Let me begin by inviting the uninterested to just skip this one, a post on one particular backwater eddy in the swamp that has become the Moscow Everglades. At the same time, some may be interested in this feature of our ongoing “rage for diversity” campaign because it is part of the reason that some professing evangelical Christians have teamed up with our secular intoleristas. Nevertheless, as a public service I will activate the continue reading feature earlier than normal for this one.
A number of months ago on this blog, I interacted in detail with some of the claims made by Terry Morin, an elder who left our church in the early 90’s. Terry is now a deacon in a nearby EFree church, where he persists by his behavior and associations to put his current elders in a really awkward position.
I had explained in my earlier posts that the cover letter that went out with the elders’ plan for removing me from office (in 1993) explained in very clear terms that their letter was just a proposal. At that time, I pressed Terry to post that cover letter on his web page, which he has now done. I also promised one of Terry’s elders that if Terry did this, along with a sober explanation of those words, I would “evaluate it seriously and prayerfully.” Terry has now posted the cover letter, along with a five page letter of explanation.
His letter of explanation does not really deal with the words of the cover letter at all (which I will address below), but it was still revelatory for me on other grounds. And since I promised that I would consider an effort of this kind seriously and prayerfully, let me start with something I think I can offer. It may not seem like much, but I still think it is important. Over the years, I have mulled over in my mind whether or not I should have spoken at all at the infamous December 10 meeting, at which time I said that the elders of the church needed to seek forgiveness from the men of the congregation for the way they were going about their business, business which I had acknowledged to them privately that they had the votes to do.
Prior to the meeting, I had assured the elders that I would submit to their decision, period. Terry has posted on his site the letter I wrote them saying exactly that. At the same time, I also warned them verbally in the strongest possible way that the way they were going about the whole thing was going to be extremely destructive. I told them that what they were doing was like throwing a hand grenade into a flock of sheep, and that they should not do it the way they were doing it. At the time, our fellowship had quite a mix of paedo-baptists, baptists, and agno-baptists in it. As it turned out, the actions of the three baptist elders managed to alienate virtually everyone in the church, including nearly all the baptists. No small feat.
I did not speak at this meeting until it was well under way, and the fact that the entire church was in a state of consternation over what these three elders had done was very plain. In other words, I did not lead the meeting, and had done no “politicking” before the meeting. I just watched, and it was plainly evident that my prediction of a bad reaction was completely and entirely fulfilled. At that point in the meeting, I was asked what I thought. And as I said, over the years, I have wondered if I ought to have said anything at all. But I answered the question, and said that the way the elders had gone about this was something that I believed they needed to repent of. One of those three elders came to agree with this statement, and he sought the men’s forgiveness that evening. He was the one elder who has remained in our church.
But reading Terry’s account of all this yesterday, it was very apparent that the other two interpreted this as a flat out double cross on my part. I had assured them that I would submit to their decision to have me step down. I would not leave the church, would not start another church, etc. Then, at the meeting, when asked, I addressed the foolish way they were proceeding, the destructive effects of which were already evident in the way the meeting had gone for them. But when feelings were running high for everyone, as they certainly were that evening, this was a distinction that these two men missed completely. They thought I had set them up for a sucker punch, pretending to be compliant, and then reversing direction at the last minute. But, as God is my witness, the entire time I had every intention of submitting to their decision once they made it (which brings up the crucial issue of whether or not this was a “proposal” or a settled decision, about which more below). But I did believe myself to be in a position where I was probably going to have to submit to the outcome of an unjust procedure. And when asked about it at this meeting, I said so.
I have gone back and forth in my mind over the years about whether I should have remained silent. Having read this full account by Terry for the first time yesterday, I have now come to the conclusion that I should have said nothing at all, and just remained silent. I had already privately warned the other elders about the folly of what they were doing. Because I spoke up, I created an opportunity for them to (easily) misunderstand me, and a good measure of that misunderstanding was therefore my responsibility. My private warnings had gone unheeded, and I think that after that point I should simply have watched. The content of what I said was accurate, and the consequences of their pastoral folly were unfolding in front of them, and that should have been enough.
Given how much bitterness has accumulated over all this, and given what I have to say in a moment about the rest of Terry’s letter, I am not at all confident that this will do any good at all, but I think it is still morally necessary. If I should not have spoken at all at that meeting, and if doing so contributed in any measure to the bitterness Terry now finds himself in, I need to seek his forgiveness publicly. And so I do. I should not have spoken the way I did at the men’s meeting on December 10, 1993, and I would like to publicly seek forgiveness from Terry Morin, Bob Callihan, and Fred Kohl for having done so. I should simply have remained silent. To the extent possible, I am also communicating this privately to these three men.
But many of the monkeys are still out of the cage, and it remains for us to chase a few of them around the zoo. I would like to do that briefly here, and in summary fashion, and then be done with this subject. I have tried repeatedly and in various ways to arrange a private meeting with Terry for going on three years now, and if he ever shows the slightest inclination, I will still jump at it. But until that happens, or unless Terry raises a set of new charges, I intend to hit these issues and then give this subject a rest.
1. Terry accuses me of misquoting “a phrase from the cover letter to the 12/5/93 letter, and he [Doug Wilson] has used this misrepresentation to obscure the clear statements of intent in the twenty pages of correspondence addressed to him and to the congregation.” Terry says this because I represented their cover letter as saying “this is only a proposal.” In actual fact, what the elders at the time said was far stronger than my summary. They said, and I quote verbatim from the letter now posted on Terry’s website, the bold, italics, and underlining all in the original: “This is our proposal. We need your opinions on all of what we have written in the enclosed document. We will not initiate anything without that counsel. We need your input.” I summarized this as saying “this is only a proposal.” I would ask any fairminded observer if this is an accurate summary or not.
2. Terry now says in his letter that these words in the body of their cover letter were simply an effort to “soften the blow” of the subject heading of their letter, which read “significant changes in CEF.” He then says “there could be no mistaking that we were long past any thought of negotiating a doctrinal of governmental compromise.”
Now think for a moment. Terry is seriously maintaining that my summary “this is only a proposal” is a misquotation and distortion of the words in bold above, and that we should rather understand them as showing there was clearly no “thought of negotiating a doctrinal or governmental compromise.” The former is supposedly a misquotation, and the latter is an accurate way to interpret them. In other words, according to this exegetical calculus, “we will not initiate anything without that counsel” means that “we have already initiated and settled the matter before receiving that counsel.” According to this method of interpretation, “We have not decided yet” means “We have already decided.” “We will not initiate anything” means “We have already initiated everything.”
This is very serious. It means, if words still have meaning, that either Terry is lying to his elders at EFree now (this explanation is in his letter to his elders), and to everyone who reads this lettter on his web site, or the elders of CEF were lying to the men then. It is not “softening the blow” to tell someone you will not initiate anything until you have heard from them when you have initiated everything without having heard from them. This is called lying. So in either case, Terry is in a serious and significant breach of the ninth commandment. Look carefully at the words, and consider what twelve years of bitterness can do to you. When I knew him, Terry was an honest man.
3. Terry tries to argue for this grotesque distortion by quoting some of the men who wrote to the elders at that time in response to all this. One of them, for example, pointed out that the “proposal” language of their cover letter seemed a little disingenuous. As he put it, “While the letter was prefaced with the caveat that it was only a proposal, the terms of the letter itself suggested that the baptistic position of the church and the ultimatum given to Doug were done deals . . .” And Terry quotes this, taking this questioning of their forthrightness then as evidence of their forthrightness!
4. I explained in my previous posts that before this big mess the elders had removed the clause on baptism from our statement of faith, making our church no longer a baptist church. Terry says now that this was done as “a stopgap measure for Doug’s sake.” But that was not how they described it at the time to the men of the church. And I had told them at the time that it was not necessary to do something like this for my sake, but they went ahead and did it anyway. This meant that when they later brought their charge against me, which Terry is now speaking of as public discipline of an elder, for doctrinal reasons, “in the presence of all,” they were charging me with being out of compliance with the church’s statement of faith (for being paedobaptist) when the church’s statement of faith had nothing in it one way or the other on the subject of baptism. The elders concluded that I was out of compliance to the baptism section of a statement of faith that had no baptism section. This kind of convoluted exegesis has been par for the course, and as this letter indicates, continues down to the present.
5. There are a number of other niggling thing that I will just wave at from a distance, as much as to say that Terry misunderstands the little things as drastically as he misunderstands the great things. For those who come across this letter/explanation, it is not a trustworthy account at any level.
6. And last, Terry has posted the anonymous “Labour of Love” on his web site. The only response I will give to this is to say that if a personal enemy of Terry’s ever circulated an anonymous attack against him, I would not help to circulate it, and would have no response other than simple and forthright condemnation. In a situation like this, men who don’t have the backbone to bring their charges in an accountable way do not have the right to bring charges against anyone, including Terry. I have shown here that Terry is now lying to his elders, but I have also signed my name to this charge.