Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rebecca Hancock

Rebecca Hancock is a 49 year old divorced woman who was formerly a member of Grace Community Church in Jacksonville, Florida. She got involved in a sexual relationship with a man, by the name of Frank Young, and told her church mentor about it. The mentor advised her to break off the relationship and she claims, I must have gone through 10 breakups trying to end it, but after not having the power to do it I would go back, It was hard to give up somebody I love.” Hancock evidentally believed these conversations were confidential. In October '08 the mentor pulled her into the second phase of church discipline. There was an argument and Hancock told the membership, "I cannot believe you people are doing this. I’m not going any further — I’m never coming here again." The pastor then began to call to contact her and Young told him, "she [Hancock] would appreciate it if neither he nor any member of his church contacted her ever again." The church on December 8th issued a letter indicating they would move on to the third stage of discipline (tell it to the church) in January if she hadn't resolved the issue. At which point Miss Hancock concerned that her 18 and 20 year children who were members of the church would be embarrased by a public revelation in church took the issue public by telling Fox News (see Fox News Story). Since then it has spread to various Christian and secular sites.

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:


Anonymous said...

Personally, I wouldn't have gone to the press, but I would have (a) sent a resignation letter and (b) then sued the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. If you do some investigation, you'll learn that churches cannot go round and badmouth ex-members like this.

The Mormon Church is very big in these parts, and it took stuff like this to get it through the leadership's head that they could not abuse their EX-members who simply no longer wanted to be members.

As for you so-called Christians, you know, I'll remind you that your lord and savior, Jesus Christ, didn't have a problem with sinners. He spent time with them. He had a BAD reputation with the Calvinists of his day (aka Pharisees) as a results.

Step away from teh haterade, dude and get back to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

ha ha Funny that you would suggest a lawsuit. I would love to see that play out in a court room only to have Christ redeem the church. If you think you can play church and not take God seriously, be prepared to pay serious repercussions. Yes, God is a loving God but He is also a jealous god who doesn't want to be shared with the world. We do love and accept sinners. But once you have "claimed" to renounce the world and are BORN AGAIN, you will be held accountable for your actions against CHRIST. Don't speak against God and His children. His wrath is NOT one you want on you "Anonymous"

CD-Host said...

Anonymous from Jan 30 --

Welcome to the blog. Could you add a signature to the bottom of your future posts. Having an anonymous vs. anonymous discussion can get confusing for everyone involved.

Also direct discussions of faith are off topic for this blog. You can freely discuss theology in the third person i.e. denomination A teaches doctrine B and denomination X teaches doctrine Y but I don't want debates that are about whether B or Y is "true".