Ch 28: Rebellion!
It started in Koo-wee-rup. It started with two women.
First Yvonne attacked Sue. “She started this Bible study group, and now she leaves us to run it on our own!” Proclaimed Yvonne far and wide. Sue as you recall had pulled out of most of her ministry roles due to severe and crippling post-natal depression.
Then Robyn stirred up disaffection and malice against me. Robyn was the classic case of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (No, no, not scorned by me: scorned by her husband!). He was a churchwarden and wealthy land owner from an old family, and as a couple they had been the glamorous leaders of the 'younger' set in the Koo-wee-rup church. Suddenly George left Robyn and their three grown up children and ran off with his farm-hand’s wife.
I was advocating team and “all member” ministry, so once I had seen that Robyn was receiving good pastoral care from Ross's sister-in-law who was her own age and social status, and from Ross and others at Bayles where she now worshiped, I kept out of it. In regards to George, although he met with some of the men from Koo-wee-rup, I had no way of contacting him.
However I was in touch with the local Catholic priest regarding the situation and so was the one to bring the news to Robyn that this priest had prevailed upon the other woman to give up George and be reconciled to her husband and that they were about to leave the district. So George returned to Robyn, but not by choice. Robyn's fury needed some outlet. If she wanted to keep George it could not be him; so like the old fashioned idea of the “whipping boy” who took the flogging for the favored son who could not be punished; I became the object of Robyn's wrath.
Influential men who were members of the local Masonic Lodge were however the ones who fired the bullets these women made.
Doug, a churchwarden at Koo-wee-rup, and at that time I think the third highest ranking Mason in the entire state told me: “I've got rid of more ministers that you've had hot dinners and you are next!” The shire president at that time was also a Freemason and a parishioner and joined the fray.
Comment: I have generally taken care neither to encourage nor to antagonize the Freemasons, but some time after these events I did learn something interesting which I will pass on. I was studying sociology to try to answer the question of why I could so easily bring people to Jesus, but could not bring them to church. One book I read was a detailed sociological study of a small farming town just out of Washington DC. The sociologists just observed, and recorded what they saw. One thing they observed was that in every church in the town there was at least one high placed member from the Masonic Lodge whose apparent purpose was to control the minister.
So these men went to the bishop and demanded my head on a platter. The bishop announced he was coming to the parish to chair a special meeting of Parish Council to hear the complaints. As you can imagine this was all rather traumatic particularly with everything else that was happening. So you will understand when I say that my recollection of it all is a bit fuzzy.
But I do recall that I was depending on God. Totally! I also recall that we deliberately did not allow our supporters to come out openly on our side: Shepherds should protect their sheep, not the other way round!
The meeting was I think pretty inconclusive, nevertheless a day or two later the bishop phoned and said: “If people had said about me the things that Doug said about you I would have done the honorable thing and resigned on the spot!” As it happened once the bishop had left Doug had let forth on what a miserable specimen he thought the bishop was. So I replied “Well that man did say those sort of things about you too”.
After praying about it I felt God was saying to be bold and call their bluff.
I rang the bishop and told him to get himself down here for another meeting. I chaired this meeting. I told them all they had been behaving badly and gave them two choices: They could quit whining and agree work with me; or I would call a public meeting and denounce their behavior – they all knew that Sue and I had a great deal of public support outside the church. They crumbled. Yvonne broke ranks and said she would work with me (and was as good as her word). The leading men could not afford to lose face in public and followed suit. Being honorable men of standing they also were as good as their word. The bishop made some pious platitudes and went home.
Victory? As Wellington said after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo: “Nothing save a battle lost, is so terrible as a battle won.” It had exhausted what little energy we had left and I next had to face a spiritual wolf coming among the flock at Bayles.