THIS JUST IN: Matt Chandler and the elders of The Village Church have listened to the public outcry regarding their actions toward Karen Hinkley and they have responded…
In fact, they apologized specifically to Karen. Here’s the update in its entirety…
Covenant Members of The Village Church,
We recently sent you an email regarding Covenant Members Jordan Root and Karen Hinkley that explained a tragic and heartbreaking situation, including a review of how we got to that point and where things currently stood. Since that time, we have soberly and prayerfully reflected on all the details of this situation, along with others in our past. We have also received feedback from people both inside and outside The Village, which has helped us evaluate ourselves.
Sometimes dark and difficult situations cause us to take a magnifying glass and look through the lens to see deeper than we normally can. That has absolutely been the case in this situation, and we wanted to let you know where we are with everything, specifically some areas we are still evaluating and some areas where we have clearly failed and need to repent.
When it comes to protecting children, we believe we have strong procedures in place and feel confident in how we’ve handled allegations and confessions regarding child abuse in any form, specifically in the situation with Jordan Root. In examining ourselves in this area, we have been affirmed in the policies and processes we have in place to protect children. That said, in the weeks ahead, we will do an external audit to confirm we are doing everything possible to protect children and to evaluate how we handle child safety, abusers, abuse victims and other related matters in a biblical and legal manner.
Regarding Covenant Membership, we have not changed our theological or philosophical convictions on our Membership Covenant, member care and church discipline. These are beliefs rooted in Scripture, and we strongly believe they are necessary for our health and faithfulness as a church. However, in looking closely at the way we have handled some situations, we realize that there are clear and specific instances where we have let our membership practices blind us to the person in front of us, in turn leading us to respond in a way that doesn’t reflect our desire to be loving and caring to our members. In these situations, there have been cases where we have clearly not communicated the gentleness, compassion and patience that we are called to as elders of the church.
We are deeply sorry for failing you in this way and are taking steps to follow up with the individuals we believe we have hurt so that we can apologize specifically and directly to them. We are also in the process of creating a new care and church discipline plan and hope to have it approved and in practice very soon. Regardless of all that we’re trying to do to improve in this area, though, the most important point is that we recognize that we must never allow our processes and procedures to take precedence over people, specifically those we are called to love, care, protect and sacrifice for as elders of the church. In everything our actions and tone must reflect the gentleness (Gal. 6:1) and humility (1 Peter 5:1-3) to which Scripture calls us. As James 2:13 says, mercy should triumph over judgment.
In receiving more information and considering the way we’ve ministered to Karen specifically, we believe that we owe her an apology. Specifically, as it pertains to her desire for an annulment, we know that it would have served her better to have a clearer understanding from us as to what we do and do not consider biblical grounds for divorce or what we understand the Scriptures to define as divorce. In hindsight, we wish that we would have provided clarity to Karen in an immediate fashion and are saddened by our unpreparedness.
Though the deep theological convictions that informed our initial response haven’t changed, this is a situation where we unfortunately allowed our practice to unnecessarily lead us rather than us leading our practice with patience, gentleness and compassion. We did not lead Karen and the church to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing. Please know that we are reaching out to Karen and giving her this apology, and we have also made the decision to move forward in releasing her from membership. We will continue to support her financially through August as we committed, and our hope and prayer for her is that God would guide her to another gospel-believing church, where she can find healing and restoration.
In receiving this email and hearing how we have and are responding to this situation, we understand that you may be wondering why this type of change in heart has happened now. Is it because of the media stories? If so, why have we let these stories make such an impact? The answer is basically what we began this email with: Sometimes it takes a difficult, unique and trying situation to help us realize our mistakes and move us to change. Naturally, these situations also bring more feedback to the table, and we have sought to humbly hear that feedback, be willing to see the log in our own eye and repent where necessary.
Given the nature of the situation with Jordan and Karen, we also want you to be prepared for the potential of many media stories about our church to be published over the next several days. We are aware of this likely outcome and will not address members or former members specifically in any communication since we do not release this information to the public. This weekend, Matt will speak generally about member care and church discipline because the conclusion of our James series is providentially focused on this topic, but he will not speak directly to the situation at hand.
In all of this, we are deeply grieved by the way this situation has brought reproach to the name of Jesus. Our hearts are heavy and broken over the things that have been said about our good and faithful God. We often talk about the “ongoing ethics of confession and repentance,” and as your elders, we know that we are not exempt from these ethics. In every way that we’ve mishandled this situation, along with others in the past, we repent and ask for forgiveness. As a church, we talk regularly about the power of the gospel to forgive all our sins, past, present and future. In this moment, we are clinging to that truth, knowing that we and everyone else involved in this situation desperately need the grace and mercy of Jesus.
– The Village Church Elders
I mean, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to a conservative church responding…So… this is pretty big step, a step that many did not expect. I’m not sure I did.
Yes, I think church contracts and church discipline are unnecessary tactics. They create environments ripe for abuse and pedestals and other such religious b.s.
And according to many who have reached out to me via email, there’s a lot of all that happening at TVC.
And honestly, even biblically, contracts and discipline are a stretch at best. And most of the time? They’re tools for abuse.
The churches that do have these practices in place don’t usually respond like this… this email possesses a mostly gentle and humble tone, something that we don’t often seen when churches retract big statements.
So, for that, I am grateful–very grateful.
But you know what I’m most grateful for? That TVC is now thinking about their congregation’s kids–their safety, their protection, their well-being. My gosh, I bet they heard from a multitude of concerned parents! And they should have! Their actions were awful…
But dear God… thank you.
And to you who helped make this issue a big deal on Facebook and Twitter… thank you. Because it’s indeed a BIG DEAL. And for once a church seems to be willing to agree and try to correct their mistakes.
So thank you.
When I posted this update last night, I’d read through the content one time. And I did so quickly, with kids around. While the tone of this message is humble, on my second, third, and fourth readings of this message, I started to get a different view of the church’s messaging here. While I can’t offer much of an explanation now–I’m on a tight deadline for a story about TVC, Karen, and Jordan for The Daily Beast–I’ll say this: This update wasn’t written for us. And it wasn’t meant for Karen, either. This update is damage control to calm the storm inside TVC. And some of its language, though gentle, still is laced with control. I’ll try to write more later. But I wanted to offer those who have questioned this blog post a heads up that I agree. I posted this in haste. And I apologize for that.