In the late winter of 2004, the arranging brethren (the group of baptized men who’d been elected to govern the ecclesia) determined that my friend Jonathan had become too influenced by worldly affairs. He’d been dating a woman I’d introduced him to (she was one of the “worldly” influences) and now it had come out that they were going to get married. She wasn’t interested in becoming a Christadelphian, and this was the last straw.
The ecclesia had a special meeting to vote on whether Jonathan should be disfellowshipped. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever been involved in. It was on a Saturday afternoon. Debbie’s father, who was a pillar of the ecclesia, gravely read a statement about how Jonathan had been falling away, and that although the brethren had reached out to counsel him, he didn’t agree that his actions were wrong. He hadn’t repented or changed his ways.
Jonathan wasn’t at the meeting, nor was anyone from his family, that I can recall. We were all given little slips of paper that had a statement regarding disfellowshipping him on them and then little checkboxes for yes or no. I checked a box and folded my paper and put it into the collection box.
My head was buzzing the entire time. It was surreal to vote on something like this, especially when I was guilty of nearly all the same things Jonathan was being accused of, and especially since he was my friend. I hadn’t voted or gambled at that point (yes, those were some of his offenses), but I’d been shacked up with Dave for nearly three years and somehow everyone had just looked the other way.
After the votes had been tallied, Debbie’s father announced the results – the majority had agreed that Jonathan should be disfellowshipped. I wasn’t surprised, but I also felt like, at this point, why would the guy want to come back anyway?
I can imagine that Jonathan was hurt by this rejection. It was clear his father was enraged. I forgot to explain this earlier, but in Christadelphian ecclesias, the baptized men (brethren) would take turns giving the exhortation (sermon) each week. A few weeks after the disfellowshipment, Jonathan’s father gave a scathing exhortation about the hypocrisy in the ecclesia, all while glaring at Debbie and I. I don’t remember the exact time frame of events, but they withdrew their fellowship shortly after that. Now we were down an entire family.
I was heartbroken about losing Jonathan as a member of the ecclesia, but more so as a friend. His soon-to-be wife was furious and kicked me out of their wedding party and out of their life for that time. I felt horribly guilty, because we’d previously been on the same wavelength about these things, and I hadn’t defended him or joined him in solidarity.
I didn’t know what to do. In the interest of self-preservation, I slipped into my Good Sister role and kept quiet. I was too afraid to do anything else, although secretly, I was questioning like mad.
Next up… I persevere a bit longer before trying to negotiate my leave…