Have you heard the tragic stories that came to light in the last few months? The first one involved Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum. He was a legend in the homeschool movement and had a ministry that encouraged Christians in their family life. He went a little farther than some could agree with in his position that came to be called patriarchy. Still, he had a lovely family himself, he put out the most amazing catalog of family books and toys imaginable (my children and I loved it), and he was very influential. In November it came out that he had some sort of inappropriate relationship with the nanny he hired to help his wife. The 2014 Vision Forum catalog was printed, but never mailed. Vision Forum ceased to exist on December 31, 2013. (News article).
The other case involved Bill Gothard. He has been around since the 1970s with his writings and seminars. He had an incredibly wide ranging influence that included a certain generation among Independent Baptists (I will write on that later). Now over 70 years old, he is enveloped in scandal. Strangely, he has never been married or had children himself, but he has been accused by numerous young ladies of harassment and inappropriate touching. He has been removed from the presidency of the organization he founded. (News link).
Does that make you angry? Are you right now saying to yourself, glad they were dealt with? Most feel that way.
What should Independent Baptists learn from these scandals? (Neither of these men were Independent Baptists). There are two great lessons really. First, we shouldn’t wax too eloquent as we too are but sinners capable of falling into any sin ourselves. I pray the Lord will pour His grace into the lives of the victims and perpetrators alike. We have all sinned, but we must admit that some situations reach a level that they must be confronted. These two situations obviously reached that level. On the other hand, we have a reputation for being so hard on some. We have some ugly cases of broken confidentiality and public humiliation for some rather small infractions in some of our churches. Then there are the instances where that harsh standard is not consistently enforced. We have run some people forever out our doors over this unscriptural behavior.
Second, we must hold our own pastors and leaders accountable. I do not mean nitpick and be harsh on pastors. We pastors are but feeble sinners ourselves, but I mean deal with these major scandals including pastoral abuse. Since we are ready to lay the head of Doug Phillips or Bill Gothard on the chopping block, then why do we not hold our own to the same standard? Why would we ostracize one of our own if they fellowshipped with the wrong ministry while we look the other way if they have a real scandal or are guilty of abusing one of their sheep like the worst of hirelings.
Some pastors (an embarrassing, vocal minority) abuse their authority, that God intended to be limited and specific, by using “touch not mine anointed” beyond its legitimate usage. They make questioning of them, even in regards to actual sin and scandal, a sin when it fact the sin is theirs. Some church members have unfairly thrown out the label “dictator” on a pastor who only took a godly stand, but the fact remains there are some dictators out there.
The worst damage of this behavior shows up when scandal rears its ugly head. The sin deepens while pastors hide behind the misshapen shield of pastoral authority. The reality is that every authority has its limits under God for which the authority will answer to God. Every person under authority has a right under God to seek accountability for those in authority. That is why so many of us have something to say about our President in these days. The authority may not respond appropriately, but the Lord has written justice into the fabric of His creation.
For an outrageous example, I have read documented reports of a church where the assistant pastor/ pastor’s son had set up a secret camera and photographed young ladies changing their clothes years before. The videotapes were found and ended up in the hands of the police. The evidence was overwhelming but the sheriff said it had just past the statute of limitations. The news media made a big deal of it and it was known widely. What did the pastor do when church members approached him about this issue? He churched or excommunicated them and publicly ridiculed them to the congregation. This is a scandal itself!
Sadly, some make these type situations worse. In this example, some well known Independent Baptist leaders hold conferences at this church and hold it up as a model church. The bewildering part is that these same leaders have separated from so many other Independent Baptist pastors over personal standards, music, or personal associations. Is this insanity or what?
We should not relish scandal. We should be heartbroken about it. I consistently in this series try not to mention names of the Independent Baptists I am writing about from an issues standpoint. (Mr. Phillips and Mr. Gothard will never read this blog nor will those in their circles). Scandal will hit every group in Christianity. History proves it and the nature of sin guarantees it. Our scandals do not write us off, but how we deal with them very well could.
Find all articles in the series here.