The “Sin” of Anonymous Blogging?

March 21, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Last night I got to thinking about how one of the main criticisms of this blog is that people are permitted to post here anonymously. 

For some reason, the “Powers That Be” within Sovereign Grace Ministries have decided that anything communicated anonymously is sinful.

Now, I can understand why, where relationships are concerned, anonymity can cause problems.  For instance, in a true “Matthew 18” situation (one in which “your brother [not an organization, not a system of thought, not a large group of people, but a brother] has sinned against you”) , it is biblical and productive to go to that specific individual and address that person’s offense face to face.  In such a case, speaking out anonymously would not be so godly, helpful, or appropriate.

But most of the situations discussed here on Sovereign Grace Survivors do not involve mere individuals.  Most of the situations discussed here involve people who have been “offended” (hurt, disillusioned, disfellowshipped) by an organization, by the organization’s teachings and rigid, graceless system of doing things.  

More importantly, for the situations to truly be made right, an entire system – the SGM system of thinking and of leadership structure – would need to change.   It would not be enough for Pastor X to ring up Ex-Member Y on the phone and express his sincere regret for whatever happened.  Sure, that might be nice.  But most “Ex-Member Ys” have moved way beyond caring about “nice” and really don’t have much of a desire for such a personal, one-on-one apology.  Plus, in the majority of the stories shared on this site, the people who had the bad experiences with SGM have already attempted to address these issues on a more personal, one-on-one basis, and essentially got nowhere, except to be shown the door.

People are discussing their bad SGM experiences on this site not because they wish, for the very first time, to inform their offenders (for lack of a better term) of what they did wrong.  No.  Rather, people are discussing their bad SGM experiences here in order to provide illustrations for what they believe needs to change within the SGM system, so that SGM leaders can take note and make the appropriate changes and can avoid hurting more people in the same old ways.

Matter of fact, most folks who comment here have moved on completely from Sovereign Grace Ministries (or PDI, as it used to be known a few years ago).  Most have found new church homes and a measure of healing.  And almost ALL our commenters would expressly say that they want nothing more to do with SGM except, as noted above, to provide SGM with feedback that SGM should regard as helpful and instructive.

So…all that being the case…there is absolutely no reason for anybody – not me, not you, not Sovereign Grace pastors, nor anyone else – to be hung up on knowing the precise identities of the folks who comment here.  There’s no need for names, for photos, for addresses and phone numbers. 

Nobody wants anything from Sovereign Grace Ministries anymore – except for them to take note of what they did, and change things.

No doubt, some of the SGM defenders are still reading this and sputtering, “But without knowing precisely who is saying these things, how will our pastors know whether or not what they say is accurate?”

How, indeed?

Well, for starters, as I’ve pointed out before, while nobody expects SGM pastors to possess super-human memory capabilities, it’s highly unlikely that most of them can’t remember what they no doubt think of as the “hard cases.”  I mean, are there really that many instances of church discipline run amuck within Sovereign Grace churches?  Are there really so many instances of bad counseling sessions that end up as clashes of will between pastors and their counselees, where the counselee/member is ultimately excommunicated?

I’m pretty sure that most SGM pastors can remember, with ease, precisely how they behaved in the stickier situations they’ve encountered over the years.

And if they can’t remember? 

Well, Sovereign Grace Ministries is an organization that most definitely believes in taking notes and keeping records.  Pastors typically maintain extensive files on their church members, with all sorts of detailed information about the members’ various struggles, issues, and sins.  Especially in cases where members are in conflict with their pastors, copious notes are kept.  There are veritable filing cabinets full of memory-joggers for the unfortunate pastors who suddenly have developed memory failure.  All they’d have to do is leaf through the thicker manilla folders and refresh themselves as to precisely what went down and what they did.

So we’ve established that there’s no practical reason why SGM leadership needs to contact the former members for the purposes of re-establishing relationships or expressing their regrets.  Again, such a thing might be nice, but it’s not at all important to those who have been offended.  Plus, true respect for the offended person’s wishes and feelings would, in fact, preclude such contact in the majority of cases.

We’re clear, too, on the fact that SGM leadership doesn’t need to contact the former members to clear up their own hazy memories.

We’ve further established that, in the case of non-Matthew 18 situations, where people are objecting to the way an organization has put together its systems and its methods and its teachings, and NOT to the behavior of specific individuals within that organization, there’s no need or purpose for personal one-on-one confrontation.

So what is up with SGM’s obsession with anonymity?  If they don’t need to set up personal meetings with individuals, why should they care whether or not people are posting here under their full real names?

In almost any other context, information provided anonymously is not automatically viewed so suspiciously or immediately considered unreliable. 

For example, if you were across the street at your neighbor’s house one afternoon, and your cell phone rings and somebody on the other end tells you frantically that your house is on fire, your first reaction typically is NOT going to be to obsess over who is calling you and what their character or history might be.  No, your first reaction is going to be to step outside your neighbor’s front door and take a good look at your house for yourself.  And if you were to see little whisps of smoke curling up out of one of the windows, you’d no doubt call 911 and ask for the fire department.  Maybe later you’d puzzle over who it was that rang you up with the news, but that simply wouldn’t be your primary response.  There is just something in us that knows instinctively that anonymous voices can be sharing valuable, and sometimes even vital, information.

The FBI obviously has a handle on this concept.  They’ve recognized that anonymous sources can speak the truth, no matter who or what they are.  Otherwise, why would they spend millions of your tax dollars establishing anonymous tip lines to gather information that they then use to nab criminals?

Then there’s the whole strange element of painting anonymity as sinful.  The Bible doesn’t teach that anonymous sources are sinful.  After all, several books of the Bible have come to us from anonymous authors, either in part or in whole.  Many SGM folks’ favorite book of the Bible – Proverbs – was penned by several other anonymous wise men, and not just Solomon.  And we aren’t 100% sure of the human authorship of some of the books in the New Testament.

Certainly, the Bible would be Exhibit A for the obvious fact that God can use anonymous writers to speak truth and get His message across.

Why can’t SGM get this?  Why can’t they just EXAMINE THEMSELVES, examine their organization, and ask themselves if they’ve ever done the things that have been discussed here? Are they guilty of these things?

And if they ARE guilty of these things, why can’t they admit it, and then change what needs to be changed?

Why would they need to know my name, or your name, or Commenter XYZ’s name, in order to change what needs to be changed?

See, I think that SGM leadership’s obsession with knowing names is much more about CONTROL.  Their critics have said, again and again, that SGM’s system of thought and leadership structure is all about control in the first place.  And you know, SGM’s apparent hang-up with anonymity would simply serve to further prove this point.

After all, anonymity prevents them from maintaining control, and if their critics are correct, these guys cannot give up control.

With anonymity, they can’t pinpoint precisely which person they can pick apart or condemn so as to avoid dealing with the truth of the criticisms the anonymous person is leveling at them.  They can’t go after an anonymous commenter’s character, or head on over to the anonymous person’s current pastor to threaten retribution.

All they can do is listen to what the person has to say.

Why – WHY – is that a sin to these guys?  Why is that so difficult for them?