Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous)

A failure to hold church and ministry leaders accountable seems to be endemic among Christians of this generation. One of the biggest problems is that pastors and ministers often aren’t holding their ministry friends accountable.

By now just about everyone has heard about the outing of the closet homosexual and drug abuser Ted Haggard, ex-pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the ex-President of the politically influential National Association of Evangelicals.

But what many people don’t realize is that Haggard’s sex and drug problems were well known to his closest friends, including Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. In a recent interview with Lou Sheldon some truly astonishing things came out:

Then, as if things could not get worse, there was the disgrace of Sheldon’s own friend and colleague, Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado mega-church leader and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an even bigger pillar of Republican support on the Christian right. Sheldon disclosed that he and “a lot” of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile … but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.”

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”

His friends knew that Haggard was a pervert and a drug abuser. What did they do about it? They kept silent. They were more concerned about preserving their own positions and power base than they were about preserving the peace and purity of the church. Too many Christian leaders are pragmatists and pragmatists will always compromise.

Confronting a powerful and influential friend about his sins, unethical conduct or hypocrisies could cost them. It could cost them the friendship itself, and all the “benefits” that go along with it. The loss of that friendship could be the loss of the influence, and perhaps even money, that that friendship buys them. So they keep quiet rather than risking the friendship.

Influential men who don’t want to be held accountable will choose their friends based upon what they can get out of the friendship. One of the things they expect is to not be held accountable. They also surround themselves with yes-men in systems that have the appearance of accountability, but which in reality are nothing but shams. They’ll ask close friends and yes-men to sit on their board of directors, which serve as nothing more than rubber stamping committees.

Needless to say such “friendships” are really no friendships at all. A friend who won’t confront a friend in his sin is no friend, but rather a deceiver and a user: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Prov. 27:6

Far too many church and ministry leaders today are very selective, and even opportunistic, about who they’ll confront in their sins. If it’s a close and influential friend they’re far less likely to confront them than if it’s just an ordinary church member.

Many church members have experienced being confronted by their pastors and elders when they’re in sin. That’s never a pleasant experience, but if indeed we’re in sin then we should be grateful for those pastors and elders who have the guts to confront us and call us to repentance. The Word says that they keep watch over our very souls:

Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17

We all need this accountability in our lives and even when it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable we should be grateful for it.

Unfortunately there are those who abuse their positions of trust and lord it over those souls that have voluntarily submitted to their pastoral care. If there wasn’t such pervasive ecclesiastical abuse there wouldn’t be so many books about it, but even though there are at least a dozen books written by Christians on the subject of ecclesiastical abuse the market hardly seems crowded at all.

Ecclesiastical bullies however are very selective in who they abuse. Of course, they don’t see it as abuse. Rather, they call it “church discipline.” Their “discipline” however is enforced very selectively, and they uphold the discipline of their friends, or against their friends, in a very selective manner. In other words they employ a double standard based entirely on whether you’re a friend or family member, versus the standard they impose for anyone else.

Take for example the recent defrocking of R.C. Sproul Jr. Sproul was deposed from office by the RPCGA for, among other things, “abuse of authority in an inexcusable manner” against several Saint Peter Presbyterian Church families, as well as identity theft and tax number fraud (Sproul stole and illegally used the EIN of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church). Sproul even confessed to the charges, but it appears that the only reason he confessed is to avoid a church trial that would have subjected him to even much greater scrutiny.

Upon being defrocked R.C. Sproul Jr could have appealed the decision (a unanimous one at that) of his Presbytery. If he disagreed with the decision that’s what he should have done. Instead he pled to be released from membership in the RPCGA. Upon his release Sproul immediately whined publicly on his web site that some great injustice had been committed against him — and this after he’d already confessed to the charges!

Sproul is just like the whiny criminal who gets busted by the police in the very act of his crime. He even admits to the cops that he’s the perp. Then when the cops attempt to cuff him and take him into custody he resists arrest. So in order to protect themselves and safely subdue him they mace him. But he still resists. So they tazer him and he whines, “I’m innocent! This is police brutality!” Yet he continues fighting them the whole time, after he’s just confessed to the crime.

R.C. Sproul Jr. wasn’t alone in his whining. He was joined in a chorus of whiny abusive ecclesiastics. It’s not that any of them are inherently opposed to church discipline. No, in fact they love church discipline, so long as it’s them that are wielding it. Tyranny loves company and bullies love other bullies (it’s for good reason that Hilter and Mussolini were pals).

Among the first to join the chorus of whining ecclesiastics was Douglas Wilson. In fact Doug Wilson started whining even before R.C. Sproul Jr started whining! Doug Wilson saw the handwriting on the wall for his good friend R.C. Sproul Jr. He attempted to influence (read “meddle in”) the RPCGA’s internal matters by starting a series of blog articles entitled “A Justice Primer,” articles which clearly attempted to manipulate the unfolding Sproul church discipline matter.

After Sproul was defrocked Doug Wilson continued publicly defending his pal R.C. Sproul Jr, often going to extraordinary lengths to bend and twist justice like a wax nose. Thankfully however a number of commenters showed up on Doug Wilson’s blog to publicly challenge Wilson’s very creative definitions of “justice.” It’s not clear when Wilson rolled out the red carpet to Sproul and offered him a home in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. It might very well have been before Sproul was defrocked. But in any event Sproul’s tax fraud and ecclesiastical abuse of several Saint Peter families was certainly no impediment to entering the CREC.

Wilson orchestrated the formation of a CREC Commission ostensibly “to provide pastoral oversight.” Yet no one really believed that the real agenda of the CREC Commission just ended there, regardless of the fact that the CREC publicly stated that the Commission “is not judicial in nature ” (original underlined). In spite of the CREC’s proclamations that their Commission wasn’t just a Kangaroo Court, Wilson had for weeks been telegraphing his intentions, and no one had any trouble picking up on it either. Some openly stated that the purpose of the CREC Commission was to “clear RC Sproul Jr’s name” and that article was posted by an ally!

Many were shocked and dismayed that R.C. Jr’s father publicly accused the RPCGA of taking a “fraudulent” action against his son that was based upon nothing more than fraudulent charges and the testimony of false witnesses. At the time many attributed it to the emotional outburst of a deeply hurt and embarrassed father. However, as time has gone on and we have now seen so much sin and corruption being exposed within the ranks of Ligonier Ministries I can only conclude that Dr. R.C. Sproul himself is an autonomist and eagerly turns a blind eye to sin, when it’s personally advantageous to do so.

When the CREC Commission released their Report Doug Wilson publicly thanked the Commission. That brief statement resulted in Wilson being immediately hit with a flurry of comments and questions, virtually none of which he responded to. Instead, he just moved on and posted a new article related to the previous one. This too resulted in a flurry of questions and negative comments and, once again, Doug Wilson failed to respond.

How could Doug Wilson possibly respond? It was all too apparent that his boutique “confederation” had largely glossed over the great sins that R.C. Sproul Jr and his session had been disciplined for. The CREC treated Sproul as though he’d never been defrocked at all. Their Report states of Sproul, “. . .he shall not be required to fulfill the process for ordination and shall be considered ordained within the CREC accordingly.” Huh? How can a defrocked minister “be considered ordained”? In Doug Wilson’s loony world this is called “justice.”

2 Comments on “Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous)”

  1. Lynn says:

    He didn’t respond, just as Doug Phillips isn’t responding to the Epsteins’ case and the case of the Allosaur article.

    Why so many people continue to support Doug Wilson, when these links are on the internet, which detail multiple public censures of the man, is troubling:

    In addition, Michael Metzler took his internet megaphone and started writing about pedophile Steve Sitler who had been in a number of homes in Wilson’s church, yet after he was caught, Wilson didn’t tell the families of his church (families with small children) for 8 months about the issue. That kind of thing, if nothing else should have raised red flags, and especially for parents.

  2. I think this should be in the January 2007 slot.
    Nobody is likely to find it way back here in the archives.

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