The annual May Week (or sometimes March Week, as in 2014) is the third rail of church politics. Touch it, and you are toast. Criticize it, or question its similarity to the Baptist Convention or any other religious body’s annual doctrinal meeting, and you’ll be promptly corrected, rebuked and/or withdrawn from—and perhaps all three. If your status is high enough in the “brotherhood” upon such an offense, history shows you probably won’t even get a chance to defend yourself. You need to be made an example of, quickly and decisively.
One would think that May Week, if the attempt is to truly follow the example of Acts 15, should be reserved for weighty subjects of earth-shattering importance to the unity of the brotherhood, i.e. the brotherhood is literally divided (separating from one another) over this issue, so we need to figure out what the Bible says about it. But here are some of the weighty doctrines discussed at past May Weeks:
- Whether women can wear pants with a zippered fly in the front
- What constitutes a Christian’s own “personal time” vs. the time he’s obligated to do “the work” (usually this means personal work/knocking on doors, but this phrase can be a catch-all to mean any church function).
- Under what circumstances does a Christian traveling to another town where there is a church have to “keep the calendar” of that local church instead of his own church’s “calendar” of “work.” In other words, if you drive to another town on a Friday to pick up a trailer for business (because your local church doesn’t have an obligation for you on Friday, but the congregation in the town your visiting does), do you have to join with them in their church function? Must you tell them you’re in town, or can you pick up the trailer and slip out of town with no one knowing?
- Must a woman wear nylons with a dress on Sunday or when door knocking?
- Are there 2 types of punishments the church can implement on disobedient members or just one. Withdrawal vs. mark and avoid… are they the same thing or separate punishments?
- Should Christians be allowed to attend 4 year colleges or should their children be allowed to attend 4 year colleges?
- When is a divorced person free to remarry?
- Where does the Church stand on spacing children/birth control?
- Should preachers use electronic devises while preaching? ie: laptop, iPad, etc.
- Should Christians have Facebook accounts?
- What is the most acceptable way to make confessions- face to face, by letter, by text, by email.
- Is it allowable in scripture to break the bread of the Lord’s supper more than once? (to break it into smaller pieces)
- Is is acceptable to use gluten free flour for the unleavened bread of the Lord’s supper? Can the Church use two different types of bread at the same time? (one wheat the other gluten free?) Can a gluten free christian take only the grape juice and not the bread?
- Is it acceptable to use grape juice that has vitamin C added to it? (for the Lord’s supper?)
Can Christians get together to discuss their opinions on questions such as these? I suppose, as long as we speak only where the Bible speaks and truly remain silent where it’s silent. It might be a pretty silent meeting. But is it wise to attribute such importance to matters of personal opinion, and to do so on an annual basis? Not at all. Sometimes wisdom is in not doing what one has the right to do.I’ll be the first to acknowledge we don’t need a Biblical precedent for gathering together as individuals to study and discuss any subject. It’s the binding of those conclusions on the “brotherhood” under the assumption that unanimous agreement is necessary and equals unity in the first place. That, and the ongoing annual nature of it give me a scriptural problem with. The honest truth is there is a tremendous social pressure to swallow the doctrines “brought back” from May Week, and the event has achieved near sacred status in the minds of followers.
The congregations listen to the recordings of the “proceedings” each year when the delegates get back, and discusses the subjects as a congregation. Each congregation is expected to come into agreement with the conclusions reached each year. There is intense pressure to agree with those conclusions, because everyone knows the consequences of disagreement. Depending on whom one disagrees with, and how vocally that dissent is expressed, one could end up withdrawn from easily.
May Week is an unscriptural tradition. That’s not so say it’s wrong in and of itself, I’m just saying it’s not in the Bible as a regular event the church is supposed to hold. Take from that what you will, but the tradition of holding this unity meeting every year to solidify the church’s stance on often downright silly questions is yet another tradition of men.
It’s one thing to randomly get together to discuss a pressing question. But the habit of doing it every year and funneling all doctrinal questions through it makes it take on a life of its own. It underscores the idea that May Week is “the place” where doctrine is decided. It also reinforces the anti-scriptural belief that unanimity of opinion is necessary to the unity of the church.
One of the most oppressing things about May Week is that people who have concluded that certain doctrines of the Stanton churches are wrong feel they must wait years, sometimes decades, for more influential teachers to change their minds and bring the subject up at a future May Week. Until then, it seems, the conscientious objector must continue violating his conscience. He must remain silent when unscriptural doctrines are taught and preached in his local church, for fear of being castigated for offending the delicate sensibilities of those who decided something differently at a previous May Week.
If the conscientious person is an official teacher, he is in even more of a moral quandary. Should he teach a doctrine which he believes is incorrect? If he does, he’s violating his conscience. This is the scriptural meaning of false teaching which really means disingenuous teaching. Yet if he doesn’t teach what came back from May Week, he’s not toeing the official line and can come under scrutiny and distrust from the “brotherhood.”
What’s a guy to do? Either continue teaching disingenuously, or step down from teaching. Hence, you find many older teachers no longer teaching, because they’ve tarnished their reputation, perhaps, by questioning various teachings for too long. They could never get enough momentum to persuade others of their changed opinion, so they’ve had to resort to keeping it to themselves for fear of being withdrawn from. Thus the teachers who remain are the “true believers” who accept the May Week conclusions and teach them wholeheartedly.
The antidote for May Week is to make sure the leadership of the local congregation is a scriptural eldership, as directed by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Under scriptural leadership, the congregation can function as intended as a local body of believers in unity with other believers, whether they agree with all the opinions of those believers or not. Remember, unanimity of opinion is not a requirement of unity.
Thoughts on Acts 15
If Acts 15 is supposed to authorize church meetings (councils) for the purpose of establishing unanimity and doctrine, then it is only fair to notice a few important points:
- In Acts 15, delegates from multiple churches were NOT sent to a meeting to decide the correct doctrine. The May Week practice is to send delegates from all congregations to discuss and agree upon doctrine, and bring those doctrines back to their home congregations. This is clearly NOT what happened in Acts 15. The attendees were the Jerusalem apostles and elders, possibly (but not definitely) the rest of the church at Jerusalem, and Paul and Barnabus from Antioch. That’s it. There were no delegates from the churches in Seleucia, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, or Attalia, which all were in existence after Paul’s first missionary journey in the previous two chapters of Acts.
- Antioch sent Paul and Barnabus to talk to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Merie taught that the whole congregation was present and participated in the deliberations in Jerusalem, and that we have as much authority and guidance from the Holy Spirit to decide doctrine as they did. However, this is making some assumptions that are not at all clear by a plain reading of the scriptures. What we do know is that the Antioch church appointed Paul and Barnabus to go see the apostles and elders at Jerusalem about the dispute.
- Paul and Barnabus conferred with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to solve the dispute. Acts records that they met with the apostles and elders. Yes, they probably addressed the whole church at some point as well, but there is no evidence that the whole Jerusalem church was involved in deliberating about this question.
- The letter sent to the brotherhood was from the apostles and elders. It’s true that the whole church authorized their spokesmen (Judas and Silas) to deliver the letter to the other churches, but the letter itself was FROM the apostles and elders.
In conclusion, while I do believe that the church at Jerusalem was probably, though not definitely, present for some or all of the deliberations, it seems abundantly clear that the authority behind the doctrinal “proclamation” that went out from Jerusalem was the apostles and elders, not the supposed “church council.” If this was a church council, any two congregations can get together and issue their doctrines to the rest of the brotherhood, because that’s exactly what happened here if you don’t add the apostles and elders into the equation as the authoritative figures.
I've never understood why they get together in May,Nov or whenever to reinforce their beliefs. Does God's word change? Thank you for your insight, Kevin.
I think it goes back to their incorrect belief that unity requires unanimity of opinion. If they have any differing opinions, in their view, they are disunified and lacking the Holy Spirit, because they believe the Holy Spirit is what gives them unity. The only problem is, if that's the case, the Holy Spirit has done a pretty poor job for 45+ years, since their doctrines have changed dramatically in that time.
I think perhaps the most critical question everyone should ask themselves is this, and please be honest: If Jesus Christ himself was the main teacher/preacher and leading the May meeting and present with all of those chosen to be in attendance at this sect's "May meeting" with their long lists of notes in hand to present their questions about zippers, Facebook, nylons, traveling, visiting other congregations and the lists go on and on, how would He respond? What would Jesus Christ say, what would He tell His flock? One only has to look to scriptures for the answer to that… Read more »
Anon 1:37 – Expressed very well, thank you. I think any fair analysis of the May Week proceedings would bring to mind a picture of the Pharisees arguing about the tithing of mint, rue and cumin while the weightier matters go untaught.
I need to make a correction to what I wrote above, it didn't come out right: "Matters of conscience that are not specified in the New Testament (except codes regarding immorality) are to be kept. Simple." Meant matters of your own conscience are just that, up to your own conscience. And once you decide for yourself what is right or wrong regarding the liberty of your personal choice, it is not time to usurp the authority of the bible by deciding your choice now makes it incumbent upon you to bind your personal choice on others as "the law/rule/judgment." To… Read more »
Kevin, you said "… weightier matters go untaught." Absolutely true. It makes me think about your article about what Jesus taught, the doctrine of Christ is to love God with all of your heart and to love others. That is the simplicity of the gospel. If we truly followed that teaching in our heart, mind and soul, we are manifesting the fruit of the spirit and perfect love casts out fear. I love what you wrote and it really helped me, so I cannot thank you enough. God bless you. Also, if we are walking in Christ and have the… Read more »
Anon 3:33 – Thanks, I'm glad you've benefited from the articles here. I think you're talking about "Turning The Tables On Legalism. You're right that such rule-making just makes a mockery of Christ. In fact, that's sort of what Paul wrote the church in Galatia when they tried to return to legalism: "…if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing." (Galatians 2:21)
This sect's rule keeping reminds me of when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt and the Jews starting murmuring longing to be back in Egypt where they were once enslaved and longing for a false sense of security from the kind of food they had when they lived in Egypt. The manna God provided wasn't good enough. It is a sad state of affairs when God's word alone isn't "good enough."
John 4:34 (KJV) Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Found this website that addresses the abuse of authority by church leaders. Totally rings true for the Merie Weiss sect too.
For anyone interested in where "direct command, approved example and necessary inference came from" check out this link. It's a history of how the various churches of Christ were formed in the book Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects and New Religions.
Page 182 Churches of Christ (Non-Instrumental)
Just a side note to add here, not all decisions came during the May week. (I'm not saying you said that Kevin, I just want to point out to others that decisions are made by the "older teachers", for the members).Donna, you may remember this too. We had a brother in the sect die, and the family didn't have enough money to bury him. Ones wondered if money from the Sunday collections could be used to help pay for his burial, not necessarily his funeral. What happened was that the congregation in SV studied it out and then sent letters… Read more »
I always felt uncomfortable when they would call themselves, "The Best of the Best," and "The Cream of the Crop" referring to the brethren who were chosen to attend May Week. In mind I interpreted it as, "We are the ones who will make it to Heaven."
Welcome Carrie-Anne! It is amazing to see people come to the understanding that they have been lied to; and reject the false and abusive ways of the Merie sect. It takes time to overcome the wounds inflicted by angry and hate filled leaders but it can be done and the final result is a much more wiser christian, and more loving of others.
The Best of the Best and Cream of the Crop? That's so prideful. Wow.
Thanks for joining in the conversation here, welcome.
It's May week again!
So I looked at something I had been texted by a preacher's wife as I was on my way out. Other than saying that Unity was above all else, she also mentioned that the annual May week was coming. I'm just not sure how this year's questions had anything to do with my general concerns or why she thought that would be some sort of relief for me. Of course, one question at May week this year about whether older teens or Christian singles should be allowed to text each other baffled me. I'm not sure how that was May… Read more »
This make no sense. Communication has become so much easier now and we are being told that because it has a way of doing harm, if used wrong, and we are to stay away from it.
I remember being told we are to stay away from Facebook. While I don't share my life on it I stay in contact with family out of state and Puerto Rico.
This is another thing that should be left a lone.
Lynn mm- Yes it should be left alone! But oppressors won't leave freedoms alone because their members may learn that other churches have people in them that are more dedicated (from desire, not force) and GODLY, and that they LOVE God with all their heart. Scientologists forbid the same with their members.When I first left SCOC, and went to a new church, I felt like I had to ask permission to do normal things- like having people in my home to visit. I am FREE! Free from their rules of man, free from judgement, free from fear of man, and… Read more »
In John 13 we see an example of extremism with Peter and Christ when Christ washed the disciples feet. Peter tried to take it to the extreme telling Christ not my feet only but also my head and hands and Christ had to pull him back to normal telling him just the feet. The carnal will take everything to extremes in their service to God but God does not require nor accept the extremes in serving him. No texting among teens or young people? That is an extreme rule.
Hey Seeking, do you know what some of the other May week questions are? I am always amazed by how petty most of the "questions" are, as well as the pretense of answering them. Do they still have "everyone" study the questions?
Debby the main question they wanted to address was Is 'mark and avoid' separate and apart from withdrawal or the same thing?' This was brought up last year but they ran out of time so I think it was at the top of the list. The phone thing. I can't remember any others. There were quite a few exegesis scriptures to be fleshed out.
If a teenager has a phone with the ability to text they'll continue to do so no matter what rule they put into place. The preachers son and my daughter text one another. They are friends. Just a thought what would their founder Merie think of the internet and smartphones? How many members use their computer as a tv?
Oh I know TONS of people who use NETFLIX, Amazon Prime, and if they don't want to pay, they just use YouTube! And lots of it too. We have pay services and always have but I just have one account and it keeps the history, plus parental limits ( I block R rated anything). That way my kids know I can see what they watch. On the occasional not such a great choice show, it has given me the opportunity to discuss why that show isn't appropriate and to help them find something better. Sadly, Merie's Church says no to… Read more »
I also know teens use ipods, computers with google phone numbers, game devices, etc., to chat. They also use their friends' phones at school or even older siblings who have moved out. They'll do what it takes to be normal kids.
I've raised seven kids, and I'm not going to pretend that I haven't made mistakes in that process. But I have learned a lot from my experiences, and my wife and I both do foster care and teach foster parenting classes for Idaho based on that experience. What we have experienced, and what we teach, is that parenting teens from a position of authority rather than relationship is a train wreck waiting to happen. Children need to be parented from a position of authority, but as teens mature, they need to test their God-given desire for independence. If we parent… Read more »
As we read in the gospels about Christ feeding several thousand people at once you can recognize one of the good fruits of God is generosity. Christ did not feed one or two or even several hundred but several thousand each time. The thorns will not be generous but rather selfish, even when they have more than enough, and will not share with others. I saw this with the building we worshiped in, in Phoenix. Several older members had set a rent limit of 500.00 a month for a building and needless to say in a large metropolitan area 500.00… Read more »
I am curious how many congregations pay into GPs taxes. I asked once why our congregation did that. A couple months ago we were still sending him money quarterly, and I believe that's been going on for like a decade. I figured other congregations might too. Is that not the same as paying a preacher? The funny thing is when we tried to help brethren in Mexico, we were told that should come out of our pockets. MULTIPLE TIMES. Was not the original example of collection for helping another congregation? Or was it set up to help pay for Paul… Read more »
Supporting an evangelist is scriptural and I agree with it 100% and always felt that The evangelist was underpaid for the nonstop work that he did. My objection is not with the evangelist or the amount he was paid but with the congregation that neglected everything else commanded to be done with the Lord's treasury so the appearance of generosity is created in the eyes of the evangelist when the congregation in reality was only generous to him, very deceiving on the part of the teachers and preachers, and in fact was used to bribe him and avoid the scrutiny… Read more »
As for the evangelist, in my 10 yrs or so he never even came to visit or preach at our location, so he's collecting money for a title . As for Mexico, I never heard that and there's no such thing as social services anywhere near what we get. There's no food stamps there, etc. There is pretty much no welfare system other than horrible health care if you have govt health care. I mean horrible. I saw a woman once in a long line IN LABOR and she had to wait her turn. I have several siblings born and… Read more »
As for the paid evangelist issue, my greater disagreement with it is how proudly the church teaches that it doesn't pay preachers. It's really no different. I don't have a problem with someone evangelizing full time and getting paid for it. But that's not what is happening, at least not for a long time it hasn't.
We were told from the pulpit here in Phoenix that we would no longer send money to Mexico from the Lord's treasury because they had social services available, I accepted it as truth having never been there myself. Starting new churches is only half of the work of an evangelist, supporting existing congregations with council and edification is also a full time job; you must save the lost but you must also save the saved as an evangelist. Paul the Apostle in Acts 15:26 stopped creating new churches and said unto Barnabus let us go and visit the brethren and… Read more »
Well I suppose those equality issues will always be there because the whole system is unscriptural. There's no elders to direct and no true autonomy, so I think as long as Merie's church does things their way instead of the biblical way, there will continue to be similar problems.
Other equity issues I saw were with loveless marriages. I saw many loveless marriages due to the meddling in the marriage from the wife of the Mercedes mechanic, a woman who sat at the feet of Merie. As an older woman she would talk with the new wives and then turn the young wives heart against their husbands by portraying the man as evil. One man, a truck driver for Penzoil, would leave work, stop off at his mother house off of 35 ave osborn road eat a bunch of his mothers food watch a couple episodes of the "cops"… Read more »
Football widow is a term used to describe a wife who is ignored and neglected by her husband during the NFL season. The husband may truly love football but more often than not the husband simply does not like being with his wife and uses football as an escape. Church widow is an applicable moniker applied to Christian women who are ignored and neglected by their husbands. When a couple first gets married there is an adjustment time where two different individuals must learn to accept the other and all the annoying characteristics of their chosen partners as normal. Busybodies… Read more »
Good fruits and thorns and thistles is the same as salt with out savor they both describe something that is missing the most important ingredient. In the good fruits and thorns parable if you apply it to Christ and the Pharisee one thing you will see is that Christ is merciful and the Pharisees were merciless. What attracts so many people to Christianity is the promise of mercy for wrongdoing; however this mercy is missing in the SCOC. Marking and avoiding people telling them they can never come back is a merciless judgement. Hell is so horrible a place that… Read more »
Right now the largest problem in the church is a lack of love. It spreads all over in how Christians are treating each other. We have preacher/teachers who are merciless in their judgements towards brethren, they use partial one sided information for rebukes and reproofs, from the leadership on down brethren are indifferent towards others' situation, to chase out members because they refuse to conform to unscriptural teachings, verbal assaults, mistreating, blatant indifference, these are all signs of a great lack of love towards the people of God. How can Christian think it is okay to mistreat the people of… Read more »
Lynn I absolutely agree the big issue there is lack of love. There's definitely a superficial love we learn there, but harsh judgement of each other starting from the top trickles down and causes people there to have fear. That kind of fear cannot abide with true love. So they'll never learn it because it is a systemic issue, that is, as long as their unscriptural system is in place, the few who are teaching and aiming for love to be more present are fighting a losing battle. I was told to stay and sort of help from the inside… Read more »
I agree seeking, very sad. Mandatory weekly personal work is a man made and man enforced system. I wonder if the young man ever thought of keeping a different schedule, one that fits his personal circumstances, other than twice per week which is the standard requirement for men. Following the set schedule seems to be the only way to stay in good graces unless sickness is involved. The term 'personal work' is quite a misnomer. I would like a show of hands if you have ever been glad you or your child was sick. Also, Seeking, I admire your courage… Read more »
I agree with you seeking, and Anon on May 13 at 8:56! I'm sure each "teacher" has their reason for rebuking based on evil surmising, and/or very little information.But what constantly amazed me was what the group considered to be sin! Being late for class or Personal work-how is that sin? Perhaps an apology would be appropriate, but always sin? (I'm thinking an apology if you felt badly for holding up the class or personal work). Yet, I never heard the teachers apologize for a rebuke that was incorrect. As a matter of fact, I rarely heard a teacher confess… Read more »
Anon-I'm not sure if he would think for himself in that way, to make his own schedule. But where we were at it was personal work once a week, plus a twice a month additional non-member class (and the other off Thursdays were not "free" as the men were told in the men's meeting. They were supposed to do work for the church, widows, etc.) I know a few congregations do 2 pers work days but don't have non-member classes, they just turn it into one if someone shows up. Seeing as we were in the same congregation, he and… Read more »
Wow in Phoenix, we had personal work twice a week and non member class every Thursday. If we had a dry class then the witch hunt would start, someone was in sin in the congregation which caused God to withhold his blessing that week. We once went three whole weeks without a baptism and we were told that things were "slow" and again the witch hunt would start, someone was in sin, and it was usually the sin of uncleanness that was taught on. Then we hear from other congregations that they haven't had a baptism in six month and… Read more »
Hey seeking! Funny that you did what my husband and I did-we moved to a small town outside of Tampa. We did seek counsel about it, and the teacher told us that not only was it ok to do so, he was thinking of doing it too. After we moved, we got soundly rebuked for it! Anon, you are correct that just because the group looks at someone as a "reject" doesn't make them one in God's eyes! So many in the bible were considered to be "rejects", but they usually understood God better than those who were looked at… Read more »
Anon-Phoenix sounds like it was not a very edifying congregation. What years did you attend here?Yes, I think being a "reject" can be a difficult thing to deal with. I was a "reject" via withdrawal a few years ago, but this time I left and don't feel that way. I left on my terms, and I think that is a better way to go. Withdrawal is such a hard thing to deal with, especially with so many of us having family there. I don't think it's either love or fear of God that really takes a lot of us back,… Read more »
I was in from 1990-2002 and was rejected my second week after baptism which was a long time considering others only got four days after baptism from the man who started Prescott. Edification was Merie said, or Alexander Campbell said, or somebody else said. I recognized early on that only one person knew the four gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John and that was the evangelist in Spring Valley nobody else knew or understood them like him and as a result I was always trying to find a way to be around him to pick up what he knew.… Read more »
So I know they really had to flesh out "The qualifications of a bishop/elder" but it's been impossible to even find one after almost 50 years since Merie started her church. I have a suggestion for a much more achievable question that can be readily implemented. I think all congregations should study out "The qualifications of a Pharisee." I wish I had learned more about the character of the Pharisees during my time there. I think I would have felt more encouraged in actually achieving something during my time there. If they start now, they might just be able to… Read more »
When you study the behavior of the Pharisees you see several times they took us stones to stone Christ to death and yet when before Pilate in John 18:31 They said it is not lawful for us to put any man to death; this was a clear manipulation of the truth and the Roman leader. Manipulation is a great tool of the children of the devil to state only half truths, or to bring up your behavior years after it happened as if it was happening today. The preacher from Albuquerque was a master of manipulation bringing up my behavior… Read more »
Those who walk after pride and develop a superiority complex are always seeking some way to exalt themselves over their fellow human beings. Some think they are financially superior because they have more money than others, yet Christ was poor. Some feel intellectually superior because they have more education than others yet the Apostles were ignorant and unlearned men. Some feel religiously superior because they knew Merie, yet in the kingdom of Christ were are equals. Those that have a superiority complex; the arrogant, do not know they are arrogant they just assume everyone else is inferior to them in… Read more »
If you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a society that is based upon arrogance then look no further than the nation of Isreal under King Solomon. From the first days he took the throne he did things his ways not God's. He had his rivals for the thrones in 1 Kings 2:22 he had Adonijah killed for asking for Abishag for wife. Solomon could have had him imprisoned for life or banished him from the kingdom but no he killed him thus breaking the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Solomon was a murderer from the… Read more »