"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

It Takes a Village Covenant to Raise a Bitter Root

Village Church Pastor, Matt Chandler
Every pastor's worst nightmare is to have to deal with a staff member or church supported missionary who abuses trust through immoral sexual activity. Village Church in Dallas, Texas has been going through such a time as this.

Jordan Root and his wife Karen Root have been missionaries from Village Church, working with SIM (Serving in Mission) in East Asia. Jordan Root confessed to extensive viewing of child pornography, a crime in the United States and most nations of the world. Jordan was terminated by SIM and sent back to the United States. Jordan Root denies he ever sexually molested any young girls, but his extensive ministry and personal involvement with pre-puberty teens caused his wife concern that he had not fully confessed the depths of his involvement in either child sexual abuse or child pornography. In reading through the source documents and a statement from Karen Root herself, it seems Village Church pastors and staff attempted--in the beginning--to perform their diligence in giving pastoral care to both Jordan and Karen. However, unless you've been the partner in a marriage where your spouse has been involved in child pornography for years, it's difficult to understand the pain, fear, and distrust present in the heart and mind of Karen Root.

After returning to the United States, Karen Root filed for an annulment of her marriage to Jordan Root. In the State of Texas, if it is proven that a spouse deceived a partner prior to marriage, an annulment can be granted. An annulment is a state's declaration that a covenant of marriage never took place (void) due to deception. The State of Texas approved the annulment and Karen Root changed her name back to Karen Hinckley. Karen then resigned her membership from Village Church, preferring to attend church at a place other than where Jordan attended. I'm glad the state of Texas granted the annulment, but in my opinion, even if they had not, Karen had grounds for divorce.

Here's where it gets weird.

Village Church elders sent a letter to Karen Hinckley. In that letter, they informed Karen of three things:

(1). The church officers are perplexed as to why Karen "filed for an annulment."
(2). Karen is "now under discipline" for violating the "church covenant."
(3). The church officers "cannot, therefore, accept Karen's resignation."

Sigh.

I normally do not write about issues involving other churches, however, I've broken my normal pattern to throw a lifeline to Village Church. Karen Hinckley seems to be reasonable, smart, and I would even say 'classy' in her Christian faith. You can sense it in her letters to her pastors and elders.

Village Church pastors/elders have made a huge mistake. The 1989 Guinn v. Church of Christ Collinsville is an infamous legal case where a woman 'resigned her membership' from her home church. It has similarities and a few dissimilarities with Village Church versus Hinckley, which is not yet--and hopefully won't be--a legal case. The Church of Christ in Collinsville (Oklahoma) told an adulterous woman in their church that they  "could not accept her resignation because she was under church discipline." The adulterous woman then sued her church. In the end, the woman was awarded a settlement in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because the church refused to accept her resignation. Though the verdict was overturned in the appellate court, the appellate judges based their decision to overturn on the fact the adulterous woman was already under church discipline.

Village Church, this is where you may be in trouble. You've gone after the victim, not the offender. Karen Hinckley was not "in sin." Your only argument that she could have been in sin and in need of "discipline" is that she filed for "an annulment" for her marriage, an act in opposition to your counsel. Her refusal to abide by pastoral counsel in terms of restoring her relationship with Jordan, a confessed child pornographer, is a big issue to you elders. However, it has led you to make an even bigger mistake. A big, BIG, mistake. The State of Texas has already agreed with Karen.

I'd like to offer you some unsolicited advice, that if taken, might protect you from litigation that every attorney with a shingle on his window would love to take against you. It seems to me  that Karen doesn't want to harm Village Church or anyone else. She just wants people to take child sexual abuse seriously. Here's my advice.
(1). Write an immediate letter of apology--and I mean immediate-- to Karen Hinckley, retracting the earlier letter, and informing Karen that you are indeed accepting Karen's resignation from your church.
(2). Never speak on behalf of Karen Hinckley again--to anyone--including the members of your congregation.  
(3). Realize that your 501c-3 called Village Church is not equivalent to the Kingdom of God. Yes, you play a huge and vital role in His Kingdom, but your non-profit and His Kingdom are not synonymous. Therefore, next time anyone decides they wish to leave your non-profit, let them go.
As a side note, I do wish to encourage you in your continued ministry to Jordan Root. Unlike some, I believe you have an interest in the victims of his abuse. My friends have a hard time believing that you are as concerned for the victims because you've taken one of his victims -- his wife -- to the proverbial gates of hell because she dared disagree with the manner in which you were progressing in your ministry toward her and her former husband.

Prove everyone wrong and apologize to Karen Hinckley. Accept her resignation of membership. And then stop viewing your office as pastor/elder of Village Church as the ultimate authority in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ is Karen Hinckley's ultimate authority, and He has led her to resign her membership.

Don't argue with Jesus. :)

Introducing Emmanuel Media: Videos for Worship

Our staff at Emmanuel Enid is a constant search mode for worship videos, 1 to 2 minutes in length, that are appropriate to play during a Sunday morning worship service. Beginning about two years ago we began to produce our own videos. We have made the decision to begin offering these videos to other churches as well.

The site, www.emmanuelmedia.org, is being launched today. It will take time to add various videos that our staff produces, but it is our desire to provide--at a very low cost--videos that are well done visually, sound theologically, and contribute to the worship experience on Sunday morning. We perform the music ourselves (or purchase the commercial copyrights), write the scripts, and produce the videos internally.

Our first video on the newly launched website is one available for Father's Day (June 21). Go to www.emmanuelmedia.org and preview the video free of charge. If you purchase the $4.99 video, you will be sent a link to the HD quality video that can be downloaded for use. All proceeds from the sales of these videos will go into an earmarked fund for video equipment at Emmanuel Enid.

From Tragedy to Triumph: The IMB Reverses Itself

Last week trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention reversed two decade old doctrinal policies it implemented in 2005. Those two policies  revolved around (a). a prospective SBC missionary's baptism; and (b). a prospective SBC missionary's private prayer life.

A decade ago, over my objections as a trustee of the IMB, my fellow trustees went beyond the Baptist Faith and Message and restricted the appointment of Southern Baptist missionaries to only those who had been baptized in a Southern Baptist Church and to only those who had never "prayed in tongues" in their prayer closet.

The belief that proper authority and doctrinal orthodoxy of the baptizer is necessary for a valid baptism is historically a Landmark position. The Baptist Faith and Message is not a Landmark document, and the Southern Baptist Convention is not a Landmark denomination. In addition, the Baptist Faith and Message is absolutely silent on the subject of a believer praying in tongues.

I discovered that a few of the IMB trustees who were pushing the "new doctrinal policies" were actually attempting to press IMB President Jerry Rankin to resign because it was known he had a "private prayer language." The politics of trustees (and others) forcing Dr. Rankin's removal, using "doctrinal purity" as a cover, disgusted me.

I also learned that a few other IMB trustees were avowed Landmark Baptists (they told me) and they wished to make Southern Baptists into a Landmark convention of churches. It was a matter of 'doctrinal purity" they said. I was of the belief that no agency which represented the entire Southern Baptist Convention (as the IMB does) has the authority or right to change the doctrinal standards by which the agency will operate without the approval of the entire Southern Baptist Convention.

I decided that Southern Baptists needed to hear about the International Mission Board doctrinal policy changes. I started a blog, and used it to make Southern Baptists aware of the impact of the doctrinal changes. Dr. Morris Chapman proofed a couple of the more important blog posts, offering both suggestions and encouragement before his retirement. Both Dr. Chapman and Dr. Rankin understood the "behind-the-scenes" politics taking place, but were unable--because of their denominational positions--to say anything publicly. My writing infuriated IMB trustee leadership. Other trustees, unfamiliar with SBC politics, were told by trustee leadership that I (Wade Burleson) was the problem and I had to be removed from the board.

I'll not rehearse all that happened from 2005 to 2008, but anyone interested can read the book Hard Ball Religion. The IMB trustees failed in their attempt to remove me as a trustee, not realizing at the time that the entire Southern Baptist Convention had to approve my removal. IMB trustee leadership rescinded their recommendation for my removal prior to the vote at the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention. However, IMB trustee leadership later censured me for violating their newly revised trustee "standard of conduct" which stated, "an IMB trustee must publicly affirm board approved policy even if he cannot privately support it."  Of course, I voted against the new trustee standard of conduct and continued to speak out against the new doctrinal policies.

Punishing the person who opposes authoritative rules--rather than allowing respectful and principled dissent--is an axiom of dysfunctional leadership. I was censured for continuing to speak out against the policies. I was often flabbergasted at the tactics used against me, as was my wife (who later told me "Wade, I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes"), but I persisted in seeking to express my principled dissent. In January 2008, after less than three years of service on the International Mission Board, a position I neither sought nor desired, I resigned as a trustee.

Southern Baptists Are Smarter than Most Think

Before my resignation, two things occurred that seemed to set the stage for what happened last week in the reversal of the IMB polices.

First, in 2006 Frank Page was surprisingly elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. I promoted him and predicted his election, which shocked the leadership of both the IMB and many in the Southern Baptist Convention. The President of the Southern Baptist Convention holds all the power. He appoints the Committee on Committees that recommends the trustees. The process of replacing trustees who wished to exceed the convention-approved Baptist Faith and Message began.

Second, in the summer of 2007 the Southern Baptist Convention passed the Garner Motion. To say my fellow trustees were upset with the passage of this motion would be an understatement. However, of all the experiences I enjoyed during my tenure at the IMB, the passing of the Garner Motion was by far the most significant.

I will let David Rogers explain the practical effect of the Garner Motion. David's words come from a recent comment at SBC Voices, but they succinctly and accurately portray the meaning behind the Garner Motion, and they are a perfect explanation for understanding why the IMB trustees reversed the 2005 doctrinal policies last week.
"If you are familiar with the regulative and normative principles of worship, perhaps this explanation will make sense. Some take the“regulative” approach to the Baptist Faith and Message. Most Southern Baptists take the “normative” approach. In other words, a person who takes the regulative approach to the BFM believes what is not specifically permitted is inherently forbidden. Most Southern Baptists' take the "normative" perspective of the BFM and believe what is not specifically forbidden is generally permitted. The Baptist Faith and Message, by it's very design, is meant to be applied in a normative, not regulative, way."
Bingo.

The 2005 IMB trustee leadership sought to regulate the doctrinal practices of all Southern Baptist churches who wished to place missionaries on the field by forbidding certain practices (private prayer language, baptism by immersion in churches other than Southern Baptist, etc...), practices that the BFM does not specifically forbid. The IMB trustees last week abided by the will of the Southern Baptist Convention in its passage of the 2007 Garner Motion) and reversed the ill-advised policies of 2005 that exceeded the BFM in forbidding private prayer language and baptisms by immersion in churches other than Southern Baptist.

President David Platt and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

By August of 2014, there were enough like-minded normative trustees in place at the International Mission Board to elect David Platt as President. There would have been a greater chance of a snow ball remaining frozen in hell than David Platt being elected President of the IMB in 2005. Leadership has changed during the past ten years.

The Southern Baptist Convention is returning to her normative roots.

I'm as uninterested in the politics of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2015 as I was in 2005. I have recently read that some Southern Baptists are wishing to "pull out" of the Southern Baptist Convention because the recent change of policies at the IMB. I hope they don't. I've stayed a Southern Baptist. We've continued to support missions.  I hope those who don't like the changes from last week take the same approach and support SBC missions.  In addition,  those of you who oppose the action of the IMB trustees last week should voice your dissent. Write and publicize your disapproval. Make known your opinion! That's the Southern Baptist way.

Only the weak stifle dissent.