A Screwtape Letter to a Senior Pastor, Part III

A guide for pastors looking to split a church…

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

“Screwtape”, © Philip Wagner

My Dear Pastor,

As you know, you have followed my guidance well – and the church is ready to split. Now, in my final letter to you, please consider – and I admonish you follow closely – these final steps. Your opposition is now perhaps buckling under the pressure of the church discipline you and your supporters have unleashed.

There is more do to, and now that the church discipline has begun – I must at this point warn you. Once you take this step, the factions opposing you, even the silent ones, may emerge with great fanfare. Complaints, accusations of spiritual abuse… You name it. Your actions may even draw the attention of higher courts to whom your are subject. Overcoming this obstacle could prove more challenging for you, but if you are careful to secure supporters at the higher court using the same methods you used to control your local church – I’m sure you will be fine. It may take some additional plotting on the side, but my friend, if you make it this far in the process I am sure you will be fine. Make sure to remind the higher courts of the favors you have done for them in the past. Always beware, dear pastor, there will always be a few immovable discerning types at the higher courts just like in your local church. Deploy the tactics I’m describing to them as well and I’m sure you will discredit them with ease.

Now that church discipline at the local church has begun, be sure to meet with your helpers and prosecutors to make sure they do it all right. If during a trial they need help, be sure to assist them by feeding them the right questions and interrupting the wrong ones. Never underestimate their ability to foil your plans unknowingly through an errant honest statement or action. Unify your supporting officers around a demand for your slandering opposition to repent. Announce it to the church so everyone knows they are guilty. Demand that they throw themselves at your feet, at the mercy of the court you control, the very same one bringing charges against them.

Above all, dear pastor, remind everyone that as divisive as it may seem – you have only done all of this – this “painful” and “difficult” act of church discipline, because you have an obligation to your “brothers” under discipline. Tell everyone that you have taken these actions to purify the church and it is good for the men charged as well as the mission of the Holy One. Be sure to charge them in the name of the Holy One so everyone won’t forget this.

Now, dear pastor, if you achieve all that I have instructed you, and you have done well to this point… it will be time to enter the last phase. The best phase of all. The One Below might even call it his favorite phase. Be sure the trials, communication, and all discussions of the specifics of the charges you have brought against the officers who have opposed you are done in secret.  Let me be clear, very clear: everything I have told you only works if you conduct the trials of the men accused in secret. Repeat this to yourself if you must, lest you forget dear friend. Secrecy is one of your best weapons. A lack of transparency enables it all, as it allows you to remain prejudicial in private among your supporters, and yet pious externally to your church while you claim to be protecting the reputations of the very men you are destroying. Remember, Christians are inclined to trust their pastor. Despite what their doctrines may prescribe, they won’t hold you as a pastor to the same standard they will hold others. Use this friend, and use it well. Your credibility with many is a blank check. So spend freely.

The aforementioned secrecy will allow you to tell the church, now divided and concerned, maybe even questioning your actions, whatever you need to – whatever assuages their concerns. Incomplete information, half truths, or straight falsehoods are your friends. Ambiguous and confusing language will serve you well in this phase of your mission. Meanwhile, officers who may have served the church faithfully for decades, are now having their reputations slandered and maligned in the very same manner in which you have accused them! What beautiful irony. How the One Below relishes such a thing!

Now beware, dear friend, the accused officers may try to circumvent this. They may request public and “fair” trials. They may ask for accommodations – simple things such as proper videography and a court reporter. They may even offer to pay for such services. You must, I repeat, must not allow this to happen. Doing so shatters the secrecy you worked so hard to maintain and would only wake up additional discerning parishioners. No, no, no, my dear pastor. This will not do. The proceedings must be in secret. In the dead of night. Remember, darkness hates the light. Executive privilege is your right. It is your shield. Use it. This is also how you control the record should the accused officers appeal the judgments of your court.

The trials must be secret also so that the members of the congregation cannot see the evidence for themselves. They must never be allowed to see how their elected officers and pastors treat their brothers in the process.

While the secret tribunals occur, you must not neglect the previous principles I have instructed you to embody. Remember the pulpit. Always the pulpit. During this divisive time (your work nearly being complete!), use your pulpit. Continue with the messaging that the people must trust their officers. The selected passage of Scripture for the service does not matter – at this point you have mastered the talent of making the Scripture say whatever you need it to. With a little creativity, my friend, you will at this point have proven yourself capable of finding the themes of submission to one’s ordained betters in any passage.

Congratulations! You made it! The stage is now set for the church to split. Don’t stop now, friend, you are very close to meeting the objectives of the One Below. The factionalized church membership is likely to be in three separate camps – one supporting the accused, one supporting you and your controlled officers, and then one made up of the confused people in the middle wishing it would all just end. Perhaps we can celebrate some of them leaving in frustration.

You have turned the officers of the church of the Holy One against each other. You have built a house divided against itself! You have shattered relationships and best of all, my dear pastor, you have compromised truth! The final stages are in motion now. They may even be petitions to remove you as the pastor. The most motivated faction might attempt this. Be sure to counsel those who still trust you to avoid such members. Counsel your controlled officers to deny fellowship to those with whom they disagree.

This is failed leadership at its finest, and you dear pastor, should you reach this point, have accomplished what many have before you at the request of the One Below. Many may leave the church and go elsewhere…at which time I will guide others to attack them further, but the real accomplishment to be proud of is the harm done to the image of the Holy One’s church. Non-believers will see the dumpster fire you have created by following my steps and will harden their resolve to never set foot in such a place!

Whether you consciously intended this outcome or willfully embraced it – it matters not. All that matters to the One Below is that the church is split!

And now, my dear pastor, I must move on. There are politicians in the civil sphere that also need my guidance… as you may guess, the tactics for control and the means I have shared with you on how to suppress transparency are very similar to the methods they rely on to build their own authoritarian kingdoms.

In closing, my dear pastor, heed the instructions I have shared with you. Stay the course if you intend to split your church. Do all that I have instructed, and your reward on earth will be great.

Your Affectionate Counselor,