It has all the markings of a hollywood epic. In fact, rumors are that a movie will indeed be forthcoming on the saga of Marian Guinn and the Collinsville Church of Christ in Oklahoma. It ought to be an R-rated winner—for mature audiences only. It has sex, religion, and law all rolled up in a tense clash between church and state, complete with defiant sin and a nagging church.

News accounts have well told the central story. When the leaders of the Collinsville Church of Christ heard reports that Marian Guinn, a long-time church member, was having an affair with former town mayor Pat Sharp, they confronted her repeatedly and urged her to break off the relationship. Finally, they warned her in a letter dated September 21, 1981, that unless she publicly repented they would follow the mandate of Matthew 18 and “tell it to the church.”

Guinn did not deny any of their allegations, but insisted “it was none of their business.” On September 24, 1981, she wrote the church:

“I do not want my name mentioned before the church except to tell them I withdraw my membership immediately! I have never accepted your doctrine and never will. Anything I told was told in confidence and not meant for anyone else to hear. You have no right to get up and say anything against me in church.… I have no choice but … to attend another church, another denomination! Where men do not set themselves up as judges for God. He does his own judging.”

Nevertheless, the church proceeded, and three days later the congregation was read a letter asking them to contact Guinn about the “condition of her soul” and giving her a week (or until Oct. 4) to repent. On October 5, 1981, and in a subsequent letter to the congregation, the church was read Scriptures believed to have ...

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