A Cancer in the Body of Christt

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The Roys Report writes about the arrest and charges against several present and former leaders of a Christian fraternity at several universities in Texas, for “continuous sexual abuse of a child.”

Some people call her a muckraker who craps into her own nest, but I believe that the investigative journalism of Julie Roys and her collaborators, as well as of others in the Catholic and Anglican context, is extremely important for the health of the church of Jesus Christ.

Situations like the ones described in this article are not harmful to the victims alone but are like cancerous growths in the Body of Christ: ignored and untreated they damage the health of the whole body.

A few years ago some Evangelicals looked almost gleefully at the Catholic Church when more and more cases of abuse and cover-up by clergy, all the way up to prominent Cardinals, came to light; but there have always been problematic free church groups like the extreme wing of the Exclusive Brethren[1]. A few years ago massive historic abuse situations were revealed in Protestant and Anglican schools in Germany, Canada, and Australia, and a year ago a series of investigative reports by some Texas newspapers uncovered not only a massive clergy abuse problem in churches of the Southern Baptist Convention but also an abject failure on the part of the denominational leadership to deal adequately and appropriately with this problem, all under the cover of “local church autonomy.”[2]

Today we know, not least through the work of Mrs. Roys and the Roys Report, that these cancerous growths flourish in all church traditions, including Pentecostal churches, the predominantly Charismatic independent churches, and even in the most prominent megachurches.[3] For much too long and much too often leaders in all traditions and denominations have looked the other way, have sometimes shown more empathy with the perpetrators than with the victims, and have worried more about the reputation of their respective institutions than about the well-being and safety of the flock entrusted to them.

I cannot tell to what extent this problem also exists in free churches in Germany and Austria; but statistics tell us that churches with a very conservative theology were men rule their families and pastors rule their churches, and dissent and criticism are discouraged, are particularly vulnerable and prone to both domestic abuse and violence as well as clergy abuse. And we do have such churches on the fringe of the Evangelical movement in the German-speaking countries. But even if everything were in order in our own circles and churches we cannot disclaim all responsibility: the church is, despite its sadly divided state and despite its geographic spread, one body, and “if one member suffers, all suffer together[4]), the whole Body suffers.

So it is high time for us to no longer look the other way but to intercede for these situations and for the victims, and where necessary, have the courage to speak up.

  1. particularly the Raven-Hale group in England, North America, and Australia[]
  2. Fortunately Southern Baptists have now begun, not without some internal opposition, to acknowledge the problem and to take measures to deal with it and prevent it in the future.[]
  3. I am not commenting here on the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Uniate) because I have no information. But I don’t suppose that they are entirely free of this problem.[]
  4. 1 Corinthians 12:26 (ESV[]
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How can a Christian avoid compromising his faith?

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I answered this question on Quora:

How can a Christian avoid compromising their faith?

  • By being actively involved in a Christian church and reading a lot in the Bible, possibly with the help of a catechism, commentaries, or similar, in order to know what his faith is all about.
  • By being willing to be ridiculed, attacked, or persecuted by non-believers, and to bear material disadvantages patiently, when he does not participate in certain activities or does other things that are met with incomprehension. Of course he will only achieve this to a limited extent, and only with a lot of prayer—but that’s why he doesn’t rely on his own strength and virtue but on the help, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of our God.
  • At the same time it is important not to be too quick to label every bit of opposition as “persecution”. While I believe that our society is moving in a direction where we will eventually have to reckon with persecution, what we experience is still a far cry from what Christians in countries like China, North Korea, Cuba, and many Islamic countries have to live (and die) with.
  • He also needs to keep in mind what a favorite pastor of mine[1] recently said: There’s a difference between being present in political spaces as the presence of Jesus, trusting in Him as Savior, and being present in political spaces as “Christians,” trusting in politics to solve all the problems we face or to turn our nation into a “Christian country”.

These are just some of the things which can help a Christian live his faith without compromise; there surely are others I have not thought of.

(Of course, these points also apply to women and girls, even though in this post I use the masculine forms for simplicity and style.)

I borrowed the meme at the top of this post from quotefancy.com. The quote from Anne van der Bijl, God’s Smuggler and the founder of Open Doors is of course based on Peter’s answer to his accusers, in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

  1. Kenneth Tanner[]
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Remembering a Great Servant of God

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Shortly after my conversion, in 1972 I spent six months working in a Christian book warehouse in the U.K, with Christians from many different nations and church backgrounds, and I was introduced to books like Run, Nicky, Run and The Cross and the Switchblade.

When I came back to Austria, I began to attend a conservative Evangelical church planted and pastored by a saintly Mennonite Brethren missionary from Canada. However, I also regularly visited a coffee bar at a local Pentecostal church, patterned and named Teen Challenge after the ministry from The Cross and the Switchblade. This was a time when Evangelicals in the German-speaking countries were very suspicious of Pentecostals and Charismatics, and very shortly after my pastor went on furlough to Canada the Austrian leaders he had left in charge of the church remonstrated with me for my involvement with the Pentecostals and basically told me stop going there. Having come to appreciate cross-denominational fellowship during my time in the UK I refused to do as I was told and instead looked for a different church home.

I found it in another Evangelical church planted by an equally saintly American missionary who, after I had explained my situation, welcomed me—without trying to curtail my contacts with the Pentecostals. However, as was common practice, after a couple of years he too went on furlough, leaving others in charge of the church. And to my dismay the situation repeated itself and these leaders basically told me to break off my contacts with the Pentecostals. Dismayed, I took my leave from that church also.

Now, while I appreciated the brothers and sisters at the Pentecostal coffee bar, I was not a Pentecostal myself, so I needed to find another Evangelical church. I had heard of an American opera singer who had what was probably Vienna’s first charismatic prayer meeting in his home, and who attended an English-speaking Baptist church in Vienna. Figuring that a church which tolerated a Charismatic as a member would hardly have a problem with my Pentecostal contacts I went and sought out the pastor of that church. I explained my predicament and was welcomed.

I spent the next ten years at that church, with the exception of two years of Bible School in France. I began to work full-time for a literature ministry in Eastern Europe and got married. Throughout this time I benefitted greatly from the pastor’s preaching and from a multi-year, very detailed study of the Gospel of John led by his wife.

In 1984 the ministry I was working with moved my wife and me to Texas, thus ending my very profitable time in that church and under this pastor.

The pastor, Randy Mathews, and his wife Alice eventually moved back to the US and for a long time I was out of touch with them; then Facebook came along and allowed me to reconnect with a lot of old friends, including Randy and Alice.

I don’t know where I would be today if, after my disappointing experiences with two churches, Randy had not welcomed me to his church.

Today found out that a few days aho Randy went home to his Lord and mine, at the ripe old age of 97. Unlike his wife and daughters I cannot really say that I will miss him—too sporadic has been our contact in recent years—but I will remember him with gratitude, gratitude both to him and to God for him.

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Teach Us to Number Our Days

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A Guest Post by Chad Bird

Father, teach us to number our days, as we joyfully reflect upon the fact that, because of Jesus, you are not numbering, not counting, our trespasses against us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19).

The Lord is not a celestial accountant, who keeps an exact tally on our sins, hourly and daily adding them up and sending us the bill to show us how indebted we are to him. What a joyless monster of a deity that would be.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to live completely and perfectly covered by divine love, even as, in ourselves, we incompletely and imperfectly follow him. We limp. We stumble. We fall. And we confess, repent, and pray.

As we do, the Lord’s hand is never withdrawn from our own, nor is his heart ever, even for a moment, turned from us. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:13-14). Dust, to be sure, but dust that is as precious to him as gold.

Lord, teach us to number our days, as days lived solely by your mercy, at the foot of the cross and empty tomb, overshadowed by your love.

Such a life will probably not end, as Jacob’s did, with a spectacular funeral and international march to the cemetery. It will most likely conclude not with a bang but a simple last breath. One more exhalation of the air that we have long breathed in his world. A humble funeral. A final goodbye (for now) from our grieving family and friends. But inside us will be that “heart of wisdom,” of which Moses spoke (Ps. 90:12). A heart formed by the very hands that fashioned the world, that were fastened to the cross, and that filled us with the Holy Spirit that we might follow him.

Lord, create in us such a heart of wisdom, that running or walking or limping or crawling or lying on our deathbed, we might, along with Jacob, be your disciples, chosen, beloved, and precious in your sight. Amen.

This  excerpt from Limping with God: Jacob and the Old Testament Guide to Messy Discipleship” by Chad Bird is Copyright © 2023 by Chad Bird and posted by permission.

Chad Bird is a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and professor for Old Testament and Hebrew. He has written for numerous Christian publications and authored several books.“Limpimg With God” is his most recent book.
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