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November 14, 2006


Great thoughts. i'm a youth min in Texas and I couldn't agree with you more about our responsibility to address the really tough issues with questions and answers that don't stoop to mere platitudes.

Any suggestions on making this a reality?



Thanks for the comments. I can sense that you have had the same frustration in trying to work with the issues youth face. I find it odd that they have to carry on discussions about sexuality on My Space because the church doesn't allow such conversations.

How do we make this a reality? Well, I guess we have a lot of dialogue ahead. Some general thoughts though: we have to stop seeing the pastor as the "expert," the one who makes the theological decisions for us (I'm a pastor so I can say this with integrity); the pastor should lead the congregation into discussions about hard issues and practice a corporate hermeneutic; we need to stop running from the culture and deal with it head-on, identifying new agenda as opportunities for conversation with our post-Christendom world.

So much more could be said. I invite your suggestions as well!

There are discussions about sex on MySpace? (sarcasm)

You're right. We need to be more facilitators for our people and act less like talking heads with all the right answers. If we act or are seen as "the last word on all things" than we will be less likely to tackle the tough stuff because, quite frankly, the tough stuff is, well, tough. I know that I avoid topics that I don't have a great handle on. I don't stand around discussing car maintenance or the stock market because I struggle with comprehending those two things. Likewise I think pastors avoid issues like sexuality because it is easier to talk about accountability and avoidance than to talk about something they don’t understand. So the topic gets brushed aside because no one is willing to take that first step and start the dialogue. That’s all I’ve got right now.

Thanks Tim. You gave me a lot to think about and act on.

Tim and Michael, I think a big part of this is the religious system has such a reputation of not being a safe place for such confessions. When the focus is on law teaching instead of grace, judgement instead of love and acceptance I'm afraid we will see little if any change.

With people not trusting that they will be loved and cared for, the hiding game will continue. I think it is going to take a long time to see the culture in the religious community change. I see far too many people in most fellowships who still believe more in a punitive approach to these things. People in positions of leadership are afraid of grace or they just don't understand it. The Evangelical community has to come to this realization before it can be corrected. I don't see anything today that makes me believe that this realization will happen on a large scale. The focus on power, control, manipulation, and political influence instead of a surrendering of all these things will keep the power of the crucified Christ (grace, mercy,forgiveness, love, etc.) suffering outside.

I think of this quote of Saint Francis much these days:

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Just go ahead and live positively in God, through God, with God.”

He just went to the side and did it differently.

Tell me if you think I am nuts, but I just don't see that the current system that passes as "Church" today can recover. The top down management system has nothing to do with the Church Jesus is building.

A couple of days after the Haggard scandal broke, a big church in the Dayton area leaked a similar story to the local press about a local pastor. They were at their wits' ends. They couldn't get the pastor to leave.

This time the pastor was caught (and grudgingly admitted) using porn regularly and visiting illegal massage parlors. When the staff and elders of the church confronted him with his need to step down from leadership for a time, he refused. He fired three of the pastors on this very large staff (two of whom were friends of mine) and many others left before they could be fired. The church went from about 2,000 to 200 people in under a year. On the Sunday after the news story broke, he spoke from the pulpit about how rotten everyone else was and that the truly faithful ones would follow him to the new church he was starting. 100 or so will folly, I mean follow, him.

Although the church repeatedly offered him compassion and grace among its members, they also wanted accountability, and the pastor refused it. But this is what comes of imbuing a mere mortal with that kind of power. The lust for power - any kind - creates an unwillingness to admit to wrong and to accept responsibility for one's actions.

It's this very thing that makes me weary of being a Christian. I am so sick of "Christian" power I could vomit. What happened to following the example of Christ? Of serving, rather than being served?

The good news? This church had over 800 people present at its "reorganization" meeting. They will start from scratch as far as their leadership style is concerned. They have learned the hard way that placing one person as spiritual Pope of any church body can lead to serious grief and the disregarding of the two most important commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart... and love your neighbor as yourself.

I wrote today on my blog about what I see as one of the biggest deterrants for the Church to be delivered from this sort of thing. If you are interested you can find it here.


Hey did any of you read Mark Driscoll's comments on the story? He is the pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle and his comments were completely offensive towards everyone (women in particular). He in many ways blamed Hagggard's wife for the whole thing implying she probably drove him to this. This is unacceptable.

Barry, thanks for the “heads up” on Driscoll. For my readers, here are some of the troublesome, hyper-modern comments Driscoll makes:

"Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. …It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go. …A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either."

"Pastors have the right to protect their own home. This means that if …a flirtatious woman shows up to a Bible study at the pastor’s home, the pastor and his family have the right to request that they never return."

"Churches should consider returning to heterosexual male assistants who are like Timothy and Titus to serve alongside pastors. Too often the pastor’s assistant is a woman who, if not sexually involved, becomes too emotionally involved with the pastor as a sort of emotional and practical second wife."

I encourage you to read these comments (along with other self-absorbed proclamations) in context here: http://theresurgence.com/md_blog_2006-11-03_evangelical_leader_quits .

Driscoll's comments are a reflection of the deeper problems the conservative evangelical church has with women. This probably isn't the place to get into a lengthy discussion of headship, but it is a great place to point out how the common conservative view of this subject tends to create such disparate categories among the sexes that men and women become afraid of each other and the sexual power that each might hold over the other. Before anyone reacts too strongly, I must emphasize that, yes, I believe it is possible (and even likely) in some situations for people to fall into sexual sin. But let me give an example of what I mean about the fear:

I was a part of a conservative evangelical church very happily for many years. Although I may not have recognized it until late in my tenure at this church, I began to notice that when I approached almost any male in our couples' fellowship group for any reason, he would never look at me directly and often looked as though he were looking for an escape. (In case you're wondering, I am not a flirt OR particularly obnoxious!)

It became apparent to me that in the male mind I was an OBJECT to be feared, not a person to be in relationship with (think Martin Buber "I-Thou"). And I began to notice the same occurrence with other males and females in our fellowship. Male/female friendships were discouraged among married people - maybe not directly in words but definitely in other less tangible ways - presumably because of the temptation they might bring. Women were not allowed to be pastors at my church, so technically the men held all the power. But their fear of women appeared to be particularly great. Thus, we as women were held apart as objects of fear as well as subservience. With this as my adult experience in conservative evangelicalism, is it any wonder, then, that Driscoll would make such comments about women?

I am so glad I have left this model behind. In my church today I feel cherished, loved, and honored by all of the people who regularly attend, male and female alike. I have closer female friends, but if I want to talk philosophy, theology, or literature with a male friend, I no longer have anything to fear. We are on equal footing and extend to each other the open hand of fellowship instead of a closed fist ready to deliver an uppercut at the first sign of "threat."


You make a great connection to the discussion from a psycho-socio perspective. Your reflection makes me understand why I feel so bad when I'm told I need to restrict my friendships with female students, colleagues and church members. Even that comment could be interpreted as somewhat inappropriate or seamy; someone could easily use that statement to question my intentions with the opposite sex. In my context I don't think I feel as boxed in as you (I'm not female so that has something to do with it), and nobody says anything overtly, but it seems like we are not allowed to genuinely experience whole relationships in the body of Christ.

Your correlation to Buber is beautiful! That also helps me understand my feelings of dislocation.

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