On the surface, that’s not entirely awful advice, assuming the guilty pastors are genuinely repentant of their actions. But what’s critically missing from Tchividjian’s message is anything what to do for the victims. When the pastor does something hypocritical or abusive, perhaps the pastor’s not the person who needs help.
“The cross of Jesus shows us that God is serious about sin and we should therefore take sin seriously. But (and this is the part that often seems missing when scandal in church leadership happens) the cross also shows us that God is serious about redemption, restoration, and forgiving sins and we should take that seriously too,” Tchividjian, who resigned as pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 2015 after admitting to an extramarital affair, said in a blog post written with Chad Bird.
Tchividjian and Bird, also a former pastor who committed adultery, clarified that the church should neither go soft on sin nor sweep it under the rug. But they emphasized that “real sin is also met with real forgiveness” and that pastors are sinners just like churchgoers are.
What about reporting abuse to the police? What about acknowledging that the choice to forgive belongs to the person who was directly affected by the pastor’s actions?
Also missing from the piece is any mention of how forgiveness doesn’t have to mean welcoming the pastor back to his former position. You can forgive someone and still have a desire to see justice done, whether that means firing someone you once admired or, if necessary, seeing that person behind bars.
“It is anti-Christian to remember people primarily by the scandalous things they’ve done. We love to whittle an entire life-story down to a single season. Then, with the authority invested in us by the state of self-righteousness, we proclaim, ‘This, and nothing else, is who you are,'” they argued.
That’s a very convenient thing to say when we’ve seen the Catholic Church engulfed in child sex abuse scandals and many Protestant preachers embroiled in their own controversies which left emotional scars on several people. When their entire message has been about living up to certain moral standards — and when many of these same people have denounced LGBTQ people as incapable of practicing those morals if they dare acts on their desires or form a meaningful relationship — it’s absolutely fair to judge them on their own hypocrisy.
Speaking of which, it’s also not anti-Christian to refuse to hire someone on the sex offender registry, or someone who has a reputation for being creepy with female staffers or children. That’s called being cautious — and plain old common sense.
The authors called on the church to stand “alongside the disgraced” if it really wants to “stand apart from the world,” and even risk being “falsely attacked as ‘soft on sin.'”
There’s a better way to “stand apart from the world.”
That’s all they really needed to write. They chose not to.
(Screenshot via YouTube)