Whenever I hear or read of sexual abuse allegations and coverups inside the church, I probably feel the same way you do. I experience feelings of disgust, heartbreak, and anger.
Such acts are utterly evil, an offense against a Holy God, and a reproach to the name of Christ. There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form whether that be verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual, or sexual. And it is completely disgraceful that we would blame victims, retreat to covering sin, and seek to discredit the men and women who come forward.
The problem of abuse among those who are supposed to be holy, is one that all Christians, must address; but pastors, in particular, must model. 1 Peter 1:16. 1 Timothy 4:12. If our people cannot see an example of Christ in us, then they cannot follow Christ by following us. 1 Corinthians 11:1. Churches are right to expect their pastors to be holy, self-controlled, moral, humble, peaceful, hospitable, upright in character, spiritual, transparent, respectable, and a good example.
I found myself wrestling with all sorts of questions this last week, ‘Is this what the Independent Baptist movement has become?’ ‘Is it right that we should pride ourselves in independence only to lose accountability and integrity?’ ‘Have we grown cold and indifferent to holiness and godliness?’ ‘When are we going to hold abusers accountable and stop enabling them?’ It also caused me to evaluate my own life and ask myself where does my loyalty really lie, to a man, a movement, or to Christ? It caused me to evaluate my own spirit, am I consistently praying, ‘Lord, lead me not into temptation.’ It reminded me what anyone, including myself, is capable of when I consider my name, my goals or desires, my affiliations and friends, or my accomplishments above Christ.
But how then should we respond?
First, as a Christian, there should be no ambiguity or excusing of abuse or sin of any kind. Pastors and churches who know of such abuses should contact the appropriate authorities immediately. Paul Chappell has given good instruction on how to handle such situation in his book, The Road Ahead.
Second, as a church, we should be the safest place in all the earth. Every church should have clear child protection policies in place, and in every situation of abuse the victims must be assured that they are not responsible for the crimes committed against them. To be clear, we must make every appropriate phone call to law enforcement. I agree with the pattern put forth by Al Mohler, “When the church is confronted with such an accusation, it must look outside itself and require an independent, third party, investigation.”
And when a pastor has fallen into sin, it should mean the end of his time in leadership, with full transparency to the church. 1 Corinthians 9:27. There are some sins that irreparably shatter a man’s reputation and disqualify him from pastoral ministry. 1 Timothy 3:2. Titus 1. I agree with Paul Chappell, “It is sad and tragic when men who have failed morally previously are placed back in the pastorate.”
Thankfully, because of the blood and resurrection of Christ, sin can be forgiven. Forgiveness comes quickly, expensively, and immediately, through repentance. But trust does not. Forgiveness for a sin is not the same as restoration to the pastorate.
Third, as a friend, we should never cover for each other’s sin. Proverbs 28:13, Galatians 6:2. We must be careful, however, not quickly accept the accusations of others, when those accusations run counter to everything else we know of that person’s character. Proverbs 18:17. We should willing to seek for the truth to be known and wrongs to be made right.
Why write this article?
- There are many in the Independent Baptist movement that do not condone this sort of action.
There are some times where silence seems like a cover-up.
People need to know that we unequivocally reject sexual abuse.
My prayer is that one day—and please, Lord, soon—all who face injustice of any kind will see the Lord bring those things to light, so that they may be able to give rightful praise to God. 1 Corinthians 4:5
Pastor Dave Delaney