A Baptist church in Kentucky along with other Baptists are defending the church discipline practice of sending letters to congregants who were not attending regularly to inform them they were removed from church membership rolls.
Last week, Cave City Baptist Church, situated in south central Kentucky near Bowling Green, sent letters to approximately 70 members to say were not attending services "habitually," giving "regularly," or participating in the congregation's "organized work," as is required of members per the congregation's bylaws.
Notable media coverage ensued with some members expressing anger over how they were delisted. Yet the pastor of the church is not backing down and says he and the church are being misrepresented.
Cave City Baptist Pastor Ryan Broers said in a Friday text message to Baptist Press he is "weary of the media circus" and that "lots of lies and half-truths are being told."
"I really wish this thing would have remained a private issue," he said, noting that he believes they should have worded the letter differently.
"The only reason I commented publicly is that it became public knowledge when a man who has not been to the church in 20 years made it public on Facebook. This is a church discipline issue and we are following our bylaws. Many attempts for several years were made both in letters and in person when people could be located and were willing to speak. If anyone feels they received the letters in error, they are welcome to call and have a conversation with me."
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Hershael York posted several tweets in defense of Broers and expressed his irritatation with the media. He asked the Lexington Herald-Leader, which reported on the matter, "if the Rotary Club dismissing members for non-attendance and non-payment of dues is noteworthy."
An accurate headline for what happened at Cave City Baptist, he said, was "Church requires members to take their commitment seriously," and inquired if the Kentucky newspaper pays "a reporter to troll Facebook and report the latest rant against a church as news."
The Herald-Leader headline reads: "Kentucky church sent letters kicking out members over common transgressions."
"Church membership is a covenant relationship. We are accountable to the Lord and to one another. Worship attendance, service, communion, the ministry of the Word, submission to the elders, and holiness are not arbitrary requirements of membership but mandatory commands of Jesus," York tweeted Saturday.
Broers said last week that "a lot of the people that the letters were sent to are not attending church anywhere, and this was kind of a wake-up call to them 'you've broken fellowship with God, you've broken fellowship with this church, you need to come back and repent and get your relationship with Him.'"
Likewise, David Prince, who pastors Lexington's Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, defended Broers, tweeting that the Herald-Leader was "outraged a church would care about its members enough to hold them accountable."
"Where's their outrage over other groups that have standards?"
Among evangelicals, church membership requirements vary by congregation and denomination.
Broers also said that the people who had not attended in the past year that received the letters last week were former congregants who had received previous letters inquiring about their membership.
Yet Samantha Esters, who said she had been attending the church since she was a child, told the local ABC affiliate that the only message she received from being delisted is to never return to the church again. She disputed the notion that letters were sent to people who had not been attending as she was just there a few weeks ago.
"I don't ever want to go back to that church," she said upon receiving a letter informing her of her delisting.