The Rise of Tyranny in the Church

            French President, Emanuel Macron, recently specified the reasons for his country outlawing homeschooling. He said that too many homeschoolers were being taught about God and that has proved to be a negative thing for society. It is obvious to anyone that has eyes and ears that totalitarianism is on the rise throughout the world. Countries which have formerly permitted missionaries are now outlawing them. Nations that have had democracies are turning to socialism. Countries that have enjoyed freedom are imposing despotic laws supposedly to protect the citizens. Yet, the old adage remains true that any nation which chooses safety over freedom shall have neither. 

            The same thing has happened in the modern church. Social justice has taken over many denominations in the US and North America. And with that social justice there has come tyranny for many. It seems unfathomable, but it is true. A movement that touts justice denies justice to most. Justice for all has been replaced by justice for a few (those identified as the oppressed) and retribution against all those who are identified as the oppressors. The old values have been thrown out and Marxist values of so-called social justice and Critical Race Theory have been substituted. With those new values, the church can expect all the same compassion as the former Soviet Union’s KGB and other communist nations gave to their citizens. 

            One of my prized books was given to me by some dear friends, The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdakov. Kourdakov was a KGB agent in the USSR during the 1960’s. His responsibility was to find groups of Christians meeting for worship and bust up those groups using any and all methods. One time he surprised a group meeting in an apartment and beat a beautiful young lady named Natasha in the face with his billy club. A few weeks later he busted up another group and there was Natasha with her scarred face. He beat her again. A few weeks later he saw her again, but couldn’t beat her for the third time. Sometimes the groups would meet outdoors. Whenever Kourdakov heard of such possible meetings, he was there to mete out punishment. But Kourdakov could not get over Natasha’s face. It troubled him so much that he eventually fled to Canada and asked for asylum. There he became a Christian and wrote the book I mentioned. Here is the way the book ends:

And, finally, to Natasha whom I beat terribly and who was willing to be beaten a third time for her faith, I want to say, Natasha, largely because of you, my life is now changed and I am a fellow Believer in Christ with you. I have a new life before me. God has forgiven me; I hope you can also.                                                            Thank you, Natasha, wherever you are. I will never forget you.[1]

            Kourdakov began speaking everywhere and joined Underground Evangelism to provide Bibles and assistance to the persecuted church in communist countries. On January 1, 1973, he died of mysterious circumstances on a skiing trip which the publishers suspected was a KGB hit job. He had warned others that if he was ever killed it would have all the appearances of an “accident.” He was two months short of twenty-two at the time of his death. 

            Fifty years later, Canada is no longer a safe haven for people fleeing persecution for their faith. The United States is no longer a safe haven. The institutional church is no longer a safe haven for those suffering persecution. Indeed, the organized church has largely adopted the same tyrannical methods and tactics as the various governments (within the limits of their power). 

            I was informed in recent days of a large church in “Metropolis” that has warned her officers and members that if they try to resign they will be brought up on charges and disciplined. I have seen the same thing happen in several situations over the past year. Ministers have joined Vanguard when they were in good standing in their former presbyteries only to have those bodies “refuse” to release them (which they cannot do) or bring charges against them (which they also cannot do). The church has no civil power, so they cannot make officers or members remain with them and their threats to discipline are completely unconstitutional. Of course, bureaucrats never let the facts or the truth stand in the way of them doing what they want to do. They rule by fiat authority and, therefore, do whatever they want to do. Their purpose is to slander the good name of Christians who object to their tyranny. Such a church does not want to keep those people as members. Rather, they desire to discipline with excommunication and thus cast an odium on the Christian character of such people. When will the institutional church ever learn? 

            The man born blind in John 9 faced that same type of situation. The Jews had threatened that if anyone said Jesus was the Messiah that person would be put out of the synagogue. That was a similar abuse of the authority of the church or synagogue and was tyranny against those who were coming to faith in Christ. The parents of this man born blind refused to take a stand because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders. The man himself was unconcerned and confessed his faith in Christ. If he was kicked out of the synagogue, so be it. At least, he had Christ!

            Probably, the most egregious example of this tyranny of the church in recent days has been what happened to TE Steve Richardson in the Canadian Presbytery of the ARP. For nearly a year, that presbytery searched in vain to justify their advice to Richardson that he should not conduct worship services with more than 10 people, according to the illegal and unconstitutional dictates of the Canadian government. Presbytery was unable to justify their advice because the Scripture is so clearly against it. Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.” That is a clear passage which no amount of Jesuit-like sophistry can overturn. Finally, a “solution” presented itself to TE Jeff Kingswood, pastor of Grace ARP in Woodstock, Ontario. Supposedly, a government official showed up at Kingswood’s church and wanted to know if they were following the governments’ mandates concerning worship services. Kingswood told Richardson in an email that he informed that official, “The man you are looking for is over there” and gave them Steve’s name and church and where he lived. That began Richardson’s legal troubles with the Canadian government which now potentially involve six years of imprisonment and $600,000 (Canadian) in fines. Meanwhile, Kingswood was the most outspoken voice in demanding that presbytery discipline Richardson with excommunication after he had already transferred into Vanguard and which they did. They even sent an email to me and Stated Clerk Thomas Joseph to inform us of their illegal actions. I have answered their silly and frivolous actions with facts and they have not replied further.

            Those people who informed Sergei Kourdakov where churches were meeting in the former Soviet Union were betrayers. They were probably not Christians, but they were betrayers, nonetheless. Judas was a betrayer of Christ. Kingswood betrayed a brother in the Lord who was following his conscience concerning worship. Jesus warned us: “Brother will betray brother to death” (Mark 13:12). It is a terrible thing to betray a brother simply because he believes that only God determines the church’s meetings for worship and that the government cannot determine the times or frequency or how many can gather for such worship.  

            One can only hope Kingswood one day has his Kourdakov moment wherein he apologizes to Richardson for betraying him—and Christ. 

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL and Moderator of Vanguard Presbytery  

Gifts to Vanguard Presbytery may be sent to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540. Vanguard has a large number of missions beginning in various cities across the US and will continue to need support for those churches and any future pastors. Your help and prayers are greatly appreciated.  

[1] Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, Company, 1973), 251.

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