The Subtleties of Post-SGM Shunning

January 27, 2010 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

From my “in” box:

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Kris,

Here is the story of I found subtle shunning still being practiced at my local SGM church.

I homeschool. I have been homeschooling for over a decade. I was homeschooling before I became part of SGM.

While I used to attend my local SGM church, a friend of mine was writing a homeschooling curriculum, and decided to start a co-op that used this curriculum so that her kids could have some friends who they’d get together with regularly, and thus develop some friendships. This friend has since published this curriculum, and it has gained some popularity both in and outside of SGM churches. My kids were in the co-op, and we used the curriculum for many years. And I was part of my SGM church for over a decade.

So, at my local pool one day last summer (after we’d been gone from our SGM church for a few months), a lady that I know from that church was talking about the co-op she participates in (using that curriculum).  As we talked I told her I was considering doing the curriculum again for my homeschooling, and she invited me to be a part of the co-op. She later emailed me and said the co-op policy was to introduce each potential family to the co-op members, and everyone had to agree to the member joining.

I e-mailed her back, saying I hoped people would welcome me as someone who had used the material for many years, even though I was no longer attending their church.

I got back a somewhat panicked telephone call. “I didn’t know you aren’t at [SGM church name] any more. We have a co-op rule that all families in the co-op have to be [members of SGM]. We want to know that the parents all have the same teaching, that the kids are all being parented the same way… ” She asked me why we left the church. I told her all the MANY things that had led up to our deciding to leave and go to a different church.  We did not leave under church discipline, but we had not shared with the pastors real reasons why we left, because our family was in the middle of some very touchy stuff that would have been affected poorly by talking to the pastors about it at that time. 

So, I told the co-op lady on the phone all sorts of things I’m not sharing here, throwing in that there were also some biblical interpretations espoused by the pastors that we didn’t agree with — nothing that affected salvation, just issues that meant we’d be more comfortable worshiping somewhere else. And I tacked on that that shouldn’t matter, really, should it? Because the SGM Leadership clearly fellowship with the likes of John McArthur, John Piper, Jerry Bridges, and Mark Dever, and none of them go to a SGM church. There’s no reason we can’t share fellowship and co-op, just because we attend a different “expression of the body of Christ”. [You could practically hear her gasping for air,… but she really wanted me in that co-op!]

So she asked me if I would be willing to put together a “letter of introduction” for the co-op explaining who I was and why I left SGM, etc. So I did, toning it down just a bit, but not much.

She was on vacation, so weeks went by while the co-op members were given the letter, the opportunity to mull it over and respond to her, and then she to me.

The answer was that the co-op was going to stick to its original rule that only SGM members could participate in the co-op. [Mind you, she was gracious, and added all the preamble of how much she appreciated me and such, and hoping that I could receive the response understanding where her heart is etc.]

Then, after the initial “No” had been delivered, she started saying some things that sounded like questions that someone had asked her, about why wasn’t I seeking to fellowship with the folks at my new church who homeschool?  Why wasn’t I seeking to join a co-op with them? [uh, our new church is a half hour away, and you are like a quarter of a mile away… and no one there is using this curriculum, and I’m not interested in participating in the new church’s expensive homeschooling “Academy”…] I can’t remember the other things she asked, but she came back to that original one, even saying one time that “we [members of that SGM church] are being taught that we should be seeking to grow in fellowship with those where God has planted us in fellowship” or some such statement… I was like, “God planted me in this neighborhood and I see many in this co-op all the time! I’m not seeking to “grow” in fellowhip—I am ALREADY in fellowship!”  Later I thought I should have said, “Well, we don’t believe in being ‘exclusive’, but are willing to fellowship with ALL believers!” 

So, in retrospect, I know it wasn’t God’s will for me to be in that co-op, and many times have asked myself, “What WAS I thinking?”  So many of the reasons why I left SGM would no doubt be fully functioning and probably quite evident within that co-op, and frankly I just want no part of it.  But, at the time I hadn’t been out of the church very long, and I think I hadn’t had time to fully “de-tox”.  I’m breathing clean air now, and am homeschooling free of that co-op’s legalism, and am happily seeking to home-school in a way compliant with my state’s homeschool laws, free from additional rules that I just don’t need right now.

But, I thought others might be interested in hearing my story of how exclusion and “shunning” are still alive, healthy and well.  It might not be a position officially espoused by the pastors at my local SGM church, but it is an attitude alive and thriving in many of the people attending there.  I’m out, and I’m free. Gal. 5:1 – “For freedom did Christ set us free; stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage. ”

What was I thinking?  I’m free. I am not going to be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.

© 2010, Kris. All rights reserved.