“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is no denying the reality that these are dark and desperate days for the contemporary church. There are shrinking numbers of people in our pews, and more times than not we are guilty of teaching out-dated and increasingly irrelevant views.
But of greater concern is the growing tendency to focus on ministerial intensity at the expense of an emphasis on personal and professional integrity. The most recent accusations of yet another minister involved in child molestation should cause all of us to discuss the wider problem of parishioner manipulation. In this “City of Churches,” there seems to be no shortage of leaders who have used their pulpits as nothing more than perches. They have been both black and white, and some continue to blatantly function in questionable activity without any semblance of fright. They seem to fear neither God nor man.
Here we are in the midst of this high holy season, but the local news headlines concern a minister accused of spiritual treason. We are preparing, in the Christian context, to celebrate the birth of our savior in the manger, while at the same time investigating whether a minister placed a child in physical and emotional danger.
The child in Bethlehem would grow to become our redeemer, but yet another child in Fort Wayne may have become the victim of just another spiritual schemer.
And I hear somebody thinking that the Bible says, “Let the one without fault cast the first stone,” but that same book says that the welfare of children have a special place around the throne.
I am convinced the absence of pastoral responsibility is directly linked to the lack of congregational accountability. No matter how scandalous the pastor’s life or archaic their views, week after week people keep showing up in their pews.
Sadder yet, Ezekiel 22:25 declares the “prophets have entered into a conspiracy to fleece the flock.” Even then, somewhere around 698 B.C., there was a ministerial collaboration to engage in confiscation rather than consecration.
At a time when individuals had been called to lead people to spiritual matriculation, they were setting the foundation for emotional manipulation. Here we are, just weeks since the 34th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, but it would seem the spirit of Jim Jones is alive and well. We are ignoring the reality that spiritual leaders were designed to be feeders and not bleeders.
Well, I may only be a committee of one, but I think its time for this despicable policy of circling the wagons to end its run. When “reputable” ministers engage in their own private process of rescue, review and renew, it only enables the perpetrator to position him or herself for an act of redo.
It is time for the code of silence to be broken, and ministers to hold themselves to the same theological standards they have spoken.
When a minister’s actions have begun to spread like cancer, there comes a point where expulsion is the only answer. When they choose to prey instead of pray we can no longer allow them to stay.