Feb 222017
 

Last week, Michael provided us with an update on the latest news of Saeed Abedini. 

He posted the story of Saeed being sentenced (although ever so lightly) for violating the restraining order taken out by his estranged wife, Naghmeh.

In Michael’s article, he posted a picture of Saeed with Franklin Graham and was questioned as to why he did so.  When I read the question, some thoughts came to my mind and I commented accordingly.  Throughout the whole Saeed Abedini imprisonment ordeal, Graham was Abedini’s most well-known supporter and was very public in his advocacy and also in working with Naghmeh.  When Saeed was finally released from Iran, Graham very publicly was the first to welcome him back to the U.S. and hosted him at his conference center.  This welcoming occurred after the allegations of Saeed’s ongoing abuse against his wife and the revelation of his previous conviction of domestic violence.  In fact, Graham even publicly defended Saeed soon after the allegations came to public awareness.  We have many records of him supporting Saeed.  To this point in time to my knowledge, he has yet to utter one word publicly in the negative against Saeed in regards to the abuse allegations, his criminal convictions, his filing for divorce, and his continued drive to establish himself in a position of spiritual leadership and influence.  Thus by omission, Graham sends the message of continued support for Saeed.

Meanwhile, we know that Calvary Chapel Boise was the home church of the Abedinis before and during Saeed’s imprisonment.  Although it appears that the church did not officially sanction or commission Saeed for his work in Iran, there also seems to be no known record of them having been against it.  It is also believed that some within the leadership of the church knew of Saeed’s past domestic violence conviction.  Bob Caldwell, who we now know has his own big problems which have disqualified him from the pastorate, was the senior pastor of CC Boise during this whole ordeal.  Unless someone knows otherwise and can correct me, I don’t believe Bob Caldwell or anyone else in leadership at CC Boise has ever publicly addressed the abuse allegations or convictions or Saeed’s continued claim to be a pastor and attempts to position himself as a spiritual leader.  Thus, they too, avoid addressing publicly that which is a very public issue even though they have close ties to the situation.

This blog has a history of addressing church scandals.  Many of the scandals occurring within Calvary Chapel, but plenty of other ones, too.  Some known on a national level and other ones much smaller.  One of the common threads, however, on many of these scandals is that those who had power and influence directly or tangentially to the circumstance, whether formal or informal, chose to stay out of the fray.  In some cases, they may have even provided cover for the wrongdoers.  Contrarily, they could have stepped in and used their power and influence to provide warning to the masses or to help rectify the wrongs, if not even put a complete stop to them.  But nay, that is not what happened.

We know that our leaders are fallible and we should not be surprised when they don’t always do things right.  But it is still disheartening in situations like these when they cannot step up and do the right thing on very public matters in which they are involved.  Especially in our current day church and world where so many events and circumstances become public knowledge.  So many people who shouldn’t, yet gain or maintain followings, or shenanigans that shouldn’t, yet gain positive attention, could be minimized if not completely shot down if people were willing to speak up and speak out.

I am not calling for a heresy police who are out to make a ruckus about every single thing they see as wrong, even often times making a bigger deal of something than it deserves.  The ODM’s and the like certainly aren’t my cup of tea.  But when there are legitimate and significant wrongs publicly taking place within the realms of church and spiritual leadership, then the onus is on people who are connected to the circumstances to step up and say that this is not right and we do not condone it and it needs to stop.  Most especially those who are church and spiritual leaders.  So much harm is allowed to perpetuate when this doesn’t happen.

When I had seen the news of Saeed Abedini’s latest sentencing, I posted it on my Facebook page as a reminder warning about the man.  I received some pushback as if I was being silly or going over the top in warning about him.  In return I explained that I warn against the man since I previously had been a big advocate of his as the “pastor” wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.  And since we now have learned that Saeed should have no business being a pastor or spiritual leader, I feel it is my responsibility to let people know the rest of the story.  Even though my circle of influence is quite small compared to many others, if I could prevent even one person from mistakenly following after or supporting the man after I had previously helped make his plight known to them, then it was worth my while.

I tell this little personal story not to proclaim how good I am as Lord knows I’m just as big of a sinner as the next guy.  But to give picture to what in many cases could and should be done.  Now, this situation is hardly any skin off my back as there really is little personal involvement or attachment for me.  I’ve never met the Abedinis or even communicated with them in anyway.  The strings of personal and emotional attachment can be much greater in some situations and so it is understandable that there are times when it can be much harder to step up and say something.  But that still does not excuse behavior, or lack of it.  Especially from our leaders who have greater responsibility by virtue of their position.

We know there are times where our leaders step up and do the right thing.  Quite possibly more times than not.  But for as often as we see the type of scenario play out where the wrongdoers are not held accountable by the leaders who could do so, it sure seems like there is opportunity for this to happen even much more.  What if a Franklin Graham had stepped up and said that while he had supported Saeed Abedini to free him from his wrongful imprisonment, that he could not support him in his current ministry and spiritual leadership efforts?  What if more of those who were on the board of Gospel for Asia or who were big influential supporters of the organization stepped up and publicly declared that GFA should no longer be supported due to its now known significant corruption?  What if those who knew of Tullian Tchividjian’s past discretions had spoken up before he continued on in leadership and prowled on more people’s lives?

How much more harm could have been avoided?  How much harm is still occurring because people haven’t stepped up?  People who are being taken advantage of and following after charlatans and giving money to those who should have no business receiving it.  Lord, have mercy on those who suffer because of our own failure to act.          

  91 Responses to “Kevin’s Conversations: The Silence of the Shepherds”

  1. “We know there are times where our leaders step up and do the right thing. Quite possibly more times than not.”

    “probably more times than not”?? I don’t think this is accurate – I would think that church leadership – which is not necessarily the pastor, probably ‘step up and do the right thing’ 1,000 times for every high visibility case like this Iranian snot.

    Churches all over the world have their act together when it comes to this type of discipline – but as usual in the evangelical world, these guys work with total independence and are not accountable to anyone.

  2. I disagree with the main thrust of this article, Kevin, though I appreciate your heart in the matter.

    1.) Anyone who looks to Franklin Graham as any sort of shepherd, is no better off than the man who looks to Saeed as a shepherd. Franklin is apparently uniquely gifted at running non-profits, but he is no pastor.

    2.) Caldwell is a discredited adulterer, so it should be no shock that he didn’t take action. However, the leadership of CC-Boise DID try to take action. That Saeed seems to have evaded heir action is of no consequence, they deserve credit for doing the right thing.

    3.) I will not get involved in any more online church scandals. If I see something going on here, I’ll do my best to act in a biblical manner, but recently (including this Saeed mess) God has taught me a lesson about the online church abuse cases. So, I would advise any pastor I know not to get involved if it is not their congregation or their hometown. No matter how bad the situation sounds, you just can’t help it online.

  3. KevinH,

    I think you’re spot on and I’m thankful that this article is here today and will be here as long as the blog is.

    Almost every mess we’ve ever written about could have been handled behind the scenes if only leaders had the desire to confront them.

    Gospel for Asia is still taking in vast amounts of money…

  4. “but as usual in the evangelical world”

    You mean in the Calvary Chapel World. Were he Presbyterian, he would be under some sort of accountability. Same with Methodist, or Lutheran.

    Your beef here is with independent churches, and yes, Baptist would fit your profile, too. But millions of evangelicals would not, yet still have bad guys doing bad things.

  5. “Gospel for Asia is still taking in vast amounts of money…”

    But tons of people, including leaders, have spoken out about it online.

  6. The leaders who could help people make informed decisions about GFA have been silent.
    Those would be the board members who left without explanation…

  7. Truth is we don’t know what they’ve said, or who they said it to. Or what legal binding they may be under. Or what they know that we don’t know.

    Many, many people have spoken, and it apparently hasn’t had much affect.

  8. Or there may be some perfectly reasonable explanation behind it all.

    I’ve been taken one too many times now. The boy cried wolf.

  9. MLD,

    I intentionally did not give numbers on how many times the right thing is done in these types of situations versus when it is not because who the heck would have real numbers on such a thing. But I do think the problem is much greater than the 1000-1 of doing the right thing as you suggest.

    And yes, the greater number of problems happen in the more independent evangelical and megachurch world, but they are not constrained to just there. Tullian Tchividjian’s problems, although one may want to call him an evangelical, occurred within a very structured Presbyterian ecclesiology. Yes, he was eventually totally shut down, but it should have happened much earlier. And I personally know of situations over the years that have occurred in much smaller churches with little or no publicity where pastors or leaders were not held accountable for disqualifying or borderline disqualifying activity. Sometimes even within traditional denominations.

    So, yes, this is a real problem that afflicts us. And I would argue the occurrences are much greater than one in a thousand.

  10. Josh,

    As per Franklin Graham, I agree that people should not look to him as a shepherd. However, the reality is that he is a spiritual leader in the eyes of thousands and thousands of people, if not millions, and it would appear to be a position he strives to. And so, he needs to take responsibility for the position he is in and do the right thing. Which, of course, he has not done with Saeed.

    As for CC Boise, I am not aware of any public action (and by public I am not meaning only actions broadcast to the world, but even actions conveyed just to their congregation) that the leadership did there to deal with the Saeed mess. I am sure they took actions behind the scenes, but did they ever do anything to let people know, even if it was just their own congregation, that Saeed should not be followed or supported in his ministry aspirations? If you know of it, can you point me to their actions or tell me what they did do?

    Lastly for GFA, you are correct that many people did speak up. However, most of the biggest guns who either served on the board or who were big supporters of the organization have stayed silent. And that is a problem.

  11. Kevin,
    To use Tullian’s situation as an example – you are confusing”not stepping up and doing the right thing” vs not making it public. Tullian was out of the pulpit for something like 3 months before it was made public – because they were ‘stepping up’ doing the investigation and seeking counsel.

    In the case of my church when we had our issue with our pastor – it was being handled, but behind the scenes for a month before we let the congregation know what was happening. Not everyone blogs and blabs everything. Perhaps it looks like inaction and cover up but it is not.

  12. I’m leaning towards MLD here. Too much information can definitely be a bad thing.

  13. For the twelve years I’ve followed and investigated church abuse and the various scandals that arise from coverups, I have never seen leaders actually trying to rectify the situation. The only times I have seen pastors call out their own or apologize were:

    —When Kevin Labby, Paul Tripp, and seven other pastors / leaders publicly called Tullian Tchividjian to repentance for predatory behavior (December 2016);
    —When Kevin Labby and Boz Tchividjian called Tullian to repentance with their strongly worded statements for the same reasons (December 2016);
    —When Matt Chandler gave, under extreme pressure, an apology to Karen Hinkley for his church “disciplining” her for trying to annul her marriage to a child predator (June 2015);*
    — When James MacDonald apologized for the way he and his church “disciplined” particular elders in his church (September 2014).*

    (*It should be noted that there are some who are still concerned about the culture in these churches where apologies were given, but the conditions that perpetuated abuse persist.)

    Other than these instances, I am not aware of any church scandal where church leaders stepped up to make things right by calling out their peers.

    Calvary Chapel Boise, which I used to attend while the Abedini’s went, had 6,500 attendees but only five pastors when I went there. For four years I begged the pastors for discipleship and help and, in the words of Cindy L., Bob’s executive assistant at the time, “The pastors had no idea what to do with you. You wanted actual ministry. They treated you horribly instead.” I was mistreated by Bob, but it is cathartic to now know why. Many friendships I used to have in Boise have been rekindled in light of the latest revelations about Bob, where people are getting in touch with me saying “now I know you weren’t complaining about nothing, Ryan.”

    Yet in the wake of Saeed’s release, Calvary Chapel Boise pastors are still silent. We know Mike Sasso was plagiarized by Saeed but a post Mike wrote drawing attention to this fact was inexplicably deleted with no explanation. There have been many opportunities for the pastors at Calvary Chapel Boise to warn the public about Saeed, but they don’t. That is shameful and a disgrace.

    It is for these reasons that I do not believe Kevin’s analysis goes far enough… there is a sickness among pastors today—one I’ve personally been harmed by. When a wolf, or otherwise dangerous person, is hurting others people, pastors have an obligation to get involved. To rebuke and plead and try to restore, pastors have the influence and power many of us don’t—especially when the perpetrator is their fellow pastor. When these attempts do not work, then pastors have an obligation to warn.

    That there is precious little warning from Calvary Chapel Boise regarding Saeed, who still travels and makes speaking engagements throughout the US, only demonstrates my thesis. That there is no one speaking out against Franklin Graham, CJ Mahaney, Todd Bentley, and many others—no one but us laypeople—demonstrates my thesis.

    Coverup after coverup, the average Christian shows more courage these days than many pastors. Exceptions exist, but they are exceptions. That is shameful.

    I don’t think it should surprise anyone why some people refuse to go to church. The Church is like a machine where people are often crushed alive by gears that move to further the vision and purposes of the pastor—not Jesus. When any institution operates for the benefit of the few in power, it’s an institution that is sick and needs to be examined, decried, and dismantled if it can’t be fixed. The Church world has a big problem, and until more pastors start speaking out, I for one won’t feel safe.

  14. MLD,

    The problem with the Tullian situation was not the timing of making things public. The problem was that a couple of elders and other spiritual leaders/pastors knew of other past discretions by Tullian and they stayed quiet and didn’t take the needed actions to hold him accountable.

  15. Josh,

    I would think it to be much better if these things could be handled mostly behind the scenes. But the first failure is that they aren’t handled properly behind the scenes and so they are allowed to grow. And once they are allowed to grow, they then stand the chance to gain greater public attention. The second failure is then avoiding them or not dealing with them properly once they become public.

  16. Internet justice is not the way though. We all just need to go back to our local churches and do the the right way there.

  17. I don’t think it should surprise anyone why some people refuse to go to church.<<<

    I am ,always surprised when Christians refuse to go to church.

    If they refuse to go because they discovered their pastor was a sinner, then they have placed their faith in the wrong person.

    If they refuse to go because they believe the congregation is full of sinners, are they counting themselves among the sinners?

    Refusal to attend church, and being rather proud about it, is not the will of God.

    You know, those of us who call our priests “father” and ask the Saints to intercede for us are always accused of idolatry by evangelicals yet I have never encountered anything like the idolatry that some evangelicals have for their pastors, to the extent that if the man demonstrates that he is a sinner they toss the Christ-ordained church aside.

  18. Ryan,

    Thanks for your input as you can speak to some more personal involvement or proximity to some of these situations.

    Now just imagine the reaction I would have gotten if I had gone even further in my analysis. 🙂

  19. Josh,

    By all means, yes, doing things right in the local church should be of primary importance. I just don’t think we can *always* stick our heads in the sand when some situations become public.

  20. I agree with pretty much everything in Kevin’s post. And I second Michael’s comments re:GFA. The guys who have spoken up about that scandal are not the real players, only the peanut gallery. The lack of accountability with leaders is the common sickness, whether it’s what is going on in CC, the issue with Saeed, GFA, Mars Hill, etc.
    I think the only option church leaders have is to speak out, and distance themselves from the cancer when they can.

  21. Like Josh, I’m not going to discuss the doings of these pastor- failures anymore other than to make general statements. I would not like it if the problems of a particular Orthodox parish was brought up here and discussed by people who are not part of that parish and I would imagine members of these afflicted evangelical churches would probably feel the same way about me offering my opinions about their internal problems.

  22. Kevin – for me, it’s local church and head in the sand, unless I have some real, physical connection. I am shocked at the things I have fully bought that turned out to be lies and hurt decent people. No more of that for me.

    Jim – You are a CC pastor. Why aren’t you turning over tables?

  23. Kevin H. ~ Michael ~ Ryan Ashton.

    YES! YES! YES!

    Perfect article, Kevin, & great responses, Michael & Ryan.
    Just as many problems (maybe more?) are caused by silent cowards as are caused by the perps!

    Josh the Baptist,

    I share this sentiment:
    “I’ve been taken one too many times now. The boy cried wolf.”

  24. I always feel comfortable when I accidentally end up on the same side of a dicsussion as Xenia. 🙂

  25. To those who despise “internet justice” or wanting things to be handled “locally” consider the words in MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Better yet, read it.

    There are several things you’ll immediately recognize.

    First, the fact a “local” problem (racial injustice) was always about power and prejudice and is the same root I play when pastors and churches go rogue.

    Secondly, local problems have worldwide impact—especially when you see the same trends repeating themselves over and over.

    Third, when local attempts to rectify a situation are refused, it is a form of righteousness to seek justice, which sometimes requires adverse publicity.

    Fourth, the justice that church victims seek is not evil, so speaking about these situations is not evil. Trying to cover it up and keep it local is very much an evil—one that perpetuates these problems and silences others.

    Finally, the democratization of people’s voices always leads to great change. The printing press helped spread the Protestant Reformation, a much needed corrective action on a bloated and unjust church leadership. So too has the internet help alert the public of what churches are too-often like, and the bloated and unjust power bases the abusers occupy to Christ’s disgrace.

    I truly wish Xenia, Josh, and MLD would consider “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as a template for what church victims aspire for. MLK’s words have helped clarify and motivate my actions, because agitating—bringing to light the injustice that exists, and our patterns of thinking that allow it to continue—is every bit as much a sacrament to God as “attending church.”

    Both attendance and agitating for justiceare expressions of love to Christ’s Bride. In abuse situations though, only one will ensure vulnerable people are safer in the end.

  26. And there also is one huge issue — a church may handle their problem in a way that is not satisfactory to the internet audience. But it’s not their business now is it?

  27. Kevin @22, where I think it’s my business, I’m doing what I think the Lord would have me do. I do not feel called to necessarily pass judgement, only to ask what I feel are the important questions. For instance, regarding CC business, since I’m affiliated with both groups, I find it my business, I’ve written, called, discussed personally, asking questions. Not everyone is honest or straightforward about the truth, so it is difficult to arrive at a correct understanding of what has transpired. But, I will call this one thing out… I am growing weary of CCA’s lack of honesty/transparency to the point I am ready to make a public separation from them. I have asked several questions via email with no response. It’s not my place to turn the tables over, that is Jesus’ job, but I’ll just no longer associate with unaccountable so-called leaders.

  28. Ryan, comparing MLK to the liars I’ve tried to help with their hurt feelings, is akin to comparing Obama to Hitler.

    I guess we could try to figure out what stuff MLK would go after on twitter, but as it is, he showed up with boots on the ground. It’s too easy to do battle from a keyboard, and the fact is, most of the time we have no clue what we are talking about.

  29. Jim – Then you are the guy Kevin is writing about. You know something is wrong, you are a leader, but you are sitting by quietly and waiting for someone else to act.

  30. MLD wrote: “And there also is one huge issue — a church may handle their problem in a way that is not satisfactory to the internet audience. But it’s not their business now is it?”

    Thank God Almighty that Civil Rights activists didn’t think what happened in Montgomery was only Montgomery’s business.

    Thank God Almighty Wilberforce didn’t think what happened in Africa was Africa’s business.

    Thank God Almighty there were people online who didn’t believe Matt Chandler was handling Karen Hinkley “satisfactorily.”

    Thank God Almighty there are people here who don’t think what happened in Boise is Boise’s business.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King Jr wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

    “When one member suffers, all suffer with it,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

    I say we should live with more care for others, not less.

    May none of us be like the Levite that passes the wounded on the road. Every time we think “I shouldn’t be hearing this, discussing this, or seeing this,” we have the same apathy Jesus Himself spoke against.

  31. Ryan – THat’a all over the top.

    Mlk helping Civil Rights era blacks does not fit in the same post with Matt Chandler hurting a ladies feelings.

    It’s insulting.

  32. I’ve read MLK’s letter many times. I do not see the application here.

  33. Jim is not sitting by quietly.
    He’s acting according to conscience.

    Because someone doesn’t act as I would, does not mean they are not acting at all.

  34. Ryan – then you have now set yourself up as the internet arbiter of all church governments and doings – it is all within your domain.

    I thought we were talking about churches handling their own dirty laundry and now it is a general civil rights abuse issues. The big difference Ryan is that you can walk out of any church at any time and change your life completely – a black person in Montgomery had no option to do such a thing.

  35. “Because someone doesn’t act as I would, does not mean they are not acting at all.”

    My point exactly, brother.

  36. Love all y’all.

    Gotta run.

  37. Josh, none of that is over the top. You’re minimizinf.

    Karen Hinkley’s “feelings” weren’t being hurt. She was enduring outrageous injustice from her pastors, church discipline, and shunning for separating from a child predator.

    In the case of widespread injustice that exists, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” very much applies. Power and privilege is concentrated in the hands of a few; how Dr. King methodically works through the Church Fathers and Founding Fathers to clarify the conditions injustice and abuse exist under, and what it takes to correct that injustice and abuse.

    King’s words apply to many situations today. None more so than the Church world—especially when he speaks about how the silence of the Church and church leaders regarding racial injustice can be applied directly to Kevin’s post today.

  38. Ryan, with respect, you are being very disrespectful towards civil rights era blacks.

    Karen Hinkley could, and did, walk away from that church and told the internet about it. I said good for her at the time.

    She wasn’t kept out of getting an education by law.

  39. “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

    —Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

  40. Ryan,

    Here’s the difference.
    Church membership is a voluntary association.
    No one is coerced into attending any assembly.

    Leadership should be held accountable…I amen every word that Kevin wrote.

    By the same token, parishioners need to take responsibility for their own spiritual health.

    I had a Facebook conversation yesterday where I was informed that this kind of conversation was irrelevant…they don’t care.

  41. Josh, abuse in the Church is like the Civil Rights Movement in Christianity today. You have people with power and voices and those without. You have “the moderates” trying to silence the oppressed and those that try to amplify those voices. You have people traumatized to the point of suicide, the brink of sanity, or being abandoned by family and friends. You have cults and Kool-Aid and no accountability—while a watching world sees these facts roll by and just shrug their shoulders.

    I have made the same observation before with many of my minority friends and they haven’t responded to me the way you have. The thing that unites me with my minority friends has been empathy: all of us have faced injustice, and all of us know what it is like to have our pain and experiences minimized so those with power can keep it. I march with them, I’m learning with them, and I’m coming to understand humanity in a better way with them.

    That’s because I recognized how church abuse resembles so much of the injustice in this world. The hallmarks are the same. And so too can the solutions to it—speaking up, speaking out, drawing attention to it, appealing to the common good people have, decrying the apathy of those who want to ignore.

    In these and many other ways, the common sin of injustice seeks to rob us from our collective humanity—diminishing the image of God in those who suffer from church abuse, diminishing the image of God in those who suffer from racism, diminishing the image of God in those who suffer under the withering spell of patriarchy, diminishing the image of God in those who suffer from dehumanizations in any form.

    I see the commonalities and seek to do something about it. Call that “disrespectful” all you like, at least I’m trying.

  42. Michael—

    i don’t disagree.

    But there are indeed instances where people have been coerced and harassed in abuse situations—I’m not just talking about membership contracts.

  43. I’m not talking about membership contracts either.
    It’s a volitional choice to get up and drive to church.

  44. I agree again w/ Josh. Comparing the Civil Rights Movement w/ abusive pastors is insulting to every black who had to drink at the “Colored Only” drinking fountain and had to sit at the back of the bus.

  45. Okay, trying to catch up on a couple things.

    Josh @22 – I think I have no problem with that for the most part. I am not saying that every Christian or every leader needs to get involved with all the different issues that come to our awareness via the internet (or other means). But when there is a real connection to an issue, then that’s when we need to think about getting involved. The stronger the connection, the greater the imperative to be involved. Especially when one is a spiritual leader and there are greater responsibilities in such a position.

    Jim @27 – You probably already realize it, but you were responding to a question from Josh, not me.

    Josh @29 – No, Jim, wasn’t really the type of leader I was referring to. Again, my emphasis is on those who are close to a situation and yet choose ignore it and not take righteous action. To my knowledge, Jim hasn’t been close to any of the CC scandals we have known about or is closely involved in the current CCA split and mess.

  46. These abused folk…. they had one thing black didn’t have: freedom of association.

    I’ve had some terrible experiences w/ pastors in the course of my 60+ years of church attendance including one that would make your toes curl. 100 percent of the time I had the freedom to get up and walk away, which is exactly what I did eventually, in every case.

  47. All,
    Late to the conversation here, but (unless I’ve missed it) I don’t think the most relevant item has really been mentioned – money. The situation of a pastor wrongly held in an Islamic state prison generated financial support for churches and not-for-profits bringing his case forward. To then go back to donors and say, “Well, actually he’s not such a great guy…” means current lose of donations and, rightly, makes donors question the next “cause of the moment”.

    Money also drives how pastoral misconduct matter are handled in other places. In mainline denominations, a pastor who “misbehaves” from a smaller insignificant church is handled with some degree of efficiency and not a great deal of concern for privacy. If, however, the pastor who misbehaves is at a flagship parish with a multi-million dollar endowment, matters are handled quietly and gently and a usually generous severance package is negotiated with few details shared beyond the governing body of the church in question.

    As was said in one political cover up… “follow the money…”

  48. Additional to #47, I think Keven did a fine article…

  49. Duane,

    Amen and amen…

    When the Assemblies of God tried to sit down Jimmy Swaggart they put an estimated third of their missions budget in danger…

  50. Duane,

    Thanks for your addition. In my article I didn’t delve into the why’s of why righteous action is not taken when it should be in these situations. But you are certainly correct that money is a big, if not the biggest factor in many of these cases.

  51. As an honest quest, how much did Franklin Graham’s organization get in additional donations as they beat the drum for Abedini and his release? I’m not even saying that they were wrong in doing so, but they also are very aware of what it means to have donors disenchanted by the reality of Abedini’s conduct…

  52. Duane,

    That’s an excellent question and the same can be asked of other groups that were involved.
    I’ve tried to ask those questions…and the response has been silence.

  53. #50 Kevin

    I’ve seen money being the deciding factor in how pastoral cases are handled in the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church and, yes, even in Lutheran circles.

    Then you could take the case of the woman bishop in Maryland, driving drunk, killing a cyclist. Turns out the hierarchy knew she had a problem with alcohol and drugs before she was made a bishop, but she was “well connected” with wealthy parishes and, then, a bishop in an important diocese.

    I’m not saying we have to crucify these people, but really, some common sense judgements could stop many of these scandals before they happened. Churches and not-for-profits, however, don’t want to endanger the “bottom line”.

  54. Duane,

    My bigger problem with the Saeed fundraising was with the ACLJ as they were at the forefront of knowingly promoted some false narratives in the midst of their efforts to bring awareness to Saeed’s cause and concurrently raise money. I really don’t recall how much Graham may have promoted these false narratives, if at all.

    My difficulties with Graham come in that he knowingly was Saeed’s most famous supporter and he continued to publicly support Saeed after the abuse allegations and prior criminal conviction came to light and the only way he ever addressed them was in taking shots to protect Saeed when they first came to light.

  55. #54 Kevin

    I hate to say it, but in Graham’s case, it fits in with others he has lately supported. He might as well say, “Please don’t confuse me with the facts…”

  56. We discussed on this blog and showed the numbers before – The ACLJ’s financial revenue showed no uptick between the post Saeed years and the pre Saeed years.

    As to the article…the guiding motivation has to be love. Love causes one to warn before an innocent is hurt. However, as Michael pointed out, people do have some responsibility for their own well being. The Catholic Church should have warned about their molesting priests. One does not have to warn about upcoming The Shack movie, even if one thought every single line was heretical.

    And I would again mention the primary burden of pastoral ministry involves people struggling with health, relationships, addictions, financial struggles. Sometimes it is not an easy call as to when to lay a burden on people at no risk of being hurt.

    And as Josh pointed out, what if you are wrong. As Ray Donovan famously said, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?” – and that was pre internet.

    This is not theoretical. I am a shepherd. I have had situations where I could stay silent, or speak out, and even in speaking out, one can do so in various levels of degree of severity and detail.

    And a note to Ryan. Harassment…real harassment…is a crime. If it is happening, go to the police. They will listen, take a report, probably visit the bully and scare them into future silence. It is 180 degrees opposite the situation when the laws were against black people in the civil rights era.

  57. It supports my commitment that I give nothing, zero to political candidates or political causes and nothing, zero to para church groups and absolutely nothing to ministries outside of my church and denomination.

    I am still bewildered why anyone would. I doubt the LCMS raised a dime for the Iranian snot.

  58. #47

    I’m starting to think that the crux of not being conformed to the world has to do with 2 things: money and power. Churches are sure not immune.

  59. @29… thanks for that, you’ve obviously done your homework.

  60. JIm – I was using you as an example, but in my mind you are doing it the right way. We don’t know what you are doing, and that’s the way it should be.

    We do slam some people for not speaking up, but the truth is we don’t know what they are doing either.

    I am going local.

    Ryan – I like you, and do appreciate your intentions, however, let’s think about Karen and Chandler for moment. She separated from her husband (sounded like for good reasons), the church tried to control her, she called their bluff, they backed off. I am certain that it was unpleasant. She did the right thing, and then they did to.

    The reason we know any of this is because she told us about it. There is a possibility that she slanted facts in her favor.

    The reason we know about the civil rights stuff, is because we saw white men dragging black college girls out of Woolworths by their hair into the Greensboro street. Those are the people MLK was speaking for.

    Please tell me you see the difference.

  61. Steve,

    A couple things to address in your #56.

    You are correct we have previously discussed ACLJ’s funding and that you gave us the data that showed that their funding did not show any significant differences between the Saeed years and the pre-Saeed years. It was also established that that data cannot prove that some of the funding they received in the Saeed years did not come in response to their pleas for Saeed. It is a very reasonable possibility that their funding could have been lesser in those years if not for the Saeed advocacy (and not filled it with some other high profile or high emotional cause). We also know that some of their calls for funding also coincided quite closely with their pleas for Saeed. Without deeper data that the ACLJ will probably never give, we will never know for sure how much funding they raised or didn’t raise because of Saeed.

    As for the possibility of speaking out and being wrong, that is also a real concern. And so, yes, discernment, care, and concern need to be used in deciding whether to speak out or take action. There are many cases, however, where I think people closely connected to the situation can be pretty darn sure of what is right or wrong. The three examples I gave in my article, I don’t think there is much ambiguity. For example in Saeed’s case, we don’t even have to prove the abuse allegations. It is established fact that he now has two criminal convictions in crimes against his wife. It is established fact that he has filed for divorce from his wife. It is established fact that there is serious turmoil in his marriage. These known facts are reason enough to be able to say that this man should have no part of being a pastor or spiritual leader at this time and should not be pursuing ministry. There would be no fear of finding out later on to be wrong on this.

  62. “Josh the Baptist says:
    February 22, 2017 at 11:52 am
    Internet justice is not the way though. We all just need to go back to our local churches and do the the right way there.”

    Please don’t fall over dead from a heart attack, but I now agree with this from being on all sides of this stuff.

    I love Michael and I think his heart is sincere and he does good reporting. I also now think that the blogs are very imperfect ways of dealing with these issues and that the peanut gallery won’t solve any of the problems that are reported on and exposing all the gory details publicly causes more problems and pain than it solves. I regret going public with my stuff, for instance.

    The local level is the best way to deal with it and those who feel they have been hurt by a pastor should be forgiving, patient and loving in dealing with their issues and the pastors should also be forgiving and patient and loving in dealing with the issues their congregants have with them.

  63. Kevin @ 61 – I am precisely backwards from you on this. Everything you said in your first paragraph is simply speculation about what ACLJ may have done wrong. There is no proof to back that up. It seems more and more irresponsible to me to slam other Christians from across the country, just because I think they may have done something wrong.

    The 3 items mentioned in your article are Saeed, GFA, and Tullian.

    Again, I don’t think it is Franklin’s place to discipline Saeed, and he hasn’t spoken in support of him in a long time. CC Boise did try to discipline him, and his wife was pleased with their efforts.He simply walked away from it. Nothing you can do about that.

    Who in the world knows what is going on with GFA? Some very respected people on the inside haven’t said a word. Maybe they know something we don’t? Maybe they are criminals? I don’t know, but I don’t see how it can be helpful for me to talk about it. I do not give money to them, nor would I. I hope that those who give are responsible with their money, but I can’t fix it if they are not.

    Tullian…geez. You take a spoiled rich boy celebrity who wants to have sex with women and just try to stop him. Nothing you can do. Bad guys are bad. They do bad things, and place themselves in situations where bad things are possible. Tullian is the only one who could have stopped Tullian, but he had other things on his mind.

  64. Much love to you Alex. I am happy for the peace you have found in your life, and am sorry for all it cost you.

  65. I will give some practical advice to all:

    Don’t go to a church if the pastor could never get to know you. I don’t have a solid cut off number, but no way a pastor knows everyone in a 6,500 member church. Just don’t go there. That is a steamroller. You will likely be caught in front of it one day. Go to a smaller church where the pastor knows you and your family. That in itself provides some accountability.

    Go to a church which practices congregational polity. You will know exactly what the pastor makes, and be involved in the decision to hire and fire him.

    It seems that so many things we talk about here could be avoided with those two easy steps. ( And I know some of you have found peace outside of congregationalism, but you aren’t the one complaining either. Stay where you are.)

  66. Hey Alex, good to see you.

  67. Kevin, you are aware the ACLJ was providing legal services to Naghmeh as she advocated for Saeed with the US government and international community. Even a modest billing rate would no doubt have been easily six figures.

    She then had a massive platform that also brought her a lot of money. A lot of money.

    I will quickly say she has acquitted herself far better in the last year than he, but in the moment there was a lot of concern and deception and questions on both sides of this which we need not revisit….but which is a key point. Hindsight is always clearer…

  68. It’s GREAT to see Alex!

  69. Josh, @ 63, you are correct that my paragraph in 61 about the ACLJ is speculation. That is why I made no direct accusations in it. However, my main case problem is what I had stated earlier and is established fact. And that is that the ACLJ knowingly promoted Saeed’s cause with false narratives while coincidingly raising funding. This is the main and real problem.

    As for GFA, it is established fact that ECFA kicked them out of their organization for serious violation of their standards. A step that the ECFA rarely takes. And although the exact names and details escape me at the moment, it is etablished fact that GFA got in trouble with a governmental tax/nonprofit agency for violation of standards and lost their standing. There are also other mountains of evidence of their wrongdoing. When I personally contacted the organization as a concerned donor back when things were first coming to light, I was lied to by a higher ranking officer. Although *all* the exact details may not be known with certainty, there is no question that GFA has committed some serious wrongs.

    Lastly for Tullian, again I will repeat that my issues are with the elders and pastors who knew of his past discretions before anything else came to light yet chose not to take action on them. If they had acted as they should have, then others could have been spared from his predatory sexual exploits. It has nothing to do with anything I or anyone else could have or should have done on the internet.

  70. Steve,

    Yes I am aware that the ACLJ was providing legal services to Naghmeh. And yes I am aware that she was also culpable in promoting the false narratives surrounded by fundraising that was going on at the same time.

    These things have nothing to do with my point that that the ACLJ was guilty of promoting false narratives about Saeed while side-by-side raising funding for their organization.

  71. And yes, Alex, it is good to see you.

  72. I love you guys, I love Michael, I always will have a fondness for this place. You saw me at my worst…that side of me was real (unfortunately) and you all tried to help me and did help me, especially Michael. It is appreciated. I love the Lord and I’m following Jesus and sowing in a good direction again. I’ve learned some hard lessons the hard way, but it is all good b/c the fruit is much better now and God broke me and humbled me and I’ve done a lot of repenting. Thank God for the gift of repentance and for belief and faith, my has certainly been renewed. I got what I prayed for in lots of areas, just not in ways I expected. I am at peace and full of love and thankfulness to God and others.

  73. I wasn’t getting into the false narratives…we’ve dealt with those in detail here in the past…I and those in the email circle were lied to more than the general public.

    Just countering any impression new readers might get that this ministry sat back and got rich exploiting Naghmeh. Their financials don’t show that and the money that was raised offset a lot of expenses on her behalf.

  74. Love you, Alex.

  75. Alex

    I’m so happy for the answer to prayers.

    Hannah

  76. Alex,

    Good to see you here.

  77. MLD
    #1
    I’ve been through a few churches in my lifetime, from Methodist to Lutheran to Reformed Dutch to Armenian to Calvary.

    Scandals and neglect in every one from the local congregation to the fat cats. I think the probability of one person running across successive shenanigans in successive congregations belies your belief that churches around the world have their disciplinary act together. Unless the US is the outlier…?

  78. MLD @57,

    You really live in a tiny bubble. Are you implying that the LCMS is the only worthwhile organization, ministry, etc. to support? Now I never supported Saaed, but you are calling a fellow fallen Christian brother a snot in the same breadth setting your denomination and church above everything. Look in the mirror. What is your definition of a snot?

  79. Siggy,
    “belies your belief that churches around the world have their disciplinary act together.” This statement is a moving target and that is my point – and I do not deny that churches may not handle discipline correctly – I do deny that any semblance to a majority do it out of bad intent. You may be targeting large churches – but only 1% are Mega and perhaps 5% rated large – 95% are small normal congregations.

    You have probably never been a part of a disciplinary process (as most here probably have not) – it is not as easy as making a declaration of “you have done wrong and you are out.”

    And what happens when you take disciplinary action and some in the church think it does not appropriately fit the infraction? – well those people go away dissatisfied or as complainers – as many here.

    This happened in my church – we went through the whole process – we involved the leadership, the entire congregation and our district representatives. We suspended our pastor for 7 months, had him under district supervision for the next 18 months and we still lost 1/4th of our congregation who wanted him fired. They very well could go out and blog that we covered up for the fat cat. It could have made a fine article on the Phoenix Preacher how the leadership board at ‘that’ Lutheran Church let a known sinning pastor get away with his infraction almost unscathed.

    It’s easy on a blog to bitch and moan about the life of a pastor and the leaders who must keep him on track – and who either fail or come up short trying.

    I suggest you (a plural you for anyone reading) all try a stint at leadership and dodge the arrows that continually come your way.

  80. Interesting how brittle so much logic is, where to begin…
    Like the “all we need is the Bible” camp decry everything thing don’t immediately understand, yet “the Bible” itself is a compilation of “man’s wisdom” – show me where the table of contents is inspired (which books “should” be in the Bible), or “we teach book by book, verse by verse, ” though Jesus nor any of the Apostles did so, not to mention so many of our doctrines – listening to some describe “the trinity” while being orthodox (which I am) using “only the Bible” is a hoot. OF COURSE GOD HAS AND PLANNED TO USE PEOPLE!!!
    No I’m not against either of those, but this cherry-picking of “rights” (a fair pun for them) is really getting old.
    3/4 of the NT is just a few guys writing letters to deal with issues in ANOTHER AREA!!!
    If you believe like I, you think it was God wanting to deal with those issues.
    So, since God addressed so many issues, across the known world at that time (or a representative portion of it), show me where in your “all we need is the Bible” God stopped caring in the same way, to use certain people to deal with issues, or only in the way YOU agree with.
    As a matter of fact, show me where God NEEDS your opinion.
    To represent the position YOU determine which issues should/should not be dealt with, and in which manner is itself an a logical fallacy.
    In other words, unless you freekin’ live on this website, don’t come here pontificating about what others should care about in YOUR ordained areas.

  81. What are you going on about?

  82. The corrective epistles were written to congregations that the authors had a direct connection with.

  83. Josh, maybe it has something to do with defining what an evangelical is. About as clear as some of those conversations. 😉

  84. MLD

    “It’s easy on a blog to bitch and moan”

    I have been in the position of having to bring things to light in the prescriptive of Matthew 18. I was asked by the pastor and elders to leave the congregation where I’d served for 2 decades. Hence, the church at large was not informed. My experiences were in 3 small and 2 large churches.

    “I suggest you (a plural you for anyone reading) all try a stint at leadership and dodge the arrows that continually come your way.” The issues were of the sort that need necessitated removal, defrocking, and prison, in one case. In my own case, I should have been on the other side of Mt.18, seeing as how I’d spoken to many of the staff and pastor about my sin. Since sin crept in, and no one removed me, the Holy Spirit had me remove myself. It led to my salvation.

    Pastors understand that when they accept the responsibility, they accept the accountability. They shouldn’t be able to be publically scourged for their own sins. It will find them out. There should be, then, fewer holes in their shield than the pew sitter, as Paul exhorted Timothy and his elders. No dodging required when a life lived in faith is defense in itself.

  85. Siggy – “I was asked by the pastor and elders to leave the congregation where I’d served for 2 decades.”

    So why did you leave? If you were a member you could have stayed and fought – make the church formally excommunicate you – but in the meantime you could bring your charges as part of your defense.

    Now I must admit I do have a problem with people who say they go from one abusive situation to another. We saw this on the Boise thread where a couple of people in speaking of leaving a situation where they were spiritually abused, and went to the next church and the same — and then they finish up, we are at our 5th church in 5 years and we just had to leave because we were spiritually abused. Perhaps spiritually offended is a better term. 😉

  86. MLD
    Perhaps you missed the “2-decades” of service remark 🙂 I don’t fit your term.

    UnCCed

    So if I am getting this right, you believe God is perfect, creates perfectly, holds his word above his own Name,
    but he can’t edit?

    He allows confusion in the very thing that he breathed by the Holy Spirit for our salvation (2 Timothy 3:15–17,2 Peter 1:21)? Isn’t that a logical fallacy?

  87. Just an observation – Mainline churches have gotten a bit better at dealing with bad pastoral conduct, mainly in light of the RC pedophilia cases and the resultant lawsuits and settlements. Even so, even in mainline churches, there is a good deal of not calling out bad situations -“he (or she) was a friend in seminary”, “we served on a staff together”, etc. This is not making excuses, simply looking at the reality of church discipline, or the lack thereof.

    A good friend in the UMC knew that the head of the ministry in which he served was an alcoholic. He spoke to the district superintendent and the conference bishop. Nothing was done. The ministry in question continued to receive a grant of $250,000 a year. Almost a year later, the head of that ministry died from an alcohol related disease. The lack of action failed the ministry and people and, ultimately, failed the person who really needed help.

    Some of this, of course, could be dealt with on the “front end”. I don’t know others experiences, but before I was ordained I had to do three days of testing and evaluation by a psychiatrist. Obviously, it doesn’t catch all the crazies (after all, I got through) but it at least can help with obvious cases before they are inflicted on a congregation…

  88. MLD
    “So why did you leave?”
    That would be a book in itself. Too much to say, not enough time using an Android.
    Sorry.

  89. I have been in the position of having to bring things to light in the prescriptive of Matthew 18.
    ———————————————————
    I’m not looking to discuss Siggy’s experience but will note that “bringing things to the light” is not what Matthew 18 deals with. In point of fact, Matthew 18 begins with the encouragement to keep things private between the one who was sinned against and the one that person feels sinned against them.

    Examples like the ones centered in this article (and in the comments) are not Matthew 18 territory….

    (As an aside, unless step two of the process is taken, it is hard to see a Matthew 18 moment at all)

  90. I would think that church discipline when done well should hopefully not become a matter of discourse for social media, blog posts, or gossip. If that is indeed the case, then unless we have been in the position to witness it at a local level; can we really have any reasonable idea of how much/how often?

    I can think of several instances of church discipline that have never (to my knowledge) passed outside of the church/churches involved. There were issues with members, or even an affair a pastor was having with a lady on staff. They were issues that were handled with tact and much love. There were consequences, but in the case of the pastor, there was repentance and restoration. I don’t believe that there was repentance in the other cases.

    The whole dynamic changes when you are dealing with larger churches and especially when it comes to the “mega” church. Church discipline at that scale, whether it involves a pastor or church member, has got to be fraught with peril. Do you speak openly about the subject and expose people to ridicule and public shaming, or do you try to handle it more quietly in a manner that gives a reasonable amount of privacy but may give rise to much speculation? And then there is the whole matter of public/private sin. May God give much wisdom to pastors and church leaders!

    I would agree that there is a great lack of church discipline, especially for those of us here in the US. Culturally, it is not something that most people understand or would submit to. That’s why it always needs to be about Christ, not culture.

    People are messy and sinful. In theory, Christians are just more aware of their own sin. Honestly, should we really find it so shocking that pastors or any other Christian can fall into more publicly known sin? We all have areas of our life (especially in our thoughts) where we struggle with sin. There are undoubtedly consequences of sin, but should there be condemnation of the sinner him/herself? (I apologize for the length. I couldn’t think of a more succinct way to communicate my thoughts)

  91. Steve Wright

    “Bring things to light”
    It was a poor word choice. First met privately one on one, then with a couple other elders. The intent was repentance and restoration. Neither came to fruition.

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