Matt Chandler, The Village Church, and the unresolved issue

I mentioned the situation at The Village Church (TVC) in my previous post about patriarchy and sexual abuse.

(For those who don’t know, TVC tried to “discipline” a former member for annulling her marriage after she learned her husband was using child porn. Lead pastor Matt Chandler has since apologized. You can read more about the situation here.)

I believe Matt Chandler showed genuine humility and remorse in his response. He apologized publicly and privately to Karen Hinkley. He made amends. I respect him for that. His response was anything but the typical non-apology we’ve come to expect from celebrity pastors caught overstepping their authority. (For what it’s worth, Karen Hinkley showed tremendous grace in her response as well.)

At the same time, I believe the larger issue remains unresolved. TVC, like many churches, believe only men can lead, that women are intrinsically subordinate to men. For them and the other churches of the Acts 29 Network, this doctrine is “central and not peripheral.” It’s “primary and not secondary.”

And that is why they continue to be unsafe places for women—especially those affected by abuse. Which, let’s face it, is a lot of them, when you consider as many as 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault at some point—and more than two thirds of assault cases go unreported.

As long as we insist that a woman’s path to God runs through a man, as long as we insist she cannot discern God’s will for herself but must submit to the judgment of an all-male elder board—in Karen Hinkley’s case, to decide whether she should be allowed to end her marriage to a confessed child porn addict—then these abuses of authority will continue.

You can apologize. You can make amends. (And, to their credit, TVC did both.) But until you address the culture and theology that require a panel of men to “validate” a woman’s narrative in the first place, you will find yourself in the same situation again and again.

Patriarchy hurts women.

Patriarchy fosters abuse by treating women like property.

Patriarchy blames and belittles survivors.

Patriarchy enables and protects abusers.

Patriarchy trivializes the actions of abusers.

Patriarchy is the problem. Not just a few otherwise good-hearted men forgetting what’s important and overstepping their authority. It’s the fact that they won’t share authority. Until they do, we’ll continue to read about people like Karen Hinckley.

We’ll know we’re ready to get serious about abuse in the church when finally share leadership with women.

5 thoughts on “Matt Chandler, The Village Church, and the unresolved issue

  1. I thought Matt Chandler’s apology was excellent, but like you I think there is a lot of work to be done digging up old problems that have taken deep root. That’s how they can avoid repeating these types of mistakes.

    As you said, they teach patriarchy and it allows the men in leadership to control women in the church. They also teach covenant membership in a way that allows leadership to control everyone in the church. There’s a lot of control going on in the Acts 29 churches, rather than living in the freedom of Christ to serve him as we are called.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share the same concerns about membership covenants. I does seem (to me) to be connected to a particular view of divine sovereignty popular among conservative, ultra-Reformed church leaders. An all-controlling God leads to all-controlling churches.

      (Not that you always need the former to create the latter…there are certainly progressive, non-Reformed church leaders who’ve shown themselves just as capable of domineering behavior.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “At the same time, I believe the larger issue remains unresolved. TVC, like many churches, believe only men can lead”

    Aka they take the Bible seriously. God forbid TVC actually believes the Word of God when it comes to gender roles.


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