A Screwtape Letter to a Senior Pastor, Part II

A guide for pastors looking to split a church…

This is Part II of an ongoing series presented by The Midway Guardian. You can read Part I here.

“Screwtape”, © Philip Wagner

My Dear Pastor,

With a keen awareness for the urgency of your task of splitting the church, I have not delayed in writing to you a this second time with additional instructions. You may remember in my previous letter I shared strategies for how you can rally your supporters and sideline your opposition among the church officers. I cannot stress enough the criticality of establishing this foundation for what is to come. If you are ready, do read on now for the next steps I have prepared for you. Let us begin with the the power and control you have arranged for yourself as a leader…

If you can maintain this arrangement long enough, with time, you may find that the discerning ones opposing you will get frustrated and leave the church. Driving away anyone or anything that threatens your power or the status quo must be a priority for you. To achieve this, use the unique weapon in your arsenal – your pulpit. Never underestimate the power of personality and influence you can assert from the pulpit. Let the people know who the liberals are, and reassure them that individuals leaving the church in frustration is a good thing. Appeal to the “Will of the Holy One” on this point. The people will support you if you appear strong and say it with conviction. Don’t be afraid to raise your voice and point at members of the church when you do. Condemn what they abhor – liberalism! Cry aloud how we must never compromise with their theologically errant perspectives. Remind the people that the liberals will never stop attacking the church and so you cannot, my dear pastor, relent on this rallying cry. Ever.

This takes pride. Most damnable pride. But you must not make it appear so – so far as you are able. The people will be drawn to how strong you appear and will think little about the logical or ethical inconsistencies in what you are preaching. Remind them that liberalism is from the Devil and if they listen to perspectives other than what it is you preach, then the people might become infected – poisoned by wrong think!

At this point you have achieved a great thing. The peace and unity of the church may be apparently strained. Most critically friend, you must explain this growing disunity away as the result of the liberals. It is always they who have disturbed the peace because it is they who have disagreed with you. Remind everyone these dissenters are fighting against the “Biblical form of government” you represent. 

Some discerning members may challenge you – be prepared. They may say “But I have known so and so for sixty years, he is a good pious man and I see no cause for the label of liberalism to be applied to him.” Beware of these people and do your best to frustrate them into leaving the church. Insult them if necessary. Do whatever it takes to silence them. Meanwhile remind everyone that the officers of the church, and of course you too, have special insight and abilities. Much like the apostles, you can discern the character flaws that others cannot because you have been to seminary. Always, dear pastor, assert your ideological, mental, and theological dominance over the sheep – who most likely only speak one language.

But this is open arrogance you say – and yes dear friend, it is exactly that, but you will need such arrogance if you are to succeed at what is to come. The One Below expects nothing less. If you make it this far on your quest to split the church, you now have built a fully functioning kingdom for yourself. Relish it. Never mind the families or the people who were hurt getting you here. It is all a necessary part of the process. Those who cannot submit to you in your kingdom, must be dispensed with. By this time, even the surrounding community should be able to look at the church and see it has been factionalized. Well done my dear friend!

Once, as the One Below desires, you have established your kingdom, it is time to take your effort to the next level. The wedge is in place. You have taken years to get to this moment. Pick up your hammer and pound that wedge! Tell everyone that the drastic steps to come are for the peace and purity of the church – appealing of course, dear pastor, to your revered status as a minister of the Holy One. Those who have not left in frustration by now must be driven out by force. They have, after all, attempted to lecture you in your own kingdom! Surely they have committed some sort of offense you can exploit. If not – invent one. The pastor knows their sin. I do heartily recommend slander. This grievous sin can be applied to dissenters with great effect because their very disagreements can be characterized as such. Never mind, dear friend, if the statements they have made opposing you are true – point out the adjectives in the statements that you don’t like – declare the statements to be full of half truths because you don’t agree with their descriptive language. 

Now friend, this is where it gets really fun. Draw the sword of church discipline and strike! You have slandering liberals among you! They have violated their church officer vows! They have violated the Ninth Commandment of the Holy One! Tell all that for the sake of peace and unity of the church we must strip such men of their office and possibly even excommunicate them. Preach sermons on the cancer that must be removed or it will kill the church – when you and I of course know, dear pastor, that it is your kingdom we are really protecting.

Sit back now for a moment. Consider what we have accomplished together! You have arranged affairs perfectly. The stage is set for moving toward the split. You have marshaled your allies – wound up and released the ire of well meaning parishioners against your opposition. The trials are underway and your pulpit is functioning exactly as intended. I must go now, but rest assured, I will not leave you to your own devices for long – you will again hear from me very soon.

Your Affectionate Counselor,


This is Part I of an ongoing series presented by The Midway Guardian. You can read Part III here.