Child Abuse Prevention Group Issues Strong Statement Against Tullian Tchividjian and "Sexual Misconduct"

Godly Response to Abuse in Church Environments (GRACE) is an organization which exists to combat child abuse in the church. In a strongly worded statement, GRACE has taken a position in relation to the scandal swirling around Tullian Tchividjian. The statement is as follows:

Statement from the GRACE Board of Directors
The GRACE board is deeply disturbed about the revelations of sexual misconduct by Tullian Tchividjian. As an organization that deals with the abuse of God’s lambs and the damage silence causes we feel compelled to speak. We believe that no material institution is more sacred to God than His lambs – be it church or mission or family. Institutions ordained by God were destroyed at His hand when they became corrupt. Given that we must be what He calls His people to be or we too will have chosen silence and darkness over truth and light.
Dear victims – and you are indeed victims. You have suffered and we do not want to add our silence to that suffering. Once again, one of God’s shepherds used his position of authority, his gift of words, his intellect and personality to draw you in when you were vulnerable and in need of care. All power belongs to Christ. Any power we have is derivative and sacred and to be used only for His glory and the good of His people. Anything less is an abuse of that power. You have been victims of the gross misuse of power God intended for your good. We grieve with you. We stand with you in the light. You have with courage exposed the deeds of darkness. Thank you, for we as the Body of Christ need your voices but now that the light shines a failure to respond on our part means we have turned from the light you turned on. We pray for you, knowing full well that each and every one of you has a hard road ahead as you seek newness of life, healing and a restoring of your souls. We pray that the failure of a shepherd will not lead you to forsake the Good and Great Shepherd who turns tables over and cracks whips when those in His church rob His sheep and distort the truth of who God is. We also pray that God will multiply the fruit of your hard labor to step into light to cause the greater body to examine itself regarding the many silenced victims that live in its midst.
Dear church of Jesus Christ, our God feeds and folds His sheep. He speaks truth and does not deceive. He protects us from wolves both inside and outside the fold. He does so by laying His own down at the gate. We fear that we have often helped wolves deceive others and hide themselves in sheep’s clothing for our own gain and comfort. In doing so we have not loved those who prey on God’s sheep for we have left them in their darkness and bondage. There are many untended, discarded victims in our midst. We are called by God to stand in the light they have brought, tend their wounds, lift the fallen and tenderly carry those who cannot stand. We are nothing like our Lord if we fail to do so. May the fruit of this grievous sin bring a sweeping of God’s refining fire through the lives of His people across the globe. At a minimum, God’s “refining fire” requires the Christian community to put in place long overdue reforms that will limit the possibility of continuing transgressions against the vulnerable.
These reforms include:
1. Seminary education of pastors about maintaining appropriate boundaries. Every seminary must provide education on maintaining appropriate boundaries between a pastor and the children or adults he or she may counsel. This training should include instruction on understanding the impact of trauma1 and when and how to refer survivors of abuse to professional mental health providers. If a church is hiring or has hired a pastor who has not received this sort of training, it can and should be conducted after the fact.
2. Rigorous screening and selection of pastors or other church leaders who provide counseling. The Centers for Disease Control has promulgated guidelines for screening and selecting those who will supervise, counsel or exercise a leadership role over children. These guidelines include background checks, social media checks, reference checks and formalized interviews about child protection guidelines.2 We believe the CDC guidelines are a solid foundation for churches to use in the screening and selection of pastors.
3. Implement checks and balances to minimize abusive situations. Those who provide pastoral counseling must read and agree to adhere to an appropriate Code of Ethics such as that promulgated by the American Association of Christian Counselors which strictly prohibits sexual contact between pastors and those they are counseling. This includes not only prohibitions on sexual contact but sexual innuendo, sexual “humor,” comments on attractiveness, etc.3 Pastoral counselors must receive oversight from other pastors, elders or others who can hold them accountable to the highest possible standard of ethics. If at all possible, pastoral counseling should be conducted in a church office with windows. Clergy and other church leaders should also adhere to appropriate policies pertaining to texting and the use of social media.4
4. Implementing clear policies for responding to abusive conduct, including reporting abuse to the appropriate authorities, removing abusive pastors from any leadership role and, most importantly, supporting survivors.
a. Reporting abuse to the authorities. It is a crime for any pastor to engage in sexual conduct with a child and, in many states, it is a crime for a pastor to engage in sexual conduct with an adult he or she is providing pastoral care to.5 Every church must have in place a mechanism to ensure that any criminal conduct committed by a pastor or other called worker will be immediately reported to law enforcement and that the church will fully comply with any subsequent investigation.
b. Removing abusive pastors. Although Christ died for all sinners and paid the penalty for all sins, this doesn’t mean a pastor who has violated one or more of his or her parishioners should continue to hold a leadership role in the church. Christ instructed us to be as “wise as serpents” (Mt. 10:16) and common sense compels us to remove abusive leaders so they cannot harm others. These leaders can and should be ministered to6 but this does not mean they should be given a second chance to violate the vulnerable. If Moses was denied entry to the promised land because he struck a rock the wrong way (Nu 20:12), clergy who violate the children or adults entrusted to them should be denied the pulpit.
c. Educating parishioners about what they can expect during pastoral counseling and where to report if they believe a pastor has exceeded his or her appropriate roles. Patients at a hospital have explained to them various procedures and routinely receive a patient’s bill of rights. Similarly, children or adults receiving pastoral counseling should be aware of guidelines for the counseling and what they can do should a pastor or other counselor engage in inappropriate conduct.
d. Supporting survivors of clergy abuse. When a congregation discovers a pastor has abused a child or adult in his or her care, the church has a responsibility to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. This includes assuming the financial cost of medical and mental health expenses or any other reasonable requests made by a victim. If the victim remains in the congregation, the abusive pastor should not be allowed to remain in the same church. Although we must continue to speak against abuse within the church, speech without action is a hollow reminder the church has done too little for too long to protect the vulnerable. In the midst of this most recent scandal, we pray the church’s future will be better than our past.
GRACE Board of Directors
December 7, 2016
1 See e.g., Vincent J. Felitti & Robert F. Anda, The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Medical Disease, Psychiatric Disorders and Sexual Behavior: Implications for Healthcare, in RUTH A. LANIUS, ERIC VERMETTEN, AND CLARE PAIN, THE IMPACT OF EARLY LIFE TRAUMA ON HEALTH AND DISEASE: THE HIDDEN EPIDEMIC (CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS 2010). 2 . Saul & NC Audage, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse within Youth-Serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (2007). 3 AACC Code of Ethics, p. 16. 4 As one example of a social media policy pertaining to interactions with youth, see these recommendations from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center: 5 In Minnesota, for example, it is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison for a pastor to have sex with someone he or she is providing “religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort…” MINN. STAT. SECTION 609.344, SUBD. 1(k)(1)(ii). 6 For appropriate guidelines in ministering to sex offenders, see generally, Victor Vieth, Ministering to Sex Offenders: Ten Lessons from Henry Gerecke, 112 WISCONSIN LUTHERAN QUARTERLY 209 (2015).

The Board consists of:

Justin Holcomb
Matthew Lacey
Diane Langberg
James Luttrull
Duncan Rankin
Michael Reagan
Charissa Sloan Dvorak
Boz Tchividjian (Tullian’s brother)
Emmanuel Tchividjian (Tullian’s uncle)
Laura Thien
Victor Vieth

Given the family connections and visibility of GRACE, this is a remarkable development. I suspect the pressure will now increase on the mainstream Christian media to report on these developments as well as on David C. Cook to pull back on their publication schedule.

Indian Ruling Party Official: K.P. Yohannan Has No Claim to Rubber Plantation

K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube
K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube

Gospel for Asia founder and director K.P. Yohannan is getting opposition from the India’s Peoples Party in his bid to sell a rubber plantation that the government says he doesn’t own. Yohannan’s Believers’ Church purchased the working rubber plantation — Cheruvally Estate — from the Harrisons Malayalam Ltd company in 2005. According to the Times of India, a high ranking official in the party of Prime Minister Modi claims the church should not be repaid for the property since it was acquired illegally:

The government does not need permission from K P Yohannan to set up airport in the Cheruvally estate, BJP national executive member V Muraleedharan said.
Muraleedharan said that when the government plans to buy the 2,200 acre Cheruvally estate from the encroachers and set up the airport, it would set a wrong precedence for encroachers of government land in other areas. The opposition was against this move that would set the ground for large-scale corruption, he said.

Yohannan has said the Believers’ Church bought the land with a loan. While this may be true, he was able to do so because donors from around the world gave millions to GFA. His operations in India have consistently promoted work with children and evangelism as the focus of American donantions. However, the bulk of money from outside of India has gone to finance the creation of for-profit businesses in India (e.g., medical centers, schools). Furthermore, at least $20 million in donations was first sent to India and then secretly returned to the United States in order to fund GFA’s compound in Texas.
GFA and Yohannan were evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in October 2015. GFA was singled out as violating government regulations by the Office of Personnel Management in January 2016 and sanctioned to the greatest extent allowed by law.

A New Public Call from "Pastors and Friends" for Tullian Tchividjian to Leave the Ministry

Tchividjian image expastorA “group of pastors and friends” has publicly called on Tullian Tchividjian to step away completely from vocational ministry. This group maintains that Tchividjian has deceived them and engaged in disqualifying actions. This call follows the strongly worded statement from Kevin Labby, pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian, which I published here last week. See the full statement below:

Dear Friends:

We join with others in expressing our shared grief regarding these latest allegations, as well as our thankfulness for the courageous women who came forward to tell their stories. We join our prayers together that they will receive the care and support that they need to heal and move forward in their lives.
In the wake of the initial revelation in June of 2015 that Tullian Tchividjian had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship, a group of pastors and friends reached out to him in accordance with scripture’s clear admonition in Galatians 6:1–2:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

In the months that followed, we were encouraged that Tullian seemed committed to walking a path of healing and renewal through repentance under the authority of his church of membership. However, later disclosures, and these most recent allegations, cast grave doubts over the sincerity of this commitment.

Inasmuch as Tullian Tchividjian has habitually and impenitently used his public platform, his family’s good name, and the name of Christ for his own selfish ends, we believe that he has disqualified himself from any form of public vocational ministry.
For the sake of his eternal soul, we implore Tullian Tchividjian to repent of his wickedness and demonstrate his repentance by submitting himself to the leadership of his church of membership, pursuing forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with those whom he has sinned against.
We send our plea to Tullian in a spirit of gentleness and with broken hearts.
May Christ have mercy.
Pastor R.J. Grunewald
Pastor Kevin Labby
Pastor Matt Popovits
Pastor Donovan Riley
Pastor Chris Rosebrough
Pastor Scotty Smith*
Paul David Tripp
Mrs. Elyse Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Kimm Crandall

For undisclosed reasons, Scotty Smith dropped out of this effort.
Apparently, David C. Cook Publishing is staying with plans to publish Tchividjian’s next book.

Money Behind the Message: Non-Profit David C. Cook May Not Easily Give Up Profits from Fallen Prophet Tullian Tchividjian

According to the Christian Post late last week, David C. Cook Publishing plans to publish Tullian Tchividjian’s next book. Even with the scandal swirling around Tchividjian, David C. Cook’s chief advancement officer Tim McDonald told CP that the publisher was “committed to him [Tchividjian] and his family as a publisher…” For a hint of what might be in the book, see this previous post.
David C. Cook’s response drew a negative reaction from some of Tchividjian’s critics. For instance, Wartburg Watch’s Dee Parsons tweeted:

Christian publishers likely face a dilemma when faced with bad behaving authors. One cannot stay in business without sales and yet there is a higher expectation for Christian publishers to act as a kind of filter for Christian buyers. In DCC’s case, the situation seems complicated by the publisher’s status as a non-profit organization. One might think that profits might not carry the same weight. However, according to the organization’s most recent IRS filing, the publisher does well in the money making part of the business.
Although DCC spent over $4-million more than revenues, the organization shows assets of $124-million with liabilities of nearly $44-million. The group showed revenues of $26-million during the 2015 fiscal year. Leadership is paid well for a non-profit seller of Bible-based materials. The CEO Cris Doornbos made nearly $450,000 in reportable compensation. Five executives made over $250k with 19 additional executives who made over $100k. As is true with many Christian non-profits, profits are not irrelevant to the organization’s bottom line.
Although these salaries and sales may seem large, the advances to some Christian authors have been in the $400,000 neighborhood (e.g., Mark Driscoll).
With that kind of investment, it will probably take more noise from potential buyers to dissuade DCC from publishing a best selling author.

Statement: Former Church Says Tullian Tchividjian Should Not Be in Ministry (UPDATED)

Tchividjian image expastorIn light of recent blog posts alleging pastoral misconduct against Tullian Tchividjian (e.g., this one), Kevin Labby, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Church in Willow Springs provided this statement to me on behalf of the Session of the church.

We are deeply grieved by these latest allegations, and have profound gratitude for the courageous individuals who shared them, as well as those who worked tirelessly to chronicle their stories. I read their accounts multiple times through tears. My prayer is that they will receive the necessary care to move forward, and toward that end we continue to offer earnest prayers and full support.

We would also like to state in the clearest possible terms that we do not believe that Mr. Tchividjian should be in any form of public or vocational ministry. Rather, inasmuch as he is truly repentant and in accordance with his membership vows, we would urge him to immediately return to his church of membership, submit to its leadership, and pursue healing and renewal through repentance in the context of his local church to the glory of God and for the good of the broader Church and her witness to the world.

On behalf of the Session of Willow Creek Church,
Kevin Labby, Senior Pastor
Willow Creek Church – Winter Springs, FL

Tchividjian recently remarried, has a book contract with David C. Cook Publishing, and spoke at Spring Hills Community Church in California.

UPDATE: According to the Christian Post, David C. Cook Publishing still plans to publish Tchividjian’s next book, saying the publisher is still committed to Tchividjian and his family. The publisher did not respond to my inquiry on the same topic.

David Barton Criticizes the Accuracy of Bill O'Reilly's History Books

This is a classic.
Self-styled historian David Barton (with the fake PhD he won’t explain) now comes forward with criticism of the accuracy of Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly’s history books. Lack of self-awareness, thy name is Barton.
The context is Barton’s daily Wallbuilders Live (which is recorded) radio show. Barton responds to a question from a listener about the accuracy of O’Reilly’s books, especially Killing Reagan. Now actual historians have ripped O’Reilly’s book on Reagan so I am not quarreling with the fact that Barton jumped on that bandwagon.  What sends the irony meter into paroxysms is his statements about what historians should do when faced with mistakes in their work. Barton criticizes O’Reilly for sensationalizing General Patton’s death and says Patton’s “toe tag” reveals his actual cause of death. He claims O’Reilly knew his book was wrong on the matter but published the false information anyway.
Listen to a segment of the broadcast and wait for the punch line about three minutes into this clip.

At 3:01 into this clip, Barton says:

If you have something that’s factually shown to be wrong, you need to go back and make the correction on it.

Now, for certain, those are words to live by. I now expect Barton to admit the following:

That would be a good start. There are more where those came from. Let’s see if Barton takes his own admonition.