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

When Men Rule the Church, Men Fool the Church: FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, and the Mistakes Made

A Conference at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee (2017)
My heart goes out to the people and leaders of First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee. They are in a mess.

Emails flooded my inbox at the beginning of this week with people asking if I'd "heard about FBC Clarksville calling a pastor who had used his position as a youth pastor to sexually prey on young women in his youth group." 

I had not. I then read this newspaper article.

I then read that Southern Seminary, the place where this pastor had taught as an adjunct professor, suspended him this week.

My wife and I then read the account of the sexual predatory behavior from the two women groomed by this former youth pastor, the man who is was the leading candidate to be the next Senior Pastor of FBC Clarksville, Tennessee.

Our hearts broke while reading what the girls wrote.

I then listened to the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee explain to the church last Sunday morning that there were "a few adversaries" that were opposing their recommendation to bring this man as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee, (see video below).


I could not believe what I heard from the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee.

I had to listen to the video three times to make sure I comprehended what he was saying.

I was not misunderstanding him.

I'm sure the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee at FBC Clarksville is a wonderful man who is doing his best. I can't imagine the pressure he must be under.

But he made three huge mistakes:
1. The moment he heard from victims about the leading candidate's previous sexual activities with females in his youth group (with photos and testimonial corroboration), he should have made that leading candidate the last candidate his church ever considered. The information he obtained should also have been shared with the leading candidate's current church. 
2. Calling the two young women that were groomed for sexual activity by their former youth pastor "adversaries" is like calling a victim of a robbery, dying from a gunshot wound inflicted by the robber, an "adversary" because the killer was your relative. The impartial see through this subterfuge instantly.
3. In the age of the Internet, when the Chairman seemed to excuse what he learned about the sexual indiscretions of his leading candidate by comparing him to previous pastors of FBC Clarksville, he made a fatal mistake. Classic sexual abuse is when someone in a position of influence and authority preys on others. No previous pastor of FBC was in ministry when their sexual indiscretions occurred. Pre-conversion stories don't match post-conversion stories. And on top of that, the sexual indiscretions of the leading candidate occurred while he was a pastor! The leading candidates' previous grooming activities are unacceptable - period. No excuses. The candidate's social media profile has gone dark. But the websites which seek to protect the church of Jesus Christ have lit up. It's a new day, but I'm not sure that the chairman of the FBC Clarksville Pastoral Search Committee has the wherewithal to understand it. Sunday's statement to the church is unconscionable. 
The leading candidate to be pastor of FBC Clarksville is no longer the leading candidate.  He can't be. He won't be. It just hasn't been announced publicly - yet.

What's more, in my opinion, a new Pastoral Search Committee needs to be elected. The cultural, social, and church "tone deafness" of the current FBC Clarksville Pastoral Search Committee is stunning.

Were a woman to be the Chairperson of the Pastoral Search Team, or were women to be in prominent leadership positions of FBC Clarksville, what happened last Sunday at FBC Clarksville would not have happened.

When men rule the church, men fool the church.

FBC Clarksville has been taught over the years that "the man rules." Sadly, when "the man rules" alone, the church makes mistakes. Southern Baptists rightfully oppose homosexual marriage, believing that the male and the female in union is God's design?

Why do same sex leadership churches in our Convention not bother us like same sex marriages in our homes?

Both are against God's design.

No man should "rule over" the church but Jesus Christ.

When the full complement of men and women serve the church as the Spirit gifts them, mistakes like those made at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, this past weekend are not nearly as likely.

The full-orbed wisdom and image of God is seen when both gifted and humble men and women serve God's church in leadership positions.

I was not going to write about this debacle until I saw someone on Twitter ask, "Why are leaders of the SBC not speaking out about what's taking place at FBC Clarksville?" 

If you happen to read this blog, I want you to know that many in the SBC understand the serious problems of attempting to excuse predatory behavior of our SBC pastors or leaders.

I'm going after the source of the problem. It's a faulty view of inherent male authority over females (e.g. "the man rules") and I am seeking to provide long-term, biblical solutions.

27 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

It smacks of "Everybody's doing it, so why not ...", and "dumbing down" our ministry to match society. That is just plain wrong, and I thank you for calling them out.

RB Kuter said...

"Were a woman to be the Chairperson of the Pastoral Search Team, or were women to be in prominent leadership positions of FBC Clarksville, what happened last Sunday at FBC Clarksville would not have happened. When men rule the church, men fool the church."

Good on you, Wade, for spotlighting the negligence of the SBC in addressing the issue of ministers in our churches who have a history of being sexual predators. There is a problem with our not disqualifying them from ministry and not taking measures to protect churches from such predators.

But you then use this unfortunate failure at Clarksville to vilify "men" in the church. Your statement above seems to propose that this failure sustains an argument that women are more discerning, wise, and objective to lead the church than are men. This is an inappropriate application of judgment upon the male gender and a very sexist approach to support your campaign to defend the right for women to serve in ministry leadership positions.

There are "women" serving as council members of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They are as strong advocates for complementarianism as are men. So just because a "woman" is the Chairperson of the Pastoral Search Team or prominent leaders of FBC Clarksville does not assure they would be more qualified and effective in filling those roles than "men". Women can be corrupt, unfair, foolish, and just as fallible as men.

I guess I am frustrated by recent trends of our society to vilify "men", to emasculate society, and neuter God's intentional creation of distinctive genders that are accompanied by unique qualities associated with each. Your proposal that "women" would be more qualified than "men" to serve as Chairman of the Committee or leaders in the church seems to be falling in line with that trend.

Robert I Masters said...

your a fool----the fundamental error you make is that you always believe the women. women lie.

Robert I Masters

Robert I Masters said...

Wade is a gynocentrist

Wade Burleson said...

Robert,

The Scripture says, "All men liars." (Psalm 116:11), which would include women.

But it's much harder to speak a lie, cover the truth, and live in reality when one is not part seeking to protect an exclusive club.

The Spirit of God changes a heart from a liar to a truthteller.

Wade Burleson said...

Also, the deconstruction of parochialism is not gynocentrism.

Truth be known, if either a male or female within Christian circles sought to "rule over" another Christian, I'd oppose it vocally. Gynocentrism is as unbiblical as patriarchalism.

Wade Burleson said...

RB Kuter,

Communication is a two-way street, so I apologize for not being clear.

If women were to "rule over" men exclusively, and males were "barred" from leadership because of their gender, I darn sure would be making as much of a fuss as I am now.

NO CHRISTIAN HAS THE RIGHT TO RULE OVER ANYONE ELSE.

Period.

Show me a church that says "The Woman Shall Rule" and I'll write a post exposing that unbiblical nonsense.

I'm not concerned I'll be writing anything soon because I don't know of anybody who thinks that "The woman shall rule."

All I'm doing is showing the fallacy of the unbiblical belief that "a man shall rule."

Truth be known, nobody "rules" but Jesus Christ. Follow him, and let gifted men and women SERVE as the Spirit leads.

Christiane said...

The Holy Gospels speak of a 'leader' in these terms:

"25But Jesus called the disciples and said, “You know that the rulers of the unbelievers lord it over them and their superiors act like tyrants over them. 26That’s not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. 28That’s the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many people.” (from the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 20)

the traditional Christian 'title' for a leader in the Church:
"the servant of the servants of God"

Wade Burleson said...

One more thing, RB. You write,

"Your proposal that "women" would be more qualified than "men" to serve as Chairman of the Committee or leaders in the church seems to be falling in line with that trend."

That's not what I'm saying.

It's not a matter of "more qualified." I'm sure the current Chairperson of the Search Team is imminently qualified or he wouldn't be Chairman.

I'm saying that a woman would not have made the mistakes he made.

That's all. At least get women high up in the decision making process to keep men "who rule" from making bonehead mistakes.

Heather Johnson said...

Wade said, “I'm saying that a woman would not have made the mistakes he made. “

Wade, I have seen women in two churches perpetuate spiritual abuse, by supporting abusive men, acting abusively themselves. There is no special distinction that women hold to cause them to not make mistakes and more just like men do.

The same would go for a woman doing something wrong, if you were to say “a man would not have made the same mistake she made.” In many ways the church is presently full of people who do say this. The give special distinction to men, based solely on their gender. To give special distinction to women based solely on their gender is the same problem.

I agree with your sentence, “ When the full complement of men and women serve the church as the Spirit gifts them, mistakes like those made at FBC Clarksville, Tennessee, this past weekend are not nearly as likely.”

Both men and women gifted by the Spirit. I long to see churches use that distinction!

RB Kuter said...

"At least get women high up in the decision making process to keep men "who rule" from making bonehead mistakes."

It does good to have a representation of the "body" involved in administration and decision making. But having a woman involved in a leadership process does not assure that she will be a proper representative for the Christian women's view in the congregation.

My point in mentioning that women serve as council members on The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was to point out that some members of gender may not be the best choice to represent the views of some members of their particular gender. Some women, like these Council members, may be sympathetic with the conservative, complementarian position of some men. If men have a prominent leadership position and wish to have a committee consisting of diverse gender they would no doubt choose those women who had views most consistent with theirs.

The bottom line is that gender does not dictate what views and bias will prevail. It depends on the heart of the individual.

But I feel pretty sure I understand your intent and aspirations in pursuing this topic and they are honorable.

Wade Burleson said...

Heather and RB,

Thou persuadest me. :)

I concede.

The issue is one of authority. Even a female can make the unbiblical decision to allow "the man to rule" and reach the same boneheaded decision.

Thank you.

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane,

Precisely.

RB Kuter said...

"Even a female can make the unbiblical decision to allow "the man to rule" and reach the same boneheaded decision."

I laughed at this one. It is good to see your sense of humor at play, Wade.

Ben Bryan said...

Spoken like a true abuser.

You do realize that Feltner has agreed that these allegations are true right?

Wade Burleson said...

Ben Bryan,

Yes.

And?

Sharon G said...

Wade,

I always appreciate your support of women in leadership in the Church. I am baffled that many women are treated well in the secular workplace, but become second class citizens and treated “less than” competent in the Church. Yet continue to subject themselves to that treatment, because they have been taught women must submit to men.

I believe that in this teaching of submission, women are lead to believe that men are always right and we should never disagree with them. In my opinion, this is spiritual abuse, intentional or unintentional, and similar to physical or sexual perpetrators grooming of their victims.

I recently experienced a lead pastor knowingly lie about a situation. I challenged the lie while the other woman in the room remained silent. The pastor’s response was “I was joking” but he proceeded to make his decision that day based on his “joke.”

I shutter to thing what would happen if this was abusive situation.

Celeste said...

I agree that both men and women can make poor choices, but having worked in a male dominated field for a long time, I strongly believe that balance can occur when women sit at the table. (Not just a token woman (who almost by default is muted or becomes a “yes man” to maintain position)).

As I read these stories of power abuse, enabled by a culture that refuses to take action, I find it disappointing that on this issue the secular world does it better, at least some times. In the world of medicine, we are taught about the power imbalance that is inherent in the physician-patient relationship. No romance within the patient-physician relationship is a given. Has a doctor ever married a patient? I am confident someone can find an example, but if the doctor was romantically involved when he was that patient’s attending physician s/he was putting his/her medical license on the line.

(end part 1)

Celeste said...

(continuation, part 2)
The Texas Medical Board publishes a list of board disciplinary actions 2-4 times a year. Keep in mind that there are over 80,000 licensed physicians in the state of Texas so there is usually several cringe-worthy cases. In the August bulletin, a physician had his license revoked for failing to meet the standards of care “in regards to his treatment of a patient with whom he also initiated an inappropriate sexual relationship, including his failure to address possible indications of the patient’s narcotic overuse.” There is reference to another physician who was arrested for “continuous physical abuse of a child.” As soon as the TMB becomes aware of that claim, the license is immediately suspended. The names of the physicians in question are published. Yes, there is a process of ajudication: taking away or suspending a physician’s medical license means taking away a person’s means of making a living. That doesn’t matter. If proven innocent, you get your license back. If proven guilty, your license is revoked. Now, one could argue that an affair with a patient doesn’t really impact a person’s ability to practice medicine, that they might really have been in love, but secular medicine gets the fact that these affairs, these episodes of sexual abuse, are power plays. (Have physicians had affairs? Of course, it just better NOT be with a person in which you also have a patient-physician relationship).

One of the temporary suspensions listed referenced suspension of the license and specifically mentioned no contact with female patients. I “Googled” the person’s name. He had been charged with sexual assault and attempted sexual assault of 3 women dating back to 2011. It didn’t matter that he might have reformed his ways between 2011 and 2019. It didn’t matter that he might be innocent. It didn’t matter that he might have found Jesus, asked for forgiveness, etc, etc, etc…..A physician loses their right to practice medicine until proven innocent. Until proven innocent there is a significant concern that “the continuation in the practice of medicine poses a continuing threat to public welfare.” Boom. The suspensions are immediate until the ajudication for permanent revocation or a lifting of the suspension occurs. One of the cases referenced was a suspension because the TMB became aware that the physician was also licensed in Illinois, had that license suspended for sex abuse – if you are suspended in Illinois, you are suspended in Texas. (And likely all the other states in which you might have a license, I just know how Texas works).

(end part 2)

Celeste said...

(continuation part 3)
The first case that I described as resulted in a lawsuit filed in District Court (the patient was a Medicare patient so it falls into federal court). In the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney references The American College of Physicians Ethics Manual: 6th Edition. What this book says about the physician-patient relationship applies to pastors/ministers and ANYONE in a counseling position:
“The patient-physician relationship is one that:
*Is a special and unique one,
*Involves specialized knowledge and skills, and
*Has an inherent imbalance of power.
The patient-physician relationship has inherently unequal powers because patients have trust and confidence that their physicians will do no harm. The patient-physician relationship is especially vulnerable to abuse because they physician is privy to the most intimate details of a patient’s life. The health and well-being of patients depends on a collaborative effort between patient and physician. Physicians can best contribute to this alliance by serving as their patients’ advocates and supporting their patients’ rights to receive good health care. Physicians are expected to deal honestly with patients and colleagues, to respect their rights and to safeguard patient confidences within the constraints of the law. A physician must recognize responsibility not only to patients, but also to society, to other health professionals and to self.”


I argue the roll of minister/pastor by its very nature has the same imbalance of power and therefore the same responsibilities, PLUS a responsibility to God our father.

Shame on the church for not recognizing an evil power play that has played out far too many times, leaving a wake of damaged, hurt and abused souls.

(I will now stop yelling and get off my personal soap box).

Wade Burleson said...

Sharon and Celeste,

Two excellent comments from you both.

Thank you.

KOsment said...

Patriarchy is not men.
Patriarchy is a system where men AND WOMEN participate. It privileges the interests of bots and men over the bodily integridy, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious and never more dangerous than when women deny that they themselves are engaging in it

KOsment said...

Robert

EVERYBODY LIES.
1. Men are sexually abused as well. It is NOT exclusively a woman's issue.
2. Difference between lies and credible evidence. Testimony of several.

In my perps situation. You can 100% eliminate my testimony and the evidence of court documents and other credible evidence. Tells a full story. .

KOsment said...

Patriarchy is not men.
Patriarchy is a system where men AND WOMEN participate. It privileges the interests of bots and men over the bodily integridy, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious and never more dangerous than when women deny that they themselves are engaging in it

KOsment said...

NOT TO SPLIT HAIRS... he uses the phrase
A HANDFUL OF ADVERSARIES.

Few.
Handful..

We can add... a few hundred.
A few thousand.

But a "handful" diminishes it to say a miniscual few

TO EVERYONE
Patriarchy is not men.
Patriarchy is a system where men AND WOMEN participate. It privileges the interests of bots and men over the bodily integridy, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious and never more dangerous than when women deny that they themselves are engaging in it


Ive said it to individuals.

Whether it is our homes, our businesses, our communities or our churches.

Our schools having girl cheerleaders and boy football players and elevating the "boys" as iconic but diminishing women athletes

Its everywhere in the culture.

Just because that's the way it has always been done doesn't make it right.

People of color. Women. Outsiders (of the good ol boys club) are not "less that".

RB Kuter said...

"Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system where men AND WOMEN participate."

I think everyone knows what "patriarchy" is. It's the opposite of "matriarchy". One's governance is male-dominated and the other female.

The dominating conversation on this stream regards the abuse of power within a "patriarchy" structure.

RB Kuter said...

"Our schools having girl cheerleaders and boy football players and elevating the "boys" as iconic but diminishing women athletes"

No sexist disparity there.

No injustice there. The primary attraction at athletic events are the games of competition, not the cheerleaders or even the school bands, though both contribute to the event. Try having an event lasting for 3 hours consisting of cheerleaders as the primary feature and see how many of the 80,000 seat stadium you fill.