“It is okay to be sorry that a sin was committed. And at least two people were hurt by the ripple effect of the consequences of that sin. It is okay to be sorry toward both people, to love both people, and not have to choose a side.
Our responsibility is that we must take God’s side. Now, what is God’s side?”
-Pastor Chris Conlee, Lead Pastor of Hightpoint Church, sermon on 1/7/18 (starting at 24:27ff, emphasis mine)
This is from the rightfully infamous service on January 7, 2018 when Andy Savage “confesses” his clergy sexual abuse of Jules Woodson and then receives a standing ovation from the church.
What struck me–besides all the minimizing and consequence avoidance behavior–from this statement is what I just highlighted in the transcribed statements by Andy Savage’s boss, Pastor Chris Conlee.
Do these words from Pastor Conlee sound familiar?
They do to me. This is Christian language used to cover up injustice and cowardice.
It is an all-too-typical response by Christians when they discover their couple friends are dealing with one of them having committed adultery. They claim that they do not need to take sides when even they know in their heart they do.
Justice demands taking sides!
Pastors, do you really believe God is neutral when He sees his shepherds abusing their position and His Name to satisfy their sexual desires with a vulnerable congregant?! Trust me: He is not!
God is on the side of the victim of such abuse.
I actually agree with Conlee’s statement about taking God’s side. Where I depart from his teaching is in application of that statement.
Conlee fails to take into account that our Just God sees a difference exists between a perpetrator and his victim. God does not treat them the same.
Like Jules, faithful spouse are frequently lumped in the same category as their abuser. We are treated as equally worthy of concern as our abusers. And some dare–like here–to say such things in the Name of God (which I consider spiritual abuse).
Sure, Andy Savage is hurting from this.
However, the same can be said about every criminal facing a prison sentence. The judge is not going to just let them walk because prison will make them feel bad. Justice demands otherwise.
Justice demands taking a side. God who is just demands taking a side in such matters. God is not neutral when it comes to clergy sexual abuse. God is not neutral when it comes to adultery.
What is God side in this matter?
It is firmly with Jules Woodson (and every faithful spouse). God sees the distinction between the parties. He sees Andy is a perpetrator of evil, and Jules is a victim of said evil.
Only a foolish person would suggest God is blind to such an important distinction and encourage such blindness in others.