Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stuff Happens

We all know that churches are messy organizations because they are filled with people like us from the preacher on down who are flawed and sinful. Fortunately, in most cases churches are not known for scandal. But when major scandal is identified, there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with it.

News stories this week have given us high-profile examples of the right and wrong. When a serious report of "inappropriate conduct" was made against John Munro, senior past of Calvary Church in Charlotte, he was immediately placed on administrative leave, and the church board "retained an outside investigator to assist . . . in gathering facts and information from all involved to ensure impartiality and neutrality." That is the right way for a church to handle such matters.

On the other hand, when Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle) was charged with authoritarian abuse, raging at co-workers with foul language, plagiarism, misuse of church moneys to propel his book to the NY Times bestseller list, and demeaning women, he is permitted by his hand-picked board to take a 6-week leave, while they (not outside investigators) determine guilt or innocence.

It is reminicent of Ron Carpenter's handing of the scandal at his own church. Had he, instead of going public, handled the situation between him and his wife Hope quietly with professional counselors, and then had he brought in independent outsiders to investigate the inappropriate conduct and set the church back on course, the whole situation could have been handled properly. But most megachurch preachers are simply unable to censure themselves. That is why a strong independent board is so necessary. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The REAL Scandal

The most outrageous scandal concerning Ron Carpenter and his ilk (including Steven Furtick) is not that Hope Carpenter's 10-year adulterous affairs were only 5% of her problem (according to Ron). No the real scandal is best summed up in this long excerpt from an article I've copied from the WORLD magazine published online at RealClearReligion this morning:

The Second Great Embarrassment

RELIGION | Protestants who treat leaders as mini-popes have fallen far from the Reformation

The link among all of them [the high publicized sex scandals of recent decades] comes out clearly in the materials of pastor Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C. One smoking gun is a document entitled “Reasons Elevation Church Is the Best Place to Work.” Reason #1: “We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.” Reason #3: “We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.” Reason #7: “We serve a Lead Pastor who pours into us spiritually and professionally.”
All this is biblically odd. As Virginia pastor Todd Pruitt points out in a Reformation 21 blog post, “The Cult of the Visioneer,” Christians “have a Lord who came not to be served but to serve.” Chapter 20 of Matthew’s Gospel also says those who go first will be last, but Elevation Church reason #16 is,“We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.”
There’s more. Pruitt discovered an Elevation Church coloring page (designed to decrease child squirming during services) that has at its top “UNITY: We are united under the visionary.” At the bottom the page states, “Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision.”
All that is also biblically odd. We’re only three years short of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which emphasized that we should follow only God’s vision as shown in the Bible. Roman Catholics responded, in essence, We will protect our unity in supporting the vision of the Pope, or perhaps the College of Cardinals. 
The link among perpetrators of both Great Embarrassments is their followers’ tendency to see them as inerrant mini-popes. After a while such adulation goes to men’s heads, leading many to think, I can do anything I want. Some want to be served sexually, some financially, some both.
This idea of protecting unity by supporting the vision of a human being, rather than relying on the vision of God as shown in the Bible, was anathema to Reformation products like the Puritans, who honored pastors but listened to sermons with Bibles on their knees, lest their leaders offer a vision not of God. 
For that matter, Barnabas and Paul would have been horrified by those Elevation Church materials. Chapter 14 of Acts describes how crowds in Lystra treated the two evangelists like gods—“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you.’”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nothing New to Post

I keep getting messages from people both inside and outside Ron Carpenter's church saying the whole system is a sorry mess. Too bad the members of the congregation don't stand for what is right.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 21: Ron Carpenter Qualified to Lead?

"Still Qualified to Lead?" was a headline on the Christian Post for January 10, 2014. But the article failed to clearly answer the question. People are afraid to speak out, especially when they know the answer is an unqualified NO. Ron Carpenter is not qualified to lead a church---a church of any size. Among other things, he is dishonest. He told his congregation and the world that his wife's 10 years of adulterous affairs amounted to 5% of her problem. That was only the beginning of a series of lies relating to this whole scam.  This is one more scandal that brings shame to the Christian Church, the real shame being that the congregation has not cleaned house and dismissed the Carpenters.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Week 20: Ain't Heard from None of You

"Now that I've announced that I'm gonna fight for my vows, I ain't heard from none of you. None of you. The only two that I have heard from, you ridiculed me. If that's where the leaders' standards are, no wonder the people are so jacked up.

These were Ron Carpenter's words two weeks ago as he defended himself and ripped into all those leaders who had months earlier stood with him when he banished his sinful wife.

So let's all join Ron and bemoan the low standards of church leaders, though surely not Ron himself. A pox on all of them, I say. Why don't these people in the pews simply stay away? Stay home, read your Bible. How refreshing it would be if Ain't heard from none of you referred to the people in the pews---if Ron Carpenter looked out into the audience and no one was there---none of you.

I did not stay home from church today. I attended my downtown church that get's no press coverage. In fact, I just googled our pastor's name; not much comes up at all. He preached on the transfiguration, pointing out things I'd never thought of before, but mainly pointing to Jesus. How crazy is that? When people think of him or when they think of our rather formal church with stained glass and robed ministers, they don't think of a big Sunday show or of a big scandal or of big salaries and big houses. They think of worship and preaching that points to Jesus. Of course, it surely is far from a perfect church. But when I enter the sanctuary, there is no grand circus that obscures the One who died on Calvary and rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 19: Shrugging off Scandal

In recent years preacher scandals seem to come in clusters, often with barely any breathing space in between. And we are no longer amazed by how quickly these preachers are back in the pulpit or their televangelism ministries. But in almost every instance, there has been at least some sort of confession and public apology. Are we entering a new era when a preacher (an Apostle, no less) can carry on with adulterous affairs for a decade and then simply come back to church, stand and smile to the applauding congregation and face no repercussions? If what Ron Carpenter has said about Hope is true, why isn't she publicly confessing her sins and stripped her her credentials?

Eugene Peterson (whose popular version of the Bible is titled The Message) offers insight that seems applicable here, though there are no words to explain this bizarre situation at RWOC:

Somehow, without us noticing it, the pastoral vocation was redefined in terms of American careerism.  [It is in the] world of religion, where I can manipulate people and acquire godlike attributes to myself.  The moment I entertain the possibility of glory for myself, I want to blot out the face of the Lord and seek a place where I can develop my power.  [The lust for power is not unique to pastors] but pastors have the temptation compounded because we have a constituency with which to act godlike.  Unlike other temptations, this one easily escapes detection, passing itself off as a virtue.

Yes, maybe there is an explanation for this bizarre scandal. The RWOC congregation and leaders (if such a term is appropriate) are simply shrugging this off (perhaps as they have done for years). Ron has a "constituency" that allows him "to act godlike" and to pass his behavior "off as a virtue."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week 18: No more than a Sham Soap Opera?

Did anyone ever expect that even 1% of the questions would be answered today? Why would Ron have said weeks ago that 99% of the questions would be answered? Why not 98%? 72%? 31%? 7%? Do people really believe this stuff? Do they really give their hard-earned money to this so-called church? Hope Carpenter showed up today and everything apparently is just fine.  Really?

Here are just a few questions of mine: Why this public soap opera in the first place? How does Hope feel about her name being dragged through the mud all over the Internet? (And it certainly isn't because of this blog.) Anyone who googles Ron Carpenter gets a lot of trash about Hope. Is that the best way to get a marriage back together? Is this their new program for marriage counseling? Is Hope Carpenter ever going to speak about all this drama herself?

Bottom line, what was the point of this social media circus?