One woman on Facebook chimed in with, “Wow, that sounds very judgmental to me. Poor person. She definitely needs to find another welcoming church. And a public repentance?” In direct response to that comment, another woman said, “Finding a church that accepts everything they do will not get them into heaven.” Another offered a suggestion for a middle ground, “This could have been done in a gentler way. Instead of a very impersonal letter. Two elders should have gone to visit them and discuss the verses Scripture gives about living together and unmarried.”
Some wondered if the difficult circumstances of the past year and how the pandemic has impacted people’s living situations and public outings were a consideration of the woman’s lack of attendance before the church sent the letter. “There may be any number of justifiable reasons for not participating in group functions now,” one commenter said.
The Church’s Response to Reactions
West Sparta Church of Christ has not released any official statement in response. In fact, the church has gone quiet. According to an article published by a local Tennessee news channel, “Since then [since the photo of the letter was posted publicly], making contact with the church leaders has proven difficult. Their Facebook page has come down, and their phone line listed on Google is disconnected.” There is no website listed for the church, but they may have simply never had one.
Reviews on Yelp include screenshots of the virally shared photo of the church’s letter and the page has been flagged by Yelp with an Unusual Activity Alert, stating “This business recently received increased public attention, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news. While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to this incident, we’ve temporarily disabled the posting of content to this page as we work to investigate the content you see here reflects actual consumer experiences rather than the recent events. Please note that we apply this same policy regardless of the business and regardless of the topic at issue.”
A Tennessee Pastor Offers a Call for Unity Amid the Divided Responses
In an interview with Nashville, TN’s Fox News 17, “Reverend and state representative Harold Love says it’s natural for people to question their faith during tough times. ‘You naturally will have people say, what is going on? where is God in this situation? how do we make it together? That’s why I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the faith community to step up and do what the faith community can do which is unite people.’”
The woman who received and originally shared the photo of the letter has also been unreachable. At the time of publication, it is unknown if she has had contact with the church elders or if they have opened up communication about the circumstances behind the woman’s missed attendance or living situation that were issues raised in the letter.