At first, what had led me to seriously consider leaving my United Pentecostal church was not doctrine or standards, but a mess of problems stemming from the church owned daycare where I was employed. My best friend at the time was the head teacher and we’d been experiencing difficulties in our relationship. She was hardly there and didn’t teach (we ran under her teaching credentials). One thing led to another and I turned in my resignation, which was effective at the end of the summer session. During this time I started to feel that it was no longer my church as the daycare events seeped over into church- a terrible feeling after almost 13 years as an actively involved member. I still recall speaking to one of the daughters of the pastor, who was no longer a member of the church but worked at the daycare, and saying that if things didn’t change I’d have to think about leaving the church as well as the daycare.
Needing to be able to think clearly, I took off and crashed at a friend’s home in West Virginia for about three weeks after I resigned and spoke to them about what had been happening. It was a couple I’d met in the late 80s who had spent time at the church and knew the people and how the pastor operated. They’d become like a second set of parents to me, arriving shortly after my mother had passed away and my father had moved out-of-state.
While I was in West Virginia, the pastor at my home church had taken an entire Thursday night service and played a tape of a Christian radio broadcast that a former couple from the church made on the topic of spiritual abuse. His reasoning was to show them what people were saying about us. The church members seemed very upset by this couple. One would not have known what church they were referring to unless they had known them since no names were mentioned. I didn’t like what I was seeing and was curious to hear this ‘horrid’ broadcast (anyone interested can read the transcript here). I borrowed it from the pastor and listened to it in the privacy of my home.
My reaction was far from that of the many church members who heard it while I had been away. Though I disagreed in areas, I understood what they were saying. It caused me to start wondering about the validity of standards taught in the United Pentecostal Church.
From here I ventured to Pennsylvania for a couple days to stay with another couple who had previously left our church and whose present church had dropped out of the UPC. I took the tape with me, played it for them, and while they listened and agreed with all that was on the tape, I paced the floor. It was starting to really hit home about some actions made by the pastor and I was realizing he did some very wrong things. It was quite upsetting and hard to come to grips with it. Here I had been seeing first hand the other side of what had happened to others before me, due to my involvement with the daycare. None of it felt good.
Immediately upon returning home, I visited with the one pastor’s daughter and her husband and discussed some issues and spent a few hours at their home. Now I had a lot more to digest.
I started seriously wondering about the standards taught by the UPC and ventured into the uncut women’s hair doctrine. I wanted to know the truth! Though there were some issues I had studied more in depth while a member, though I was seeing through UPC glasses, this is one that had only been looked at on the surface. Their explanation of 1 Corinthians 11 seemed to make sense and I had long ago stopped cutting my hair and followed the teaching. I wanted to please God.
The confusion hit big time as I started to delve into the matter. I had writings from the UPC to read as well as a few other things which gave other viewpoints. One day I’d feel the UPC was correct and the next felt they were in error. Talk about wavering. I recall getting together with a friend who is a lawyer and we’d bat things back and forth, coming back at each other with responses that the UPC would give to different points we thought about. How was one to know for sure? Was the UPC correct in their teaching? Were they in error? I surely did not have the answers.
Upon further study, I decided to jump head first into the Bible, looking for any and all mentions of hair in both the Old and New Testaments. Surely if this were a principle important to God, it would have been taught in the Old Testament. But nothing was found to support the doctrine. The confusion started to ease as I studied more and dissected 1 Corinthians 11. What had once been clear to me as a UPC member, now was not. My findings showed that the Bible did not teach that a woman could never cut her hair.
Having finally laid that matter to rest, an uneasiness came over me and a thought came: “Now just what else is wrong that you’ve been taught?” Oh, yuck! I didn’t enjoy that thought at all. Talk about feeling like the rug has just been pulled out from under your feet and you were wobbling, trying to catch your balance. Where did it end? How was I going to know? Was any of what I’d sworn was true really true?
These were some of my thoughts. I now had a leeriness toward pastors and would forever be changed in this area. No more would I simply accept what a minister told me without finding out for myself. No more would I blindly defend any Christian denomination as if they could not be wrong in doctrine.
Did all of the confusion magically disappear? Were all my questions and thoughts suddenly answered? No. It was a process…a process which varies from person to person. A lot depends on whether or not one is willing to tackle the areas with which they find themselves confronted. Confusion will diminish and go away as one comes to terms with any teachings/incidents they find themselves questioning. But I thoroughly believe, that as it was with me, that this confusion may not fully leave until one studies the Bible for themselves and rests their conclusions solely upon what it says.
This was part of my experience. Confusion, not knowing who or what to believe, is surely part of the exiting process of any abusive group. But there is hope and there are answers to your questions. Regardless of the turmoil one may feel as they go through this stage, trust that God will lead and guide you and open your understanding to what the Scriptures truly teach.
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #1: You and Those Who Remain
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #2: Anything You Say Can, And Will, Be Used Against You
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #3: Why It May Be Important To Resign Your Membership
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #4: Remaining in the Same Organization
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #5: Don’t Listen To The Gossip
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #6: How You Are Treated
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #7: It Happens To Ministers, Too
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #8: The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard!
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #9: Some Must Return To Remember Why They Left
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #10: Sorting Through The Teachings
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #11: Confusion & Not Knowing Who or What to Believe
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #12: Can I Go To A Church Where I Don’t Agree With Everything?