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I would venture to say that many pastors would enjoy reading The Wartburg Watch. It is well-written, and the discussion points are documented and referenced appropriately. Indeed, since the launching of this blog just a few months ago, there has been substantial positive feedback from the readership. One of the areas where The Wartburg Watch appears to have “struck a nerve” is spiritual abuse within churches. Based on the responses via the blog comments and e-mails, it would appear that the problem of spiritual abuse is widespread in congregations across the country.
Many pastors are used to healthy criticism and debate on spiritual issues within their churches. They accept their calling to keep the bride of Christ, the church, as pure as possible. When an issue arises where a church leader has done something seriously wrong, most pastors take the “high road” and “bear with” rather than “blow off” those church members who raise such serious issues within their church leadership. They understand that there must be zero tolerance for the toxic waste of sin among those who are in control. They also understand that covering up such sin only makes matters worse. As a secular example, it was not the sexual indiscretion that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment…it was his lying under oath to cover up his indiscretion that led to his conviction on grounds of perjury. Many pastors hold the bar of purity higher than Mr. Clinton did. So purity within church leadership matters a lot to these pastors, and the cover-up of sin is not tolerated.
The Wartburg Watch, which talks about abuse within the church, applauds pastors who take the “high road”. Any sin which makes its way into their church is dealt with promptly and biblically. The church member who had the courage to point out the problem is thanked, the stain of sin is brought out into the open, and nothing impure is intentionally covered up. Such pastoral forbearance does not go unrewarded. Transparency leads to pastoral confession, confession leads to forgiveness, and forgiveness leads to restoration, just like it would for any other member of the body of Christ. The peace and love of a pure heart shines through from the pulpit unhindered, not because the pastor is perfect, but because he has been truthful and faithful to the church and to God's Holy Word. A pastor like this has no problem with a Christian blog which addresses spiritual abuse head-on.
But some pastors are disquieted by blogs like The Wartburg Watch. The question is why? In my opinion, the key issue is leadership structure. Some pastors are used to controlling information from the pulpit, and their congregation is expected to abide by their rules. Hyper-authoritarian leadership structures tend to minimize the voice of individual church members (also known as "the priesthood of believers") and limit accountability of leaders to their congregation. There is no mechanism for robust peer review and feedback from individual church members. The congregation becomes accustomed to decisions being made by a pre-selected few. Leaders are so used to unilateral control that they are taken aback if a church member raises the possibility of sin within the ranks. The wagons are circled around the leaders, and the messenger is isolated as "the problem". The leadership paints itself as the victim of lies, etc., etc, etc. This hyper-authoritarian manner of dealing with the charge of spiritual abuse only serves to magnify the problem to the point where the matter makes its way into a Christian blog like this one.
Furthermore, forums like The Wartburg Watch may be bothersome because they create a new level of pastoral accountability and transparency which extends beyond the walls of individual churches. That’s because thousands of pastors from various denominations and other Christian thinkers read blogs, along with folks like you and me. In the new millennium, blogs are often sources of accurate information available for public consumption, and they allow the free flow of information between those who are in the priesthood of the believers, including those who have no voice in their local assemblies.
Christian blogs also provide a form of peer accountability. Unfortunately, it's the hyper-authoritarian pastors who frown upon blogs such as this one. They are not used to peer accountability because they have always been "in charge" and essentially answer to no one. Through blogs, peer pressure and the fear of public embarrassment can work wonders for quality control. If there is unresolved sin which is being suppressed by the leadership of a given church, it is no longer a private matter, nor should it be. The healthy checks and balances of the larger Body of Christ within the blogosphere can help to drive proper behavior within local church leadership.
Christ chose the metaphor of a bride to represent His church. By communicating through blogs, we see the Bride more clearly for what she really looks like. As members of the priesthood of believers, it is our charge to work toward keeping her pure. Christian blogs like The Wartburg Watch have opened our eyes a bit more to the magnitude of the task at hand.