Wewoka means Barking Waters

Our first home as a married couple was in Wewoka, Oklahoma. Wewoka was settled in January of 1849 by John Horse, and a band of his followers. The first settlers of Wewoka were seeking safety and autonomy from the Creek Nation. The story is that when they first found a location to set up this community it was located at the falls of a small stream, lying in the fertile lands between the North and South Canadian Rivers. I’m guessing it was on Wewoka Creek, but I lived there a long time and I never saw any waterfall, not even a very tiny one. It is said that there was a steady rush of water over the falls and the sound they heard gave rise to the name We-Wo-Ka — meaning “Barking Water” in the Mvskoke (Seminole) language. The word Wewoka, was a Seminole word meaning “Barking Waters.” The meaning of the name should have been a warning to me.

One reason a dog barks is to warn off strangers. “Arph, arph, means ‘stay the hell away from here or my teeth will tear off your flesh.’ Arph, arph means, ‘you are going to be hurt.’

I should have heeded the warning.

When I “tried out” for the associate minister/song director job at the Wewoka Church of Christ I was still in school, but we were in Summer and I was eager to be married. I just had to have some sort of income, and I was hopeful that the Wewoka Church of Christ would make everything possible for us.

The elders there had me lead the singing and teach the adult Bible Class. I was assigned to teach on Acts Chapter 2. It turns out the class was not studying Acts Chapter 2, but the elders wanted to make sure I was solid on the baptism by immersion dogma. Apparently I was.

I was hired and a date was set for me to be there.

The elders found a little house right across the street from the church. The structure had originally been a garage. Some one had remodeled the place putting in two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom. It was a tiny place, but it was our first home together.

KATHIE

As I am writing this now Kathie and I have been married over 44 years. I have always thought that Kathie was the most interesting, beautiful woman I’ve ever known. I may have endowed her with more perfection that she actually possessed, but I felt like I’d married UP. She was out of my league. I had this smart, fun, beautiful woman willing to be married to me. I felt honored just to share the same air with her.

I would be lying if I said we have not had our problems over the years, but we got along so well up front that I’d been married 25 years before I realized we didn’t communicate all that well. I would be truthing if I said that most of the problems between us were problems that germinated within me. We both had our own mental labyrinths to journey through, and as we got lost and struggled to find our way, we were both carrying our own burdensome bundles of anxieties, worries, fears, depression, selfishness, and unproductive habits. I would be truthier if I added that there has always been a commitment, a bond of love that has sustained us even in the more difficult periods of our relationship.

One thing I did not know about Kathie was how fearful, and innocent she was. Now I know that Kathie was raised to be afraid of everything. She dated very little before meeting me, in part because she was afraid. When we dated, let me just say, we did not do, what most engaged couples do together. In almost every area I can think of Kathie was afraid. Kathie never even learned to ride a bike because she, and her parents were just too afraid she would be injured.

Kathie was 12 years old when she fainted in class. She was a student at Western Oaks Junior High and she just passed out. He teacher carried her to the office where her mother was called. Kathie was eventually diagnosed with Type One diabetes. This was a time when diabetes was a much more difficult chronic condition to treat.

Kathie’s mother had to measure and weigh her food. Kathie had to take insulin injections. The insulin then was made from the pancreases of slaughtered cows. Her body reacted to this beef insulin by eating away at the fat in her thighs, giving her deep drops in her thighs.

When we first got married, I had to learn about the diabetic problems Kathie was dealing with every day of her life, beginning when she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12. This disease contributed to the fear factor, or course, how could it not.

I sometimes think about what it must have been like at the Eavenson house. If you take people who are already inclined to be afraid of everything, and toss in a child with brittle diabetes, well, you have a prescription for living breathing anxiety.

I do not know why this anxious, fearful person was willing to drop out of college, leave her parents that she was so dependent on, and go with me to Wewoka, Oklahoma? I was not handsome, or smart, and I had no assets. I was and continue to be odd. Eccentric sounds better but weirdo fits fairly well too. What was her attraction to me?

I too had my own fears and worries, but, they took a backseat to my low self-esteem and self hatred. I guess I have felt I had so little to lose that I was always willing to take risks. I have always been someone who made their mind up fast. I was and still am a little reckless. Kathie is someone who likes to think things over, and sometimes her thinking will go on and on and it seems like she will never land on a decision. Why would a person like that marry someone like me?

I still don’t understand it.

What you need to know is that what happened to me, at the Wewoka Church of Christ, happened to both of us. The first phase of our married life was filled with horror. I am amazed that Kathie did not run screaming back to her parents. Why was she loyal to me? Why did she love me?

THE JOB

I was hired as the associate minister and song leader of Wewoka Church of Christ and it was, for Wewoka, a large church, with several hundred members. I was hired to work under an older experienced minister named John Stewart.

Being the minister in a town like Wewoka attracts two kinds of ministers: new ministers just starting off their careers and attempting to gain the experience that will prepare them to minister to a larger congregation, OR old guys, coasting into retirement [or the grave]. I was not good enough to be the main minister. John Stewart was definitely coasting into retirement.

John Stewart preached OK, but he tended to do corny stuff. I remember once, I was picking out songs for the worship service and Brother Stewart told me the title of his sermon was THE FAMILY. I worked hard to pick out hymns that had something to do with the family. Before each hymn I made some comment about the family.

When it was time for the sermon Brother Stewart comes out and says he is preaching about the Tatter Family: The agitators, the instigators, et cetera, et cetera. I felt stupid.

I was learning my job as I went along. I got no direction. No one told me what to do with my day. I could sit in the office the church provided for me, but to do what? I could sit by myself and sing hymns, pretending I was leading the singing.

I started changing the marquee and putting some of the usual stupid stuff that churches put on marquees:

It is summer, but if you think it is hot now . . .

You aren’t too bad to stay out, you aren’t too good to come in.
History is His story
Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous
We don’t change the message, the message changes us
‘Coming ready or not!’ — Jesus
There are no atheists in hell
God answers knee-mail
The best vitamin for a Christian is B1

I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and I am certain now, that I was doing a pretty piss poor job.

Withdrawal of Fellowship

Things changed one day when I was invited to attend the Elder’s meeting, along with Brother Stewart. In that meeting the Elders said they were considering starting an active Church Discipline Program.

How fortuitous for me, I thought.

1 Corinthians 10:12 King James Version (KJV)
. . . let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Withdrawal of Fellowship was exactly the topic I had researched for my 75 page paper that earning me 3 Independent Study college credit hours just prior to my dropping out of OCC.

I provided the Elders with a copy of my paper.

Church Discipline, in the church of Christ, was supposed to follow what might be called a CHAIN of Discipline. There were steps. There was an order to what was to be done.

Now most churches of Christ do not use this church discipline/withdrawal of fellowship stuff. In fact, what happened in Wewoka was the ONLY time I attended a church of Christ congregation that opted to follow the withdrawal of fellowship process. In the New Testament relates in plain terms from whom the Christian should withdraw his fellowship.

We are to withdraw from “Every brother who walks disorderly” (2 Thes. 3:6–14). Some in the church of Christ will claim that they are not a body of people who judge, but you clearly cannot withdraw fellowship without some degree of judging. The word “disorderly” means “deviating from the prescribed rule” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon). You can’t withdraw from someone unless you believe there are prescribed rules and violation of the rules must then be punished. Most folk in the church of Christ, including me, at that time, believed someone was walking disorderly when their manner of life deviates from the word of God, when a member of the True Church sins and will not repent (see 1 John 1:6–2:2).

Withdrawal of Fellowship would then apply to “Those who cause divisions and offenses, When Withdrawing Fellowship occurs those folk must be “noted” (KJV: “marked”) and “avoided.” What did it mean to MARK someone? To mark is to “observe attentively, cautiously and faithfully, be on your guard against them” (Albert Barnes). When we Withdraw from a member of the True Church we are expected to avoid, “to turn away from, to keep aloof from…, to shun one” (Thayer). These actions are to be taken for the conduct of such individuals is contrary to the “unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3) and causes others to sin.

The scriptures expect Christians to withdraw from “A divisive man” (KJV: “heretic,” ASV: “factious”) (Titus 3:10–11). The word translated “factious” or “divisive” means “causing division by a party spirit” (W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words). Factions are a work “of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19–21).
The True Church is to withdraw from the sinner (1 Cor. 5:1–11). This would include fornicators, covetous ones, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, and extortioners. The church of Christ Elders at Wewoka included people who were not attending worship services regularly, and they considered withdrawing from people who were not tithing their income to the church.
Withdrawal of Fellowship should be applied to a brother who refuses to repent (Matt. 18:15–17).

Obviously the True Church must withdraw fellowship from those who go beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9–11).

The actual process included these actions by the Elders and members the church:

First, the church should try to solve the matter on a one-to-one basis — Matthew 18:15

Next, if that one-on-one meeting did not resolve the concerns of the church it would be important to have witnesses to what is being said and done — Matthew 18:16 so two or three members of The True Church drive on out to confront the member/sinner again.

Here is the point of this second step: you have a witness to the shun candidates refusal to repent from their evil ways while it is one thing when a single person says you are wrong, but it is another matter when several unbiased people show you that you are in error.

If a resolution is still not achieved, the matter goes before the church — Matthew 18:17

In a sense, the entire congregation acts as the jury.

After some consideration the Elders developed a list of potential candidates for being withdrawn from. I don’t remember the exact number, it was at least a dozen, perhaps two dozen names.

I was excited. I was, at least in my own mind, a consultant expert to the Elders in their Church Discipline program. I believed that if the New Testament directed us to withdraw fellowship from folk, then we should do what it says, and I had never been in a church that had ever done anything like that.

I was a foolish, stupid young guy swimming in waters way too deep and wide for me, being a weak swimmer.

BEER

The next part of this story involves me, a friend, and the selling of beer.

I’ll call my friend, Stormy Winters. Stormy was a deacon in the Wewoka Church of Christ. He had a beautiful wife, three young boys, and he had this urge to tuck me under his wing and help me out. Stormy was a Wonder Bread Salesman who got up in the wee hours of the morning, and drove a truck to stores all around the area, stocking the grocery shelves with his bread, collecting his money, and the expired product.

But Stormy had ambition. He was making a good living as a bread guy, but he wanted to go into business. Stormy had his eye on the Texaco station located directly across from the Wewoka Church of Christ building.

Prior to Stormy buying the property, the Texaco station closed on Sundays and they allowed members of the church of Christ to park on their property during our worship services.

Stormy bought the property, and started converting the Texaco station into a Texaco Convenience Store. The Elders were unhappy to learn that Stormy’s Store would be open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The church was losing parking space.

The elders tried to pressure Stormy to close his store on Sundays. He explained that he had a big loan at the bank and he was risking everything he had to start this business, and he just could not afford to close the store ever.

This was, I thought, the end of the matter. But one day Stormy is visiting with me and he says the income he is getting from the store is not enough, that unless he does something else he will go bankrupt.

“What else are you thinking of doing?” I asked him.

“The bank wants me to sell beer. Every convenience store sells beer, and they want me to sell beer,” he told me.

While it seems silly to me now, I was shocked. How could a member of the church of Christ, and a deacon in the church, dare to sell beer?

I made a very human mistake. I made a friend. Stormy was my friend. I was feeling myself torn between the dogma of the church of Christ, and the problems of my friend.

The next thing Stormy said shocked me even more.

“I went to a store and bought a can of beer,” Stormy said. “I came home and drank that beer.”

“Oh.” What was I supposed to say?

“You know,” Stormy said, “that beer didn’t make me feel funny. That beer didn’t seem like sin in a pop top can. It was just something to drink.”

Stormy didn’t take action quickly, and he mulled over what he was doing, but he felt he had everything at stake. He felt like he was putting his children’s welfare at risk. If this store failed he would lose his house. He would have no job, no place to live, and a wife and three children. He put his family on one side of the scales and disappointing the elders on the other side of the scales and the family carried the majority of weight in his heart and in his mind.

I remember one day, a week or so later, I stepped out of my garage apartment and I saws the main minister, John Stewart, standing in the middle of the street. In the parking lot of Stormy’s Store were three beer trucks.

There was an emergency Elder’s meeting after the Wednesday night services and I attended. The list of people to be withdrawn from had dropped from a lot [one or two dozen names] to one name: Stormy Winters.

They went over the process the Biblically structured how this withdrawal/shunning was supposed to go:

Send one person. They directed John Stewart to go out to Stormy’s house and talk with him. If Stormy refuses to remove the beer from his store and repent his sin before the whole church then, the full Eldership, all five of them, would go visit with Stormy.

I spent some time trying to resolve this. I urged Stormy to back down. He wouldn’t. I went to one of the Elders I got along with well, Herman Zealot. Brother Herman was a farmer and I went out where he was bailing hay.

Hermon got off his tractor and gave me a fair listen.

I used the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares found in Matthew 13:24–30.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

I said that perhaps you could look at Stormy as a weed seed growing in God’s Kingdom, but I reminded Herman that I had baptized all three of Stormy’s boys.

“If you withdraw from Stormy, you are going to uproot his three boys, and his wife,” I said. “If you were a teenage boy and the church kicked your dad out of the church, would you want to keep on going to that church? If the church kicked you out, would your wife keep going to the church that kicked you out?”

I have to say that I thought I’d gotten through to him.

I was leading the singing on Easter Sunday and Charlie Butler told me that they would not need a closing song, that the Elders had something else they were doing in that slot.

So I lead the Invitation [known in Pentecostal Churches as The Altar Call] and then I sat down on the front row.

All the Elders filed in, and stood in a line facing the congregation.

Charlie Butler explained to the church about the Bible’s admonition that if there is sin in the church then the church had a scriptural obligation to follow the chain of church discipline, by going to see the sinner one-on-one, then two or three are to go see the sinner.

It was clear what I thought I had stopped was still on. The reason I had not heard anything in a couple of weeks time is because the Elders could see I was a friend to Stormy and they just stopped telling me anything.

I looked back to where Stormy was sitting with his wife and three boys. Stormy quietly got up and walked out of the auditorium.

Then Charlie asked for the church to stand to show their approval of the Elder’s actions “as we close with prayer.”

I know some people stood, because you always stood for the closing prayer in that congregation. I did not stand.

I couldn’t believe what had happened, and I couldn’t believe they did this on Easter Sunday.

Before I left the building I was stopped by Charlie Butler and told that they were having another Elder’s meeting after church and I was to be there as soon as possible.

I knew what this was about. I had refused to stand up. I had not supported the actions of the Elders.

I have to admit that I was afraid. I was dependent upon the church for my salary. My hands trembled as I arrived at the room and took my seat.

I was told I needed to repent and tell the church that I was wrong in now showing my support for the Elder’s actions and I was to ask for God’s forgiveness.

I just sat there. I was twenty two years old. I had no guts, no courage. Charlie asked me what I was going to do.

I should have said, “I am quitting.”

I should have said, “Screw you.”

I should have said, “If I go to hell over this, I won’t be sitting next to you.”

If I were making myself out to be a hero I would have claimed to have done something brave, or even better, I would have actually done the right, honest, bravest thing.

I finally said, “I’m going to do what you want me to do.”

I never intended to ask for forgiveness for not supporting this withdrawal of fellowship, but I was thinking, What they want me to do is resign, and that is what I’m going to do, only I need a little time to make a plan.

I went home and talked with Kathie. She cried of course.

Remember Kathie was dominated by her fears, and she was afraid about a lot of things that night.

I went to see Stormy, and he was the angriest man I’d ever seen in my life. He talked loud and waved his arms around and when he pointed his finger at me, his hand was trembling. Stormy told me to do what the Elder’s asked that this was his problem and he didn’t want to pull me down.

I ran into Carl Karr in town and Carl was supportive.

“I thought you had pretty big balls, not standing up today,” said Carl. Carl was a member of the church of Christ, but he also cussed, drank whiskey, and may not have always been honest in business. But Carl was a nice guy. I told Carl I did not know what I would do to get by, if I resigned from the church.

Carl had a friend down at the Wewoka Daily Times and he made a call. By Monday I had a job at the Wewoka Daily Times selling advertising space in the paper. I accepted the job, walked down to Security State Bank, met with the head elder T E Burch, and I resigned from the church. By the end of the week, The Wewoka Daily Times had hired Kathie to be the Society Editor. We were suddenly out of the church business, into the newspaper business, and while I was never withdrawn from the church officially, I was withdrawn from in every other sense.

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