About 9 years ago, I was faced with a dilemma.
RW, a good friend of mine from church, was arrested and charged with child rape involving his granddaughters.
When I say he was a good friend, this is what I mean: we often frequented the gun range once a month. A former Marine, RW had taught me most of what I knew about how to shoot. I often hung out at his house on Sunday afternoons in between church services. His granddaughters were often there with us, and there was no indication that anything was wrong. I never saw anything suspicious. The granddaughters’ conduct appeared perfectly ordinary: they were goofy teens. They worked with me in AWANA, and we all got along well.
The arrest was, to put it mildly, a mother of a shocker. The year before his arrest, he had undergone a quadruple bypass and was still recovering from that. He had been unemployed and, not surprisingly, had been through bankruptcy. The church had taken up collections to help him, and he had few–if any–enemies in the church.
Needless to say, I was in between a rock and a very hard place, and challenged with the dilemma of what to do about this situation.
I had no idea if he was guilty or not. Like I said, I saw nothing remotely suspicious, so the charges were a lightning bolt out of nowhere.
I was also on very good terms with the granddaughters. I had no idea if they were telling the truth or lying. I knew this much, though: these types of accusations are very serious, and this is why we have a justice system.
While I wanted to think he was innocent, one thing really stuck out: after his arrest, I asked him very specific questions. I will not repeat those here, as I am not interested in this site being a haven for sexually-explicit conversations. He provided very evasive answers. That was a very red flag to me.
Within the church, we had people who wanted him burned at the stake. We also had people who swore to his innocence and insisted that the girls were lying through their teeth. I received a little static when I asked one of his defenders, “Did it occur to you that he could be guilty?”
My take: we needed to shut up and let the justice process work. I hoped he was innocent, but I also had a sinking feeling about this case. This is why we have a justice process. Everyone needed a day in court. These are the things for prosecutors and defenders and judges and juries to sort out. Well-established rules of evidence would be in play; RW would have a chance to cross-examine witnesses, provide witnesses of his own, challenge evidence, provide his own evidence, and make his case for the jury.
I was never called to testify by either side. His wife–after the fact–confessed to me that she had lied on the stand for RW.
Didn’t matter. The jury found him guilty of all counts–including at least one count of child pornography–and he got 20 years.
So what is my point in all of this? Yes, RW was my friend. We were shooting buddies. I was in his house almost every weekend. I WANTED the charges to be false.
At the same time, I knew–because of my observations of human nature–that it was entirely possible that he was guilty. I knew–definitively–that I did not want to be in a position of denying justice, or supporting those who wanted to deny justice, to abuse victims.
What drove my caution? A simple thought: Jesus/little ones/stumble/millstone.
I owed RW–and his granddaughters–a fair shake.
Contrast that with The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and a related group, Together for the Gospel (T4G), made up of high rollers in the Reformed/Evangelical community (Calvinist-leaning Southern and Reformed Baptists, as well as PCA Presbyterians and those in the Calvinist-leaning Sovereign Grace community). Their boards and councils include the likes of Al Mohler, Tim Keller, Don Carson, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Thabiti Anyabwhile, and–before the fallout in the Morales case–Tullian Tchividjian***, C.J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris. The editor for TGC, Joe Carter, had been known for hard-hitting, often insightful commentary.
Mahaney had long been suspect–there were/are accounts all over the blogosphere of abuses at SGM churches directly implicating Mahaney and/or his top pastoral staff.
When a civil suit against him–alleging coverups of sexual abuses–was thrown out due to statute of limitations (not merits) last year, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan co-authored a statement of support on behalf of T4G, and Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor came out in resounding support of Mahaney; on behalf of TGC.
This in spite of the fact that a criminal trial was pending, with facts yet to be established in a criminal court with rules of evidence in play. Look at the words of DeYoung, Carson, and Taylor:
So the entire legal strategy was dependent on a conspiracy theory that was more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of culpability.
Given the attacks on the victims in that statement, I would surmise that DeYoung, Carson, and Taylor–who hastily accused the victims of hearsay-based gold-digging–owe the world an apology for their hastiness.
I say that, because, in the criminal case, a CLC pastor (Grant Layman) admitted in open court to:
- Not reporting multiple allegations of abuse to authorities;
- Revealing that he had discussed this with the pastoral staff (each of whom failed to report the allegations to authorities).
So let’s see: a pastor fails to report, and a conference of pastors (at least two) leads to a decision not to report. That testimony went uncontested in the Morales criminal trial. Now, let’s compare that with the definition of a conspiracy:
An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors.
Making matters worse, Joe Carter–the editor of TGC–threw a fusillade of accusations––at people who merely sought to arrange for TGC members to meet with victims.
So effectively, Carter has–unnecessarily–made himself the henchman for all things CLC.
My point in this is that TGC and T4G have, for reasons known only to them, decided to commit ministerial seppuku by (a) coming out in unqualified support of Mahaney even though there were more facts to be exposed, and (b) threatening those who tried to put faces on the victims for TGC.
Oh, and, yes, I am aware that there is another civil trial going on, as CLC has an independent party investigating and seeking to establish facts and provide a more detailed report.
At the same time, the issue now is not whether there are liabilities. There were abuses; that much was established in open court. Pastors failed to report the abuses on more than one occasion; that has been established in open court.
At this point, the only question remaining is the extent of the “family jewels”. How many more are there to be exposed? Who were the ministers in the know? What did they do with the information? How widespread was this practice?
Does anyone wish to defend TGC and T4G’s support of Mahaney and attacks on victims?
***Fair Disclosure: Tullian Tchividjian has, to his credit, been very critical of TGC’s support of Mahaney.