I posted a couple of days ago about how a church completely mishandled discussing the death of a 14-month-old child, Temperance, and how their actions only added to the grief of the child’s atheist mother Grace Ferguson.
For example, the day after the tragedy, the church’s “care pastor” had passed along details of the death to all 180-or-so members of a “prayer chain.” Grace later woke up to “about 50 text messages and 28 phone calls” from (well-meaning) strangers whom she had never told about the death. She hadn’t even announced it publicly. Only close friends and family members knew. (Some of them were members of the church, which is how the word spread.)
There’s been a huge response to that article so I wanted to give you some updates.
Initially, the Midland Evangelical Free Church in Michigan took down the sermon video that showed Pastor Jeremy Lobdell using Temperance as an example of tragedy… without having asked Grace’s permission to use her grief as a tool to bring people to Christ.
He also said, immediately after sharing the tragedy, “But God is good.” As if the death of a child could be rationalized into part of God’s Master Plan. That sort of wild and deranged belief — that God killed a baby for your benefit — might make sense to some Christians, but it’s incredibly insulting to people who live in reality and have to cope with a tragic accident.
Thankfully, we saved the clip. And the church has since reposted the full sermon.
Also, there was a protest near the church on Sunday morning — though not on the church property itself. (Pastor Jeremy had sent a letter to Grace telling her he would call the cops if her group protested on church property.) There were only a few people there, given the short notice, but they held signs letting passers-by know how insensitive and cruel the church had been:
Grace told me the response was fairly positive from drivers, many of whom wanted more information. Some of the drivers attended the church and they expressed their own sympathies. They even brought the protesters coffee.
The church is now trying to downplay their own role in all this. In a statement posted on Facebook earlier this afternoon, they say how much they love Grace even though she “does not attend our church.” They say that the pastor only spoke about Temperance because the “information had already been made public by the family” — though, importantly, they didn’t reach out to Grace for permission. They also say Jeremy speaking about Temperance isn’t a “sermon illustration” at all! It was just his way of honoring “the faith of the family members who, in the midst of their grief, had just sung about the goodness of God.” Well, hot damn. They got me there, I guess. They win this round on a weird Christian technicality.
You know what’s not in that statement?
An apology to Grace. A promise that this will never happen again. Anything about how they plan to tackle these issues in the future. Any acknowledgment that they made mistakes.
For those reasons, Grace plans to hold another protest this coming Sunday.
I understand that you intentions might have been well-meaning, but they still hurt me. I need to clarify with you why I am still upset and why I plan on still protesting:
I was never asked if it was okay to announce her death.
Just because the extended family was present, does not mean they gave their consent and secondly, doesn’t mean you had permission from both parents directly.
I still have not received a sincere apology from Jeremy regarding the insensitive sermon he delivered to his congregation with personal details about my daughter’s death, the phone call I made where he told me to repent, the letter he sent threatening to report me to authorities for expressing my dissatisfaction.
Grace wants Jeremy to publicly apologize — like, a real apology, that shows an understanding of why his actions hurt someone else. She also wants him to retract the protest letter, and promise to never use Temperance’s name without permission. If he does those things, then perhaps the protest will be called off.
She also suggests the church leadership undergo trauma and grief training from an independent organization so that they stop making decisions that make a bad situation even worse. A formal policy regarding all this would also be appreciated.
It’s not asking a lot. Honestly, it’s the least the church can do at this point. But I’m not sure they’ll go through with it.
Just look at what happened on Sunday, after my post was published and as the protesters gathered outside the building. When Pastor Jeremy stepped up to give his sermon yesterday morning, the audience clapped for a full 30 seconds… as if the pastor was the true victim in all this.
That’s not a church that shows signs of self-awareness or self-correction. All the more reason dozens of people have already expressed interest in protesting again this Sunday.