A North Carolina church takes a tough stand on gossip. Senior pastor PhilSpry preaches against it once a year, and members sign a covenant in whichthey commit to getting along with one another. Those that fail to honor theagreement are asked to leave.

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"There are over 400,000 churches in the U.S. I estimate half of themstarted up because someone couldn't get along with someone else," said Spry,who leads Southside Community Church in Garner. During his 26 years ofministry he has seen churches split over silly issues, he told TheCharlotte World, and many times petty gossip and slander are involved.

Spry takes the problem so seriously that he asks all new members of histhree-year-old church, which meets in a local elementary school, to listen tohis annual sermon on the topic. If they are unable to attend that day inSeptember, then they are required to listen to the message on tape beforethey can be received into membership.

"Our membership covenant includes a section taken from Matthew 18. Itstates that all people will work toward harmony with each other. We must becommitted to each other," he said. Because gossip is so divisive, those whodo so "get shown the parking lot," Spry told the World. "Working towardharmony is our goal and intention," Spry said.

Spry said that gossip and strife are referred to in Proverbs 6 among thesix things that God hates. "If God hates these things, then we must doeverything we can to not be doing those things." Church prayer requests canoften be a cover-up for gossip, he said. "Have you asked the person if youcould enter them into a prayer request? Unless you have the permission ofthe first party, the third party should never even hear about it."

Spry believes that gossip and slander is an even bigger problem outsidethe church, the World said. Spry pointed to TV shows like "HollywoodGossip" and said that there were more than 60 Web sites devoted to Hollywoodgossip. His uncompromising stand seems to be appreciated, for whenever hementions his gossip sermon on the radio, "my e-mail fills up with requestsfrom other pastors who are planning on giving it in their church."

A graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Spry has been anindependent church planter since 1974. He has started six churches, twoChristian radio stations, and a crisis pregnancy center. Southside began withnine people. Spry used a computer to telephone every home in the Raleighsuburb area to see who might be interested in a new church.