"It would seem that the council system could readily be adapted to address at least some of the problems related to sexual abuse."

“While a council does not have the powers of a judicatory, it could still offer public advice as to the suitability the accused pastor’s conduct.” Church Accountability and Sexual Abuse

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Good thoughts in this peace on the general theme of how to be independent without being isolated. Indep. Baptists need to be far less isolated. I'd personally love to see an organization arise that actively looks for problems that might be solved or mitigated through church councils, then takes initiative to try to get these councils formed (not in ref. to allegations of sex abuse, but for allegations of financial misconduct, doctrine and practice problems, chronic internal conflict problems, etc.)

Wayne Wilson's picture

Very glad to see this topic being addressed.  it's long past due.  Good thoughts and suggestions from Dr. Bauder.  Hopefully, this will go somewhere and not be forgotten. 

Julie Anne's picture

Boz Tchividjian has an organization, net.Grace.org, which provides information and resources to help church leaders know how to navigate the challenging waters of sex abuse in church.  All churches should take steps to have policies in place to safeguard children.  In this day and age, it's a liability if you do not.  

Regardless of legalities, shepherds must safeguard their flock.  When a sexual incident occurs and the church fails to respond appropriately, the victim is now left with 2 huge obstacles to overcome:  the sexual victimization and feelings of abandonment by the church leaders which often results in a crisis of faith.  

M. Osborne's picture

Suggestion: While the plan keys in on the need for New Testament community and local accountability, in rural areas or areas where the sister churches are small, those churches may lack resources, experience, and mature messengers with the time to dedicate to reviewing the situation properly. Perhaps those councils should add to themselves someone, even if from outside the area, with more experience asking the right questions, getting the right information, following up on the right loose ends. Admittedly, this costs someone $$$.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Brad Kelly's picture

What is the point of having a church council when, "The church is not obligated to accept the recommendation from the council."?

I'm not sure playing games with "Independent" vs "independent" vs "autonomous" really addresses the deeper issues at play: a broken polity.

Larry's picture

Moderator

What is the point of having a church council when, "The church is not obligated to accept the recommendation from the council."?

The point is for consultation and advice in ecclesiastical matters (Hiscox).

I'm not sure playing games with "Independent" vs "independent" vs "autonomous" really addresses the deeper issues at play: a broken polity.

What do you mean by broken polity? In the NT there is no authority outside the church body. It would indeed by broken for an outside body to mandate something for a local church.

CAWatson's picture

Brad, 

From your comment it strikes me that you either may not be a Baptist, or you may be a Baptist who doesn't understand Baptist polity. 

Baptists have traditionally believed in the autonomy of the local church. Each local church is self governed, self supporting, self propagating. Now that does not mean that we do not cooperate together for fulfilling the tasks of the church. We don't send out missionaries supported by one church - we send them out supported by many. Many churches planted these days are done with the support of many churches, not just one. We hold ordination councils to see if a man is qualified doctrinally - when the people in his church might not have the doctrinal training themselves to make that judgment. But the church is still self governing - no outside body, council, or denomination can tell that church what to do - they cannot force their will upon the church. It is part and parcel of being a Baptist. 

Brad Kelly's picture

Larry,

The point is for consultation and advice in ecclesiastical matters (Hiscox).

Do you think groups like ABWE and Hyles-Anderson needed advice and consultation. How about someone with with either the fortitude or the hedge trimmers to just stand up and say, "This is wrong, and you will not victimize any one again."

What do you mean by broken polity?

Dr. Bauder alludes to it when he mentions "Independent" and "independent." So where churches free to ignore the council decisions of Acts 15? Where they free to ignore Peter's, Paul's, and Ma--, John's letters that weren't written to them?

CAW,

From your comment it strikes me that you either may not be a Baptist, or you may be a Baptist who doesn't understand Baptist polity.

Door # 3- I think IFB polity is just wrong: at least in the ways that its practiced outside of the textbooks.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Do you think groups like ABWE and Hyles-Anderson needed advice and consultation. How about someone with with either the fortitude or the hedge trimmers to just stand up and say, "This is wrong, and you will not victimize any one again."

Yes, and yes.

Dr. Bauder alludes to it when he mentions "Independent" and "independent."

That doesn't help me understand what you mean by broken. If you mean that there are churches that do not practice congregational authority, then yes, that's broken. If you mean churches who have no outside authority, then no, that's not broken.

So where churches free to ignore the council decisions of Acts 15? Where they free to ignore Peter's, Paul's, and Ma--, John's letters that weren't written to them?

On the first, I believe there are some who think yes, and on the second no. But therein is exactly the issue--the apostles had authority over the church and today the apostles teaching is in the Scriptures which are the authority over the body. There are no apostles today.

CAWatson's picture

Brad Kelly wrote:

Door # 3- I think IFB polity is just wrong: at least in the ways that its practiced outside of the textbooks.

Brad, 

Here is a challenge for you - offer a biblically based solution that fits a bibilcal church polity, whether Baptist or whatever you practice.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The human tendency is to believe that nothing corrective can be accomplished without organizations or individuals with coercive power--the ability of enforcement. With this idea in place as an assumption, the goal then becomes how do we develop a polity that puts this power in the right place. But what if we start without that assumption?

NT is full of emphasis on persuasive power in contrast to coercive power. We're called to "persuade men" (2Cor. 5.11). In the long run, more is accomplished by persuasion that coercion because, when it works, actions are driven by inner conviction. There are reasons why that can be passed on to the next generation. "Because we said so" can only go so far.

This is why both the practice in many IFB churches is such a problem and also why many other polities have the same problem in slightly different guise. When deep and strong convictions wane, the answer is ultimately not some person or group vested w/the power of enforcement.

Brad Kelly's picture

Larry,

Broken. Okay let's have a council. Here are some questions:

1- Who is going to call it? Give me the name of a pastor, president, professor, blogger, etc.

2- Given your answer to number #1- who is going to come and who is NOT going to come?

3- Given your answers to 1&2- what do you think said meeting will accomplish? Remembering that even the attendees are not obligated to accept the council's decisions.

I'll stick by my original opinion: this is a pointless suggestion. Unless the only point of the suggestions is to show deeper inadequacies. But I don't get any indications of that in the rest of the article.

 

CAW,

A solution to what? Sexual predation? No polity can altogether stop it. It happens in the loose- IFB and the rigid- Romanism.

 

 

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

1- Who is going to call it? Give me the name of a pastor, president, professor, blogger, etc.

The church that desires it calls it. No pastor, president, professor, blogger, or etc. can call it. So for instance, were it my church, I would make a recommendation to the church body that we should call a council of representatives from other local churches. And the church body would vote on it.

2- Given your answer to number #1- who is going to come and who is NOT going to come?

No way really to know. It depends on the area, and on the relationships between churches. But I would think that most churches that are invited take it pretty seriously and manage to send some messengers to it, usually at least some of the pastoral staff. When we are invited to participate in a church council of some sort (usually ordination), I call on the church to elect a representative or respresentatives to go on behalf of our church.

3- Given your answers to 1&2- what do you think said meeting will accomplish? Remembering that even the attendees are not obligated to accept the council's decisions.

It will give the local church an outside opinion by people who are generally disconnected from the situation. When someone in a local church is the target of some accusation of wrongdoing, it can be difficult for those who know and like that person to be objective. A council of disinterested representatives from sister churches aid in that.

And I think, for the sake of precision, a council doesn't make a decision per se, but a recommendation concerning the decision that a church should make.

It's really a formal expression of an informal thing that goes on all the time (such as when people pick up the phone and say, "What do you think I (we) should do?"). You have probably done that, willing to listen, but recognizing that you are not under obligation to follow the advice. So I am not sure what your hang up is, or what your alternative is. Perhaps you could suggest an alternative and we could consider it in light of the Bible and wisdom.

I'll stick by my original opinion: this is a pointless suggestion.

That's fine, but historically I don't think that's the way it works. The whole reason it is done is because it isn't pointless. It has a point, namely, to solicit consultation and advice in ecclesiastical matter. Church councils can play an important role in the life of the church, such as it did in Acts 15. I doubt anyone thought that was pointless, except perhaps those who were on the wrong side of it.

And consider the alternative: a church that doesn't really know what to do operates out of that ignorance and ends up making the situation worse. Is that really better? I don't think so. But perhaps that's just me.

CAWatson's picture

Brad, 

All you've done is complain about a broken system. Sexual predation is wrong and it is a problem. What Dr. Bauder has done is to begin to offer, perhaps, a solution - a model - of how to rightly attempt to deal with the issue when it occurs. All you've done is to complain about how the IFB is broken. You've now added Romanism to the discussion with the same complaint. So let me ask you again - what should the church do to prevent sexual predation, and what should the church do when sexual predation occurs - or when there are accusations of predation? And try to be biblical with your answer. Answer within any tradition of church polity - or even make up a polity. 

Brad Kelly's picture

Larry,

I guess you and I are talking about two different things. I was thinking "Council" as in something resembling Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon...maybe even Trent or Westminster.

CAW,

What should the church do? How about calling previous churches of any new members? How about screening anyone who works with youth, including a criminal background check? How about standards of accountability that anyone who is alone with a child will no longer with with children. When it still happens, and happen it will because no law ever stopped sinners from sinning, how about calling the police immediately?

As I said, though, there are no fool-proof set of rules, standards, or procedures. I assume you've read the New Testament so I assume you know this. If God's laws were insufficient what makes you think we can come up with something better? But if we would just obey the laws and principle of the Bible, and the laws and professional standards of the land, it would help.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

What should the church do? How about calling previous churches of any new members? How about screening anyone who works with youth, including a criminal background check? How about standards of accountability that anyone who is alone with a child will no longer with with children. When it still happens, and happen it will because no law ever stopped sinners from sinning, how about calling the police immediately?

These are things that churches ought to be doing. Nobody is suggesting that councils--or anything else--should replace these basic steps. It's both-and, not either-or. Calls for basic sensible policies have simply not been enough in many cases.