Church's Policies Disillusion Couple

The Wichita Eagle/June 3, 1995
By Julie Wright

Dan and Brenda Drummond were looking for a church. So when a woman they met at Wal-Mart invited them to a Bible-study session, it seemed that God had answered their prayers.

They soon were rebaptized into the International Churches of Christ, a movement that demanded their complete devotion to God and the church at the expense of their free time and, critics of the church say, free thought.

After they had been in the church in Kansas City, Mo., for a little more than a year, the Drummonds were among about 25 people who moved to Wichita in 1991 to begin the Wichita Church of Christ Jesus.

They have since left the church and are talking about their experiences to help others learn about the church and potential problems with it. But they say that in a lot of ways, their experiences in the church were good. They learned about the Bible, about their relationships with God and about what it means to be a Christian. They made friends they still love and had experiences they still cherish.

They also found themselves, however, having to explain personal decisions to 'disciplers,' church members assigned to help them study the Bible and mature in their faith. The couple had to justify trips out of town if it meant their family might miss a church service, and Brenda Drummond, during a time when her husband was thinking of leaving the church,*had to report every time the couple had sex.

"They're really on target in so many areas," she said. "It's mainly in the discipling, where its gone to heavy extremes, and dangerous extremes. It really messes with the mind."

The Drummonds got started with the church in March 1989. They were shopping in Liberty, Mo., and their daughter hugged a woman who looked like her grandmother. The incident led to a conversation between the Drummonds and the woman, who invited them to church.

Church members face great pressure to recruit new members, first by inviting them to church services or to Bible-study sessions called Bible Talks. For potential recruits who seem open to the idea, such as the Drummonds, the next step is to ''challenge'' the visitor to study the Bible with a couple of church members, one of whom becomes the prospective member's discipler. The Drummonds accepted the challenge.

The Bible studies are designed to show the student that even if he thinks he's a Christian, he probably is not living the way the Bible commands. One of the studies focuses on the physiology involved in Jesus' crucifixion, complete with a medical description of what must have happened to his nervous and respiratory systems while he hung on the cross. The goal is to get the prospective new disciple to appreciate Jesus's pain.

''They don't admit to this part a lot of times, but the reasoning for this is they want you to be broken,'' Brenda Drummond said. ''Broken,'' in the church vocabulary, means radically changed preferably humbled and weeping. ''And so once they really feel like you're broken and willing to change and willing to repent,'' Brenda Drummond said, ''there's a few more studies you go through, and then if they feel like you are ready, then they will baptize you. But until you are baptized into this organization . . . any prior baptism is not good. In other words, you're not a Christian.''

On the evening of June 10, 1989, Brenda Drummond had completed her studies and was ready to be baptized. She could have waited until the next day in church, but she was so excited she chose to be baptized immediately. Her new friends baptized her shortly before midnight in a horse trough in a member's basement. It remains a cherished memory for her.

''It was really neat. I mean, I really felt cleansed,'' she said. ''I felt like when I raised up out of that trough, I was a new person.'' Her husband was baptized the next day in church.

The church took a lot of the Drummonds' time what with Sunday and midweek services, zone meetings, Bible Talks, evangelizing, quiet times and social events but they had no complaints. Brenda's brother and parents thought she was spending too much time with the church, but it wasn't a big problem.

When the church asked for volunteers to move to Wichita and ''plant'' a new church, the Drummonds again thought God was answering their prayers. They were looking to leave Kansas City, and it seemed just the ticket. It was after they settled in Wichita in May 1991 that the Drummonds began having second thoughts about the church.

First, Brenda Drummond's brother died. Although the church sometimes frowns on out-of-town trips that result in a disciple's missing church, the family went to Kansas City for the funeral without incident. But over the next couple of weeks, the Drummonds started having doubts. They started thinking they were having to spend too much time with the church, that their children, then 4 and 5, were not getting enough sleep because of church activities and were not getting enough of their parents' attention. Church officials' response? There's something wrong with your heart. You need to trust God. You need to love the lost.

Two weeks after her brother's funeral, Brenda wanted to go back to Kansas City to help her family deal with his belongings. But she recently had met a woman who was interested in studying the Bible with her. "My discipler at that time told me: 'Brenda, I'm not going to tell you you can't go. But you know, God's given you somebody to study the Bible with right here in Wichita. You need to think about that, Brenda,'" she said. She went anyway, and with no regrets. But she did have a wrenching feeling about what would happen when she returned. She knew she would be told she had a bad attitude which is a sin and have to endure what she called a "little put-down session" with her discipler.

Eventually, there came a time when Dan was having doubts and thinking of leaving the church. Brenda was distressed because she felt content there. She called their disciplers, who came to visit. Dan and the man talked in the Drummonds' living room; the women went into the bedroom.

After asking Brenda about her marriage and about the couple's physical relationship, the discipler determined that she wasn't 'meeting her husband's needs.' "So there came a time period when I was reporting when my husband and me had sex," Brenda said. "At the time, I figured, OK, I just want to be an obedient disciple."

The beginning of the end came in 1993, when the Drummonds decided to go to a Christian dude ranch in Colorado. Both had had surgeries in recent months, and they thought their kids had been through a lot. They wanted some time out of town.

Instead of seeking their discipler's advice about the trip, the Drummonds just said they were going. It was a problem, because they would miss church. They went anyway.

When the Drummonds decided they wanted to leave the church they, in their word, 'plotted.' First, they called and told their disciplers they were going out of town to visit family. When they returned, they didn't attend services. The disciplers came to visit. In spite of efforts to dissuade them, the couple held firm, left the church, and gradually built a new circle of friends on the outside.

The Drummonds visit two churches now, but have not yet joined a new one. It's been a year and a half since they left the Wichita Church of Christ Jesus. They don't regret the move. Brenda Drummond says a teacher, or discipler, should try to share what they know with a student without trying to force anything on him or her. "That's what Jesus did," she said. "He taught. He didn't force. He gave them a choice."

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