Hammond, Accountability and Legalism

The pastoral scandal in Hammond has sparked many conversations about why these disasters keep happening, what the phenomenon says about independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches and ministies, and what ought to be done to fix whatever exactly is broken. The idea of accountability has figured prominently in several of these conversations.

But if IFB and other branches of Christendom1 are going to use accountability effectively, we’ll have to arrive at a clearer understanding of what accountability is, what it’s limitations are, and where its real value lies. My aim here is to make a small contribution toward that end.

Defining “accountability”

For some, accountability has an almost magical power to keep all bad behavior from happening. Whenever some kind of shocking sin comes to light, their first and last response is “we need more accountability.” In these cases the term “accountability” tends to be defined vaguely if at all. At the other end of the spectrum, some argue that accountability is only something that occurs in response to wrongdoing and that has no power to prevent it (see the conversation here, for example).

From what I’ve seen, though, most understand the idea of accountability in a more nuanced way.

Merriam-Webster2 defines accountability as follows.

: the quality or state of being accountable, especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions <public officials lacking accountability>

On “accountable,” the same source provides the following:

1 : subject to giving an account : answerable <held her accountable for the damage>

2 : capable of being accounted for : explainable

Other dictionaries have similar entries, such as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary’s entry for “accountable.”

1 required or expected to justify actions or decisions.

2 explicable; understandable.

In ministry settings

In my experience, when people speak of accountability in church and ministry settings, they usually have one of two things in mind.

  1. Structured diffusion of power
  2. Personal mentoring or discipling relationships

In the first case, it’s common to hear the sentiment that if only IFB (and similar) pastors were forced to make decisions jointly with other pastors or elders, these leaders would be less vulnerable to the temptations of power. In this case, advocates use the term “accountability” for diffusion of a leader’s decision-making authority.

In the second case, many are confident that we’d see less of this sort of pastoral failure if all Christians—but especially leaders—had close, mentoring/discipleship relationships with people who ask them tough questions about their walk with God, their marriage, their family life, the temptations they’re struggling with, etc.

A third group sees the solution as a combination of both of these forms of accountability.

What these understandings of accountability have in common is limitation on a person’s ability or willingless to act independently. In one case, he is structurally prevented from at least some independent actions. In the other, his conduct is restrained by the anticipation that he’ll be expected to defend it.

Some limitations of “accountability”

At this point, I feel like joining the crowd shouting “Vive la accountability!” But we need to temper our expectations.

First, accountability can never be comprehensive. Unless we’re prepared to handcuff every pastor to a practically sinless accountability partner who watches his every move, he’ll be able to find ways around any accountability mechanism if he really wants to. And unless the accountability partner is also a mind-reader, the leader being monitored will still be free to be as internally proud, malicious, greedy or lustful as chooses to be.

Second, there aren’t any perfect accountability partners or perfect elder teams. When you take a pastor who is a sinner and join him with another pastor and rename them “the elders,” you now just have two sinners instead of one. And yep, the math works all the way up to infinity—or at least up to the total number of men who can be enlisted to be elders. As a safeguard against a naïve confidence that multiplicity is inherently more righteous than individuality, consider how many “bishops” worked together at Trent to reject the doctrine of salvation through faith alone.

Third, there seems to be a character trade off here. If our accountability method actually prevents a leader from committing a particular sin, we have to conclude that he would have committed it without our accountability program. If we weren’t looking over his shoulder or forcing him to share decision-making with a group, he’d freely choose to do the wrong. If that’s the case, what sort of leader is he? What sort of Christian is he?

The real value of accountability

Some of the conversations about events in Hammond have included an interesting irony. Some of those who passionately oppose “legalism,” and broadly devalue rules, are equally passionate that IFB leaders need more accountability.

Don’t see the irony? Let’s see if I can help.

Though it may not seem so at first, accountability and what many like to call “man made rules” are two species of the same genus. As such, their value and limitations are almost perfectly parallel. In some cases, rules—and the penalties connected to them—really are accountability measures.

But this is not a vote against accountability. It’s a call to understand that the value of accountability is ultimately inseparable from the value of rules.

  • Both rules and accountability measures are external restraints. They cannot, by themselves, change a person’s heart.
  • In other words, both rules and accountability are limited to regulating conduct, not affections.
  • Both rules and accountability measures involve human discernment and judgment. (People are accountble to someone who is not God.)
  • Both rules and accountability measures can become objects of pride or refuges for people engaging in superficial conformity to standards.
  • Both rules and accountability can be poorly devised and executed, and can be counterproductively excessive (in both quantity and quality).

So those who see rules as unfortunate necessities that ought to be kept to an absolute minimum ought to believe—based on all the same arguments—that accountability is an unfortunate necessity that ought to be kept to a minimum.

Real value

But there is genuine importance in both rules and accountability.

Since not sinning is always better than sinning, both rules and accountability measures have value in keeping believers from harm they would otherwise suffer and in preventing dishonor to the Lord’s name that it would otherwise suffer. Since a believer’s spiritual vitality is always harmed more by sinning than by not sinning, both rules and accountability measures can be instrumental in helping Christians thrive. Both can help develop good habits. Both can help prevent the suffering of victims. Willingness to submit to both can be, along with other things, a measure of godly maturity. Both can limit believers’ exposure to temptations.

At the same time, both are less necessary for the strong than for the weak. The more genuine godly character a believer has (that is, the more God has deeply changed him) the less need he has for external restraints, whether these take the form of imposed rules or imposed accountability.

So, in the case of pastors, the more accountability we say a pastor needs, the less confidence we are claiming to have in his character. If a congregation believes its pastor needs someone looking over his shoulder all the time, that congregation should either rethink its estimation of the pastor’s character or replace him with someone who is the kind of man described in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.

Would “more accountability” have prevented the devastation in Hammond and other places? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, sensible accountability measures (whether structured or informal) are vital in order to help good men remain good men and grow into better men. At the same time, no set of accountability measures, however ingenious or numerous, can serve as a substitute for genuine godly character.

Notes

1 Let’s not forget that sex and money offenses by ministry leaders is a problem in congregations and ministries of all sorts whether independent Baptist, independent something else or not independent at all (including, famously, the Roman Catholic Church). For a small sample take a look at this depressing Wikipedia entry.

2 Web version. Accessed 8/14/12.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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There are 142 Comments

Jim's picture

Other half of my response:

 

I said: "! I understand that the man who is now the interim pastor announced the Sunday before the events broke that Jack Schaap was out on medical leave. If that is true ... it strikes me as a bald-faced lie! And when people lie it makes one a liar. That doesn't say much about the man who is now the interim pastor!"

 

I stand by my statement

 

 

Rob Fall's picture

There's more to Proclaim and Defend than a digital version of the Newsworthy column.  http://www.proclaimanddefend.org

Ron Bean wrote:

I hadn't heard that phrase before but have seen it in practice. I was part of a ministry that still publishes a quarterly paper that "projects the light of truth on the issues of the day" by pointing out the compromise of people who, while being Christians, are not as separated as they should be. (You know the type, I'm sure.) The problem is that nobody knows they exist. They just talk to themselves.

If the goal of addressing faults in our brethren is to restore those brethren, it seems that that would involve personally confronting those brethren with that intent.

If the goal of the FBFI is to Proclaim and Defend than they need to do that to more than themselves. As I read Mike Harding's encouraging comments I wish that I had read about this in Frontline or on the net.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Larry's picture

Moderator

Just a thought, wonder how many SI members who criticized medical leave so strongly in recent days contacted FBCH about their concerns....

A minor point: I didn't criticize medical leave. I was questioning the use of the term in light of the real situation.

A major point: It was public. I don't think there is any need to go privately when something is very public.

But I don't want to distract from the FBFI conversation since that is what this thread is about. Oh wait ...

JG's picture

Jim wrote:

I stand by my statement

I didn't ask you to retract it.  I asked if you contacted them about it.  If it's obviously a bald-faced lie, perhaps they'll correct it if someone points it out to them.

Or do you not agree with Ron's statement about going to the person?

 

JG's picture

Larry wrote:

A minor point: I didn't criticize medical leave. I was questioning the use of the term in light of the real situation.

Yeah, I know.  Like I told Jay, I was in a hurry when I typed that.  And like I said before, I don't think he should have been put on medical leave, either.  

Larry wrote:

A major point: It was public. I don't think there is any need to go privately when something is very public.

But I don't want to distract from the FBFI conversation since that is what this thread is about. Oh wait ...

This IS about FBFI, and Ron's statement re: FBFI, isn't it?  Ron didn't use the word "privately" did he?  But sounds like you are saying Ron's statement isn't right in some way.  So I'll help my squirming brothers (who haven't contacted Hammond) a little by saying that I don't think Ron's statement has it pegged.  I don't see an obligation in this case to contact Hammond.  But it's not merely a private-public thing, there's more to it than that.  Probably can't elaborate until tomorrow.  I brought it up, not to try to get them to get on the phone to Hammond or to try to get them to come up with excuses, but to turn some scrutiny on Ron's statement itself, which on its face sounds good but....

But you made me laugh with your last line, anyway. Smile I'm almost an on-topic hero for dragging us back to something related to Hammond, since Hammond is in the title of the thread.  Nothing to do with Aaron's article, of course, but even Aaron gave up that fight.

 

AndrewSuttles's picture

It's pretty standard practice to put an employee on some sort of paid leave while an investigation is on-going.  It is a prudent thing to take the appropriate time to get all the information, inform all the leadership, and make a sound and wise decision. 

Ron Bean's picture

My ""confront with the goal of restoration" comment was in the context of groups who criticize brethren without ever contacting them personally. For instance, has the FBFI ever personally contacted anyone in the SBC, Dever, MacArthur, known Calvinists, etc. before publicly criticizing them?

As to the "have you contacted them" question, the answer is yes. Like Jim, I've sent emails (most recently asking about the supposed firing of Jim Binney) and have also received no reply. Hey, in the olden days, I even called and sent snail mail about Hyles and heard nothing.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

The issue is not whether or not to put Schaap on leave.  The issue is whether or not they lied to the congregation about the nature of his absence.

Not sure why this is so hard to understand, gang.  Help me out here.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

James K's picture

The concept that Wells points out is that seminaries are offering "D.Mins." today without M.Div. prerequisites, thus circumventing the theological and exegetical training necessary for serious preaching.

 

Mike, I am not sure if you agree with Wells on this or not, but this is academic snobbery at its worst.  Serious preaching is done with an MDiv?  It is kind of ironic that fundamentalists accuse the New Evangelicals of wanting the academic prestige and then I read this.  Pot to kettle: you are black.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Rob Fall's picture

The SBC and Calvinist debate are at least a hundred years old.

As for MacArthur please see:

http://www.proclaimanddefend.org/2012/08/07/navigating-muddied-waters/

Ron Bean wrote:

My ""confront with the goal of restoration" comment was in the context of groups who criticize brethren without ever contacting them personally. For instance, has the FBFI ever personally contacted anyone in the SBC, Dever, MacArthur, known Calvinists, etc. before publicly criticizing them?

As to the "have you contacted them" question, the answer is yes. Like Jim, I've sent emails (most recently asking about the supposed firing of Jim Binney) and have also received no reply. Hey, in the olden days, I even called and sent snail mail about Hyles and heard nothing.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

James K wrote:
The concept that Wells points out is that seminaries are offering "D.Mins." today without M.Div. prerequisites, thus circumventing the theological and exegetical training necessary for serious preaching.

Mike, I am not sure if you agree with Wells on this or not, but this is academic snobbery at its worst.  Serious preaching is done with an MDiv?  It is kind of ironic that fundamentalists accuse the New Evangelicals of wanting the academic prestige and then I read this.  Pot to kettle: you are black.

Actually, it doesn't follow that if MDiv provides training necessary for serious preaching then MDiv is necessary for serious preaching.

For example, if I say "Walmart provides the necessary water to avoid dehydration" I am not necessarily saying "Walmart is necessary to avoid dehydration." I haven't referenced other sources of water.

The point of the complaint against DMins that circumvent MDiv requirements is that a place that exists to provide necessary training shouldn't omit a large chunk of it.

Also, the fundamentalist complaint about "academic prestige" is that evangelicals have sought prestige in secular and/or liberal academia--at the cost of orthodoxy. Not the same thing.

JG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

I hadn't heard that phrase before but have seen it in practice. I was part of a ministry that still publishes a quarterly paper that "projects the light of truth on the issues of the day" by pointing out the compromise of people who, while being Christians, are not as separated as they should be. (You know the type, I'm sure.) The problem is that nobody knows they exist. They just talk to themselves.

If the goal of addressing faults in our brethren is to restore those brethren, it seems that that would involve personally confronting those brethren with that intent.

If the goal of the FBFI is to Proclaim and Defend than they need to do that to more than themselves. As I read Mike Harding's encouraging comments I wish that I had read about this in Frontline or on the net.

I'd like to address Ron's second paragraph.  It sounds right, but we don't apply it.  No one who criticized Hammond for announcing that Schaap was on medical leave contacted those deacons or the man who made the announcement.  If you contacted the church about something in the past, it doesn't change the fact.  You "addressed faults" but did not "personally confront those brethren." 

The problem is with Ron's statement.  To use wording from another thread (and I'm having more fun with this than I should), Ron's statement is technically accurate, but not the whole truth, and implies something that isn't true.  Technically true -- if the goal is restoration, it would involve confrontation (rather than sniping from a distance).

The false implication is that addressing faults in our brethren should never happen without personal confrontation.  It is false because there are multiple purposes for addressing faults.  I'll give four.  There may be others that I'm not thinking of.

1. Restoration.  Matthew 18, II Thess. 3:15.

2. Motivate / challenge others to respond appropriately to the fault.  I Corinthians 5 is a classic example -- it's not about restoration, but about exhorting the Corinthian church to respond properly and break fellowship with a professing believer who is blatantly sinning.

3. Example.  We see this in Hebrews 3:7-19, where the example of the faults of professing believers is used as an example of what we should not do.  Many of the instances in Scripture where the faults of real or professing believers are recounted fall in this category.

4. Warning against false teachers / wolves in sheep's clothing / apostates.  I Timothy 1:20, II Timothy 1:15.

It is not sound to criticize FBFI (or others) for not directly contacting everyone whose faults they have addressed.  If you are addressing faults for reasons 2-4, it may still be profitable to contact the person directly to try to bring rostoration as well,, but it isn't required.  There is no indication, for instance, that Paul directly contacted the man described in I Cor. 5.

As to the other thread, and the criticism of the "medical leave" announcement, I'll leave it to each person to figure out what Biblical purpose his comments fulfilled, and whether his comments at all conveyed that purpose. 

Ron Bean's picture

Personally, the truth or deceit of the medical leave statement is a minor detail. The problem is that the leadership of this church tolerated false doctrine and false leaders for too long. I can only speculate as to why they would subject themselves to this type of religion and pastoral behavior.

As a church leader, I want the body to know what's going on. As a church member, I expect to be informed. These people are still in denial over Jack Hyles legacy (evidence the statue) and have a history of deception (inflated numbers, etc.). Case in point, Jim Binney  preached there a week ago and was fired and no announcement has been made to the church.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Mike Harding's picture

James,

 

Sorry for coming across as a snob.  Not my intention.  I thought Wells had a clever way of voicing a legitimate concern.  As far as the pot calling the kettle black, you are dead wrong.  That's all I can say in this venue.  If you want credentials I will be glad to send them to you privately.

Pastor Mike Harding

JG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Personally, the truth or deceit of the medical leave statement is a minor detail. The problem is that the leadership of this church tolerated false doctrine and false leaders for too long. I can only speculate as to why they would subject themselves to this type of religion and pastoral behavior.

As a church leader, I want the body to know what's going on. As a church member, I expect to be informed. These people are still in denial over Jack Hyles legacy (evidence the statue) and have a history of deception (inflated numbers, etc.). Case in point, Jim Binney  preached there a week ago and was fired and no announcement has been made to the church.

Ron, this is one of the more profitable comments on the "medical leave" statement, in my opinion, because you are talking about what currently "is" rather than an event in the past which has been rectified (they've made quite sure no one thinks he is on medical leave).

Obviously, you know more about things Hammond than I do.

Would it be fair to say, then, that you believe that this was just a single action in a continuing line of deceit, and that the firing, public announcement thereof, and the contacting of the police has no real significance in regard to that pattern?

 

Jay's picture

Quote:
Ron, this is one of the more profitable comments on the "medical leave" statement, in my opinion, because you are talking about what currently "is" rather than an event in the past which has been rectified (they've made quite sure no one thinks he is on medical leave).

Obviously, you know more about things Hammond than I do.

Would it be fair to say, then, that you believe that this was just a single action in a continuing line of deceit, and that the firing, public announcement thereof, and the contacting of the police has no real significance in regard to that pattern?

I can't speak for Ron, but it would seem to me, on the basis of the things reported in the Biblical Evangelist articles and other stories and incidents that have been documented elsewhere, that there is a real pattern of hiding and covering over incidents and problems (including criminal activities of child sexual abuse) that should have been properly addressed but were not.  This was especially problematic under Hyles, and I'm hoping that they are actively working to deal with issues now in a correct manner, but I don't know.  So that's why I am going out harder on Hammond than I would on other churches. 

In regards to the questions about whether or not I have contacted FBC directly - I contacted Hammond this morning about a few things that I have seen or heard elsewhere about the Schaap case, including this matter of 'medical leave'.  If I hear back from them (I provided my contact information in the email), I will share what I can here.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jay wrote:

I can't speak for Ron, but it would seem to me [...] that there is a real pattern of hiding and covering over incidents and problems [...] that should have been properly addressed but were not.  This was especially problematic under Hyles, and I'm hoping that they are actively working to deal with issues now in a correct manner, but I don't know.


Jay, this is exactly why I would be inclined to give some charity to the current leadership (without excusing the sin of lying) when they are attempting to clean things up. Time will tell, but short term, at least, they've made a good step, even if other steps have faltered.

Could the leadership have not said anything other than "the pastor will be out today?" Yes. However, a pattern of coverup as large as the one you are referring to is not something easy to break in one day. The fact is that however imperfectly, they did deal with the problem, and did so fairly quickly. I'm not an expert on Hammond, but if the overall situation is as bad as you and others are saying (and I don't really doubt it), then I'm inclined to believe that baby steps are a *good* thing.

Dave Barnhart

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The Board of Deacons gets to set the medical policy not commenters at SI. The FBCH Board also gets to place someone on medical leave as they see fit, not other people. No one has come forth with proof Schaap was not on medical leave nor that the Deacon Board violated any policy.

The Word of God is explicit that public charges be supported by evidence and/or witnesses to the fact(s). None of that has been provided yet charges of lying on this are still being made.

Hmmmm... talking about accountability....

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jay, this is exactly why I would be inclined to give some charity to the current leadership (without excusing the sin of lying) when they are attempting to clean things up.

Dave, I think this is the general feeling. It has just been hard to get some to agree with the part in parenthesis. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jay's picture

I'm all in favor of giving charity, but I'm not in favor of extending charity to organizations that have a proven history of covering up illegal actions.  That falls under the 'increased scrutiny' category.

This isn't making me a happier person to talk about this subject.  I do it because I think that to demonstrate 'mercy' to an agency that has a poor record of handling these things (to be charitable) is not wise.

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

James K's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

James K wrote:
The concept that Wells points out is that seminaries are offering "D.Mins." today without M.Div. prerequisites, thus circumventing the theological and exegetical training necessary for serious preaching.

Mike, I am not sure if you agree with Wells on this or not, but this is academic snobbery at its worst.  Serious preaching is done with an MDiv?  It is kind of ironic that fundamentalists accuse the New Evangelicals of wanting the academic prestige and then I read this.  Pot to kettle: you are black.

Actually, it doesn't follow that if MDiv provides training necessary for serious preaching then MDiv is necessary for serious preaching.

For example, if I say "Walmart provides the necessary water to avoid dehydration" I am not necessarily saying "Walmart is necessary to avoid dehydration." I haven't referenced other sources of water.

The point of the complaint against DMins that circumvent MDiv requirements is that a place that exists to provide necessary training shouldn't omit a large chunk of it.

Also, the fundamentalist complaint about "academic prestige" is that evangelicals have sought prestige in secular and/or liberal academia--at the cost of orthodoxy. Not the same thing.

 

Aaron, here again is the statement I was questioning.

Quote:
The concept that Wells points out is that seminaries are offering "D.Mins." today without M.Div. prerequisites, thus circumventing the theological and exegetical training necessary for serious preaching.
.

The statement does indeed say what I was referring to.  The complaint is that the DMins are circumventing something necessary for serious preaching.  What is necessary in that statement to serious preaching?  Theological and exegetical training connected to MDivs.  Your example actually missed the point.

 

I know the academic desire wasn't identical to the NEs.  It is still the desire for academic prestige that is problematic.  The problem lamented is that schools are giving DMins (academic award) out to those who don't have the supposed training for it.  School A is better than School B because we make sure you have an extra 90 hours between your undergrad and the DMin.  Only those who have sat through enough lectures and written enough papers can earn this it is being argued.

 

I will use myself as an example.  I have an undergrad in Bible.  I have 90 hours of Bible/Theology in that degree.  Some of those courses were taken at the master level just to finish by a certain time.  Just how many hours do I need to take before I have earned the right to a DMin?

Take someone else as an example.  He has an undergrad in History.  He has no Bible.  He gets an MDiv with say 30 hours of Bible, 30 hours of how to do ministry from a classroom, and 30 hours of languages.  He is allowed to move right into a DMin because of the MDiv.

 

I remember making a pact with several friends about 10 years ago that none of us would accept an honorary doctorate.  They serve no purpose but to boost the ego of the recipients and school.  This isn't the world.  I do have serious problems in how Christians want to compete with the world in how it measures academics.  We don't want anyone thinking we are a bunch of rubes and hicks.  Huh, turns out that is the same thing that the NEs did.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

JG's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Jay, this is exactly why I would be inclined to give some charity to the current leadership (without excusing the sin of lying) when they are attempting to clean things up.

Dave, I think this is the general feeling. It has just been hard to get some to agree with the part in parenthesis. 

Chip, you're one of my favourite SI members.  I've appreciated you for a long time, said you should be on SI and was glad when you returned, and consider you a friend.  But this is not accurate. 

When I specifically agreed with the part in parentheses in comment #82 in that thread, you responded in the very next comment with further criticism -- their "moving past it" wasn't good enough.  Well, perhaps it wasn't, although they made sure no one thought "medical leave" was the issue, didn't they?  But whatever, we weren't debating excusing lying, were we?  Neither of us was doing that.

I specifically said they shouldn't have gone the "medical leave" route, more than once.  Yet you and others argued with me when I called for more charity in light of the steps they have taken AFTER the medical leave error.  The discussion was a lot more than trying to get "some to agree with the part in parentheses." 

If someone goes back and looks at that thread, there were plenty of harsh statements before anyone spoke up on their behalf.  And the first person who spoke up on their behalf did not excuse the "medical leave" statement, he just said pretty much exactly what Dave said here -- give some charity.  He got grief for it, as I did later.  The strong statements made against Hammond on that thread were not made because it was "hard to get some to agree with the part in parenthesis" -- those statements started long before anyone spoke up on Hammond's behalf at all.  It's all there in the thread for anyone who cares to look.

It's ironic that in that very thread, an SI member made a blatantly untrue statement, which everyone in the thread should have known was untrue, based on the links SI has provided --including one Jim provided in that very thread.  FBCH's statement was at least technically true, but implied something that wasn't true.  His was blatantly false.  Theirs was manifestly not intended to hurt anyone -- in fact, it may have been specifically intended to be kind to Schaap's family.  His was intended to make people think badly of professing believers.  No one pointed it out for more than 50 posts and 6 days.  He never set the record straight or apologised, even after the facts were noted.  FBCH set the record straight on theirs in 48 hours or less.  No one on the thread demanded he apologise, but they did demand that FBCH do so.  No one (thankfully) impugned his motives (he probably believed what he said when he said it) -- but the fact remains that his statement was both untrue and unkind.  Plenty of people had unkind speculations about FBCH's motives.

The SI community strongly condemned the one that was far away, and ignored the one in their midst.  Not, perhaps, the finest moment on SI.  Well, not moment, but two weeks, since there's still no retraction or apology, nor any call for such until this very comment.

I admit, it's usually a lot easier to notice untruth among people we don't like than it is to notice it when it is negative towards those people.  But untruth is still untruth.  If we're going to condemn it without grace, attribute negative motives, and ignore the fact that the record got set straight, we should at least start at home.

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

JG,

Thank you for the kind words, and know I feel the same way. (BTW, I haven't ignored your email, I've just been swamped this week and haven't had time to respond yet)

Forgive me, but I can't remember exactly which thread you are referencing so I can't go back and look at post 82. However, the crux here is the parenthesis (without excusing the sin of lying). I think a number of us have agreed that it is great they stepped up and got rid of Schaap. However, ignoring the lying and just moving on IS excusing it. That's the point. You seem to agree with that sentiment as you point to an incident from elsewhere in that thread. You recognize that no one ever apologized for that mistake, and they should have. That is the core issue several of us have been pointing out with FBCH. No one ever acknowledged or straightened out what almost everyone has acknowledged they shouldn't have done.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

JG's picture

Appreciate you.  Doesn't matter about the email, now.  I got the answer I was looking for somewhere else.

The thread in question.

Your post #83 (in response to mine) included:  "Or do you move past it by acknowledging what you did wrong and seeking to rectify it?" 

It seems to me they pretty clearly acknowledged that he isn't (and wasn't) out of the pulpit for medical reasons.  I doubt you could find anyone who is deceived on that point.  So, I would say they have rectified any deceit that took place.  They've undone it and made sure that not only those who were deceived, but those who may not have known about it, know the truth of the matter.

Have they specifically said they were sorry, and called it deceit?  I don't know.  Do you?  It would obviously be better if they had.  We agree.  That's what I'd do if I found myself in that situation, I hope.  I'm sure you would, too.  But....

Did Peter specifically say he was sorry and acknowledge his pride for saying that if all men forsook Christ, he never would?  We aren't ever told that he did.  The closest we get, perhaps, is his refusal to echo "more than these" when Christ asked him in John 21.

Did John Mark ever apologize for leaving Paul and Barnabas?  We don't know.  All we know is that he got to the place where Paul said he was profitable.

Did David ever say he was sorry for the lies surrounding Uriah / Bathsheba?  The Scripture doesn't say.  He did acknowledge sin, very clearly, but we don't see any evidence that he admitted that he had wronged Uriah, or for that matter that he had wronged Bathsheba, or his own wives, or his family, or the nation.

We emphasise apologies, and apologies are important, but Scripture emphasises changed behaviour.  It isn't being sorry, but repentance, that matters, and the real measure of repentance is change.  When I look at FBCH, if the links SI has provided us are accurate, I see meeting with Schaap Saturday, "medical leave" Sunday, firing Monday, press release Tuesday (by which time the police have been involved by the deacons).  That means behaviour was, very soon, significantly different from "medical leave" and in a very good way.  But even more, it means a very significant repudiation of the entire cover-up culture of the past.

Is there reason to doubt whether it's any more than a one-time blip where they felt they just had to do it?  Sure, there's reason to doubt that.  But the Christian thing is to have a wait-and-see attitude, rather than blast away.

You know what the tone of the thread should have been?  "Praise the Lord for what they've done!  Too bad about the 'medical leave' thing, but it's hardly surprising with the patterns of the past.  Hopefully they'll do better in future on things like that.  Let's keep an eye on this and pray for them, it looks like the Lord may be working to clean up a lot of problems there after all these years."  THAT would have been God-honouring.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

No one, absolutely no one, has provided evidence that Jack Schaap was not on medical leave, no one.

No one has provided evidence or proof that Schaap was dismissed at the time this was told to the congregation. No one.

No one has provided evidence that the Board of Deacons, in issuing this statement, lied. No one.

And up to now that would mean no one, absolutely no one, has the freedom before God (assuming those engaged in this view themselves as before God) to imply one is lying in this case or act upon that implication by treating it as a truth, never mind out right accusing someone of lying.

Sad to say, though, I am not all that surprised that it is not tolerated as acceptable Christian behavior. But hey, it doesn't count because it involves people that others don't like, right? I can see it now were it our Lord was in the midst of his earthly ministry today coming to the Lord with their claim...

Jesus: Hello my son. You have accused someone of lying. Where are your witness and evidence? This is a serious charge.

Accuser: Uh...well, I deduced they were lying, I don't really have any evidence.

Jesus: Oh you deduced it. I see, and you think your deductions are evidence?

Accuser: No, as I said I don't have any evidence but I am an expert deducer and really, Lord, it is obvious, isn't it? I mean look, they were in the midst of firing him and right after that week they announced it so they knew he was going to be fired therefore, it just makes sense that he was probably already fired, so they lied!

Jesus: I see. But do you know for a fact that their Pastor was not on medical leave?

Accuser: Uh...no, not in fact.

Jesus: And do you know the exact date he was terminated as the Pastor.

Accuser: Uh...no Lord, not in fact.

Jesus: Could the Pastor have, in fact, been on medical leave at that time?

Accuser: Uh...yes Lord...but...but...

Jesus: But what my son?

Accuser: But...but...it isn't right. He didn't have some broken arm or something and they knew he was in trouble and going to be fired.

Jesus: Did they tell you they knew this?

Accuser: Uh...no, I am assuming they knew, I mean it's obvious!

Jesus: Oh I see, you get to write the rules for the church and not the actual Deacon Board and then condemn them for not following your rules? Mighty Kingly of you.

Accuser: No that isn't what I mean.

Jesus: Whatever it is you do mean, my son, that is what you are doing.

Jesus: Do you know or have anything other than your opinions and assumptions?

Accuser: Uh, no Lord, not really.

Jesus: You are forgiven. Go and sin no more.

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

1. Scripture doesn't just expect a change of behavior; it requires a change of heart. God knows hearts, we can only hear words and see actions. Furthermore, God instructs us to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged, not just ignore it and do better going forward.

2. I don't think an argument from silence proves that those men in scripture didn't verbally repent and ask forgiveness.

3. You wrote: 

It seems to me they pretty clearly acknowledged that he isn't (and wasn't) out of the pulpit for medical reasons.  I doubt you could find anyone who is deceived on that point.

I agree as far as your statement goes. They are no longer lying about why he isn't in the pulpit, and no one is deceived any longer. However, they did lie, and people were deceived. That is the point. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

JG's picture

I, with you, am dismayed at the tone and level of criticism, but let's be clear.  He was not put on medical leave because of medical problems, but moral ones, and to announce that he wasn't there and was on medical leave gave a false impression -- that he wasn't there because of a medical problem.  It was hardly fully honest.

Now whether we can assume there was willful intent to deceive is quite another question, and doubt on that point should temper any criticism, as should the succeeding events.

But we shouldn't be treating this as if it was fully honest.  It was at best an unfortunate mistake, in which they failed to realise that it would give a false impression.  And that's the best interpretation you can put on it.

AndrewSuttles's picture

I don't understand what the hangup is about what kind of leave Schaap was put on while the matter was being looked into.  Perhaps medical leave was the only leave available.  It's best to have the facts before acting and two days is not an unreasonable amount of time.  The leadership needed to get the details before acting - that is a mature and responsible way to act.  Whether there were better leave options - I don't care.  Perhaps there is a lesson to learn.

 

The ONLY reason I can imagine that someone wants to make this into an issue is because someone is from another circle and relishes in the opportunity to slam on the Hyles circle while they are down.  This is inexcusable, in my mind.  When there is a sad tragedy like this, we should feel sad and  repentant, not pround and self-righteous!

JG's picture

First, "lying."  Lying requires intent to deceive.  This intent is unproven.  Confusion, sloppy thinking, etc could be alternative sources for what happened.  We should not accuse without proof.  But even if proven, the rest of my point stands.  There is at least one very strong evidence of repentance, changed behaviour.  In this case, that changed behaviour is also a confession that the "medical leave" wasn't the whole truth.  So it is effectively a confession.

An argument from silence does not prove those men didn't seek forgiveness, but it does prove that apologies to humans is not what Scripture emphasises.  We agree that Christ told us to do it. 

I again refer to II Chronicles 30:18-20, as I did in the other thread.  These people had not done all that God required.  Hezekiah did not declaim loudly that they hadn't.  He prayed that the Lord would receive them anyway, and the Lord did.  Our heart should be like Hezekiah's.  We should be thankful when we see a move that appears to be towards the Lord, and pray that the Lord will continue to work. 

Some in SI's community, I fear, would be saying that Hezekiah condoned their failure to cleanse themselves.  Well, I don't condone what was done that Sunday at FBCH, but I do think it is very comparable to II Chronicles 30.  They didn't cleanse themselves on that Sunday, but Monday / Tuesday, they came to the feast, and I pray the Lord received and pardoned.

And (off topic) I know that there are those who will say separatists haven't been like Hezekiah.  My answer would be that they, too often, are right in that charge. 

Finally, I still want to know exactly what, if anything, is wrong with the last paragraph in my post above.  And I think I'll include it in any other post I might make on this until someone tells me what is wrong with it.

You know what the tone of the thread should have been?  "Praise the Lord for what they've done!  Too bad about the 'medical leave' thing, but it's hardly surprising with the patterns of the past.  Hopefully they'll do better in future on things like that.  Let's keep an eye on this and pray for them, it looks like the Lord may be working to clean up a lot of problems there after all these years."  THAT would have been God-honouring.

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