Let me be very clear, this is not a manifesto against organized religion, church, Christianity, its various denominations, etc. This is about a singular event, the repercussions it has had on me and my family, and the fact that bullying can come from just about anywhere.
If you are unfamiliar with this blog or need a refresher, I encourage you to go back and read this post, My Son Is Gay.
So here we go. These are the facts that lead up to this rant:
1. My son Boo goes to a church preschool, and the class goes to chapel 3 days a week. We adore his school, teachers, and director. This school is amazing, loving, and supportive.
2. My family belongs to this church, but we are not Sunday morning attendees. My kids go to vacation bible school there, and I help when needed. We participate in various events that the church holds and/or sponsors
3. I am the head of a mothers’ group at the church and am the only member of the congregation that belongs to it. We do a lot of community service in the name of the church.
4. In the post that went viral, I did not name the mothers, the school, the pastor, the church, or even the denomination. I don’t plan to. That is not the point of these posts.
5. I have told the truth, though no one at the church has asked me to recount the events.
Here’s the timeline of events involving the church:
10/29/10 Halloween party at preschool
11/02/10 Published blog post.
11/04/10 Blog picked up by national and international print, broadcast, and digital outlets. Goes viral
11/05/10 Call from Pastor at church
11/06/10 Pastor met with Elders from church to discuss my “spiritual care” and decided I had broken 8th Commandment by bearing false witness
11/08/10 Text from Pastor while we were in NYC for Today Show
11/09/10 Call from Pastor to schedule a meeting
11/10/10 Meeting in Pastor’s office, Squirt, my youngest, was present
2.5-month window with little to no contact
01/26/11 2nd and final meeting in Pastor’s office
My blog post was calling out the actions of a few people that said some unkind things in front of my son. I asked for love and tolerance. Was I angry? Yes. I feel I had a right to be. Did I bear false witness? No. I spoke out against bullying. Now I am getting bullied from church.
The first time Pastor contacted me was a few days after the Halloween post. He wanted to discuss my “spiritual care.” It was immediately clear that I was being viewed as having done something very wrong. Our initial conversation was me being called “defensive,” “vindictive,” “disrespectful,” “prideful,” and told that I “crossed a line.” I was told I needed to do penance. I was not asked about how Boo was doing.
The second discussion was a face-to-face meeting during which Squirt was present. I was handed a printout of the church’s response. There had been a meeting with some Elders, and they decided I’d broken the 8th Commandment and not followed Matthew 18. I was told that some members were worried that I was “promoting gayness.” I don’t even know what that means. The words I had written were not promoting anything other than unconditional love and tolerance. My post was about bullying and how my son was treated. My post was about a 5-year-old child. Pastor said he “tried to be mad at me, but couldn’t.” I didn’t and don’t understand why he would want to be mad at me. Again, Boo’s well-being was not mentioned.
More than 2 months later, I was called in for another meeting. Upon arriving, he started talking about my need to apologize to the women I had slandered. He read aloud to me from a brochure on Peacemaking, underscoring the fact that I needed to apologize. I disagreed. I reminded him that the only mention of ABC I have made since that Halloween post was saying that I didn’t harbor ill will towards them and that moment should not define their lives.
For an hour and a half he spoke to me as if this was my fault, that I had misconstrued what was said that morning in front of my son, that I “had taken offense where none was intended.” I told him that the comments those mothers made that morning were judgmental and offensive. He continued to accuse me of libel and slander, told me I didn’t have a “free ride to talk about others,” and that I needed to apologize and reconcile.
I was offered 4 steps to restore my relationships with Moms ABC:
1. Write Moms ABC an apology with an example of how to word it.
2. Take down the Halloween post.
3. No longer write or speak of these women regarding my “accusations.”
4. Consider taking the entire blog down.
When I asked what happens if I couldn’t do those things I was handed a final page that had already been prepared regarding my unwillingness to repent and what the ramifications of that would be. My punishment was to be disallowed from receiving Communion, and if I were to continue to not seek forgiveness, I may be removed from the congregation and not be able to transfer to another church in our denomination in good standing (which feels like the harshest punishment a modern-day pastor can dole out.). It felt like an ultimatum. I pointed out the hypocrisy of the entire conversation, mentioned that Boo had been forgotten in all of this, said the meeting was over, and walked out.
I did call someone higher up in the church a couple of days later to ask what the process is if you have an issue with your pastor. A few hours after that call, I received an email from Pastor saying he reconsidered the withholding of Communion and that the final handout was not meant as an ultimatum. The man I’d spoken to on the phone was carbon copied.
I responded on Monday 01/31/11. Much of this post came from that letter. I haven’t heard from them since.
I cannot tell you the betrayal I feel. The church, or at the very least Pastor is trying to bully me into shutting up, and I find that so disheartening. I am floored by the fact that they’ve gone to so much trouble regarding a post that discusses love and tolerance that was posted 3 months ago. I am shocked that they do not see the hypocrisy of what they are saying to me. I am in complete disbelief that this has been handled in the way it has. I have never felt less welcome in a church.
This is not the church that I grew up in. This is not the God that I know.
And again I say to you that bullying is not okay, even if you wrap it in a bow and call it ‘spiritual care.’