In the last segment, I listed some of the differences that the church planter and the local pastor had with some of the men in the congregation regarding worship styles and denominational affiliation. These differences soon became central to the power struggle that was taking place in the church and once Phil Lancaster had been contacted, the pastor and church planter knew that they could no longer work with this congregation.

And Clay and I knew that we could not be a part of it any longer, either, since it signaled to us the patriocentric direction the church intended to take.

We also knew that the next step for our family would be a difficult one. On one hand, we had come to truly love the people in our congregation. But we also knew that remaining in this church would only delay the inevitable, especially if Phil Lancaster or any other patriocentric pastor were to be called. With much sadness but with full confidence that we were doing the right thing, we chose to join the church planter in his efforts to plant yet another family integrated church.

At this point, you have to understand that we were still experiencing some of the after-effects, both emotional and concrete, of the spiritual abuse from the past few years. I am not sure how Clay was feeling exactly but I know that I was battling a numbness, a flatness of feelings or emotions regarding this turn of events. I was glad that we could still participate in a family integrated church and that, as homeschoolers, we could be welcomed. I was relieved to know that we were not going to have to listen to all that pro-south rhetoric or that inane “homosexual-woman church” comment. But part of me was still not certain what I actually thought about how we were approaching “church.”

When we left the traditional church a few years before, there was still a breech between the leaders and our family. Over a period of months, Clay had challenged some of the over-the-top statements the pastor had made, to the point of filing a complaint with the presbytery. The first committee who heard his complaint agreed that the elders had not taught correct doctrine and that they had not treated us properly in the process and then gave them the opportunity to change their position. Rather than accepting the discipline from the denomination, the elders figured out a way to get around it by having the original complaint thrown out on a technicality, proving that our complaint had not been filed within the 30 days allowed. Our filing was 31 days after their decision had been made. Never having worked within this sort of system, we didn’t realize that there is a statute of limitations on righteousness.

When Clay filed an appeal, publicly he was told that they were really sorry, but this was the way the system works. Privately, several pastors and elders who were familiar with the situation confessed to us that both the system had failed us and that this was an elder board and pastor who were out of control and who needed help.

The end result for us was having the session announce that we had been “defacto excommunicated,” which made no sense to us or to many of the people who heard it announced from the pulpit. Two of the elders contacted us privately, one to tell us he wanted to come and visit us but who never did. The other one called me, saying that that he agreed that the pastor had been out of line but that he couldn’t do anything about it because the Bible says to “touch not God’s anointed.” He then proceeded to tell me that he had to believe that I was not even a born-again Christian because we wouldn’t go along with the pastor in spite of his false teachings. I remember getting off the phone that afternoon and weeping uncontrollably. A couple days later I providentially came across my baptismal certificate from 1963 and cried again, knowing the Lord had, in a very real way, reminded me that I was His child and no man could pluck me out of His hands.

When we first met the church planter, we told him our story and, after looking at his own denomination’s Book of Church Order and that of the former church, he welcomed us into membership in the mother church, again, providentially and unbeknown to us, on the very day of the “defacto excommunication.” We had been very open with everyone regarding what had happened, shared all of our paper trail with those who needed to see it, and had been assured that all that was behind us. Emotionally, as I said before, there was still residue but what we didn’t realize was that our past struggles weren’t as far behind us as we had thought and that the Lord would use them in a mighty way in our own spiritual lives.

Over the next few months, the new congregation slowly began to grow with new families visiting almost weekly and several deciding to stay. We soon outgrew the basement/garage of the pastor’s home and moved to a motel which was even further away for us, but we were happy to make the drive because we believed in what we were doing. Within a few months, we had the opportunity to purchase a small church building with the assistance of the church planter’s denomination. Clay worked with the other men to make the building suitable for our own needs, rewiring the sanctuary, painting, cleaning, and making it a warm, inviting place for adults and children.

As the months went by, two things began to happen. We really came to love and appreciate the wonderful families in our church and we enjoyed times of fellowship and friendship both in their homes and in ours. And adding to our situation was the fact that our daughter and her family had relocated to our area, bringing them into our church home, which was a special joy to us. Then, a series of events caused us to begin to look more critically at what we personally believed about what the mission of the church universal really is and whether or not what we were doing was fulfilling that mission.

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