When the leadership in the Assembly at Tuscola announced that no one was to have anything more to do with Jim and Brinda M. and Gerald and Marilynn M., Robb Middleton tells us what was actually impressed upon his youthful mind by that announcement. He says, "My biggest impression about what was trying to be communicated was that the Assembly was THE church and anyone who left or was not a member was--can I say this--not going to heaven."
I appreciate the fact that everyone seems to have matured and has allowed some healing to happen in their lives since their assembly days. Scott McC. and especially Brad Mathias--I really appreciate your accounts, since you both were my age when we went through this. Brinda M.'s account is what really gave me the best foothold to put in perspective all the things I remember about this time.
I have never been a very pushy, overbearing, or assertive person, and did little to "rock the boat" at that time. I probably was perceived as a wallflower--a follower and not a leader. I definitely was not the type to stand up for myself very well at the time, but in retrospect, I wish I had more.
I remember that my family was on vacation in Florida in 1988 when it seems the bulk of this went down with Jim and Brinda M., Gerald and Marilynn M., and Richard and Joan M. I was staying with Gerald and Marilyn (thank God) while going to summer school at Parkland College. I went to the first Sunday morning meeting after my parents left for vacation, when the announcement was made about not having fellowship with Gerald and Marilynn and Jim and Brinda because they had left the faith and were dividing the church, or something to that effect. My biggest impression from what was communicated was that the Assembly was THE church and anyone who left or was not a member was--can I say this--not going to heaven.
All this about not fellowshipping with them because they weren't Christians and had no faith I saw as a whole load of crap, simply because I saw how Gerald, Marilyn, Brinda, and Jim were living first hand. I thought "HOW COULD THEY SAY THIS?" when I knew in my heart that they were some of the best examples, aside from my parents, that I had as people who led a godly and faithful lifestyle.
Some time after lunch, I was over at Jim and Brinda's house, having arrived there after Richard and Joan Mathias had gone there and explained to Jim & Brinda exactly what had happened. Brinda came to me and asked me if I understood what had happened. I told her that I didn't fully understand exactly what they had said, and she explained to me briefly what they were saying. At that point, I knew that I could not, in good conscience, return to any Assembly function without first consulting with my parents, Bob & Linda Middleton, when they returned.
That Sunday afternoon, Marilyn, who was very accommodating, asked me if I would return to the afternoon meeting. I told her I wasn't going to go, my reason I gave her for this was because I needed to study for a test the next day, but in my heart I knew it was because of the hypocrisy I saw against two dear families.
When my parents returned, I told my dad, Bob Middleton, that the leadership had told us to not have anything more to do with Gerald and Marilyn and Jim and Brinda. He was alarmed and I believe spoke to them, and then right away called Cecil Smith and the Leading Brothers, who were in a Leading Brothers or Morkers meeting at the time, and confronted them with this. I did not hear the whole conversation, but my impression was they basically beat around the bush (I could be wrong).
When dad got off the phone, he called my family together (my mom, Linda, myself, my brother Michael, and my sisters Rachel and Abigail) and we then and there made a decision to leave. My dad said that he was worried about us, having grown up in the assembly, but knew that my brother and I were mature enough to handle it, and Abigail was still quite young to be able to understand all that had gone on. Rachel he worried about the most, because she was a young teen at the time and had so many friends whom we would be leaving behind. But the Lord leads, and God blessed us, and continues to lead us and protect all of us to this day.
After leaving the Assembly, we started attending the Hillcrest Baptist Church with Gerald and Marilynn and Jim and Brinda, where we reconnected with Fred and Jan Boyer. I distinctly remember Fred Boyer saying to me that he had always prayed for us and considered us brothers and sisters in Christ and part of the family. This meant a lot to me to be so welcome, and still means a lot to me to this day.
I appreciate all of you allowing me to post this--it's the first time I've ever shared it with anyone and it's a relief to get it off my chest. Thank God for true freedom in Christ. I feel like I've matured in so many ways since then, and feel grateful for those who helped me during those times I was unsure of myself. Jim, Brinda, Gerald, Marilyn--thank you for your faithfulness.