I promised Sis greeky, that we would talk about this because it really is one of the huge reasons individuals leave churches in disgust.
Here’s what she wrote:
Let’s say that a married Bishop was accused of impregnating a girl (perhaps underaged). When brought before the Board, he confessed to part of the accusation, and agreed to pay money to make it go away. How should that Bishop be handled? Should he have also been demoted? What if many (hundreds!) people know that “something” went down concerning him, how should the Board handle that? Should there be a statement to the larger body concerning the accusation and the result of the investigation (i.e., guilty or not guilty)? What should his local church do, in light of the fact that they only heard rumors (wide-spread), and noticed a change in his actions (financially and otherwise) during that time? What if that leader has since been promoted by the same Board that heard the original accusation to a very “high” position – does that change the course of action required? How should a Board discipline one of their “own”? This is not an attempt to spread gossip, but people in the COGIC pews across this country are hurting and need to know what the Bible says concerning these things. It may seem simple to you, but not so simple for people who have been taught over the years to “never” take a leader to task” – especially when you didn’t see him actually do what he’s accused of. It still hurts bad, and it’s hard to pretend that all is still well when the whole church is hurting over what they heard, and still getting nothing but silence from the leaders. Please provide some scriptual wisdom.
In advance, I ask your patience because of so many variables this might be somewhat lengthy. And too, this may involve more biblical principle rather that hard biblical evidence so keep that in mind. I think the scriptures allow for us to glean universal wisdom from the Word and then apply it in love to specific situations.
I have always advocated (and at times demanded) responsible transparency in ministry. There definitely should be a balanced approach to dealing with leaders who are subjects of sexual immorality for years if they are truly men of integrity being falsely accused. Lets all agree that the scriptures which outline how to handle accusations against elders are indeed applicable and right.
Two scriptures we should consider here.
If a brother be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore him in the spirit of meekness considering yourselves lest ye also be tempted (Gal 6:1).
Receive not an accusation against an elder, unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. (1 Tim 5:19, 20)
Just brief notes on these two passages. The first is about the spirit, not so much the letter of the law. Its characterized by self-reflective compassion. How that is applied seems to segue in the second passage. 1 Tim 5 acknowledges that elders may indeed bs “accused”, but it cannot be justified only by a “he say-she say” scenario. Or in these days we need to include “he-say-he say”. Further, if the accusations prove true, the church is to use open rebuke to suppress the progression of sin within the Body. In this case, you are authorized to preach fear, hell and damnation! 🙂
Restoration (of a leader who has sinned) ideally should include: disclosure, discipline and retraining. Restoration does not automatically mean a person should be put back in the position they once held in church. Restoration is primary a concern for the soul and not some manmade position. For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Maintaining image for the purpose of “damage control” is potentially detrimental to the person caught in the sin.
Disclosure means fully repenting in context to the circumstances of the sin. If sin was done openly, repentance should be open. If this was an issue where the sin was private (meaning only the individual was involved) then repentance should be to an appropriate source in confidence. Sometimes the Adam and Eve syndrome takes over and people start blaming other folks for their sins. If so, a spiritually mature person should evoke James 1:14-15 and apply it in order to obtain metanoia or true repentance.
Discipline means there should be some restrictive measures levied against the individual commensurate to the depth and impact of the sin. For instance, if a person got into an arguement in the open and cussed, the discipline required would not be the same if he or she were to molest a child. All sin is the same, but the effects of sins are different. Thus, dealing with it requires mature discernment and applicable biblical wisdom. Discipline is not about humiliating someone, but its intent is to humble them so restoration can take its proper course. Discipline is part of discipleship and is not only to be self administered, but should be accepted when administered by God or whomever he sanctions to carry it out in love.
Retraining means that there should be practical exercises required for the individual to complete before any level of restoration is declared. For instance, one might be required to pay back 100% of monies misused from a church funds. This isnt punitive but to (1) test the integrity and sincerity of the person, (2) to demonstrate real, observable restitution for the record and (3) to engage the person in an activity to teach them so that they learn from their error.
For the record, I do not believe in the practice of “sitting someone down” as a legitimate biblical response to sin in leadership. It has too many loopholes. Unless it is incorporated with the above it is useless.
But lets deal with the ones who aren’t innocent, havent been overtaken in fault. Let’s talk about the ones who are committing serial sins with no repentance and even resist efforts to rectify wrong situations. When a person has power, money and popularity, it severely complicates a biblical resolution. Remember Earl Paulk? Because of his status and position, not to mention cunning deception, he was able to carry on abominations for over 30 years. And because people were told “keep your mouth off the mand of gawd” it afforded Paulk the perfect cover to continue sexually molesting both children and adult women under his authority.
If it is a crime (sex with a minor) involved, the church should not conceal the matter. If it is a moral failure (adultery) the church should exercise its discretion again depending on the circumstances of the sin. For instance if the husband, girlfriend and wife had a fight in church in front of the members, why label it a “private matter”? Already it has damaged those who have witnessed it.
Let’s also consider that a bishop (positionally different than a pastor) according to 1 Tim 3:2, must be “blameless”. The “blameless” part takes effect after he accepts the office. People oftimes claim well they are human too meaning we have to allow for them to err. Well yes and no. The word blameless is taken from the greek anepileptos which means: not arrested, i.e. (by implication) inculpable — blameless, unrebukeable. Also note use of the word “must” which signifies there exists no parallel option to the requirement. In other words, the bishop must live above reproach. If they err, they are no longer qualified to hold the office and should be removed.
I believe that in keeping with integrity, any investigations of widely known acts of malfeasance should be available to members. It pains me for church folk to always accuse people of gossip when leaders reject properly informing people. Generally, there is suppression of the evidence and failure of “the board” to righteously deal with it. I still contend that the case of Bishop JD Husband is a textbook case example of this. I think the issues of information suppression and secrecy is not because of a concern that people would be harmed but because it could possibly affect the flow of money. Sad to say the contemporary church is in bed with money. Consequently, God’s word is relegated to a secondary reference tool.
If you feel like adding something to this, feel free. Its a tough, but much needed discussion in the church.