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Mother Forcibly Removed From James River Church for Disagreeing With Pastor Hosting Former Male Stripper at Men’s Conference

by | May 28, 2024 | News

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Imagine being in a church where you’re told you can’t have a public opinion on anything without the approval of your pastor. Imagine being in such a cult that your church controls what you post on Facebook. We’re not talking about publishing heresy or sin but having an opinion that your pastor simply doesn’t like. You may remember from a few weeks ago, the Stronger Men’s Conference hosted by James River Church in Springfield, Missouri, turned into a spectacle more befitting a Las Vegas strip club than a Christian gathering.

The controversy erupted when Mark Driscoll, a prominent and often contentious pastor, condemned a performance by Alex Magala—a professional sword swallower with a sordid past as a male stripper. Magala’s act, which involved pole dancing and the removal of his shirt—well, let’s just say it seemed out of place at a conference ostensibly designed to promote biblical masculinity.

Driscoll’s rebuke, some claim it was staged for attention, was met shouted down by the Pastor of James River Church, John Lindell, who interrupted Driscoll mid-speech, declaring him “out of line.” Little did one mother know, publicly disagreeing with Lindell would also get her the boot, and an escort off the property by police.

Rahela Petian, an attendee of James River Church, recently wrote her thoughts on Facebook regarding the controversy at the Stronger Men’s Conference. In her post, Petian expressed deep respect for Pastor John Lindell and his family’s long-standing ministry, acknowledging the significant impact the church has had locally and internationally. However, she raised several concerns about the handling of the event and the subsequent fallout.

Petian questioned the decision to invite Alex Magala, a professional sword swallower with a past as a male stripper, to perform at the conference without providing context about his Christian testimony. She highlighted the inconsistency between the church’s stance against practices like yoga and its acceptance of Magala’s performance and suggested a need for clearer communication from the leadership.

Petian also criticized Lindell’s public rebuke of Mark Driscoll and said that Driscoll’s message could have been beneficial to other attendees. She expressed disappointment in what she perceived as a lack of transparency and humility from Lindell, calling for a more sincere approach to addressing the incident and fostering unity within the church.

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But apparently the Church didn’t like that, and took action. Following her initial Facebook post, Petian detailed in a new post a subsequent meeting with church staff members, including Pastor Josh Longanecker and his wife, Laura. Petian described how she was escorted by five men—three church security team members and two Greene County Sheriff’s deputies.

Here are notes Petian took from the meeting:

During the meeting, Petian was told that her post had caused disunity within the church and was asked to reconsider her stance and her place at James River Church. Despite her long-standing membership and service at the church, Petian expressed feeling marginalized and unheard. She questioned the leadership’s approach, emphasizing her commitment to transparency and biblical principles.

Petian reported being asked to “reconsider where I stand” and was ultimately informed that she was not allowed to attend services until her post was taken down. This escalation culminated in her being asked to leave the church premises, an action that left her feeling ostracized and concerned about the church’s priorities and methods.

Here is an audio recording of the incident where she was escorted by law enforcement:

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