A Letter from the Austrian Student Missionary Society (ÖSM) to Gottfried Holic (1980)
September 26, 1980
It does not come easily to us to write this letter to you. If we didn’t know that we are responsible to God for our actions, we would have preferred to omit this uncomfortable step. We must ask you, by means of this letter, to no longer attend ÖSM events. We like you personally (as you yourself indeed know), and we treasure many of your contributions to our discussions. But that should not blind us to the fact that you are undermining a foundational truth of the Gospel and of our salvation, and in practice you are denying this truth.
After the leaders of the Tulpen Street congregation asked you to no longer attend the activities of that congregation (they themselves can give the most accurate account about the reasons for this), hatred and bitterness have taken hold in you. You immediately began to talk about these leaders in a very negative way. Because we don’t see it as the task of the ÖSM to be the location or the medium for the transmission of such bitterness, we agreed with you that you would omit such talk in the ÖSM, and toward the people whom you met there. We don’t consider this agreement to be a solution for the real problem, but we also did not want to overburden you as long as you were so charged with emotion in this way.
Since this event, nearly two years have passed. Gradually we’ve learned that you have hardened in your attitude, and that your statements at that time were not to be explained as temporary waves of emotion.
Do we, indeed, have the ability to judge the behavior of another person? – Because we are, ourselves, human, we know the difference between objective criticism about someone (whom we otherwise have nothing against) and passionate aggression. It also seems odd when a congregation, with whom you have felt yourself so bonded that you considered yourself to be a member, is suddenly considered by you to be a cult against which one must warn others. It will also be difficult for you to find anybody who knows the leaders of the Tulpen Street congregation who would see them (as you do) guilty of criminality, mental illness, and demonism (or satanism). All of this confirms again our impression (which is also held by many people outside of the ÖSM), that you, because of your hateful attitude, are no longer capable of an objective judgment. In those situations, where you believe injustice has happened to you, God expects your sincere desire to forgive. In light of the words of Jesus (Matthew 6:14 and 18:21-55), we fear that you, by means of your attitude, are rejecting God’s grace and His forgiveness.
In multiple conversations we have tried to convince you about the seriousness of your situation. We have not succeeded. Our words never penetrated your heart; your mind perceived our warnings and tried to refute them intellectually. We wanted you to put your desire for reconciliation into action (you said that you had this desire) by seeking discussions with these people. “One should not talk with false teachers” – that is your justification for stubbornly dodging our suggestion. Precisely in this rejection, your irreconcilable attitude came into view in a shocking way.
Do we have the right to judge the behavior of another person? – Yes, we are actually obliged to pay attention to each other. We would be complicit, if we saw a person in grave danger, and didn’t warn him; especially if he has been close to us for years, like you have been.
In the ÖSM, we attempt to share the foundational truths of the Gospel with our neighbors, and you have this same intention. With the same mouth, out of which you speak about God’s love, you express your hatred toward other people. Believers and nonbelievers see the discrepancy between the Gospel and your actions, which can lead to the rejection of the group (ÖSM) or even (much worse!) to the rejection of the Gospel. We can not imagine being workers in a group in which somebody, who wants to preach the Gospel with us, is permanently bitter toward other people. It’s not so important, in this regard, whether this attitude is expressed inside the Albert Schweitzer House or elsewhere. We must clearly distance ourselves from the attitude which you have against some Christians, and we want to make clear to you, by means of asking you to stop attending ÖSM events, how serious your behavior is.
We greet you and hope that you receive this letter as an expression of our love and concern.
P.S.: If you speak with other people about this action, and they want to know our reasons, please show them this letter.