Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Get saved, baptized, join a church, sign a contract?

Life is complicated these days, ecclesiastically speaking. Used to be you trusted your pastor, your pastor trusted his church, members trusted the church leadership. OK, so  that's an idealized picture of church life which as we all know hasn't been all sweetness and light.

So sue me.

And that's the issue. Do we need legal contracts between pastor and church, church member and the church leadership or church legal entity?

Two of my fav blogs are Tom Rich's Jacksonville Watchdog and two ladies, Dee and Deb, Wartburg Watch. I have found that they do a much better job than I do on some matters that interest me, and church conflict interests me.

The links above will take you to articles on member covenant/contracts. The interest Rich and the Blog Queens (their self-description) have in this is the increasing number of examples of spiritual abuse in churches.

By that I mean churches and church leadership taking legal steps to silence critics (Rich has a long story here, ending in an apology from his church). Dee and Deb have similar stories, sans the lawsuit.

Join a church, a nurturing fellowship of followers of Christ? You bet. But, here, you must sign this membership covenant/contract. Follow the links above and read the harsh legalese.

Yeah, I know. There are anti-church and anti-pastor blogs and Facebook pages. Would Jesus say of these, "Turn the other cheek" or "Sue the miscreants"? (Most SBCers still don't cuss.) Or, is it now, "They will know you are Christians by your iron clad, air tight contracts"?

Then there are the pastors who insist on an employment contract. A bit more understandable but still...is this necessary?

Then there are the confidentiality agreements. Join the church. Sit in the pew. Give us your money. And shut up...or we will sue you.

I once invited a music guy to church. He sent me a contract that included a number of perquisites, like a chilled Diet Coke. I told him we would love to have him but maybe he could come as a brother in Christ with the goal of sharing worship not squeezing perks out of us.

First kill all the church lawyers. Shakespeare, I think. If he only knew.


Christiane said...

scary stuff!

Dee said...

We are amongst your favorites? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

These examples and Bart Barber's recent thoughts on developing a marriage contract leads one to wonder about the new generation of leadership that is emerging in conservative religious institutions. No doubt these individuals wish to improve the circumstances of all they encounter, but their methods are not very respecting of the individuals they apparently seek to influence.

Ed T. said...

Interesting, William. Reminds me somewhat of a less offensive agreement that was pejoratively labeled a "loyalty oath" that came out not long after I left a previous church.

Nothing of a legal nature, but giving that the timing of the agreement was during a church split, I found it stupid for the leadership to basically reinforce the perception of the dissenters with such a tactic at the time.

However, I do think there is a confidentiality agreement now in force for the staff at said church, but not sure what it entails. It may apply just for those exiting employment there, but still a matter of concern. I consider it to be a "CYA" thing for the church than anything necessary.

Lydia said...

I do believe the Wartburg Watch even had a lawyer friend who posted a process for extracating oneself from one of these "covenants", legally so the church has no recourse to say you are a member so can't talk. If you are a member you are still bound to the "covenant". And only they can say if you left properly or not. Seems you might have to get the elders approval to leave according to their definition of "proper".

Yes, it is an unbrave new world.