However, even non-Twitter types have become very familiar with the use of so-called “hashtags”—as in #MeToo. That Twitter and Facebook item has become a rallying point around self-identifying announcements by thousands upon thousands that sexual harassment has impacted them. And the conscience of America has been awakened.
Would one expect that any workplace is immune from this problem? It is not. Including the workplace known as “the church.”
I will not delve into what I see in terms of abuse in religions outside of one—the Christian faith. A simple web search on priest abuse reveals multiple stories. I’m not going to focus there either. I’m sticking to my own family of Protestants.
The past two weeks have brought difficult and highly problematic news stories to the public eye about some faith groups and gifted church leaders. Mark Galli is the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. He wrote a powerful editorial about a troubled organization known as Sovereign Grace Ministries in which he calls for an “independent investigation” into alleged “child sexual abuse and staff cover-up.” (A link on his story is below.)
Let me quote a most troublesome observation by Mark Galli: “Many now wonder if there has been a habit of covering up and denying child and sexual abuse in evangelical churches in general—if there is something in the evangelical DNA that makes us hesitant to deal with accusations quickly, openly, and truthfully when there is the suspicion of grave sin in our midst.” That…is painful.
Two other recent stories from Christianity Today reveal different, but equally painful, situations. It inspired the headline writer to suggest: #ChurchToo. One story involves Andy Savage, who has been serving as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis. It’s a megachurch that ministers to thousands.
Many years ago, Savage was involved in youth ministry in Houston. He became “too friendly” with one of the students. Despite his repentance at the time and requesting forgiveness, the victim felt the church was mostly unresponsive to what happened. Recently, after #MeToo gained traction, she spoke out against the Andy Savage abuse in 1998 while claiming she is still haunted by it.
Her concerns were raised publicly. The story gained wide attention. Highpoint Church backed their pastor. But recently, Andy Savage resigned.
The third story, which is complicated and still evolving, centered around the incredible visionary and church leader Bill Hybels, here in Chicago. There is flat denial of charges of sexual misconduct by Bill. But there are very credible sources claiming a different story. Again, a Christianity Today link can be found below.
The trail of pain, and the cost of desires gone wrong, is impossible to calculate. Moreover, there is a need of insight and guidance by church leadership in dealing with such matters. Grace and justice are wrestling in conflict.
These are not new problems in the church. Words of warning have been given to us often by the apostle Paul. One of the hardest verses of Scripture to live by is 1 Corinthians 10:13: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
May God give all of His Kingdom workers the strength to live by that verse. Especially in these days, we must seek God’s guidance…daily. Call it a #NeedWisdom moment.
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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to www.1160hope.com for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.
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