|Village Church Pastor, Matt Chandler|
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."
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. :)