Kevin’s Conversations: The Silence of the Shepherds
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.