The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings link
Words have meanings. One of things we constantly harp on here at TWW is that a word, like *biblical,* is front loaded with presuppositions. So, when a guy like Ken Ham says that 6 Day creationism is biblical, he means that any other point of view is not biblical. Recently, someone told me that her pastor said that that people who divorce their spouses for adultery could not remarry. I asked her where he got that notion. She said "The Word of God, of course!" I asked her why other conservative pastors would disagree with her pastor when they know "the Word of God" as well. She obviously had not thought that through. She had been trained to accept everything that proceeds from the mouth of her current pastor.
Years ago, my daughter received a warning note which checked off the category "disobedient." When I queried about the incident, I learned that she had been asked by a teacher to help her carry something to another room. She had not finished putting her books away but the teacher needed help right away. The class bell rang. As she ran to to get her books, she was given a pink slip for her disobedience. I spoke with her teacher who said that there wasn't another category that "fit" her infraction so she chose one. Deliberate disobedience is a far cry from a bit of disorganization in order to help another teacher.
I am not here to judge the motives of Matt Chandler and The Village Church elders. Only God know their hearts in this matter. However, we can look at their words and try to understand what they mean. I believe that TVC *apologized.* But the question everyone should try to determine is what actions were covered by the apology.
We have done a number of tutorials. One of my favorites was a Tutorial for Naive Christians on Magic-Its Just an Illusion. Recently, we posted A Tutorial: How to Assess the Membership Contract at Fort Worth’s CityView Church This is particularly relevant since it is a plant of The Village Church.
We call these preemptive posts. Our goal is to help out people who are trying to decide whether or not to join or to leave a church. I am going to post the apology and number the paragraphs (Thanks for the suggestion Bard Sargent). Before you read my analysis, I want you to look at it and see what you can find. I can assure that my analysis will not be complete and that many of you will find different and even better items to discuss.
Here are things to consider
- What are they apologizing for?
- To whom are they apologizing?
- Is this just about Karen Hinkley?
- What do they say about Karen Hinkley's actions
- What are they planning to change in the future?
- What didn't they discuss?
Also, you will be helping the TVC elders to see how their statement is being perceived.
Covenant Members of The Village Church,
(1) We recently sent you an email regarding Covenant Members Jordan Root and Karen Hinkley that explained a tragic and heartbreaking situation, including a review of how we got to that point and where things currently stood. Since that time, we have soberly and prayerfully reflected on all the details of this situation, along with others in our past. We have also received feedback from people both inside and outside The Village, which has helped us evaluate ourselves.
(2) Sometimes dark and difficult situations cause us to take a magnifying glass and look through the lens to see deeper than we normally can. That has absolutely been the case in this situation, and we wanted to let you know where we are with everything, specifically some areas we are still evaluating and some areas where we have clearly failed and need to repent.
(3) When it comes to protecting children, we believe we have strong procedures in place and feel confident in how we’ve handled allegations and confessions regarding child abuse in any form, specifically in the situation with Jordan Root. In examining ourselves in this area, we have been affirmed in the policies and processes we have in place to protect children. That said, in the weeks ahead, we will do an external audit to confirm we are doing everything possible to protect children and to evaluate how we handle child safety, abusers, abuse victims and other related matters in a biblical and legal manner.
(4) Regarding Covenant Membership, we have not changed our theological or philosophical convictions on our Membership Covenant, member care and church discipline. These are beliefs rooted in Scripture, and we strongly believe they are necessary for our health and faithfulness as a church. However, in looking closely at the way we have handled some situations, we realize that there are clear and specific instances where we have let our membership practices blind us to the person in front of us, in turn leading us to respond in a way that doesn’t reflect our desire to be loving and caring to our members. In these situations, there have been cases where we have clearly not communicated the gentleness, compassion and patience that we are called to as elders of the church.
(5) We are deeply sorry for failing you in this way and are taking steps to follow up with the individuals we believe we have hurt so that we can apologize specifically and directly to them. We are also in the process of creating a new care and church discipline plan and hope to have it approved and in practice very soon. Regardless of all that we’re trying to do to improve in this area, though, the most important point is that we recognize that we must never allow our processes and procedures to take precedence over people, specifically those we are called to love, care, protect and sacrifice for as elders of the church. In everything our actions and tone must reflect the gentleness (Gal. 6:1) and humility (1 Peter 5:1-3) to which Scripture calls us. As James 2:13 says, mercy should triumph over judgment.
(6) In receiving more information and considering the way we’ve ministered to Karen specifically, we believe that we owe her an apology. Specifically, as it pertains to her desire for an annulment, we know that it would have served her better to have a clearer understanding from us as to what we do and do not consider biblical grounds for divorce or what we understand the Scriptures to define as divorce. In hindsight, we wish that we would have provided clarity to Karen in an immediate fashion and are saddened by our unpreparedness.
(7) Though the deep theological convictions that informed our initial response haven’t changed, this is a situation where we unfortunately allowed our practice to unnecessarily lead us rather than us leading our practice with patience, gentleness and compassion. We did not lead Karen and the church to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing. Please know that we are reaching out to Karen and giving her this apology, and we have also made the decision to move forward in releasing her from membership. We will continue to support her financially through August as we committed, and our hope and prayer for her is that God would guide her to another gospel-believing church, where she can find healing and restoration.
(8) In receiving this email and hearing how we have and are responding to this situation, we understand that you may be wondering why this type of change in heart has happened now. Is it because of the media stories? If so, why have we let these stories make such an impact? The answer is basically what we began this email with: Sometimes it takes a difficult, unique and trying situation to help us realize our mistakes and move us to change. Naturally, these situations also bring more feedback to the table, and we have sought to humbly hear that feedback, be willing to see the log in our own eye and repent where necessary.
(9) Given the nature of the situation with Jordan and Karen, we also want you to be prepared for the potential of many media stories about our church to be published over the next several days. We are aware of this likely outcome and will not address members or former members specifically in any communication since we do not release this information to the public. This weekend, Matt will speak generally about member care and church discipline because the conclusion of our James series is providentially focused on this topic, but he will not speak directly to the situation at hand.
(10) In all of this, we are deeply grieved by the way this situation has brought reproach to the name of Jesus. Our hearts are heavy and broken over the things that have been said about our good and faithful God. We often talk about the “ongoing ethics of confession and repentance,” and as your elders, we know that we are not exempt from these ethics. In every way that we’ve mishandled this situation, along with others in the past, we repent and ask for forgiveness. As a church, we talk regularly about the power of the gospel to forgive all our sins, past, present and future. In this moment, we are clinging to that truth, knowing that we and everyone else involved in this situation desperately need the grace and mercy of Jesus.
– The Village Church Elders
Some thinking music
Remember, I really want to hear from you. Some of you have already made some stellar observations. Please state the paragraph number to help us follow along.
Do they stand by the email that they sent? Would they still have sent it retrospect?
They mention "all the others" in their past. How many were there? How badly were they hurt by the church? Why were there so many others?
Why did it take them until Karen's situation to hit the fan before they reflected on "all the others?"
They claim that "dark and difficult situations" made them think about this apology. What do they mean by dark and difficult? Why did it take this story to spread on the Internet before they addressed it? Was that the dark and difficult situations?
They said they "feel confident in how we’ve handled allegations and confessions regarding child abuse in any form, specifically in the situation with Jordan Root."
Why then does SNAP and other experts who advocate for strict control measures for pedophiles/child sex abuse voyeurs see it differently? Which confession of Jordan's are they satisfied with? He made lots of confessions to Karen over the years. My guess is that he has not yet made a full confession.
Why then do they feel so confidant? If they were to learn that he still hasn't told the full truth, would they lose their confidence? Are they sure that he doesn't have a new computer? Did they tell his home group about his proclivities right when he started attending after his return?
I am personally quite grateful that they state that they are standing by their membership covenant because it clearly brings closure to our arguments about the numerous abusive possibilities of such agreements. We are developing a resource page outlining the problems with church discipline and church covenants, particularly their ill-defined crime and punishment guidelines. This situation will stand as our final and closing argument as to why TWW does not recommend signing these things.
If appears they are saying that, as they tried to prevent Karen from leaving their "care," they merely wish that they had been a little nicer.
Once again, they mention *cases.* It sounds like they have a problem in this area. It is worrisome enough for me to advise people to be cautious in attending TVC or other churches in the Acts 29 alliance which follow the guidelines of the flagship.
They say that "We are deeply sorry for failing you in this way." They need to be more specific. Do they mean a kinder, gentler atmosphere or something else? They are redoing their care and discipline plan. What do they mean by *care?* Is this a euphemism to point our concerns like the lady who said "Go hush" to her husband? (See stories from TVC at Watchkeep.)
I would highly recommend that current members view the new church plan and consider whether or not they should sign it. You may have an out at this point. Also, see if they spell out whether or not you can leave the church if they retroactively discipline you. This is what they tried with Karen .And don't forget that they can discipline you if they hear you say "Go hush" to your hubby. Are you really prepared for all the sins they could come up with?
This paragraph appears to conflate annulment and divorce. Karen did not divorce. She was defrauded and did not have a valid marriage. We are looking forward to reading any references on annulments that they come up with from the Bible. It appears that they are frustrated that they were unprepared to deal with a smart woman who understood the law as it relates to fraud in marriage. Could they be planning to apply stricter new rules on annulments and divorce?
For me, this is the most troubling statement in the entire document. "Though the deep theological convictions that informed our initial response haven’t changed." Does this mean that they would have disciplined Karen and continued to believe Jordan Root's "walking in repentance?" However, they would do it the next time with a smile and a cup of tea.
They said "We did not lead Karen and the church to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing." I guess they still believe that she needs to repent! For what? Not staying married to a child sex abuse voyeur?
"Please know that we are reaching out to Karen and giving her this apology, and we have also made the decision to move forward in releasing her from membership." Karen left their church in February but they are releasing her now? Let this be a lesson to everyone. It appears that they still believe they are the only ones who can release a person from membership. Remember this when they ask you to sign the new and approved membership contract.
"We will continue to support her financially through August as we committed, and our hope and prayer for her is that God would guide her to another gospel-believing church, where she can find healing and restoration." They should let people know that the church supplied less than 10% of Karen's support. She has all the money she needs so TVC money will go into SIM's general fund.
I do not know what they mean by the word "restoration?" Restored to what? One thing is for sure. Karen will never sign another membership covenant. Well played, TVC.
At least they are admitting it. " In receiving this email and hearing how we have and are responding to this situation, we understand that you may be wondering why this type of change in heart has happened now. Is it because of the media stories? If so, why have we let these stories make such an impact?"
Can I tell you why I feel so sad. There are *others* who may have been abused in the same manner but they couldn't rally the troops. Yes, the squeeky wheel with access to the blogs gets the oil.
Let me say this to all of you who hve been hurt by this or other churches. There are a few blogs out here, TWW, Watchkeep, Spiritual Sounding Board and others who would be happy to advocate for you by telling your story. Please contact any of us. We guarantee confidentiality.
Matt Chandler will not speak to the specific issue at hand on Sunday. I know this may sound harsh, but I am guessing the lawyers are concerned about liability in this situation. Also, *Pastor* Chandler who vowed that TVC leaders love Karen never once wrote her or called her. That call could have nipped this all in the bud. Is he a "pastor" or a protected talking head? Is there a real pastor in the TVC house?
They said "Our hearts are heavy and broken over the things that have been said about our good and faithful God." I know this may come as quite a surprise, but most people are more concerned about how TVC leaders, not God, hurt Karen and others. Most Christians know that men are sinful and in need of grace. The question is, "Were they listening to God?
"In every way that we’ve mishandled this situation, along with others in the past, we repent and ask for forgiveness." After reading this entire missive, I think the only things that they are apologizing for is not being nice and not spelling out annulment in the membership covenant.
- TVC will create a more airtight membership contract.
- They will add a clause for binding arbitration which his enforceable if signed.
- They will say that divorce/annulment is rarely, if ever, permitted at TVC.
- They will not define what they will "discipline." This allows them to discipline whatever their pet sin du jour is.
- There is a high liklihood that Jordan Root will disappoint them. Keep an eye on that guy.
Now, its your turn.