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Archive for October, 2012

A Promise to Keep

My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click here.

That Sunday morning, I moved from my usual place to the other side of the sanctuary to avoid the man who was giving me the creeps. I told some people around me what was happening and why I’d moved, but was still agitated and distracted in service, I’m sure.

During the service, Edwin Young mentioned the out of town service where the preacher had called the women things. He was mad that the women hadn’t shouted when he “got on them”. The woman next to me got my attention and gestured to ask what he was talking about. I whispered “He said ‘he that desireth a wife desireth a good thing. He called us things. That’s why we weren’t shouting,” or something very similar and about the same length. Before I finished, Edwin was yelling  “I’ll do the preaching around here. You don’t need to tell her what I just said! Excuse me. I’ll tell you what I just said. Excuse me! Quit running your mouth while I’m preaching!! She still hasn’t… she still don’t know I’m talking to her. I hope…”

Wait. He hoped I didn’t know he was talking to me? Then why did he go on for nearly ten minutes, pacing in front of my section, looking right at me, preaching about about women’s lib and loud mouthed women who didn’t want the pastor telling them what to do. Yes, I knew he was talking to me, though it may not have looked like it. When he started that morning, though I was still there watching the whole thing and hearing every word, it was as though I was watching from a different vantage point. When he finally went on to something else, I put my head down and sobbed.

I wasn’t crying that morning because he had upset me so much, but because I had promised if he did something like he’d just done again after the two incidents in the office that I would leave. That morning I cried because I knew I was leaving, was terrified that God didn’t answer my prayer that He would fix the situation and let me stay, and had no idea how to leave or where to go. I wept through altar call and couldn’t stop even after I left the building. Others said it was ok, I shouldn’t let it bother me, he didn’t mean it, and I was “tougher than this”. But it wasn’t ok. He had not only jumped me again for something I hadn’t done, harshly and cruelly, but he’d gone from doing so privately, to doing so in front of one or two others, to doing so in front of the entire church. His bullying was intensifying, and just as I would not allow a man to repeatedly beat me, I would not allow this man to verbally insult or abuse me either. I’d promised, and I would keep my promise. I was leaving.

But when? How? Where would I go? That was something that wasn’t answered for another five months or so.

After some debate and after trying to get some other people to buy the CD for me so that Edwin Young wouldn’t be mad that I’d gotten it, I purchased the CD for myself. Originally I got it to show whoever my next pastor was that things really had been wrong in Faith Tabernacle. I never played it to any pastor, however. I think I tried to play it once, but was deeply disturbed by it. I put the CD away, and only got it out again months later.

For a full audio of Edwin’s attack that morning, go here  starting at 4:17 and then here. CD audios were broken into parts in the tape room much like music CDs would be, so that we could skip forward or backward in them. In this case it was broken in the middle of the tirade.

For the next chapter, click here.

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My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click here.

Within a week of returning home, there was a “fellowship meeting” or church service in Wichita at Nathan Dudley’s church (the one now pastoring at Faith Tabernacle). A number of people from Faith Tabernacle went, including me. Service didn’t seem too bad until the preacher started in on women.

I have nothing against a traditional view of women, or traditional roles. But when that preacher called the women “things”, stopped, and said “Oh, you didn’t like that, hmmm? You’re things. Things. You don’t know that? He that desireth a wife desireth a good thing. You’re things!” I was disgusted. Edwin’s brother and other men and even youth in Faith Tabernacle had referred to women as heifers for quite awhile. We were told the reference wasn’t to all women, just heifers. But too often, the reference seemed extremely broadly applied. I’d put up with that. But when the men started shouting that night that we were things-no better than objects-my stomach turned.

Heifers. Things. Loud mouthed, women’s lib heifers. I was tired of the labels. Women who didn’t dress “right” might be labeled whores, sluts or tramps. Men who didn’t dress “right” weren’t labeled that way. Women were wrong if someone looked on them lustfully, not those with the lust problem. And they were wrong if they didn’t “attract a man” by the way they dressed and carried themselves, at the same time, because if no one lusted after them they were probably lesbians. I was tired of the double talk.

Things. After several incidents with men in Faith Tabernacle, disrespectful comments and behavior, after Edwin Young’s repeated flirting with Sis Young by calling her baby and telling her he’d give her what she wanted as though it was his to do, not theirs as a couple, respectful of each other, after Edwin’s brother’s statements that his wife better not tell him anything but simply “entreat him as her husband,” I’d come to believe that men in Faith Tabernacle considered women as simply sexual objects for their pleasure. I felt that the way we were treated and expected to behave almost prostituted at least some of us. They would take care of us if we fulfilled their desires. They would make life very difficult if not. So the statement that we were things didn’t set well at all, especially not with the use of that particular verse.

I suppose it upset me more than I realized at first. Two days later in service, a man started following me around, watching me. He would sit near me, and move when I moved. He had already let me know he was interested in me-although he’d never had a single conversation with me. Friday night plus that issue on Sunday morning proved disasterous.

For the next chapter, click here.

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The Last Summer Part 2

My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click here.
I stopped at a national park/walking trail area in Missouri. It was a warm day and there weren’t many people there. As I walked and just simply enjoyed the day and the beauty around me, I began to wonder why not just take my jacket off? No one is around, and I have a nice shirt on under it. I’d be cooler. Why not? And so I did. For the first time in 12 years, I took off my long sleeves and felt the sun and summer breeze on my arms. And enjoyed it immensely. When I would hear others’ voices, I’d put the jacket back on. But it made me a little sad to do so. Wearing short sleeves felt… good! It was a nice way to spend the day.

If I remember right, the next day was Sunday. I stopped at a little church I was aware of for morning services. I was surprised how few people attended, how small the church was. Being in Faith Tabernacle, I had assumed that Oneness Pentecostals everywhere must be in revival. But here was a church that appeared to be dying. (I would discover it wasn’t the only one.)

After church, people said hello. One man brought me a set of dish towels and told me it was my “welcome gift”. I had to laugh, and wondered if the gift represented more hospitality, stereotype, or lack of preparedness. Yet I appreciated the thought. The pastor’s wife finally came and introduced herself, and asked if she might know me. I told her she might and explained that I had attended a church in Missouri for awhile, and named the church. She acknowledged she did remember me and invited me out for lunch.

At lunch, she talked quite a bit. When her husband left the table she told me she knew there were problems in the church I left. I told her that I’d been thrown out in 2000. She then made what might have been a strange remark: she told me that someone had given a word of knowledge that a particular person she knew was being cheated on, and told me that even though the husband swore he was faithful, the couple had difficulties ever since. It surprised me for a few reasons. First, her husband came back and she quickly changed the subject. It wasn’t something she felt she could discuss with me in front of him. Second, I’m fairly certain I know who gave that “word” just by the surrounding conversation. If so, the problems in that church ran much deeper than throwing people out one or two at a time.

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The Last Summer

My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click here.

I didn’t go to the campmeeting I had hoped to, but I did go to another-with Edwin’s permission. This one was different from others I’d been to in several ways. Unlike most, it was out of state. Unlike others, few people were going. And unlike any in more than 10 years, there were no dorms or nearby hotels to stay in. We all would find our own rooms and drive in to the meetings. I chose to stay in a national park in a camping cabin.

For the first time in years, no one knew me when I drove off that campground, and few knew me even when I was there. For the first time in years, no one was watching me. For more than 12 hours a day for about a week, my decisions would be based on my own convictions, not my concern for what others were thinking or would say. There was time to rest. Things were peaceful and unhurried away from the campmeeting. I swam-in full Apostolic regalia-each morning in the lake. I slept when I wanted to sleep and ate simple meals. I gained confidence in my self-sufficiency and capabilities. And even at camp, few people knew or cared where I was staying, and very few people from Faith Tabernacle stayed to eat or spent any time at all with me. That week was wonderful.

The camp messages themselves were also good. I “shouted” the feet out of my stockings one night and laughed to myself about that. And then one of the ministers, a highly respected conservative pastor, preached a sermon that floored me, and set me free. The message was about foundations. He took a text from 1 Cor 3:

10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon.
11For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is.
14If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

I got the cd later, but what he preached that day-or at least what I heard-wasn’t quite on the cd the way I remembered it. What I heard was the most awesome message I’d probably ever heard in Pentecost: Our foundation is Jesus. What is built on the foundation, our beliefs, our standards, our choices, teaching and preaching, is built on the foundation, but is NOT the foundation itself. The foundation is Jesus, and Jesus will never fail. Jesus, our foundation, is sure. All the stuff we build on it may tople or burn, but since our foundation is Jesus, we will be saved. Because the foundation is sure.

He tied all this into how none of Jesus’ bones were broken and the blood would never lose it’s power. But the part of the message that thrilled me was that the foundation was sure. And the foundation isn’t church, it isn’t doctrine, it isn’t standards, it’s Jesus.

The thought of that rolled through my mind a good portion of the way home. I stopped in Missouri and just had some fun time the next day. And learned more.

For the next part of my story, click here.

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Danger

My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click
here.

I suppose in a way that Edwin Young was right: discussion boards could be dangerous… to convoluted views and wrong teachings, at least.

There are boards that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. But there are also good boards. The one I was on probably falls somewhere between; it’s good for some people in some situations, but isn’t healthy for everyone. For me, it was extremely helpful because I began looking into some of what was taught at Faith Tabernacle. And realizing what was taught might not be exactly right.

It wasn’t that I changed my mind about how to dress or where to go. It was just that I no longer thought I should avoid certain people because they didn’t dress just like me or go to the same church meetings I did. There were some very nice people on there who studied the Bible and loved God who *gasp* wore pajamas and permed their hair. A few even wore light makeup sometimes. There were also some people on there who thought of those things as horrible sins but had awful attitudes and said cruel things.

Reading and responding to posts for a few months, I found that there were kind, generous, patient loving people who didn’t agree with me on everything, and that I was ok with that… I didn’t have to talk only to people I agreed with, and didn’t have to feel threatened or worry that they would change me. If I really believed what I believed, no one would change me simply because I was respectful and kind to them. Nothing they wrote would be able to influence me unless I was willing to be influenced. Truth would stand up to questions. Real truth would shine in spite of, and sometimes more brightly because of good questions. And having questions did not mean doubting.

For the next chapter, click here.

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Finding Fellowship

My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click here.

It got very lonely for me in Faith Tabernacle. The person’s statement that Edwin had said she shouldn’t fellowship me let me know a bit better why. I began searching online for different Apostolic churches, trying to find out where I would go and trying to find answers for what was happening. It wasn’t long before I found a discussion board for Apostolics and joined.

I was very careful not to let anyone know my situation or where I was, though I’m sure a few moderators could have figured it out. The board became my main fellowship over the next months. Oddly, I knew that not everyone on the board was Apostolic. Many were definitely not conservative. And so as things were said, I began making a list of who I could trust, based on who was most conservative, like I was.

Over time, I realized something shocking: it wasn’t those who were most conservative that I could trust. Those I enjoyed hearing from and who were kind, gentle, self controlled, and so forth on the board, were very rarely people I would talk to in person… most were very liberal or not Apostolic at all. The most conservative ones on the board, in contrast, tended to be harsh and even cruel to others. I began to think that perhaps instead of looking for a church that preached long sleeves and skirts and uncut hair for women, I should look for one that taught we should have the fruit of the spirit. Still, when the invitation was put on the board for a campmeeting out of state at a conservative gathering, I got excited and hoped to go.

We didn’t go to meetings without our pastor’s permission. And so I asked the Youngs if I could attend. It was a very conservative meeting, and I never dreamed they’d say no. I suppose they never really did… instead, they asked how I’d found out about it and rebuked me for being online, and on a discussion board. They told me if I ever wanted to come back to Faith Tabernacle, I’d better delete my membership immediately.

Deleting membership wasn’t possible on that board, and I didn’t want to delete my membership anyway. We didn’t have internet at home, so the next day at work I removed my name from another board and texted them that I’d deleted “the account”. Then I logged back onto the discussion board, more determined than ever to find a new church soon.

For the next chapter, click here.

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Labels

My story starts here.
For the previous chapter, click here.

If the shoe fits, wear it. If it don’t, shout! This was something Edwin Young often said during service. The meaning was that if he was preaching about something we’d done wrong, we should accept that, but if he was preaching on something we hadn’t done, we should shout and rejoice. The problem was several-fold: it encouraged hypocritical and Pharisaical attitudes and it encouraged people to judge and look down on others rather than truly searching their own hearts.

Should we have rejoiced when someone was called out? Should they have been called out in front of the whole congregation, especially on a first or second offense? The answer to both questions is, of course, a resounding NO! But it was said so often. We’d better not get quiet. We’d better say amen.

Looking back, I see that edict as a way to keep us from thinking too much about what was happening or empathize too much with the person getting yelled at in front of everyone. If we were busy staying out of trouble ourselves by saying amen, it intensified the rebuke and humiliation of the person he was angry at, gave the impression that everyone agreed with him, and prevented those busily saying amen from thinking of the person, but rather forced them to stop being sad for anyone and start getting hyped up and excited, which led them to think that it was a “good service” and also slightly dehumanized the person.

Dehumanized? Yes. He called them names and labeled them, and that dehumanized them some. But worse, when he made others shout they stereotyped the person according to whatever sin was being named. The person became an object lesson rather than a friend or relative.

And then Edwin Young would do the ultimate, he would begin telling people to stay away from them. Sometimes he disfellowshipped them outright, telling them they could no longer come to church. Other times, he told people individually or in smaller settings “be careful who you fellowship” or “choose your fellowship wisely.” Sometimes he said this more generally, bringing people to judge each other in order to follow that directive. And other times… Someone told me Edwin Young had informed them they shouldn’t fellowship me. I asked him, and his response was, “I didn’t mean it that way.” Ah, well, then what did he mean?

A good article on dehumanization can be found here.
For the next chapter, click here.

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