Monday, January 09, 2006

rc sproul jr accused of spiritual abuse

The latest pimple on the face of reformed Christianity comes out of Bristol, Tennessee where R. C. Sproul Jr. and his fellow elders have been accused of spiritual abuse. From what I can gather by reading around the blog world, his presbytery is still investigating the charges.

The Austin family, who moved to Bristol to be a part of Sproul’s agrarian community called St. Peter Presbyterian Church, felt they had been victims of the typical “bait and switch” where they were told they only needed to subscribe to the Apostle’s Creed to become members and then had their consciences pressed when they would not agree that baptizing a handicapped child would guarantee her salvation. When the Austins chose to leave the church, the congregation was instructed to shun them and they were threatened with excommunication for not keeping their membership vows.

Months of conflict passed by until a rather weak apology and a membership release were both sent to the Austin family after the threat of a lawsuit was made by another church member. You can read the proverbial paper trail here, the Austin’s personal journey here, and commentary by anonymous “Jim” here, which is itself so sad, as the fear he is experiencing as he tries to plan his “escape” from St. Peter’s proves that the charges of spiritual abuse are true.

This has probably been a long time in coming. Verbal and emotional abuse of women and alcohol abuse have already been widely acknowledged with this group so why should it surprise anyone that over-lording would be next in order to silence concerned church members? Can you say contumacy?

Reading the documents was eerily too familiar to me. When our family experienced a situation similar to that of the Austin family, all the same elements were there…intimidation, warnings to other church members to shun us, public pronouncements of our disobedience to the elders (asking questions = rebellion remember), excommunication, alcohol abuse, conscience-binding, the list seems endless.

The bright light in the R.C. story seems to be Rick Saenz who had been a part of the session and who had failed to take a courageous stand. The documents include a letter he wrote to the Austins asking them for forgiveness for his cowardice during their time of crisis.

My most interesting observation, as it was in our own situation, however, is the fact that R. C., while proclaiming his distorted views of church authority, was reluctant to come under the authority of his own presbytery. How this is handled in the future will be interesting to watch; hopefully their presbytery will take their calling more seriously than our's did and actions will follow mere words.

And after reading through the numerous commentary, I have come to the conclusion that some of this half-baked doctrinal stuff seems to show up most often alongside too much alcohol. "I've only had 5 beers dude, but this excommunication stuff is looking pretty good right now....burp burp burp"..... Hmmmm.......


At 9:08 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

One correction:

Rick Saenz was not an elder, but rather R.C.'s long time assistant.

Sorry for any confusion.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Please also note that I corrected the statement about the baptism of a handicapped child. In rereading the record of the case, I believe I had misunderstood the placement of a pronoun and now think this is a better representation of that record.

Sorry if this was confusing.


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