This is my analysis of The Village Church letter of apology plus my thoughts on Matt Chandler’s sermon. Inb this post I explain why the apology by The Village Church (TVC) falls short and the issues it contains. I am puzzled over what Karen Hinkley has to repent over…is it being a woman? I also explain what I think would be repentance and an apology that would be amazing that could help TVC out.
“Men are born to sin…What does matter most, is not that we err, it is that we do benefit from our mistakes, that we are capable of sincere repentance, of genuine contrition.”
Sharon Kay Penman The Sunne of Splendour
“There is no repentance where a man can talk lightly of sin, much less where he can speak tenderly and lovingly of it.”
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it”
Isaiah 30:15 NIV
**Made Edit Upon Request** 6/5/15
Before I get started in this analysis let me say a couple of quick things before I move into the bulk of this journal entry. One is that I am not examining Matt Chandler’s or the Elders of The Village Church’s heart. What happens in the heart of Matt Chandler is between him and God. What happens in the heart of the Elders is between them and God. I am not God and I am not going to make that mistake here in this post. Also I am not out to question Matt Chandler’s motives. The other day I read something fascinating from the former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield from Montana. Mike Mansfield told Joe Biden, then a Senator, that its appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but to not question what’s behind his decisions “because you simply don’t know his motives.” That is a point I was to stress here. I am looking at the letter of apology to Karen Hinkley and analyzing it. I am also going to analyze the sermon that Matt Chandler gave as well. With that said let me move on to my second most important point. There are many people out there limping and hurting due to fundagelcialism. I write this to challenge people. I hope, and this is addressed to me as well, that one doesn’t get so cynical that if an actual offer of repentance came along I would not recognize it. I would love to see some sincere repentance by Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney and if they did repent and it was sincere I would hope that I would see it. Now that is all said let’s dive into this letter below.
Breaking Down The Village Church’s Letter from The Elders
My comments below will be in red so as to differentiate. I want to be clear about that fact.
Covenant Members of The Village Church,
(1) We recently sent you an email regarding Covenant Members Jordan Root and Karen Hinkley that explained a tragic and heartbreaking situation, including a review of how we got to that point and where things currently stood. Since that time, we have soberly and prayerfully reflected on all the details of this situation, along with others in our past. We have also received feedback from people both inside and outside The Village, which has helped us evaluate ourselves.
Does TVC still stand behind all the information sent out in the first email to TVC? How does TVC define tragic and heartbreaking? Is it do to the annulment, or Karen wanting to leave TVC? How did TVC review the information to get where they are today? One thing that makes this letter hard to decipher is that this contains some of the densest Christianiase I have encountered. How does TVC view that feedback from both the inside and the outside? Honestly I am curious about all that is said above.
(2) Sometimes dark and difficult situations cause us to take a magnifying glass and look through the lens to see deeper than we normally can. That has absolutely been the case in this situation, and we wanted to let you know where we are with everything, specifically some areas we are still evaluating and some areas where we have clearly failed and need to repent.
What do they mean by “dark and difficult situation?” What is dark and difficult? Is it Jordan’s addiction to child pornography? Is it Karen leaving the church? Is all this bad publicity threatening the church? What is dark and difficult mean? Honestly I would really like to know.
(3) When it comes to protecting children, we believe we have strong procedures in place and feel confident in how we’ve handled allegations and confessions regarding child abuse in any form, specifically in the situation with Jordan Root. In examining ourselves in this area, we have been affirmed in the policies and processes we have in place to protect children. That said, in the weeks ahead, we will do an external audit to confirm we are doing everything possible to protect children and to evaluate how we handle child safety, abusers, abuse victims and other related matters in a biblical and legal manner.
I am not that qualified to speak about the ins and out of pedophilia. I’ll defer that to my East Coast Mom! But I will ask do they have too much faith in what is in place and is TVC being naïve? If TVC has a rock solid system in place why are those who know more about child sex abuse upset about the situation? If they had a solid system in place wouldn’t people like Amy Smith be singing their praises? Honestly these are just questions that I have. Why does the external audit give me a gut feeling that this is going to be a rehash of SGM and AOR?
(4) Regarding Covenant Membership, we have not changed our theological or philosophical convictions on our Membership Covenant, member care and church discipline. These are beliefs rooted in Scripture, and we strongly believe they are necessary for our health and faithfulness as a church. However, in looking closely at the way we have handled some situations, we realize that there are clear and specific instances where we have let our membership practices blind us to the person in front of us, in turn leading us to respond in a way that doesn’t reflect our desire to be loving and caring to our members. In these situations, there have been cases where we have clearly not communicated the gentleness, compassion and patience that we are called to as elders of the church.
Is there a way that TVC is going to be more loving about discipline? So the next time someone is shunned do they smile in the process? Isn’t that going to require more Kool Aid? Where is George Orwell when you need him? How can a person “lovingly discipline” someone? “Regarding Covenant Membership, we have not changed our theological or philosophical convictions on our Membership Covenant” this here I would say shows TVC flaw in that they cant see how its doctrine brought this mess about. Instead they are going to defend their doctrine which shows that they can’t admit that they are wrong. Membership covenants I would contend are a form of slavery that I would like to pursue and write about in the course of time. How ironic that TVC is going to return back to the SBC roots in slavery. They obviously believe they can own someone. I find this paragraph above to be very deceptive.
(5) We are deeply sorry for failing you in this way and are taking steps to follow up with the individuals we believe we have hurt so that we can apologize specifically and directly to them. We are also in the process of creating a new care and church discipline plan and hope to have it approved and in practice very soon. Regardless of all that we’re trying to do to improve in this area, though, the most important point is that we recognize that we must never allow our processes and procedures to take precedence over people, specifically those we are called to love, care, protect and sacrifice for as elders of the church. In everything our actions and tone must reflect the gentleness (Gal. 6:1) and humility (1 Peter 5:1-3) to which Scripture calls us. As James 2:13 says, mercy should triumph over judgment.
How does TVC define care? Words are everything and contain nuances and differing interpretations. In this confusing jargon how do they define care? Its an honest question I have.
(6) In receiving more information and considering the way we’ve ministered to Karen specifically, we believe that we owe her an apology. Specifically, as it pertains to her desire for an annulment, we know that it would have served her better to have a clearer understanding from us as to what we do and do not consider biblical grounds for divorce or what we understand the Scriptures to define as divorce. In hindsight, we wish that we would have provided clarity to Karen in an immediate fashion and are saddened by our unpreparedness.
In reading this segment it becomes clear that TVC doesn’t know what the difference is between an annulment and a divorce or they are trying to define the annulment as a divorce and treat it as such. “In hindsight, we wish that we would have provided clarity to Karen in an immediate fashion and are saddened by our unpreparedness.” This is an apology? This seems like they just want to reiterate that they are sorry about their communication to her. They are not apologizing for how TVC treated her. Am I reading this wrong?
(7) Though the deep theological convictions that informed our initial response haven’t changed, this is a situation where we unfortunately allowed our practice to unnecessarily lead us rather than us leading our practice with patience, gentleness and compassion. We did not lead Karen and the church to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing. Please know that we are reaching out to Karen and giving her this apology, and we have also made the decision to move forward in releasing her from membership. We will continue to support her financially through August as we committed, and our hope and prayer for her is that God would guide her to another gospel-believing church, where she can find healing and restoration.
This paragraph I found deeply disturbing in chewing on this content. What is this supposed to mean? “We did not lead Karen and the church to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing.” What does Karen have to repent for? Jordan is the one addicted to child pornography. Jordan is the one engaged in criminal behavior. How is Karen responsible for that or for their mission being cut short? Jordan bears 100% responsibility for that action through his choices. Do they believe that if Karen had more sex with her husband that would resolve his pedophilia tendencies? Or is the problem that Karen needs to repent for being a woman? If she was just a man like Matt Chandler, Steve Hardin, and Matt Younger she would be fine? What does Karen have to repent for? Plus now you are releasing her from membership? Its May/June 2015 she wanted to leave TVC in February why wasn’t she let go in peace? I’m honestly puzzled is there a Neo Calvinist version of the Fugitive Slave Act where if a person leaves TVC they will be hunted down and returned to TVC? I’m just curious?
(8) In receiving this email and hearing how we have and are responding to this situation, we understand that you may be wondering why this type of change in heart has happened now. Is it because of the media stories? If so, why have we let these stories make such an impact? The answer is basically what we began this email with: Sometimes it takes a difficult, unique and trying situation to help us realize our mistakes and move us to change. Naturally, these situations also bring more feedback to the table, and we have sought to humbly hear that feedback, be willing to see the log in our own eye and repent where necessary.
I’m humbled TVC had a change of heart. Why do I have a gut feeling that it is media stories like this one in the Daily Beast that they feared?
(9) Given the nature of the situation with Jordan and Karen, we also want you to be prepared for the potential of many media stories about our church to be published over the next several days. We are aware of this likely outcome and will not address members or former members specifically in any communication since we do not release this information to the public. This weekend, Matt will speak generally about member care and church discipline because the conclusion of our James series is providentially focused on this topic, but he will not speak directly to the situation at hand.
Is this a way to coach people how to think? Kind of like when I was looking into Mormonism and the Mormon missionaries told me not to read “anti-Mormon material” and only heed their advice and teaching? Does this also show how Matt Chandler and crowd have made the local church THE idol in that they greatly fear negative publicity? In regards to church discipline I do have a question…does it apply to CJ Mahaney? Or is he above any church discipline at all? Honest question..
(10) In all of this, we are deeply grieved by the way this situation has brought reproach to the name of Jesus. Our hearts are heavy and broken over the things that have been said about our good and faithful God. We often talk about the “ongoing ethics of confession and repentance,” and as your elders, we know that we are not exempt from these ethics. In every way that we’ve mishandled this situation, along with others in the past, we repent and ask for forgiveness. As a church, we talk regularly about the power of the gospel to forgive all our sins, past, present and future. In this moment, we are clinging to that truth, knowing that we and everyone else involved in this situation desperately need the grace and mercy of Jesus.
– The Village Church Elders
“In all of this, we are deeply grieved by the way this situation has brought reproach to the name of Jesus. Our hearts are heavy and broken over the things that have been said about our good and faithful God.” Why does the previous sentence remind me of Mars Hill so much? I could almost imagine Mark Driscoll saying this. Has TVC thought long and hard about the way they hurt Karen and others and how the Lord values them? In regards to mishandling the others…how many others are there? If there are 479 cases of church discipline scattered amongst the Flower Mound, Denton, Dallas Northway, Fort Worth and Plano campuses are those 479 cases going to be addressed individually? Talk is cheap, action is harder, I would like to know how many other people were hurt?
Thoughts on Matt Chandler’s Sermon
Okay in analyzing this talk here’s one question I have off the bat. Its less than a minute in his intro Matt Chandler says, “the pastor God has put over your life to shepherd and care for your soul.” Here’s a question I have…what do you do when the pastor who God appointed over your life who is to shepherd your soul is engaging in criminal activity? Is that foreordained by God? Is a person supposed to submit to and accept that behavior? I’m just curious. At the 25 minute mark Matt Chandler says that a couple of members approached TVC and raised concerns about how TVC was operating in their discipline process. I have to be blunt in saying this…but I struggle to believe that happened and here is why. TVC is very totalitarian in nature and you are often taught to submit and follow teaching. The last thing you do in these kind of environments is ask questions. So I have to state that I just have a hard time imagining that happening. I could be wrong, and if I am I will take it back. Also before the 33 minute mark Chandler says that they don’t have a doctrine issue but a practice issue. When I heard that I realized that he hasn’t realized what fully happened, and I would suggest that this problem came out due to doctrine. When the doctrine is to be practiced in a certain way and its you guiding motivation your practice in the end will always be flawed. Actually in reflecting on this part you know what it reminded me of? In history there have been times that many people thought communism could be purified or made better, and it was an attempt to do so. The reason why Mao, Pol Pot or Mikhail Gorbachev did what they did with communism is because they still believed in the doctrine. When in the 1980’s Mikhail Gorbachev initiated glasnost and perestroika he did so because he believed in the doctrine of communism. But since the doctrine is flawed communism would fail regardless. That’s how I think of what Matt Chandler said in regards to how they don’t have a doctrine issue they have a practice issue. Furthermore I would say this apology is a partial apology and that it is meant to control the people within The Village Church. I find it fascinating to see the information on the outside and watch the videos, read the internal documents and see how the information is controlled. For example Karen Hinkley is all over the internet, blogs and even news stories. Yet Matt Chandler won’t mention her name…why is that? Is Matt Chandler still trying to control the information internally within the church? Is that the reason why she is not even mentioned?
Thoughts on the Situation
I think the situation is pretty bad. They may be trying to apologize but I find this effort to fall short substantially. The thing that so bothered me in reading the statement by the Elders is when they said, “We did not lead Karen and the church to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing.” Again I must ask…what sin did Karen Hinkley commit? Is her sin being a woman? What sin did she commit, I am asking with all honesty…I’m not trying to stir the pot but what sin did she commit? Also why can’t Matt Chandler just come forward and say, “Karen we made a mistake?” Its my understanding that Karen hasn’t received an apology from TVC. Is this intentional or is this just bad communication skills? I don’t know. While Chandler is smoother than Driscoll this still has been handled badly. Why can’t they reach out to Amy or even the others who were wounded. They know who they are, they know who has been “disciplined.” That leads me to the final part…what would I consider repentance by TVC?
What Would I Believe to be Repentance by The Village Church?
This is what I would recommend if there is going to be repentance and forgiveness in this situation. First of all I would drop the Christianaee and speak English. I’ll keep saying this but the communication skills by TVC are awful. I would also do something of the following to show repentance. If Matt Chandler did any of the following I would be impressed:
1. In regards to Karen Hinkley I propose that Matt Chandler have someone like Amy Smith or My East Coast Mom meet with Chandler face to face. Chandler apologizes and does what Hinkley wants to apologize. I propose that TVC cover the airfare and lodging and let Karen choose when and where this is to happen. So if it means Matt Chandler traveling to Ohio, NC or else where and work this out face to face with Dee or Amy observing I think that’s fair.
2. All other cases of discipline or pain are addressed one by one. I think there has to be a case file of TVC’s “Family Jewels” of all the cases of discipline. I would also have Chandler personally apologize and work through each one. He’s the Pastor and he will bear the responsibility for each case.
3. Matt Chandler will confront CJ Mahaney or issue a statement calling on him to repent, shut down his Louisville church plant, go back to Gaithersburg, face any consequences from the law and he will meet with those people hurt by SGM internally and apologize for his support to CJ Mahaney. Everyone would win if that happened. That hands down would be the best thing Matt Chandler could do for Mahaney.
4. Matt Chandler as head of Acts 29 will repent to the former members of Countryside Church in Michigan City, Indiana and apologize for the way the Acts 29 network destroyed a healthy, vibrant church. Matt Chandler will repent to Becki Lynn in person for her handicapped child being perp walked out of a church by a pastor drunk on authority. The story of Countryside Church is found at The Wartburg Watch.
5. TVC looks at and examines its doctrine for church discipline. Unless you have doctrine on the table this issue is going to repeat and repeat.
6. Matt Chandler contacts Paul Petry, Bent Meyer, Rob Smith, Ron Wheeler, and others and repents for his past support of Mark Driscoll when they were being hurt in the process.
If the above happened I would travel from DC to Dallas and go to TVC and give Matt Chandler a hug and encourage him on! That’s how much I would be moved by seeing this kind of repentance. Not only that but I think that would be repentance that would be sincere, healthy, and profound. Can you imagine what message would be sent to Dallas and beyond if that were to happen? I’m not expecting that to happen however I would love to be proven wrong!
In closing I want to leave you with this Michael W Smith song that is stuck in my head. I discovered this last week and I really have been enjoying it.