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Let us see today’s question: SBC Report informed the accusations against Johnny Hunt and his friendship with Ravi Zacharias. How should we respond to this news?
Yesterday, Guideposts Solutions released a report on the Southern Baptist Convention. Not long ago, they also released a report on RZIM and how it handled allegations against Ravi Zacharias. It says that the Southern Baptist Convention had a secret list of more than 700 pastors. But, rather than taking action on these pastors and church officials, the SBC leaders looked the other way. They worried more about legal battles and bad reputation than protecting its members from abusers.
They were angry at whistleblowers. They used the age old tactic: Blame Satan. They said: ‘this is Satan’s scheme to completely distract us from evangelism. This is Satan working to bring shame to our denomination’. They also kept quiet because of legal liability.
700 pastors abusing people. It is sickening and shocking. This is the largest investigation in SBC history. We don’t expect abuse in the Church. But this is happening more frequently across the denominations. The executive committee of SBC maligned the people who wanted to do something about abuse. The report says some SBC pastors are abusing and assaulting women regularly without any action taken against them.
Guidepost’s investigation also revealed that Johnny Hunt was accused of sexual misconduct. Hunt was the President of the denomination from 2008 to 2010. He had sexually assaulted the wife of a pastor in 2010. The report described the pastor and his wife as ‘credible’. Parts of their account were corroborated by four other credible witnesses.
Christianity Today reports that Johnny Hunt was friends with Ravi Zacharias and was a special guest at the 2009 grand opening of the spa where Zacharias abused massage therapists.
Now, that explains why Johnny Hunt did not stop Ravi from opening his abuse parlors. Had Ravi invited me to the opening of the spa, I would have warned him, ‘Ravi, what in the world are you doing? Massage parlors are not an appropriate business for Christian leaders. Stop it.’ Johnny Hunt did not do that. It looks like Johnny and Ravi liked each other and felt like they are the birds of the same flock.
Reportedly, Johnny Hunt told his victims, ‘You must keep this secret. Don’t tell anyone. That would negatively impact 40,000 churches I represent’. Ravi used the same tactic. Reportedly he told the woman, ‘keep this secret with you. If you make this public, the souls of millions of people would be in jeopardy’.
This is nothing but spiritual abuse. They were using God’s name in vain to cover up their sins.
How can we prevent this from happening?
Guideposts Solutions gave some recommendations: create an online database of abusers, offer compensation for survivors, limit non-disclosure agreements, and establish a new entity dedicated to responding to abuse.
I would add a biblical approach to this problem: churches should exercise more independence. Every church should be independent enough to discipline its members and leaders. If you complain about something, we often hear the reply: ‘this is not under the local church. This should go to our headquarters in Washington DC’.Sadly the Protestant denominations have become like Catholic Church. In Catholic Church, they say, ‘‘This is under the Vatican’s authority’ . Many Protestant denominations just replicated the Catholic model. Thousands of churches controlled by one central body with a Protestant Pope like figure. That is not biblical. While we should have fellowship with like-minded churches, as a local church we should have enough accountability and authority to take actions against things like abuse.
Protestant spirit is that we look at pastors like any other believer. We don’t elevate them above other believers and call them, ‘father,father’. We don’t confess our sins to pastors for their mediation to Lord Jesus Christ. We should look at our pastors as individuals like passions and frailties. But we started to elevate them as ‘celebrities’ who can not sin.
Lord Jesus clearly told Matthew 23 ‘Do not call anyone on earth ‘father’. For you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Do not be called leaders. For only One is your leader, the Christ’.
Jesus did not elevate any human beings because He knew they would be fallible. Pastors and church leaders can commit sins and every church should have a local body to bring them to accountability.
–the SBC leaders blamed the devil.
We should not blame the devil for things like this. Lord Jesus clearly warned us, there will be wolves among the sheep’. While the Devil may tempt us to commit a sin, it is our decision that determines our behavior and it’s outcomes. In Acts chapter 5, We read about Ananias and Sapphira. They were tempted by Satan to commit sin but God held them accountable for their sin.
In Matthew chapter 16, Satan inspired Peter to obstruct Jesus. Jesus immediately rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan’. Blaming Satan does not absolve our own culpability in the sins we commit. So, we should stop this cheap tactic and take full responsibility.
Also, local police should be involved
An abuser can manage a church leader. But often he or she can’t manage the local police.
Follow Mike Pence Rule: former US Vice President Mike Pence has a rule. He would not meet any woman by himself. If someone complains on you, you can rely on a witness present in the meeting.