Kevin Swanson and Martin Selbrede discuss the recent church sex scandals and the function and role of the church for preserving the faith, justice and the health of the body. If you’re wondering how to reconcile your thoughts about what you’re reading lately, if you’ve been silenced in an abusive church, this radio program will help you reconcile your experience to the law of God. Please share this important message.
We are seeing church attendance drop off tremendously. We are seeing the church weakened tremendously. The discouragement of preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit. There are indications of the softening of sexual morality of the christian church, especially the leadership. Kevin Swanson suggests that it is a demonic force that has a hold of the church.
Sexual abuse seems to appear everywhere in Catholic and Protestant churches these days. It is hard to comprehend the level of damage these things have done on whole segments of the old Western church. It is hard to comprehend the damage done to individual subjected to it. How do faithful churches react? What is the proper approach to egregious sins committed by leaders? Kevin Swanson interviews Martin Selbrede, the author of an important article on the subject in Faith for All of Life Magazine.
Kevin speaking of the recent accusations toward Bill Gothard,
Friends, I am recommending that something be done. Honestly, there has to be something to be done about these rumors relating to Bill Gothard. Hopefully there are leaders, pastors, all over America coming forward. And there were so many churches working in tandem with Bill Gothard, through the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, I mean man, there must have been hundreds if not thousands of churches, that joined forces with this non profit ministry. It’s time that there be something of a church trial. I call for a church trial, if not a civil trial, there ought to be a church trial, absolutely. I would insist on it for myself if I were ever accused falsely of something like sexual harassment. Of course there should be a trial. Of course there should be witnesses brought forward. Of course there ought to be something of a formal trial and I would encourage this to happen within the body of some established church somewhere. Perhaps with a ministry, it really doesn’t matter but it ought to be amongst the church. Church elders, church bishops, call them what you will. They ought to exercise something of church discipline and determine the guilt or the innocence of the parties involved.
A Southern Baptist pastor writes a public letter, incensed, to the accused religious leader. He says, “I’m angry. By your behavior you haven’t just broken trust with your own followers. You have also contributed to the growing distrust the public now has of those of us in ministry. The gospel, which is what people need the most for healing, for meaning, and purpose is kept from many because actions like yours has broken that trust between them and those of us who are stewards of that story. To be honest, the most repulsive thing about what you did isn’t just the inappropriate behavior with young women, but that this behavior occurred in the context of an uneven working relationship. You abused the power and trust of your office to satisfy yourself rather than serve your people. And as the one with the power in the relationship, the blame for everything which has transpired rests squarely on your shoulders. As the stories of your harassment of young women and your abuse of power begin to spread they will in the eyes of the world grant legitimacy to the charges of misogyny, and chauvinism that is so often leveled at us all. This is what people will think when they think of their earthly leaders, the exact opposite of the truth, that Jesus gave of himself to give us freedom. I am profoundly saddened when I think of the way the gospel will be understood and the church will be held in suspicion because of this.
This man is passionate about what he says. He has a right to be passionate. He could be saying this about anybody. There is a host of examples of those who have led the breakdown of the Christian church, effectively the apostasy of the modern day, giving many, many, many millennials more an excuse to walk away from the church. Because they are disgusted with it. They are up to ‘here’ with it. These are the catalysts to apostasy. And friends, today we want to address this rather sensitive subject.
This is the article that was published in the chalcedon magazine Faith for All of Life. It’s a front page article called Liberty from Abuse and the article itself is written by Martin Selbrede who himself has compiled systemic failures of more than two dozen christian institutions and they are handling on particular sexual exploitation by a noted missionary. So he’s done tremendous research on this particular issue and he has published his ideas his conclusions in an article for Faith for All of Life and Chalcedon.
Martin Selbrede joins us now on the broadcast. Thank you for joining us today.
You know Martin, this is not the most comfortable issue to be addressing and yet it’s such a fundamental issue and if we don’t address it, it seems to me we can’t get on to other things.
Martin: No, it’s a show stopper. No question about it. If we can’t get this right, then we can’t get anything right about the faith.[It offends] the disposition of the sheep. If the church is supposed to be put on the ground of the truth, and the haven and the harbor for them to be safe and to grow and to be nurtured, then if you see a bunch of sheep bloodied and beaten in the flock and do nothing then you have to throw off all pretense of being a shepherd of any kind. So, we have to get this right first.
Kevin: It appears that something terrible has happened. The Catholic church is probably the worst example and yet the Protestants are coming in a close second. Especially some of these fundamentalist churches that have been reported on by secular magazines and different sources. There must be a facade coming down here Martin. A facade of faith but really a very broken down a very weak faith in the old Christian west. There is something broken here.
Martin: I think it is a reliance of institutional hierarchy versus the power of God’s justice His law. Once you put the form up but deny the power you don’t have any sustative justice. You might have some procedures but then you are simply shuffling the deck. But that is what the Catholic church was doing and the protestant churches are following suit. They are protecting the power structure. They are circling wagons and ultimately God is opposed to it from the get go and ultimately he is going to expose that whitewashing to use the phrase in Ezekiel 13. He is going to expose it and throw the pile of whitewashed rocks down and say, “Here is what you’ve got.” You have nothing. Because you’ve eliminated the entire premise of being a shepherd. The church, it’s function is a slaughterhouse for the sheep.
Kevin: Now the world establishes no example for us. The world is filled with examples of abuse, of adultery, homosexuality, of divorce, the world is dysfunctional. It by definition is dysfunctional. But leaders within the church of Jesus Christ? Not expected to be dysfunctional. We would expect there to be some faith. Some grace operating. Some sins mortified. Some examples amongst the flock. Especially among the leaders. They are called to be examples.
Martin: I think the problem there is the leaders [don’t have] a delight in God’s law, His righteousness, His justice. And when that [lags] you lack that, then humanistic institutions and conventions will operate instead of substantive justice. I think that is going to be one of the points I’ll illustrate as we get deeper into this discussion. We know the world is antinomian and we know that many of the churches are antinomian. That is their respect for God’s law is minimal and lip service at best. They basically have a moralistic approach. That’s why we talk about, “Well, we have a fallen leader what can we do to restore him?” And this totally bypasses what the bible actually requires in the case of a shepherd who is caught harming the sheep and it’s my thesis and I think it’s Ezekiel’s point that he backs up by God Himself, that they shall no longer be ministers of the flock and never again be paid as flock keepers, as shepherds. They lose their office because their office is not absolute. It’s conditional on them being good shepherds.
Kevin: So your position is that it’s, “One strike. You’re Out.” For leaders within the church and I would agree with that and I think John MacArthur would agree with that too with things I have read online. First Timothy chapter 3 talks about being beyond reproach and somebody who is in a significant leadership position in the church, who falls will never be able to salvage that in the eyes of the world out there. Now they may be able to restore some relationship and some trust with some within the church. But they’ve really destroyed themselves in terms of their reputation and I don’t think there’s any recovery of that until glory.
Martin: That’s true because the trust that they had was the very thing that they used as a launch pad for abusing sheep. And so they were shown to be untrustworthy with being trusted. Let’s put it that way in a nutshell. Trust is the biggest resource that they have to exploit someone wrongfully. And then they put all the power of the church’s institution, if you will, into oppressing the sheep so the woman, or whomever the victim might be is not in a position to get any justice. In fact, if they get angry and report it, they’re to blame. There are all kinds of mechanisms that are very commonly understood at this point whereby they reverse the roles, we pass the buck, there is always the point of how important it is to keep the whole thing secret, undercover and underwraps. And then the church, as I said, is a solidarity. “We have to protect the ministry’ because the ministry is seen as more important than just a spore individual and that is dead wrong. Justice first, office has to be a vehicle for justice and when it is not the office has to be removed because that is more important than the ministry. That might shock people but that is how it works.
Kevin: Right, right.
Martin: [What if to the victim] I said, you need to work with me in ministry and I open up to you in a way that I don’t open up to anyone else, and ‘wam’ that person is not sucked in and the victim is now sucked in as someone who feels very special because now they are working with the ministry so to speak. That becomes the pretext, “trust and ministry working together” and not saying no to working together. And that is the problem. Because now the faith has been used as a crowbar to pry open the boundaries for this person. And they lose that which is most precious to them which is their integrity.
Kevin: Martin, I want to get back to this commitment to justice. I think there are church leaders who sure would like to see justice for abortionists and the serial killer. But boy, they don’t think about cleaning house closer to home. I suppose it is harder to address things right here, right now with the injustices done within the context of the church, than it is to encourage the civil magistrate to engage with the serial killers.
Martin: Right, technically to solve this problem it’s low hanging fruit because it’s right in front of you. It’s in your own church in most cases. I pray it’s not but if it is, you need to confront it. I know of one victim who visited a major church and asked the elders, “What would happen if ‘this’ happened in your midst?” And the answer came, “Well, boy I sure hope it doesn’t.” Well you know that is not a strategy for applying God’s law. That is just wishful thinking and that means you’re not prepared. They don’t know what to do when the bible has already told them what to do. They should have been saying Ezekiel 34:7 is our policy because Ezekiel 34:7 says God swears an oath on His own life that that is the policy. Therefore one strike you’re out and we protect the flock. You say that and people say, ‘I want to be under that shepherd because they are going to see to the needs of the sheep.
Listen to the rest here
The Church Effeminate
The Institutes of Biblical Law: 3 Volume Set
Apostate – The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West
Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault
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