Friday, May 29, 2015

Simply SAYING " I Repent," Means I Must Forgive

I am an equal opportunity offender. My writing will often irritate people who are on polar opposite ends of an issue. Even those who know me well and call me a friend will at times dislike what I write. But I don't hesitate to say what I feel needs to be said, regardless of how people feel about me saying it. This is a post that may upset more than a few people, particularly those of you who've been injured or hurt by the institutional church.

Matt Chandler and the elders of Village Church have apologized for their actions against Karen Hinkley and others whom they've placed under discipline for violating Village's membership covenant. They've specifically said "In every way that we’ve mishandled this (Karen Hinkley's) situation, along with others in the past, we repent and ask for forgiveness."

I can't speak for anyone else in this matter, including Karen Hinkley. I can only represent myself.

I accept Village elders' apology and statement of repentance.

I may choose to write again in the future about covenant membership in general, but I will not write on Village's mishandling of the Karen Hinkley situation, or write of Village Church for that matter in relation to this situation. I will do anything I can to help Karen Hinkley, including giving her financial support and advice (were she to ever ask). I believe that very few people could ever understand the pain Karen has been through, but I marvel at how she has publicly handled herself in her writings. She has displayed a grace and maturity beyond her years.

Some may not care to understand why I must forgive Village, but for those interested, let me give you my reasoning.

(1). Village elders did exactly what I thought they should do in seeking forgiveness for their actions, reversing their decision regarding Karen's membership and allowing her to "withdraw from membership," and promising not to speak on her behalf again
(2). Jesus said in Luke 17:4, "If your brothers sins against seven times in a day and  SAYS (every time)  'I MUST forgive him." Many Christians--just like the disciples in Jesus day--will say, "We don't have enough FAITH to do that!" Jesus responds, "It's not a matter of enough faith - the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains. It's a matter of obedience. You MUST forgive." I will not play any role in judging the sincerity of Matt Chandler and the elders. They have said they repent, and I must forgive them.

(3). When I forgive others, I think of God's forgiveness of me. I'll not go into a doctrinal discussion on the forgiveness of God for me, but I can guarantee you my forgiveness of Village Church will be modeled after what I see Scripture to teach of God's forgiveness of me.

(4). I do not consider this forgiveness "cheap grace." I consider this forgiveness to be real grace. God's kind of grace. Thank God that He forgives me not based on my sincerity or promise "to never do it again,", but based on my acknowledgement of sin and plea for His mercy.

My thoughts, prayers, and admiration are with both Karen Hinkley and Village Church.


Postscript: I will be unable to respond to any comments on this post until sometime next week.


Chris Riley said...

Totally agree Wade. I know some of the people involved (through camps and ministry opportunities). I was surprised at the handling of the whole thing, but not surprised by their apology and corrective steps. I appreciate they were brutally honest (as well as Karen was in handling the situation). Here's hoping that all involved can bask in the glory of God's grace, grow as banner bearers for the King, and that the Kingdom will explode in growth as an outcome from the repercussions of this unfortunate battle.

ScottShaver said...

Since I contributed comments critical of Village church in your previous thread, I agree with this gesture and its rationale.... will comport myself likewise. Thanks Wade.

A Christian Attorney said...

Wade, my problem with their apology as it relates to Karen is that they still say that she was in sin, and that their error was in not being persuasive enough with her! To me that is piling on more defamation to Karen and not a true apology to her for what they did to her. This is nothing but whitewash and not a true apology nor true repentance for their actions vis a vis Karen. They are apologizing to the church for not being effective in their job as they see it -- controlling Karen and keeping her from getting the annulment!

Wade Burleson said...

A Christian Attorney,

I understand.

Like I said, I can't speak for Karen, only myself. Men who are covenantal and patriarchal and in positions of church leadership will always - because of erroneous philosophy - believe any woman who violates a church membership covenant by refusing to seek their permission prior to 'annulling' or 'divorcing' their husband, is a woman in sin. That's a philosophical and theological problem. Like I said in my post, I may write about membership covenants in general because of this very issue. However, you can't expect anything different from men with the framework under which they operate. I'm quite confident Karen will be very particular about the next church she joins - and I would like to welcome her to the club of "If I had a dime for every person who thinks I'm in sin I'd be rich" of which I seem to be a charter member.

ScottShaver said...

I fear church "covenants" may be old wine skins these days for U.S. Christians who would like to retain some axiomatic "baptist" convictions.

Christiane said...

We are all sinners saved by Christ. But I sure hope that those Churches that operate on a 'sign this contract to join' basis will consider the consequences. I'm happy to hear that Karen is free from harassment, and that the perpetrators have apologized and asked forgiveness. This is a good day for all concerned.

Ramesh said...

I would assume if Gordon Root were to say he repents, we are to forgive him. I follow the logic of this post. Lot of times hard to do but it is the logical thing to do.

Ramesh said...

Sorry. It is Jordan Root.

Tango Whiskey said...

Thanks for this article Wade. You are a very wise man whose opinion I respect. I applaud TVC for their repentance. It may not be perfectly worded or satisfy everyone, but even our best efforts are riddled with error; such is human nature. I am a third party observer to this situation and as such have not been wronged or in need to forgive. I am encouraged by the TVC's actions, I leave it up to Karen and others who have been wronged to forgive.

I hope other churches can learn from this example. And I still hope and pray that reform will come to churches, specifically that they will see the harm these membership covenants produce. They are stifling and need to be jettisoned.

Todd Wilhelm

Wade Burleson said...

Absolutely, Thy Peace. In such a case as Jordan Root, however, forgiveness is a must, but restrictions, accountability, and continual boundaries (no contact AT ALL with children, photo passed to all employees of any institution where Jordan visits to make them aware of the nature of his sin, etc...). That's the consequence of the horrific crime of child pornography and child abuse.

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you Tango, Christiane, Scott and Chris.

All of you have written some pretty profound stuff over the last few days.

Beth D said...

So agree with what you wrote, Wade! It's easier to make a mistake than to admit it. Also, a friend of mine is part of the village - not a covenant member; she comes from the Assemblies of God denomination, so can not agree with their Calvinism and a few other doctrines - but is part of the Village because she thinks Matt Chandler is a wonderful speaker. Anyway, she was hurt and disturbed by this whole thing and is glad that they apologized.
I like the way you started this post. "I am an equal opportunity offender. My writing will often irritate people who are on polar opposite ends of an issue." I tend to do that without trying on Facebook and stuff. I am a political moderate. I say "Political moderates can be the peacemakers, but they can also equally both the Democrats and Republicans mad without intending to."

Paul Burleson said...


For what it's worth, here is an answer I sent to a friend who e-mailed me a copy of the apology from the church to the young woman and asked me what I thought. I also sent him a link to your post.

"I have to say, while I'm not the one being addressed by the apology, and knowing the scriptures don't allow us the privilege or right to question sincerity, [think 70 times 7] I have to think SOMEONE needs to show/teach them what a good apology looks like. But for what it's worth, it is at least a good start. Good for them! I'm thinking this post by Wade is about as good as it gets. It doesn't change my belief that someone might need to help them see how an apology can better be worded. But their "good start" as I called it, deserves the response from every believer that Wade has given."

Flicker said...

Dear Wade,

I understand what you're saying, and in general I agree with it. But two questions immediately come to mind. One is, What are they repenting from? And the other is, Who is actually repenting?

Is the institution repenting for the misuse and overreach regarding Karen's Covenant? Is the institution repenting for blocking Karen from continuing her ministry through SIM? Is anyone in particular taking responsibility for their own actions and statements to Karen?

I understand that the church has reinstituted funding for Karen's next missionary mission, but as I understand it, since being defunded -- and SIM has been effectively barred by TVC from employing her -- Karen has already been forced to move on and plan for other employment in a different field: have they rescinded the ban that they put in place? Have they admitted the extortionary ban? Have they admitted to any lying? Or is the church asking forgiveness for all this in their blanket request for forgiveness?

Does this end it? Or should specific repentance and requests for forgiveness keep trickling out as their spiritual "outside audit" continues? And will the church ever actually identify what they did that was wrong?

Releasing Karen from membership is a far cry from saying that they were wrong to place her in disciplinary action retroactively in the first place -- it's NOT even an admission of wrong-doing. Funding the ministry that they forced her to abort is not helpful, unless that money will be funneled into her GoFundMe campaign.

Did they repent from deliberately impugning Karen's reputation? Did they even confess it? I'd not forgive them right away for sins that they continue to hide.

There's a big difference between admitting you stole a woman's wallet or reputation, and only admitting that you didn't return it fast enough once you realized you had it. What are they actually repenting of?.

Flicker said...

I only consider this at best a start. It's like the convicted bank robber preparing his pre-sentencing statement saying: I would like to ask for forgiveness for entering the bank without the noblest of intentions. I was not loving and caring and as supportive to the bank tellers as I could have been. I also repent and ask forgiveness from all the people who may have inadvertently been offended by my brandishing a gun. I have determined to undertake special remediation in how to prevent this unfortunate mishap in the future. And I want to apologize specially to the clerk whom I directly threatened; I was unprepared for how to best handle this and accidents did occur. As of today I have returned all the money that I haven't already spent on other things. And I hope that everyone involves appreciates how hard this has been for me. Thanks, to all of you who were adversely effected by my lack of training, poor handling of the robbery, and my misunderstanding of my obligation to ensure the security of those around me, and to foster a season of trust with the victims of this unfortunate event. And again my apologies and best wished for all involved. Sincerely, ...

Aussie John said...


I applaud your approach to this very real problem,and agree with what you have written, and would wish that other leaders would take note.

It has been my experience that a genuine apology is bound to bear good fruit long term, and that words are cheap and so easily used, without appropriate change of heart and practice.

So, whilst accepting apologies at face value is always an appropriate and gracious response, time will tell.

Anonymous said...

" I will not play any role in judging the sincerity of Matt Chandler and the elders. They have said they repent, and I must forgive them."

Wade, I appreciate your willingness to forgive, but the above statement seems too unqualified in that it places the impetus on mere words without actions (like Flicker is alluding to above). Not all sins are repented of in the same outward manner.

If Zaccheus repented but didn't return the money he stole would we be obligated to forgive, or be considered "judgmental" if we made an inquiry towards this end?


Anonymous said...

From: Out West

After reading The Wartburg Watch, I texted one of the pastors at The Village Church and told them to 'man-up' and 'fix it', what they did to Karen was despicable, and to read Pastor Wade Burleson's advice for them and to follow it.

Tom said...


The Village Church saga has highlighted a number of issues that it needs to go back to review and rectify its previous actions.

There is also a need for other churches to review their governance and accountability practices in dealing with daily issue. No church is above this problem.

The issue is that the leadership of TVC, either singularly or corporately began acting in a god like manner. It can come about through a number of inconsequential and innocuous steps.

The Senior pastor is loved so much by the congregation that he comes to assume the role of "god" within the church and steals the hearts of the people from God. This was King David's primary Sin. This sin can only be dealt with directly by God. It is not our place to interfere in that process unless directly required by God.

Like David the more the people loved him the more his sins in other areas manifested in his life. After 8 yrs of not repenting for acting god like, God sent Nathan the prophet to him to challenge him about his iniquity of taking/stealing the little lamb from the old man (i.e. God). In effect King David had turned away from God. He had also effectively encouraged the people who loved him to do likewise.

David acted God like by telling people to do this and to do that, to come here or go there.

Senior pastors who begin to act god like begin to set up structures that enable them to exercise dominion over other people. They also draw "yes" people around them to confirm and enable their power structure. The "Church Covenant" requirement to be in the "inner circle" of the Life of the Church reflects this control.

David's predominate manifestation of his primary sin was adulatory and murder. Today Pastors can manifest their sin in many forms like adultery, oppression, embezzlement, enslavement, sexual perversions etc.. King David had to suffer the consequences of these manifested sins which came out of his primary sin.

God also loved King David and He forgave David.

God's anointing can rest on a person over their whole life if he has a mind after God and accepts full responsibility for his primary and manifested sins when confronted.

The issue that needs to be considered is whether or not God's anointing/appointment remains over a person's life after he sins. This can only be determined through prayer and listening to God. The ramifications of the sin(s) may mean that the person should draw back from being in ministry. This is conditional on the person's character and whether or not he has a heart after God and a willingness to listen to God's small quite voice on the subject and will act accordingly.

The sad part is that it is so easy to begin to act god like that anyone can fall into this sin of turning away from God.

Being judgemental of another's sins is so close to acting god like that we enter into its slippery slope willingly.

Florence in KY said...

Well said, Flicker and Tom Ross.

Debbie W said...

Thank you for your willingness to offer your reflections on TVC’s apology, and on Membership Covenants. Flicker asked, “What are they repenting from? Who is actually repenting?” My questions, also.

Yes, Jesus did say in Luke 17:4 to forgive, as an act of service to God (and against our human nature). Let’s hope the TVC leaders pay attention to the previous two chapters here in Luke that led up to this verse on forgiveness--where Jesus addressed the Pharisees who placed unnecessary requirements on people to meet their standards and rules—not God’s. And, in the verses immediately preceding Luke 17:4 in which He warned the disciples: “Jesus said to his disciples: Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause on of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.” (Luke 17:1-3)

When each Elder or Pastor at TVC personally, as well as collectively, apologizes to Ms. Hinkley and to any other person who “stumbled” due to TVC standards resulting in abuse, misuse, deception, harassment, lack of compassion, or ignorance of serious issues, etc. by any leader, then those wounded persons must choose to forgive or not. I am doubtful, but always hopeful, that true repentance and apologies are forthcoming to break the seemingly systemic authoritarianism of TVC and other similar 501-c3s under the guise of “care.” But since this quote below is a part of TVC’s apology, I surmise the Covenant Membership is a (misguided) operational requirement indicative of more serious underlying issues there:
“Regarding Covenant Membership, we have not changed our theological or philosophical convictions on our Membership Covenant, member care and church discipline.”

Flicker said...

Ooo. I think you took out my Dirty Harry. Oh, well.

If this is not the best place to post this, feel free to take it out. But I do have a question. It looks like discipline itself has three meanings in the Bible. It is something that a father does with his son, which would include advice, reproof and punishment. It is a thing that God does with his children, apart from punishment. And it looks like a process of devotion and training and self-control.

Nowhere do I see "discipline" being a church function: I see that only in reference to being disciplined of the Lord. I see chastising, reproving, and rebuking as interpersonal corrections within the church body, and even disassociation (for the protection of the body) as involving the whole church, but not church discipline. And with the chastising, reproving, rebuking and even the disassociation, there is no call for witnesses.

Matthew 18:15-17 no longer looks like the model for church discipline either. It looks to be a model for resolving personal disputes, as opposed to general sinful behavior or doctrinal disputes, within the congregation; and it does not end with shunning, but rather with the aggrieved individual being told to look upon the other as a heathen, but NOT telling him to believe that he IS a heathen. Neither do I think it calls for the rest of the congregation to consider him to be a heathen, or to disassociate with him.

This makes perfect sense when you consider that this system in Matthew perfectly deals with non-sin grievances, including any type of heavy disagreement, from selling a bad cow (No I didn't!) to being accused of slandering someone (I never said that!), and yet never forces either to leave the church community.

I was wondering you take on this. Does my thinking hold water?

(Of course, this relates tot he whole Church discipline thing embedded in the Member Covenant.)

John Hutchinson said...

"I may choose to write again in the future about covenant membership in general, but I will not write on Village's mishandling of the Karen Hinkley situation, or write of Village Church for that matter in relation to this situation."


I do not think that you should preclude future writing on the TVC's so-called mishandling of the Karen Hinkley situation; not because of the issue of forgiveness. Rather, it is a matter of analysis. What occurred is consistent with my expectations, based on the direct and inevitable logic of their ecclesiology; their CBMW notions of complementarianism; their practicable rejection of soul competency; their blasphemous subversion of the Spirit's role in the consciences of converts; the magisterial quality of their hierarchical 'Evangelicalism', their inability to distinguish between justification and salvation in being so easy to retain one as a member, who has demonstrated complete lack of past evidence of conversion such as Jordan Root, while disciplining a victim for not getting on her knees and giving due 'honor' to these hierarchical authorities.

This is the natural fruit of their doctrines, the yeast of their teachings. A Luther/Solzhenitsyn, rather than an Erasmus/Khrushchev understanding is called for here. We have too many other examples of similar dynamics in New Calvinist churches and in times past with Protestant Confessional churches. I have experienced these types of issues myself in a brief flirtation with James Macdonald's Harvest Bible Chapel, which made me feel like a 21st Century Luther mini-me. The silver lining is that I learnt my baptistic ecclesiology through the experience.

The worst salvific peril here is that the New Calvinist / Reformed model encourages practicable faith away from Christ Himself and upon the "Church" and its Protestant priesthood.

To preclude this fruit in future analysis of the New Calvinist / Reformed model is to exclude evidential artifact on an issue, which will naturally continue to bring embarrassment to Evangelicalism in general.