Wall Street Journal: Showing Doug Phillips Grace in the Public Eye

[Update: One of the pastors who was interviewed for this article, Hershael York, has written about how his interview was taken out of context.  That is one of the reasons I refused to do an interview in the first place.  Whether the interviewer took my position or Doug’s position out of context, neither possibility was acceptable to me.]

I mentioned earlier that the Wall Street Journal had contacted me to tell my story about Doug Phillips. I refused to tell my story to the public, considering this to be a church matter, so they chose a different story, but wrote an article on the recently renewed practice of church discipline and shunning. Here are a few quotes from the article, but I highly encourage you to go read the entire article, by clicking on the title below.

Banned From Church
Reviving an ancient practice, churches are exposing sinners and shunning those who won’t repent.

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. “And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P.”

Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff’s officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.

The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey’s real offense, in her pastor’s view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he’d charged her with spreading “a spirit of cancer and discord” and expelled her from the congregation. “I’ve been shunned,” she says.

Her story reflects a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent. While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.

Scholars estimate that 10% to 15% of Protestant evangelical churches practice church discipline — about 14,000 to 21,000 U.S. congregations in total. Increasingly, clashes within churches are spilling into communities, splitting congregations and occasionally landing church leaders in court after congregants, who believed they were confessing in private, were publicly shamed.

In the past decade, more than two dozen lawsuits related to church discipline have been filed as congregants sue pastors for defamation, negligent counseling and emotional injury, according to the Religion Case Reporter, a legal-research database.

Courts have often refused to hear such cases on the grounds that churches are protected by the constitutional right to free religious exercise, but some have sided with alleged sinners. In 2003, a woman and her husband won a defamation suit against the Iowa Methodist conference and its superintendent after he publicly accused her of “spreading the spirit of Satan” because she gossiped about her pastor. A district court rejected the case, but the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the woman’s appeal on the grounds that the letter labeling her a sinner was circulated beyond the church.

(Quoted with permission.)

5 Responses to “Wall Street Journal: Showing Doug Phillips Grace in the Public Eye”

  1. Wall Street Journal on Church Discipline, Excommunication, Baptist Ban - WSJ | SBC Voices Says:

    […] Wall Street Journal: Showing Doug Phillips Grace in the Public Eye On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former … […]

  2. CD-Host Says:

    Jen —

    Anyway… I just wanted to say a public goodbye. I think the whole anti-patriarchy was a lot better under your leadership.

    Also, as an aside or advice regarding this article, I’d recommend you post a link and not repost the story in full. Newscorp and Dow Jones both have a long record of sueing for copyright violation. They are unlikely to sue you but WordPress might overreact to a letter from Newscorp and that’s a mess best avoided.

  3. Jen Says:

    CD — goodbye? I’m sorry to see you go. You are always welcome at my site. I hope you know that.

    I did link to the WSJ article; it is in the title of the article. Also, I wrote to them and asked permission to post this much of the article. I am assuming they gave me permission because they posted a link to my blog on their online version. But I do appreciate the advice. I had given that same advice to Doug a couple times when he posted syndicated articles without permission. 🙂

  4. CD-Host Says:

    Jen —

    Thanks I know I’m welcome and I appreciate it. Basically it has to do with what’s happened to anti-patriarchy since it has moved over to TrueWomanhood. I’d been upset about a change in attitude, The change was from men and woman working together to help people of both sexes break free from legalism to a woman’s only movement which really just says bad stuff but doesn’t seem to have a particular goal. And then one of my red lines got crossed (article). Moreover, I personally had sinned, violating a core principle of my blog — use of the best sources — because I was trying to stay at least somewhat connected.

    I can understand the desire for a much broader audience and that’s a mark of success and Lynn, Cindy, Corrie, Karen…. deserve to be proud of that. They are successfully delegitimizing patriarchy within the home-schooling movement and that’s a huge accomplishment. And you deserve credit for incubating the success.

    I think I’m starting to ramble. So anyway, I wanted to go on record that what I was accusing anti-patriarchy of is something that did not happen under your leadership or even involve you of this blog. Otherwise people might assume the opposite. Does that make sense?


    As far as WSJ please feel free to ignore this is just meant as friendly advice nothing more:
    I would say “quoted with permission” at the top or the bottom of the quote. If you have good reason to honestly believe you have license and are mistaken generally all you are liable for would be the revenue associated with the use of the article, which in your case is $0; or their loss of revenue which is also probably in the same neighborhood. Moreover it shields wordpress since you are making an assertion of license. Newscorp would then have to prove WordPress had good reason to suspect the assertion or license might be false which is a very high burden that Newscorp won’t be able to meet.

  5. Jen Says:

    CD, I answered you regarding this on your own blog, but I did want to state here that I do think you are painting with too broad a brush. You have basically “stepped off the bus” because some others were using, quite liberally, logical fallacies such as guilt by association. I understand your exasperation in that. However, I do believe you are reacting with the exact same logical fallacy by exiting the conversation altogether. It would actually do more good, I believe, to get back on track on my blog and continue to set the example, which is exactly what I plan on doing.

    Thanks again for the advice; I made the change. Thanks for looking out for me on that!

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