A few months ago, Canadian apologist Sye Ten Bruggencate abruptly shut down his ministry citing some unnamed “moral failure.”
Because he didn’t specify the moral failing, speculation ran wild. Was it something illegal? Did it involve another man? Was it someone in the church?
We soon learned that two pastors at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Aaron Koning and Steve Richardson, were watching over Bruggencate (as if a grown man needs babysitters) and that the situation involved a “vulnerable woman” that he allegedly took advantage of. Bruggencate was “suspended from all privileges” while the church conducted some kind of internal investigation.
About a month later, Bruggencate posted this image on his Facebook page suggesting there was sign of life…
A month after that, there was a new image with definite signs of life:
Still, there was no announcement about what the hell happened, what the church found out, or what Bruggencate’s role would be moving forward.
Now there’s a flurry of activity.
Yesterday, Bruggencate posted this statement telling his side of the story. He says he wrote a 6-page letter detailing everything (“without naming names”), but he was advised against making it public. So instead, he chose to vaguebook it:
Four months ago I received a phone call from a (male) friend of a woman who I had a relationship with that began over 4 years ago. Allegations were made in that phone call about that relationship that were almost entirely false but contained enough truth that I sought to present the matter to my Session (Elders and Pastor for the non-Presbyterians here).
I was finally able to present a thorough defense to my Session and they deemed there was no evidence for the accusations, and they now believed that taken in its entirety the evidence exonerated me. [edit: to be clear I do not believe that I have been fully exonerated for my actual sin, I simply repeated the words from the statement my Session was preparing to release]. They restored me to church privileges and prepared a statement for release. On advice from outside sources they decided not to release the statement without consulting more outside sources.
Since then, due to matters unrelated to this issue, my Pastor and one of my two Elders have resigned and the other has been granted a sabbatical effective today.
While I have been restored to church privileges the matter of any possible future apologetics work remains unresolved. A new Session for my Church was installed last night, and I will seek their counsel on how to proceed.
So… something went down. There was sin involved. Someone apparently threatened to go public with it. Bruggencate told his elders it wasn’t true and they believed him — even though he admits there was “enough truth” in the accusations — and he’s now a church leader in good standing. What does that mean? Who knows. The church doesn’t want to (or can’t) make their investigation public.
Are we all clear now? (If anyone understands what’s happening, please tell me. I’m so lost.)
One of those pastors from Faith Presbyterian Church who was overseeing Bruggencate, Steve Richardson, made his own statement yesterday contradicting much of what Bruggencate just wrote:
I want to be clear that I am writing as Sye’s former pastor, and I am doing so in collaboration with Pastor Jonathan Murdock a man who has worked extensively with Sye and who has also carefully read through the evidence.
It is our considered opinion that Sye has permanently disqualified himself from public ministry. We have not reached this conclusion carelessly or easily. But we are deeply concerned that Sye will put himself back into public ministry at the earliest opportunity. We believe this would be a grave mistake and one that would not only be a great disservice to the Church, but one which would also bring dishonour to the name of Jesus.
In addition, Sye’s recent public statement on Facebook is profoundly disappointing and clearly indicates a lack of repentance on his part with regard to the sin that he has admitted to.
The pastors added that, because of those unrelated resignations and sabbatical, Bruggencate will now be overseen by the Canadian Presbytery instead of their church alone.
Whatever the hell Bruggencate did, it sounds like he’s trying to exonerate himself in the midst of church chaos while the church leaders are throwing up all the red flags they can. This won’t end well.
There’s an argument to be made that this is no one else’s business. But when a public Christian figure is exposed as a hypocrite, it shouldn’t be swept under a rug. Especially for someone like Bruggencate, who believes Christianity and morality are synonymous.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)