The Sin of Silence

Leaders who stand conveniently silent – or willfully ignorant – regarding the abuse and exploitation of God’s people by another leader, are idolaters.

shame

Your Silence Abuses The Abused

They sacrifice innocent men, women and children on the altar of their own ease and self interest, which they often justify by their own warped concept of unity and misguided sense of friendship.

Understand that eventually you will be forced to give an account of your silence – not only to God, but in the “here and now” to His people whom you profess to serve.

When that happens, don’t get mad at me for doing what you were unwilling – but obligated – to do as one entrusted to protect His people.

Paul commanded Timothy thus:

Do not accept an accusation against an elder unless it can be confirmed by two or three witnesses. Those guilty of sin must be rebuked before all, as a warning to the rest. Before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, I solemnly charge you to carry out these commands without prejudice or favoritism of any kind. (1 Tim. 5:19-21, NET)

Is this unclear?

Are the problems of disqualifying leadership sins and abuse any less today than when those words were penned, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, two thousand years ago?

If not:

Why have you ignored a clear Biblical command to listen and investigate?

Why have you refused to confirm credible accusations that have been floating around for years?

Why have you shown favoritism toward your fellow conference speakers, book endorsers, and mutual-ministry promoters, by allowing them to prey on God’s people and cover it up?

Why were you prejudiced against the victims, by ignoring or even hiding the sins committed against them – and refusing to protect others through public rebuke?

Don’t recoil against me for refusing to turn a blind eye, choosing to side with the victims, and deciding to warn others.

After all, where were you when the predation was first exposed?

Where were you as others then helped cover it up?

And why have you continued to endorse and promote such men through your links, mentions, shared sites, mutual publications, joint conference appearances and favorable reviews?

Finally…

If this offends you, get over it.

Until you learn to be more offended at the abusers – and their complicit co-conspirators of cover-up – than at those who dare expose them …

Until you stop your own complicity of self-serving silence and willful ignorance …

… you gravely sin against God and His people.

Repent, and start learning to walk in integrity as true elders among His people once more.

Let’s get things back on track as we again affirm the Living Word, submit to His written Word, and walk in integrity.

~ Jim

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26 responses

  1. Jim,

    I have been reading these posts of yours for a long time, and while I agree with what you are saying, have no clue who you are talking about. Do you have a particular group in mind, or is this just sort of a general warning?

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    • I believe Jim is calling out church leaders, in particular.

      “Leaders who stand conveniently silent – or willfully ignorant – regarding the abuse and exploitation of God’s people by another leader, are idolaters.”

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    • Thanks, Jeremy, for the comment. At this point, I am addressing general issues – although in the context of specific situations in which I have and continue to be involved.

      Having dealt with way too many of these types of cases – as a counselor, a church leader and also an attorney – I have found that if you start off naming names with specific facts based on multiple witnesses, without first laying the foundation of why it is important to name names and go into some specifics, it quickly becomes a personality debate.

      Our fellowships have investigated and discussed an ongoing situation involving a national leader in the organic church movement, and decided we need names and specifics.

      Once the underlying principles have been adequately articulated, I will do so in subsequent posts – as appropriate.

      We have no interest in being part of the silence which has shielded such men – and their hypocrisy and predation on God’s people – for way too long.

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  2. First of all – I agree with what Jim has to say. There are no excuses for abuse and if it goes viral, it is long past the moment of intervening that should have come much earlier. Since the post is directed to all church leaders it will (I hope) reach many more and wake up some of the sleepers to take action against such behavior in church. There’s a small “but”: Jim, you seem to be addressing specific people at the same time. “Locals” to you somehow but without being part of that particular church. Are you trying to say that NO-ONE took action so far? Does that mean you are doing it in proxy? And if so (I believe in the authority of the church that is having this grave issue), how precisely do you justify your (just) attack coming from another group. Please let me know! God bless you!
    John Adler

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  3. What you say and even more how you say it reminds me of John the Baptist coming along and saying “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

    Carlos

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  4. Jim, thank you for writing this article – it’s timely for me, as I just published two similar articles this week on “breaking the silence”… about evil using silence as it’s accomplice. This is my first time on your site and I’m going to read more, especially the article referenced above about “outside intervention”.

    My heart is very much resonating with your message and I can’t tell you how happy I am to discover your site (thanks to Filip Vd Eynde). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  5. I think there could be a connection / interaction between abuse and the situation of women (what they are allowed to do and what not) in many churches. I think it is a kind of abuse to hinder women to develop and use some of their gifts for / in their church.

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    • It depends on what kind of restriction on the ministry opportunities available to women you are talking about Anna.

      I have noticed that the organic church movement for example seems to have dropped all restrictions on the role of women in church life for example.

      Ill be the first to support exposure of true abuse in the church Anna but its no abuse to embrace biblically warranted distinctions between the role of men and women in the church.

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      • If we asked all biblically literate, Spirit-filled women to comment on your final paragraph, I think many, if not most, may have a different interpretation of “biblically warranted distinctions” of those roles than you; can you please elaborate? And quite a few might also take issue with your framing of “true” abuse.

        As a clergy abuse survivor, I resonate with Anna’s comment and believe she has hit upon a very astute truth.

        I think this deserves more discussion.

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        • Hi SurvivorGirl,

          it is undoubtedly true that many Spirit filled women, if not most, would have a difference of opinion regarding what if any biblical warranted restrictions there are on women in ministry within the church.

          But be that as it may…the ONLY thing that should be considered is NOT how many Spirit filled women might objection to any such thing but rather what the Word SAYS.

          It is what the Word SAYS that determines what we ought to do to please God. Not what we might prefer, like, believe, feel justified in doing, or otherwise.

          Regarding what it says there are some very clear restrictions on the role of women in the church. One clear one that I can think of is in the role of elder. An elder (as mentioned in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) must be the husband of one wife (or a one wife type of man some would say). Unless we are willing to superimpose something on to the Word that it does not say or consider these books uninspired there is no way that I can see to a woman being able to be recognized as an elder to shepherd the flock of God when one of the qualifications is that she be…well…a husband of one wife.

          Spouse of one person isn’t a proper translation. In committed relationship isn’t a proper translation.

          It says “husband of one wife”. That’s what it says.

          Either we accept it as God’s word or we don’t. We can chose either way but we must not go off ignoring what it says if we are going to do things God’s way.

          A more fundamental problem with many Christians is that they are simply unwilling to do WHATEVER the Lord says to do through the Word.

          We must surrender ourselves to Him unconditionally. Where we trust Him as God to know what is best and where we follow Him according to His expressed will in the Word.

          Whatever the consequences.

          I am open to discussing this more but I don’t think this is the place to do it since I would not want to take away from a discussion of the topic that Jim brought up in this post. So if you want to discuss it more I would be happy to give you my email address somehow so that we could discuss it more at length if you prefer. Otherwise I won’t get into further here.

          Carlos

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          • Hi Brother Carlos,
            I agree – but I think you’re missing an important part of exactly WHY an elder’s GOT to be married. So please share your e-mail. Thank you! John

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          • Hi Carlos,
            I’m in agreement with you that the blog isn’t the place to get into a lengthy discussion about our differing views on biblical restrictions re: women in leadership roles in the church. I brought it up earlier in response to your comment re: the organic church movement. In a nutshell, my faith in Jesus has moved me away from the cultural differentiation of male and female, because He incarnates a new humanity (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Gal. 3:28). I believe that Christ has liberated women from playing a culturally prescribed role, especially when it comes to ministry. Not here to debate with anyone – just telling you where I’m “at” and what is a part of my particular faith tradition.

            Yet what I really wanted to focus on is Anna’s suggestion that a patriarchal church leadership structure might contribute to clergy abuse of women hits the mark. I minister to clergy abuse victims and can tell you that the majority of them are abused in denominations structured around male-only leadership. Our organization has already made this connection, so I think it’s an important one to take seriously. More adult women are abused in the Catholic church than are children, as an example. Of course, there is a large number of women abused in mainlines where females are ordained, as well. This is what I wish to focus upon.

            God’s blessings to you.

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  6. “Until you learn to be more offended at the abusers – and their complicit co-conspirators of cover-up – than at those who dare expose them.” This is another sad truth. The church often shows equal sympathy or more to the abuser, believing that forgiveness means embracing him. God continually reminds us to avoid men of division and to judge those within the church. Judging is not wrong. We need to possess discernment. Do we not make judgment calls on a daily basis? When choosing a spouse, do we make a judgment call? We must judge. We cannot decide who enters heaven or judge who will enter, but we must judge a person’s character if we are to make wise decisions. We must judge a pastor’s character in order to join the church God desires. Unfortunately, I ignored the countless warnings our pastor exhibited because of his position, believing a pastor would never have such evil character. As a result, I was betrayed and abused. Had I judged his character appropriately, great pain would have been spared. We must judge the church and do all we can to bring to Light, the evil that is taking place. That is God’s desire and found in His word.

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    • MJ, I am sorry for your pain. I, too, failed to make a crucial judgment call of my former pastor’s character. As you noted, you ignored warnings because of your pastor’s position – and he was able to abuse you because of that position of power and authority. That is the common thread in this type of abuse.

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  7. Hey John Adler,

    Your input didn’t have a REPLY link next to it so I am answering it generally. I’d love to discuss this more by email (as you requested) but…well…I am not exactly comfortable giving out my email address publicly through this blog. I am not concerned about anyone here but rather about the public at large and possibly God haters coming along and taking my email address and subscribing me to every possible junk whatever that they can – ruining my email address and making it useless.

    Don’t know how to share it with you :). Suggestions?

    If Jim has no objections and is willing maybe I could send it to him and he could give it to you or something at which point you could then email me? Don’t know.

    Carlos

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        • Thanks very much Jim. Will do.

          SurvivorGirl…thanks for sharing your additional thoughts. Despite what I said about the the role of men and women in ministry I think it may nevertheless be quite true that most sexual abuse happens through male dominated hirearchal systems of leadership.

          We have to be careful with generalizations however in the sense, for example, that all persons who have caught cancer have eaten tomatoes. But such does not prove a causal link between tomatoes and cancer such that we should throw out tomatoes.

          Men in general tend to abuse women far more often than the other way around in the population as a whole. At least in a sexual sense.

          The fact that most such abuse in churches happens through men to women may point to nothing more than the fact that this is the way it tends to happen in general and not to women being suppressed in ministry type of thing.

          I think a deeper problem has to do with the way a hirearchal system of clergy leadership suppresses the freedom to operate in spiritual gifts overall.

          Abuse of women by men in ministry is just a fruit of a pervasive and evil clergy / laity mentality that looks to Pastors to fight our spiritual battles for us. Like the people of Israel who committed evil by asking for and placing a King over them the modern day Pastor has become our King.

          Abuse is simply one aspect of the Pastor as King paradigm of church practice.

          That women are not generally recognized in ministry is not the root cause.

          Setting up women in the Pastor is King role will not prevent abuse.

          It will simply change what that abuse looks like in that the abuse will then become a reflection of how women tend to sin against men instead of the other way around.

          Carlos

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          • Thank you for sharing your further thoughts on this, Carlos. I agree with what you’ve written, especially this statement:

            “I think a deeper problem has to do with the way a hirearchal system of clergy leadership suppresses the freedom to operate in spiritual gifts overall.”

            And you are 100% right on target that setting up women in a pastoral role won’t prevent abuse, as there are also documented cases of female pastors abusing male congregants. At its core, clergy abuse is an abuse of power, and we know that power is intertwined with the pastoral role. I think if more church leaders, male and female alike, asked themselves, “How can I serve?” rather than “How can I be served?” and then relied on the Spirit’s power to enable them to serve, abuse cases would drop dramatically.

            Again, thank you for your thoughtful response.

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