So I was greatly encouraged to read a recent transcript message by Joshua Harris aimed at the Covenant Life Church fellowship in relation to some honest reflection the team there have done. It's worth a read - but what particularly encouraged me was this statement (in relation to the Christian school run at CLC);
" ... we have come to see that in some cases our disciplinary consequences were unnecessarily strong, and the effects on those we disciplined were more painful and costly than we realized. Removing them and their negative influence from the school community was seen as an urgent priority; restoring them to the school and church community was not. Once they were gone, we as pastors had no clear strategy for pursuing them in love.
The result is that they felt cut off from the school, and consequently from the church. As a result, very few of those students who were removed from the school ever returned. Very few are members of our church today. It sobers and saddens us deeply to know that our practices tempted students to feel cut off from the Lord and his grace".
This describes exactly the feeling that I (and others I've met who have experienced the same) felt. The church leadership in Bristol were told by Peter Griesley to excommunicate me without hesitation - which in faithfulness to his leadership they did. I was then never contacted again - until through a friend we made contact again these last few years to sort this out. I emphasise - we made the contact. When you have absolutely no contact from the church leaders who excommunicate you - you really are left with the impression that you are "cast out to Satan" and beyond hope - it's hurtful.
I am so grateful and glad that this has been recognised by Harris and the CLC team - and I hope that they connect the dots from the school experience to the discipline in church life. It's encouraging and great to see. A church leader who is as in the limelight as Joshua Harris - and yet can say something as honest and open as the below - is humble indeed I think;
"Where our leadership was characterized by these patterns—in ways that I’ve shared and in ways I haven’t fully seen— we want to ask you to forgive us. We’ve been wrong. Deficiencies in our leadership have been hurtful to some of you. We are very sorry. Please forgive us".