problem. There is no advection of violence or isolation.

The basis is that you take sex outside of marriage as a sin. Many people do not, many Christians do. This woman belonged to a church and she knew it beliefs she choice to leave rather than deal with the problem internally and she made her life know to everyone.

hcddbz - sincerely no offense intended but you would make a great muslim. not the extremist woman-stoning kind... but still....

Please elaborate

I must admit a weakness for... (Below threshold)

I must admit a weakness for extra material sex. Does that make me a bad person?

max, no person on earth can... (Below threshold)

max, no person on earth can be the judge of that. If you believe in God, that's a question between you and Him.

Thanks, LaMedusa. What kind... (Below threshold)

Thanks, LaMedusa. What kind of extra material do you use?

max, if you are talking abo... (Below threshold)

max, if you are talking about study materials for a better understanding of God and His Christ, the most important to me are The Qur'an and the Holy Bible. Everything else is used with discretion in order to better understand these two books. Examples of courage in standing up for what one believes in and following principles, besides Jesus and the twelve Imam, would be Lincoln, Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Have a blessed Christmas, max, to you and your family.

And a very Merry Christmas ... (Below threshold)

And a very Merry Christmas to you, LM. You know I was just having a little fun with hcddbz, don't you?

That is also between you an... (Below threshold)

That is also between you and God as to how you define "fun". ;)






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