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Wednesday
May162012

CHURCH CONTROVERSY: Should a Pastor Sue a Member?

By EEW Magazine News Editors

Ever heard 1 Chronicles 16:22, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,” used to threaten divine judgment for making disparaging comments about ministry leaders? Well, few people imagined that “judgment” would ever come in the form of a lawsuit from the pastor.

But former member of Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Oregon based homemaker Julie Anne Smith, her daughter, and three other commentators, are feeling the wrath of upset pastor Charles O'Neal. He filed a $500,000 defamation suit against his ex-parishioner and her family, who made critical comments of the ministry through Julie Ann Smith’s blog called, “Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors.”

There, the scorned churchgoer vents her feelings about Beaverton and the members she claims shunned her family for reasons still unknown to them.

"My primary issue was to discuss spiritual abuse in the church,” Smith told msnbc.com. “In essence, the legal suit is [O'Neal's] attempt of continuing that spiritual abuse.”

But the pastor is not backing down on his decision to hash this out in court. "We have not gone hastily to court," O'Neal said in a statement released to msnbc.com. "For three and a half years this group has been engaged in a public, church to church, and World Wide Web defamation, showing their willingness to discredit God, harm the church, harm wives, harm children, and harm the testimony of Christ's Gospel."

Smith claims that her blog's commentary is "tame," but we must ask, do two wrongs make a right?

Is starting a blog to air out a ministry’s shortcomings any better or worse than a watchman for souls demanding financial payment for defamation in a court of law? Both courses of action seem a bit misguided to EEW Magazine.

Both parties would do well to adhere to Luke 6:27-28 which says, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

In terms of taking a fellow Believer to court, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is clear. It is a frowned upon practice for Christians because it undermines our witness to the world. Verse 7 makes a very poignant statement and poses a challenging question: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

Why not just drop it altogether and go your separate ways?

Watch the video below explaining the details of the dispute:

 

What are your thoughts?

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Reader Comments (3)

That is a hot mess! Two wrongs certainly don't make a right. I don't agree with either one of them. She needs to take that blog down and he needs to drop the lawsuit. They are BOTH in the wrong!!

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamela

Tamela is right!! I Cor. 6:1-6 clearly explains the believers' stance on this. We must follow the word of God as close as we can. It is important that we do not give an occasion for the word of God to be evil spoken of.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereva

Wow. This is a mess! This really ruins the believer's ability to witness to other people when we start airing out the church's dirty laundry.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

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