Some Thoughts on What Is Happening at The Village Church

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If you do not know what is going on, you need to go read the documentation.

1. At this point, there are very few facts to debate. The story comes from official documentation from The Village Church and the missions agency, SIM. To ask for another side of the story is to simply bury your head in the sand and not want to deal with the uncomfortable facts of the actual story.

2. A church (and its leaders) that places itself in the position of teaching and instructing men and women all over the world through conferences and resources will not be and should not be able to enjoy the luxury of avoiding criticism in its practice of discipline, especially when some of that instruction is on the subject of discipline itself.

3. One question The Village Church and its defenders will have to answer is, “Why is this not a biblical grounds for divorce if they do in fact have the biblical grounds to remove him from ministry indefinitely and feel the need to warn the parents of the church about this man and his exposure to children?”

4. If the use of child pornography is in fact pedophilia, then Karen, the wife has the biblical grounds to divorce/annul the marriage according to most evangelical position papers. The job of the elders is not to validate that decision but to support her.

5. The Lead Pastor of The Village Church is Matt Chandler, is also the President of Acts 29. To assume this kind of thinking has not and will not be exported to other Acts 29 churches is naive. If you support what The Village Church is doing to Karen, then you will think it is a good thing. If you do not, then this should worry you.

6. What I cannot understand is why they would be so clear in their communication about the pedophile husband not being under discipline and how the wife emphatically is under discipline.This would have to assume the best about his repentance and then assume the worst about her motives.

7. There will be many voices calling for “grace” for the husband caught in his sin. I agree with those voices. But I do not agree with all the addendum to that call for grace that would deprive the same for the wife/victim. Grace for him does not mean she, the church, and law enforcement have no recourse for action against him.

8. In the end, I cannot imagine anyone at The Village Church admitting they blew it. I hope I am wrong. I want to believe the best about them. But they have no real outside accountability since they are a SBC church and they are now the flagship of Acts 29. Matt Chandler is among the elite of the celebrity preachers in the Evangelical Industrial Complex. He and his fellow pastors will not have to worry about being marked by this. That is, until it happens again.

9. And it will happen again. And again and again. The dude-bro will get a pass and his wife will be expected to fall in line. This is exactly what happened with SGM. The wife was expected to stay with the pedophile husband and if they did not, the wife was disciplined. And it kept happening.

10. I think it is a good thing when husbands and wives can reconcile after adultery. But the most cynical part of me thinks the desire of churches to see husbands and wives reconcile in situations like this is marketing. I may need to repent of that but I fear also I may be right.

11. Many will ask, “Why do you care?” The short is answer is that I was once on staff at an Acts 29 church.

32 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on What Is Happening at The Village Church

  1. Melody May 22, 2015 / 8:37 am

    Thank you, Matt.

  2. Tim May 22, 2015 / 9:55 am

    “The job of the elders is not to validate that decision but to support her.” Well said, Matt. That is the job of every church everywhere.

    P.S. In item 7, did you for the word “not” to follow the word “does”?

  3. brad/futuristguy May 22, 2015 / 9:58 am

    ​Thanks for your concise and insightful comments, Matt. As a former church planting assessor and a long-time student of toxic systems including spiritual abuse, this situation with The Village Church sounds the same alarm bells that we’ve been hearing a lot of the past five years or so.

    Your list captures many of the elements I keep seeing pop up in such situations, regardless of what theological stream of the Church is involved, such as: Authoritarian systems that divide leaders from laypeople, and concentrate power among the former and promote passivity among the latter. Interlocking relationships of leadership loyalty and protectionism. Autonomy, not accountability. Claiming rights and refusing responsibility. Promoting morality and ethics, but failing to carry out biblical mandates on our civil and legal responsibilities. Intervention and damage control instead of prevention and health.

    While all that is discouraging, I do find hope in that the tolerance for such foolishness seems to be decreasing, and the timing between abusive actions being taken and becoming known is shortening. The tactics of Christendom Industrial Complexes for self-promotion and silencing opposition are becoming far more clear. And those who attempt to have a public presence without public accountability are finding themselves under increased scrutiny. I see the push-back as evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, shining some Kingdom klieg lights into the darkness within the Church. I’m hoping for the redemptive edge in all this to cut through the posturing and power plays, and bring about something constructive from the destruction …

  4. Dee May 22, 2015 / 10:03 am

    Greeting from Seacrest Beach. I am on vacation and will return on Sunday. I have been given the assignment of writing the narrative for this story and will fill in some of the blanks. There is much more to be said.

    I have spoken with Karen on several occasions. Her reasons for bringing this out into the open is the make sure that any children who could have been harmed by Jordan will get the help they need.

    On the pedophile front, there is a reason that she uses that word. In Jordan’s confession to her, he discussed previous behavior. The moniker fits. We are working out how to say what needs to be said.

    In my opinion, after being exposed to the details, I believe that Jordan Root is potentially a dangerous individual and should not be allowed anywhere near children.

    Finally, thank you so much for writing this. Karen has been through so much in a short period of time. Her life has been turned upside down. She expected to be a long term missionary and things have changed. Your support means the world to her.

  5. edeubanks May 22, 2015 / 12:25 pm

    Matt, as always I appreciate your awareness on matters like this, and your commitment to making others aware as well.

    This sort of thing is exactly why Doulos Resources produced a free, comprehensive guide for churches and leaders on putting a child-protection plan in place. It’s called Faithful Protection, and can be downloaded here: http://www.faithfulprotection.org

    While it doesn’t directly address child pornography, it does speak to how discipline should be handled by churches and their leaders.

  6. Mike Sloan May 22, 2015 / 1:48 pm

    Thank you Matt. This is all incredibly troubling, though sadly, not at all surprising. I have many thoughts, but here are a few.
    I do not understand either why we rush to declare a person is repentant when this man clearly sought out places for years where he was around kids. Why not wait to see if victims come forward in the wake of his suspension? Words (and tears if there were any) are, in the very best of scenarios, ONLY the beginnings of repentance. At worst (and most commonly with abusers) they are perpetuating the deception and manipulation. Why a church would immediately accept the words of a man who has admitted to lying, manipulating, and leading a double life for years is beyond me. Even if you do believe him, why broadcast it while announcing the wife is under church discipline? This is terrible and must be re-traumatizing to Karen. The church of Jesus is still siding with abusers and driving out victims. I have no words.
    Child pornography is child sexual abuse by any expert informed definition. Whatever else comes out participating in child pornography is participating in the exploitation of children. It is child sexual abuse.
    Karen, you are brave. Your courage is protecting more children and opening the possibility for healing for others.

  7. RStarke May 22, 2015 / 4:39 pm

    Between Christians falling over themselves to forgive the Duggar boy/father and say nothing about the daughters, and this mess, I am closer to being one of those tempted to check out of institutional church than I have been in a long time. I have some close personal connections at TVC and if there isn’t swift repentance on the church’s part….well, “Maranatha” is about all I’ve got right now.

    • Melody May 22, 2015 / 6:40 pm

      Ichabod.

    • Alice May 31, 2015 / 10:30 am

      Maranatha, indeed! As one who has “checked out of the institutional church” situations like these just make me sad. Our family has been meeting with other Christians outside the institutional church for four and a half years now, and I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to just be the Church, not “go to Church.” We love the Lord, serve Him, minister to others, share the Gospel, and function as part of Christ’s body without having to have an intermediary/intermediaries in the form of a pastor/elders/deacons/etc. The Holy Spirit is our guide, and Jesus is our lead pastor. It can and does work!

  8. Judy May 22, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    I have great compassion for this wife of a porn addict. That alone–the realization of what that means and will mean–is seriously life changing and it takes a long time for a woman to get her “ground” back after learning of these things.

    To have a church discipline her on top of what she’s been through is too much. Too much! Where does these men get off? Who do they think they are? I find their behavior disgusting. I do believe we are in a time where God is revealing the things that are hidden and I believe He will do it more and more and more to bring this awful stuff to light. This club of good old boys will be torn down by God, I do not doubt that one bit.

  9. Darlene May 22, 2015 / 7:08 pm

    I am so glad to read of all the supporting comments for Karen, who is the victim in this situation. Further, as I have said elsewhere, the manner in which Karen is being treated directly correlates to this church’s views on women and their strict adherence to a particular brand of Complementarianism. One that I would posit is actually Patriarchy. The mindset is that Karen is being a rebellious wife, because her husband, after all, repented. Therefore, it is incumbent upon her to place herself under his headship again. The treatment of Karen can only be described as misogynist. I hope other women who are being treated as second class citizens within that regime will have the courage to come forward as well.

  10. Lin May 22, 2015 / 9:19 pm

    Church is no longer safe for women or children. I can’t go anymore.

  11. David Bruce May 22, 2015 / 10:32 pm

    This is very tragic the way Karen was treated. It’s extremely sad that it was at the hand of a church that is supposed to feed and care for Jesus’ sheep. But, this is a great example of how The Village Church pastors operate. Keep in mind these are seminary educated men. They are not stupid. Karen pointed out to them that they were remiss, in believing that a pedophile was telling them the whole truth, when he said that he hadn’t harmed any children. But they already knew that such people can’t be trusted. The fact is that they didn’t want to go public with the information that they had a pedophile in their midst, because it could have tarnished their image, and that might affect the mega-church franchise that they are building. Karen’s situation is significantly more tragic than my experience with The Village Church pastoral group, but I was similarly and intentionally deceived for years, when I asked questions on theological issues. The pastors at the Village Church also don’t want to reveal what they believe (and they are clearly under orders from the top to do so) about specific Bible doctrine, because they know it will be controversial, and they could lose members (i.e., it would hurt their business model). My experience with The Village Church can be read here:

    http://www.praythendo.com/why-i-left-the-village-church/

    When I told the campus pastor at The Village Church that I was resigning my membership, I was met with the same response that Karen got. Essentially, they threw the Covenant Membership Agreement that I had signed at me. They told me I couldn’t resign and that I had to meet with them about my blog article above. I asked that they write up what issues they had with my article before we met, and they refused to put anything in writing. So I refused to meet with them. I was then told that I was not suitable for membership in any other church, because they could not release me from the covenant I had signed. I did just as Karen did, and told them the covenant didn’t apply to me, as I was no longer a member of the church. I remember thinking at the time about the unbiblical nature of such covenants, and that Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:5 that, “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.” But, the Village Church doesn’t see it that way. They see themselves in the role as a second mediator. The pastoral group at The Village Church is on a sad and sorry power trip, and they will continue to hurt people along the way.

  12. Jack May 23, 2015 / 9:39 am

    Matt Chandler is not seminary educated.

    • Daniel F. Wells May 23, 2015 / 5:45 pm

      Disclaimer, I’ve not read all the emails and docs. I just don’t have time. I’ve only read the summaries on he Amy Smith blog, CT article, and this blog. So maybe my comments are out of place.

      First, does TVC allow people to resign their membership just because? In the Presbyterian world we transfer membership because we always want sheep under someone’s care. So, that is weird to me.

      Second, did she seek the annulment before speaking with church leadership? Maybe that is why they disciplined her? They may not want church members going rogue. From the document they sent Karen, it seems they didn’t necessarily rule divorce out as a possibility.

      Third, why is this guy not in jail or charged with anything yet? That seems weird.

      Fourth, what is TVC’s view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage? Maybe they take the John Piper view. I don’t know. However, this makes me glad to be in a confessional denomination where we submit to a standard on this issue.

      Finally, if I was the Pastor at this TVC campus, just from the facts presented, I think there is grounds for divorce in terms of adultery and *possibily* desertion (if the guy basically committed a felony). Mere pornography is not always grounds for divorce, but intentional and repetitive child pornography seems to cross that line.

      Yet, in Karen’s own words, the actual act of child pornography seems downplayed compared to other issues. Maybe this is where the wires got crossed in communication?

      I don’t know the people involved. They are just questions I have.

      • mattbredmond May 23, 2015 / 5:57 pm

        First I’d say you need to read the documentation. Second, it’s clear from their communication to her that either they didn’t approve of what she did or how she did it. If it’s the second, then okay, let her know you don’t approve but if they are okay with what she did, disciplining her after what she has been through and knowing what she will deal with for the rest of her life, seems petty and certainly cult like. A putting the process before the person. If she has biblical grounds, and there is no serious hermeneutic that would deny this, then let’s not worry too much about if they were party of the decision.

      • Daniel F. Wells May 23, 2015 / 6:22 pm

        I am still confused about the notion of resigning one’s membership in order to leave for another church. I’m a Presbyterian pastor, so maybe that is why I am confused.

        Also, I agree Matt that the biblical teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage is sufficient and clear (and we seem to agree on that teaching) but there are plenty of evangelicals (especially in Baptist and fundamentalist regions) who go a different route. I don’t know which route TVC goes.

      • mattbredmond May 23, 2015 / 6:25 pm

        I’m pretty sure they go the Piper route. If you listen to Chandler, he is very similar to Piper in lingo, verbiage, etc.

      • mattbredmond May 23, 2015 / 6:26 pm

        Resigning one’s membership is a nine marks thing.

      • Daniel F. Wells May 23, 2015 / 6:34 pm

        Wow. I never heard that about 9Marks.

        Is it the Baptist lack of connectionalism? I just don’t see much rationale for a mere resignation. Excommunication or transfer seem to be the biblical and reasonable options.

        Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if TVC held to some form of the Piper view on divorce. I think a church leadership has the duty to explain to spouses in these sorts of situations what the biblical teaching on grounds for divorce is all about.

        Maybe this situation is a good argument against megachurches? (Yeah, yeah, I know small churches screw up too.)

      • mattbredmond May 23, 2015 / 6:45 pm

        The first I had of a resignation was from a nine marks church, whether they are all like that, not sure. But it fits. The principles of membership and discipline.

      • mattbredmond May 23, 2015 / 7:24 pm

        “Though once again stressing that divorce is not the best option, there are texts which would imply that it is sometimes permissible after all attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted.”

        Imply? That’s an odd choice of verbiage.

        Also, I would assume the elders determine if “all attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted.”

        My guess? The elders of The Village Church have not grasped that she is not leaving an adulterer. She left a serial child sex abuser. The textbooks are just paper now. The elders should have asked, “What do you want to do and how can we help you?”

  13. Gary W May 25, 2015 / 8:31 am

    Unless the evidence before us means nothing, this appears to be a situation where ones standing in the place of the religious leaders on the road to Jericho have not merely passed by one who has been, as it were, robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead—they have gone chasing after the robbers in order to minister cheap grace and easy forgiveness. Worse, they have returned to heap responsibility, blame, abuse and magnified devastation on the female victim of a predatory male. Yes, viewing child pornography is predatory. It feeds the demand that sustains what must surely be amongst the most devastating of criminal enterprises.

  14. Russ in NC May 31, 2015 / 9:08 pm

    Mr Root, the child porn viewer…what do you do with him? Excommunicate? But then off he goes somewhere else. Send him to prison? That’s the job of the State of Texas and it sounds like it won’t happen. In Puritan days there would be a Scarlet Letter on his person to warn one and all. In certain cultures he would not be allowed to live. What would Jesus do? “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” No mercy.

  15. PJPM June 2, 2015 / 7:36 pm

    This is a serious church problem and I am sickened to my bones about the whole thing for everyone – even this sick man. This is so ugly. It is nothing new.

    This man has had a terrible problem for so many years and deceived himself and his wife. He maintained an inappropriate, sick mindset against children from which he gained pleasure – and he was a missionary sent to Southeast Asia, a home for tourism that specializes in sex with children? He needs aggressive therapy and to start over. Without church and without Karen. (I didn’t say without God) I don’t know that he will ever be able not to think about the images he has ingested. Awful.

    Karen’s dignity as a women and as a missionary has been subjected to a sick husband, and now is at the heart of church controversy. All she did wrong was believe that he was someone he was not and could not be.

    Karens is a hero for her willingness to publicly discuss her husband’s problem to prevent further damage and to discover any children that may have been harmed. What a huge responsibility for someone so young! Bravo, Karen.

    The Village elders are prideful men. The elders at the Village Church have lost all credibility. They messed up this one.

    The Village church is where I started to regularly attend recently – I had no idea what was going on until I heard Matt’s sermon Sunday, May 31. Being as old as I am, I recognized cryptic messages and things he referenced about which I had no clue. I have been in congregations when the pastor said similar things during a situation just as bad as this. So, I googled everything I could. Karen’s email was the best source of information of all.

    I am too tired and experienced to weather another church failure and see it through its growing pains. I certainly would never think of being a covenant member. I will find another church and group of believers while these elders grow up. Most churches are alike – just in different phases.

    I wish I could tell Karen what a hero she is and how much my heart hurts for her. I wish I could remind Christians to follow Christ, not Matt, or anyone else. While the press makes hay with another sensational story about Christians and messed up churches, spend time with the Lord in prayer and reading what HE has to say – love the Lord anyway.

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