Asked to leave my Protestant Church

Hi, everyone, I’m new to the Forum. This is a great place!

My login name is Cat. On other Christian boards, I call myself “Cat in the Window.” There is a reason for this name.

Two years ago, I was asked to leave our Evangelical Free Church in America (EFCA–it’s an evangelical Protestant denomination). I had gone to the pastors privately (including a woman pastor) and questioned some of the church procedure and schedules. The Administrative Pastor had a habit of scheduling two or three things at once, and had scheduled some meetings at the same time as my Children’s Choir program. I wanted people to be able to attend my once-a-year Children’s Choir program instead of having to be at a meeting.

There’s a lot more to it, a lot of meetings and discussions, but the gist of it is, I was accused of “striving against the leadership” and told that “I should find another place to worship.” My husband tried to work out a reconciliation and restoration with the church, but the pastors obviously wanted me out as soon as possible. They had no plans or thoughts of a reconciliation.

I was totally devastated. I had been part of evangelical churches since I was a little kid. (I was 45 at the time I was asked to leave the EFCA church.) My whole life was my church. I felt (and still do) that “church” is God’s plan for Christians here on this earth. (A lot of Protestants these days will strongly disagree with that statement–there is a big “Jesus and me can handle it all by ourselves” movement in Protestant churches–very scary.)

For months I had horrible nightmares about trials because of what had happened. (There actually was a church “tribunal” during which a deacon who had never met me before that night accused me in front of my husband of being “unloveable and unteachable.”) I dreamed that my church people were trying to kill me and my children. I dreamed these types of dreams night after night.

(BTW, a “deacon” in an EFCA is NOT an ordained person who has spent many years in preparation. Deacons are “elected” by the congregation.")

I also cried everyday for long periods of time, and my hands shook. At work, I had a hard time because of the shaking. I was so afraid that someone was going to tell me to “leave.”

Because the pastors had not followed the Biblical directions for conflict resoluation in Matthew 5 and Matthew 18, I lost all trust in Protestant teaching from that day on. After all, if they were so horribly wrong about that part of the Bible, then how did I know they weren’t wrong about all the rest of the things they had taught me? Remember, these were pastors, leaders, ordained men (and women!) of God.

Anyway, I told God that I would NOT join a church again until I was “wooed” in by loving people. THAT’S why I began calling myself “a cat in the window,” because I felt just like a stray cat, sitting on a windowsill, looking in longingly at the warm, happy family and wishing they would ask me in, give me some food, and let me sit on their laps and stay warm…even though I have worms from living outside on the window.

Well, you can guess what happened. There is a long story behind my exploration and acceptance of the Roman Catholic Church and on April 10, 2004, my husband and I were received into full communion with the Church, which I call “the Church of Christ.”

Interestingly, the woman “pastor” in our old EFCA church was fired two years later because she was “caught in a lie.” (The lie was not revealed to the people in the church.)

There is a lot of bad stuff going on in Protestant churches. I recently started trying to write a book about my experiences, but it is hard going. I doubt anyone will ever publish it; it’s not exactly pleasant reading.

But I believe that churches and the Church need to kind to “cats in their windows.”

Thanks for reading this. Has anyone else had experiences of being “kicked out” of their Protestant church? Share, please, if you can.

One final thing. Since that day, neither of my two daughters, now ages 18 and 21, will get involved with any church, Protestant or Catholic. My older daughter says that she is still “damaged” over what happened. “Mom,” she says, “If they kicked you out, after all your years of service and hard work in the church, then what would they do to me?”

My younger daughter simply says that she can’t trust any church. She will go sing at churches when she is invited, but not stay involved. (She is truly a “cat,” isn’t she, singing outside?!)

This is a terrible burden for me and my husband, and I pray that St. Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Nicholas would intercede for my children, that Jesus will lead them home to Church. My older daughter is currently dating a non-practicing Catholic. We have hopes that this will lead to a “coming home” for both of them. My younger daughter is dating a non-practicing Baptist, a wonderful young man, but…

It s a sad story, when people who claim to be Christian are less than they should be, but then that could apply in many ways to us all. The main thing is that in all this confusion you have come home to the True Church of Christ. With time and prayer perhaps your daughters/family will enter the Church. Your journey has recently started and may it be a long and fulfilling one.

In Christ

Tim

Hallo Cat

Welcome to the board…

Well, it a sad thing that it happens to you… nevertheless welcome home… which is already good… and through constant prayers, I truly believes that things will be put in place… don’t fret and Our Lord has began to make plans for you…

Trust in the Lord and he will provide, my prayers out to you Cat.

And once again, welcome home

God Bless

little goblin

Oops, one more thing,

Get everyone to the forum, it might just help…
With so many devout Catholics here, I am sure one of us may eventually help…

It is a great place to be…

God bless

little goblin :slight_smile:

Cat, wonderful post about your ordeal, yet all too common amongst the mulitiude of Protestant sects. Unfortunately, most protestant pastors are not brought in to teach the gospel, they are brought in to maintain the status quo of the church body, established by the congregationally elected deacon board. I see nowhere in scripture a mandate for deacons being selected by the congregation, who then go out and select a elder to lead them. The Church leadership is top down, meaning the Pastor is installed by the Bishop, as are the deacons. The Church was never built as a democracy so that a charismatic few can bend the will of the church to their own whimsy.

I myself was a cradle Catholic, converted to Greek Orthodoxy (to maintain marital religious unity - a big mistake BTW), then was divorced by my 1st wife, was granted an annulment, and spend several years “Church” shopping. When my Catholicism surfaced, as it invariably did when the “pastor” answered my questions with patently unscriptural answers, I was politely told that I should look for another place to worship. Sometimes, a man like Billy Hybels or Joel Olstein create a church body that reaches thousands of congregants, by what happens to the church when the preacher stops preaching? It usually slowly vanishes to nothing within a few years. Look at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. When Schuller senior was at the helm it was a dynamic and flourish congregation. Schuller junior doesn’t have his father’s charisma, and most people are weary of the meatless gospel preached in that church. It is a sad remnant of the “All doctrines are fine, just smile and everyting will be okay” churches of the 70’s that are becoming quite passe. People are coming back to the Rock that has weathered the storm for the last 2,000 years. Praise be to God!

Cat,
It really was EFCA? The Evangelical Free (Evangelical = Lutheran, Free means not State-controlled) do not ordain women.

Nor are congregations that have that kind of rulership allowed into the EFCA. Even though you’ve found another place where you can follow Christ, you should still contact the district superintendent about this, for the sake of those still in that congregation.

It was an Evangelical Free Church in America. The woman pastor was not officially ordained by the EFCA, but the church hired her to be the Children’s Pastor.

One thing that everyone should be aware of about Protestant churches is “autonomy.” Some denominations, like the EFCA and also the Christian Churches, as well as many, many “non-denominational” churches (called “non-denoms”) are autonomous, meaning that each church in the denomination makes it own decisions, hires its pastor(s), writes its own Statement of Faith, etc.

There is NO central governing authority, no council, consistory, convention, etc.

There are some obvious advantages to this. Autonomous churches do not have to lose a pastor or gain a pastor because some governing board, which probably has its headquarters thousands of miles away from their church, decides to move some pastors around. Autonomous churches do not have to spend money to support a “government;” they get to keep all their money and spend it as they see fit.

But there are many disadvantages, too. It is easy for autonomous churches to fall into heresy (the Jim Jones debacle started in a Christian church). Also, autonomous churches tend to become “pastor-centered,” as one pastor or maybe a team leads that church for many years, and calls all the shots. This is fine as long as the shots are good ones! But when a pastor goes off on a tangent, it can be very bad.

Also, there is NO ONE to appeal to when a wrong occurs. When I was asked to leave, one of the first things I did was look for the person in charge of our Senior Pastor. There wasn’t one. EFCA has no central governing body, just a loose “organization” of EFCA churches. Silly me–that’s what the name means–FREE churches, where everyone is free to believe their own doctrine, unless, of course, it runs counter to what the strongest majority in the church believes.

So when you are talking to Protestants, it might be a good idea to try to understand whether their churches are autonomous, or centrally governed. (Examples of strong central gov’ts are Southern Baptist, Conference Baptist, just about any of the mainlines, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the Reformed Churches.)

I appreciate all the kind thoughts so far. And yes, now that I am in the Catholic Church, I realize that this whole horrible incident was actually a blessing. I never would have looked into the Catholic Church if I had been peacefully ensconced in my evangelical church!

I just wanted to say how sorry I am, Cat, that you were treated as unfairly and poorly as you were.

I will keep you in my prayers

Cat, I’m sorry to hear about your painful experience. Your story is very moving, and unfortunately is familiar to me.

I was involved in an autonomous church that followed the “seeker service” model of Willow Creek. The pastor was an excellent evangelist and could really bring new people into the congregation, but he had serious personal problems, namely with anger, verbal abuse, despotic control, and pride. MANY people had been verbally assaulted by him, and then they were told that they couldn’t talk to anyone about it because that would be gossip. That church is as dysfunctional as any alcoholic family. I’m not kidding.

Well, my husband over the course of 13 years of marriage was also becoming more and more emotionally and verbally abusive to me. He also became physically violent with things in the house and starting having memory blackouts during his rages. His anger was directed at me, more and more. I am a very compliant person and for years, I had tried to acquiesce to him to mitigate is anger and frustration. It took its toll on me though, and I became increasingly unable to say or do what he thought he needed from me. The stress of it all shot my short term memory, and for the life of me, I honestly became very forgetful. That made him even more angry because he thought I didn’t care about him.

It became very clear that our dysfunction needed a pause, and if there was any hope for healing it would be in our living apart. When I moved out, I honestly believe two trains were going to collide: his severe emotional instability and his demands that I manage life for him, and my complete inability to manage life for him. When the trains collided I really believed the physical violence he exhibited toward things would be directed at me. In short, I was scared to death of him.

We, together, went to a Christian counselor, while living apart. He also saw the counselor alone for many appointments. Unfortunately, my husband was very dishonest and refused to look at his issues which were causing him to be so angry all the time. The counselor told me he was uncooperative with regard to dealing with key issues. Eventually, he quit seeing that counselor and started counseling with our pastor.

My pastor confronted me and insisted that I meet with him to discuss my reconciliation with my husband and moving back in with him. I explained that my husband had some very serious emotional problems and to focus on my living in a different household as the sole problem was to do him a serious disservice. But the main reason I did not agree to meet with the pastor privately under those circumstances is I was scared of being bullied like I had been in my marriage. I received a very condemning letter from the pastor threatening that if I didn’t meet with him my salvation would be in jeapordy. I returned a firm letter, again, explaining in more detail the serious nature of my husband’s problems. I explained that if there was any hope for reconcilation that he would need to work through those issues and demonstrate real recovery. I then got a letter from the pastor and the elders. They threatened that if I didn’t meet with them, “futher action” would be taken. I latered learned from my husband that this meant that any church I attended in town, they would contact the pastor and persuade him to disfellowship me.

To the average person, this may sound like a situation that would incite temporary outrage and long term disgust, but it was much more than that. I was severely abused emotionally. The stress had taken a real physical and medical toll on me. Spiritually, I was wiped out. The church that I had helped start 10 years earlier and had been involved in ministry and leadership for a decade suddenly betrayed me. They wanted me to go back to the abuse. Because I didn’t coorperate with them, they attempted to bully me and condemn me. And they effectively exiled me from any church in our small town. Although a small number of men actually did this, many of my “friends” have become angry with me when I tell them what happened. The taboo against gossip is so ingrained in that church, it is a crime for victims to speak.

I didn’t go to church anywhere for about 9 months. After my marriage was over, I started dating a Catholic guy. I was spiritually starved, and asked him if I could come to church with him. My conversion to the Catholic Church is another story, and I am still growing.

But the pain of what happened to me is still very real. I still cry about it. I really don’t resent anybody except my former pastor (even my ex). Resentment is a very self-destructive sin, and I want to be free of it. Please pray for me. I did go to confession and confess this, but the priest really minimized it and implied that my resentment was no big deal.

Petra,
Oh, my goodness. Oh, oh, oh. What a horrific story. I am so very sorry for what had to happen to you. Nightmarish. I am praying for you right now, that your soul and emotions will be healed, but I think it will be a tough thing to recover from. May God have mercy on that pastor and that church.

Just curious–did you (or others reading this who have undergone “church abuse”) ever wish that there was a “hero” who could sweep in and defend you from those mean church people and make everything “right”? In the Mormom church (which I consider to be a heresy and a cult, BTW, and hope I don’t offend anyone by saying so), there is a legend of the “Nephites,” who are supposed to be three apostles who asked Jesus if they could stay on earth and help people instead of going up to heaven. The legend is that these Nephites help Mormons at times of trouble.

I kept wishing (and still do) that Nephites or some other superhero or organization (I looked at a Christian “peacemaking” organization run by Christian lawyers, but they only take cases that could become possible lawsuits), or SOMEONE would swoop into my church and defend me and tell the pastors where they had done wrong and make them apologize and clean up their act.

I struggle with this still. Although I have forgiven the pastors and am grateful that they forced me to take a serious look at Catholicism, I still feel that they were allowed to transgress and there was never any justice. I am worried about how many other people they are hurting, and wish that someone could show them the errors that they are practicing. I’m not sure if my attitude is a correct one or if it is harmful to me and others.

BTW, although Purgatory is often a hard thing for new converts to accept, I actually find it a great comfort. I know that my former pastors will be in heaven with me and I hope that they are. But I also know that if those sins against me aren’t righted here on this earth, they will be righted in Purgatory, as the pastors will be cleansed of the sins that they committed against people like me. I’m not gloating about it, I’m just glad that God will work to purify them of their sins, as He will also do with me.

I think that’s one reason I started writing a book about my experiences, to try to get some “justice.” But like I said, it’s really tough to write and at the moment, I am staying away from my book and just trying to hang out in more encouraging circles (like this board and others).

But I do think that churches and Christians should be warned about “church abuse.” And I think that Protestant churches in particular should be urged to stop devouring their own people and to watch their “back door,” i.e., all the people who leave their church. I think they should ask “why” and try to make sure that those people are fully restored to Christ and to their church, even if the person still chooses to leave. These “rifts” in the Body of Christ do harm to the Body. I Corinthians 12: 26–“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it…”

Does anyone else have any of these same thoughts? Do you think they are healthy thoughts or sinful? Thanks for sharing.

Cat,

Have you considered getting in contact with Marcus Grodi from The Coming Home Network? www.chnetwork. (I don’t remember if it is .com, .net, or .org).

I am sure he may want to know about your book idea or even talk with you personally. Also I would suggest getting a hold of Patrick Madrid. Mr. Madrid has put out a series of books called ‘Surprised By Truth’. They have Three Volumes to date.

Just another thought about getting the word out from your book.

Go with God!
Edwin

Hi Cat, thank you so much for your prayers. It means a lot to me.

I didn’t wish for a “hero”, per se, but was obvious to me that there was a lack of accountability on the part of the pastor in that church. In a way, the experience allowed me to see the very negative effects of schism from the Catholic Church. There is potential for abuse to occur anywhere (even in Catholic Churches) but autonomous churches have no accountability to anyone else, and I think there is more potential for abuse and dysfunctional dynamics.

I know what you mean about writing your story being hard. I haven’t considered writing a book, but I have thought about making a web site to include my story and such. I want to write something to explain to my friends and family why I became Catholic. I’m more articulate in writing, so it seems the appropriate method. But I also want to be free of bitterness before I do so. I don’t want my writings to be influenced by any sin on my part.

I’m still kind of confused. I’m finding things out about the Catholic Church that I didn’t know when I converted, and I’m trying to work those issues out. I was instructed privately by a Navy priest who was so filled with the Spirit and enthusiastic. But shortly after I converted, he was transferred to another Base. The new priest was not interested in meeting with non-military, so I started going to the other Catholic Church in town. That priest is very dour and legalistic, and I feel very uncomfortable around him.

Also shortly after I converted, my Catholic boyfriend broke up with me, so I didn’t have him as a resource to continue learning about my new faith. My annulment wasn’t decided yet, but my civil divorce was final. Nevertheless, he felt it was a sin to date me. That experience made me feel like I was defective and that the Catholic Church was rejecting me, too. Immediately all the joy of my conversion was gone, and I once more felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I knew I was a Christian and the Lord Jesus loved me, but I felt cast out from the Christian human institutions.

I don’t want to occupy to much of this thread with a tangent, but I’ll just say that I’m trying to resolve some things I find troubling and I’m trying to find my place in Catholicism. I really appreciate your prayers.

[quote=Cat]Hi, everyone, I’m new to the Forum. This is a great place!

My login name is Cat. On other Christian boards, I call myself “Cat in the Window.” There is a reason for this name.

Two years ago, I was asked to leave our Evangelical Free Church in America (EFCA–it’s an evangelical Protestant denomination). I had gone to the pastors privately (including a woman pastor) and questioned some of the church procedure and schedules. The Administrative Pastor had a habit of scheduling two or three things at once, and had scheduled some meetings at the same time as my Children’s Choir program. I wanted people to be able to attend my once-a-year Children’s Choir program instead of having to be at a meeting.
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[/quote]

I am very sorry about this story, and yes it happens way to much. I dont tell this for sympathy and I hope that is enough of a caviate as to motive.

It is very painful, I do wish you peace.

I wanted to add I was in an organization I E Para Church group. After 10 years of being a volenteer I was terminated, which was bad enough, but I lost every friend I had in the organization. I was dismissed with a message left on my answering machine. It broke my heart, not that that is really a big deal. But it destroid my ability to volenteer for years. The reason I was terminated was because I made a complaint and asked for help. I did make some mistakes, I asked for help and was affraid because at the time was loosing my sight and struggling with other health issues. I was informed that these issues were irrelevant and I should have never asked for help. Which is something I will not ever do in a faith based organization again.

What happened to me was very small compared to people who loose houses, broken families and even suicide which is often just scoffed at with little or no concern. Basically the idea is one must be deal with it, move on and get over it. I have been burned in a fire “3rd detree” over 40% of my body. I would rather go through that pain again then the spiritual pain I went through when I lost those I served with. It wasnt being booted, it was that what I did had no meaning what soever. I know this sounds like whining and I am still totally dusgusted with myself that I showed weakness. I bring this stuff up once in a while with faith based groups, I am usually reminded that I am a liar.

It hurts but God is faithful.

Brian, what a horrible experience! And how bizarre of them to do that simply because you asked for help!

Spiritual injuries are, indeed, the most painful of all. It makes it very difficult to trust people or to imagine being involved in a service capacity ever again. And for me, my experiences created confusion about how God felt about me. It is devastating.

It’s okay to be weak. Consider what Saint Paul said: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Cor. 12:9

I’m so sorry about your pain. I will pray for your healing. But please know that there is nothing wrong with weakness and asking for help. The Christians that treated you so terribly are the ones who are spiritually handicapped.

Dear Cat and others,

Glory be to Jesus Christ, now and forever

Welcome Home!

I was deeply saddened to read of you experiences. It is no wonder that Jesus had to die for our sins. I am especially distressed that these actions were taken by others in His name!

I hope that you have found it your hearts to forgive these misgiuded persons and to pray for thier conversion.

God Bless
ReddScapular

[quote=ReddScapular]Dear Cat and others,

Glory be to Jesus Christ, now and forever

Welcome Home!

I was deeply saddened to read of you experiences. It is no wonder that Jesus had to die for our sins. I am especially distressed that these actions were taken by others in His name!

I hope that you have found it your hearts to forgive these misgiuded persons and to pray for thier conversion.

God Bless
ReddScapular
[/quote]

That is nice, I have not come home myself, if that means becoming Catholic. I know people may take this as self serving wollowing. It is not.
I forgave those folks the very day it happened. I apologized that same day and tried all I could do to reconcile, something seen in some faith circiles as pathetic and disgusting in the extreme. I think the thing that kills me is I wanted to leave a legacy, I understand how stupid and ignorant that is now. But it was important, though it was actually irrelevant. That is what cuts so hard is the fact that it is all just so irrelevant and that seems to not be a real issue.

I mean I was told, Jesus keeps track of those things you will get your reward. I almost vomit when people say that. I do not want a reward, I just want to do what is honoring to God. That is silly but it is stuck in my head to honor God. As for Coming home, I would give my eye teeth to be able to do that, but the Door is locked. I do not have the foggiest how to explain that any better.

I do understand others go through much more and much worse things. Thank you for your kind post.

Cat, those Nephites are the people and all the people in the Church. Most people are not willing to speak up and take a proper stand.

Take for eg. the bishops who continued to cover up the priestly sex crimes against Children, Those Bishops will more than likely spend their eternity in hell, and they should have all been defrocked and removed from the Church. Some crimes are so horrendos that we should never be concerned about the perpetrators of such crimes other than to ensure they cannot re-offend at all costs. Can anyone imagine that Christ will open his arms to them and say welcome to the house that I have prepared for you with me in heaven.

Christ does not talk about it being better for those such person to hang a big stone around their neck and drown, for nothing.

Cat, what it always requires is for people to take a reasoned approach and expose those who are evil.

In Christ

Tim

To Cat, Petra, Briand, and any others who have been asked to leave their churches. Praise God that you have been brought home to the Church initiated by Christ, through Peter and all of his successors. (Briand keep asking the questions and you will find the answers in the Catholic church.) It is a blessing for you and a blessing for your fellow Catholics. It’s an oportunity for you to practice the humility of Christ and an oportunity for us to practice the service of Christ… My one word of advice to you, and I hope this helps you, is this: Find a copy of a prayer called the Litany of Humility. Pray it as often as you can in front of the Blessed Sacrament. As you pray it, each time you can go a little deeper into a graceful humility and it will help give some meaning to your perceived misfortune. While the misfortune is perceived, the mistreatment was very real. God Bless You!

Irishman

Thanks again for all the input. I will certainly work on my book with Mr. Grodi in mind. I love his show and I’ve read his fiction “How Firm A Foundation,” about a Protestant who “came home.”

I can’t help but feel that so many other people have better “stories” than I do, and they should have a chance to share their experiences before me.
Brian, what happened to you is so sad. I think “shunning” is an awful doctrine, and that Protestants are misapplying verses like Matthew 18: 15-17 when they do this. The problem I see is that in the Protestant churches, who has the authority to decide who is sinning and who is just struggling? If everyone is free to have their own private relationship with Jesus and read and interpret the Scriptures on their own, then why would my interpretation of sin be more correct than someone else’s? In my old church, my pastors took verses about unity and factions and applied them to me because I was questioning a church procedure.

Irishman, WOW! One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is the written prayers! I know other Protestants and probably a lot of Catholics disagree with me and would prefer to just talk to God like a Friend. Well, I’ve been there, and although I do talk to Jesus informally throughout the day, I really love using the written prayers of saints and others because they give me a written “record” of what I have prayed for. I have noticed more answers to prayer since I started praying prayers like the Te Deum and Anima Christi. I LOVE this Litany of Humility–it reminds me of St. Edith Stein’s prayers. Thank you so much for pointing it out to me.

One of the things I love about Catholics is that when you ask for help, they tell you, “Go DO this, or go SAY that, or go PRAY that.” Last week at Confession, I confessed some arrogance toward certain Protestants, and my priest said, “Pray Three Hail Marys for those who will die tonight without Christ, so that they may receive warning and have the opportunity to avoid the impending disaster to their souls. Also, instead of allowing arrogance to fester, pray that Protestants would find the True Church.”

After Mass that evening, we went out to eat, and I said a quick prayer that someone from our old Protestant church would come into the restaurant. As we were getting ready to leave, lo and behold, in walks a family from our old church. A chance to pray for them, and to greet them kindly! And later that night, I went to the grocery store and prayed the same prayer; turned the corner and Ta Da, another family from my old church, and another chance to pray the same prayer for them and again, to greet them kindly and lovingly.

Wow, Cat! That is SO cool to see God’s answers to prayer so quickly! And Irishman, you are so right that what others meant for our harm, God has turned around for our good. I never would have found the Catholic Church had it not been for that ordeal.

The Litany of Humility is awesome! I am going to start praying it regularly. It is medicine that I need.

Thank you all for your prayers for me! I the past day or so, I have really noticed a loosening of my grip upon my hurt. I’m starting to let go. Praise God!

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