Discussion Topic

Here is a place we can talk about everything classis.  What would you like to see here?  Are there any resources you need?  What questions do you have?  Is there anything you think is essential for all those involved in classes to know about?  Ask your questions and make requests for resources...

January 19, 2011 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

What is a classis?

Dictionary says: (in certain Reformed churches)
1. the organization of pastors and elders that governs a group of local churches; a presbytery.
2. the group of churches governed by such an organization”

That dictionary definition hides the fact that...

January 17, 2011 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

Introduction

Every classis has a vision or at least expectations about what a classis is all about.  What does a common vision do?

It unifies the group and defuses conflict.It helps everyone remember why we’re doing what we’re doing.It energizes the group to do its task better.It can...
January 17, 2011 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Someone once said: “Ministry without prayer becomes work in the power of the flesh. Prayer without ministry is complacent Christianity. A hour of prayer at the beginning of the meeting actually shortens the overall meeting time by bringing a greater spirit of unity, by emphasizing spiritual...

January 17, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Over the past several years many churches have had check-ups of sorts to look for points of health and places that need work (Natural Church Development surveys, Healthy Churches surveys, WillowCreek Reveal survey, etc.). But when it comes to classes we often just keep going with the way things have always been. We don’t bother to check the health and vitality of this mid-level of church life.

January 17, 2011 0 2 comments
Blog

What exactly is a classis? ... Why do we keep having this conversation? Can’t we just figure out what classis is and get on with it? Why do we still talk about classis renewal?

January 17, 2011 0 3 comments
Resource, Job Description

Example of a comprehensive Ministry Coordinator position description from Classis Niagara.

December 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

What does a healthy classis look like today? 10 Benchmarks of a Healthy Classis provides a way to answer this tough question. These benchmarks are a useful tool for assessing classis health and are also great discussion starters.

December 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Procedure

The Achieve-Preserve-Avoid (APA) vision-casting exercise is a tool to assist you with envisioning your classis 5 years from now. The APA can also assist a classis in developing a strategic plan.

December 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

Once a vision has been produced how do you make sure it stays current and relevant to a classis? This document helps a classis ask the right questions to help keep a clear vision.

December 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Procedure

Based on the 10 Benchmarks of a healthy classis, here is an assessment tool you can use to the health of your classis.

December 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Chart

This resource is a chart that helps visualize how a classis works effectively when a vision is in place.

December 20, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

In 2007, Home Missions updated its strategy for Classes to use when looking at mobilizing church planting and church development. Although time has passed, this document still is helpful for classes wanting to be strategic about growing their churches.

December 20, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Job Description

This sample job description includes mission, management, scope and appointment information from Classis British Columbia NW.

December 20, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

The Roxburgh Missional Network works alongside leaders, churches, classes and denominations to face the challenges that face churches today.

December 14, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

The Church Prayer Leaders Networks exists to help individuals (pastors and lay people) who are working to raise up more prayer in their churches.

December 14, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

This website has resources to encourage prayer in individuals, churches and denominations.

December 14, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

This article is an attempt to share the experience of a relative newcomer moving from the margins to the mainstream—or to be more precise, moving from the balcony to the main stage.

My journey in many ways follows the contour of yesteryear, when persons of color were relegated to special...

December 14, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Judicatories come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in many different forms, each with names that come out of a tradition. We know them through such names: diocese, regions, conferences, presbyteries, and districts. These are the denominational organizations that stand between national...

December 13, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

Classis Grandville's Mission Task Force prepared a useful summary of what the CRC Church Order and Manual of Church Government states about the purpose, authority, delegation, and business of classis.

December 13, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Website

The Alban Institute produces and distributes research based information on how to minister more effectively. This website also contains a number of resources for classis and congregational health.

December 13, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource

List of all the Classes with links to their websites, list of Stated Clerks, and resources for Stated Clerks and Synodical Deputies.

December 13, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

The story of CRMT begins in the late ‘80s when Home Missions invited leaders of each of the classes (6 to 8 per year over several years) to conferences on successful church leadership at Robert Schuller’s Garden Grove Community Church. In 1989, ‘90 and ‘91 Craig Van Gelder, Dirk Hart and John...

December 13, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
Would you characterize your Classis as healthy? What does it mean to be healthy when it comes to church governance?
July 28, 2010 0 2 comments
Q&A

Do any classes have personnel committees? I've noticed that a classis and its committees may employ several part and full time persons (stated clerk, treasurer, campus minister, church planter, ministry developer), and because each person reports to a different classical committee, there may be...

June 10, 2010 0 1 comments

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I definitely agree that there has been an argument about what the Bible teaches on this matter. Once upon a time there was an argument about head coverings for women, the owning of slaves, and all manner of other things. I am not interested in arguing the point. Many theologians and Biblical scholars have done this already. Now the question for me is how we are going to act. What we are doing today with each classis voting is one thing that makes our classis not just a problem today but a broken part of our culture. So, my statement is that since no one has suggested a way to fix classis as it stands and I see no way to do so, all efforts that we put in to try to make this particular structure more relevant would better serve the church by going toward something that lacks this significant flaw.

I have an eye for organizational structures that work, having spent my career to date in change management. There might be a better organizational culture visionary than I who can see how we can move from our current state to one of thriving while retaining classis, but I honestly do not see it. I really am not suggesting that we rehash the "women's issue" as a denomination. In fact, I think the opposite -- that we should not visit it again as a denomination. In order to do that, it appears to me that we must get rid of classis. Really. Otherwise we will continue to have people like me who are compelled to feel part of a country club that does not permit black people. I hope you can understand how that tugs at my conscience. If others are fine with our church not permitting black people to be seated at some of our denominational meetings (no black females are permitted, for example), then that is for them to decide. My comments here are not to change minds on this subject but to show why I think that we should stop putting our efforts into classis. The culture of classis is fatally ill, in my opinion.

--dawn

Dawn, I grew up in the midst of this theological battle. I learned to appreciate the Biblical arguments from both sides, and also came to understand that most of the egalitarians weren't arguing about 'justice' for women, and most of the complementarians weren't arguing about the inherent inferiority of women. Both sides were mostly arguing about Biblical fideltiy re what the Bible teaches about women as that comes to bear on the offices of the church (though most often, the discussion on the nature of office was noticeably absent).

Those who argue that women are inherently inferior, are hopelessly confused, IMHO. But not all who conclude that the Bible excludes women from office are, and most I read suggest they aren't. The question is really what does the Bible teach.

We don't want to make the Bible conform to our sense of justice, but we want our sense of justice conform to the Scriptures. Right? Now a mismatch in our sense of justice and the Scriptures can make us go and look again, but what we want in the end is for Scripture to inform our sense of justice and not the other way around. For those who firmly believe that the Bible excludes women from church office, their sense of justice asserts (and I have heard this) that, if the Bible is right about this, therefore it is just. I agree with the the conclusion, just not the premise.

I'll give one more reason that say an appeal to justice won't work. In our culture, the concept of justice is embedded in the concept of win/loose. If one 'side' wins, another side looses. Now for criminal cases, this isn't all bad, and often our adversarial justice system tends to work (more or less). But an adversarial justice system is doomed in the Church, because by design it devides, one group of people who are fully devoted to following Jesus from another group that is just as devoted, but comes down on the other side of an issue. That's wrong.

Biblical justice is the establishment, or re-establisment of shalom - that state of being where everything is as it should be. The brother/sister I disagree with isn't my enemy, but my brother/sister first. We look together for a way to live together, to find as much shalom together as we can. This might seem to compromise on absolutes, but isn't that what Paul did re eating meat sacrificed to idols?

Maybe you know a little about what happened here in the Pacific Northwest. It was a journey for us. By one vote churches were allowed to ordain women as elders & pastors. It took quite some time for women elders or pastors to be seated as delegates. Eventually it happened, and it's basically a non-issue at classis now. But I still remember when it was a hot issue that used up way to much time at classis.

I have my opinion about how that changed, but I need to stop here for now. I've got other things to do today.

I appreciate your perspective Richard, and I have certainly heard this many times over the years. Many people speak from a place where they have never experienced any sort of institutional lock-out because of their gender. I do not know if that is the case for yor or not, but I wonder what you think about systematically locking out a group of people because of basic demographic information about how God made them? Do you favor that in general?  --dawn

It seems to me that this debate always orbits the wrong sun.

Let's remember our church polity folks. The discussion should not be primarily about women, but about the nature and authority of church office. In our polity and ecclesiology, there is no man in authority over any other man either. We practice an intentional mutual submission at both the council and classis level. It's built in, and though some mega-church enthusiasts would prefer a CEO model for pastors, such a model is definitely out of sync with our ecclesiology and our church order.

Do not all elders submit to each other? Don't all pastors submit to their elders? Does not everyone in classis submit to the decisions of classis? Where is there a man (as a man, or as an individual) exercising authority over another man? It doesn't happen. In fact does our church order not say that no officer bearer shall lord it over another?

I'd like to suggest that much of the discussion on women's roles in the Bible simply don't apply to the discussion of how women may or may not serve in church office in the CRC. I'd like to suggest that both complementarians and egalitarians can be theologically comfortable with women serving as elders or pastors.

Hi Doug -- Yes, absolutely there are many ways to serve God and the church without holding an office. My concerns are global. One organization in my life where I can "act locally" is the CRC. I fully believe that if we model the culture we would like to see in the world, if we are a light to the world, we can have a positive influence regarding the mistreatment of women here and around the globe. 

Yes, I understand that in the past there were people who in good faith, using a strong understanding of Scripture, defended the practice of owning slaves. 

I also really do understand that having all women's voices be the same would not be any better than having all the men's voices be the same. I am someone who determined early on that because it was highly unlikely I would ever have an opportunity to serve the CRC as an officer, I could be a voice for other women without it being about me. I could put a magnifying glass on how I "feel" because I know I am not alone. If I can help be a voice of those who know they will be more effective by keeping quiet on such matters, then I have served in the role I feel called.

Fact: there is a good analogy to racism when it comes to the perception of women in our denomination. 

Many of those who cared deeply have left the denomination for greener pastures, but when I see a slate of speakers like this http://www2.crcna.org/pages/summit_speakers.cfm in what is apparently a conference for both men and women, I feel like there is still a need in our church for someone like me to put a magnifying glass on it and suggest that we can do better as a light to the world. When we have a quota for minorities in leadership and not for women (I do not prefer quotas, please understand), but our statistics show we have a bigger issue incorporating women into our leadership, then it is good for us to have some voices that point this out, right?  Thanks.  --dawn

Respectfully, Dawn, your analogizing to racial prohibitions doesn't work.  Although culture may play a role in limiting the office of elder to men (as Paul repeatedly says), there is more to it than that.  There is a good faith, Scripture-based, argument that women should not be permitted to teach or have authority over men.

Before you jump all over me, understand I've come to the view that Scripture does NOT prohibit women from being elders or ministers.  I came to that position by very closely examining the question when I was a synodical delegate in 1992, assigned to the committee that dealt with whether or not to ratify a prior synodical decision to open the offices of elder/minister to women.  I decided then, and publically said so, that I thought Scripture does NOT prohibit women from serving as elder/women, I still did NOT think the CRCNA should remove the CO exclusion of women from those offices.

Why?  For the same reason that the folks at Jerusalem in Acts 15 did not make their decisions based solely on "theological correctness" -- the unity of the church, a much greater mandate, was at stake.

Let me repeat: there is a good faith Scripture-based argument for excluding women from the office of elder/minister.  Conversely, there is not a good faith, Scripture-based argument for excluding persons with certain racial characteristices from those offices.  And as to women in office, if I need to choose between the unity of the church (whether the "other side" has a good faith argument) and fencing individual women (or men for that matter) out from one of the many, many, many ways to serve their Creator, I'm going with unity.  Did then, still will.

So does this mean women will "always suffer this injustice?"  Probably not.  Consider what Paul told a slave who left his master and how history has developed since then.

Personally, I find more than enough ways to serve God without being an elder.  Indeed, I resolved to "bear with women" since Synod of 1992.  I've not been an elder since (I regularly decline nomination).  Frankly, I have found that a bit liberating: it has allowed me to do other things that I find I enjoy more and would judge more profitable in many ways.  These days, I spend my "discretionary time" doing more cooking.  I'm a regular for the annual Cadet breakfast and the Thanksgiving meal served to 100+ every year.  I teach more Sunday school.  I take care of a neighborhood park that hadn't been taken care of by the county.  We have three international students from the local Christian high school.  It's a bit hard to say with certainty, but I probably wouldn't be doing at least some of that, maybe most of it, if I were an elder.

Personally, I'm persuaded that the CRC would have eventually opened the offices of elder/minister without it having to be "forced open," at the great cost of disunity and division.  In other words, I believe the CRC erred when it opened those offices, even though I think it was theologically correct (and who knows, I could be wrong on the theology).  Again, I would appeal to the "logic" of Acts 15, but as well to 1 Cor 13 (we can be right, yet nothing but a loud noise).

Final point: I think those who favor women in office could have, and still can where the classis doesn't seat women, can find ways to "chip away" at those restrictions and become more involved, even at a classis level.  I would also suggest that when women -- or men -- express their disagreements as to the prohibitions with words like "discrimination" and "bigotry" -- or analogize to racism -- they prove their theological opposition's point, at least in the mind of those who have concluded that opening those offices would be the result of worldly thinking.  Talking about wanting to serve will create much more unity and opportunity than talking about rights, discrimination, or "this is like racism."

If you like, this is my "road map."  Might not be what you wanted (too slow), but I find it Scriptural.

Yes, please note that I applaud all of the good things done by all of the fine people related to classis. My point is that we have a limit in our ability to thrive as a denomination that directly relates to a classis structure that has no means to purge the wrongs it is perpetuating both in the denomination and in the world. If anyone has a road map that shows us opening up all classes to women without going through synod (something that no one I know thinks would be a good approach), then I'm all ears. Not only is such a road map lacking, no one at all is working on it.

Maybe we hope that all people who really care about the problems faced by women in the world or who think we are complicit in such wrongs have left for greener pastures. They have not all left, however. We can guess that most of those whose conscience was bound by having women church officers has left, given that we now permit women to be seated and voting at synod. Those of us who grew up CRC and are pro-women have surely gained patience. Many have decided to simply be quiet on this topic for the duration. In any case, whether we are quiet or not, classis has a fatal illness. We have no means of fixing it. So, when you write about the joy of combining classes with the RCA, you are raising up healthy classes, perhaps pretending this could ever happen across our denomination in some positive way. While I realize no one wants to hear the "b" word and I surely know that no one is intending their behaviors to come from any form of biogry, when I heard you extol the virtues of classis (and there surely are some), it "feels" like you are saying "Hey, CRC -- we can be healthier if we put more eggs in our biogtry basket."  Do you understnd why I hear it this way?

Ok, so a plan to move beyond it -- you know I have painted a broad stroke picture that would accomplish this. There are many ways to do this, but all of them are big, not tiny little steps. On the "tiny steps now" front what we can do is talk about what is happening regionally without mentioning classis. Then we include all churches and members of those churches. We could start by renaming this blog "Church regions" and try to narrow our discussion of classis down to only those things where we know that we are blocking women and that is simply where our denomination is right now. Let's now bring up the "c" word anywhere else. It is a painful part of our denomation and one that none of us knows how to redeem. The efforts to try can make some positive changes in the world, no doubt, but none that could not also be made by a focus on how to work with churches within regions. 

I'm just tossing this out for discussion. It really is the case that if anyone could lay out a plan that would eliminate the bigotry that our classis represents through some means other than to come up with a way to eliminate the "culture of classis" from our midst, I'm all ears.  Cheers!  --dawn

Honestly, I think if we were more open to the prophetic gifting of the Holy Spirit, which is clearly biblical to include women in that gifting based on numerous passages, including Acts 2:17-18, that would be a huge boost for our denomination.  From my perspective, we seem to be hesitant in gaining further understanding of what that prophetic gifting looks like and how to incorporate it into the structure and culture of our denomination (please let me know if I'm wrong and so maybe not aware of it as I only speak from my experience and knowledge via discussions, the banner, network, and other crc forums).    Maybe there should be believers with prophetic gifting included at classis and other governing gatherings?   just saying, I'm not seeing a place for this gift to be shared in our current structure, particularly if a woman has this gift.

I'd also like to note that the person who led Classical Renewal, a process that I believe greatly helped the CRC rework many classes was Thea Leunk. Her leadership helped many classes around the US and Canada (whether they seated women or not) to re-vision their classis, restructure and revive. I think her efforts in the story of the CRC and classis should not be overlooked. 

Thanks Dawn for commenting. 

I understand your argument and I feel the force of your analogy. I would far rather the CRCNA had never inserted "male" into article 3 in 1965 rather than going through all we've gone through. It would certainly have been better if the church had simply allowed women to be office bearers at the places and times they were locally selected and then proceeded into the other assemblies as it happened. I'm glad the CRCNA never put an ethnic modifier into Article 3. 

I believe based on what we find in the Bible women have in the Old Testament, in Jesus' ministry and in the New Testament played a prominent role in the movement of God's kingdom. It seems clear to me that from the women who supported Jesus in his ministry, to Lydia and Junia and others women were not in God's eyes any less important than men. I cannot explain why the twelve apostles were all Jews and all men apart from the mission and the context of that time and place. The rest of the New Testament is insufficient in my opinion to adequately sex the ancient church leadership. Lynn Cohick's book on Women in the World of the Earliest Christians is enlightening in terms of revealing a world no less complex than our own.

I've worked in contexts where there were only male pastors (and all with dark skin) and in my present church we haven't had a male elder (just female, some white some black) for a number of years. In each context I believe I've been working in the church, always flawed, but also loved by Jesus. 

I want to be slow to find fault with my brothers and SISTERS who see the Bible as espousing a complementarian picture of gender roles in the church. I might not agree with their Biblical interpretation, but I'm not ready to denounce their effort. As with many things we disagree on in the church (and outside of it too), part of justice is not only the demand for just outcome, but also allowing just and therapeutic process. Whatever position these groups come to, I want them to come to it freely. It's out of that same position that I won't impinge on your process of promoting your perspective with them. This was part of why I wrote this post, to give you the opportunity to speak your mind on this issue. 

I cannot say that if I were in your position that I would not do what you are doing. You are feeling the force of this prohibition in a way that I have never. You desire to use your gifts in the broader assembly of the church and you are blocked. I can understand your anger and I won't ask you to not be angry or to not speak your mind. 

I do also have empathy for my brothers and sisters who see things differently. 

Part of the role of a classis is to afford a fair process where we can either live with conflict we cannot settle or process conflict in a fair and healthy way. Conflict is one of the most important and difficult areas of life. All conflict requires humility, patience and prayer. 

I won't be surprised if someone comments that the classical structure has failed because it allows women elders and that allowing them to be delegates violates the Word of God. I pray that our disagreements and the processes that we employ to deal with them creates strong communities of love and justice and that through our conflicts we grow in obedience and compassion. pvk

Thanks for the write-up, Paul. I understand your perspective on this. However, I encourage you to read what you wrote by replacing the word "Dawn" with "a minority male" and the word women with "minority men" etc. You seem to be suggesting "Hey, if the culture doesn't want black men to participate, then let's roll with it." If we really had a part of the country that did not want black people at classis, would you suggest that is fine? 

The issue for me is no longer that there is discrimination in the world. I know I am not going to be able to get the Catholic church to change and have women priests, for example, nor even change CRC churches that wish to keep blocking women. Where this rips at my conscience, much as it likely does for someone opposed to women (outside of the kitchen and bedroom) to see women voting at a classis meeting, is when I realize that I really seem to be willing to be a member of a country club that does not permit minority tee times. I am appalled by myself for participating in this injustice. 

Why am I willing to continue to do something that is so clearly wrong to me? This is also not about me, it is about the willingness to continue to help our society perpetuate a place for women that is tied into many much more dreadful treatments of women both in and outside of North America. By being a member of a classis that blocks women, what is my involvement in the mistreatment of women in other ways around the world? My email tagline was once "think globally, act locally." 

I do agree with you on this point "I am disinclined to advocate for a synodical level effort to force these classes to change their policies." I do not think it would be good to drag this through synod for a few more rounds either. Enough people have been battered and many have left the denomination to get to this point. I was in a PCUSA service on Easter with former CRC members, for example. 

You seem willing to accept a few black men blocked from our classes, or the analogous. Hey ho, not everyone thinks the Bible tells us that we need to include minorities in our work, so let's not rock the boat. I think we are being complicit in some terrible ills in the world by blocking women, just as we would be if blocking minorities. I understand that others are fine with it, but our structure requires that I participate in this injustice rather than more simply living side by side with it. So, given that we agree that it would not be good for synod to address it, let's at least take a first step to make classis as irrelevant as possible and then work to put in place a new structure that does not have this problem. I hope you can at least understand my disappointed that the denomination seems to be putting a bunch of resources toward this remaining women-blocking organization that I am compelled to be part of if I remain CRC.

Does that make any sense to you?  --dawn

Thanks, Terry. It's fixed.

posted in: Change At Classis

The link to the benchmarks that are "signs of renewal" page needs to be fixed.

posted in: Change At Classis

I think it is fantastic that there was such collaboration between the denominations at the level of classis. I think regional work across denominations can make big differences. Thanks for writing this up, Paul.

Now, I don't like being an Eeyore about it (everyone who knows me knows I'm much more like Tigger) but I sure would like to see us move our attention from classis. Classis is the last of our structures above the level of the church that can vote, as my classis did, not to seat women (yes, in 2012!!). I know, I know -- this story is so last millennium. We have women ministers, so let's get on with our kingdom work, right? Well, individuals can choose their church, so in many locations they can go to a CRC that does not discriminate against women. At the denominational level we permit women, at least in theory, to be leaders. We cannot choose our classis, however, while remaining within the denomination. So, some of us are inadvertantly members of a country club that does not permit tee times for black people (just an analogy) BECAUSE of the problems of our denomination that are at the level of classis. Please consider this -- how much would it tug on your conscience to have a membership at a golf course that did not permit tee times for minorities?

The classis structure is and will remain a significant issue because it is permitted to block women. Celebrating that there are classes that can be so inclusive as to have a joint meeting with a sister denomination doesn't change the fact that our sisters are still being denied a place at some classis meetings altogether and will be for the foreseeable future (our entire lifetimes, I would guess).

So, to answer your question "Is there an RCA classis near you that you can approach and begin to talk about relating with?" -- ha! That would definitely be "no" as NO ONE of my gender may even be seated at our own classis meetings. How 'bout them apples?

I would love, love, love to see the energy you and others are putting into the classical structure go, instead, into the structures of our system where women are welcomed. Even if your classis permits women, the structure is still critically ill and I wish that we would not pretend otherwise. If, on the other hand, this is part of a strategic plan to have classes share with Reformed classes, thinking that this might be a way to get women in through the back door, I do not think it will work. I do not think that was a consideration in doing this, but just in case someone might think this would be helpful to women, I really doubt it. Maybe I am missing something, but I do not see anything outside of an applecart-upset that will fix classis, as a structure. I recognize many classes do many good things, but they will continue to have this critical wound. I think we need to minimize the work and need for classis in order to lift up other structures that do permit full participation.

I realize that many who once cared about this topic have left the CRC, but how we treat women is part of the entire fabric of the world in its treatment of women. So, even if we do not care about the future for our own children, we shoud at least care related to the treatment of women world-wide and our part in that.  If we are sinking our resources into our classes, we are saying that this structure is OK or that it can be reformed or that we are fine with classis Iokota telling women in 2012 to stay in the kitchen, for example.

What if next time you have a joint regional meeting that is not a "joint classis meeting" instead? The "classis brand" is broken. If we focus on regions, rather than classes, then those regions that shun women in their classis could ignore all of that and celebrate together and join in missions in a joint regional conference of CRC and RCA people. Because there seems very little hope of reforming classis and no sign that anyone is still working to lift the barriers, I would like to see classis stay as irrelevant as it typically is, or become even more irrelevant, and have us raise up better structures for our regional church work. 

If, on the other hand, you think we can redeem this structure without blowing it up to do so, then please lay out a plan for that. Right now I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. If I could see how classis could be redeemed, maybe I would be more inclined to lend more of a rah, rah to this effort to make classis relevant. Otherwise everything going into classis right now looks like band aids and like some final attempt to lift up a dying patient. I really do think it is fantastic that you have great classical relationships, but I don't even like hearing the word anymore. Woolworths really had to go out of business, right?

Hi Karl!. Thank you for writing this .I was at this classis meeting and even had to chair it (Yikes!) It was a wonderful time and I came back to Salt Lake City excited about the way this classis is turning the corner. No longer will classis just be about going over the budget and appointing new people to old committies .It will be a time of mission ,reflection, worship ,and growth! Karl ,it was great to have you there and thank you for this great post.

Or, as said in the overture submitted to Classis Iakota, the Belhar is unnecessary as...

"Neither the Christian Reformed Church, nor any sub-set of the Christian Reformed Church, nor any other Christian denomination of note in the U.S. or Canada currently advocates for disunity, injustice, racial segregation, racial superiority, apartheid, or any other such thing.  Indeed, over the last 40 years or more, the CRC has consistently spoken out for justice, racial harmony, and reconciliation (for example in “God’s Diverse and Unified Family” 1996).  There is, therefore, no need for a confessional document that refutes such errors or differentiates the CRC from other denominations on these matters."

Dr. Bolt's experience at GR East is ample testimony to that.

While synod may at times have a broader focus than the local churches, thus leading to a different perspective on some issues, it may also lack a perspective on the local issues, churches, real people on the ground.  Because of this, it sometimes focusses on organizational issues rather than witness, on structure rather than on spirit, on paper and words rather than action.   The Belhar is a clear example of this.   To be clear on this, adopting the Belhar sounds like "action", but it is not action.   It is words on paper.   Will adoption of the Belhar change anything in the life and worship of the crc believer?   Will it impact the north american christian in any way?   Have any examples of these proposed changes in our daily life (as a direct result of these words on paper) been given?

I wholeheartedly agree -- great reflection.  I echo a similar thought on a Synodical level; attending Synod gives one a nuanced perspective on issues, especially those that can be theologically/pastorally complex.  It can be easy to be suspicious of our denomination, seeing conspiracies and hidden agendas behind every Synodical agenda (ha ha!) but working together at Synod, being a part of deliberations and discussions on the floor helps us see that this usually isn't the case (though, sometimes it is).  After attending Synod, one may still hold their same convictions but they will hold them with greater humility.

I'll add my own comment to this. I was pleased to read John's note because in my experience his experience isn't unique. I often try to get church leaders to attend classis even if they are not a delegate and I've found his response to be common. "I didn't know all of these things were happening. That was very inspirational!" The most positive aspect is usually the report from the church planters. 

So, if you want to spruce up classis, make the meetings better, more enjoyable, have your classis plant more churches. :) pvk

An example of help for pastors, for whatever addiction or background they have:

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=18&articleid=20120303_18_A13_CUTLIN768541

We have a family reunion scheduled for March.  All the members will come together for a meeting, this time in a neutral place in order to feature a friend of one of the members who wrote "The Message" and “The Pastor.”

It will be a wonderful gathering for a short time, we will pray together, feast together, deliberate together, fellowship together and perhaps even shed a tear together.  Oh, we will argue- can’t avoid that among family members with what to do with outreach- and programing that feature; or what to figure we truly believe in and subscribe to; and who will represent us at a larger gathering of an extended family group. 

There will be others there who represent groups and programs we believe in; non- family members, but we will accept their words graciously and encourage them.

How will we leave after that two day get-together?  Well, for the most part tired with information over-load, but really refreshed by the sense that we are not alone out here on the frontier, near the edge of nowhere.  We will travel apart yet with a promise to return together again in 6 months at yet another location to share joy, problems, sorrow, and anticipation.

As clerk of this bunch, I share a particular joy in the upcoming gathering- if not weariness of all the preparation; but is it worth it- you bet.  It confirms who we are as a family...different in many ways, yet joined in common belief, history, and dreams.

While some members perhaps chafe under the thought of investing time in this meeting, most seem to come away with a blessing knowing they perhaps were a blessing to others.  A frequent comment is how blessed they were from the time of prayer together.

Yes, we are a family- separated by hours of driving, oceans apart by culture between urban and rural, perhaps even on how to present the word – yet we are joined together in in identity…and by grace. 

Thank you Bev for your inspired and eloquent answer to Shawn's questions.  Indeed, the answer to any situation lies with the Lord. And we access the answer through the Holy Spirit, our Counselor.  

My experience with the gift of prophecy in the CRC church was not a good one. I think, ok I know, there are misunderstandings about prophecy. One can have a prophetic word, and not be a prophet. One can have the prophetic gift and not carry the office of the Prophet.  If the Lord gives one a word, and that person speaks the word out loud, they've had a prophetic utterance.  At least the way I understand Scripture.  We can use the same example with evangelism. We are all called to be ready to share our faith, or evangelize, but we don't all carry the office of the Evangelist like Dr. Billy Graham.

 I believe, at a basic level, we all "operate" in the five fold ministries - Apostle, Prohet, Teacher, Pastor and Evangelist inasmuch as we carry the Spirit of Jesus in us, and inasmuch as we are being conformed into His likeness.  In these, the Body cares for the Body, as we are the hands and feet of our Lord to each other.

The more we ALL read Scripture for understanding, bathing our spirits in His healing words, pray, pray, pray, and have repentant and humble hearts, the more we will be merciful, compassionate and loving when a brother or sister confesses a sin.  The more we as individuals prayerfully read Scripture for understanding and application, the more He can use us to help those caught in the enemy's web of deceit, lies, addictions and so on.

Simple solution for the sin in the Body of Christ? Yes. Difficult to carry out? Yes. Possible? Yes.  Worth it? Absolutely.

Praise the LORD, Shawn, that's why we have the Holy Spirit, so He can guide us through each situation with its unique variables and unique people that are involved.  What might work well for one, might not work for the next even if the situation is similar, due to different personality issues or where they are in there walk with Jesus, or what the root issue is that caused the sin in the first place.   But the Holy Spirit knows each person/situation intimately, and knows exactly what is needed to bring healing, wholeness and restoration.  It will not be a "cookie cutter" answer.. if a, then b... that's man's way...   that's why I keep encouraging us (the crc) to EAGERLY DESIRE this gift of prophesy.  We cannot know every situation we will encounter, but He does!

God is a creative God, and I believe He is encouraging us to "listen" for His specific guidance in each situation.  His guidance will always line up with His Word. 

Hmmm... as I was thinking about this, maybe there should be an anonymous type prophetic "council" that receives the facts and then listens for guidance from the Holy Spirit on how to bring healing to the situation.    So, maybe there is a "go to" person in each classis, where pastors can "confess" their unholiness, whatever it might be, and then the "go to" person can bring the facts without the names/place to this "council", and they "process" the facts as they listen to the Spirit, and then it goes back through the classis guy, and then to the pastor and his accountability group, which there will most likely be one recommended, if there wasn't one before.   But one of the keys to healing is that the person needing healing is "listening" with the team as well...

I have been involved in inner healing ministries (not in the crc though), and these are powerful.  As a team, we listen to the Holy Spirit together, and help someone get to the root of their issues.  It's profound.  We have had people share, that what they have spent years in counseling for, we get through in several hours, as well as other amazing testimonies of helping bring healing from a difficult situation .  It's hard, and it's intense, but it's incredible.  That's the Holy Spirit, and He's the Counselor!!!

maybe we need to implement the Catholic confessional  ; ) !!  or maybe we should just send our "problems" to them for confessions?

well, our battle is not with flesh and blood, and when we recognize that it's the enemy that the "sinner" has allowed themself to come in agreement with, that often takes the hostility away from being directed toward the sinner.   It's just if their heart is hard and unrepentant, and they don't take any responsibility themself, then it's harder to be gracious =/...  well, then they usually aren't ready for help, and one of the more extreme "excommunication" type responses might be necessary.    Again, the Holy Spirit will know what level of being "expelled" will bring the repentance.

I believe if the person is being convicted by the Holy Spirit, they will also usually be convicted to step down for a while, because they know their leadership at that time is probably not in the best interest of the Bride.

and we can only do any of this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I believe with all my heart, that the LORD is calling His Bride to holiness, particularly the leaders.   If the leaders are not walking in holiness, they are hindering the entire assembly/congregation/denomination/whatever sphere of influence they have,  and this is just one issue.   I'm not sure we understand very well why holiness is so important...anyway, lots of thoughts...

The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine...   He's purifying His Bride.

How Firm a Foundation/Malachi 3:2-3

Hello Everyone:

Thank you Bev for taking the time to share your reasoning with me, I appreciate it very much.  I am sorry that we have not had a reply from Anonymous (Concern) to my question for clarification but it most likely would not have changed my position on spiritual illness and the one healer being Christ Jesus.  While I respect and can appreciate mans involvement in the process, he can often time be a barrier to allowing God to work his healing.  When we start to put psychology first then someone or something has to take a back seat.

I wanted to share with everyone some questions that a Christian friend sent to me following both a verbal, and email conversation which I had had with him regarding the question of providing support groups for pastors who had issues with pornography.  I believe his questions bring to light many of my concerns I have with the black and white responses that we have been sharing. 

Have a blessed day everyone and I pray that each of us will strive to live the life of the blessing which we individually and collectively are.

Here is the scenario which he presented.

"Let's say you were on the elder board of your church. Your pastor, who has been serving your congregation for the past 4 years, comes to your elder board and confesses that for the past 3 months he/she has been viewing pornography online. He/she believes that the Lord has convicted him/her of this sin, felt led to confess it to those in authority over him/her, and believes the Lord has called him/her to seek out support from the body of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in efforts to overcome this sin. The pastor is married (and has confessed and sought forgiveness from their spouse) and has 3 children.

1) How would you provide pastoral care for this pastor? How would you come alongside them and their family? What support would you offer them?

2) Would you release this pastor from ministry from your church? If not, how would you respond to some of the Scripture texts that have been noted I.E. the standards of holiness required of teachers and leaders?  If you would release them, would the financial needs of the pastor and the family no longer be your responsibility because they are no longer employed by your church? Would the spiritual needs of the pastor and her/his family still be the responsibility of the church? If not, why not? If so, how would you suggest the church provide for the pastor and her/his family?

3) Would it be your desire to see this pastor restored back into ministry, if at all possible or do you believe he/she has disqualified themselves permanently from ministry because they viewed pornography for three months and, therefore, it is not allowable for them to return to ministry?

4) Would your response to the above questions change if the variables in the situation changed?

 What if the pastor had been viewing pornography for the last week?  

What if the pastor had been viewing pornography for the last 5 years? 

What if the pastor had repented of a different sin?

What if he/she confessed to yelling/being rageful at their spouse for the last three months?

What if he /she confessed to being addicted to their work and neglecting their children for the past five years?

 What if she/he confessed to loving money and purchasing lottery tickets for the last year?

What if he/she confessed to entertaining lustful thoughts towards those they provided pastoral care for though they had not been physically intimate with anyone but their spouse, yet for the last 6 months?

What if it was the youth pastor?

What if it was the office administrator?

What if the person was single?

What if she/he was caught in the sin, confronted on it, and agreed with you and confessed their sin?

What if they were caught in the sin, but were unrepentant of it?

 

5) What steps might we take as councils and classis to encourage, nurture and build up the spiritual health and vitality of our pastors and church leaders in an effort to confront the works of the devil and to spur our church leaders on to greater acts of love, service, obedience, humility, and righteousness?

6) What does "expel the immoral person" mean in our context today? Assuming a sinful person is unrepentant in their sin of pornography, does it mean that we rescind their membership in our church? Does it mean that we do not allow them to participate in the Lord's Supper? Does it mean we no longer welcome them into our church building, whether for programs or worship services? Does it mean we nolonger speak to or associate with the person? Does it mean we call the other non-CRC church down the road (where the wayward person is now attending) and inform them of the person and his/her shameful behaviour?

  

Faith Alive Christian Resources, the publisher for the CRCNA, has a book that addresses a number of the issues that have been brought up in this discussion. We would encourage you to take a look at the Just One Click and our ministry partner Covenant Eyes for a Free 30-day trial of their software by using promo code JustOneClick

Just One Click is also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore in paperback and ebook formats.

 

WOW!  PTL!!!  I don't know if you had made those 2 significant confessions before, but because you confessed these "sins"  to other believers, I wouldn't be surprised to hear your healing to significantly increase and pick up speed and you have some significant breakthroughs soon!  For His glory and our good!!!!

OK, I need to comment as I have been following this discussion ever since Keith's original post. In fact, I am the man whose letter Keith shared on Feb 2. I am a lifelong CRC member, and despite some assumptions made in the comments above, I am not a pastor. And no I am not hiding from my past, but for the current situation I am not yet ready (in the opinion of my accountability persons) to go public with my name, at least in an online forum.

Overall, I want to say that the attack on sin, and the help we give, should dealt with on an individual basis, and sometimes that does not require the teacher or leader to be removed from his post. Porn, prostitutes, chat lines, voyeurism, and sex outside of marriage are all recognized by Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) as acting out behaviours. What I was saying is that we need to care for that individual, and the people he leads, offering a safe place to help him escape the path of sin. And I'm not advocating a cover-up, as some of you share in your experiences. Who knows how many pastors want to come clean about their sin, but the sin of pride and the expected "shotgun--take him out" attitudes make that coming out not so appealing? And then the addict just gets deeper on his own, rather than surfacing with the help of a rescue party.

If I may reply to a few of you who have been carrying on the conversation so far:

Bev: Yes, deliverance prayer is very welcome and has worked! I have seen that. But for those reasons where God does not provide that instant (or 3 week, Rachel--glad for you!) release, we still need to attack this struggle in ways that can also work.

Concerned: Yes I did find some of your comments to be hostile, especially as someone who has struggled, confessed, and largely overcome my porn addiction, and in the journey have met other men who have been "shotgun-sacrificed" in what becomes a purge by others. Condemnation gathers few sinners. And I appreciate the experience and work of Dr Laaper, and there are more resources out there. In my experience it helps to have counselling, resources, and an accountability group. It is hard to start or build a group for a sin that is so individual and shame-based, so a general group like SAA or a Christian SAA would be a good start.  

Shawn: Thank you for your comments. I think you do understand more what I am talking about.

Rachel: Wow, so much from you, and what experiences you have had--glad you still are fighting in God's team! I am not looking for forgiveness without accountability, by no means. What I want to see is seperate the sinner from his sin and help him not go back (filters, accountability groups & one-on-one partners, and continued vigilance), and as he dries up and lives soberly the desire to sin will diminish and trusts can be restored. And to answer your question on Feb 7, yes I did ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit and willingly followed the call of my flesh--but no longer. Yes, I too am amazed how long I kept that up. What was definitely absent was an immersing in the Word and submitting to God in all areas of my life.

As I say at my weekly meetings: I am "Alex", a follower of Christ, basking in His grace, and recovering porn addict. Thanks for letting me share.

beautiful, Rachel, bless your heart for sharing this very personal testimony... God's been emphasizing that scripture to me this year... we are new creations in Christ, the old is gone!  PTL!!

ok Shawn, I just read Keith's permission to broaden the discussion  =)... which I missed or it didn't catch my attention the first time I read that... 

So I do believe the root of many issues/addictions/sins is our lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.  I would love to see deliverance used for many who are struggling, because our whole awareness of the demonic realm, of spiritual warfare is very limited from my experience in the crc... almost anytime I even bring up the demonic, one of the first comments back is "well some people think there's a demon behind every bush", and to me it seems we might be at the the other extreme, that hey, this is America, they don't exist here.

and the gift of prophecy is something I'm desperate for in His Bride, and our crc as part of that Bride...  this is the key gift that edifies and builds up His Church.  Yes, unfortunately there has been lots of damage with the gift, but I believe that's because we don't know how to test and discern when someone shares an "alleged" word from the LORD.  Again, God is up front with us telling us, we will have to test them.

What if have found in my experience being involved in a local prayer center, is that for a substantial number of believers, time in prayer, worship and in the Word is limited... this was a statistic of 2000 spiritual leaders (sorry, I'm not picking on them, it's just the statistic that sticks in my mind), is that 95% of them spend less than 5 minutes a day in prayer.  Through involvement with the prayer center, we find this to be true at many levels.  Prayer is not valued in our "can do" society, and we/the Bride is suffering because we are not spending time with Jesus.   When the LORD stirred up my prayer life, it made night and day difference in my walk with Him.   That's also when I discovered the Holy Spirit at new levels, I never heard talked about in crc circles, or if the topic was brought up, the subject was quickly changed.  \

The good news is we have young adults in their 20's who do get prayer, and are spending 10-30 hours a week worshipping and crying out to Him.   We are seeing God move through various spheres of society in powerful ways and it's very exciting.  I have been involved with healing prayer ministries... this is something new for many in the crc, and we still have a lot to learn (and we might have to humble ourselves and  learn it from other denominations that have been walking in this much longer than we have).   I run into a lot of intellectual skepticism, but I also get to be encouraged when I find someone like minded who has experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in ways that can only be God.

Bev - you are a kindred spirit, a true sister in Christ. You are right on when you speak of the quenching of the Holy Spirit. The case I alluded to came out because of a prophetic word, I got involved because of prophetic dreams, and we both got thrown under the bus, labeled false prophets and such.  The gifts of the Spirit are still alive and well today.  If a church isn't experiencing it, then I think repentance is needed.  Read The Book is what I tell people.  Read the Bible for what it says, not what others tell you it says.

I sense that we are arguing in circles here. We have different views on who God is, what sin is, what healing is, etc. etc. etc.  Without defining the rules of engagement, as it were, we can talk, discuss and argue until He returns.  

Allow me to share part of my testimony, and perhaps it will give a different perspective on my "intolerance" of sin.  I grew up knowing about God and Jesus through a mom that hated the Catholic church yet adhered to their teachings.  to make a soap opera story short, after two marriages, two children, one of out wedlock and a string of boyfriends and yes, appetite for pornography, I cried out to the Lord in September of 1999, asking Him how long would I have to suffer for my sins, I was tired of my bad decisions from my past affecting new relationships in the present.  After crying it out for three weeks - repentance was very healing for me - while walking along the river where I lived, I stopped and suddenly "got it".  I finally understood, through the help of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was Lord, not Rachel, that if He was my all in all, my Rock, my Savior then I could start over. I understood that He took the punishment for my sins when He hung on the cross, the very embodiment of sin.  I was free!

I remember the day I got baptized - Sunday October 31, 1999, I felt like I was a bride preparing to get married to Jesus.  My demeanor changed. I was indeed a new creation.  A few weeks later I took a personality test to see what my gifts were for ministry, and I literally did not know how to answer the questions. I could answer how I used to be, but had no idea who I was. I asked the pastor leading the class, and he said to give it time, I was a new creation.  A happy day!

A few months later, I met a very charismatic woman who delivered me from various demonic stuff, and the pull of sexual immorality was all but completely removed.  I felt cleansed. She taught me a lot and I was equipped to fight should the temptation come up. And the temptations have, but less and less, and it's been easier and easier to resist.  The greatest tool for me is believing God is omniscient - there is nothing I can see or think that He doesn't know. Thus, I capture every thought to the obedience of Christ, and when my mind wanders, I recite Scripture, I praise Him, I do whatever it takes to get sinful thoughts out of my mind.

Am I perfect? Far from it.  Do I tolerate sin? No. Do I have compassion for those who sin and seek repentance? Absolutely. I am right there to walk a sister through a sexual addiction if she wants my help.  Would I be judgmental of her? Not if she is humble and repentant.  If she takes on the attitude that she is under grace and thus God "has" to forgive her, then she would get Scripture as a rebuttal. Gentle but firm.  But if a brother or sister is hard hearted, refusing to repent, or thinking it's ok because of grace, then 1Cor 5 teaches that we need to remove the person from fellowship until they repent. Later (my husband reminded me) that the man who was thrown out was forgiven and restored eventually.

Even though I am no longer a CRC member, I am a member of the Body of Christ and am willing to do my part in helping the Bride learn who she is in Christ, and how to have victory over all sin, not just this one.

His will be done.

Hello Everyone:

I just wanted to note that it may be tomorrow evening before I get to come back online.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to reading yoru responses. 

Stay blessed

Hello Bev:

Why do you believe the discussion needs to stay with Ministers and Porn only?  When discussing porn we easily move into discussing other sexualy imorrial sin so why can we not move from a Christian Minister to a Christian Man/Woman?  Is there a reason why you believe that we must seperate the individual which is affected by spiritual illness?    Thank you

 

Hello Anonymous:

Recognising that there are five of us participating in this conversation I wonder if you would expand on your comment "I think some of the write - ins lack solid  background into undersatnding  this subject" please.  

Thank you

so, is anyone interested in pursuing "deliverance" as a viable option?   has anyone ever tried this, whether or not it was succesful, or is dealing with these type of issues/sins primarily through "psychological" type intervention?

Is something holding us back on "deliverance'? 

If it seems I'm "singling" out spiritual leaders, it's because that is the point of this particular discussion... pastors with porn/lust/sexual immorality struggles... we're not discussing gossip/slander on this thread, we're not discussing lay people here, although these maybe should be discussed in some forum as well, but the point of this thread is pastors aka spiritual leaders and porn. 

Again, I go back to our walk with the Holy Spirit, or lack there of.   Does anyone agree, we might have missed something here?  or am i alone out in left field or beyond?  I believe this is part of the root issue why something like porn is such a significant problem.  But I'm open to being wrong...

I ask this respectfully, with the hope of having a sharpening discussion... iron sharpens iron, and we need to see if our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and His gifts (and I have encountered resistance to them), might be part of the problem.  Because if it is, and we're not willing to recognize that possibility... we're as good as dead... we can have a man run institution using our intellect and natural ability that we call the crc, but the life and power of the Spirit will not be in it if we are not willing to repent of where we have quenched Him.. we can even make it appear "successful" and "healthy" to some degree, but as we know, our denom. and others like us are dying... and we are still trying to figure out why. 

I apologize, if this seems strong, but to me it's the "white" elephant that needs to be discussed in the denom.    There is so much potential, if we are willing to walk much more fully in the Spirit and His gifts.

 

 

I think some of the write - ins lack solid  background into undersatnding  this subject.  There's also a posting that I recevied that you are not seeing on the post. ( I dont' know how that happened)  in my opinion, protecting pornography  = which I find a slack approach to this subject.

It's not hostile - maybe you're defensive.

Now I stop.

Ah yes, I am very familiar with the twisting of Scripture. One has to take in the whole counsel of God to have a hope of understanding it.  Twisting was used liberally at the case I have alluded to, and often is, in such situations. But you know that, as a counselor or advocate, am I correct?

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Concerned, I am concerned about your response. You are coming across almost hostile, and you jumped to a conclusion that is rather accusatory.  Am I reading you wrong?

Romans 12:4-9 "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."

2 Tim 3:16-17: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Taking a verse out of the context of the whole Bible can lead one to justify just about anything. That's why one has to read all of it, over and over again, reading it for understanding and application.  When one does that, with the help of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Truth that leads us into all truth, then we are much less likely to twist Scripture.  

No lone ranger Christians in my home. 

But what if a person interprets the BIble to say what he/she wants it to say?  Many have a verse and text that support any sin they want to do.  They keep twistng it - so they are off the hook about wrong doing. 

Is your nose in the BIble - your only interpretation - for what the Bible is saying? 

If so, skip church - get rid of the pastor, forget doctrine, throw out church leaders and teachers - because the only thing that counts is how you want to interpret what Scripture says.

It's risky when you become your own authority on what the BIble is saying. 

At the end of the day, the only view that matters on sin, is God's view.  He has given us His word, the Holy Bible, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to help us read it with understanding and wisdom. I believe we need nothing else.  it is indeed a spiritual issue. 

2 Cor 10:3-6."For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."  

James 3:1 "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness."

1 Cor 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

I need to keep my nose in the Bible, reading it for understanding and application. Ps 119:11 "I have hidden Your Word in my heart"  Why?  "so that I might NOT sin against You".

SEveral of these books are written from a Christian persepctive - these books are supported with what God's Word speaks about.  M. Laaser is a recovering sexual addict - did prostitution, porn, and other - while being a pastor and therapist. After getting professinal help, he started his clinic - faith based- where CRC pastors go  -  to help pastors work towards recovery from sexual addiction.

 

 

Start by reading these books:

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction            by Mark Laaser.

Shattered Vows             by Debbie Laaser.

THe Pornography Trap      by Ralph H. Earle and Mark Laaser

Out of the Shadows Understandng Sexual Addiction        by Patrick Carnes, PH. D

Addictive Thinking:  Understanding Self-deception           By;  A. Twerski, M.D.

This discussion is both a healthy one and a necessary one, and it points to a great diversity in thought about how we treat those involved in sin. As has been rightly pointed out, we are all involved in sin and there should not be a separate standard for church leaders involved in pornography and for church members involved in pornography.

The statistics just cited point to the widespread use of pornography, both within society and within the church community.

Question is: What are we as Church doing about it? Even though I began this discussion around the notion of creating a support group for pastors dealing with pornography, it seems as though the discusison needs to be broadened considerably.

What kind of study materials could/should be developed for youth groups, adult education and small groups to help local congregations deal with pervasive 'silent sin' within the body of believers?

Or do we deal with pornography as we deal with pre-marital sex, common law relationships, drug addiction, homosexuality, alcoholism; namely, sweep it under the rug or, at best, deal with each 'case' as they come up?

The Church has a natural tendency to react to issues when it is almost too late. It would be both innovative and creative to proactively develop resources and create suitable safe places where these issues can be discussed.

It seems to me that the discussion so far has centered on how these men and women who suffer in sin need to be removed from their positions regardless of the impact on their spouses and children; and little has been said about providing a safe place for confession, repentance and renewal in the Lord. 

From the description offered here of a Pastor who is taken with sin, the non-Christian reading this would reason that we served an impotent God. 

They have violated their role as Pastors, have no integrity, are deceptive and are hypocrites.  They have deep rooted childhood issues, blame others, deny, avoid and they think they are “special”.  They are adulterers, narcissistic and they defile their office and they must be removed.

Is this truly how we believe God, our heavenly father sees a Pastor who is struggling with sin?  Do we truly believe that this is how He would have us treat his appointed?  These comments describing a Minister are much more a worldly view of psychological and Freudian thought on addiction and “deep rooted childhood issues”.  We as Christians need to speak to the spiritual issues and we need to speak with the power of Christ Jesus.

As to the question of whether or not we need support groups for Pastors as a select group, I say no.  A spiritual illness in a Pastor is no different than a spiritual illness in any follower of Christ.  To separate people based on position in the church just feeds the false premise that there is a shame or blame associated with spiritual illness.   I believe we need support groups with a Christ centered approach for Christians as a whole who are suffering from spiritual illness.  Pornography is just one vice in a myriad of sins which thrive in our Christian community today and this needs to be a concern for all Christians.   

I do not accept porn addiction as a physical or psychological illness but as a spiritual illness.  It is the manifestation of self, secrecy and isolation that forms an obsession which is then built upon and fortified by Satan through the vise of fear. 

The latest studies show that in the United States alone, pornography was a 16.3 billion dollar industry.  World wide it is a $107.6 billion dollar industry.

     One in every four internet users enters a pornography site daily in the United States.

     Every second - 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.

     There are 181 Million websites with the “XXX” in its title.

     The demographics on internet search terms such as “sex, group sex and sex chat” are 50/50 in the gender category. 

The numbers tell us that it is not an issue for our Pastors solely.  It is a spiritual issue that is decimating the Christian community because we choose to be blind to the realities of pornography and simply remove the offending individual rather than speak truth into their lives and into our own at the same time. 

The reality is that the only ones being removed are those who are caught in their sin or those who ask for help.  The vast majority of those suffering in this particular sin are sitting in the pews each week terrified that they will be found out, persecuted and rejected.  They are the everyday Christian who not only battle a sinful life of porn obsession; but live with the constant fear that if they confess and reach out for help; the very people who they need to support them would be the people who would turn them away. 

When Jesus met the lady at the well in Samaria did he call her a tramp?  Did he tell her she would never change her ways. That she was unforgiveable?  When the crowds gathered stones to slay the adulteress in the streets did Jesus say go ahead…. she will not overcome her sin or that she will never be good enough to walk with me?   I and my father are powerless to help her?

We are talking as if God is defeated by spiritual illness….  

Sorry, my comment got posted before I was finished and I couldn't delete it (so I have to do this way by leaving a remnant)

Appreciate your thoughts and confirmation, Rachel...  and your prayers on behalf of His Bride.  We are being called to "prepare the Bride".  He is calling us to a renewed level of holiness...

I think the reason sexual immorality dba lust, etc. is mentioned so often in the Bible, is because it will be one of the biggest struggles for believers (I have heard statitistics of 50-80% of spiritual leaders struggle with porn, and almost 40% of the 1050 pastors polled in one survey have had an extra marital affair)...  and because this call to purity is repeated over and over there should be no denying that purity, particularly sexual, is a universal call of holiness to all believers.  There should be no question for believers, because sexual immorality is mentioned again and again.  So instead of hiding it, we need to be honest about it, in the appropriate time and place as led by the Spirit.   When it is "confessed" to one another(James 5:16), the confession brings healing.  The Spirit will help us confess in a way that will bring healing, not hurt, if we follow Him, are in step with Him, and don't do it our own way aka lean on our own understanding.  But we need to be "listening" and aware of His promptings for that to happen.

I have a theory on one possible reason why spiritual leaders struggle with this and end up having affairs, because we often confuse the power of the Spirit that is in us ( a spiritual connection between believers, which can be very powerful especially if they are on the same wave of the Spirit), with a physical attraction.    One of the most profound insights I have found  was from Mary Geegh's - God Guides book (Mary was a single lady who served as a missionary in India in the 1930'-50's), on pg 21-22  and she shares how she was strongly drawn to some spiritual leaders and she called it an "attachment", so one time she had to "confess" her "attachment" and what the leader shared was that it was Christ in that person that she was drawn to, so to see Jesus/His Spirit in the person instead of "idolizing" the person.  Hope that makes sense, at least from a female perspective...

Another testimony that I found very powerful was one from Jack Hayford... I found it in an article he wrote on praying in tongues =)... actually there were 2 relevant paragraphs in it... here's the link just in case someone wants to read the entire article  =) !! 

but here's a couple of excerpts relating to struggles with lust...

http://www.tgm.org/hayfordOnTongues.html 

3. Though I speak with tongues, I am a fallible person.

Perhaps few accusations are more unfounded than the oft-quoted criticism of people who claim a new experience of the Spirit's fullness: "They think they're better than everyone else!"

Within the circle of my associations, nothing could be further from the real feelings of charismatic believers: We do not feel we are better than other Christians, but we do feel we are better Christians than we were before.

A genuine work of the Holy Spirit at any dimension in a human soul will inevitably deepen our perspective on Christ's character and Christian purity. This will bring a progressive humility with a heightened awareness of sin and a greater readiness to confess and renounce it.

The truly Spirit-filled experience will more than likely align with Christ's experience: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Matt. 4:1). Spirit-fullness is a pathway to a more direct conflict with our adversary than before. So a person who chooses to move into the Spirit-filled exercise of spiritual language should be characterized by more dependence on the Lord--not less.

The realm of spiritual vitality is the realm of spiritual warfare. They're the same arena. And any notion of infallibility needs to be dashed to the ground because it's the surest way to fail: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

Perhaps the greatest battle of my spiritual life took place at a time I had made my deepest commitment to move in the realm of the Spirit's fullness. Early in my ministry, though my marriage was strong and my commitment to Christ was solid, I slowly but definitely began to find myself in an emotional entrapment. My involvement with a woman of equal dedication evolved into an affinity that in time moved from friendship to a near- adulterous infatuation.

During those dark days of a temptation to which I never surrendered, I wrestled long in prayer against the emotional tentacles seeking to drag me into sin. I would often cry out to God, frequently with surges of the spiritual language gushing forth in intercession for my own helplessness. It is to the praise of God's grace that I was spared the loss of my integrity, my marriage, my ministry--my life!  

 

6. Though I speak with tongues, I am a sinful person.

To acknowledge this is neither to build a case for future carnal intent nor to argue for a casual indifference toward sin. It's simply to state what should be obvious: No spiritual experience renders any of us above the touch of sin or beyond its reach.

The Holy Spirit has been given to make us holy--it's His first name! But His sanctifying presence, as powerful as it may be to assist me in resisting sin's efforts at invading my life, is only as purifying as my will is to let Him have full sway. In writing a group of people he addresses as Spirit-filled (Gal. 3:2), the apostle Paul points out the way to ensure a walk of holiness: "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things you wish" (Gal. 5:16-17, emphasis mine).

A few years before his death, Pentecostal leader David du Plessis was asked a very pointed question by a young man: "Dr. du Plessis, could you tell me about how old I'll be when improper thoughts--especially about women--won't tempt my mind any longer?"

Dear David, whose fidelity to the truth was legendary, looked squarely into the eyes of the young man. "Son," said the 80-year-old minister, "when I get that old I'll let you know!"

There's something about the honesty of that response that commends the greatness of a leader who felt no constraint to pretend piety.

Only in heaven, and ultimately in our resurrected bodies, will there be no potential handle for sin to manipulate us. Until then, "walking in the Spirit" is the pathway to purity, and it is certain that a daily walk of ceaseless prayer in the Spirit can only contribute to that sin-mastering way of life.  eoq

maybe the struggle with porn is different, the only experience I have was from inadvertantly and unsuspectingly opening a porn site a few years ago.   I don't know what it was for sure, but it felt like a demonic force literally hit me, and then I struggled with lust and the tempation to go to that site again, for the next day and a half, like i'd never encountered before.   I listened to praise music constantly and lifted up the name of Jesus,  until whatever it was lifted.  All i can say was that experience was probably on of the most bizarre I've had, definitely not normal. 

so t 

 

 

 

Bev, you bring up excellent points and I agree with you.  The one sin that is unforgivable is blaspheme of the Holy Spirit.  When one attributes His work to the devil, that is what one is guilty of.  This has given me pause many times.

You ask the question how is struggling with porn any different than practicing homosexuality?  I don't see a difference in the Bible, it all falls under the heading of sexual immorality.  As it says in Acts 15:28-29 "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality..." If you go to an on-line Bible and search sexual immorality, it comes up a lot, and it is no be avoided in no uncertain terms.  The church as followed the world on the slippery slope of immorality, and it is justified under the umbrella of grace!  Heaven forbid!

hmmm... I would love to see deliverance used as a tool to free these believers in the crc...  I've heard/read many testimonies of where a person's desire for alchohol, smoking, whatever sin dba addiction it might be was immediately and completely gone.   just haven't heard of these in the crc context that I recall...

one of my questions is, how is struggling with porn ("practicing" lust) any different than homosexuality?  We aren't open to having  practicing homosexuals in leader positions, so why would practicing lustful leaders be different?

I'm not saying God can't use these leaders, because in a very small percentage (0-1%), He does work through people that would be the last ones we, in our limited understanding would expect.  But that is rare, and unfortunately, probably most spiritual leaders think they are the "special" one.

I just listened to a message on how traditional churches have limited/quenched/grieved the Holy Spirit.   Sadly, I could relate to it far too well from my own experience with church.  I believe that's why our conservative type churches are struggling/dying... we don't know how to walk in step with His Holy Spirit, other than mainly for conviction of sin which the more we ignore Him, the quieter and  less often we will hear that conviction from Him...  we denied His gifts for centuries, we denied His voice other than through scripture, and now don't know how to use them or even how to recognize and test them.   Even now, when I bring up "listening prayer" aka the gift of prophecy, it is often treated with disdain and skepticism within our denomination.  Yes, there are valid concerns surrounding this gift,  because God even warns us that we will have to test it (I John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:19-22)  , but we are in danger of despising the gift of prophecy if we don't learn how to biblically test and discern and pursue prophecy.  I believe the gift of prophecy is a key gift for the Church, and we desperately need it to get His Bride ready.  We HAVE to get this and EAGERLY pursue it, not just acknowledge it, but EAGERLY desire it, because I don't even want to think about what will happen if we don't start walking in this gift that He gives us on behalf of His Bride.  It's like burying the coin/gift in the dirt or worse.

I believe when we start walking more fully in this gift we will see immediate deliverance for many, we will see drastic change in the level of faith in our congregations; the apathy, unbelief, fear, unholiness, etc.  will disappear to a significant degree, and there will be a new boldness as we walk in the power of His Spirit.

 Oh, God, may it be so...  for Your glory and our good!

 

 

 

I agree that Jesus died for all sins, Shawn - however, I was referring to a pastor who is actively in the addiction.  I'm referring to people who have a habitual sin issue, whatever it may be, and think they are getting away with it, until they are caught, then expect forgiveness and love.  That's not what I read in the Bible.  When we sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin immediately.  Upon that conviction, we confess and repent, receive His forgiveness and move on.  It's when the cycle of sin, repent, receive forgiveness happens over and over and over again  (for the same sin) that it looks like a habit of sinning. The Bible teaches that we are to not make a practice of sinning - 1 John 2 addresses this. What I see in churches today are human reasonings not biblical obedience to how we are supposed to handle sin amongst us.  We need to raise the standard to where God set it.  Not make allowances or excuses for those who continue a practice of sinning.  We are to practice righteousness and holiness according to what I read in the Bible.  And yes, forgiveness and grace also.

If a congregation responds in disdain and unforgiveness, then there are other issues going on also, I would say.

It's one thing to to have porn show up in your inbox, you open it up not paying attention, get sucked into it for a moment, then shut it down in disgust, and confess it to the congregation and/or to God in repentanc,e, and know better next time.  It's a whole other thing when the pastor has been struggling and fighting the porn addiction since childhood, and gets caught, and tries to negotiate so it doesn't go to the elders or congregation and is basically forced to either confess or step down.  THAT'S what I'm talking about.  

When I read the email that was quoted above, apparently from a pastor that has struggled with porn since he was a teen, and I have to ask myself, was he ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit?  Why?  For the healing side of it, I don't see him suggesting to others that one must submit to God, resist the devil, and the devil will flee.  God is a God of deliverance, yet I don't hear about that as a strategy.  A little leaven spoils the whole lump. We need to have zero tolerance from immorality. We women need to dress modestly so we don't provoke the men.  Cable subscriptions need to be canceled, maybe internet connections at home too. We need to guard our hearts and minds! Every person who bears the mark of Jesus in his spirit out to stand out amongst the heathen. We are to be in and not of the world.  

Grace has become defined so broadly that righteousness and holiness are being call legalism. 

 """"       

As to the question of "How can a porn addict present a spotless Bride to our Lord Jesus Christ?” the answer is quite simple…. He or she does it because Christ Jesus died for the sin of porn addiction the same as he died for the sin of contempt. 

The idea that a Pastor or leader can not have or should not have sinned is why many men and women suffer from addictions (sin) in secrecy.  The distained and unforgiveness of the congregation is often too hateful to expect a Pastor or Leader to come forward and admit to his/her sins.  The fact remains that these are men and women who are called to Pastor or Lead and as such, they too have human failings.  They are as susceptible to sin as you and I are.

Providing a safe place for a person to disclose sinful behaviour is not providing a place for them to negate their responsibility it is providing what Christ has asked of us but that which most of us as congregants refuse to provide.  Forgiveness and love as Christ did for us.   

I agree more with Concerned than with the email that was sent to you.  I too was involved in a church cover-up over pornography and sexual immorality.  The person was caught, tried to weasel his way out of it, then proceeded to tell facts in such a way that it deceived the congregation when the elders asked him to make public confession, which he did. Council got involved in the cover up too.  Maybe this is a much larger issue than CRC thinks it is.  What I want to know is, where is righteousness in all this? Are we not called to righteousness?  Eph 5:3 - "But sexual immorality and all impurity or coveteousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints."  This is for all saints, not just leadership.  2 Cor 5 opens with "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you..."  I could go on, but my point is, we have the Bible as our standard and we need to live up to it. The Holy Spirit in us is how we can live righteously and in holiness.  When will CRC hold pastors and council and members of the church to the standard outlined in the Bible?  We are to seek after righteousness, not grace. We are to live righteous and holy lives.  

During the debacle at my previous church (my husband and I have since left and gone to another denomination), I kept hearing "we are not under law, we are under grace" over and over again.  I wished I had responded with Hebrews 10 starting at v 26: For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses [read we are not under law] dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of Grace? [read we are under grace]

The other thing I kept hearing was, what about forgiveness? Of course he is forgiven.  For if we don't forgive, we aren't forgiven according to the Lord's Prayer.  But does the offender still get to be in leadership?  What about the qualification for elder - which would include everyone on council and all pastors - Titus 1:6 - the husband of but one wife (when a man lusts after a woman with his eyes, he has committed adultery with her)  v 8: ... be self-controlled - habitual viewing of pornography is not an example of exercising self control.  What about teachers, which a pastor is, being held to a higher standard?  Again, I could go on and on.

In the email, I assume it was a pastor that wrote it, he wanted privacy to deal with the issue, and what about job protection? At the risk of sounding harsh, he should have thought about those things before the pornography entered his life. And if the pornography viewing stemmed from childhood or from his teenage years, then how in the heck did he make it into a pastoralship??  This is not about employment, folks, this is about having holy and righteous pastors leading and caring and teaching the Bride of Christ!  How  can a porn addict present a spotless Bride to our Lord Jesus Christ?

I have no problem using my name in this forum, I have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. That which is done in the dark will be exposed to the light.  Your sins will find you out.  

Harsh? Merciless?  Lacking in grace towards a fellow brother?  I can see where you may think that.  But when I read the Word of God, sure seems to me HE doesn't have tolerance for sexual immorality either.  Not even a little.  

Let me add one more thing.  If the internet the main source of the temptation, then get rid of it.  If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, better to lose the hand than the whole body.  We lived without the internet just fine for millenia.  We can do it agan.

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