Leaving the Church
Your article, "Why People Leave the Church" by Bill Smalt (May/June) may be accurate from the pastor's perspective, but I found it to be very one-sided. Why didn't you survey more laymen about why they were leaving instead of making assumptions?
My husband and I are on the verge of leaving our mainline denomination church, and I don't think we fall into any of the categories mentioned. We have been members of the church for six years. My husband is an elder, and I am a deacon--you can't say we haven't connected or established roots.
Contrary to your article, we are not running from the truth, nor have we lost our hunger for the things of God; we are running toward these things. And the only perceived offense is against God, not us: The Scriptures have taken a back seat to sermons that tell us only what the pastor thinks we want to hear. The time has come for us to leave our religious social club and find a church that is serious about teaching and following the Word of God.
Of course pastors should be concerned about their flocks, but their first allegiance should be to preach the Bible accurately and worry about answering to God, not to the people. If we put this most important priority first, the rest will fall into place.
Ted Haggard's column, "When a Leader Falls" (Simply Put, May/June), would be fine provided all our "fallen leader" cases were like Noah's. Sadly, very few are. In the case of Noah, there were no other parties to consider--a perpetrator, but no victims. It is only under such rare circumstances that justice might be viewed as mutually exclusive of grace, restoration and healing, as Haggard contends.
In cases of sexual sin, there is another person. And in the vast majority of these cases, the perpetrator is the one with the position and the power. When such a power differential exists, it is an abuse of power. Ethics committees in the psychiatric, medical and legal professions all recognize this; the church lags well behind.
In bringing about a person's healing, the victim nearly always needs to be provided with a sense of justice in the process. If any profession should be good at this, it should be the church. But we are not.
Haggard wrote: "Some of the wounded should be healed. Others should be disciplined. Who decides? Simply put, the wounded." His conclusion is well-intentioned and fine for Noah. But it also reveals the naiveté that has helped keep sexual sin in the ministry in epidemic proportions--that the only one (or the first one) to think about here is the fallen leader. That is outrageous.