At the Baptist News Global there was an op-ed by Mark Wingfield. The article looked at why the evangelical Christian church needs to admit when its wrong. This is a theme I keep bumping up against here. In addition Mark addresses areas where there should be discussion. This article raises some issues that honestly need to be discussed.
“When you see something that is wrong, there is something that has to be right.”
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NIV
Approaching San Francisco from the south.
There was an article I saw on social media that was too good to leave to itself. The message it conveyed needed to be pushed and explored. It actually deals with a theme this blog has been writing about for some time.
Why Don’t Evangelical Christians Admit that they are Wrong?
It was what triggered this blog and opened the door to the darkest period of my life. Someone I knew was trying to get me involved in the last Sovereign Grace Ministry plant in the Washington, D.C. area. It was Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington. We clashed especially as I saw how corrupt Sovereign Grace was as an organization. And this military officer who I call Andrew White and my clashed in a way I never encountered before. While I was in a faith crisis this individual who was deeply influenced by Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler wanted me to go to his church. The relationship ended with a false accusation that threatened my name, ability to earn income and more. Ultimately when a person in the military abuses their power that is why rape and sexual assault happens. That is what I realized, an officer had abused his authority. In the deepest pit of my life I approached close to 140 people to seek forgiveness for my mistakes in the faith crisis. From that experience I learned that Christians don’t own their mistakes and they never seek out people and ask for forgiveness for those that they have hurt. They walk away from someone and leave them wounded and almost dead on the battle field of life while they say they follow God. My mess with Andrew never ended and was not resolved. At the time I tried to work things out with Redeemer Arlington and that fell apart. The thing that bothers me the most is not the abuse I suffered. What troubles me is how the abuse invaded my Mom’s hospital room shortly before her death in 2017. My Mom had a right to deal with her illness in peace and live out her life in peace. When religion gets to that stage it is way beyond toxic. And yet what happened with Redeemer Arlington plays out regularly in evangelicalism all the time.
Consider the following situations.
- C.J. Mahaney fled as the head of Sovereign Grace when all the child sex abuse and blackmail came out of the organization. Mahaney never admitted his error or owned his mistakes.
- Mark Driscoll fled Mars Hill Seattle when his ministry imploded. All the abuse, allegations of it being a cult, financial misconduct and more and off he ran and Driscoll never owned his mistakes either.
- D.A. Carson taught theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Through The Gospel Coalition he attacked someone in a statement that went after someone who was raped at 13 and he did this to defend C.J. Mahaney. At the EFCA’s flagship seminary Carson retired and no apology was issued. No mistakes were owned.
- Evangelicals have created Christian nationalism with Jerry Falwell Jr. being one of Trump’s strongest defenders. The culture wars have deeply affected younger people and pushed them from evangelicalism. And yet Falwell will never admit his mistakes. He will never come forward publicly and own them.
- This blog regularly writes about different churches and situations. In the end really none of the churches I have written about have atoned and admitted their error. Whether it be theologically flipping a church, covering up a child pornography and voyeurism situation, or practicing church discipline on an alleged rape and domestic abuse victim; none of the places I have written about really admitted their mistake.
- Currently this blog is writing about James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, Illinois. As the abuse and fraud hemorrhages out of the organization the sad reality is that James MacDonald will likely flee and never own his mistakes either.
Not being able to own error and say we were wrong is really who many evangelical Christians are. Its the reason why the movement is so toxic and sick. Opportunities to heal are often forever lost. Reconciliation is squandered. And the ability to show the Gospel in the community and cities where these scandals take place is wasted. Atheists and critics of evangelicalism have every right to pick apart and point out the flaws. The saddest aspect of all from my perspective? All of these places whether they be Neo-Calvinist or Arminian, or other boasted of having “sound doctrine” being “Gospel Centered” or have having a solid grasp ” on the Christian faith.” Yet they can’t say they are wrong. You can read about some of this in some older posts that I have written.
- “How Mistakes are Opportunities…Why Don’t Evangelical Christians Say they are Sorry? Why Don’t Evangelicals Repent and Own their Mistakes Today?”
- “A Primer on Repentance: What are Indicators that Repentance Has Occurred?”
- “What Jordan Kauflin and Redeemer Arlington Can Learn from a Washington Post Article on Apologizing.”
Mark Wingfield’s Opinion Article
At the start of the New Year Mark Wingfield wrote an opinion column for the Baptist News Global. The article is called, “3 words for the church in 2019: ‘we were wrong’.”I saw it being shared on social media and decided to write about it. There are three words that Mark would like to hear the evangelical church say in 2019. Those three words are, “we were wrong.” Churches and leaders of churches don’t admit their error. They often call for people to admit error or repent but the organizations themselves don’t do that. Too much of evangelicalism is built on absolute certainty. You are not allowed to change your mind or wrestle with topics. Too often in evangelicalism people are taught to worship a specific style of scripture rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are evangelicals so fragile in their faith that they can’t deal with these issues because it will be like a house of cards that is tumbling down? According to Mark Wingfield what are the topics the evangelical Christian church can apologize for?
- Evangelicals have been wrong about race. They have defended slavery when they should not have. They have also defended segregation in the past. There are many whites that don’t understand what blacks have to deal with or the hurdles they have to overcome due to racial policies in place today.
- Evangelicals have been wrong on sexual predators. Just as the Catholic church is facing a reckoning over child sex abuse evangelicals have also made mistakes. Evangelicals have been guilty of sexual sin in how they have ignored abuse inside the church.
- Evangelicals have been wrong about women. To often many evangelicals focus on what a person can or can not do on the base of the sex organs they have been born with. Most of what keeps women where they are at is not from scripture but instead tradition.
- Evangelicals are wrong about being “pro-life.” Evangelicals have stuck to abortion only. But they ignore so many other issues such as genocide, starvation, human trafficking, and war and act as if they are the only topics. Many evangelicals don’t know what it means to be “pro-life.”
- Being gay is difficult and hard, but evangelicals have dropped the ball and made deep mistakes in this area. Many evangelicals have denied those who are gay opportunities to know the Lord. They have blocked gays.
- Evangelicals are wrong to be more focused on numbers rather than souls. More pastors are focused on giving and attendance then anything else.
- Evangelicals are wrong to have married politics to the Gospel. They are wrong for becoming so embedded in the culture wars. Politics is backfiring in that the wrong message is being sent and people should be called out when necessary across all partisan lines.
It is time that the evangelical church look long and hard at itself and start to admit its mistakes and errors. This is a solid article to read. I would read the entire piece in, “3 words for the church in 2019: ‘we were wrong’“
Its Time for Evangelicals to Come Clean in 2019
This article hit a nerve in me as some of what Mark has been writing about I have been hammering for years. This blog has written about scandal after scandal and problem after problem. Often the best claims that lead to God are not inside the church but outside of it. What would happen if evangelicals actually came clean? What if Mark Dever called out C.J. Mahaney? What if the EFCA called on D.A. Carson to confess attacking a rape victim to defend C.J. Mahaney? What if Mark Driscoll admitted he was wrong and went back to Seattle? What if John Piper came clean about how he has treated women over the years? What if the Southern Baptists admitted that they have a massive child sex abuse problem?
What if Christians started to say they were wrong?
What could some of the long term effects be? Those who are burned and fried could have hope. Some Christians would be able to have a faith that is healthier and stronger then what is often sold as “faith.” Bridges can be built with those in the secular community when people realize that atheists were often correct in what they said about Christians. What if healing was allowed to happen and people found closure? What if American evangelicalism had its morning instead of currently experiencing its long dark night? The benefits to say “we were wrong” would benefit all. It would benefit evangelicals, atheists, communities, churches and more. While I am deeply dubious of this happening my hope in 2019 is that this will happen. That a few churches will have the courage to do the right thing. Let’s hope for the best.