Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Carl Trueman, on need for accountability

I met Carl Trueman while we were both at the University of Aberdeen- him as a professor, me as a PhD student. Carl is a good friend, able scholar and writer. He has just posted a piece on the recent moral scandal that has rocked the church. This piece is helpful reading with a warning against placing our faith in human leaders and a warning to those of us who serve in leadership. Here is an excerpt:

And it serves as a warning to all who aspire to be leaders: to whom do you make yourselves accountable? Who can tell you when you are crossing the line? Do you have even one person who can go toe-to-toe with you and tell you, if necessary, that your behaviour is out of bounds? If you are not careful, your gifts may long outlast the grace in your life. The tragedy of so many fallen Christian pastors is that they became too big to be accountable to anyone, and they mistake the acclaim of their congregations for true Christian grace and divine favour. And those errors are no respecter of theological or confessional position.

Oh, how we need to heed this advice. This is one great blessing in having a plurality of pastors and avoiding “senior” terminology.
(HT: JT)


Farmer Joe said...

I have been thinking about the way Mr. Haggard & New Life Church has handled this event: Ted & his wife exit the state of Colorado only with several pages of apology to be read to the congregation. Shouldn't he have to stand before the members of that Church in shame? Also, has anyone heard the public rebuke of this man's evil deeds as directed by 1 Tim 5:20? (Those who sin, reprove in the sight of all, that the rest also may be in fear).

Even more mind numbing is that we have pastors who are forced to give an account to the Church & the world, yet, the members are not held to the same standard. How much adulterous & homosexual activitiy could be going on at NLC with a membership of 13-15,000 people without accountability? God only knows.

One last thing, why isn't there any outcry as to the reproach & slander upon Jesus Christ? Why isn't Ted saying he's lamenting the damage he's done to the Person & Work of Christ? Ted's official statement on the NLC website doesn't even hint at approaching a just and holy God in repentance.

God have mercy.

Chris Lee said...

You made the case that we should avoid using "senior" terminology. In view of the many offices that a pastor/elder staff has to fill, how should we divide up responsibilities without forming a hierarchy?

Ray Van Neste said...

Farmer Joe,
I actually thought the letters were pretty good, as he repeatedly sought to make it clear that he took full responsibility.

Among pastors/elders responsibilities can be easily shared/divided without losing the basic equality. The confusion of biblical offices (pastor/elder) with extra-biblical ones (staff) is oftne the source of confusion. A church may choose to have others serving (staff) but it should make abundantly clear the difference between who are pastors and who are not. Of course if we would labor to reduce our 'staff-heavy' church structures that would help as well.

Randy R said...

We may remove the term 'senior' from our vocabulary, but when the rubber hits the road, it is those who are in authority who approve or disapprove, especially worship style & method, ministries supported, activities endorsed.

Ray Van Neste said...

There should be authority vested in the pastors. The point is distinguishing who these are and keeping some parity between them.

Joel Maners said...

Ever since this scandal broke, I've been wondering what Haggard's life these past few years has been like. Having to maintain a public persona while battling his inner demons must have been a hellish existence for him. I wonder also if it crossed his mind that he might need to confess his struggles with another member of his church. Of course, if he did that, his position as a leader in the church might have been questioned. He probably felt pressurre to just keep his public image up andnot confess anything. How would we react if our trusted church pastor confessed that he struggled with homosexuality or drug dependency or domestic abuse. Would we look at him differently?

That leads me to my next question. Do we as church members treat our leaders as real brothers and sisters in need of confession just like the rest of us? Or doweput them on a pedistal as model Christians and expect them to be sinless? To me, we as a church body share some culpability in what is happening with our pastors and teachers. I know that there are a number of support groups for pastors and their wives now, and that's great. Like the rest of us, they need emotional and spiritual support. But I have to wonder also why that support is not taking place within the local community of faith. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and examine what we are doing to support our church leaders.

It makes me wonder as well, when we do not expect confession of sin to be a regular part of a pastor's life. We may not give him a specific title but we do elevate certain people above ourselves. Perhaps that's just part of our human nature. We do this with sports figures, writers, bloggers(!), and preachers. Why are we shocked to discover that these people are real fleshand blood sinners just like the rest of us? Our reaction to the revelation of sin in their lives betrays our system of a Christian heirarchy.

One final note, I remember as a childreferring to our preacher as "Mister." My mother corrected me by saying, "Oh that's not mister so-and-so, that's Brother so-and-so." We may pride ourselves on not having a priest and calling him "Father," but we do have our titles don't we?

Ray Van Neste said...

This is part of my point Joel. If we have a group of pastors and not just one, then this group becomes the natural place for accountabiility and support for the pastors. I know that it is a great benefit to me to serve with two other men who know my weaknesses, don't mind asking me the hard questions, and love me enough to guard and protect me. Thus struggles can be dealt with privately where appropraite and discipline can occur when necessary.

Perry McCall said...

I agree that it was refreshing to see quick accountability accepted in the Haggard affair. However, I hope as Baptist that we are troubled by the fact that the board who investigated the charges was people outside of the local Church. It was not biblical accountability carried out under the mandate of Mat. 18. It was definitely better than a cover up but it was less than biblically correct. Furthermore, the celebrated effort of restoration is also being led without local Church authority. He should be nurtured and counseled by the Church not celebrated Christian leaders outside of the local Church. Again, it is better than nothing and I am sure that it is being attempted with all sincerity. But the atmosphere of privilege and special status that corrupts biblical leadership is now being perpetuated by establishing an extra-biblical method for addressing a "special" circumstance due to our inappropriate elevation of leaders.

Ray Van Neste said...

Good points Perry.
I was unaware of both- outside investigationa and oversight of the restoration.

Christian said...

Jn 10:12-13 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn't own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn't care for the sheep.

So flees Mr. Haggard