The Liberty Connection

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Debbie

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January 13, 2000

By Debbie


Copy of a letter sent to a minister in this church who asked me why I was leaving.

Dear (previous senior worker),

It was nice to hear from you again. I knew there'd probably be concern about 'why' the kids and I aren't going to meeting after all this time. I didn't say 'why' because I don't want to offend or upset anyone. I hope you, or others, won't take any of what I say personally or in the wrong way. There have been some things about worshiping God in this way that have bothered me a bit the last few years, but I coped with them and did my best to come to terms with them. My first lunch with (new workers for the year) New Year's Eve was very unpleasant and pushed me to think not only about the attitudes they showed, but more thoroughly about the other things I've felt uncomfortable about.

When I was in my early twenties, I'd become very discouraged with the type of men I was meeting. I thought I'd go back to the church my Mom was raised in by her parents and grandparents. It was the Gospel Tabernacle. It is now called Christ's Church Assemblies of God. It is just down the block from the old Sears building on Lake and Cedar. I did go there a few times with my folks when growing up. I went back there once, too, with my Grandpa (my Mom's Dad) when I was in my early twenties. My Grandpa was very open-minded about people who went to meeting. From what he could tell, it seemed like a decent way to worship God. His church preached not being judgmental of other Christian forms of worship. He rode with us to my Grandma's (my Dad's mom) funeral 18 years ago. My Grandpa was a very mellow, sweet guy and used to teach Sunday school in his church.

Well, before I could arrange how to get to the Gospel Tabernacle church and hopefully meet a decent guy some day and have a family, some Mormon missionaries came to my door and talked to me. They showed me their film about Joseph Smith finding the plates in Pennsylvania that were translated in the Book of Mormon, etc., which I've heard recently is a farce. I thought I'd check out what they were about and went there for less than a year. I came to realize some things about them that I didn't agree with. They thought they were the only way to worship God, so I quit. They kept calling and pestering me for over a year. I was involved with my husband during some of this calling, so I started having him answer the phone sometimes. Too bad there wasn't Caller ID then.

I didn't end up going back to trying to go to my Mom's church probably because of my relationship with my husband. After having two kids, I felt a duty to teach my kids about God. I thought I should maybe go to a church. When I expressed these feelings to my Dad, he suggested I go to meeting, which he grew up in. Then he talked to (a friend), who called me and set me up to come to meeting…I finally did get my driver's license about a year or so later and a car. I was going for my kids, but ended up feeling a desire for it for myself also. So, over the last 17 years we've gone to meeting.

Back when I did profess in April of 1983, my cousin did, too, the same night. She'd been coming to meetings with (some friends). Then in 1984 when there was a baptism coming up, I talked to (senior worker then) and his two companions about it. I guess my cousin did, too. I'd found out that they didn't think she was ready yet because she wasn't going to meeting as much as they thought she should. She was very upset and there were others that thought this situation was handled wrong. She was also offended that (senior worker then) didn't even tell her himself, but had (another worker) tell her. She quit going. She'd thought that if you want to be baptized you should be able to.

It was very awkward with the workers thinking I was ready but my cousin wasn't. Perhaps if they'd let her, she'd have felt inspired to go to meeting more often than she was. I'm sure it was hard for her going to meeting then, too, since her parents didn't go to meeting. Neither did her brothers and sisters or her husband. She had two young boys then and did try to go when she could with her kids. Her kids were a bit rowdy and hard to handle at times.

At that time I thought perhaps the workers knew what was best with the matter. I don't think that anymore. I think it helped me feel more welcome and comfortable at the start with meeting because I'd gone with my folks for fourteen years as a child and remembered some of the people I used to see then who were still going when I went back, including a few relatives. My Dad was going more regularly then, too. I don't think my cousin went to meeting as a child with her folks much, if at all.

I'd once talked to (current head worker) a few years ago about my kids being baptized. He didn't think they were ready even though they were professing. He suggested we go to a baptism, which we did, so the kids could see what it was like. I guess I've come to feel that the workers shouldn't get in the way of anyone desiring to show the symbolic gesture of baptism to make a fresh start. It seems that when a person has come to the decision to profess their commitment to walk in the way Jesus taught, they ought to be allowed to go all the way by being baptized and taking full part in meeting instead of being allowed to only go part of the way.

In Acts 16 there were examples of people who came to hear of the gospel taught by Jesus and were baptized right away along with their household. It seems that baptisms ought to be more than once a year also. They ought to be done whenever someone feels the desire deep in their heart to make that fresh start in their life to be guided by God in the teachings of Jesus. I wonder how many people have been made to feel left out by baptism being handled as it is. I wonder, too, if this way of handling it is consistent throughout the world where people worship in this particular way. There are many other Christian churches that don't get in the way of your desire to make that commitment.

When (an older worker) was here as head worker, there ended up being quite a stir about the divorce/remarriage issue. It was a very, very disquieting situation that I found very stressful to deal with and see such division about. After a lot of meditation, prayer and talking to elders and workers, I came to finally think that it was wrong for anyone who was professing to take part in meeting if they were divorced and remarried. There was a touch of uncertainty though in the back of my mind about such a lack of mercy towards these dear people who seemed to be so devoted in every other way.

A young man in our Sunday morning meeting married a divorced gal in the truth and was moved out of our Sunday meeting to someone else's. He always had such a good testimony and seemed so sincere. I felt bad for him and his wife. She tried to work it out with her first husband, but he wasn't interested in repairing their marriage. She even tried to go in the work, but was refused. Somehow she met this young man and they fell in love, etc. The tension over this subject was uncomfortable, very discouraging. (Head worker then) left Minnesota and was replaced by (current head worker).

(A dear sister worker) tried back then to help me realize that sometimes there would be exceptions to this divorce/remarriage issue. (Head worker who left) came over for a talk with my Dad and I about it too. I wasn't convinced then. I'd written to (senior worker who baptized me) in Argentina about it. He felt this was a matter to be left to the people involved, the workers and God. He thought everyone else should tend to their own commitment to God. He said it's a real struggle for the workers to come to a decision in these matters. I know there is still contention over this issue now.

After (elder) said something to me about it once after a dinner visit years after I thought the issue had quieted down, I got mixed feelings about it again. I wrote to (worker in field at that time) a couple of times about it and he came to visit me twice about it. (Worker in field at that time) said they hope people will be very careful about who they date and marry. They counsel them, when asked, to try very hard to make their marriage work and not get divorced. But, if people do divorce, they hope they'll keep open the hope of getting back together. If one of them should go ahead after losing hope for the marriage and remarry and still want to go to meeting, they may get to take part in meeting after a time of proving they have a sincere spirit. He felt it was better to err on the side of mercy than to be hard-hearted. They don't want to encourage such a couple to divorce to be right with God since two wrongs don't make a right.

I ended up feeling like this made more sense. Jesus taught a standard to live by, with the most important aspect being to love God with all our heart and to love each other as ourselves. Also, to be merciful and encouraging to each other, not turning our backs on anyone who has slipped in any way and made a mistake. There seems to be such a lack of unity amongst the ministry and the friends across the country and perhaps around the world on this. That is really sad. I know of two couples where one was dumped by their backsliding first spouse, remarried someone who went to meeting and were not allowed to speak here in Minnesota in meetings. One of those couples finally were allowed to speak, but I wonder if they didn't still feel unaccepted by some. When these two couples moved out west, they were allowed to speak in meeting. (Actually, it turns out the couple who were allowed to take part, were told not to in Montana. It was even suggested they divorce to be right with God. They refused and said they'd raise their child in a Christian home.)

There is a lack of unity across the country and probably elsewhere even on how the women are approved of in how they dress or wear their hair, etc. This doesn't seem right either. I also think it's putting the ministry in a tempting situation to stay in people's homes. I know throughout the years, here and there things have happened between the ministry and those in the home where they're staying. I came to realize that our ministry is just as likely to succumb to such temptations as ministers in other churches, especially those where the ministers aren't supposed to get married and have kids. I would think that ministers might even do a better job of ministering their people if they can counsel the people from the point of view of experience in the matters of marriage and having kids. It also gives them a fulfillment in a natural sense so they are less likely to be tempted to seek gratification for their desires in an unacceptable way, whether in their minds only or going much further.

Even though Jesus did send out those seventy in pairs to spread the new gospel and to be homeless, it seems likely they and some others who may have done that did so to spread the word of the new way in areas that had never heard of it as Jesus inspired them to do. I wonder if once areas were established that there wouldn't maybe be a preacher put in charge of that area for the people to be encouraged by and guided. I wonder if Jesus chose only single men to be disciples or if some were married. If any were married, I would think they'd visit their wives and kids since Jesus felt marriage was important, too. I wonder, too, if some of the seventy were married also.

Many things are very clear that Jesus taught as they were in the Old Testament with the Jews. God spelled out his laws for the Jews through Moses about many matters very, very specifically, like he did when he had Noah build the ark. It seems that Jesus brought a way that focused on the most important of those teachings, but made them also a matter of what's in our hearts and minds. Instead of a lot outer showing with laws and consequences, he hoped to get people focused on what was in their hearts and souls and to seek God's loving guidance, to love each other and be peacemaking, merciful, kind people. Not all caught up in harassing each other about whether or how they kept 'traditions' and such.

It would be nice if all people who feel they are trying to be good Christians could all find a unified group to be assembled with that doesn't let them down in some important matters. But, perhaps that isn't to be with human nature what it is. Every church has certain characteristics that are appealing to the people who go or they'd have no one involved. I feel they all have their failings, some more serious than others. What matters most to me is what's in one's heart and soul towards God and Jesus and his teachings and seeking his guidance and strength in being true to him. Because of all the division resulting in so many Christian types of worship, it can be and feel consistently good about it when one comes to see such a lack of unity on important issues and some things handled in ways that don't seem according to scripture.

I don't think it's right either that so many who worship God in this way are so arrogant about it thinking that no one else in other Christian churches can go to heaven. I feel that Christianity has gone the way that the Jewish religion did before Jesus came. All divided up, some of Jesus' teachings twisted or left out. Some taking on certain traditions that sometimes are made to seem as important if not more important than what Jesus taught. I feel that there are many wonderful, sincere people who love God and believe in Jesus' teachings that go to other churches or maybe don't go to any church because they find certain degrees of hypocrisy, so they maintain a one-on-one relationship with God and strive to be good Christians without being part of a certain group.

Back when Jesus was a baby there were a couple of older people, a man and a woman who were aware of the signs that Jesus had come and they were overjoyed when they saw him. I think it was the older man who felt now he could die seeing the foretelling of the coming of Jesus in his lifetime. I got the impression that these two were people who quietly worshipped God, studied the scriptures and weren't too involved in the divided up, contentious ways of the Jews. They were likely looked upon in a negative way by some.

After convention last fall, (new workers) got started going around visiting people. Before convention (elder's wife) had said now that we had sister workers, I could have them stay at my house since my husband isn't here. I was not surprised she might think that, but I did talk to her later about it and said I didn't really have extra room and was glad that many others had more room than I do. I didn't grow up having workers in my home and didn't see what I might be missing really. At the time (elder's wife) said that, I thought it might be nice to have them overnight, if I had an extra room so they could have privacy. I hoped that if I could get my basement in order someday, that might help. But it would be some time before that could happen since my basement is quite cluttered and needs a ceiling and rug, etc. (Elder's wife) must have said something to them about what I told her, because (2 new workers) repeated certain things that strongly hinted at that when they were at my house for lunch recently.

Not long after conventions were over, (one of the sister workers) called me on a Saturday night and wondered if they could come for supper Sunday evening and spend the night. I told her I didn't have an extra room for them to sleep in so they could have privacy. Plus, I had to work the next day. She suggested we come to (elder's house) for dinner instead, which we did. That was our first visit, which went fine. (Senior worker) hoped they could come visit before it got too cold out. There ended up being more talk in meetings about open homes after that. I don't feel I was just imagining that either.

The workers have always invited themselves over to my place, asking if the time they wanted to come would work out for me. It usually did, and was always very enjoyable. I was waiting for (current workers) to let me know when would be a good time for them to come for a visit. I wonder if they were waiting for me to ask them instead. Anyhow, (senior worker) did call and ask if they could come over January 1st, Saturday. I said that might be fine, I'd check to see if the boys had other plans. I said even 12/31 might work since I had that day off from work and the kids were out of school.

My luncheon visit with (current workers) showed me attitudes I'd never seen in the ministry before. (Senior worker) complained about how much they're served chicken and how dry it is, which is what I had in the oven. She has a very limited diet, so I did my best to accommodate it according to the list (junior worker) handed out the first time they were in our Sunday morning meeting. I worked hard to clean my house the day before and bought groceries and was all prepared for my first visit with them. (Junior worker) didn't seem to have a whole lot to say until they were leaving.

I still had the Christmas tree up for the holidays when they came. I wondered about taking it down before they came, but felt that would be hypocritical. I don't take it down until after New Year's. (Senior worker) asked if I've always had a tree up. I said I grew up having one. I didn't see any big deal about it any more than pictures of bunnies and baby chicks up at Easter, etc. She said I should read Jeremiah 10 later, which I did. That had nothing to do with why people have a Christmas tree. I know that people who go to meeting do celebrate Christmas in their own different little ways. It's no big deal. That holiday does have a history with some oddities, but it's come to be a sweet, pleasant way to end the year and with New Year's Day, to begin the year. No excessiveness, just a loving, pleasant cheerful holiday time.

She said other judgmental things, too. After lunch, (junior worker) got up and said something like, 'well now that you've seen we're not so bad to have over, maybe next time we could spend the night.' I said I really didn't have a spare room so they could have privacy. She said that didn't matter. They'd sleep on the floor. She said they've slept in filth and under many varied conditions. She went on and on and on in a very bossy, scolding way. (Senior worker) put in a few similar comments.

(Junior worker) said why not get this generation started getting used to having workers stay in the home (meaning my kids), even though I hadn't. I guess my Dad did, which was odd since my Grandma was a widow with men workers staying there and stuff going on I won't repeat. I said sometimes teenagers aren't so thrilled with keeping company with grownups too much no matter who they are. (Junior worker) interrupted and said 'to get back to my point...' They said something about 'sure we can stay with other people, too, but we like to get to know all the families better...' even though I didn't say that to them directly. (Senior worker) said I needed to 'graduate from third to fourth grade'. (Junior worker) said 'maybe I needed to pray about my anxieties and fears about having them stay.'

The kids and I pretty much just listened to them with my main point being that I felt having privacy in a spare room was important. I didn't say this, but I don't feel that sister workers should stay overnight in a home with older teenage boys. I wonder about them being in a home with a young to middle age husband. It may not be the best idea either for men workers to be in the home of young to middle age wives and teenage girls. I wonder if it wouldn't be best if workers stay in the homes of elderly couples or older widowed people.

I think the workers can get to know a family well enough by just visiting them now and then. I feel that (current workers) ought to have prayed more about how to act toward me and my family with this issue. I wonder if (Junior worker) felt odd about it later, because then on the Sunday after their visit here, she acted very attentive to me and the kids. (Senior worker) was sick that day I guess, so we didn't see her after she'd been here for lunch.

It's funny how I've heard that in some areas at convention time, the workers mingle more with the people visiting and in some areas they keep to themselves a lot. I would think the workers would take the opportunity of convention to visit with the people as much as they have time for. I've had the privilege of getting to know many wonderful people going to meeting with being from a split home keeping me from getting to know some of them even better I guess.

It's been hard for me to help (my daughter) understand why the other young girls in our field don't include her in their social get-togethers with sleepovers and such. I guess a couple of them think she's too immature for them. They let her hang with them in the bunks at convention somewhat. One of them is less than a year older than (my daughter). She's more friendly and rather shy and sweet, with another gal being the most friendly of all. It broke my heart to see her feel left out. She felt her friends at school were better friends.

My boys were glad to have known (a close friends) kids growing up going to meeting. If not for that, I sometimes think they would have felt left out, too. It was always nice that (more close friends) had parties for the young people before they moved for awhile. (My daughter) felt somewhat welcome, but not a lot. My boys enjoyed seeing (close friend's) boys there, but didn't really know the other guys that well. I understand that being in a split home affects how close a family can get to those who aren't in split homes. Teenagers often go through goofy times anyhow. I'm sure they can grow up as young adults and get to know each other better, etc., and get past their 'attitudes'.

After my lunch visit with them, the kids and I talked about what had happened. I talked about the situation in as fair-minded a way as I could so they wouldn't feel too weird about it. They were pretty surprised by such ungracious pushiness by the sister workers. It was the most unpleasant visit I've had with the ministry. The sister workers thought I had a poor spirit in seeming to compare me to (junior worker's) mother who used to fret about the workers staying over. I guess it made her Mom kind of nervous.

I came to feel that I just wasn't comfortable being in their gospel meetings anymore. I sensed a different attitude from (our elders), too, the Sunday morning after the sister workers visit. I prefer not to be with people, even though I otherwise really care about them, who let it show in obvious ways that they think I'm having a problem with my attitude about something, talking behind my back about it, making assumptions.

I decided to look at the entire situation from as unbiased a point of view as I could and came to feel the same way about this way of worship as I did when I became disappointed with the Mormon church. I can't be part of a group who handle some important matters in ways that don't seem in tune with Jesus' teachings. It's one thing to feel odd about a few minor things in one's church, but when it comes to matters as serious as the ones I've mentioned, I can't be a part of it.

I asked the kids one at a time how they felt about meeting without going into all the stuff I said in this e-mail first. I wanted to know any positive and negative feelings they had. Afterwards, I did relate my concerns about matters I've mentioned here. I let them know that I didn't feel it had been a waste of time going all these years and that for the most part it was a good experience. I told them if they still wanted to go to meeting, they could. I would take them or (my oldest son) could drive. They don't want to at this point. We'll see if they feel different in the future. I encourage them to pray for God's guidance too, and for them.

Well, I've gone on quite a lot here, but felt I might as well tell you all that I was feeling. I know you may not agree with all I've said or may think I'm being a bit silly about some of it, but it's how I really feel. Thank you for listening and caring, (previous senior area worker).

Sincerely,

Debbie