When should other Churches' issues be discussed?

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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
We have in our assembly a half dozen or so families and individuals who came as refugees from other churches. There are hints of browbeating leadership, poor theology, even bad behavior in the ministers of these churches they came out of; but there seems to be a taboo about the refugees speaking of these things, or our asking about them. Now, I'm a curious guy, and if people obviously are relieved to be out of a church, I kind of want to know why. Best I can get from most of them is--"Oh, I don't want to say anything bad...let's just say we really needed to leave."
My question here is: is it inappropriate to tell people you disagreed with your former church over X? Is it wrong to say, "you know, there was a bit of paranoid totalitarianism in our former eldership, and we feel safer having left?" What about "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the Lord reward him according to his work?"
When, in other words, can abuses by an eldership be spoken of without being branded as a gossip? Was John gossiping about Diothrephes? Do these refugees have a responsibility to others to warn them of chicanery in their former churches? I ask here because as a normally outspoken guy I'm often surprised at the cloak of secrecy that's thrown over matters that I think warrant being shouted from the housetops.
And in a related question, when not receiving an accusation against an elder except in the mouth of witnesses, does that mean "there are witnesses present when the elder is accused" or "there are several witnesses to the elders' iniquity". If the second, then an elder could violently sin against one person only, in secret, and never be properly accused.
Thanks
 

Username4000

Puritan Board Freshman
Maybe not an exact answer to your question, but two witnesses is the requirement for a formal charge, not framing wise evasive action. If a businessman defrauds you in a way you can’t prove, you’re not sinning if you give him further work, even if you don’t have a second witness. The bar is much lower for avoiding a person than for discipline.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't tend to hesitate to criticize other churches' theology and practice, although I don't want to resort to hearsay in doing so. If a church is openly Arminian, Papist, etc, I don't need to invent things to criticize that, because they're quite open about their nonsense. Papists don't hide that they're worshipping bread and praying to Mary.
On your second inquiry, only accepting a charge from two witnesses deals with whether the charge is admitted, not whether it can be spoken. We cannot find an elder guilty on the testimony of one, but we can open an investigation. How else would we find out if there are other witnesses? We should also consider that incriminating evidence or separate but similar incidents can form an independent "witness".
 
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jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
People are usually all too happy to talk about their bad experience with a church. Generally it's only
appropriate for the officers in the receiving church to consider the matter so as to ensure that people have left their old churches in a way that leaves them unencumbered to pursue membership in a new congregation. It says something about the maturity of your new folks that they are not trying to justify their reason for leaving during random conversations.

If the old church is independent, there's not much anyone else can do. If it is presbyterian, the offended parties have recourse they can pursue through presbytery.
 
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Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
People are usually all too happy to talk about their bad experience with a church. Generally it's only
appropriate for the officers in the receiving church to consider the matter so as to ensure that people have left their old churches in a way that leaves them unencumbered to pursue membership in a new congregation. It says something about the maturity of your new folks that they are not trying to justify their reason for leaving during random conversations.

If the old church is independent, there's not much anyone else can do. If it is presbyterian, the offended parties have recourse they can pursue through presbytery.
In most cases, the old church is Baptist-ish. Which, as you say, leaves very little option. I wonder whether their reticence is due to their own feeling, or to being told by our ministers not to say anything. Either way, it makes getting to know people a little difficult when a whole slice of topics is cut off, and a word in season is almost impossible when you haven't any idea of what they need to hear. As much as I appreciate privacy, the cloak of shadows that's building up in my church seems a little excessive. Are other congregations like this?
(sorry, Jean--not all this was directed at you. I just realized I used your quote to begin a response and rambled)
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
No problem at all -- PB is designed for long discussions :)

We had a similar situation. To make matters trickier, my oldest daughter was marrying into the other congregation. In the long run, I had to trust the teaching we had given her and accept that God places the responsibility on the leadership of the congregations. I got to know the new folks by asking about their current reading, interests, etc.
 
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