'Unforgiving' Church Hit By Exodus Over Hardline Sex Policy

The Brisbane Courier/Australia, 1995
By Anthony Marx

A Brisbane church has lost more than a third of its congregation after the clergy's refusal to forgive adultery or sex before marriage.

Since January, more than 130 of the 350-strong flock at the Revival Centres International church at Camp Hill have left in protest against what they see is an un-Christian policy of no forgiveness.

The fundamentalist church, which believes speaking in tongues is mandatory to receive the Holy Spirit, has lost about 5000 of its 8000 members in Australia since the new decree was announced.

Senior Pastor Darcy Ryan was unrepentant yesterday about his church's tough stand in the face of the strong congregational backlash.

"The church can't forgive sins. Only the Lord can and that's what we're saying," he said.

"The scriptures say 'don't have sex before marriage and don't commit adultery' and if you do you can't stay in our fellowship. If people are going to be a part, there are standards we've got to keep."

Pastor Ryan, who has led services in the converted Planet Theatre since 1982, admitted the debate had caused some "emotional upset".

"From time to time, you get people who are unhappy and they are free to go somewhere else to worship," he said.

"They just didn't agree that we should be so hard-line on these things. But if I'm going to be judged because I make a strong stand for the Bible, well so be it."

Bob Kells, a member of the church for 20 years, said he never considered leaving and was surprised the decree has caused so much fuss.

"The Bible makes it very clear that that sort of thing is not allowed," Mr Kells said.

"I don't think forgiveness has anything to do with it. It's very clear this sort of behaviour is not acceptable to God's church."

Many members of the church's congregation who left went to other fundamentalist churches, including local Assemblies of God congregations.

Dr Carmel Leavey, director of the institute of Religious Studies in Sydney, said the Revival Centre's policy perverted Christian philosophy.

"There's no question it's a Christian teaching, but to exclude people because of their sinfulness is extreme and it is opposed to the spirit of the Gospel," she said.

"I would be worried about a church that makes perfection a mark of belonging."

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