Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jen's Gems

Jen's Gems is a blog which is rather unique. It presents a discipline case in full detail including all the associated materials. Jen was a member of Doug Phillips church (Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA)). Doug is also the head of Vision Forum and son of Reconstructionist / Presidential candidate Howard Phillips. Doug (for a reconstructionist) takes a moderate position position on membership (See the August 10th 2005 Honorably Leaving a Church).

Jen holds mainstream evangelical Christian views about the role of woman in family relations and Doug specializes in teaching very traditional gender roles (well beyond the norm even for fundamentalist Christians). They are also very outspoken and so they got themselves excommunicated on what amounts to a bad attitude charge (Jen was accused of being disrespectful, unsubmissive, and rebellious. Mark was accused more along the lines of being angry and unforgiving). Theologically they appear to be mainstream evangelical reformed and so they were in a church well to the right of where they stood. The attraction to this particular church has something to do with very positive experiences in military churches but I'm unable to follow the connection (see chapter 1 of her story).

For the reader though what is interesting in the cite are the examples of real excommunication documents. Also because Jen has written such a detailed presentation of her story the website serves as a useful example of how asking for counseling can lead one to getting disciplined (which is become something of a theme).


Jen said...

Thanks for bringing attention to my story. It is interesting to see your perspective. Since you are writing about me, I hope you don't mind if I clarify a couple things for you.

I don't think I hold to any modern views at all. In fact, I am quite conservative. However, I do hold to biblical views and I am attempting to show that Doug Phillips has added many requirements to Scripture.

It is interesting that you think we were excommunicated for disobedience. That is a new one to me! I was wondering if you could enlighten me as to what, exactly, I did to constitute disobedience. I should surely like to repent from that sin of disobedience.

Why were we attracted to right wing churches? We have that theology, we share those convictions, those values. Sometimes, though, right wing churches can tend to be legalistic, and legalism often provides safety and security. The military also provides safety and security, in that you don't have to make any decisions for yourself; someone else will readily tell you what to do. Legalism is much that same way.

I am very sorry to hear that others have also been subjected to discipline rather than loving counseling when they've asked for help. That is truly a shame. I am sure that God is sorry to see Christians treat one another that way.

Very interesting site.

CD-Host said...

I'd be happy to rewrite my description of your views on woman. In rereading it you are correct that as written it is misleading it does make you sound more modern then you really are. You are active in home schooling.... So I retract my phrasing and apologize.

OK, so now lets find a phrasing that we can agree on. I can't say "you hold biblical views and Doug is a legalist" since that is taking a theological position. This blog is absolutely neutral on all theological matters. For any position there exists a cultural of interpretation justifying that position. How would you like to be described in a way that is understandable to readers who may be coming from very different cultural perspectives (liberal christian, scientology, mormon....)? Would something like "Jen holds mainstream evangelical Christian views about the role of woman" be acceptable?

As for disobedience I'm pretty much going off the excommunication letter on your site. Its of the form "you were told to do X but you insisted on doing Y". Again I'd be happy to rephrase the charge to something like "slander of church officers" and division but that sounds even more negative. What sort of alternative phrasing would you like?

Anyway, I hope you continue to take part. As someone who has gone through a disciplinary process your input would be wonderfully valuable to people in the earlier stages. Welcome and I hope you stick around!

Anonymous said...

I echo the thanks for bringing attention to this terrible trend of a new legalism promoted by Vision Forum and men like Doug Phillips. It is a dangerous and growing trend among homeschooling families.

Jen said...

For purposes of this particular article, I think "Jen holds mainstream evangelical Christian views about the role of woman" would be fairly accurate. Thanks!

As far as why I was disciplined (which is a different reason from my husband), the real reason is that I, a woman, disagreed with my elder regarding political issues. The stated reasons are two-fold: first, I also disagreed with my elder on a theological issue; second, I am charged with broad, vague, general charges such as unconfessed sin, lack of repentance, bitterness, lack of love, jurisdictional abandonment, using children as a weapon, rebellion, gossip spreading, mean-spirited treatment, and refusing to acknowledge sins. You will notice that there were no examples provided for any of these charges. How to summarize all this? Hmmm. Maybe that I was accused of being disrespectful, unsubmissive, and rebellious. Mark was accused more along the lines of being angry and unforgiving.

Thanks for being willing to work with me on this. I find it fascinating that someone like yourself (I read your Blogger profile) would take such an interest in these situations.

CD-Host said...

OK tell me if you agree with the content of this version. I'm try to be as fair and accurate as possible.

By the way in terms of counseling, yes. That does seem to get lots of people in trouble. In practice what it appears like is that in churches without clear separation between discipline and counseling christian counseling is supposed to lead to rapid improvement or excommunication. All counselors think that their patients that need more then a few sessions are an annoying pain in the ass that don't do they are told and listen. Emotion problems take a long time and a lot of work to untangle. But everyone external to you can see "easy solutions".

Now if a church also
1) Does not have a clear separation between counseling functions and disciplinary / legal structure
2) Has a culture of church discipline

This frustration turns into an abuse of the counseling functions. This seems to happen even in very liberal churches. I've got a discipline case from a liberal church where as far as I can tell the Christian counselor was actually making progress (getting a woman to start dealing with the sexual subtext to her kleptomania) which then resulted in church discipline.

Pretty much I think the catholics are absolutely right that a priest that has heard your confession is barred from taking part in an ecclesia court hearing a disciplinary case. IMHO protestants would do well to emulate this policy.

Jen said...

CD Host, thanks for working with me on this. This description is much better. I got a chuckle over the fact that you came away with the impression that we liked military churches and therefore were attracted to BCA. I think there was one article where I expressed that whereas the military is very top-down in authority structure and very regulation oriented, that we were also attracted to a church with similar confines as well.

I find your views on separating counseling from disciplinary sessions very insightful. You have an excellent point there. I would say that as a long as there is progress in counseling, no matter how long it takes, there shouldn't be any discipline. Some situations truly do take a long time.

CD-Host said...

I'm glad you are happy with the current version. It seems like your story just keeps getting more press. I have a feeling there are going to end up being several more connected stories over the next few years. I hope you do fine a church you like.