Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

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Jim's picture

https://www.willowcreek.org/en/blogs/south-barrington/elder-letter

We will examine allegations against Bill that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board. We will respectfully reach out to each woman who has made an accusation, even if she has not brought her concerns directly to the Board. We commit that each woman willing to speak with us will be heard, and that we will respect her story. 

...

We will review and modify Willow email retention policies to reflect the best practices of organizations that deal with sensitive data.

Bert Perry's picture

Earlier, I'd wondered if the renewal of the allegations against Hybels were his accusers' gambit to see if more victims would speak up, and later on, a Chicago Tribune article clearly indicated that at least some members thought Hybels was guilty--they were expecting more contrition.   It seems that gambit worked.

In that light, the church is 100% correct to look at the factors that could have led to this simmering for a long time--the cultural factors that lead to acceptance of sin.  They are also 100% correct to look into the email issues and correct at least their own systems.  

What I don't see yet;I don't see a commitment to use a truly independent auditor (they're regrettably like MSU that way), and they've not quite come clean on what they actually did find in earlier investigations, nor are they reopening them.  As such, the process is set up such that it can be "finagled" to find "no clearer evidence of wrongdoing" without necessarily comparing notes and saying "hey, there is a pattern here."

That's not saying that WILL happen, but the structure will certainly allow it.  So my view here is that the gambit by the Mellados and others worked, and Hybels has responded more or less by taking his ball and going home.  On the flip side, however, the church's response looks to be a little bit more of a strategic retreat than a capitulation--they're going to investigate the new allegations and assume their old work was OK.  We'll see what they do when a few more complaints are made.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Not quite interested enough to sift through all the details, but the Tribune's summary of the accusations is this...

The alleged behavior included suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms. It also included an allegation of a prolonged consensual affair with a married woman who later said her claim about the affair was not true, the Tribune found.

Sounds like anything illegal is unlikely, which would make it entirely a matter of internal discipline for a local church.

The gist: if there is crime involved, it should be handled by the appropriate authorities. If not, it's internal.

On a side note, anyone remember when these sorts of things were supposedly a uniquely IFB problem? I remember getting quite a bit of push back for suggesting that it's not an IFB problem, it's a human problem.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Anyone who thinks this sort of thing is unique to the IFB is neither paying attention to world around them, nor paying attention to the teachings of Scripture.  Sound like someone who has an IFB ax to grind.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, I'd be careful about saying it's just an "internal matter".  For starters, a lot of the complainants are now outside of Willow Creek, and it's become a public issue.  Going further, you can't have as much of a publishing and conference business as do Hybels and Willow Creek without the issue becoming quite a bit more public as well.

Most importantly, when we say it is "entirely a matter of internal discipline", that too often translates to "it will be handled internally by people who have a clear motivation to keep some embarrassing things private."  And as we know from the Nassar scandal, that often correlates to keeping the guilty in place to hurt more people.  

We also need to keep in mind that what we see now may be the tip of the iceberg.  Let's be honest about this; Hybels is credibly accused of hitting on a Zondervan publisher who had the power to throw his manuscripts in the circular file if she got ticked enough, and really most of the accusers to this point are people who could get along just fine without Hybels' good will.  

Now here's the question; how did Hybels treat people who did need his good will to earn their living?  See what I'm getting at?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I see your reasoning, but I have a different perspective. Sorry for the long post, but I don't have time right now to pare it down. 

If conference attendees, buyers of books, etc. lose respect/confidence in the ministry, there will certainly be consequences for the ministry.
Three things guide my perspective on how these things should be handled:

  • Belief in spheres of authority and responsibility
  • Belief in the autonomy of the local church
  • Belief in the madness of crowds/skepticism toward public demands for action

On the first, if there are allegations of illegal conduct, it's obvious that law enforcement should be involved.

On the second, autonomy means there is no organization outside the local congregation that has authority to regulate it's internal affairs. The church leadership answers to the congregation and to Christ who is the Head of the church.

On the third, modern values of transparency and accountability are often distorted all out of proportion in our culture. I'm not against these values, but when they are demanded by angry crowds, the compliance of leaders is often all a matter of perception management, rather than their own sincere evaluation of the situation.

So "what's right" not only suffers from desires to cover up, etc.; it also suffers at the hands of agitators with demands -- quite often uninvolved persons who really don't have all the relevant facts (or aren't interested in them!).

Now it would be wise for the church leadership to provide carefully constructed communications to the general public, as they seem to be inclined to do at this point. But if it's all ethical (vs. legal) they have obligations to those harmed. They are are in no way answerable to the public in general.

They could even voluntarily bring in a third party investigator, if they believe there is value in that, but they should make it clear that this is something they are volunteering to do. It's a fine line, though. How do you tell an angry crowd that you are giving them what they want but only because you choose to? People will believe what they decide, either way, but it's important for church leadership to not let public pressure cloud their judgment. 

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, I just cringe at how you're trying to apply autonomy of the local church, especially since exactly that version of autonomy has blown up in the face of Chuck Phelps, New Tribes, ABWE, 1st Baptist of Hammond, BJU, and a lot of others.  To persist in that line of thinking after all these disasters is really to say that elders and deacons at like-minded churches see no particular wisdom in Proverbs 12:15.  

Moreover, I cannot balance such a view with the history of how God dealt with His people.  In the Old Testaments, prophets routinely rebuked Israel and her priests for violating basic principles of the Torah.  In the New Testament, the pastoral epistles are, in a nutshell, a series of outside instructions for the Church.  Jesus made a consistent practice of taking up the prophetic mantle when dealing with the excesses of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadduccees.  Really, if the church leaders are accountable only to the church and to God, the apostle John owes Diotrephes a big 'ol apology, don't you think?

No argument that the New Testament does not set up an episcopacy culminating in a patriarch or Pope, and that does compel us to either a presbyterian or congregational form of church government, but that does not mean, nor does the Scripture say, that accusations against the church ought to be handled in the way you recommend.  For that matter, at no point have fundamentalists ever applied that position to churches with which they disagree--denunciation, shunning, etc., are the rule, and not the exception.  

And quite frankly, while we might debate the particulars, that's healthy.  The end of the apostolic era by no means does what you claim, but rather there is a body of sound theology and best practice where Christians not in particular local churches have perfect authority to say "knock it off!", and this case is one of them.  

Let's be honest as well about what the "madness of crowds" is saying in cases like this; in a nutshell, they're saying that institutions accused of tolerating wrongdoing should not be in charge of investigating themselves.  Again, Biblically, that's exactly what you see, and you've also got a very strong argument that elders and deacons ought to see themselves more generally accountable because they must, per 1 Timothy 3, have a good reputation among outsiders.  

And again, you cannot have a good reputation among outsiders if, as appears to be the case with Hybels, that a church kind of winked their eye at his behavior and even said "oopsie, we couldn't look at those emails" and then pronounced the case closed.  No good investigator does that.

Churches can continue along the path you outline, Aaron, but the warning I have to give is that doing so is a great way of getting to know lawyers on a non-personal basis, who will bleed out the church's substance billable hour by billable hour and judgment by judgment.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Cringe all you like, Bert. What I've described is the NT way, and none of us will care about the lawyers at the judgment.

I'm not sure you're understanding my position though. I don't know why. It's how NT churches have operated since the book of Acts.

But even apart from the ecclesiology issue, it's a simple logical fact that absolutely no organization is accountable to the demands of third parties. If there are allegations of illegal activity, that's what law enforcement is for. If there are ethical concerns, that's called internal affairs. That's the sum total of their obligations. And sorry, it really is that simple.

If they are an organization that serves the public, such as a retail establishment, etc., they are wise to consider how their choices impact that relationship. But the public has no authority over them. Likewise with a church or nonprofit, they have reputation and relationship to their communities to consider. But they have no obligations beyond the law and their own constituents (for government entities, constituents includes everybody in their jurisdiction.)

I don't know why you're finding this difficult. Law is for the courts. Ethics is for internal leadership and review -- and whatever outside help they voluntarily choose to employ. There is nothing novel or dangerous about this.

Bert Perry's picture

If it is indeed the New Testament example--I've provided evidence that it is not-then it will be no difficulty for you to actually provide some.

It should also be noted that I am not speaking of a legal obligation where people will go to the deacons' meeting with guns and force them to do something, but rather a moral obligation to listen.  That flows, in my view, rather obviously from 1 Tim. 3:7, and I would further argue that your interpretation of local church autonomy is likely to empower those who (Titus 1) are overbearing.

And really, that's exactly what I've seen here, including from you.  Sad to say, when I hear people talking about the "madness of crowds", saying "they don't know all the information", or saying "I answer only to the congregation and God",  I know immediately that the person speaking is committing a genetic fallacy, and they are not addressing the claims of the complainants.   That, in turn, has everything to do with whether the elders are qualified according to 1 Tim. 3. and Titus 1.  

It also explains why, in my view at least, elder boards and Christian school/college administrators are almost always in the wrong when they argue "autonomy".  It's simply a matter of false reasoning born of a hard heart that does not see one's external reputation as important. 

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

There's an interesting set of accusations in that post. I admit, I didn't expect that.

In any case, there are two main questions here: the question of how autonomy should and does work in organizations in general, and the question of how local church autonomy should work, in particular.

The first of the two, alone, is a bit involved for the comments section. The second needs at least an overview of the systematic theology involved.

I should have a short post on the first up tomorrow and might have the second ready for Monday or Tuesday. 

The second one especially is a topic I've wanted to post something on for a while anyway, though we may already have a good summary in the archives. 

These are topics I've had to reflect on frequently over the last decade and a half or so. 

Jay's picture

On the first, if there are allegations of illegal conduct, it's obvious that law enforcement should be involved.

On the second, autonomy means there is no organization outside the local congregation that has authority to regulate it's internal affairs. The church leadership answers to the congregation and to Christ who is the Head of the church.

Aaron, the state regulates our internal affairs all the time via building codes and zoning laws and such.  And as for allegations that could/should potentially disqualify a man from ministry, the principles of 1 Timothy 5:19 do most certainly apply, regardless of the man's fame or reach.

I don't agree with suing a man to drive him from ministry, but I don't think that it is problematic for victims of sexual harassment to stand up for justice by making an issue of the way that he and the church treated them if the church does not take the allegations seriously or, as we have seen with others, covers them up and pretends like they don't exist.  We know that elders / deacons / teachers are held to higher standards than others.  If those standards are enforced selectively, then it is fitting and just to make that known so that the church can clean itself up.

Judgment always begins at the house of God first.  We need to keep our act together if we want to have any hope of ministering to those outside of Christ.

"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

Joeb's picture

In my mind if the church is a mega church doing a para-church/business ministry then the matter is Christian public’s business at large for a moral failure and repeated bad behavior by the Pastor/CEO.   Although in regards to most run of the mill local churches with local ministries, Aaron is correct it is strictly the business of the congregation as long as it is not CRIMINAL.  

The Pastors and Leaders who failed in this area were ones who were exceedingly DUMB or outright engaged in criminal activity themselves.  Is this problem particularly attached to the IFB.  As a whole it’s a problem of the Evangelical/Fundy Community and the Catholic Church.  Who cares about anyone else we are suppose to know better.  When someone robs a bank you call the cops  

I remember when Gordon got a new President and Sharper Iron People thought the person was a good move for Gordon because he was more conservative.  Guess what guys he repeated the same mistakes BJU and Chuck Phelps made and did it in 2016 even though those incidents were previously so highly publicized.  Dumb Dumber.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

Jay wrote:

On the first, if there are allegations of illegal conduct, it's obvious that law enforcement should be involved.

On the second, autonomy means there is no organization outside the local congregation that has authority to regulate it's internal affairs. The church leadership answers to the congregation and to Christ who is the Head of the church.

Aaron, the state regulates our internal affairs all the time via building codes and zoning laws and such.  And as for allegations that could/should potentially disqualify a man from ministry, the principles of 1 Timothy 5:19 do most certainly apply, regardless of the man's fame or reach.

I don't agree with suing a man to drive him from ministry, but I don't think that it is problematic for victims of sexual harassment to stand up for justice by making an issue of the way that he and the church treated them if the church does not take the allegations seriously or, as we have seen with others, covers them up and pretends like they don't exist.  We know that elders / deacons / teachers are held to higher standards than others.  If those standards are enforced selectively, then it is fitting and just to make that known so that the church can clean itself up.

Judgment always begins at the house of God first.  We need to keep our act together if we want to have any hope of ministering to those outside of Christ.

"Internal affairs" has a pretty standard definition and compliance with local building codes isn't usually included in that... In any case, please see the article posted today about local church autonomy. It's true that all autonomy is limited to some extent. Some limits are imposed without our consent, some we accept as part of relationships. It doesn't follow that all voluntary limits on autonomy are wise limits.

As for sexual harassment, where it's a crime, it should be (1) turned over to authorities to investigate an prosecute and (2) handled internally as a matter of discipline. Where it's not a crime (I don't claim to know the laws on the matter), it's church discipline (or in secular settings, internal affairs.)

We had a case at the church I pastored years ago in which a member robbed a bank. He was arrested and jailed. The church disciplined him in absentia. The law cannot replace God's call to congregations to discipline their members, but churches should fully cooperate with law enforcement in their efforts to do their job.

But I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot.

Jay's picture

"As for sexual harassment, where it's a crime, it should be (1) turned over to authorities to investigate an prosecute and (2) handled internally as a matter of discipline. Where it's not a crime (I don't claim to know the laws on the matter), it's church discipline (or in secular settings, internal affairs.)"

Aaron, that's the entire problem. People in the church - did - try to handle it internally. Hybels had several allegations made against him. So has Mahaney. Hey, Hyles had all sorts of allegations against him, as did J. Frank Norris, if I remember correctly, prior to his killing of that man in the church. Paige Patterson is yet another example of this, with more stories coming out by the hour, it seems.

There are dozens of cases I could cite where the Pastor/Elder/Deacons shut that investigation down before it started if they didn't preempt it first by disciplining out the reporters. That is why this issue is blowing up all over the place...the testimony of two or three witnesses is a mockery in many places, if the elder/pastor disagrees. So just saying that it should be handled internally is not sufficient because the church or organization itself is so thoroughly corrupt.

We agree on involving the police, but what happens when the police want to proceed with charges and the pastor holds the congregation in his thrall? We rightfully mocked Hyles for his "100% FOR Hyles" from years ago, but the dynamics are similar in many places even if not so obvious and brazen. 

"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

Aaron Blumer's picture

We agree on involving the police, but what happens when the police want to proceed with charges and the pastor holds the congregation in his thrall? We rightfully mocked Hyles for his "100% FOR Hyles" from years ago, but the dynamics are similar in many places even if not so obvious and brazen. 

This may sound crass, but it's just the truth. When congregations and the law have done all they can and a guilty party is not brought to justice, we all have to move on. It shouldn't surprise us that in such a world as this, sometimes justice and truth lose. If we congregations can learn lessons and do better, they should. But we can't let a desire to get the bad guy every time drive them to sacrificing things they are not authorized by God to sacrifice.

The autonomy of a local church is fragile, precious, and God's design. Churches should be very cautious about letting outsiders damage it, though, again, there may be ways they enlist nonauthoritative outside help. On that option, it's up to the congregation to decide how to proceed on a case by case basis.

Bert Perry's picture

The Scripture gives us zero examples of a church having  a moral or ethical crisis and not hearing from someone outside whose word was taken seriously.  Sorry, can't go with that notion of church autonomy, as it simply has no Biblical support.  If it were as clear as you say, Aaron, you would have been able to provide examples, and so far, you've got bupkus.

Moreover, to use the examples of Hyles, Patterson, or a host of other pastors who have fallen into sin, when you've got a gross moral failure that slipped by those in church leadership, maybe, just maybe, it's a really good idea to take a serious look, including an outsider look, to see why it happened.  When you get a failure in a company--a product doesn't work as marketed, etc..--the customer generally requires an investigation which is then reviewed--ahem--by the outsider. 

It's called an 8D form, and I've done a lot of them.  If the customer isn't satisfied, the 8D is rejected, and after a certain number of rejected 8Ds, the customer either stops doing business with the vendor, or they send their supplier quality engineer for an onsite visit.  It works really well. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

This may sound crass, but it's just the truth. When congregations and the law have done all they can and a guilty party is not brought to justice, we all have to move on. It shouldn't surprise us that in such a world as this, sometimes justice and truth lose. If we congregations can learn lessons and do better, they should. But we can't let a desire to get the bad guy every time drive them to sacrificing things they are not authorized by God to sacrifice.

OK, I get that in cases like the OJ Simpson murder trial where the victim is dead.

My point when you (or I) are dealing with this inside of the faith and with other believers is that "moving on" isn't nearly as easily said or done, nor does it mitigate the damage done to the victims' trust in their spiritual leaders (cf Hebrews 13:17) or especially their view of God, who is often blamed for the perpetrator's escape from justice.  In a situation like that, I point the person to passages like 2 Cor. 5:10, but words aren't enough to help them overcome the damage and hurt.  That's where careful shepherding comes into play, and where radical transparency and through investigations can do more than just reassure with empty words.

"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

Bert Perry's picture

Isn't the Biblical model "repentance", not "moving on"?  And exactly how are we to come to real repentance if we don't take a good hard look at what happened and why?  

Really, "moving on" is like Willow Creek saying "well, we couldn't read all those 1150 emails that would have spelled out exactly what Hybels did nor not, oopsie, oh, and if you're wondering whether he can ever be trusted, well, we're not going to let an independent investigator take a look at them because we think that the crowds asking for this suffer from madness." 

Great way to torpedo your credibility in nothing flat.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Three points on that:

1. Human beings do not have the power to secure the repentance of other human beings. Church discipline attempts to persuade repentance, but having run its course, it has nothing more to do than remove the offending member, at most. But having decided whatever it decides as a congregation, it's done. Time to move on.

5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (ESV, 1 Corinthians 5:5)

2. I don't even know what has happened or not happened at Willow Creek. The simple fact is that it isn't any of our business, unless one of us is a member there and I didn't know it. For any illegalities that may be alleged, there are local police. For misconduct, there is the congregation. Beyond that are only two parties left: God and onlookers who really have no say in the matter. Surely the fact that one of the remaining two parties is God should be good enough for us!

3. If the congregation at WC wants to bring in investigators, that's certainly their right, and there seem to be some good reasons to consider that. What I've been arguing is that it isn't anyone's business but theirs, and involving outsiders is their decision as a church and theirs alone. (Unless, I repeat, there are issues of law, in which case, Romans 13 comes into play.)

OK, I said 3, but here's a fourth:  Don't we all have plenty of responsibilities without trying to take on jobs God has in fact assigned to others?

TylerR's picture

This is exactly right, Aaron:

What I've been arguing is that it isn't anyone's business but theirs, and involving outsiders is their decision as a church and theirs alone

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

TylerR wrote:

This is exactly right, Aaron:

What I've been arguing is that it isn't anyone's business but theirs, and involving outsiders is their decision as a church and theirs alone

No, it's exactly wrong.  Aaron has been claiming that his view of the autonomy of churches is pretty much self-evident, and challenged to provide evidence for that position, he's come up with nothing.  Sorry, but the New Testament after the Gospels is the story of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, John, and an unnamed person who wrote Hebrews meddling in the business of supposedly hyper-autonomous churches.  The very structure of the Scriptures assumes a broader accountability. 

I'd like to introduce an alternative concept that derives from this pattern of the New Testament, matches Nathan's rebuke of David, and matches Isaiah 52:5 and Romans 2:24's rebuke of Godless Hebrews; that there is, per the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds, a holy catholic (universal, not Romish) church (Matthew 16: 17-19 and elsewhere) that indeed does have something at stake when the leaders of one local body sin openly. Just as the Old and New Testaments set ample precedent for men of good faith to call erring brothers to repentance, so does that precedent hold today. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

You're arguing for (at best) a Presbyterian form of church government and (at worst) an Episcopal one. Have fun with that. I'll especially enjoy watching how you argue from Scripture:

  1. that apostolic authority continued beyond the original apostles,
  2. identifying who these successors are today, and
  3. where Scripture says we must be accountable to them,
  4. and what that accountability looks like in practical terms in real local churches
  5. and how one can become one of these apostolic successors ('cuz I have some ideas of my own I'd like to impose on folks)
  6. and how you justify conflating the larger body of Christ with local churches in your remarks

Even if you reject an Episcopal form of church government and go more Presbyterian, you'll still have to argue:

  1. that the unique apostolic authority continued beyond the original apostles
  2. identify who these unique leaders are today
  3. identify who's accountable to them, and who isn't
  4. identify the implications for those churches who refuse to acknowledge their authority
  5. and then explain, in concrete terms, what on earth you're suggesting

Your remarks are abstractions. They have no practical relevance to real local churches in real life, because you haven't yet left the clouds and gotten down to brass tacks.  

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Try again.  Keep in mind that Luke, Mark, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews were not apostles, and they all meddled.  Keep in mind as well that Paul's authority  (2 Cor. ) was often challenged as well. 

You need posit no apostolic succession to preserve the notion of a lower case catholic church, nor do you need bishops, nor do you need what you say to suggest that ordinary,outside people have the right (and responsibility) at times to say "knock it off, you're embarrassing the cause of Christ."  The Scriptures show this rather clearly.

Care to attempt a Scriptural justification of Aaron's notion of radical autonomy of the church?  Haven't seen anything yet, and it's been what, a week?  'bout time someone tried to justify it rather than simply assuming the conclusion.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Care to attempt a Scriptural justification of Aaron's notion of radical autonomy of the church?  Haven't seen anything yet, and it's been what, a week?  'bout time someone tried to justify it rather than simply assuming the conclusion.

Seriously? 

https://sharperiron.org/article/ethics-scandals-and-local-church-autonomy

Granted, I haven't written my own biblical case for congregational autonomy, but the article above includes quite a bit of biblical evidence scattered through it as well as linked to. 

(When you declare that something doesn't exist, that doesn't make it disappear. You, do know that, right?) 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Your article simply doesn't make the case.  Paul explicitly overrides a church's Matthew 18 decision in 2 Corinthians.  Your reference to 1 Tim 6:3-5 makes no such case as you assert--it rather follows a section about the duty of slaves to their masters.  Your other arguments are simply references to other documents, and the one you cite, Fisher's catechism, contains no Scripture references to back up its contentions.

Give it a try.  If your version of radical autonomy of the church is do obvious, it should be no trouble to find some actual Biblical evidence for it.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

I have no idea what you're talking about, and your remarks show you either haven't studied the issue of church government on a substantive level, or you've forgotten what you read. You don't seem to understand what I'm referring to in my general questions about the mechanics of Presbyterian and Episcopal forms of church government, which betrays your ignorance of the larger issues. You're suggesting Presbyterian or Episcopal forms of government by your comments; if you don't see these implications then you don't know what you're talking about. 

I still don't know what you want local churches to do, and what on earth you're recommending. Anyone can raise a hue and cry and exert pressure to influence a church take a course of action. Indeed, you're doing that now, in this thread. But, the decision makers in Baptist churches are the congregation, as they're led by the pastors and deacons. If a congregation and its deacons allow a pastor to get away with all sorts of sin, it's the congregation's fault.  

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

OK, so I haven't studied in depth--for the sake of argument, let's go there.  Now, let's deal with the reality; if indeed I am as ignorant as you claim, a simple, Biblical answer ought to make a huge difference, no?  Not just citing creeds and confessions, go back and give some Biblical examples of how churches are actually seen as autonomous in the way Aaron (and you) claim.  

I submit that you are going to have a hard time because the very nature of an epistle to a church, whether from an apostle, an apostle not seen as having authority (e.g. Paul in 2. Corinthians) by some, or a non-apostle like Luke, James, Jude, or the writer of Hebrews, presumes the very kind of interference Aaron denies.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

If you deny individual church autonomy, then you're arguing for Presbyterian or Episcopal polity. If you wish to read a Biblical defense of antonymous church government, you can find one in any good Baptist systematic theology. In your zeal to see evildoers punished (a sentiment everyone here shares, by the way), you've denied local churches the right to handle their own affairs. 

I look forward to notice from you about withdrawing your membership from a Baptist church. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

I don't deny autonomy at all.  At this point, I argue that there is a necessary degree of autonomy that derives from the fact that Christ appointed 12 apostles, and does not seem to have set up an org chart for the Church.  I am unconvinced of the episcopal arguments deriving, more or less, from "you are Peter, and upon this rock", for an episcopacy.  Never mind the difficulty of getting to any Protestant episcopal structure from that argument!

All I am saying here is that church autonomy does not go to the extent Aaron suggests because the New Testament (and Old Testament) accounts feature outsiders giving negative feedback to local churches all the time.  

Again, if I'm so ignorant here, it should be easy to come up with Biblical examples that affirm what Aaron says here.  If not, it's time to walk it back to a Biblical, sustainable position.  Quoting Westminster or other confessions is not going to get you there.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

I don't think anybody reading this thread, or any of the others, understands what on earth you're saying. People can give negative feedback anytime they want. I'll leave this conversation now. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

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