Abuse or Discipline?

Thank you for the excellent review of Ronald Enroth’s book on abusive churches [Churches That Abuse; Books, Aug. 17]. This is timely; there is no shortage of evidence that spiritual abuse is a real problem in a number of North American churches.

However, in my experience the opposite problem (little or no true church discipline) is at least as common. I was left wondering how the author would have us understand what constitutes “proper exercise of discipline.” In our desire to prevent abuse, let us beware of falling into the opposite error. We need a truly balanced, biblical look at the issue of church discipline. While intimidation has no place in the body of Christ, there is a crying need for exercise of true, godly, compassionate discipline in today’s church.

Rev. Peter Hartgerink

Ottawa, Ont., Canada

There could have been more focus on abusive churches in conventional evangelical circles. I am a former victim of such abuse by a church well-known in its area; it was that façade that enabled the abuse to carry on as long as it did. An assistant pastor sexually and emotionally abused me, in and out of counseling, with the threat that if I told anyone he would make sure I was ostracized. Telling the senior pastor and elders caused me to be disciplined in a secret meeting against church rules.

Hopefully, [other] Christians will become more discerning as time passes, and won’t have to learn the hard way, as I did, that there are evangelical churches that abuse in the name of the gospel.

L. Barrett Powell

Fairfield, Conn.

Apparently Enroth has included only churches that abuse their people (certainly sad and wrong), but not churches that abuse their pastors (probably more prevalent). The title of the book warrants both perspectives.

Also, the reviewer uses the Reformation as a standard to judge or measure pure preaching. Since when has anything other than the Word of God been the standard for judgment or measure?

Pastor Van Gale

Praise Fellowship Church

Carol Stream, Ill.

I was shocked to see the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod listed as an abusive organization. I went on a clergy retreat at the COJ in 1991 and concluded that this community is a model of Christian unity and a lighthouse for a nation and church more enveloped by secularism every year. I feel Enroth’s hearsay-based case study of the COJ should alert a reader to approach any of his conclusions with caution.

I wonder how Enroth would handle the “authoritarian” John Wesley who expelled 64 people from a Methodist society, some for “minor” infractions like quarreling, idleness, and “lightness and carelessness”? Or what would he say about a charismatic religious leader who insisted his personnel go on an extended mission without money, adequate clothing, or even food (Matt. 10:9–10)? Sounds like someone inflicting spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse on unwary followers to me!

Article continues below

Pastor Jonathan Massey

Community United Methodist Church

Avondale, Ariz.

Human values are not God’s

In your editorial “American Babel” [Aug. 17], you used many words to enforce your position that Christianity should be reconciled with the world. Your premise that “truly human values are God’s values” is scripturally false, and blasphemy. The whole point of the cross was that man’s “time-tested traditions,” which you put on the same level as the wisdom of the Bible, cannot uphold law or values.

I do not deny the dilemma of Christians often trying to force Christianity on the nonbeliever. In an effort to thwart that particular movement you have, in essence, stated: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. There is a way: It is to stand in Christ and his Word.

Mrs. Melissa Maschler

Woodland Hills, Calif.

Worship On, Dudes!

Our pastor recently bemoaned our monocultural, monolingual congregation. “If every knee shall bow and if every tongue shall confess,” he exhorted, “then let us today invite people of strange customs and strange languages to become a part of our worship life.”

Feeling convicted, we decided to make our service multicultural. So we invited the youth group to lead worship.

The homogeneous-unit-principle lobby considered us fools. “You’re kicking against the principle!” they chorused. The moderates, myself included, wondered, “Couldn’t we pick a group with whom we have more in common, like Canadians—or Pakistanis?” But the multiculturalists won.

The first Sunday, we were met by a beaming usher in a Wayne’s World T-shirt and with gaping holes in her jeans. She greeted us with a goofy smile: “Worship on, Dudes.”

“Worship on what?” my wife whispered as we sat down.

“I’m not sure,” I replied, “but let’s keep an open mind.”

After the hymns and the offering (a concession to the conservatives), we heard a strange but vaguely familiar story about “Robo-babe Rahab,” who was “bodacious,” which the preacher kindly translated: “You know, like gnarly.”

At any rate, we were told that we could count on a “totally amazing excellent” God when things in our lives got “extreme” or, as the preacher again translated: “Like, when you become mental.”

Article continues below

After the benediction (“Party on!”), I told my bewildered wife that culture shock is a good experience, ultimately.

At the next board meeting, the multiculturalists suggested we install headphones in every pew, to offer to all who needed it simultaneous translation. The elders decided that too many people needed it, that we couldn’t afford it, and that the experiment should be put on hold until we could figure out a cheap way to overcome the language barrier.

My wife says we’ll be waiting a long time.


I was delighted to see the communitarians described in positive terms in the editorial. As an evangelical with moderate political viewpoints, I have found the thoughtfulness of the communitarian perspective refreshing. Those concerned about civic virtue, as well as economic and social justice, may find a political home here.

Kathryn A. Lee, Chair

Department of Political Science

Seattle Pacific University

Seattle, Wash.

Tobacco a more serious problem

I was grateful for Richard Cizik’s Speaking Out editorial, “It’s Time to Bite the Silver Bullet” [Aug. 17]. He is right to call for self-examination by church groups that accept funds from the legalized drug dealers that produce beer and other alcoholic products, and to point out how this legalized drug causes three times more deaths and more suffering than illegal drugs. One wonders why so many church groups are silent about such a major problem.

But Cizik is wrong when he says “alcohol is the nation’s number-one drug problem.” President Reagan’s highly respected surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, has written in his memoirs that “smoking is associated with more death and illness than drugs, alcohol, automobile accidents and AIDS combined.” Tobacco smoking causes over 1,000 premature deaths every day in the United States alone, accounting for up to one-quarter of all annual deaths.

As in the case of alcohol, Christians need to support legislation to increase substantially taxes on tobacco products. The increased price of tobacco will discourage its use and save lives.

Pastor Bruce P. Gillette

First Presbyterian Church

Sussex, N.J.

Mike Warnke’s “ministry”

I was interested to read your News report on the claims against Mike Warnke [Aug. 17]. I, for one, think Warnke should leave the ministry and withdraw his material from the market.

While he may have evidence to support his claims, it is noteworthy that he offers none, even in a 12-page written response. What he does offer are excuses and reasons that violate every rule of formal logic. Calling his second wife a “temptress,” and criticizing Cornerstone for talking to her, is nothing more than an attempt to discredit a witness by questioning her character. And claiming that “many people continue to support” his ministry and that it is an “appeal to the people” is a logical fallacy. Remember, some people continue to support Hitler!

Article continues below

I hope CT will continue to look for the facts and share the findings.

Neal F. Cox

Joplin, Mo.

I am greatly disappointed that your magazine would print “rumor” concerning Mike Warnke. You need to realize the damage these types of stories can do even if they are proven to be false at a later date. We Christians need to be careful not to pass on gossip.

Linda Pyle

Stephenson, Mich.

Misleading caption

CT’s News article on the Earth Summit [July 20] carried a picture captioned: “Spiritual smorgasbord: Dalai Lama with Amazon Indians at a WCC-sponsored meeting.” The caption is totally inaccurate and seriously misleading.

The World Council of Churches hosted a major meeting during the Earth Summit that gathered together 175 people representing over 70 denominations and churches from 52 different countries. The meeting concluded with an all-night prayer vigil and sunrise service on Pentecost morning, June 7. The participants drafted and sent a “Letter to the Churches,” giving their message of Christian discernment, encouragement, and hope to the global church community in response to the Earth Summit. It was not a “spiritual smorgasbord,” but a distinctly Christian response. Those in the picture did not participate in this WCC meeting.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson

World Council of Churches

Geneva, Switzerland

CT regrets printing the caption, which was taken from an inaccurate news service report.


Rebuking Holocaust revisionism

The denial of the Holocaust—that 6 million Jews were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis—is both immoral and unchristian. It is a shame CT chose to give Mark Weber, an ardent “Holocaust revisionist,” almost two columns in the Letters section of May 18. Would CT give such space to defenders of abortion on demand or proponents of homosexual marriage? Holocaust revisionism is just as heinous and indefensible.

Contrary to Weber’s claim that “Those unable to win an argument with the facts characteristically resort to name-calling” in his criticism of the CT editorial by Richard Pierard [Mar. 9], it is the facts that are totally against the revisionist position. That is why revisionists are rightly castigated as “evil perpetrators of the ‘ultimate Big Lie.’ ” Denial of the Holocaust is the epitome of anti-Semitic libels.

Article continues below

As for the pseudo-scholarship of the revisionists, one example will suffice. Weber refers to the “British historian David Irving.” Irving is actually a radical right-wing journalist whose libelous writings have twice landed him in court cases. Each time, he lost.

The fact of the Holocaust is no more controversial than the fact of the American slave trade. Both events happened, and both are shameful chapters of history. It is incumbent upon Christians today to fight against the dehumanizing and hate-filled conditions that made such horrific crimes possible. That is why Holocaust revisionism must be soundly rebuked.

Michael L. Brown

Messiah Biblical Institute

and Graduate School of Theology

Gaithersburg, Md.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.