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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Taking Control Over Others and the Code of Silence

People we love can make mistakes in life. They can even commit crimes for which they will be prosecuted. 

Christianity is Good News. "Christ died for sinners, not the righteous." 

Some men that I disciple in the Christian faith carry the "sexual offender" tag. They've been forgiven of their sins but that doesn't mean society shouldn't remember their sins. 

For life, sexual offenders should be banned from ministering to children. For life, sexual offenders cannot be alone on campus property without an escort. For life, sexual offenders have to announce when they move to another city. For life, sexual offenders will (and should) live with the consequences of their sins in a society that needs to protect others.

But what about those men in ministry who sexually abuse, harass, or assault someone, but they are never convicted of a crime?

Maybe the victim refused to press charges? Maybe the courts didn't have enough evidence to convict, but two or more witnesses make credible accusations? Or maybe the predator confesses, but the statute of limitations has expired? Or maybe everyone is afraid of lawsuits, prosecutions, and the public nature of scandals, so the sexual abuse is covered in silence?

That's one of the reasons I proposed training for churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and a Sexual Predator Data Base to keep track of sexual offenders so that they don't move from church to church throughout the Convention without their sins being known.

We need to track ministers who have been charged, convicted of, confessed to, or credibly accused of sexually inappropriate or abusive behavior.

For too long, Southern Baptist pastors have forced a "code of silence" over their congregations. Whether its church covenants that pastors demand church members sign, congregants awed by pastors who "take authority over them" like God and command them "to be silent about this matter," or a general false interpretation that "forgiveness" means forgetting, Southern Baptists need educational tools to assist in transparency and accountability.

On Sunday, May 22, 2017, Pastor Matt Chandler stood before his congregation and said the following words:
“Last week we learned of a sin issue that has required the elders of The Village Church to make a sober and serious decision. Anthony Moore, our Fort Worth Campus pastor, has committed grievous, immoral actions against another adult member to disqualify him as an elder and staff member based on the biblical text in 1 Timothy and Titus, chapter 1. He has been removed from his role as a campus pastor and as a Village elder due to these actions.
Anthony acknowledged his sin when meeting with the Fort Worth elders and the three lead pastors of The Village Church, and we want to make it abundantly clear that we believe he is unfit for ministry at this time, including speaking engagements at conferences or other churches. Our hope and desire is for him to walk in faithfulness and repentance. We believe he is in need of deep healing and strong counseling for an extended period of time.
We do not plan on sharing any additional details about the nature of this sin issue at this time, although we completely understand the desire to know more. We believe we have a duty to protect the person who was directly sinned against in this situation, as well as Anthony’s family. As with all members and staff, we value the confidential nature of specific sin shared with us in many situations and want to demonstrate our responsibility to steward that information."
Meet  Dr. Anthony Moore.

By all accounts, Anthony is a charismatic Christian communicator. He received his education at a Division III college where he starred in basketball. Upon graduation, Anthony entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, to obtain his theological degrees.

For a while, Anthony worked at SWBTS under Paige Patterson, even while attending the school there. Then, upon graduation, Anthony moved to Washington D.C. to work on Mark Dever's staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

While at Washington, D.C., Anthony received a call from Matt Chandler and the elders of Village Church (Dallas) to come to be the pastor of their new satellite church plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Then suddenly, in January 2017, the elders of Village Church removed Anthony Moore from his position as pastor for "grievous, immoral actions against another adult member."

But, even though elders believe "he is in need of deep healing and strong counseling for an extended period of time," they chose to "value the confidential nature of specific sin" and "demonstrate our responsibility to steward that information."

In other words, they chose to follow a code of silence.

Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, immediately after his dismissal at Village Church gave Anthony a place to stay on campus.

Soon, Dr. Thomas White, a former faculty member of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and now the President of Cedarville University, hired Anthony. Paige Patterson was on the board of trustees of Cedarville at the time of Dr. Moore's hiring.

Dr. Anthony Moore now serves as Special Advisor to the President for Kingdom Diversity and Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University.

It's been over two years since Matt Chandler dismissed Anthony Moore for "grievous, immoral actions against another adult member," declaring "(Anthony) is unfit for ministry at this time."

Silence. Time. Friends. 

A database breaks the code of silence. A database is for all time. A database lets people other than friends know the details of the "grievous, immoral actions."

What did Anthony Moore do in 2017? 

It took me two hours and four phone calls to find out the details.  

I have no ill will toward Dr. Anthony Moore or his lovely wife and three children. I don't even know them. I want what's best for all of Christ's people, including Anthony. 

The broken system of pastoral authority, the code of silence, and friends helping friends move from church to church and entity to entity in the Southern Baptist Convention is the source of our systemic problem of sexual abuse. 

Sadly, there's pain involved in fixing what's broken. 

I close with five questions for Matt Chandler, Thomas White, and all those who now hold Dr. Anthony Moore accountable:
1. What is the logic for keeping silent about the specifics of Anthony Moore's "grievous, immoral actions?"
2. Who now has made the decision that Anthony is "fit for ministry at this time" since Matt Chandler publicly declared on January 22, 2017, that "Anthony is unfit for ministry at this time?"
3. When Cedarville University hired Dr. Moore, were the full details of Anthony's "grievous, immoral actions" made fully known to the trustees
4. Has there been any communication with students' parents about Dr. Moore's past "grievous, immoral actions?"
5. If those holding Dr. Moore accountable believe that he exhibits true Christian brokenness and repentance over his past "grievous, immoral actions," would Cedarville University publicly reveal the boundaries that have been established to ensure there is no repeat of such "grievous, immoral actions."  
My prayers are with the victim and those who are holding Dr. Moore accountable.

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