Question of the day: church discipline over THIS?!

A few weeks back I was scouting the internet (Google, actually) when I came across an interesting article beseeching other pastors for “urgent help” concerning a particular matter. Curiousity took over and, although I’m not a pastor, I clicked the link to see what the man’s dilemma was. Interstingly enough it had to do with modesty… women-wearing-pants “modesty” to be exact.

To my surprise the information leading up to his plea for advice was weather or not church discipline should be invoked upon the subject of said concern.

Here’s what the post said…

I have a problem that you can help me with. All I ask is that you write and let me know what you would say to the following situation. It might even sound humorous to you, but I can assure you that it is a serious matter.

There is a teenage girl in a church. The church teaches that pants are not the most appropriate and modest attire for women. The girl is from a very poor family (six people living in one room), but she was the first member of her family to come to Christ about three years ago. She has been growing in the Lord and is faithful to church and prayer meetings. Recently she got a scholarship to a school that requires the female students to wear lose pants. Though someone from the church approached the school leaders and asked them to make an exception for her, they refused. Since the girl has decided to attend the school anyway, the church won’t allow her to teach Sunday School anymore because she will no longer meet the standards for workers. But there is a prominent person in the church who is not content with this. He thinks she should be disciplined after the fashion of 1 Corinthians 5 and she should not be allowed to take the Lord’s Supper.

What do you think?

What advice would you give this man?
Thoughts?   Opinions?   Scripture to back your take?   Leave a comment below!

Source: {here}.

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Posted on March 21, 2011, in Question of the Day and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. How much steam can one have come out of his head before it explodes? Grrrrrrrr!

    First problem: “The church teaches that…” More people have fallen into error than can be counted who followed “church” teaching. Sola Scriptura, folks.

    Second problem: “Faithful to church and prayer meetings.” This should be a red flag. Here we see the classic defense of one’s spirituality based on church meeting attendance. Spiritual growth should not be measured by whether or not some deacon included you in the count he put up on the numbers board after offering. Grrrrr

  2. I was not done, but I hit the wrong key on my phone…probably in anger!

    Third problem: “not allowed to take the Lord’s Supper.” Talk about control and intimidation! What else would you have to do to be labeled legalistic?

    Other than going to this guy and the pastor of this church and recommending they do unto themselves what Paul suggested to the Judaizers, I would simply say this girl needs to find another church. She needs to go where being “faithful” to Christ is most important. If this church is this warped in its this doctrine, being unable or unwilling to interpret context, what other unhealthy, legalistic, anti-grace heresies are they teaching?

    Now I’m done. It’s time for some coffee – with CAFFINE!

  3. this is quite sad I think. Man looks at outward appearances but God looks at the heart.
    OK, sometimes what’s on the outside might show a spiritual problem, but then you address the spiritual problem. You never ‘cure’ a spiritual problem by changing the outside. Jesus talks about this extensively.

    And in the case above, it seems to me that the rest of the church has the spiritual problem. I hate to be blunt, but I think that needs saying. Maybe the solution is to seek God on this issue afresh. Put asside the ‘we already know’ attitude.

    And if the person in question is humble enough to comply with what isn’t a good rule, but also isn’t as bad as it gets either, then someone in the church BUY HER THE APPROPRIATE UNIFORM. It’s not difficult.

    • Steve, this is the best rebuttal I have ever seen concerning this topic. Both you and Craig Benno are right on.

      Modesty is not a dress code. It is a condition of the heart, which then manifests in every word, thought, and deed. “Conservative” churches get so wrapped up in tradition, calling it scriptural, that they judge someone’s heart by what one wears, not by the quality of one’s spiritual fruit; Phariseeism at its finest. Are we so spiritually numb that we rely on physical eyes to see our spiritual condition?

      Truth is, this modern day spiritual dress code, as enforced by “conservative” churches, was considered grossly immodest 100 years ago. In the years prior to 1900, Christian women wore dresses to their ankles, sleeves to their wrists, would not have cut their hair to save their life, not even an inch, and wore no makeup whatsoever. If truth be told, Baptists are considered worldly by the Holiness church in which I grew up. The women in my childhood church were forbidden to cut their hair and forbidden to wear makeup. Both men and women were forbidden to wear jewelry of any kind (including wedding bands), forbidden to wear shirt sleeves above the elbows, and forbidden to own or watch a television.

      Take a quick look at history: whose standard is right, whose standard wrong? Which is more modest, women’s “conservative” attire in today’s “straight and narrow church”, women’s attire in the year 1900, or the full-length head to toe garb with face veil 2000 years ago, during which time the apostle Paul wrote the standard for spiritual modesty. If there truly is an across the board, cross cultural, timeless external modesty dress code standard, then according to the modesty dress code prevalent in the apostle Paul’s day, every last one of us, Amish included, are sinning and going straight to the Lake of Fire!

      I have seen just as many “modestly dressed” women flaunt their sexuality as I have those dressed in “non-conservative” clothing. To say that modesty is wearing a skirt two inches below the knees, no pants, and sleeves below the armpit (or even elbows), is to say that Paul was off-base, Baptist churches know better than Paul, and today’s Holiness churches know better than the Baptists. Come on, man! We need to get on our knees before God and cry out to him for a new and humble heart.

      If you, as a woman, walk around with your cleavage open to the world, or visible through your clothing, that is immodest. If you walk around swinging your bum in a man’s face tempting him to lust after you, that is immodest, and, according to scripture, you are held responsible for his sin – regardless of what you’re wearing. You may be covered from head to toe and wearing winter mittens, but if your actions are sexually suggestive, your self-righteous conservative clothing makes you no less immodest than standing up stark naked during Sunday morning worship service.

      Modesty is a condition of the heart, not an artificial dress code. If your heart is right with God, your modesty will manifest authentically as a result. You will dress modest, act modest, speak modest, think modest, and feel modest. If your heart is not right with God, no dress code in the world can cover you up – even if some church accepts the way you look. It is high time we stop the hypocrisy and get back to God!

  4. Groan… Groan…Groan….!!!

    Get with it man… pants are an appropriate cultural style of dress for women in the modern era….when the Scriptures were written – they didn’t have shorts and trouser pants back then any way.

  5. I know we want to jump on all these other issues, but it comes down to simple order. If the church standard for workers is they are not to wear pants, and she has chosen to ‘attend the school anyway,’ then she cannot teach Sunday school. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, I’m saying she has to work within the framework of authority she is under.
    Just as the man who is ‘not content with this’ has to do the same if he wishes to bring this issue before the church as grounds for church discipline, no matter how ‘prominent’ he is.

    There are tons of churches, colleges, ministries, etc. that require their workers/students to comply to a dress code. The issue is what are you ‘willing’ to do in order to serve, not necessarily your personal convictions on grey areas. I see only three options:
    -Do whatever needs to be done in order to serve in that ministry
    -Do not do it; without complaint or murmuring about it
    -Quietly leave and attach yourself to a ministry with beliefs more aligned with yours

    Once again, I am not agree or disagreeing with this particular church, one just needs to work within the authority they are under.

  6. I think Nick has hit the nail on the head. People groan and complain about a church having a “dress code” and call it legalistic, yet they’ll work at McD’s (or wherever) and wear their uniform. They wouldn’t even dream of showing up for work in something else because they KNOW they would immediately be fired. Is the local church, the body of Christ, not just as much worthy of this same respect we unhesitatingly give our bosses? As for the matter of church discipline in this situation. We all have opinions, but are our opinions valid given we don’t know ALL the details? What is the spirit of this girl? Is she in rebellion to authority, or is she simply making a choice and abiding by the consequences willingly? Has the “prominent church member” been in prayer about his belief that discipline is necessary? Is he a godly person, whose counsel is valued, or is he simply seeking an agenda? I would hesitate condemning this pastor or others as “legalistic” “anit-grace” or as having “a spiritual problem.” It seems to me that this pastor is genuinely seeking advice on a very sensitive issue. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to give him the benefit of the doubt and extend the grace toward him that we so often demand others extend.

  7. I agree with Nick, 100%. the question isn’t whether the church is right in this instance, but more of whether the girl should be under their authority as a teacher in said church.

    • I agree with Steve actually, but it should be pointed out that we live in the UK where this would never be an issue in the same way.

      The important question, I think, is where would Jesus be in all this? When did becoming ‘right’ become more important than loving people. From the pastor’s own description this girl is moving on in God, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for damaging that.

      I’m all for working under authority but who’s authority is the church under? It seems that they’ve lost a capable and enthusiastic teacher. I hope that they haven’t damaged her faith with their handling of this.

  8. I am sorry if I prematurely blamed the guy asking the question in the above story. He was just asking a question. But one question does come to mind: “how can he help?” Is he advising the church, or the girl. If he is advising the girl, then I would say he should tell her that she should find another place to worship. Other than that, someone needs to be having a serious conversation about grace.

  9. Personally, I find it harder to look away from a woman in a dress. Perhaps it comes from being raised in a society in which women wear pants!

    I agree with the comments about “freedom” and “grace” and “legalism”, but I also agree with the comments about following leadership. Many people do not like the way certain things are run (in churches and out), but we also need to remember that for some people certain restrictions are necessary.

    I “grew up” in a denomination (started attending when I was 15, became a believer at 16) which has rules against drinking any alcohol (to the point that a college troupe I was a part of was given communion at a church which used wine and the group was afraid of being kicked out of school). This is to “avoid drunkenness”. A lot of my friends and family disagreed with this teaching, but it helped save my father from being an alcoholic.

    Likewise, Teen Challenge is a Christian ministry to help people overcome addiction. If someone is involved with the 12-month process, they have very few freedoms. This person usually has to live in a house/apartment with others who are recovering addicts, cannot have any alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or anything related, and are not even allowed to date. To many people this is restrictive, but it is what is necessary to help.

    Perhaps this church has the rules it has for similar reasons. It also used to be common for people who went against church rules to be refused communion (it was a popular tactic for the first few centuries of the Church).

    Personally, I would show grace and want to say “as long as you wear your skirt at church” or something. Likewise, if it is in the rules that if she wears pants EVER, then the rules apply and should be enforced. Do I agree with the rule? No, but it is better to help others avoid sin, and we should do our best as believers to show grace even to those who believe differently than we do (Romans 14).

  10. Another question I’d have is about the ‘modesty’ bit. The whole verse also has a sense of modesty in terms of not having to have the latest, expensive stuff. The nature of the ‘modest’ clothes isn’t prescribed, which might suggest it’s best left to the individual, as everyone has their own ideas about this. The specific stuff is talking about the latest most expensive fashions. But again, none of this changes the inside.
    I’ve seen churches that have many club rules, mostly unwritten, about how people should & shouldn’t dress and other stuff as well. They never forbid ‘expensive clothes’ though, which is mentioned! Churches in the UK that I’ve known that have unofficial dress codes have been concerned with feeling superior in some way to the world or to other Christians. They’d be shocked if you said it like that & if you asked them for reasons they would talk about spiritual things, but in normal conversation where people say what they really think, the stuff about how unspiritual other groups must be because of their lack of dress code or wrong dress code comes out.
    Usually they expect suits & ties for men. Rules for women are usually less clear, but they generally end up all looking very similar. Hats are often required. T-shirts will be considered evil at church, though OK the rest of the time. Jeans are also bad in church but OK at home.
    I don’t go with the argument that if you’re prepared to wear a uniform to work then you should at church. There are loads of reasons for this, as mentioned before, it’s important to MacDonalds but not to God & He says so! He is interested in the inside though. Another biggie is that ‘church’ as a building we meet in, whilst not wrong in any way, indeed its helpful in many ways, is still a human convenience. Church buildings didn’t exist at the start & the Church has always been the people, even when we forget this. So if something’s right it’s right & if it’s wrong it’s wrong, all the time, not just ‘in church’.
    You get “the church that meets at so-and-so’s house”. Now, people meet together, not buildings. So having rules about how you should look when you step into a building is a bit weird really. As if God isn’t interested in the rest of the week.
    All of this is to do with ideals though and if it was me I may well go along with a dress code if I felt God wanted me to work in a certain place. Maybe not though, it would depend on whether things needed challenging for the good of the place or not.

    The big danger is for new disciples. They hand their lives over to Jesus, and if they’re not from a Christian background they often see that the church they find themselves in doesn’t look very much like the new life they’ve received from Jesus. This can damage people because it makes them feel like they might have made a mistake. I’m sure God is well able to deal with this but wouldn’t it be better to not make the mess in the first place?

    I think for a new Christian, getting out might be the only option. It’s not always helpful to ‘order’ a new Christian to do things that require maturity. But where there are disagreements, for people who think they are mature, what better chance to stay & love the people who think the opposite way? This might mean doing what they want, but it might mean gently challenging stuff, it depends really on what’s best for them.

    Lastly, I think that we should use these kind of discussions to challenge ourselves & think about how we should act rather than starting to look down on people who are wrong. I was going to say ‘wrong’, but sometimes we know that people are in the wrong. This still shouldn’t affect our attitudes toward them. Love. Always.
    Apologies for the many words. I’ll shut up on this one now!

  11. She needs to find another church!

  12. This is ridiculous. Of all the things the Lord has given us to tend to, people take a left turn and wind up stuck in this? May the Lord bless and strengthen this girl in a mighty way!!!

  13. I wonder if those who are gossiping about this Christian young woman will be disciplined by the church for gossip? Of course she should not be disciplined for wearing pants to school. The church should be helping build up this young lady so she can mature as a Christian, being the first from her family. She may well lead the rest of the family to Christ and she may well be a light in her school. However, if the church is darkening her spirit because she is abiding by the school’s rules, they are off track. They’re stifling her.

    There is a place for church discipline, but it should always be the last resort. Many times those who are disciplines know they are being held to a higher standard than others because their “sin” has been revealed and others’ have not. I know this from having been disciplined myself because of my battle with unwanted same-sex attraction.

    Thom
    http://www.thomhunter.com

  14. I may have missed it because I am exhausted, but why can’t she abide by the school policy and wear pants? Then at church wear skirts? Wouldn’t that make sense?

    Now, with that said, we can’t judge someone by dress (as mentioned by many). God cares about the heart and whether we are true to him. If he is convicting someone to wear skirts and they are openly rebelling, that is between the person and God (and nobody else!). He does want us to obey authority.

    Would I have gone to the school? Probably not. However, that is a personal decision each person has to make – again, between the person and God.

  15. This kind of thing really GRRR ROAR makes me mad! Here this girl comes from a very poor family and they are going to not allow her to take communion possibly because she wears pants to church?? Seriously?? Maybe I’m overly lax. I confess I’ve even worn jeans to church, but to not allow her to teach Sunday School? I wouldn’t be shocked if this girl gets burned and leaves because of all this ‘drama’. Not to be too progressive, but here’s a classic example of how Christians can scare away baby believers.

  16. I can understand they want women to dress appropriately and not sloppy. That I get, but instead of condemning her, why don’t they offer to buy her a few dresses or skirts that she likes?

  17. I agree with Tom Hunter. 🙂

  18. Well, I am going to be preaching/teaching on this tonight at church (Wednesday). Mainly it is going to bounce off of the Wall Street journal article dealing with the way girls dress (http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052748703899704576204580623018562-lMyQjAxMTAxMDIwMzEyNDMyWj.html).

    My main texts are going to be Titus 2:3-5, and 1 Samuel 16:7. I will also address the controversial passage that is at the root of this whole mess, which is Deut. 22:5. But don’t worry, I am not going to let them get off easy without pointing out that verse 11 says “Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, [as] of woollen and linen together.” Better not be wearing any 80/20 blends, I guess, or communion is out of the question.

  19. For me this is not simply an issue of modesty. Deuteronomy 22:5 tells us it is an abomination for men and women to wear clothing pertaining to the opposite gender. Some Christians, and some Churches, interpret this to mean that girls and women may not wear pants. If this is the case at the Church where this girl worships, she should either wear skirts or accept that she should worship elsewhere.

    Personally I believe that it is wrong for Christian women to wear pants, so I hope the girl changes her ideas and replaces them with modest skirts.

  20. I think the Pastor acted correctly. Deuteronomy 22:5 is clear about the requirement that women should not wear that which pertains unto men – and that includes pants.

    • So, er, you’re saying that pants (trousers in the UK..) are exclusively male & skirts/dresses are exclusively female. Before I go on, I’m genuinely just following the logic here, I’m not trying to look smart. I just think we have to see what is actually being said in the bible & also & more importantly see what the spirit of the text is. I say this because that is what Jesus did.

      Anyway, there are a few things I think are a problem here. Firstly, and I’m only joking a little bit on this one, what about the Scottish?! Kilts are basically a skirt for men, they actually haven’t been around as long as people think, but try telling a Scot that he’s dressed like a woman! So because it’s cultural & maybe because the Scottish are slightly frightening this is never seen as an issue by Christians! But if this reading of the bible is correct it should be an issue…

      Also, if you’re going to pick out stuff from the OT law & say we should follow it now, what about v9, 10, 12 & all the ones in that same chapter about sexual stuff? There’s plenty there that we see no need to follow now from trivial to hugely important. If you understand how things were back then, some of it fits better, even though now it would be a bit or a lot weird…

      And also, logically, pants cover more of the body than skirts do! And if the issue is really about modesty not church club rules then do the people enforcing these rules go swimming fully covered?! I guess not. Someone will then talk about things being appropriate for different situations, but it’s difficult to then talk about an over-riding principle of modesty.

      More & more these days it seems like there’s a progression through the scriptures to be MORE inclusive as time went on, not less. So for example, in the law the Ethiopian that Phillip baptised was ‘out’ & he shouldn’t have done that, but he did & it’s in the bible & things moved on.

  1. Pingback: Skirts, Pants and the Church : Is This Modest?

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