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August 3, 2013

When the Church Cannibalizes

Recently, an article was published in the local Montgomery Advertiser (find it here) entitled “Football coach loses job for not going to church at East Memorial”. Yahoo jumped on the story shortly after with its own article (see it here) entitled “Alabama state champion coach and AD fired for being a member of the wrong church”. Within hours of the first article Facebook posts were hammering East Memorial Baptist Church and the sponsored school East Memorial Christian Academy. In fact, readers of the article took time out of their day to send tons of hate emails using terms ranging from “fools”, “unChristian”, “faggots”, “bigots”, and even “Taliban”.

The point is: we are quick to cannibalize within the church. Scott Phillips resigned from the Athletic Director position at EMCA due to the expressed requirement of membership and involvement at the church (EMBC). He resigned around the time that school contracts are being re-signed in June-July. And he did so because he felt that God was calling him and his family to another church (the Church of the Highlands in Prattville). What a leap of faith! He knew that he couldn’t keep the expressed requirements of the job and resigned for the sake of his family’s dedication to another church. This is significant dedication. He had hoped to stay on staff in another position, but there simply was no more room or need for additional staff in his area of expertise. All was agreed upon and the resignation was accepted. Except Mr. Scott felt something of an injustice and went to the local paper with his story. Whether the paper twisted things or Mr. Phillips was deceitful, I don’t know. But the facts presented in the article were an injustice to true journalism. Then Yahoo gets in on things.

Yahoo took the original article, which was later updated to correct a miscommunication of it being fired or resigned. Hence the wildly incorrect article, which was also updated because the writer couldn’t remember to use Eastern Memorial or East Memorial, though assuring that the facts were validated by the Advertiser several times throughout the article. Again we see bad journalism. But back to the issue at hand.

With the advent of internet news articles and blogs, such as this one, readers are able to comment immediately and reply to one another. Christians began to post against EMBC and EMCA in amazingly hateful, spiteful paragraphs. I was pleased to see several find obvious discrepancies in the articles themselves and come to valid and uplifting conclusions towards all parties involved. Others also mentioned the need for prayer over the students who would be impacted by this decision. But so many are absolutely hateful and discouraging, yet these very commenters were emphasizing the need for love that we see in Christ. It blew my mind how many comments followed this same pattern. People blamed leadership of sin, battered the church, and some cursed the church to hell and described them all as lost.

Ultimately, the original situation had no problems to be addressed. Mr. Scott didn’t want to meet the expressed requirements of a job and therefore resigned. A school wants all their senior leadership to be associated with the church. No foul balls here. So where is the foul ball? In a Montgomery Advertiser article. We cannot allow ourselves to act upon our emotions and loose sight of our convictions. Emotionally charged commenters said that this type of hypocrisy (on the school’s part) is what is keeping people from the church. That’s terribly wrong. The sinner’s heart of disobedience is what keeps them from church. We often find whatever reason we can to justify our actions. So, yes, some may cite these type circumstances as reasons, but they don’t really need a reason to not come. They just don’t want to go where God’s presence brings conviction.

Mr. Phillips even admits to knowing the membership requirement yet took the job anyway. He then attempted to do the two-church thing for a while. When that became too hard, he ceased to fulfill his previous commitment to EMCA. School leaders addressed it in the summer, when positions are usually considered for rehire. So, he then resigned after a meeting during which he attempted to convince the board to reconsider this issue. They stood by their decision, and he stood by his conviction. No issue there. So why the article? Why the hate from so many? Why the uninformed public outcry?

I’d love to hear from others on the issue, but please be loving and genuine! Thanks!

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