THE EPIDEMIC OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IN THE CHURCH
The narrative is tragically familiar: pastors, bishops, and even popes being accused of
sexual misconduct, or of helping to cover up sexual misconduct. The 2015 movie, Spotlight, follows the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. Back in the 1980’s, it was Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart. Then earlier this year it was Willow Creek Community Church’s founding pastor, Bill Hybels, who stepped down early from a planned retirement, due to allegations from nine women (later ten women), although Hybels has denied the majority of the allegations. Then came the shocking revelations of a Pennsylvania grand jury report stating that 300 “predator priests” had raped and molested more than 1,000 victims during a 70-year period in several dioceses across the state.
Recent scandals have also rocked Taylor University (firing professor Dennis Hensley for inappropriate and abusive behavior) and Redeemer Church in New York City (letting a long time staff leader, David Kim, go for a single allegation). Even Pope Francis has been accused, by an Italian archbishop, of directly covering up sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Paul wrote in Romans 2:24, “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’”
I’ve known many men who were personally derailed due to sexual sin. I’m not writing to sit in judgment on them, but I am writing to lament what a mess we are in at this moment in American history. This is truly an epidemic. Sexual abuse is clearly not just a Catholic problem. It’s also a Protestant problem.
I’ve been reading Billy Graham’s autobiography as of late, and I’ve been impressed once again, by how carefully Graham handled himself with women. I’ve also read two biographies on Graham and they both agree. This led to the famous “Billy Graham Rule”, of a man choosing not to be alone with a women he’s not married to, or related to (a rule now adopted by Vice President Mike Pence). It is a wise rule for all Christian men, especially leaders, to adopt. Graham certainly had temptations galore – he’s honest about it in his book. But, by God’s grace, he finished well. Whatever we may think of the entire #MeToo movement, one thing is clear; it is being used by God – in some measure – to address some badly needed problems in the American church. May God give each of us the humility we need and the passion for holiness to protect and honor His holy name.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor