OK so lets look at the legalities here. First off there is no legal right to confidentiality here (see Penley v. Westbrook), and again I'd caution readers that saying something in church waives legal right to privacy with very few exceptions. On the other hand it appears there was an expectation of privacy in the mentor relationship and it appears either the mentor did a bad job or the membership class didn't address the issue of discipline well enough. The membership class should have explained to Miss Hancock that she was joining a discipling church. Miss Hancock's statements to Fox seem to indicate genuine shock and total ignorance of the discipline proess. That being said nothing in the letter seems unusual for 3rd phase discipline.
The only issue here is whether she is still a member. She has seemed to indicate a desire to permanently sever all relations with the church, and her boyfriend is unequivocal that she no longer regards herself in a pastoral relationship with Grace Community Church. Further she is now active in another church and refers to herself as "no longer a member" (see news 4 story). The news story isn't specific enough for me to know for show whether she has qualified in leaving the church under church law (see how to leave a church) or whether her transfer with irregularities was conducted properly. But I would say that her statements were so strong that under secular law she most certainly did sever her relationship and had they "told it to the church" Grace could be subject to a civil suit (see Guinn v. Church Christ of Collinville). However, at this point she converted herself into a news story so the civil issue dealing with slander is dead.
It is hard to make many more conclusions because Fox News didn't dig. I'm not sure how clearly discipline is explained in the membership class. I would have to say that for a woman who is concerned about the embarrassment of being publicly outed, presenting her story to the national press, seems odd. That is, I don't quite understand how she believes revelation in the national media is going to be less difficult for her children, so her expressed rationale could have been better probed. Still, I applaud her becoming cause of her life rather than an effect. Having taken that attitude earlier would have killed the discipline outright, i.e. taking ownership via. a letter of termination likely would have given her the same level of control without the need of national press coverage. Its also unclear how the transfer / membership termination process got so botched up.
I'll offer Grace Church a chance to comment on this article. But what this smells like is a lack competence but no actual misconduct on the part of the church. On the other hand Mrs. Hancock's story has holes in it which make her sound like either a fool or a bit of a nut job. But in the end this may be editing from the news article.
Web discussions on this:
- Dallas News
- Seventh Sola
- John Aron Martin
- Hot Air
- Sharper Iron
- From my heart, out of my mind (Don Bryant)
- Alpha and Omega (James White)