New calvinist church discipline favours criminals over victims
I have written before concerning the unjust discipline many new calvinist churches hand out via their Biblical Counselling program. When an interpersonal problem arises in the church, one or both sides may seek to discuss it with the one named as Biblical Counsellor. In new calvinist churches, that counsellor may well determine that if the one who commits the crime repents, he may be restored to fellowship again. If the husband is abusing the wife, or having an affair with another woman, she may be asked to explain why she isn’t being more supportive to her husband. In many cases it is the victim who is blamed for not preventing (through some sinful behaviour) the crime from being committed.
You see, in new calvinism, there is an underlying belief that those of the elect of God are not able to commit a sin that would prevent them from going to heaven. New calvinism developed from Sonship Theology which taught that, as God’s children, Christians could sin, knowing that if they were of God’s elect, their God would always provide sufficient grace to reinstall them into fellowship. That is, if they were God’s elect, then they couldn’t do anything that would lose them their assurance of salvation.
If you can never be lost, then no sin you commit can ever change that fact. If you repented of your sin, then new calvinism taught that God had given repentance to you as a gift; thus that sin could not affect your salvation. Repentance was the evidence that God was demonstrating that his grace would overcome your sin. If you repented, it demonstrated that you were one of God’s elect. It was the lack of repentance that demonstrated that you couldn’t be one of God’s elect.
Therefore, no matter who committed the crime or who was the victim, only the elect could be restored to fellowship again. Those who toed the party line with the Biblical Counsellor were generally to be deemed forgiven and recommended to the church leadership for restoration. Those who opposed the party line were deemed to be not suitable for restoration without more counselling to assist them to see the error of their ways. The wife might decide to get divorced from her husband because of child porn and paedophilia, but if the church then restores the husband to fellowship through his “repentance” via the Biblical Counsellor, the church may refuse the wife the right to get divorced. This is what happened in the following case.
Karen Hinkley and Matt Chandler’s Village Church
Karen discovered that her husband was viewing child pornography while they were together on the mission field. There were confessions of pedophile behavior as well. Karen returned home and the state of Texas allowed her an annulment of her marriage.The church put her under discipline and claimed that her ex husband was *walking in repentance* after about a month of counseling. Along with Amy Smith of Watchkeep, we broke this story which became known internationally. The actions of the church were so grievous that eventually Matt Chandler had to apologize to Karen and state that she was certainly justified in seeking a divorce from her pervert husband. The embarrassment and harassment from the church that Karen endured is well documented in our series.
And from Baptist News an article on the same situation.
Man confesses to child porn; church disciplines his wife
By Bob Allen May 29, 2015
A Dallas megachurch has apologized to a wife subjected to church discipline for leaving her husband without permission after learning he is a pedophile.
Elders of The Village Church, a multisite Southern Baptist congregation led by Acts 29 president Matt Chandler, sent a letter to members posted online by blogger Matthew Paul Turner admitting to mishandling of a disciplinary process instituted against former member Karen Hinkley.
Earlier, church leaders said Hinkley violated her membership covenant with Village Church by having her legal marriage to Jordan Root annulled without seeking reconciliation after he confessed to her that he is sexually stimulated by little children and had viewed child pornography throughout their courtship and marriage. Root was not disciplined because he repented and entered counseling, but his access to children was restricted.
Previously Village Church financially supported the couple, who served as missionaries in East Asia with Serving in Mission (SIM) USA until Jordan Root was dismissed for violating the mission organization’s child safety policy. In February Karen Root (who later returned to using her maiden name) notified church leaders she was withdrawing her membership. The elders refused to accept her resignation and put her under church discipline for spurning their attempt at pastoral care.
Hinkley went public May 20 on Watchkeep, a blog written by abuse-survivor advocate Amy Smith, in a statement criticizing the Village Church pastors for “minimization and secrecy” about Root’s offenses and urging them not to assume he has told them the whole truth. Early on church leaders were inclined not to reveal Root’s confession to a number of former employers, churches and families where over the years he had access to children, but informed the church membership after the story was reported on blogs and news sites and was under consideration by the Dallas Morning News.
The incident sparked an Internet debate over the use of church covenants, a practice prevalent among the neo-Calvinist movement popular in evangelical circles including parts of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Village Church covenant includes an agreement “to walk through the steps of marriage reconciliation at The Village Church before pursuing divorce,” ending a marriage, but does not mention annulment, a legal declaration that the marriage wasn’t valid to begin with because it was based on fraud.
The latest communique to “covenant members” at The Village Church defended the membership policy but said in this case the elders “unfortunately allowed our practice to unnecessarily lead us rather than us leading our practice with patience, gentleness and compassion.”
“In receiving more information and considering the way we’ve ministered to Karen specifically, we believe that we owe her an apology,” the letter said. The elders will move forward with releasing her from membership and will continue their commitment to support her financially through August, the letter said.
Hinkley declined further comment in an email May 29, citing a need for “space and time to step back from the craziness and process everything that has unfolded this week.”
“It’s taken a huge toll on me,” she said.
The elder letters said Chandler will “speak generally about member care and church discipline” in his message this weekend but “will not speak directly to the situation at hand.”
Along with Acts 29, a church-planting network founded by Mark Driscoll, former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle who resigned amid controversy in 2014, Chandler is active in the Gospel Coalition, a network of Reformed churches. The Gospel Coalition Council includes prominent Southern Baptist Convention leaders such as Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
A former Gospel Coalition Council member, C.J. Mahaney, stepped down amid accusations that he knew about abuse allegations in Sovereign Grace Ministries, another Calvinist church-planting network that he co-founded. A lawsuit naming Mahaney described in media as the biggest evangelical abuse scandal to date was dismissed due to statutes of limitation.
Clearly it is more important in new calvinist churches to have people restored to the church party line than to seek justice for the victims! Those restored may continue to be declared the elect of God (because the calvinist God wouldn’t have provided repentance and restoring grace to any non-elect), and those who refuse to toe the party line may be declared to be not the elect of God (because if they had been of the calvinist God’s elect, he would have provided repentance and restoring grace to them). Thus in new calvinist churches, a person may be declared elect as long as he/she agrees to toe the party line of discipline as set out by the church (often according to the recommendations of the Biblical Counsellor. In this way so often the victim ends up being effectively declared the criminal!
This is not a group of loving Christians here; it is a picture of dictatorship control. You will do what the church rules as necessary, regardless, it seems, of whether or not real justice has been administered. And love hasn’t just been given a back seat here; it has been kicked out the door! Nor do you decide whether or not you will believe; the church decides your decision for you, and what it decides is to be considered the proper dispensation of the grace of the calvinist God. In this way the new calvinist church may dictate to you whether or not you may be accepted into heaven. Those it restores will go to heaven, while those they reject as unrepentant are to be condemned to hell as unforgiven, unrestored and therefore non-elect sinners.
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