An open letter to Matt Chandler of The Village Church. Today Eagle is going to rejoice at the start of The Village Church practicing repentance. I am amazed that Matt Chandler could do what CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll could not, or would not do. I hope The Village Church takes comfort in these encouraging words that I write. Matt Chandler you have this non Neo-Calvinist’s ear and Matt I am willing to listen and learn from you. What book or sermon series would you recommend me listening to?
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen“
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall“
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
There are some people who claim that all I like to do is point out the negative, or harp on a situation. In the past I recall an email from someone in a small group telling me no one wants to hear the negative. There is a reason why I write so much about scandal, corruption and theological problems. Its because my faith crisis exposed me to the dark side of evangelical Christianity, and in return it fed my agnosticism/atheism. However, I am also a firm believer in writing the positive or giving praise when I believe its due, and today is one of those days. I believe Matt Chandler needs to be singled out and deserves some recognition and told, “Good job!”
You really don’t know me but let me introduce myself to you. I’ve had a storied existence when it comes to faith. I was once burned by Mormonism, and differing sides of evangelical Christianity. I spent half my thirties thinking I was an agnostic. In reality I was more of a militant atheist. During this time I was in a profound and prolonged faith crisis. I honestly thought I would never be a Christian again because I couldn’t work through the problem of evil. During this time I drank the Christopher Hitchens kool aid, and explored atheism in Washington D.C. which is where I live. I also attended the largest atheist rally in United States history on the national mall in 2012. I had a couple of friends who pursued me in my faith crisis which I think speaks boldly of their courage. I wrote a thank you letter to James Crestwood, Scott Van Swernigen, and Danny Risch. I also was invited to Sovereign Grace. If you want to read my story you can do so up above in the tab called “Faith Crisis“. So I look at things from a very different situation. In leaving my faith crisis behind I approached 140 individuals and sought out forgiveness.
I want to take a step back and asses the situation with Karen Hinkley. I’ve emailed you my other posts that I have written at my journal, and I want to say that I have a deep amount of respect for you and ask you to continue going down this path. You have my attention and my ear and I am listening to you closely based upon what you did with Karen Hinkley. Matt you should know that I am not a Neo-Calvinist at all. Not one bit…and I actually have deep problems with Neo-Calvinist theology. But I don’t want to ruin a moment and get into that at all. That is not the purpose of today’s journal entry. Instead I want to say that I am proud of you and look at you as my brother especially after what you did with Karen. Because of what you did I am more open to listening to what you say, and I am more open to letting you teach me Matt.
Let me also issue a challenge to those on the internet and blogs like The Wartburg Watch and others. Please note that I am not drinking any kool aid, and I am not betraying people who have been hurt. Please remember that I endured and managed a false accusation that was given birth to by a member of Redeemer Arlington for 13 months that threatened my name, reputation, and ability to earn a living. So I empathize with people who have been through a lot. One of the risks that exists in blogging is that we can refuse to acknowledge and encourage someone on in repentance. That risk comes about because we can be so cynical, suspicious, and questioning that we miss something right in front of our noses. We can refuse to acknowledge what took place. That is why I am pouring my soul into his letter Matt.
Its why I am writing this letter. I want to rejoice with you as a brother after seeing what you did with Karen Hinkley!
Matt most if not all people want to hear someone own their sin. Or own the fact that they were wrong. Most if not all Christians want to hear people repent of their mistakes, and pain they cause others. I think its safe to say this….every single person who has been hurt by another person wants to see the person who was the source of pain work at resolving it. Its healthy. Its necessary. That is how people heal. That is how people recover and become whole. There is no shortcut, no way around it. But its something that is missing in much of American Christianity today. After all I must ask…what kind of Christian doesn’t ask for forgiveness? What kind of Christian refuses to own their own mistakes especially when it causes pain in other people? What kind of ministry leader teaches about such policies but fails to practice them? I’m a guy who sits in the pew. Shouldn’t pastors and people I listen to be able to practice what they preach? I mean really…if Christians are going to be “radical” why can’t they start and own their mistakes and repent of their wrongs? Christians don’t repent of their sins today. I think its for a number of reasons the chief one being that much of Christianity has sold out to the Gospel of Moralism. And when people screw up, or make a mistake they get hammered and it leads some people to commit spiritual suicide. But part of the reason Matt as to why American evangelicalism is so sick, and diseased today is that Christians don’t repent or own their sins today.
The other day in a post I wrote I said the following is what I would consider a part of repentance Matt:
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.
Matt in many ways you largely did what I asked you to do. You did what I would consider an act of repentance. You let Karen Hinkley choose the nature of the way in which she could settle it. You also traveled to North Carolina as I understood it and worked out things face to face with Karen. There were other people involved in the process who observed. In so many ways I am impressed that you took this course of action.
But do you know what else is impressive Matt Chandler? In the end you did what CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll have been unable and unwilling to do. Can you imagine what CJ Mahaney could have communicated to Louisville if he shut down that racket of a run away church plant and admitted that he fled from Gaithersburg, Maryland and had been in operating in continuous sin? Can you imagine what would happen Matt if CJ Mahaney went back to Covenant Life Church and repented to the people individually and in groups while asking for their forgiveness? Can you imagine if CJ Mahaney went before Mark Dever’s Capital Hill Baptist and repented before the congregation for running and hiding there from Covenant Life Church? Can you imagine what would happen Matt Chandler if CJ Mahaney had reached out to the beautiful and gorgeous families of Pam and Dominic Palmer and Happymom and Wallice, and others who dealt with child sex abuse in Sovereign Grace and asked for forgiveness in covering up the child sex abuse alone, and for how it was handled? Could you imagine what would happen if CJ Mahaney repented of his leadership in Sovereign Grace? Could you imagine if this happened in the Washington, D.C. area? Really this is a city that is all about power, prestige and image. I know…I’ve lived and worked here since 2005. This is probably one of the most important cities in the world due to it being the capital of the United States. Image is everything here and people seldom admit their mistakes. In such an environment can you imagine if CJ Mahaney owned his mistakes and sin? Could you imagine what would be communicated to the Washington, D.C. area? Plus here is another question…if CJ Mahaney would have repented at the beginning would he have been the subject of a lawsuit? Its highly unlikely in my opinion. If CJ Mahaney had repented would the Sovereign Grace denomination be spiraling toward bankruptcy? No! If CJ Mahaney had repented would 40+ churches including Redeemer Arlington have broken away from Sovereign Grace Ministries? No! Can you imagine if CJ Mahaney actually repented and went back to Gaithersburg? A sincere act of repentance on his behalf would show and teach more than anything he did in 30 years of preaching.
Matt, can you imagine if Mark Driscoll went back to Seattle and repented for all his sin? Could you imagine as to what he could teach to what I hear is one of the most Godless cities in the United States? Could you imagine the peace and closure he could bring to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer by repenting and asking for forgiveness for that kangaroo trial that took place in 2007? Can you imagine what would happen if Mark Driscoll contacted and met with Rob Smith and repented for the harm he did to Rob Smith and the way he harmed Agathos? Can you imagine Matt Chandler if Mark Driscoll contacted Ron Wheeler and repented to an old friend and confessed his sin and the way he harmed him? Can you imagine what would happen if Mark Driscoll approached all 21 pastors who brought charges against him? Can you imagine if Mark Driscoll reached out to those on repentant pastor and repented and confessed his sin in how he was emotionally and verbally abusive? Can you imagine what would happen if Mark Driscoll went back to Seattle and confessed to all his plagiarism and stealing of intellectual property. I mean how many books did Mark Driscoll plagiarize? Can a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs plagiarize books like that and not be expelled? Can a grad student at Texas A & M plagiarize a good portion of his doctoral dissertation and not be disciplined? If Mark Driscoll went back to Seattle and owned his sin and repented can you imagine the message he could send? Mark Driscoll could do more by a sincere act of repentance than what he did in 20 years of expository sermons.
Then there is you Matt…you did what CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll could not do. It left me stunned, amazed and speechless. When I heard what happened I felt so good at work knowing what had transpired. It honestly takes a lot of humility to own one’s mistakes. I know…the guy writing this approached 140 people at great risk to include personal, and financial. That was how I exited my faith crisis Matt. So I can appreciate how hard this was to do. You handled the situation with a lot of grace. Its my understanding that you let Karen Hinkley choose the manner of which this could take place. I mean honestly Matt….you had this woman whose life was destroyed in a manner of months. Her career as a missionary was over. Her marriage to someone who was addicted to child pornography was over. Plus in time she would also lose her church. Just losing a job is hard enough but Karen lost everything in a short amount of time. I could not imagine being in her shoes. Yet you flew to where Karen is at and met her face to face. That is amazing Matt Chandler.
The other important thing you did was you admitted that The Village Church doesn’t have the resources to help Jordan Root. That is significant and huge. Matt asking for help is a sign of strength and its part of the reason why I have a deep amount of respect for you today. While you said there are some things that church can do well, there are others the church is ill prepared for. Counseling and helping a guy who is addicted to child pornography is one of those things that churches are not prepared for, or equipped to handle. By reaching out to authorities who are trained in this area you are doing the best thing you could do for The Village Church and more importantly Jordan Root. When Jordan Root is involved in secular counseling for his child pornography addiction you can and should reach out to him and support him. But you are doing the right thing Matt, and again I am pleased by what I read.
Another thing that impressed me Matt is that you admitted that it was wrong to discipline Karen Hinkley. That took courage, and knocked my socks off. Without getting cynical or sarcastic I know what discipline means to your movement. In many ways you admitted the potential for questionable discipline by stating that she never should have been disciplined in the first place. You also admitted that she had grounds for a divorce/annulment which is huge. All of these actions to Karen are direct, specific, and addressed the issue at hand. This specifically went into the heart of the matter. As I wrote the other day repentance is one of those things that you know if when you see it. And Matt Chandler I see it here in this behavior. I don’t doubt your actions or intentions at all. Instead I am thrilled that you are taking this course of action and I support you wholeheartedly.
The process you started Matt still has a number of more steps which you need to follow through on in order to help make this repentance bring further healing. It will help heal The Village Church, Karen Hinkley and others who were affected by this situation. I am hoping as a part of repentance that the following will take place as well:
- I am hoping that each Village Church Elder repents to Karen Hinkley for their sin and how they treated her.
- I am hoping that Matt Younger will repent and publically disavow that letter of church discipline to Karen Hinkley.
- I am hoping that Steve Hardin of the Dallas Northway Campus will repent for how he crossed the lines with Karen and not respecting her boundaries.
- I am hoping that Karen’s small group leader and each member of her small group will repent and reach out to her. By repenting it would be beautiful if that small group reached out to her, met her, embraced her and sought her forgiveness. It would be beautiful if broken friendships and relationships that were once dead can be reborn and have new life again. Too many Christians justify estrangement by pointing to the story of Paul and Barnabas. In the process they completely neglect and avoid the story of the reunification of Paul and John Mark.
- It would also be nice if a public website could be set up that allows for members of The Village Church to go and repent for how they treated her. In order for this to work Matt Chandler the entire church and all who were involved need to repent. That will bring a lot of healing to everyone.
It would be beautiful if all this transpired and took place before Dallas and the world. Pain and mistakes are an opportunity. If you haven’t Matt Chandler I would encourage you to read my story. I learned that in repenting and in owning my mistakes to 140 people. Here is it 2 plus years later and I am still hard at work pressing forward on this issue. But out of the ashes of pain and regret can come forth new life which can be beautiful and stunning. I want you to know Matt that I am not a Neo-Calvinist at all. Not one bit. But I strongly support your efforts and behavior as your brother. I also want to encourage you forward in this season. This has been one of the most encouraging things I have seen in years and I would high five you if I had the opportunity. Either that or give you a bear hug and risk squeezing out your spleen. I want to see you keep walking down this path as I believe this is incredibly brave. In prior conversations with Dee Parsons, my East Coast Mom who writes at The Warburg Watch has told me what Dallas culture is like, and how image is everything. You bucked that image by this action and you did something that is truly radical. I am stunned by what has happened. If I lived in Dallas from time to time I would come to a service at The Village Church occasionally and sit at your feet and listen. Maybe I’ll poke around at work and see if I can do a company transfer to Dallas! But I write this not to shower you with praise but just to affirm and say that I am grateful by the action you took. I am not trying to be cynical or jaded for the sake of being jaded in he posts I write here. Instead privately I long for days like today. In the end Matt I want to be a man who can be teachable and willing to learn. Can you imagine Matt Chandler if days like today were the norm and not the exception? Would Christians be known for being arrogant and self righteous if they actually admitted their mistakes? Many atheists would lose their claims about Christians being arrogant. The outside world would be shown the love of God in the process, and the church would be healthy because of a continual policy of regular repenting and owning their mistakes.
So Matt Chandler and The Village Church now that you have my ear, my undivided attention…what would you recommend that I read Matt? If I were to read one of your books or listen to one of your sermon series at The Village Church what would you recommend me listening to? I can download it on my Android and listen to it to and from the way into work. Like I said I am not a Neo-Calvinist but I do believe that there are nuggets here and there that I can learn. I’m listening Matt, and am awaiting your recommendation.
I wish you the best, and want to encourage you forward. I write this letter with my heart and soul.