Thursday, February 16, 2012

Just think... what if she had a blog?

February 16, 2012 -- On the front page of the Commercial Appeal (above the fold, no less) appeared this story:

Unchurched: Longtime member faces discipline at Second Presbyterian

In a nutshell, Dr. Nan Hawkes, 59, a member of Second Presbyterian for 35 years, has been accused by the pastor, Sandy Willson, and the church's elder board of "offenses of immorality and contempt for the established order of the church." Hawkes was notified in a FedEx-delivered letter from the church that she has been barred from attending her Sunday School class and is expected to appear before a "commission" of 5 church members headed by criminal court judge, Chris Craft. Pending the outcome of this disciplinary hearing, Hawkes may be excommunicated from the church.

So... what "offenses of immorality" did Hawkes commit? Stealing? Murder? Child abuse? Sexual immorality? Blogging??? Nope. Dr. Hawkes, a neuro-psychologist, is accused of calling senior pastor Sandy Willson a "narcissist" because of his heavy-handed tactics and ruling over the church. Hawkes claims she did call him a narcissist but that it was taken out of context. Specifically, she claims, someone on the church staff asked her how to best deal with Willson.

Now, if someone on staff actually had to consult a licensed psychologist for advice on how to deal with the pastor... doesn't that establish that there might just be a very real problem with Willson's leadership style? It sounds as if Hawkes recognized in Willson the characteristics of "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" and, I assume, advised the person accordingly in a private conversation. Here is an excellent article on the problem of NPD in the pulpit. Unfortunately, we've seen other megachurch pastors with many of these same traits.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), of which Second Presbyterian is a member, approves of female elders but apparently leaves the decision on this "non-essential" issue up to the individual congregation. Dr. Hawkes claims the root of the problem is that she has nominated women for the board of elders only to be told by Willson that only "qualified men" can be elders in his church. It's unclear from the article if this is part of the church bylaws or if it's simply a decree by Willson. It would seem Dr. Hawkes' defense hinges on this point. Have female elders always been expressly forbidden by this church's bylaws (in which case Dr. Hawkes should have moved on long ago if she objected and the majority of church members didn't desire to change things), or is this a lone declaration by Sandy Willson (in which case the board of elders needs to get a tighter rein on him)?

Here's some interesting background on Chris Craft, the criminal court judge charged with leading this kangaroo court. Funny, but his call for less transparency there flies in the face of his comments here. And in a statement that shows the true colors of authoritarian men and the men they surround themselves with... here is Chris Craft explaining that "laymen" don't possess the ability to understand what judges must endure, thus making them unqualified to serve on the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, the misnamed body charged with hearing complaints against judges and imposing sanctions when necessary. In other words, only judges can police other judges. Which may help explain why corruption among the Tennessee court system is so rampant. But I digress.

What's even more appalling, as if this story could get more appalling, is that a friend of Dr. Hawkes, Jan Wardle, a fellow 2PC member and member of the church choir, dared to defend her friend in a letter to church leaders. The leadership responded in typical loving "Christian" kindness by banning Ms. Wardle from the choir "until the matter is resolved."

And it gets worse if Dr. Hawkes' account is accurate. She claims the church wants her to sign a document which states she cannot sue the church (she claims she couldn't sue them anyway) but that the church retains the right to sue her. Who in their right mind would sign something like that? Why would the church want her to sign something like that?

The comment stream, over 200 comments as of this writing, is interesting. As several people noted, there must be more to this story than what the article states. However, we've seen enough of this type behavior from other megachurch pastors with seemingly narcissistic tendencies to confidently speculate that the problem is an authoritarian figure who cannot ignore criticism and will not stand for anyone disagreeing with him or criticizing him in any way. Maybe the woman is a pain in the rear, but dealing with difficult people is part of being a leader. Unfortunately, the way many church "leaders" deal with those who don't fall into lockstep with them is to try to silence them through intimidation. Most of the time this is effective, but every once in a while you get a Nan Hawkes. Or a "Watchdog."

Ask any upper-level staff member at Bellevue about the "covenant" which they were required to sign after Steve Gaines was hired, the document they were required to sign if they wanted to keep their jobs. It all boils down to this. There will be no disagreement with "Pastor." You will tithe and we will check it. It's my way or the highway. If you don't like it, leave.

I couldn't have summed up this whole thing better than this:

patbuchannan writes:

So, to prove the himself not a narcissist, the minister moves to excommunicate someone who criticized him. Well, that's a narcissist for you.

Other select comments:

bingo writes:

This is embarrassing to all Christians. Leave the woman alone. The Church is full of gossips over there. You are all being laughed at. It is a church, not an empire. You people on this committee should be ashamed of yourself. She is the only woman in that church that gossips? Sure, go hang out with some of the PDS moms for 5 minutes and rethink that.

(PDS is Presbyterian Day School, 2PC's private all-boys school which will set you back about $18,000 a year in tuition and fees. I guess girls are expendable.)

rtaman50 writes:

I can only hope there are comments that were made that were more serious than what was pointed out in the article. Otherwise I agree with bingo. Gossip is a human failing that can be found in any church. And it is a forgivable sin. As a Presbyterian (and Christian who struggles daily with my failings) I am embarrassed that something like this should be elevated to the level of a church trial. If this lady is tried, you'd better go after the adulterers, liars, and cheats that are surely within your congregation. Church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners; not a shrine for sanctimonious "saints".

(I've never liked the "church is a hospital for sinners" line, but "rtaman50" states the obvious. Why this particular woman? And why the "minor" sin of "gossip" when you ignore the "major" sins of adultery, etc.?)

funnymom writes:

Willson and Hawkes need to be locked in a room together where they can come to an agreement without all the grandstanding in front of church elders and the media. I'm sure there's a way for both of them to save face, and to use this strife as an example of how healing can occur even when you think it can't. Of course, both of them have to want to heal. They need to pray for each other and not pray to win.

(You're an idealist. That would have been the way for Mac Brunson and Tom Rich to try to iron our their differences, too, or when people asked to meet with Steve Gaines, access that was flatly denied by David Coombs, but egos like those of Brunson, Gaines, and apparently Willson, will not permit coming to any "agreement" or any compromise. They will not even consider the possibility that they could be wrong about anything. Remember, it's their way or the highway.)

clintatl#542381 writes:

Typical. This "church" has become less about worshiping God and more about worshiping Sandy Willson. Sounds to me like Dr. Hawkes should find a real church and leave this cult of personality behind.

revreader writes:

in response to ohknow:

It hurts my heart also. I can only imagine that this lady's actions and words have been understated in this article. Sandy Willson is a reasonable man and a wonderful pastor.

The context of forgiveness in this case does equal acceptance. They are not trying to kick her out of the church, as in the Body of Christ. They are trying to get her to stop coming to this particular church.

Reading between the lines, I believe she's a raging feminist who's resentful that none of her female nominations have been approved. Maybe those denials have been on merits and have nothing to do with their sexual organs!? Just a thought.

If she is so disruptive to a congregation that this action is necessary, my guess is there's something terribly wrong (with her).

What would Jesus do since cynics are asking? Well, He is Lord and Savior so I doubt any of us actually have a clue what He'd do. But he does command us to forgive our debtors, and I'm sure most at the church will make forgiveness a top priority. But, forgiveness is far from acceptance.

Denials based on merits?

Riiiight, just like the Memphis Country Club turns down blacks for membership on their merits, not their color. Get your head out of the sand, good sister. The hypocrisy of this church and its leadership is off the charts.

dahrius1#340734 writes:

in response to robject:

Second Pres is a long, narrow city block of brick and intolerance. What an absurd and pathetic joke this religious star chamber is.

Yes, Second Presbyterian was a charter member of the MCRA along with Idlewild. The MCRA is a church sports organization that got kids from Whitehaven to play with kids from G'town and Bartlett. There were churches all over the city and sometimes that meant a white church like 2nd Pres would have to visit an unfamiliar part of town. It was great and just what this city needed until some of the parents from 2nd Pres, Independent Pres and Hope Pres decided they were uncomfortable going to those areas and started the ESCRA which basically means East Shelby white church rec assoc. Yeah, I'm sure this woman is a "raging feminist." 2nd Pres just isn't the place for people like her that would dare challenge the church. They do have a good school if you have loads of cash....

EdRedLives writes:

in response to wahoo71:

This is yet another example of the high level of arbitrary authoritarianism that has been going on for years at Second Presbyterian.


It’s not restricted to just Second Pres. That is the main reason why I do not belong to a large church. They tend to lose sight of the reason for their existence somewhere along the way.

AUserWithThisNameAlreadyExists writes:

The part of this that especially bothers me is that they wanted her to sign a paper stating she would not sue, but that said that they could sue her.

I wonder if a male acquaintance who dumped his wife and moved with a co-worker to another state is still considered a member in good standing there.


lifespalette54 writes:

in response to EastMem:

I am a member of Second Presbyterian Church. When I joined the church I took the same oath as every other member which states the Church has the authority to discipline its members who break God's law. I do not know the woman mentioned in the article but I have found 2PC to be a place of love and kindness. I am sorry for her unhappiness. All of us are fallen and sin. Thankfully, God has forgiven me and continues to forgive me. I thank the church for making hard decisions and holding its members to the law. I don't know what charges she has been accused of but I do know that 2PC takes this process very seriously. It is unfortunate she felt the need to go to the CA.

Careful EastMem..... talking about someone you don't even know and about something you don't know anything about.... isn't that gossip?

Maybe the church and Pastor Sandy should set your church trial for the next business meeting agenda as well...... rules are rules as you say.


rcoleman72 writes:

I'm Christian and I don't get this at all.

How and why in the world would you bar anyone let alone a professed Christian from Sunday school class? No matter what differences you have with them. If there's a perceived problem with a person's level of faith/obedience to God, how do you help them by banning them from being taught the word of God??? I would understand if the person in question was teaching the Sunday school class or holding some other position of authority (then you would just have them step down from leadership), but that isn't the case here.

And... a fellow church goer writes a letter on her behalf and is asked to leave the choir? What?!?! So anyone that supports a friend is punished?

C'mon fellow Christians, enough with the banning of people that aren't already "perfect Christians." We should be drawing those people nearer to us!!

EdRedLives writes:

Several years ago, we got a call at one of the "tolerant" Presbyterian churches in the general midtown area. We were met at the door by a staff member who angrily informed us that "one of those people" had wandered into the sanctuary. I never found out if "those people" referred to the guy being homeless or black, but he had in fact come into the church and was sitting in one of the pews. Just sitting.

The "tolerant" church staff demanded that we arrest him. They didn’t care why he was there and didn’t want to ask. He never gave us any trouble, or even said a word. I suspect he was there for help, but they wouldn't hear of it.

We made a big show of "arresting" the poor guy, but we seem to have gotten lost on the way to 201 and wound up at Union Mission instead.

So much for my dealings with the "tolerant" midtown / Presbyterian churches.

patbuchannan writes:

Well, she is just a woman, so why does what she said about Sandy carry any weight? I mean, you know how hysterical women can get.

(Good point.)

jackreacher writes:

I have been in church for more than 60 years and have never known anyone to get kicked out of the church for disagreeing with the minister or even talking against the minister. And kicking someone out of the choir for taking sides against the minister - the 2nd Pres leadership seems like a bunch of Nazis.

If it were me - I wouldn't take part in this kangaroo court they dreamed up - there has to be a better church to go to.

(I wouldn't go either, but if Ms. Hawkes does decide to show up I'd highly advise her to not go alone! Do NOT meet with these people alone! Take a lawyer and at least one trusted friend, perhaps Ms. Wardle. Oh, and be sure to record the proceedings.)

Griff64 writes:

in response to EastMem:

I am a member of Second Presbyterian Church. When I joined the church I took the same oath as every other member which states the Church has the authority to discipline its members who break God's law. I do not know the woman mentioned in the article but I have found 2PC to be a place of love and kindness. I am sorry for her unhappiness. All of us are fallen and sin. Thankfully, God has forgiven me and continues to forgive me. I thank the church for making hard decisions and holding its members to the law. I don't know what charges she has been accused of but I do know that 2PC takes this process very seriously. It is unfortunate she felt the need to go to the CA.

I would be wary of any church that makes members sign a membership covenant that includes submission to discipline. This is a troubling sign of an authoritarian pastor who has put himself in the business of substituting his own judgment for God's. It's also the first step in the slippery slope that is the descent from church to cult. (For an example of a church that's somewhat further down that slope, click on the link below.) It has also been my observation that churches which seek to enforce this type of submission in its membership also encourage and cultivate a culture of male dominance, which also seems to be at work here. One does not have to be a radical feminist to recognize it and push back against it.

This type of church power structure is not the norm, and it is not an EPC thing. I belong to another EPC church in the area, and we have nothing like it. (We also have about 50% female elders, and one female pastor out of three).

(Hey, someone else out there reads The Wartburg Watch!)

Sistawoman writes:

Good heavens, what has happened to 2nd Pres? When did they take a hard right and lock-step back a couple of centuries? The really puzzling thing to me is that I have known many sharp, professional, savvy women who belong to 2nd Pres. What are they thinking about the "no women shall be elders rule"? I can't believe they meekly go along with that like sheep or like brainwashed Muslim women.

(Which brings us back to the question of whether this is set-in-stone official church policy or Sandy Willson's proclamation.)

Balance writes:

What kind of church is this church??? Christian church? Is this Judge Chris Craft the same one who in now in trouble with the legislature for covering the corruption in the Tennessee Court of Judiciary? It is going to be interesting to know what kind of gossip this poor woman was spreading. Maybe it was just the truth.

AverageJoe1001 writes:

Although we don't know all the details of this story, a few things sound odd. If indeed they exclude women from the position of elder, then there is something fishy about this church.

There is a slippery slope when you start to single out people for exclusion based on their gender. Who else is excluded from this church leadership? Seems like a rather exculsive church.

Women in other cultures are routinely put down in a very public fashion (many are not allowed to drive or get a drivers license). Women in the American culture are put down in a more subtle fashion, but there are some striking parallels. Obviously stoning is not allowed in this culture, so perhaps a legal form of stoning. Having a judge preside over a church court seems to be a serious misuse of position and power.

Just a few thoughts. How about publishing all the facts about this case so we can get a real and accurate picture of this situation. It would benefit all churches in Memphis and also benefit women in Memphis if we could know and understand this situation. If this is a legitimate thing, then the church should be glad to have it aired in public, otherwise it would look like they are hiding some secrets.

(Ah, but their argument is that exclusion based on "gender" is biblical. After all, according to Piper, Driscoll, et al., Christianity is masculine. And as for having a judge presiding over things... A.C. Soud at FBC Jax, anyone?)

feburg writes:

in response to wahoo71:

This is yet another example of the high level of arbitrary authoritarianism that has been going on for years at Second Presbyterian.


I think with your statement, and the Dr's observation, alleging Willson to have a narcissistic personality (NP) disorder, and comments by others from his church, perhaps the church council should consider exploring that possibility before it moves against Dr. Hawkes. I would suggest that all parties (especially the appointed judge) consider the following article, with citations, that discusses NP leadership and the church: In particular, I found that this article suggests that "[it] would be prudent to... have a formal evaluation of the pastor done, ....", prior to exercising the extraordinary action of removing any parishioner. A NP pastor will always try to remove those who he feels threatens his authority (arbitrary authoritarianism) and can cause much dissention within the church.

(Yes, this would appear to be a good place to start. It'll also never happen.)

AverageJoe1001 writes:

I would hope that the women of this church would stand up for themselves and stand in solidarity behind this woman just for the principle of the thing. Are the women of this church capable of thinking for themselves, or are they entirely slave to the husband's power, position and money? The greater issue here goes far beyond this woman against this church.

(Don't hold your breath. Most probably didn't know about it until this morning, but don't you know the phone lines were buzzing and discussion among the PDC moms was especially lively today?)

1oftheBest writes:

Second Pres has absolutely nothing to do with God. Why would a church need another book on how to conduct yourself in the Lord's house. The BIBLE is what governs the Lord's house. When you make up your own church and rules God has nothing to do with that. One God, One Church, and One Baptism. The Church was paid for with the Blood of Jesus and it is written how you should worship and where. Doc, they're doing you a favor.

(The Book of Order and Discipline does have sort of a Book of Mormonish ring to it, doesn't it?)

priceless109 writes:

Sandy is among those that I respect most. I am sorry that he is having to deal with this.

(Oh, good grief. Poor Sandy. Look, Sandy Willson is a public figure. He should deal with this the same way most public figures, at least non-megachurch pastors, deal with it. He should either ignore it or try to learn from it. Just like Mac Brunson's actions and Steve Gaines' inactions (see Paul Willaims), Sandy Willson's own actions ultimately resulted in this making the front page of the newspaper.)

AverageJoe1001 writes:

in response to aztec13:

Whatever your personal beliefs, it is still unconstitutional for the government or lawyers or judges to tell churches how to govern themselves. You'd be surprised how many women don't agree with you. An elder is an ordained position, and many men and women think that ordained positions should only be filled by men. It's not necessarily what I believe, but I can see the argument from both sides.

I would not be surprised in the least if many women did not agree with me. How could any woman think logically if she had been taught all her life that she is inferior due to her gender, and unequal to a man. If you hear such garbage all your life you come to believe this nonsense. You have only to visit one of the other Presbyterian churches in town that have a woman minister to realize just how equal a woman minister is to a man. I cannot help but admire the courage of that woman who was kicked out of the choir. At least one woman at 2nd Pres has the dignity and courage to stand up and say in public, "This is not right."

songbird61 writes:

I was a member of 2PC for years. At one time a teacher of a women's group was asked to stop teaching. Her husband was divorcing her so he could marry his mistress. That church is ruled with an iron fist -- Sandy's.

Poonster writes:

According to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church's Book of Order and Discipline, "immorality" is:

" ... conduct inconsistent with the biblical standards for conduct, including but not limited to bickering, brawling, debauchery, drunkenness, gossiping, hatred, idolatry, impurity, slander, and sexual immorality such as adultery, fornication, homosexual practice, and bestiality. The terms 'bickering' and 'gossiping' as used herein are intended to deal with those acts that are disruptive to the peace and unity of the church."

That should wipe out about two-thirds of the congregation, shouldn't it?

(I'd guess closer to 100%.)

synapse writes:

I've been wandering why The Commercial Appeal has been ignoring the Mo' Money Taxes thing.

Now I most certainly understand.

Certainly this incendiary crisis demands all available journalistic resources available.

Has Channel 5 sent their helicopter yet?

(Certainly. It is indeed curious why this story would make the front page of the paper.)

Eaglemate writes:

in response to aztec13:

If the EPC is like many denominations, they may allow any number of things, but they leave the decision up to the individual church. That way if a church congregation is more conservative, they may choose not to allow female elders (or whatever), while a more liberal church in the same denomination can have all the female elders they like. Neither congregation is going against what the denomination decides is acceptable, and therefore both liberal and conservative churches within the same denomination can be happy. It's supposed to cause less division this way, but there are always people who want to change the nature of the church they're in rather than finding a church that fits their beliefs. It's very telling that this woman has chosen to take her argument to the media (who love church division). I suppose it takes a narcissist to know one, since only a narcissist would assume the entire city of Memphis wants to hear her complaint against a small group of people.

Aztec13, OK, I get that. Second Pres gets to decide whether it wants women elders and no by-laws dictate that. I looked then to what seems to be accepted in similar churches of the EPC, and after hunting around today, it looks like the EPC does have churches who have female elders.

I am not lobbying one way or the other, but I would muse over a few things, the first being how change ever comes about. We said blacks shouldn't use public restrooms, and someone objected to that. We said we shouldn't get involved in Nazi Germany, but someone objected to the lunacy of that.... see where I am going with this? How does change and evolution ever occur without strong people objecting to circumstances that may not be acceptable?

My only position is that if a church member is being "investigated" and a "tribunal" held because she is objecting to the lack of female elders, and someone in authority is making aggressive moves to denounce her because of difference of opinion, then the utter lack of respect is unacceptable no matter what the subject is.

Maybe the issue needs to be put on the table forcefully.

Next, I want to know whether this kind of "tribunal" has been held for other members who have failed to meet the "codes" of the church, such as marital infidelity, debauchery (wonder how many DUI's you'd find among the members.... think I'll have to run a check on that one); other criminal offenses. Get my drift here?

Failure to apply this kind of action as a matter of routine and uniformity, is selecting her and singling her out. It smacks of a personal agenda and persecution.

Then, one has to ask the obvious question. What rationale is used to keep women out of positions of power in the church? Some EPC churches embrace it, so they must have come to theology that supports such, right? That tells me that Second Presbyterian is fighting mighty hard to stanch an evolution of common sense and just plain wisdom, if not Biblical connotations that support women as elders. Or did other EPC churches just "make that up"?

Finally, my question is "Who is 'the church'"? Did the church hold a referendum or stage in-house focus groups to discover what "the church" wants? Or is the church the male pastor and 12 male elders? Well, that one is kinda "duh".

Imatiger63 writes:

in response to AverageJoe1001:

Why has this story made the front page of the Commercial Appeal? Perhaps because it is about more than a woman, a church and its pastor. Perhaps it is about the God given rights of women to be treated as equals. Perhaps it is about being able to speak your mind and support another church member without being excluded from the choir. Wouldn't it be interesting if every woman member of this church wrote a letter of support of this woman to the pastor. What would they do, exclude all the women from the choir. Women are the church just as any man is. The church better parachute in some more high powered lawyers on this one, they are on the wrong side of the issue, and no amount of lawyers can correct this situation.

I agree. I am a Christian, but it bothers me to no end how a few claim to be more in touch with God than the rest of us. These people make themselves out to be the judge and jury of a woman who may or may not have said something mildly inappropriate. And to try to silence others by banning them from other church activities for excercising their right to free speech is appalling. It's no wonder that organized religion turns so many off. Their treatment of this woman is kinda in the same mold as those idiot Muslims that call for the death of someone that says something against Islam. Except the death part, the basis is the same -- intolerence even as Jesus preached tolerence and forgiveness of EVERYONE. This woman is going to be 'on trial'? Wow, I wouldn't have believed it, seems like these people are living in the 16th century.


So what will happen next? Will there be some resolution before "court" convenes? Will the church have an MPD detective from the congregation start an "investigation" into Ms. Hawkes' "possible criminal activities"? Will they issue trespass papers against her and any family members? Will the elders draft a "resolution" warning others about what will happen if they dare to criticize the leadership? If so, will they read it out loud during a church service, have the congregation vote on it, and nail it on the front page of the church's website? Will Nan Hawkes start a blog? Will Jan Wardle return to the choir? Will anyone in the choir walk out in support of her? Will Sandy Willson rail against the sin of gossip in his next sermon and remind the sheep he's "God's man" with special God-ordained authority? Will anyone leave 2PC over this? Will the church's income go down? If there's any fallout from this and it hits them in the collection plate... watch out.


Warner said...

Good use of "LOL!" and "Ouch!" in your response to uneducated comments from anonymous posters on the Commercial Appeal website. Those really drive your point home.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Second Presbyterian responds.

New BBC Open Forum said...

As someone said, "Any story about God, guns, race, or sex is guaranteed to generate a lot of comments in Memphis."

I would add "anything to do with the Fords." They never cease to amuse (and amaze).

Top 5 stories in comments:

Unchurched: Longtime member faces discipline at Second Presbyterian

Published 2/16/2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Sen. Ophelia Ford of Memphis recalls experiences with ‘mean and hateful’ nurses

Published 2/14/2012 at 10:07 p.m.

Wendi C. Thomas: How can religious folk be so heartless?

Published 2/16/2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Memphis Tigers walk Conference USA tightrope

Published 2/14/2012 at 12:00 a.m.

Will Barton's 20 points power Memphis Tigers over Tulane, 82-64

Published 2/15/2012 at 9:00 p.m.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Blythegirl writes:

in response to icareaboutmemphis:

I just feel sorry for all those beautiful, smart girls that are being raised with these limits being placed on them. Rev. Willson has responded (the Royal We):

I notice this "peacemaker" tribunal was formed just a year after Sandy Willson came to 2PC...interesting.

Do you by any chance mean the Hutchison girls he addressed at Baccalaureate last year? The ones he told that their toughest decision would be which guy they chose to marry?? Because that has offended me since the moment I heard it.

New BBC Open Forum said...

ignatiusjr writes:

in response to AverageJoe1001:

Since I don't personally know the parties involved, then it is impossible to tell if either is guilty of some unacceptable behavior, but as far as screwing 2nd Pres, I would say that if they don't allow women in positions of authority in their church then they have already screwed themselves. After all, we are living in the 21st Century. How about a woman head pastor at 2nd Pres. Is that a possiblility, or will it ever be a possibility? If no, then why exactly not? Is this church stuck in the dark ages? The whole court thing really seems suspicious. If this story changes just one person's attitude about women's role in the church (to allow inclusion) then this will be one of the better things that ever happened to 2nd.

I do not agree with 2PC's position on women's roles in the church, but it has always been their position... that is not new. I personally would not be comfortable in any congregation that does not allow women in leadership roles. BUT... 2PC is following what they believe to be biblical and true. Maybe one day it will change... maybe it won't.

I have some Jewish friends that eat pork and some that don't, but I don't judge one group for being in the dark ages because they still follow dietary laws handed down thousands of years ago. It is their right to hold to the beliefs that they feel are correct and true. Some of my Muslim friends dress traditionally while others are very westernized. Again, each is making a choice regarding their understand of God and biblical truth.

Churches that limit women's roles are only following what they believe to be God's design. I may disagree with their interpretation, but I will not judge them for it. There are plenty of church choices out there for Christians, and I choose one with a different interpretation of women's roles. I still do not believe that Dr. Hawkes' position regarding women is the whole story.

New BBC Open Forum said...

AverageJoe1001 writes:

Wow, I never would have expected 2nd Pres to exclude women from leadership roles. The women I know who attend there seem highly educated, and it is hard to see how they put up with such a thing, especially considering how negatively this would affect their daughters. Women got rights a long time ago in this country. Well I am glad someone stood up and said, "The Emperor has no clothes." I knew some other religions did this sort of thing, but in 2012 at 2nd Pres, wow, that is all I can say.

New BBC Open Forum said...

I'm thinking "AverageJoe1001" hasn't attended many churches in the South.

While there were never women deacons in the Baptist churches I've been a member of over the years (it was just an unspoken rule that women need not apply), there were always women teachers, and they taught men. That was one of the most shocking things about Bellevue, that not only are women not allowed in leadership roles (unless it's leading children or other women) but that they are actually forbidden to teach men. And from what I've observed over the years, women are considered 2nd class citizens there, especially those who work there. But you know what? If a woman is happy "keeping sweet" and staying in "her place," then more power to her. I have more important things in my life than tea parties and fashion shows.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Eaglemate writes:

OK ya'll, I had to go back and read the CA article, so here it is right between the eyes. There is nothing whatsoever that indicates how the CA got the information. Those of you who are assigning her as the "culprit" just flat out made it up. Fabricated it to fit your story.

It is entirely possible that another woman in the church isn't happy with the "no girls allowed" routine, and decided to blow it wide open.

Now that we are actually talking facts here, let's make one other observation.

It has been convenient among these posters that NOT ONE POSTER has commented on the fact that the pastor of HOPE has refused to be involved in any way, and went so far to support Hawkes by commenting that not once in 20 something years have these hearings been held; and furthermore makes a point to refer to the need for a hearing based on "something serious."

People, he is not supporting 2nd Presbyterian in any way.

I don't know this lady, and don't have to know her. But I admire the heck out of her for fighting what she perceives to be a wrong against women, and continuing to plow on despite persecution and abuse in her own church. I don't have to like her to hear her message.

Sure, she could "just leave" if she doesn't like it, but then she has to live with the fact that she left an institution who degrades women, to their own devices, without challenge and THAT IS CONSENT. This lady is refusing to give her consent to the act of degrading women under the guise of the bible - that's what this is about.

This is a thinly-veiled lynching, and we've all seen it before.

New BBC Open Forum said...

tah_kah_tah writes:

in response to willwebb#206344:

"The Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, has given three offices to the Church. These are: Ministers of the Word (Teaching Elders, Pastors), Ruling Elders, and Deacons. The particular Church should prayerfully search the Scriptures and choose for officers those who are best qualified. Teaching and Ruling Elders are known as Presbyters and share in the governing of the Church.

"These offices are not indications of special pre-eminence by those who hold them, but rather indicate a call to service, to ministry to special discipleship and the evidencing of the fruit of the Spirit in every part of life."

EPC Book of Order, Book of Government, Chapter 10, Section 1

All the more reason to consider the call of women to ordained positions in the church. God himself calls women to these positions. Think about the first priest ever, Mary Magdalene. SHE was the first one who saw then proclaimed that Christ was risen. She didn't hesitate. She didn't wait for a man to show up so that he could do it. If God had not wanted Mary Magdalene to deliver the Good News, she certainly would not have been placed in a position to do it. Who is this church -- or any church -- to deny God's call of women to clergy? None. Signed, a female, ordained deacon in the Presbyterian Church USA.

New BBC Open Forum said...

This was Adrian Rogers' answer to a "little lady" who felt called to preach.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Ethelseenitbefore writes:

She has been a member of this church long before Sandy came - why should she be forced to leave? Why is it a problem to nominate a woman? If the woman does not get enough votes, she will not be made elder. When the woman does get enough votes, she will become an elder. Since EPC permits it, seems like Sandy came up with an arbitrary rule for HIS church and is demanding her to yield to HIS spiritual authority or leave. She did not sin & did not say anything that she wouldn't say in front of him - she merely reflected that HE is a MAN not a God. This makes me think about Jim Jones. This is a sad day, sad to see Christians battling it out.

New BBC Open Forum said...

And again, that's the question no one seems to be able to answer. Has this always been 2PC's policy, or was this an arbitrary rule enacted by Sandy Willson (even if it was approved by the elder board)? I see about 4 choices for Dr. Hawkes.

1. If this has always been 2PC's policy and the majority of the congregation doesn't desire to change it, she should walk away and find a congregation more in line with her interpretation of scripture.

2. If this has always been 2PC's policy and a significant percentage of the congregation expresses a desire to change, stay and work to enact change.

3. If this was an arbitrary decision by Willson, because of the Presbyterian form of governance, it's going to take an elder board with a collective backbone to change anything. I suspect after 15 years Willson has surrounded himself with yes-men, so it's doubtful the elders are going to stand up to him. The odds of that happening are about the same as the deacons and leadership standing up to Steve Gaines. These authoritarian men seem to quickly establish an atmosphere of intimidation and fear which turns those around them into spineless weenies.

4. She can go through the "discipline" process, but what's the point? It's not about restoration unless she agrees to never disagree with Willson. Since I don't see either party changing their opinion or compromising, this seems like an exercise in futility designed only to put her in her place and humiliate her.

New BBC Open Forum said...

2nd Presbyterian Restoration and Peacemakers Ministry

I suspect from the name that this process is based upon Ken Sande's Peacemaker Ministries. I shuddered when I read the name. That right there should give everyone reason for pause.

The Wartburg Watch >> Peacemaker’s Ministries: Honest Conflict Resolution?

The Hidden Dangers of Peacemakers

The steps in 2PC's process are as follows:

1. "Ideally, the process begins first with the one who has been offended prayerfully going to the one who has caused offense with his or her concern, addressing the matter privately and informally."

Question: Did this happen?

2. "If the offender is unrepentant or resists attempts at restoration, one or two others may be enlisted to attempt restoration as a small, informal group."

Question: Has this happened?

3. "If the committee deems it necessary, a ministry team will be formed to meet with the parties in confidence to determine the facts and the willingness of the parties to repent and be restored."

It sounds as if that is the point at which the process is now. Were #1 and #2 followed, or did they jump directly to #3?

"If the matter is resolved, the team will be disbanded, praising God for His faithfulness. Although the restoration process in a very few cases may lead to formal church discipline, the ministry’s approach is gentleness and a non-judgmental spirit. The ministry teams will be able to draw on the full resources of the church, including confidential financial and psychological counseling, mentoring, accountability, and any other means necessary in an attempt to make peace."

Oh, brother. In other words, if the offending party (in this case, Dr. Hawkes) apologizes for speaking her opinion and kisses the emporer's ring ("repents"), they'll all gather in a circle, sing Kumbaya, and live happily ever after.

"Peace" = "it's my way or the highway"

New BBC Open Forum said...

Which of these transgressions did Nan Hawkes commit?

What are typical problem areas?

Although we all face conflict in relationships and struggle in our Christian walk at times, members who need help from other believers might be involved in one or more of the following typical problem areas:

• Unresolved personal or business disputes
• Addictions of various kinds (alcohol/drugs, sex, pornography, gambling)
• Communication breakdowns
• Dysfunctional relationships
• Physical, mental, or emotional abuse
• Marital infidelity
• Parent/child issues
• Unwillingness to submit to the authority of the Church

These types of problems not only affect our relationships with other people but also our fellowship with God. Therefore, the ministry team also desires to restore hope in the forgiving grace of Christ.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Will it go this far?

What if restoration fails?

If an offending party (Dr. Hawkes, of course, as the "senior" pastor is exempt from offending) refuses to repent and be reconciled, the ministry team may decide that the church should become formally involved through action of the Session. Jesus continues to lay out this process in Matthew 18:17a: "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church." In such cases, the team will recommend a course of action to the RPM Committee, which has several options available. Formal discipline will be considered only after all other less formal means off resolving the offense have been exhausted, and it must usually involve a lack of repentance in the areas of heresy, immorality, or contempt for the established order of the church (set out in the Book of Discipline, EPC Book of Order, 11 1-20)."

Anonymous said...

" Unwillingness to submit to the authority (Men) of the Church"


New BBC Open Forum said...

I've never heard of Church of the River. This would indeed be an interesting experiment. The same is true of women in the workplace and the men (and other women) who think all women's places are strictly "at home." Let all the women who work outside the home stage a sick-out for just one day and see how that works for you. Working outside the home doesn't make a woman any greater or less in worth just as working at home doesn't make a woman any greater or less in worth. If a wife has more earning power than her husband, and they decide it's better for him to stay home with the kids, more power to them. In spite of the negative opinions I've heard expressed by some preachers, he's no less of a man either.

lincolnjefferson writes:

From what I read, this woman simply has an opinion. Why would a church, which if you think about it, is a representative of God, want to stifle opinions. Isn't a hallmark of true Christians, open hearts and open minds. This lady obviously deeply loves her church. Why doesn't the church simply agree to disagree. I would say that when it comes to 2nd Pres church, they should reflect on where they would be if every woman withdrew their membership in support of this lady. I further support them stepping up to the plate and supporting this lady. It is an archaic mentality that only men deserve a leadership role as an elder. Let's all support this sister by having SISTERLESS SUNDAYS at the services and seeing then if the Church rethinks their position. Let the sisters remove their donations each week. If the men want the church, let them have it. Find a church where women are VALUED and RESPECTED. It's a shame though because this lady really does love her church. I would suggest she come to Church of the River. They truly embrace a "open heart and open mind" philosphy. Join us for worship!

New BBC Open Forum said...

Idalupino writes:

After reading 277 comments, it appears to be that those that support 2nd Pres fall back upon the defense of all abusers: "It's not your business." A little light in a dark corner does wonders for seeing more clearly and that light is just what the 2nd Pres folks most fear. I haven't seen one post that disputed the fact that the friend who spoke up was disinvited to attend choir. How can any thinking person admire and even respect the entitiy that allows such abuse?

Anonymous said...

Letters to the Editor - Butt OUT

with this response

“.....I believe there’s a verse in the bible that goes something like, “judge not, lest ye be judged.”

This church, and many evangelical churches all over the US, have spent the last 40 years (at least) sticking their noses in the business of “non-members” and even going so far as trying to have your beliefs made into law for all of us. If you’re going to stick your noses into our lives (and bedrooms), don’t be surprised when we do the same to you.”

New BBC Open Forum said...

I think that verse refers to judging the state of another's soul, not their actions, but I get your point. Politicians make appearances at churches all over the country as election time nears. Churches are tax-exempt while using city & county services that are paid for by all the taxpayers.

A couple weeks ago Steve Gaines remarked in a sermon, "It's not God's will for the government to fund the worship and work of God." I'm not sure where that came from, but I don't recall anyone ever arguing that it is. However, in that case why doesn't Bellevue give up it's tax-exempt status? Because as long as they're not paying taxes on those millions of dollars in assets and using city services without contributing a dime (police, sheriff, fire, EMS) the government IS funding "God's work."

Anonymous said...

God says whatever

Steve Gaines says

He Said

New BBC Open Forum said...

aztec13 writes:

I don't know how one would even find out if other such investigations have taken place, since they are supposed to be kept quiet to protect the privacy of all parties involved. I have been in churches where people were ultimately excommunicated because they refused to stop committing sins. In some cases it was adultery, and in others it was drug/alcohol abuse.

This particular incident may not seem like such a big deal... just one woman loudly voicing her opinion. However, her opinion has been heard (by her own admission), and the church (at least the elders and pastor) is standing by their traditional views. Whether that's right or wrong isn't a black and white issue. Just because some believe strongly that women should have a greater role in the church doesn't mean that it's correct. Or incorrect, for that matter. This is one of many issues dividing churches and denominations across the country that has no "right" answer, because everyone interprets the Bible differently. Just because it's "always been done" doesn't mean it's correct, but just because it's new doesn't make it better.

I'm not going to attempt to describe why Second Pres doesn't allow women elders, because I don't attend the church and am not that familiar with their teachings. I wouldn't want to misrepresent them or the Presbyterian church in general, which I haven't been a member of in many years. I also can't for the life of me remember how new elders are chosen... whether it's congregational vote or a closed vote by existing elders. I attend one of the few conservative churches within a larger, much more liberal denomination. The majority of our members would not accept a female priest, though women do have many positions in the church (including serving communion, reading Scriptures during the service, and so on). Clashes over what should and shouldn't be allowed have resulted in some members leaving our church over the years, but that's the beauty of having so many choices here. Everyone can find a church home that fits them. The comments here bother me because some people seem to want all churches to be totally liberal and allow whatever the modern world deems is fair and best, regardless of what the Bible says. (I'm talking in generalities here... I'm not referring to this specific topic.) If we are really supposed to embrace our differences, then liberals need to accept that not everyone agrees with them and move on. And this woman needs to move on to any one of the many churches in town that would gladly use her skills and talents.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Eaglemate writes:

I don't disagree with you as a general rule.

However, it is clear that in this situation, you have a mexican standoff. As the leadership of a church, I think I'd have to look at the stakes.

This lady has been in this church for thirty years, so someone, someway found a path to working with her in the past, therefore, there is one. Right?

And suddenly after 30 years, it is determined a "hearing" needs to be held.

And voila'! This church has now suffered the most devastating blow to it's congregation probably in its history. This is irreversible.

See what I am saying here? Anyone with any understanding of human perception, had to know that selecting one member for such a kind of "performance" review was asking for serious trouble. Not only does it appear (we are only talking public perception here) mean-spirited, but it looks like a flat-out lynching and assault on the treatment of women. (Remember, I said perception.)

Does this "hearing" need to be held? Absolutely not. Not just because it's detrimental to this church and may draw national press (trust me on this one); but because it screams that the leadership is unable or unwilling to problem-solve and instead wants to quash the discord by force.

And that, my friend, is history no one wants to repeat.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Eaglemate writes:

Let me ask a hypothetical question here. Let's say the church "wins" this hearing, and you oust her from the church? What have you actually won?

You've already made unwanted front page headlines.

You'll have every feminist on the planet buying Airstreams and turning 2nd Presbyterian into an RV park in an organized protest.

You'll have fed the media circus.

You risk national news and not just local persecution, but national persecution.

New and potential new members will flee from the controversy. Translation: Income decrease.

She may have grounds for a lawsuit (that may or not bear fruit, but not before the defense attorney bill comes forth).

And there will be another one like her in her place. (This is just the law of human physics.)

So in summary, in effort to avoid having to learn and practice the art of diplomatically and strategically managing (or ignoring and stepping around) the proverbial "ex-spouse", you've lopped your own head off.

Every businessman in the world would tell you that's not a good move.

Every shrink will tell you it's an ineffective way of managing controversy.

And any PR advisor would tell 2nd Pres it's voluntary suicide.

So I'll reiterate... what exactly was it you hoped to accomplish?

You haven't quieted this situation - you've dropped it on a fuel farm.

Ann said...

"(You're an idealist. That would have been the way for Mac Brunson and Tom Rich to try to iron our their differences, too, or when people asked to meet with Steve Gaines, access that was flatly denied by David Coombs, but egos like those of Brunson, Gaines, and apparently Willson, will not permit coming to any "agreement" or any compromise. They will not even consider the possibility that they could be wrong about anything. Remember, it's their way or the highway.)"

I'm a 38 year old married mother of two and my family were members of Bellevue for many years. We loved Dr. Rogers but we eagerly anticipated God's plan for Bellevue when Dr. Gaines came to be our pastor. My husband and I soon began to realize something was terribly wrong at church. We felt it ourselves almost immediately but then we began hearing others say they felt something was wrong, too. Reading this made me remember a time....around 5 years ago when we attended a meeting of concerned Bellevue members who wanted to form a group to meet with Dr. Gaines to ask questions and hopefully clear the air concerning all the controversy going on in the church. My husband and I expressed a desire to be part of this group because we had both been members of Bellevue most of our lives and felt led by God to stay there, but the tension we felt every week when we entered the church building began to hinder our ability to worship. After a few months Dr. Gaines's sermons took a dark turn which troubled us both and we were faced with the possibility that we might not be able to remain in our church home. We saw this meeting with Dr. Gaines as an opportunity to heal and also to get to know our pastor more personally. When my husband asked for our names to be added to the list of those interested in meeting with the pastor he was told that he was welcome but that I was not. It was explained to us that only men can be leaders in the church and since during this meeting with the pastor they intended to discuss things that would affect the church only men could participate. We were both dumbfounded. We got the impression this was the attitude of most of the people there including some of our long time friends. We decided that night that we could not continue to worship with people who thought of women as "lesser". If they thought a woman could not even speak with her pastor...then we really had little in common. Several months later, after weeks of prayer and visiting other churches, we were led to a small non Southern Baptist congregation in Memphis where all members of the Body are considered equal, the Word of God is preached, and we've never been happier. Only since we've been away from Bellevue and part of a loving church family that appreciates the gifts of ALL its members have we realized how stifling and oppressive that place was. We're just sorry God didn't lead us here sooner!

New BBC Open Forum said...


Would you mind e-mailing me? (Address is in my profile.) Someone told me the same thing... that women could not be part of the group that wanted to meet with Steve Gaines!

Actually, as it turned out, no one was allowed to meet with Steve Gaines, including all those concerned men. LOL! (Sorry, that still makes me laugh today.)

New BBC Open Forum said...

My husband and I soon began to realize something was terribly wrong at church.

This is called "discernment." Be thankful God gave you some.

Anonymous said...

"David Coombs"

Bellevue's Hatchet Man
(or in more worldly terms
= Church Bouncer)

Without whom, Steve Gaines would not have survived at Bellevue Baptist Church.

And he too will return to dust,
just like Bill Skelton

Angela said...

At this point in my life, following the experiences I've had at Belleview and with "Christians" who have cornered the market on "God's Will", I would say to Nan and anyone else struggling with what's happening at 2nd Pres. to RUN, not walk, out the door, shake the dust off your feet, and NEVER look back. It's not worth a minute of your time or an ounce of the heartache that you are carrying to strive to continue to "fellowship" within this congregation. The pastor and his cronies will NEVER change and will NEVER give up their power. The members of the congregation who are accepting of the situation at the church will NEVER stop drinking the kool-aid and will NEVER be kind or accepting of you. DO NOT let it destroy your Christian walk and faith. Don't waste another second of your time or energy. Your relationship with Christ and your Salvation are not bound to any church. It doesn't matter how long you've been a member, or how much you have "invested" in a church, or how many family members or friends are there, or how many programs your children are involved in--In God's eyes, You do not gain "seniority" as a Christian with each passing year of membership or service within a particular church. GET OUT! Let it go and move on.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Let it go and move on.

And take your friend Jan with you. Trust me, you'll both be ultimately happier and better for it.

Anonymous said...

You want to talk about Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD) then dig into all the controversy Steve Gaines son, Grant Gaines, is causing at Calvary Baptist in Jackson, TN at this very moment.

Fired a very popular youth pastor
Asking church (avg attendance 250 or less) to pay for his doctorate degree and two missionary trips a year

New BBC Open Forum said...

To the anon who left a comment around 8:40 tonight... please enlighten me. E-mail addy's in my profile.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Follow up article:

Commercial Appeal >> Second Presbyterian Church member faced with excommunication quits

New BBC Open Forum said...

To the anon I addressed in my previous comment... the sound of crickets isn't impressing me.

Comment deleted.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Eddie Struble