On Sunday, David White of HarvestUSA was preaching at our church. He was preaching on the topic of justice from Titus. I didn’t write his quote word for word but it was something like this,
Sexual scandals are bad but never destroyed a church. But gossip and quarreling surely will.
Now I know David and I know he isn’t minimizing the terrible damage of sexual misconduct on families or churches. And, he isn’t commenting on all the sundry ways churches fail. What he is highlighting that gossip and quarreling…backbiting will destroy any organization.
In days gone by, this truth has been used by some to silence dissent and victims of injustice within the church. There are right ways to speak the truth in love. Gossip is not one of them. Slander, as pointed out in the Titus passage, is in opposition to doing good and that which is profitable.
Sadly, we in the church are known too much for willingness to slander those inside and outside the community. Let us instead devote ourselves again to what is good for all. Why? Because we have the Holy Spirit and are justified by grace.
4 responses to “Overheard on Sunday”
In days gone by? Maybe in your world. Just a few weeks ago a small group of women decided that after 22+ years they are going to be silent no more. They are going to speak about the missionary pedophile who abused them. They are speaking about how mission leaders handled the situation. They are speaking about how they were told to keep quiet. The parents and other missionaries are starting to speak, to tell how they were told to not talk to anyone about it or they would be gossiping. Being devoted Christians, they submitted to their leaders and didn’t gossip.
Others are now contributing how they have gone to missions leaders to reveal a problem and were met with the same attitude. Minimize the problem. Counsel the person reporting to forgive, to keep silence for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps deny the problem in which case the reporting one becomes the problem.
Only the victims of the pedophile are speaking specifics or names. They have posted photocopies of documents that attest to their stories. I know that vulgar attacks are screened. Even so, I see enough posts to know that some doubt their word, think they shouldn’t be public with this and consider this gossip and slander. Matthew 18, settle your problems in the church and not in outside courts and other arguments against what these women are doing.
Is this slander? Is this gossip? For 22 years these women and their families believed it was and they didn’t talk. Other missionaries knew something was wrong but they didn’t talk. Because of this a pedophile was released into the community and no one knew except for a few men at the mission and of course the victims. Although, can children who are sexually violated know as an adult knows?
Is it slander and gossip that they are speaking publicly? I am torn. This is the mission of my childhood and so I am emotionally involved. I support these women. But I am torn about the public naming of names. One of the names is a beloved missionary “uncle.”
I was raised in the same culture of silence. That gossip and slander are sin. Not that I didn’t observe plenty of gossip, “Pray for so and so…”, people told things they didn’t need to know that served no good purpose.
Perhaps we call the wrong things gossip? How do we know which is which?
Good points. I think your msg is proving my “days gone by” even though I said it tongue in cheek. Groups of people speaking out suggests there is less willingness to keep silent. Good for them. Now, of course, the reasons why we speak out and the goals we have for speaking out will be what we are evaluated by.
I do not think it gossip to redress wrongs and in doing so to speak out. But, I might worry about building websites to shout aloud the violence. One might do this for a good reason…to protect others who might still be in danger from a system or a person. But, if it is only to stay awash in bitterness or to get revenge (different from justice), then I think it only brings additional pain to the victim.
What I take away from this comment is that while bad behavior and sin are damaging to the body, the extent of the damage is governed by the body’s willingness to expose it and treat it. I think of the quote “Sun light is the best disinfectant”. If we who are most acquainted with the fallen condition are not willing to openly address the failings of our brothers and sisters in a spirit of love and forgiveness, we open the body of Christ to an even more damaging condition of distrust, gossip and the appearance of our approval of the sin through inaction. These are the things that will split apart congregations and wreck churches.
Gossip has a hard time flourishing in an open environment where all the truth is openly discussed. The gossip finds few ears to poison in this environment. At the recent conference hosted by Biblical Theological Seminary “A Christian response to Human Trafficking and Sexual Abuse” Dr. Diane Langberg presented on sexual abuse in Christian organizations. She commented on how often victims are silenced for fear that exposure of an incident would be damaging to the church. The churches testimony or society in general for that matter should not be that it does not happen but how both victim and perpetrator are treated when it does. We only have to look at the damage to the Catholic Church in America to see how not to handle the situation. Because of back room deals, cover up and a failure to address the problem openly the entire priest hood is suspect and their every behavior around youth is monitored with a suspicious eye. Youth ministry in this environment is severely hampered. We need to develop a culture and systems where exposure of sins of a sexual nature or abuse of a spouse are encouraged as an opportunity for the body to demonstrate to the community how to handle them. The church should be the one place where a perpetrator or sex addict feels that they can come for healing and not the best place to hide. Gossip and slander comes about when there exists the appearance of something whether or not it exists. The light of the truth sends the propagators of this type of division running to find a safe dark corner.
Scandal becomes more “scandalous” in a group of people who are more scandalized by the disruption of their comfort than they are energized by the opportunity to offer embracing, accountability, forgiveness and healing relationships to the one’s who’ve fallen from public grace.