A well-respected Southern Baptist leader has a message to the Body of Christ about how best to respond when church leaders publicly admit to failures.
On Tuesday, Bill Hybels – founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area – announced he was stepping down following allegations he behaved inappropriately with female congregants. While the 66-year-old senior pastor of the megachurch admitted to poor judgment and insisted he had been accused of things he "simply did not do," he chose to retire earlier than planned because the allegations against him were "hindering our elders and church staff."
Over the years, numerous church leaders have found themselves engulfed in accusations of sexual misconduct, whether alleged or actual. Southern Evangelical Seminary president Dr. Richard Land says when those situations become public, church members who have a deep trust with their pastor often have to deal with feelings of spiritual adultery.
"There's no question it harms the witness of the church among unbelievers – and it causes rifts in the body," he tells OneNewsNow. "I know churches that have been split over accusations against pastors and church staff and it's always harmful, it's always hurtful. It always leaves scars on the Body of Christ."
But Land suggests a better way for churches and their members to react: with grace and understanding.
"[We] understand that we don't worship church leadership, we don't worship pastors – we worship Jesus," he continues. "And while pastors ... and church leaders are going to make mistakes and make bad decisions, Jesus is never going to let us down.
"You know, the church is one of the few places I know of where you've got to admit you've done something wrong to get in."
The seminary president offers the Billy Graham rule as a wise step: don't be alone in a room with anyone of the opposite gender to whom you are not married or related. That, he argues, helps to stifle rumors and temptations that can be very destructive.
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