A version of this post appeared on MPT’s blog as a followup comment (click here)
I do not claim to be able to judge the sincerity of Matt Chandler and TVC leadership as I cannot see into the hearts of these men. Only God knows the true extent of that. Ultimately, He is their judge and not me. My hope is that Matt Chandler was sincere. I really, really hope so, actually.
That said, I am not going to encourage naivete on these matters. Wrongful public actions and words on the matter remain unaddressed. I do not take a general apology as Matt Chandler gave on Sunday May 31st as an actual apology for specific instances because a reasonable listener (or TVC leadership) might say he was talking about other situations alluded to in his sermon than Karen’s. It leaves important questions unanswered (click here).
My comments/concerns are about praxis–deeds done and things said/written in this situation. Nothing has yet been said to check a message that says putting a person under church discipline is acceptable if they seek annulment for a marriage enter into under fraudulent circumstances (per even outside third-party assessment). TVC’s specific address of the Karen’s situation did not say they were wrong to put her under church discipline, but rather they were wrong in not being prepared to tell her their theology on the matter. Oh, and they ought to have told her how they were right in a nicer way. That’s what the last direct statement said.
I regularly minister to adultery survivors here on my blog. My heart breaks over how many of my readers tell me horror stories of spiritual abuse by church leaders. I want that to stop. Leaving this situation unresolved does not help.
The Village Church and Matt Chandler, especially, have a huge audience that extends well beyond the walls of their physical churches. It matters that they correct this in order not to promulgate a destructive message infecting other church bodies and pastors/elders following their lead.
To be clear: I am not against church discipline per se. Church discipline is completely appropriate and Biblical in ravaged marriage situations for the adulterous, unrepentant spouse. It is completely INAPPROPRIATE for a survivor like Karen who discovered her “husband” had lied for years about being involved with pedophilia. In fact, I would say it is cruel.
No statement has been made to say TVC leadership were wrong to put her under church discipline. I do not know why. Maybe their view of their membership covenant continues to blind them to pain they caused and the horrible precedence they are setting for other evangelical churches?
Like I said above at the start of this post, I do not know their hearts. I am concerned that their example–which they said more than once is theologically correct–will lead to more adultery/sexual immorality survivors washing up here on my digital shores after experiencing similar spiritual abuse from church leadership. Those are my concerns.
Some might say I am being nitpicking Matt Chandler/TVC’s apology by insisting on this being addressed explicitly, and I would have to respectfully disagree. I think it matters that the practical theology error–as I see it–is addressed explicitly. It has not been to this point, in my opinion.