The Village Church debacle isn’t the first time an attempt to recover the practice of church discipline has gone awry.
A Southern Baptist megachurch has made amends for disciplining a church member for leaving her husband after learning he is addicted to child pornography.
In a face-to-face meeting June 3, Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, apologized personally to Karen Hinkley, according to an update to “covenant members” of the multi-site congregation with an average weekend attendance of 10,000. Hinkley was put under church discipline when she didn’t seek the counsel of church elders before getting her marriage annulled.
Hinkley, who served as a missionary in Asia before the mission organization SIM USA sent her and her former husband home after he admitted to a habit of viewing child pornography, accepted the apology in a statement published by the Wartburg Watch blog June 10.
Village Church elders forgave Jordan Root when he confessed his sin and agreed to a program of counseling. Surprised to learn that Karen Root got their marriage annulled — something allowed in Texas if the original wedding vow was not in good faith — they ruled her in violation of a church covenant she signed pledging to seek reconciliation before divorcing her spouse.
Reclaiming her maiden name, Hinkley advised church leaders she was resigning as a member of The Village Church. Church leaders refused to accept her resignation and put her under church discipline for spurning their attempt at pastoral care.
Chandler admitted in a sermon May 31 that mistakes were made in the church’s disciplinary process and offered a blanket apology to any member for “where we failed to recognize you as the victim and didn’t empathize deeply with your situation.”
In the private meeting with Hinkley and a couple of her friends, Chandler and ministry leadership pastor Josh Patterson said after further reflection, they realized that Hinkley had biblical grounds for divorce, her membership withdrawal should have been granted immediately, and she should never have been put under discipline.
The pastors added that they should have recognized they lacked expertise to properly counsel a pedophile and had referred him to a licensed sex offender treatment provider.
The episode prompted review of current practice and procedures involving church discipline. “There will be definite changes to our system based on these meetings, including a much more patient process before a member enters formal church discipline,” said the newest statement from elders.
Hinkley said she believed the pastors were sincere and that she forgave them.
“I know this is not the end of the story for many, but I believe it is the end of the story for me,” she said in her statement. “This has been a long and difficult road both for me and for those who have walked closely with me, and I still have quite a bit of healing left to do. I believe it is time for me to move on in peace, trusting God to finish the good work He has started at The Village Church. I believe God is using what happened to me to do something beautiful, in his time and in his way, and for that I am exceedingly thankful.”
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global