Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Next to Last Post on Authority

In order to write what I'm thinking on authority, I have been studying in the NT.

Here's what I have found:

There are seven words in Greek I have been able to identify which are translated "authority."

I list them here as a basis for stating my conclusions from my personal experience, feedback I have had from others, and a brief study of the Bible (for a list of scripture references click on the word):

1. exousia -- 93 uses
  • power of choice; leave or permission
  • physical or mental power
  • power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)
  • the power of the rule of government

2. huperecho (v) -- 5 uses
  • to have or to hold over
  • to stand out above
  • superior in rank

3. huperoche (n) -- 2 uses
  • elevation/pre-eminence/superiority

4. katexousiazo -- 2 uses
  • to exercise authority
  • to wield power

5. kuriotes -- 4 uses
  • dominion/power/lordship

6. baros -- 6 uses (once as authority, most often as burden)
  • heaviness/weight/burden/trouble
7. authenteo -- 1 use (authority of women over men--they are not allowed to kill men!)
  • one who with his own hands kills another or himself
  • one who acts on his own authority/autocratic
  • an absolute master
  • to govern/ exercise dominion over
There are other words which may mean authority but are translated into English as command, commandment or related terms. These are mostly used with specific reference to principles being taught and not with people that I have noticed. That strikes me as a separate discussion.

Presuppositions and Questions

After hearing back from a few readers, I am altering the three categories slightly.
  • parental/familial
  • governmental/business
  • ecclesiastical
A few presuppositions:
  • All authority ultimately begins and rests in God.
  • Creation was an act of His authority.
  • Further, He established authority as a condition of the human experience.
  • There is an intent on His part expressed in establishment of authority and a thwarting of that intent, as
  • These three categories of authority are expressed within our human experience and reflect the spiritual divide between the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the spirit of the age, the anti-Christ.
Authority, like most topics, is not lived in neat compartments. Expressions of authority overlap and inter-mingle. As craig v. pointed out, a person holding recognized social authority may be single-minded and possess a personal authority which others will follow. The good judgment of an authority figure may be misdirected in its overall focus and impact on others, but nonetheless, the affect of the authority figure's personal authority garners followers. Presidents, tele-evangelists, CEO's, middle managers, parents et al. may fall into this condition.

The topic becomes, for me, a function of a question. How shall a disciple of Jesus understand his/her life experience, and thereby, fulfill the Father's intent in living under authority? This question leads to other more specific questions, which I think divide as follows:
  1. What level of personal authority does an individual carry; how is it established and matured; and toward whom is it manisfested?
  2. What amount of responsibility is required of the believer in responding to societal authorities; what development of social authority within the world system should be supported by believers; and consequently, when is civil disobedience called for, if ever, against authority that clearly is directed in a rebellion against God?
What other questions go through your mind regarding authority?
What presuppositions would you add or delete from the above list?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Authority Part 2

I started the whole series with a picture of a night when my father was arrested for violence against our family. In that picture from my life were three concepts of authority.

First was parental authority. For a great majority of us, we understand authority from what we know firsthand growing up.

Second, the police in that picture are a symbol of earthly authority in the form of government.

The chaotic, angry behavior of my dad despite his authority illustrates the Fall of man into sin; the rebellion against God is a rejection of His authority. Understanding this turn of an earthly authority toward that which is not of God is a dynamic that must be sorted out.

In the next installment of the story I related joining a Methodist church as a teenager. I meet and begin to be influenced by ecclesiastical authority.

Taken together then, the memoir begins with four expressions of authority. Authority exists on earth which is ordained by God. These are are parental, governmental, ecclesiastic, and an anti-authority expression which is the rebellion against God. This reverse or negative authority is part of our natural human experience and needs consideration in understanding the other three.

What do you think? Are there other natural authority structures shaping our lives which you think should be part of the analysis?

Authority Part 1

Not a very creative title, I know.

Somewhere in what I just narrated, I realized I threw scriptures at situations based on my human insight of what was happening and according to an accepted interpretation of scripture. To use an analogy, it is a bit like an algebra student with a rudimentary mastery of the subject facing off with a word problem. Sorting through the words constructing the problem using faulty reading skills leads to a complete misinterpretation of what is needed in algebraic applications. Nonetheless, the student has no idea the problem is misread and plows ahead. Applying true algebra knowledge in his/her command, a wrong approach to writing a solution is selected. In the end, the student finishes believing a reasonable solution is achieved. When the work is evaluated by the instructor, the answer is wrong, but the instructor notes in the margin, "Even though you applied an incorrect algebraic principle which didn't fit the problem, your actual algebra was correct. Glad to know you have learned how to do that algebra function. Now work on better insight into the problem. Once that is mastered, we will move to more elegant solutions."

I realized I was that student as a Christian. I lived my walk of faith according to my human insight, which included my emotional baggage of the old nature, and the perspective inherent in my group's interpretation of the scriptures. Thus my reading of the scripture and understanding of its applications were continually slanted by other factors. I needed to address the cause of the slant before I would find the freedom in Christ the scripture described. I was waking up to how I relied on my religion about the Father, while not fulfilling His elegant solution to life--living it through His in-dwelling Spirit.

Yet, the story I just narrated of coming to faith in Christ and living within a body I labeled GCC is my common connection with others. Using our commonality is the basis for communication and understanding. What happened to me, is one little, little piece of a much larger picture. The story has no real importance or value except in its use to describe the bigger picture.

The bigger picture, His Story, is God's creation, the resulting rebellion against Him, and His answer to the rebellion. The story has pieces: our role in that rebellion, the force or authority supporting our rebellion, and the grace of God to fully overcome the rebellion and enter into His dominion under His authority. The part of the story my narrative illustrates is a set of solutions man has developed to achieve God's grace. Though well intentioned, this solution set is less than elegant. In fact, many current practices are often not even a correct application of principle though technically appearing correct.

Hence, I write this current series. I do not write to describe my solution. I seek to share my thoughts to develop and further an elegant and true solution which will be finally described in the putting together of our knowledge and love for the Father.

May the peace of His reign be yours.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Postlude to Graceland and the Start of Authority Analysis

Two final pieces to the story: throughout the events described below, I had an intellectual understanding that my brothers believed what they believed about authority strongly and as a function of their faith in and understanding of the Bible. The conundrum of their choices and positions being hurtful on one hand and their integrity of conscience being their motivation was a puzzle I could not fathom. Throughout, from that first July confrontation of my error until the meeting over my resignation that I did not attend, my anger would cool and upon reflection I would realize they did what they believed. They held what they did as their responsibility before God and their conscience insisted they follow through. I could not fault them at all. I still do not.

Also, I am not vindicated in the telling of these events. Removing the log from my own eye became my goal in the first months following the end of my grieving process, and grief is the word for how my wife and I felt for many months. Had I not joined, willingly and in good conscience, with many of the behaviors I now had experienced on the receiving end? Was I not a sinful man just as they? After six months, or so, conviction came on me that I had been impatient with them and had reneged on my commitment to love them as people, while I had traversed the woods of error in authority and fellowship we created trying to find my way out. I had fallen into the error of self-protection against them, even as I was waking to the Father through the Holy Spirit as my all in all. Thus my own condition of heart was often against God even while I sought to renew my walk of faith with Him more fully. Irony! Thank our Lord for the wonder of the righteousness of Christ covering all our failures of sin!

Interestingly, the head-pastor of my story would end up leaving GCC about four years later over the same issue in reverse! GCC moved him out stating it would follow a more pluralistic leadership. Six years after that, all but two elders would separate over issues of authority and fellowship between brethren being undermined by a controlling spirit. Can we doubt that we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against principalities and powers?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Separation from Graceland: Events 4 - 11


1996--My mother moves in with us in January. The why and how are detailed and not important to the authority discussion. The consequence, however, is. My wife had several chronic, health related issues, and my mother was no easy roommate; as a result, my wife spiraled downward into a serious depression. In October, I do something I had never done since 1979: I ask for help from the leadership. Two elders and their wives meet with my wife and me. They listen to us and our emotional reactions to the current circumstances. They conclude, we simply need the support of friends through our current life situation and commit to meet with us weekly for an undetermined amount of time until we see a turn around, whatever that would be, in my wife's depression. A week passes, and I hear nothing from either of these elders. On the day we are to meet, I call one and we talk for about ten minutes. No one meets with us, and I feel more like I have checked in with an overseer rather than a friend providing me emotional support. I wait another week. No one contacts me again, and I decide calling them is not my responsibility.

I was not angry or hurt. I was sharpened to examine the facts and think. I asked for help. It did not materialize. Why? The elders involved were over-burdened themselves with responsibilities in the system. Also, I see the evidence we use the term friend at GCC without experiencing its reality. If an elder as deeply connected as I could not find support in Christian family/friendship during a personal crisis, how did those who followed experience support from the leadership? Also and for the worse, I confront memories when I realize the words of elders proved empty, including my own. I walk through the crisis alone. In early 1997, a second crisis will pull my wife and me together and start her rise above depression.

1996--Sometime in this year , GCC starts a third service on Saturday nights to handle our growth. This service is very relaxed and many find it refreshing. However, the reduced crowds on Sunday mornings make these meetings seem less vital. The head-pastor is concerned and brings up the topic in an elders' meeting. He indicates he wants to stop the Saturday night service. The eleven elders disagree over what is to be done. In a seven/four split in favor of keeping the Saturday night service, the discussion is tabled. At the next elders' meeting, the head-pastor states he strongly feels stopping the Saturday night service is God's direction. He determines this is what we will do and gives his head-pastor responsibility as the basis for the decision. His position is in line with our tradition and obligates me to change my position if I have any integrity of consistent practice. We concur as elders, though I am left seriously examining the substance and meaning of how we function as a governing team.

1997, January--While my wife and I are out of town, our eldest son uses a key we were entrusted with to enter the summer home of a neighbor and host a party for high school students. We receive a 3:00 AM phone call from the town police that our eldest son has been arrested for illegal entry. An elder who is a friend accepts custody of our son for us and puts him up until we can return home. We are grateful. Our son is 14, and the neighbor lovingly chooses not to prosecute, labeling it a young person's poor judgment. Recognizing finally, that my family suffers from the hectic pace I live as an elder, principal and teacher, I take a sabbatical from being an elder for one year. The only call I receive from any other elder, asks me to make sure a next door neighbor, who is aware of the break-in due to the police questioning him, receive an apology for my son's behavior. No elder, however, seeks to pull alongside our family to ask what we are experiencing, how my son is handling the circumstances, or how my wife is handling our situation in light of her depression brought to two elders' attention just three months prior. I admit to myself that my personal circumstances seem to bear little concern for these I have considered to be family that loves me.

1997, April--I am given a book to read by a brother written by Gene Edwards, How Then Shall We Meet? The book speaks of several practices of the modern church and suggests organic meetings in homes without titled leaders is healthy and biblical. I put the book down and realize his words crystallize something I had been avoiding: I no longer believe in a head-pastor, a major tenet of church governance among our brethren. I have no idea how to bring up the subject and commit it all to God in prayer.

1997, June--I am asked to attend the semi-annual leaders' retreat even though I am on sabbatical. I agree to attend parts of the retreat and use the forum to announce my altered beliefs. I am told my thoughts are illogical and unbiblical by the "apostle." I look at him quizzically but do not respond, believing most of the elders will follow his lead rather than speak openly. No real discussion ever develops on the issues.

1997, later in June--An elder I consider a friend asks to meet with me. We talk for two hours and determine that the busyness of church has caused us to lose touch with our friendship. We commit to work on our friendship, and I feel encouraged. The idea of leaving GCC has not ever entered my mind to this point.

1997, July--the elder of the previous meeting invites me to lunch at his home. I agree and arrive to find a third elder is also part of the lunch meeting. I am confronted as an elder in error and told I am hurt and need help. I experience much anger at a system that so clouds truth in the eyes of men, that they speak of friendship and love while only taking action to protect their authority. I clearly see by the words used in this meeting, I am now viewed as a threat to the security of the body. I lash out at the system, but manage to keep my words from attacking them. Debriefing my wife on this meeting, we talk of leaving for the first time. We are devastated at the thought, but have no confidence the elders will be convinced that the head-pastor government is the problem. We expect no honest hearing of our hearts or thinking, just manipulation and/or outright pressure to try and alter our thoughts. Memories surface of relationships over the years brushed aside by the elders when circumstances required GCC exercise "authority" in protection of its theology and practice.

1997, one week later--I am called to an official meeting at the church building. I am asked how I feel this week. I announce my wife and I have talked and are agreed, we will leave the church. The two staff elders are clearly unnerved and speak of the damage this will do our body. I explain how I cannot stay believing what I now believe. If I remain silent, I am dishonest. If I speak out, I will be labeled as a factious man fomenting dissent against authority. I commit to leave as quietly as possible, and that I will not encourage anyone to follow me out. The meeting lasts ten minutes or less.

It takes nearly four months for the elders to announce my resignation to the body. Many meetings with individual elders and the whole group of elders ensue in the time period with both harsh and kind words. One man, who will become an elder a week before my wife and I are officially removed, works to maintain his personal relationship with me and try to bring peace, though he never seeks to understand my new perspective on leaders. I am asked by the elders to present my beliefs with scriptural support. I write a four page compilation and turn it in. No one ever asks to discuss it in any following meeting. It appears to have only been a stalling tactic. I never hear any position from their side except that I am hurt and in error. No one ever attempts to listen to what I am thinking. All try to change my mind or convict me of the sinful pride in obstinance.

In the end, they feel betrayed by one who lacks the commitment to love. I am confronted as one lacking relational integrity and trying to manipulate them. Two elders encourage me, and I decide not to attend the meeting where the announcement will be made. When the content of the meeting is verified by several different witnesses including the elder now designated to deal with me, I discover I have been misrepresented and characterized in terms that malign my character.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trouble in Graceland: Events 1 - 3


1990 -- Following a series of events and speakers, the elders publicly repented for being controlling. For several months of meetings in that fall, we were full Sunday after Sunday at around 4oo people. Somewhere in this history, we went to two services and more home groups. We felt a joy-filled momentum heading into the new decade. In January of 1991,the elders were at a semi-annual retreat together over a weekend. These retreats served as praying and planning over direction. I had reflected inwardly the control had not simply affected those who followed but had impacted our communion as elders, as well. I felt to encourage something among us and took the opportunity of that meeting to speak out.

I noted to the brothers, the public repentance and break with our past "controlling spirit" as elders was an opportunity we might maximize. I asked that we devote a discussion to our views of leadership. I believed we viewed elders differently. We should openly place our thoughts on leadership in view and discover differences that might hinder and insights in support of our team growth. Specifically, I felt the Lord would reveal His direction for a better team of leaders. Acknowledging our agenda for the rest of the retreat was full, I asked for such discussion to be soon. Each man quietly looked back at me and nodded his head thoughtfully. The discussion never happened. I did not know it, but this meeting was the germination of my awareness of and focus on the dynamics of authority within a group of believers, and the beginning of the events that would lead me and my family from the church.

(Back ground info: our basic approach to governing had always been the elders discussed issues until decision by consensus was made; the head pastor, however, was ultimately responsible before God for the direction of the church. Therefore if a decision had to be made and a consensus could not be reached, it was the head-pastor's call. Further, in application of this principle, head-pastor initiatives based on him stating he sensed God's leading carried significant weight and usually gained plural approval. Within this principle, I understood through teaching and practice my role was a support to the head-pastor, helping him lead the church. Personally, I trusted God would verify by the Holy Spirit any elder's initiative which was His plan in the hearts of enough other elders to cause His will to be achieved. When something I said did not win the favor of anyone else, discussion over leadership perspectives for example, I determined I had not heard God.)


1994 -- A guest speaker with wisdom and experience in building local bodies becomes involved in our church family. He visits several times and eventually relocates to our town. He comes to be understood though never officially ordained as an apostle to our group. He travels the world to meet with many churches he helps guide and is at "home" with us. A euphemism that has been used publicly since 1991, "killing the pastor-centered church" which meant the focus was off one man and on all members being equipped for ministry is still used, but behind the scenes I note a shift back to "strong" leadership particularly on the part of the head-pastor. The counsel and guidance of our apostle has become something that guides our decisions sometimes even in his absence. Some topics are tabled until his opinion can be heard. This strikes me as a move from pluralistic review by the elder brothers to a need for one man's view. Head-pastor autonomy now appears to have strengthened but is dually shared in an undefined way.


1995 -- A discussion in an elders' meeting concerned our youth. The topic: hiring a college-age man to lead a youth group. The candidate was a trusted member of our college group, a high priority ministry of our church. I felt we missed the step of seeking God's direction to even have a youth group. I stated I felt this group would pull young teens from the home's influence when such time together was essential and powerful in the development of relationship between parents and teens. I asked if we could pray for a week or so and return to the topic. I got concerned looks, and the decision went forward without a designated time of prayer to seek God. (I think the elders were so conditioned by my supportive nature, that my words neither struck them as disagreement nor even a difference of opinion. For whatever reason, my voice carried no weight. I was left scratching my head, doubting myself as little more than a yes-man, and scrutinizing deeply the interactions/influences of various leaders within our "power" structure.) My wife and I would not let our eldest attend youth group meetings when he turned 13 later that year, creating dissension between parents and child. We relented after a few months time.

(Background info: We had on-staff elders, four including me for several years, and multiple self-supporting elders. I fell into a unique spot. On-staff elders met ad hoc at work and discussed much. Self-supporting elders were involved at designated meetings. My Christian school principal/teaching duties meant staff elder discussions excluded me. Digest versions were often relayed separately, therefore I had more access to these discussions than self-supporting elders. This dynamic and its ramifications could not be avoided, and it often seemed counter-productive to leader-group cohesion. The youth group initiative described above was likely spawned in discussions among on-staff elders. In 1995, the school had relocated to its own building, and I now was understanding first hand what self-supporting elders experienced.)

The rest of these events tomorrow.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October 19 is Year One as a Blogger

This past two weeks at school blew through like a hurricane. Days of rising expectation, harried and increasing work to prepare, and moments of trepidation over what will be when the wind and water stop. This followed by two days of storm.

Two weeks ago, the announcement flipped open in an e-mail. First term grades were due. The red flags were up. The storm itself, parent conferences, would make landfall October 16 and 17 .

The work load at school intensifies immediately with that e-mail. Days of paper work and computer spreadsheets, setting up conference times, continuing to manage regular duties of school until...the teachers meet eye to eye with parents over grades and behavior. These conferences are back to back, thirty minute conferences from 12:30 when the students are dismissed until late afternoon for two days. Breaks come unexpectedly with last minute cancellations or conferences that finish in twenty minutes or no breaks at all depending on the vagaries of the storm. Managing calm emotions in the face of a relentless, hours-on-end edginess (mine and the parents'), while waiting for one or two "gusts" to be overwhelming brought to mind the hurricane metaphor.

I have been a bit distracted from finding time to write for the blog recently but have been reflecting on what to write next. I have decided the memoir format has ended. I will finish my separation from the group in a simple listing of some key events tomorrow, which is my anniversary as a blogger. About Tuesday, I'll begin the authority discussion. It would appear timely. This topic is all over the blogosphere! Several recent books on church government and related issues are causing much discussion.

(Wow! I never thought I would manage blogging for a year. Yeah, I know I took a four month hiatus...as my son tells me, don't cloud the issue with facts.)

I am making the switch back to plain old talking from story-telling for two simple reasons. I want to write the next events without a context of characters. I started the memoir thinking real people would create a relational element that is part of the larger discussion in the end. I am now feeling a check about telling my version of the following events, which involve brothers/friends whose versions are not being mutually brought to light. That it now feels unfair is a warning like those red flags above. I also tire of the work of attempting to compose this series as a writer instead of just a talker. It isn't fun anymore, honestly, but has become a burden. Since lack of commitment here holds little consequence (and may, in fact, bring regular readers some relief from my limits with prose), the decision is done.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Church Summit and Loss of Innocence

The hotel meeting room was decorated like a hotel meeting room. Walls formed a rectangular shape, stiffening the room with a no-one-can-complain textured beige. Fake brass pots with fake plants faked life next to side tables for water glasses and centered before the one window. Darkly stained wainscoting and a complex pattern of gold, brown, maroon and green in the pile carpet suggested affluence. A suggestion that failed. Nonetheless, the meeting room filled our need and was among the best our small town offered. The heavy wood conference table spoke appropriately of the meetings weight and importance to us.

Around the table, I could make eye contact with the founding pastor of the sending Alaskan church, his expected replacement-an eldest son, and the head pastor's right hand man. From our side were the head pastor, and four other elders including me. The head-covering issue launched five years previously had zig-zagged through pulpit preaching in both churches and precipitated other issues of accountability and authority between the two churches. I had heard our side and understood the other side considered us loved renegades. Now the tension and pulpit jockeying would be confronted straight-up.

I listened mostly. Among the youngest of the men present and an elder longer than only two other men, I couldn't escape estimating myself as a novice in leadership matters and understanding the Bible. The discussion was cordial, even warm, and occasionally light-hearted. The exchanges across the table shared and analyzed scripture and perspectives on the same. In the end, the planting church ceased to be an over-seeing church.

I left the meeting a bit confused. Had I just witnessed a simple dynamic centering around group-held values versus local church autonomy as it was labeled in the discussion; or had I seen something broader and more far-reaching, a microcosm of what has shaped denominational differences for centuries? My view that Truth was a solid set of values revealed in the scriptures through hermeneutic study thus guiding practice was shaken. As a local church, we were freed to enter into a loose association of churches across North Carolina and Virginia, in which several also preached head-coverings among other shared perspectives.

Who is accountable to whom, for what reasons, and with what implications? In one night, my Christian experience of a body of believers responding to God-ordained authority had transformed from solid scriptural tenet providing me spiritual security into a giant Rubic's cube of who is right? Catholicism considered Protestantism a break away from the direct line of authority begun with Peter. Eastern Orthodox considered Roman Catholics a break away group. Protestantism was sub-divided almost unendingly.

Inside the splintering somewhere was my group, whose accountability to authority was now redefined in a few hours of talk. Furthering the complexity of my thoughts on the practice of faith lurked teachings that many of the older traditions included a scholarship suspect because of tainted theology built on man's knowledge (was scholarship really wrong?), while my group extolled revelation in the spirit. This included a strong emphasis on the practice of the spiritual gifts enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12, such as prophetic utterances and tongues with interpretation during meetings. These phenomenon we labeled the "power" gifts, and I held this as important truth to the Christian experience. How did all the conflicting ideas fit together? Was one group more of God than another? If so, why and what was the scriptural evidence? In the weeks that followed, no matter how I twisted the levels of this puzzle cube in my thoughts, none of the sides came close to forming a solid color integrity. Not even my church.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Cover," said the Spiritual Authority

My wife and I sat in folding chairs together with the other congregants. It was an early spring morning. In these ancient, rounded mountains, spring means chilly air and bright sunshine hinting that warmth will soon banish winter's bitter wind. My mind wandered back and forth between Terry's sermon and my own thoughts. I wasn't bored. This is just the way my mind and heart work. I am selfish to think my own thoughts when the social expectation is one's outward focus. I constantly connect the outer stimuli with ideas and experiences already in residence within the brain. I suspect the reader understands.

The every word Christian reference Terry had just used, attracted my thinking. The term, in part, had engendered my respect for this group. Its use drew great hunks of Christian practice into a circle of inadequacy and helped explain my lack of interest in things Christian for those many years I rejected Christ. Further and more personally, that some Christianity was not every word, resolved why I had wrestled as high school youth through college freshman with a lack of power over sin. Such lack convinced me at my then age of nineteen, Christianity wasn't viable. Inevitability I would sin again because I wanted the sin. I decided sinfulness was practical, irreversible fact and my true identity.

Now and for the previous three years, I accepted GCC theology as a greater insight into the Bible than was known among denominational churches. Every word had expanded to include the phrases sold-out, hearers and doers, and spirit-filled. Whenever a GCC practice or interpretation of scripture was at odds with traditional theology, one of these three phrases helped distinguish the why we did or didn't do what they did or didn't do. Tying our tongues up being our distinctive difference and, for me, the profound evidence of my connection with the source, the Holy Spirit, which enabled me to resist sin. Resisitng sin was not just the path to holiness in an abstract way. I understood it to be the only way I could enjoy the life I had found in Christ.

Resist I had. Everything about my new family in Christ held meaning for me and supported my rapid growth in spirituality. The teachings expanded my thinking of the nature of God and His work. The worship released my bottled-up emotions in expressions both exhuberant and satisfying; I found a connection with authentic joy. The substantive fellowship was emptying insecurity from the well of my soul, a shaft in my heart formerly filled up by a wrecked, alcoholic family and my years of sinfully manipulating others. The disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and church attendance I adopted gave me needed structure. Most wonderful of all, God strengthened me to choose marriage in faith, and the fruit of that union lifted me all the further into adoration for the Lord Jesus. This incredible woman who loved me sat beside me. I reached for her hand and gave my attention back to the passionate teaching.

The rationale of being every word Christians and hearers and doers of the Word once again reached its logical conclusion. GCC would now do something the unlearned of Christianity had yet to see as significant spiritual practice. Terry explained the elders (he and three other men) were leading the church to adopt I Corinthians, chapter 11's description of women wearing head coverings when they prayed or prophesied. The elders had determined women should abide by this scriptural instruction if they prayed silently or vocally with men present and included whether the gathering was church or a meeting in a home.

Spiritual authority over our family of believers had taught, requested, and I felt so moved. Freida questioned a bit as we drove home. She stated some misgiving with the teaching. We were silent a moment. I was often not sure of what to say in our limited eighteen months together. My father was no example to draw from and teaching from the pulpit created my only framework for decision-making in this relationship where I had a husband role to play. I suggested perhaps her reaction to Terry's words was in part made more intense by her advancing pregnancy. Silence.

Gently I said, "We're sold out, right?" Nothing. I drove through the last stop light before the turn into our apartment driveway. "Sin is more than resisting temptation; isn't refusing to move in obedience to commands in the Word a sin, too?"

After a moment she answered quietly, "Yes."

Exiting the Chevette my wife brought into the marriage, we shifted talking to our growing excitement with parenthood just three months away. I was thankful God helped me know what words to use leading my wife!

Learning true authority seemed an important backbone of life.