It appears that I should tell a story. Whenever I refer to the salient facts in this story, one of the things my adversaries like to do is accuse me of “whining,” so let me begin there, with a high-minded denial. I embark as narrator of this fascinating story, not as one who whines, but rather in a serene philosophical frame of mind, like Boethius counting his toes. I cannot really address everything, but I think I can get to the high points. This is part of the story that I believe World should have told, provided they needed to say anything at all.
A few years ago, some of the young men in our church (NSA students) began attending meetings of the Gay/Straight Alliance at the University of Idaho. They did this, not to be disruptive, but as an evangelistic thing. Nevertheless, their presence was taken as disruptive, and some in the Alliance decided to retaliate against us. We put this together later on the basis of what several students in the Alliance told us, and from something said by their faculty advisor. Our annual history conference was coming up in February (since then it became Trinity Fest and has moved to August), and so inflammatory quotes were taken from the Southern Slavery booklet (which had been a sleepy seller since 1996), put on a flier along with a “come meet the authors” kind of thing. The implication of the flier was that since the two authors of the booklet were both speaking at the conference, along with George Grant, and since those two authors had both written on slavery eight years before, the conference they were both speaking for, eight years later, had to be on the same topic. One follows their reasoning, of course. At exactly the same time (indicating a measure of co-ordination), our local paper ran a story on the conference which supplied the same misinformation, i.e. that the conference was going to be on slavery. The AP picked up their story, and around the country it began merrily to go.
In the meantime, we had been having a controversy with a few disgruntled ex-members of our church. In fact, I had initially thought the slavery fliers were the work of one of them, and had speculated on that publicly. I withdrew my comments and apologized for them after we discovered that people in the Gay/Straight Alliance were behind it. This second controversy was fallout from the stupid behavior of some of the young men in the church, enamored of “Christian liberty,” while at the same time not understanding the first thing about it. Those readers following all this from a distance may be puzzled from time to time at the cryptic references to a Christ Church casino. Well, here is that deal. Some young men had set up a blackjack operation at their house. One of them was the son of an elder, another the son of a deacon, and all of them knew better. This thing went on long enough for some of the young men involved to dig themselves quite a debt. The inevitable discovery of what they were doing happened. The same day the elders discovered what the young men were doing, we shut the betting operation down, cancelled all the debts incurred, told the young men that we wanted all the money that had changed hands to go back where it was before their stupidity fit came upon them. This meant that we said that the “house” needed to be paid back any winnings it had paid out, and that the debts owed to the house were cancelled.
A short time went by, and we heard grumbling from the foolish young man who had been “the house” that he was not getting his money back. We checked, and one of the others had attempted to pay him back but had been refused. “Did too, did not,” and even though we believed the young man who had tried to pay it back, the elders cut through that knot by apportioning money from the church to get all monies back to the status quo ante. That decision was made, entered into the elders’ minutes, and I delivered the check to the young man. I gave him the money along with a strong pastoral warning. The other young men involved were told that they could make a donation to the church’s deacon fund when they were able and willing. We were not paying off “gambling debts,” but rather we had required “gambling restitution.” The gambling debts had been cancelled, not paid, and the gambling restitution was initially paid by the church. That amount of money has since then been donated to the deacons’ fund by one of the families/young men who had been involved in the gambling operation. This part of the story is one of the reasons my enemies say that I pilfered the church treasury.
But remember that several of the young men were sons of church officers, and this flagrant dishonoring of their parents and their church had clear ramifications for the qualifications of their fathers to continue to serve in their offices. Because we take the scriptural teaching on elder qualifications very seriously, we announced what had happened to our heads of households (our congregational meeting), told them that we were investigating it, and that we would keep them informed. At our next meeting, some eleventh-hour information concerning the situation had just come to our attention the day before, and so we announced to our men that we needed to investigate this new information. One of our members, who belongs to the “kill them all and let God sort it out” school of thought, went on the warpath at that time, and, after he left the church, has dedicated a large part of his time trying to discredit our church and its ministries. Part of that effort has included his attempts to get World magazine to do an expose of our ministries here. Those interested in the flavor of those endeavors can find out easily enough. The final outcome of our investigations of our church officers and simultaneous dealing with the demands of those who wanted a more preemptory approach was that both church officers resigned their offices.
Back at the ranch, we were in the midst of our “slavery conference” controversy, and I found out about the unattributed quotations in the booklet from Tracy McKenzie. I had been in discussion with him (off and on) for some years prior about his disagreements with our views, but when I found out what he had discovered about the citations, I went and talked to Doug Jones at Canon Press, and the booklet was removed from sale that same day. But a number of months later, that information became public, long after we had removed the booklet from our inventory. Dr. McKenzie lives in another city, but one of the Christians there who had seen his paper apparently got a copy of it to a disgruntled ex-member here in Moscow, who then got it to our local Intoleristas.
And so we have seen the formation of an odd coalition here in Moscow, the same kind of thing that immediately formed up in World magazine’s blog discussion of all this. We have a weird coalition of lesbians, evangelicals, secularists, anti-Auburn avenue folks, and pro-abortionists. I know I am a very great sinner (and I am not just checking the right doctrinal box here), but when I look at what has been happening here in Moscow, I shake my head in amazement. We must be doing something right.