There has been a slue of mega church scandals in recent years. I was telling people back when the Catholic Church was going through their scandals that we need to slow our role on attacking the Catholic Church because it will eventually come to roost in evangelicalism. The bird has come to roost.
Two mega pastors have now gone down because of sexual assault in their past. Oddly enough, Paige Patterson from the SBC was vilified in the national media while these two pastors have not had near as much press on their allegations. Why is that?
The Catholic Church has been destroyed because of the sexual abuse that has gone on for years and covered up by officials as high up as the Vatican. This has destroyed trust among Catholics and has tarnished their reputation. The plus with evangelicalism is that we are not a religion that works as a government, so it is easy for us to investigate the allegations and deal out the punishment without political interference.
Art was the pastor at Trinity Church of Portland until recent sexual immoral acts have surfaced. After an internal investigation from the elders at Trinity Church, Art Azurdia was eliminated from the pastoral role.
Surprisingly enough, the allegation was brought forth June 24 and he has already been terminated from his position at the church. Below is the statement from the Trinity Church of Portland’s website:
On Sunday, June 24, the elders of Trinity Church of Portland received an accusation that Art Azurdia has been in a sexually immoral relationship with a woman from outside of Trinity Church. The elders of Trinity Church, after an initial investigation, confronted Art with the accusation. Art admitted to the immorality. He also admitted to a previous sexually immoral relationship. Based on these facts and the biblical qualifications required of an elder (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), the elders have removed Art Azurdia as Senior Minister of Word and Worship at Trinity Church, as an elder, and from all pastoral ministry at Trinity Church. We grieve the shame this brings to the Gospel and the sorrow it brings to God’s people.
Willow Creek Community Church was founded in 1975 by Bill Hybels and in April of 2018, Hybels left the church with his tail in-between his legs. Unlike Trinity Church, Willow Creek botched the handling of this internal investigation. Hybels resigned in early April because of an investigation that was published in the Chicago Tribune that highlighted some of the sexual assault accusations.
During the beginning stages of their investigation, the Willow Creek elders and Bill Hybels painted these accusers as liars with Hybels even uttering the words, “The accusations you hear in the Tribune are just flat-out lies”.
In the Christian Post article I found this particular part of the article very interesting:
In May, Pam Orr, then chair of the elder board, admitted that they failed to hold Hybels “accountable to specific boundaries” and not all of the women’s stories were lies.
What exactly do they mean by “accountable to specific boundaries”? I am not quite sure what kind of pastor you feel like he should have been on a tighter leash? I think being a shepherd for the Lord’s sheep is a tight enough leash to know you should be holding yourself accountable and holding yourself to a high standard?
Below is an excerpt of a statement made by Lead Pastor Heather Larson of Willow Creek:
I know these past months have been excruciating, and I want to personally acknowledge to you the mistakes that I have made. I need to speak these words for my own integrity and for our church. I need to publicly apologize to the women who raised concerns about Bill.
To the women directly, I can’t imagine how painful the past months have been for you, and I am so sorry for my part in that.
It was stated that the allegations are all lies, and I do not believe that. I should have jumped in and declared that personally right away when that statement was made. I believe the stories that Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women. That is wrong, and I hope and pray that someday this can be made right.
You can read her whole statement here, along with statements from other elders.
What do we do with these scandals?
When you are a true born again Christian, there are certain actions you do not partake in. There are certain boundaries brought to you through the Holy Spirit. Like we read in 1 John during our podcasts, if you are in Christ the seed is in you and you cannot sin. “Cannot sin” refers to perpetually living in sin. So what do we do about these pastors?
Scandals have rocked the Christian faith since the beginning of the faith. In this new age of the #metoo movement, it is even more important for pastors to be buttoned up with no skeletons in the closet. The larger the church, however, we often find the most skeletons.
Why is this?
I personally believe that the mega churches in the world are primarily focused on revenues and not leading people to be disciples of Christ as we are called to do in the Great Commission. They are more worried about their personal social media following than their impact on the local community. They are more worried about earthly treasures than stocking up treasures in heaven.
I am not here to say that mega churches are all rotten to the core, but that these churches often breed earthly lusts that can spiral out of control. For the pastors out there sinning in their private lives, they often forget this passage of scripture. This passage should shake them to their core, especially if they are caught living in sin:
‘Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. ‘ James 3:1
So many men want to be pastors, but how many are prepared for this judgement?
7/7/18 – “Sexual Assault Allegations” under Art Azurdia has changed to “Sexual immoral acts”. There is a big difference between the two and I should have been careful w my wording.