What the Bible Says…

Here’s what the Bible says about judging accused church leaders…

Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. ~~~ I Tim. 5:19-20

The Word says not to accept an accusation against a church leader except before two or three witnesses.  The little word “before” could be taken to mean that the accusation should be made in front of two or three witnesses or it could mean the accusation should only be received upon the word of two or three witnesses. 

This does not mean that we can ignore accusations if the same accusation is not independently made by one or two additional people. At the very least, we should understand it to mean that if an accusation is made against a leader, investigation should be made to see if the accusation can be confirmed by one or two additional witnesses. Investigation must be made.

The law of our land demands that all allegations of abuse must be reported to the authorities. There is no alternative. No church leader in this country has the discretionary authority to choose not to report any allegation of abuse, even if he is completely sure the allegation is false. The Word says we are to be subject to our government authorities. This is non-optional.

If people want to be considered church leaders – this is all leaders, not just pastors, including denominational leaders, seminary leaders, elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, etc. – they must also accept this responsibility to investigate accusations made against other church leaders.

If the accusation is confirmed by one or two other witnesses, this passage is very clear about the consequences. Even if the individual is not ultimately convicted in court, if the testimony of these witnesses is credible enough to be validated by additional witnesses, even if it is “technically” not a crime but still violates God’s requirements that a leader be blameless, the accused is to be publically exposed and removed from leadership.

There can be no other conclusion drawn from this passage of Scripture!  Remember, the Word says church leaders are supposed to be above reproach – without blame.  It doesn’t say “proven guilty in a civil court.” 

Again I ask – is this Scripture remotely ambiguous? The church leaders I know of who are at fault in this epidemic of hiding clergy abuse say they believe the Bible is God’s Word and literally true. But they are conveniently overlooking passages they find uncomfortable.

Until these church leaders step up to the standard they say they uphold, it is the responsibility of those in the church who see the problem to continue to expose it.

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2 Responses

  1. Danni, there are certain things in this paragraph that must be corrected. I am speaking from the position of the cleric and I hope you can see that there are two sides of the coin from that perspective.

    You said …….

    “The law of our land demands that all allegations of abuse must be reported to the authorities. There is no alternative. No church leader in this country has the discretionary authority to choose not to report any allegation of abuse, even if he is completely sure the allegation is false. The Word says we are to be subject to our government authorities. This is non-optional.”

    First of all, it is NOT the “law of the land” that EVERY allegation of abuse be reported to secular authorities. That is a misnomer. Certainly, once that allegation of PHYSICAL abuse has been investigated and substantiated by the facts, aside from emotions, that PHYSICAL abuse should be reported. All allegations of abuse is not abuse. Nor are charges of “emotional abuse” or “irreconcilable differences” subject to secular reporting. If all pastors or church leaders reported ALL allegations of ALL abuse, the system would be clogged up more than it is already.

    The church certainly DOES have the responsibility to first sift through the allegations and FIRST establish fact from fantasy. The majority of abuse allegations is just that …. fantasy or frivolous at best. Sadly, these false accusers take up much of a pastor’s time and resources ….. time and resources best reserved to treat those cases of ACTUAL abuse. You are implying that even if the facts prove the allegation is false, it is to be reported. That is incorrect. That type of reckless action will eventually destroy a pastor’s integrity and credibility in the eyes of these secular authorities. One can only cry wolf so many times until the usual results happen ….. there may be a legitimate case of abuse to fall between the cracks of red tape and the paper trail. It happens. Far too often.

    You are taking the Bible out of context in this instance. Your exegesis is faulty. The church authority certainly does have what you term “discretionary authority” to determine fact from fiction. It is also that man’s or the elder board’s responsibility. Not only that, but simple common sense tells one that we can’t go haywire over every “abuse” charge ….. especially how that term has been twisted and watered down ….. and especially as it has been by that same secular authority you would use to seek remedy.

    The rule of thumb and the safeguard in this instance is what Ronald Reagan so successfully employed against the Soviet Union ……

    “Trust ….. but verify”.

    • All allegations of physical abuse — the article referenced is specifically talking about allegations of clergy sex abuse. In that specific context, all allegations must be reported. This article doesn’t address other allegations.

      Going beyond that, which is outside the scope of the original article, allegations of abuse which fall into physical and sexual, definitely – or the suggestion of either. It does become discretionary when it gets to verbal, emotional, etc.

      My Biblical exegesis in the context of the article was not faulty. I have never stated that a pastor was required to report every allegation of emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse. In fact, I believe I have made completely clear, in discussion with you on other threads, that I agree pastors cannot be expected to automatically believe every allegation of these without following an appropriate Biblical evaluation (which I have also stated in other posts, which you have evidently not read). So why do you continue to flog a dead horse?

      Are you reflecting a critical spirit in nit-picking your way through my posts? You seem to be persistently finding fault where there is none, and attempting to find division where there is none, or to defend the indefensible (Warren). I am wondering about this theme.

      — Danni

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