Dear Pastor Mathew,
Our hearts are deeply grieved for unbiblical practices at Grace Valley Christian Center. Many individuals have gone in to your office for counseling, freely acknowledging their sin and seeking help, only to receive very over-bearing and harsh treatment, subjected to outbursts of anger and verbal abuse (“an elder must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered”. Titus 1:6). Things that are spoken in the privacy of counseling are made common knowledge to the entire congregation, violating trust and causing people to be afraid to be open and transparent.
Oversight is intrusive and oppressive, lording over all aspects of one’s personal life, (in violation of 1 Peter 5:3), so that one is expected to seek counsel about even the most private matters. One example: Cliff and Marika Burton were once questioned as to why they didn’t get counsel before getting a vasectomy. People are allowed and even encouraged to report the failings of others to the leadership, (the proof of which is the fact that it happens continually), instead of following the biblical practice of going in private to the individual (Mt 18). Files are kept at the church on individuals for sins and failings of their past, which have been repented of, and of which the Lord has no remembrance. Such a practice is not only unloving (“love keeps no record of wrongs” I Cor 13:4) but is manipulative, and has been used as a stick to pummel any individual who is so bold as to raise objections.
Raising objections or even asking questions about these or other sinful practices in the church is so strongly discouraged, that people in the congregation keep silent, thus violating their own conscience, and suppressing the truth, causing them to sin (“But the man who has doubts is condemned …because he is not acting in faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Ro 14:23”).
Since there is no way to address these problems, and since they cannot in good conscience continue in the church any longer, people who are troubled by them leave the church. For doing what the Word of God and their conscience requires of them, they are punished with excommunication, a flagrant misuse of church discipline. The grounds for this is supposedly the breaking of a vow, but even persons not in flock who leave the church for conscience sake have been formally excommunicated or ostrasized. Taking a vow of life-time commitment to a local church is considered by many theologians, such as Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. Michael Horton, to be unbiblical, a violation of Christian liberty, and something which should never be taken or honored (see attachments). But even if one allows that such a covenant commitment is permissible, it cannot be binding if the leadership violates the covenant through sinful and abusive practices.
The most grievous offenses of all are the scandalous lies which are told to the congregation regarding persons who are excommunicated, for the sole purpose of destroying their reputation. One individual was accused of practicing homosexuality when he left the church. The Sorbello’s were accused of writing a letter to Pastor, calling him pejorative names like ‘scum’ etc. This letter has never been produced. You told the congregation on a Wednesday night that Genevieve had married a Muslim and had become a Muslim – both untrue. When Marika corrected you privately with the facts, your response was “She has become an object lesson.” i.e. an example to the flock of the terrible things that happen to sinners who leave the church. Apparently, it’s OK to lie, if it keeps others from sinning. After being told the truth, you repeated the lie on more than one occasion.
Pastor, these practices have to stop. Please repent, for your own sake, and the sake of your congregation. You cannot keep the truth from people forever. And God knows everything. Consider us as formally resigned from the church. We will consider returning when these issues are publicly acknowledged and repented of.
Cliff Burton, Marika Burton, Nicholas Burton, Letitia Burton, Christina Savas