Struthers Memorial Church and the rights of members






One of the effects of the continual and excessive claims of spiritual authority by some of the leaders in SMC churches is that people can loose sight of appropriate boundaries and limits to the rights of church leaders to interfere in their personal and family lives. We do believe that the members of SMC (or those who attend if they are not technically members) have rights as people who go there and sit under that teaching.


This article is an attempt to outline the basic, biblical, inalienable rights that exist for members of any biblical Christian church - whether they realise they have these rights or not.


We believe our list of what we understand those rights to be is correct. However, if any of these rights is disputed by anyone in leadership in Struthers who can definitively clarify that issue - we will be happy to amend the list and indicate what new information we have received. So, for example, if there is a view from the SMC leadership that the right to ask to have their children removed from a meeting where exorcism is being discussed is not a right they regard the attendees as having - then we will make that interesting fact known. Likewise if the Struthers church leaders regard information shared with them in confidence as being appropriate to pass on to others - as and when they feel like it  – they will, we hope, make that known.


The usual response to a list of rights is “ahh, but what about responsibilities?” Well we think rights are very important and if the SMC leadership would produce - as we have requested - a guide to their teachings and beliefs then this list could be set alongside the responsibilities of members which we hope will be outlined in that still long-awaited document.


And by “rights” we mean, of course, that the subtext to every right is that the person exercising it will not be harshly judged, or viewed in any negative way, for doing so.  This freedom from condemnation is the basic proof that any right exists. If an employer claimed their employees had a right to complain but then sacked them for doing so, that would correctly be seen as a sham. If an employer or church leader respects rights then that will be obvious to everyone.


We have grouped these rights into 5 areas


• Basic Respect

• Confidentiality

• Family and children

• Appropriate boundaries

• Access to information


Basic Respect


We believe if you attend Struthers Memorial Church you have a right:


To be treated with dignity and respect at all times while involved with SMC.


To be treated with dignity and respect at all times after leaving SMC.


To have your pastor say directly to you what they say about you to other people and other Struthers leaders.


To be spoken of truthfully. For example - if your pastor thinks you are mentally ill they should not say so privately, or announce this publicly, until they have knowledge that there has been a factual diagnosis by a medical expert; and they have been given permission to share that private personal information.

Even then the necessity, or the kindness, of sharing this information might be called into question


To receive the timely answer to all questions you ask;

or a clear explanation as to why they cannot be answered;

or a commitment to finding someone who can answer the questions for you from elsewhere in the Christian world.


To decide and nominate where in the church charity your donations will be spent

the financial guidelines for charities make it very clear that if the charity cannot guarantee to use your donation for the purpose you have specified, then they have to refuse to accept the donation. To take money and use it for another purpose would be a criminal act.


To expect fairness from your leader


To receive pastoral visits.

These should be available equally to every family in the church (or none but certainly not just for some if the pastor likes them)


To receive encouragement – which should be available to all who need it not just some.


To get access to your pastor's time – which should not be given just to their friends and favourites but fairly to all who attend a local branch church.


To have your church leader address quickly and fully your concerns or questions. If you have follow up questions they should also be addressed quickly and fully.


To be given the help that you need. If help is needed then the pastor should get help from wherever it can be found.

To provide “help” but only from within the skills and knowledge to be found within SMC has often proved to be insufficient.


To have an assurance that, if the pastor has no answers, then they should commit time and effort to getting the answers from wherever in the Christian world they can be found.

If your pastor does not want to do this they should inform you of that fact and quickly after resign from leadership as this is a basic requirement of the job and a basic need that people should be able to expect a pastor to fulfil


To get the pastoral help you need not just the help they are wanting to give. If a pastor is too busy to give you the help you need because of their involvement in other parts of church work the pastor should set aside that other work – which is preventing them from being pastors and serving the needs of their congregation. Other work should remain set aside until such time as the needs of the people have been met and the congregation are all flourishing and growing as Christians and as families.


To expect ongoing compassion and deep understanding about you and your life from your pastor and all the "leaders" in your church.


To receive support and teaching from leaders who are trained / certified / accredited to expound biblical teaching and offer pastoral counselling.


To have access to a credible complaints process that is fair and impartial.

This is a requirement of 1 Timothy 5:19-21

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.




We believe if you attend Struthers Memorial Church you have a right:


To have total and complete assurance of confidentiality when an attendee – especially regarding information shared in a Christian counselling context.


To total and complete assurance of confidentiality of all information any leader is aware of about you at the time around your choosing to leave SMC.


To total and complete assurance of confidentiality of all information any leader is aware of about you forever after. There is never a time it is acceptable for a Christian leader to break confidence.


To never hear part of a conversation between you and your pastor used as an illustration of a negative attitude from the platform – this is a breach of confidentiality regardless of whether you are publicly identified.

It is also a classic method of control by intimidating you and others with the threat of public exposure to the church group of “bad” attitudes or past sins. It is simply an attempt to use the platform to intimidate and control people by instilling fear in them. People who have a pastors heart would never do this – it would be totally unthinkable to use their privileged position as a Christ-like servant of the people to make people too afraid to challenge or question them. To use the church pulpit in this way is utterly abhorrent.


Family and Children


We believe if you attend Struthers Memorial Church you have a right:


To have your right to make decisions about your own life and your own family always recognised and always respected.


To never have your pastor say anything to your marriage partner, or a member of your family, about you that is negative, derogatory or unkind in any circumstances  – particularly when there are problems affecting the spiritual unity of your family.


To a written statement if you are banned from attending Struthers church giving the reason you (or your children) have been banned from attending so you can understand the charge being made against you, who is making this accusation, and have an opportunity to defend yourself.


To attend church as and when you please as you are both a volunteer and financial contributor. You and your family should decide what level of church attendance you believe to be appropriate for you at your stage of life; and in the family and work circumstances you find yourself in. You have the right to attend what and when you like. To be pressured to attend more than this when you have no official role or specific duties to perform is unacceptable.


To decide between you and your spouse how many children you will have – a pastor has no role in that decision in any circumstances whatsoever and it is a boundary they should not cross with anyone.


To know in advance who will be taking and leading any meeting your child is in – both in your local church or at camps and conferences


To remove your child from a meeting where the leader is not someone you are happy to have dealing with your child – for example someone you regard as having been unkind or unfair to them in the past.


To tell any youth work leader that you do not want anyone to pray with your child – either on one occasion, or ever, without your express permission obtained first. If you are asked for that permission you have the right to say no with no explanation needing to be provided to the leader. They have no right or grounds to question your decision or speak to anyone critically about you subsequently because of it.


To always be able to decide who prays with your child. If someone decides they want to pray with your child for any reason - up to and including the leader of SMC or any visiting speaker they might have brought in - you have the right to ask them to stop immediately and not to pray with your child if that is your wish.


To ask - if you feel it is important - for an assurance that your child will never be in a meeting where deliverance and demon possession are being spoken about openly in case they are put into a state of terror, fear and alarm. If there is to be deliverance ministry ask to be informed first so that you have the option to keep your children out of any such meeting. Any attempt by a leader to prevent you from doing any part of this should be taken very seriously and you should consider moving your family to a church who will comply fully with your wishes on this point. (Fortunately that is virtually all other churches).


To have an assurance that no one has a right to pray with, or spend time with, or give advice to, or spend time alone with your child unless they have secured your permission in advance and made their detailed intentions clear.  


To have an assurance that no one has a right to speak to your child about their relationship with you and their family. All things that happen to your child in church must build and strengthen your family and never weaken or undermine your family – such as by someone seeking to get you child to choose church over family in any circumstances whatsoever.

God is not the source of such a choice – it always comes from a church attempting to impose abusive control. This is a boundary that must not be crossed


Appropriate Boundaries


We believe if you attend Struthers Memorial Church you have a right:


To expect your church leader to seek to understand, and then respect, the boundaries in your relationship with them that you are comfortable with.


To tell someone you do not want to be prayed with on any given occasion and at any given meeting. You do not need to provide any explanation for this.


To judge any word being preached from the platform from any speaker and decide on how well it matches up with true biblical teaching and whether there is anything in what is being said that God is applying to your life – or not. Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!


To judge any “personal word” being given to you by a leader (or any other person) as to whether you agree that it applies to you; and whether it accords with the teachings of the bible. You have an absolute right to reject that word on either basis if you consider that it is not correct. In addition they have no automatic right to try and establish if you agree with the “personal word” they are bringing, or any right to discuss the issues raised by that “personal word” with you. That is entirely your decision.

The person who has brought “a word” to you and their view of their own infallibility is totally irrelevant. It is you and not them that will be required to live with the consequences of that “word”. The notion that a Christian should ever accept a "word" from a leader which in no way accords with their view of their own situation before God is utter nonsense and we believe is not something God will ever do to one of His children. The new testament teaches very clearly that God now speaks to us all directly through his out-poured Spirit; no longer through prophet-priests as in the old testament model.


To tell any leader who is wrong about your situation that their understanding and discernment of your situation are wrong and have your right to do that respected. Then to know that your rejection of what has been said will not become the occasion for a gossipy critical chat about you among the leadership


To give as much or as little as you like.


To pray publicly or not to pray publicly in any meeting you attend.


Access to Information


We believe if you attend Struthers Memorial Church you have a right:


To know at all times who is on the church payroll and who is not.


To know who is in a position of responsibility within the church; and the rights that gives them and and responsibilities that places on them. Also what role that means they have in relation to your life and the lives of your children.

For example a lot of odd things happen in SMC prayer meetings with lots of seemingly random people walking around claiming God has told them to pray with various people and “prophesy” what might well be nonsense over them. You should know who the leadership have approved to do this before you are subjected to this ordeal.


To have the reasons for church appointments explained and the right and opportunity to question the wisdom of appointments – both in relation to the suitability of the person for the role, the level of salary they may be getting, the links they have to the leaders awarding the salaried job, or the general issue of whether the church can afford to employ another person.


To know whether any issue for which you have been banned is being fairly applied in all churches


To know who is currently banned from attending meetings in your church and for what reasons.

Banning people for secret reasons could quickly be open to abuse. Except in cases where there has been criminality and police involvement - if the reasons for banning cannot be shared publicly why would that be?


To know any and all financial details about your church. This is a total and unequivocal right enshrined in law. If anything about money is being hidden then there is never a valid reason for that.


To ask about any issue - particularly where in the bible any Struthers Memorial Church teaching is derived from.


To be informed of all rules, requirements and conditions of being an attendee of an SMC church before you agree to come under any conditions of such membership. You should know all the possible reasons why people will be rebuked, disciplined, criticised and banned before you can be accused of any of these things.

If you are accused of some infringement of the organisations rules at any time:

  • ask where and when you were made aware of these rules
  • ask for details in writing of what the rules are and which one you have allegedly broken
  • ask for a written assurance that the rule being applied to you is also applicable to everyone else


To ignore totally anyone in SMC whether a leader or fellow attendee, who approaches you with a claim that God has spoken to them personally about your life.

We recommend you do not listen to what they have to say but rather ask God to speak to you directly. The use of “words” in this way is very open to abuse.


To form and maintain whatever relationships you wish to have in your life. Pastoral advice and good biblical teaching have a role here but not pastoral decisions about what is good or not for your life. Decisions about your life are for you to make – not your church leader to make for you.


To remain close to, and involved with, family outside of SMC regardless of their attitude to, or criticism of, Struthers Memorial Church.

Family is stronger than points of disagreement. If SMC or any leader attempts to usurp the position of family in your life or come between you and family that is a sign of unacceptable interference and inappropriate control. No pastor should be discouraging contact between young people and their families – it is an abhorrent thing to do. There may be an small argument for pastoral involvement if there is criminality with police involvement in the family. Other than that family interference is a sign of an abusive organisation.


All leaders credentials should be made public, e.g. children's /youth workers, counselling, bible study, etc.




Your Christian life is your responsibility


Your family life is your responsibility


Christian leaders are there to help and guide you towards God and a better life for you and your family. If they ever cross a line and make your life and family life more difficult by demanding more religious performance – more meetings, more public prayer, more time on church projects, more commitment, constant appeals for more money – then heed the warnings.


You always remain the one with primary and ultimate responsibility for all the areas of your own life. If someone tries to usurp that position, or any part of it, reject them as seeking to take the place of God in your life.


You have the right to disagree on matters where the bible does not present an absolute position.


You have the right to be as involved in Struthers Memorial Church as you decide you wish to be-


at that time in your life


at that stage of your family life


at that time in your Christian walk


And that is always to be decided by you, and your partner, and your family. We believe it is never part of God's plan that He will pass responsibility for decisions affecting your family to someone else – ever. If someone claims God has given them that role - take your family and flee from them.