Letter of Resignation from an Abusive Church
This post is a partial re-publication of a post from The Wartburg Watch blog which was written by Dee, one of TWW’s administrators, in Feb 2012. The original post was titled “How to Minimize Damage When Resigning From a Mark Driscoll-like Church.” You can find the original post here. We are re-publishing this excerpt of Dee’s post because we know that some of our readers have been excommunicated and slandered by their churches for having divorced their abusive spouses.
Dee’s post contains a letter of resignation designed for leaving a church that is abusive, cultish, etc. Some of our readers may like to use the wording of this letter should they want to resign from their abusive cultic churches. We emphasize that we’re passing this letter on for those kinds of uses only. There are cases of valid, biblical church discipline set out in Scripture, and the Bible says nothing about a person being able to simply leave and resign and thereby stymie the church discipline process (telling the church, the decision bound in heaven, etc). That is to say, for example, an ABUSER who is being disciplined by the church must still be disciplined even if he were to send in a letter like this in his attempt to prevent his victim or anyone exposing his sin to the church.
We also don’t want to encourage sinful anger or retaliation, even in someone who has been abused by the system of the abusive ‘c’hurch — although we completely understand feeling that way or even being that way in one’s thoughts from time to time during the process of coming to understand what happened, and healing from all the trauma.
Here is our excerpt from Dee’s post:
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Three years ago, I [Dee] spoke with a nationally well-known attorney who informed me that the only power that churches have is the ability to throw members out of the church. They can do that with very little recrimination. But, they could have some legal trouble announcing a member’s supposed “sins” to the full church if said member employs the following procedure. What we are about to discuss has been “run by” legal experts. However, TWW states categorically that this should not be taken to mean it is an official legal position. Please seek advice of an attorney for an authorized opinion.
- Resign your church membership prior to the all-church announcement. Better yet, before harsh discipline is applied.
- Keep your lips sealed.
- Do not tell anyone that you are going to take the following action. You do not want Sally Sycophant (we all know a few of these) to run to the pastors and report this, giving them an opportunity quickly schedule the all church gossip session.
We [Dee and Deb] give special thanks to Arce, who knows a thing or two, for sending this format to TWW
- Send the following letter, return receipt requested (and tracking, in case the Post Office lets them have it without returning the card).
- Put the return receipt number on the heading of the letter (you can get the form with the number at the PO, before typing the letter). [note to non-USA readers: your postal system may work differently, so explore the best way for you to achieve this same goal in your own country]
To the pastors and administrators at ____________ church.
This letter is notice that I am not longer a member [attendee] at _______________ church, effective with the date of this letter.
As a non-member, I am no longer subject to any of your discipline as of (date on letter). After (date on letter), any publication, notice, or speaking about me by any church staff or recognized church leader is no longer authorized by me.
Any negative remark or statement about me, any encouragement that people shun me, or any action other than deleting me from your records will be evaluated for possible legal action for libel or other tort claim against the individuals involved and the organization.
If any one asks about me, refer them to me, any other action may result in a tort claim against you.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. You must desist from any act that may harm my reputation or me or come between me and other persons of my acquaintance. Legal action may ensue.
- You must mail the letter on the date on the letter and they will not receive it for a couple of days thereafter.
- Keep a copy, print out the tracking showing when it was delivered, keep the green card or, if it is refused, the returned letter (they are legally responsible for the content if they refuse it).
- Document any response or any failure to comply. If they (leadership or staff) call, listen but do not talk, except to say “I disagree” if they make a false statement about you.
- Document the conversation.
- Go to an attorney if they proceed to trash your reputation or that of your business.
- Do not respond by trashing the organization.
[end of excerpt from The Wartburg Watch post]
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We at A Cry For Justice are not legally qualified in any way, but in our non-professional opinion we think this letter may be worth using to try to stop church leaders defaming the ex-member after she or he has resigned. We are thinking particularly of the kinds of defamation that may occur as part of a formal church procedure conducted by a legalistic patriarchal church when it is ‘excommunicating’ the ex-member (what an oxymoron!). We have heard of such cases. We know of women who have been formally excommunicated for divorcing their abusive husbands, and the excommunication process involved a public hearing where the woman’s supposed sins were documented in a List of Charges and presented to the congregation for them to all read and consider. In cases like this, a stiffly worded Letter of Resignation like the one above might give the resigning person a good starting point from which to sue the former church for trashing their reputation. It may not stop the church from engaging in its kangaroo court-of-excommunication, but it may help the civil magistrate to bring the arm of the law to restrain or punish egregious forms of slander, libel and defamation that the ‘c’hurch might make against the departed person.
The false excommunication of true Christians from the Church of Christ is just Satan’s way of attempting to destroy the true Church and Her believers, just as in the days of the inquisition. It seems that more and more true believers are being put out, for standing up for what they believe and what is right.