Saturday, August 25, 2012

Male Headship: a Comparison with Christian Teachings of Long Ago

Over the last three years or so, I have read a number of essays online in support of male headship in the church and home, and interacted with many supporters of male headship in comments on forums and blogs.  The comments made to me and others by supporters of male headship as God's divine plan and design, usually fall into a few general categories.  These are as follows:

That the Church has traditionally, for 2000 years prior to the the current age, supported male headship.

That there is nothing wrong with male headship itself, and that protests against it are really about the abuse of male headship by some men, and not male headship itself.

That those who oppose male headship are capitulating to our modern, godless culture.

That women are designed by God to be under male headship and are happiest when they embrace that design.

That the early chapters of the Book of Genesis establish God's principle of male headship. 

That the entire Bible clearly and plainly supports male headship, and those who resist it are going against the Word of God. 

I have by and large addressed the actual substance of most of these arguments in many of my blog posts here.  Today I'd like to look at them in another way.

I want to make it clear from the start that I am not judging the motives of any of my complementarian brothers and sisters, except insofar as I am commenting on common motives of the human race in general, in its fallen condition which I and my fellow egalitarians also share.  I am not comparing the morals of complementarianism or of complementarians, to the morals of any other group.  I am not calling anyone a racist.  I am not questioning the sincerity of anyone's Christianity or the way they follow Christ.  

But I want to look at the arguments above, by comparing them to the arguments of another group from 150 years ago in the United States.  I want to point out that the makers of those 150-year-old arguments were, according to every criteria an evangelical Christian would use  today, devoted and upstanding followers of Christ.  Many of the people who sincerely made these arguments will, I have no doubt, meet us one day in the new heavens and new earth, as our brothers and sisters, lovers of Christ and dearly loved by Him.  But they were mistaken-- and I believe every reader of mine, egalitarian or complementarian, Christian or non-Christian, will agree that they were mistaken.

I refer to the arguments in the book (available at Google Books online) called A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical and Historical View of Slavery, by John Henry Hopkins, D.D., L.L.D., New York: WI Pooley & Co. (1864).

Before beginning, however, I would like to state why I am making this comparison by quoting egalitarian Christian leader Kevin Giles, who attended a complementarian Christian conference in Melbourne, Australia in October 2010.  His thoughts are recorded on Google Docs in this reply entitled "Kevin Giles replies to the Melbourne Hierarchical-Complementarians," and he states on pages 32-33 this profound thought regarding human sinfulness and weakness as it has played out historically for thousands of years (human weakness in which I share just like everyone else):

"Once [human] power over others is attained, it is only relinquished when it becomes impossible to maintain.  The more pressure applied to share power, the more reasons are thought up to justify the power held, and the more hostility to opponents is shown. . .  [I]n the southern states of America in the 19th century evangelicals led the opposition to the emancipation of the slaves, insisting the Bible sanctioned and endorsed slavery. . . They found much in scripture to support their ideas.  Nearly all the evangelical clergy in the Old South were convinced that slavery was taught in the Bible, and many in the northern states as well.  It took a civil war and the loss of over a million lives before these Christian men were forced to give up their power over their black slaves, and it took nearly 150 years before the Southern Baptists openly admitted they had been wrong to appeal to the Bible to justify slavery.  Men resist at all costs giving up power over others.  Another example is Apartheid.  In South Africa the Apartheid ideology was devised and institutionalized by Reformed Christians.  They wrote extensively, arguing that the Bible taught the separation of the races and that some should rule over others.  Appeal was made to a supposed 'order of creation' that set white men over black and coloured people.  These white Reformed Christians only relinquished power when the economic and political pressures became impossible to withstand.  Now in South Africa is is hard to find a Reformed pastor or theologian who is not ashamed that such repeated and insistent appeal to the Bible was made to justify what is unjustifiable.  It is undeniable that as a general principal, men resist at all cost giving up power over others.  And if they are Christians, try to find justification for their power by appeal to the Bible."  [Emphasis added.]

As a white person, I belong to a race that has, male and female alike, historically resisted at all costs giving up power over others.   Recognizing me as a fellow-traveler in human frailty, my readers will, I hope-- in a spirit of intellectual detachment-- simply read the general arguments listed below, followed by quotes from Rev. Hopkins' book in a similar vein, and see the similarities.  (All emphasized words in the quotes below were emphasized in the original.)

The Church has traditionally, for 2000 years prior to the the current age, supported male headship.

"But the Word of God has not changed; the doctrine of the Apostles has not changed. . . I do not respect your departure from the old and well-settled rule of the Church. . . . I know that the doctrine of that Church was clear and unanimous on the lawfulness of slavery for eighteen centuries together . . ." p. 47.

 There is nothing wrong with male headship itself, and protests against it are really about the abuse of male headship by some men, and not male headship itself. 

"[My] whole object . . . was to prove, from the Bible, that in the relation of master and slave there was necessarily no sin whatever.  The sin, if any, lay in the treatment of the slave, and not in the relation itself.  Of course, it was liable to abuse, as all human relations must be. But . . . thousands of our Christian brethren who held slaves were treating them with kindness and justice, according to the Apostle's rule. . .  I held it to be a cruel and absurd charge to accuse them as sinners against the Divine law, when they were only doing what the Word of God allowed, under the Constitution and established code of their country."  p. 45.

Those who oppose male headship are capitulating to our modern, godless culture. 

"Who are we, that in our modern wisdom presume to set aside the Word of God . . . and invent for ourselves a 'higher law' than those holy Scriptures which are given to us as 'a light to our feet and a lamp to our paths,' in the darkness of a sinful and polluted world?" p. 16.

"In religious truth or reverence for the Bible, the age in which we live is prolific in daring and impious innovation. . . We have heard the increasing clamor against the Bible, sometimes from the devotees of geological speculation, sometimes from the bold deniers of miracle and prophecy, and, not least upon the list, from the loud-tongued apostles of anti-slavery." p.48.

Women are designed by God to be under male headship and are happiest when they embrace that design.

"The eldest son of a royal family is in due time king, and his brothers forthwith become his subjects.  Why should not the same principle obtain in the races of mankind, if the Almighty has so willed it?  The Anglo-Saxon race is king; why should not the African race be subject, and subject in the way for which it is best adapted, and in which it may be more safe, more useful and more happy than in any other which has yet been opened to it, in the annals of the world?" p. 32.

The early chapters of the Book of Genesis establish God's principle of male headship. 

"The first appearance of slavery in the Bible is the wonderful prediction of the patriarch Noah: 'Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren' . . . the fulfillment was reserved for his posterity, after they had lost the knowledge of God and become utterly polluted by the abominations of heathen idolatry.  The Almighty, foreseeing this total degradation of the race, ordered them to servitude or slavery under the descendants of Shem and Japeth, doubtless because He judged it to be their fittest condition.  And all history proves how accurately the prediction has been accomplished, even to the present day."  p. 7.

The entire Bible clearly and plainly supports male headship, and those who resist it are going against the Word of God. 

"[We must refer] the question to the only infallible criterion -- the Word of God. . . . I proceed, accordingly, to the evidence of the sacred Scriptures, which, long ago, produced complete conviction in my own mind, and must, as I regard it, be equally conclusive to every candid and sincere inquirer." p. 7.

"[We condemn] the loud and bitter denunciations of our anti-slavery preachers and politicians, calling themselves Christians. . . For they. . . set themselves against the Word of God in this matter. . . . " p. 16.

Having finished this, I'm very much afraid that I cannot help but have given offense-- and I sincerely apologize.  But I believe this comparison is one that I, in all honestly and in my best integrity, have to make.  If anyone thinks I am pointing fingers, my last blog post "My Wish-I-Hadn'ts" will show you that my other three fingers are to the best of my ability, pointing back straight at me.

I know that our Lord Jesus has mercy on us all.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Wish-I-Hadn'ts

I have, over the course of years that I've been a Christian, changed the way I think about a large number of things.  Some of the beliefs I used to hold caused me to treat people (or even myself) in ways that I'm sure now were not what Jesus wanted.  Though I'm sure I have His grace and forgiveness for these things, that doesn't change the harm I now believe I did.  So here are some of my regrets.  Some of them, as I look back, make me laugh or shake my head; others make me very sad.  If anyone who reads this was affected by any of these things, I hope you already know how truly sorry I am. 

So here, in no particular order, are my Wish-I-Hadn'ts:

I wish I hadn't kept bothering my Catholic co-worker with invitations to my church's events, even though she had told me she had her own faith.  I thought I was trying to get her away from a false religion.  She thought I was just plain annoying.

I wish I hadn't had my pastor preach a how-to-get-saved sermon at my wedding, to the captive audience of relatives and friends who had only come to see me get married.

I wish I hadn't told my non-Christian co-worker that all men liked to be the leaders in relationships, and it took a strong woman to let them.  She didn't say anything, just gave me a funny look.

I wish I hadn't told a good friend who was engaged to be married, that she shouldn't marry the man because he'd been divorced.  We were never good friends again after that.

I wish I hadn't made friends with a girl in college for no other reason than that I wanted to convert her.  I'm glad she never found out.  (She also never converted.)

I wish I hadn't bought into the idea that any music with a rock beat-- even Christian rock-- was of the devil.  I wish I hadn't thrown away my Neil Diamond records, my Simon and Garfunkel , and even my Imperials gospel albums.

I wish I hadn't participated with the rest of the Christian audience at a creation vs. evolution debate, in jeering, booing and hissing the evolutionary scientist, so that he went away knowing Christian audiences had no kindness, no manners and no willingness to listen to points of view other than their own.

I wish I hadn't listened to my pastor when he told me it could damage me spiritually to go see The Return of the Jedi-- so that I didn't find out until years after the final movie appeared in the theatres, how the Star War series ended.

I wish I hadn't given my dad the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict for his birthday, instead of giving him a present he would have really enjoyed.

I wish I hadn't written my Christian friend who came out as gay, a letter that he never forgave me for-- a letter so judgmental and so ignorant of what he was going through, that we never spoke again.

I wish I hadn't rejected a nice shirt my mom gave me as a gift, because the picture on it looked a little "New Age" to me.   I wish I hadn't conveyed my judgment against this shirt and my lack of gratitude to my poor mom so very plainly.

I wish I hadn't treated Christians who went to other churches-- including my own sister!-- as if they just weren't as spiritual or enlightened as we were.

I wish I hadn't been so conscientious in my duties towards younger members of my church that I was supposed to be "discipling"-- but had just let them know that I'd be there for them if they needed anything, and otherwise had just let them live their lives without my oversight or interference.

I wish I hadn't joined the others in my church in shunning those who decided to leave.

So there it is.

I don't think I'm the only one who has regrets like this-- in fact, certain segments of Christianity still strongly encourage their members to act just like I acted.  So I have to ask the question-- if a form of Christianity actually leads people like me to do unloving, inconsiderate, Pharisee-like things that Jesus would not want us to do-- how well is that kind of Christianity actually following its Lord?

Perhaps we all ought to let that be our litmus test.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Forgotten Women in Church History: Katherine Zell

The Protestant Reformation is known for repudiating the Roman Catholic medieval idea that virginity was spiritually superior to marriage and family. This was good for women in that the basic roles to which they were largely confined were no longer considered base and unspiritual.  However, the Reformation's strong stance against monastic living, and their shutting down of convents, cut off for Protestant women what had been the main avenue for women's ministry.  A woman of exceptional spirituality and intelligence could no longer distinguish herself through the monastic system, as had St. Lioba or Hildegard of Bingen .  However, Protestant women still found ways to circumvent the restrictions placed upon them by Protestant teachings.   One way was to marry a Protestant leader, and this was how Katherine Zell (1497-1562) found a place for her ministry.

I was unable to find any information about Katherine Zell's early life: where she was born, who her parents were, or any other detail.  In this the Reformation bias against women in ministry may play a part, for while Roman Catholic research and documentation of the complete lives of their saints seems equally zealous for both  males and females, an early Reformation woman like Zell seems to have become of interest to Protestant historians only upon her marriage to Lutheran preacher (and former Catholic priest) Matthew Zell.  The only information I could find about Katherine Zell's early life comes from her own lips:

"Ever since I was 10 years old I have been a student and sort of church mother, much given to attending sermons.  I loved and frequented the company of learned men, and I conversed much with them, not about dancing, masquerades, and worldly pleasures, but about the Kingdom of God."

Matthew Zell was eventually excommunicated from the Catholic church for getting married, but Katherine defended her marriage by pointing out that Catholic priests of the time were notorious for their mistresses and their seductions, and that marriage to a priest was a woman's ministry that "uplifted the moral degradation of the clergy."  Matthew Zell certainly appeared to consider his wife his partner and companion in ministry: as Katherine put it, "My husband and I have never had an unpleasant 15 minutes.  We could have no greater honor than to die rejected of men and from two crosses to speak to each other words of comfort."

Katherine's primary ministry was the sheltering of Protestant refugees and traveling ministers.  According to church historian Philip Shaff in his History of the Christian Church, Reformation ministers reported that "she conversed with them on theology so intelligently that they ranked her above many doctors."  To opponents who insisted that she should keep silent, she said:

"You remind me that the Apostle Paul told women to be silent in the church.  I would remind you of the word of this same apostle that in Christ there is no longer male and female, and of the prophecy of Joel: 'I will pour forth My Spirit on all flesh and your sons and your daughters will prophesy."   

She added, with a touch of sarcasm,

I do not pretend to be John the Baptist rebuking the Pharisees.  I do not claim to be Nathan upbraiding David.  I aspire only to be Balaam's ass, castigating his master."

Katherine was also deeply involved in ministry to the poor, and she wrote many hymns, which she published in pamphlet form specifically for the common people of Germany.  But perhaps her most startling contribution was her kindness and inclusiveness towards those Christians who differed from her own group in non-essential doctrines-- a position that was not only ahead of its time, but received castigation from Protestants and Catholics alike.  To her greatest critic, Lutheran minister Ludwig Rabus, she wrote,

"Consider the poor Anabaptists, who are so furiously and ferociously persecuted. Must the authorities everywhere be incited against them, as the hunter drives his dog against wild animals? Against those who acknowledge Christ the Lord in very much the same way we do and over which we broke with the papacy? Just because they cannot agree with us on lesser things, is this any reason to persecute them and in them Christ, in whom they fervently believe and have often pro fessed in misery, in prison, and under the torments of fire and water?

Governments may punish criminals, but they should not force and govern belief which is a matter for the heart and conscience not for temporal authorities."

Katherine also stated emphatically that

"Anyone who acknowledges Christ as the true Son of God and the sole Savior of mankind is welcome at my board."

At the end of her life Katherine showed her commitment to this position by conducting a secret funeral service for a woman disciple of the "radical" sect of the followers of Kaspar Scwenkenfeld, even though she was old and gravely ill.  The city council of the town announced that they would publicly reprimand her for this as soon as she recovered from her illness.  She did not recover, however, and died at the age of 65.

Amanda at Cheese-Wearing Theology pointed out not long ago that the opposition to women such as Zell was largely because of their gender, not their teachings, and that if a male clergy member presented a similar teaching based on the same texts, his teaching would be accepted while hers was rejected.   I cannot help but wonder how the history of the Reformation might have been different if male Reforming leaders had been willing to give Katherine Zell's ideas about tolerance and freedom of conscience, the weight they might have given them if she were a man.  Perhaps the bloody persecutions of the Anabaptists and other sects could have been curtailed or even stopped.  Perhaps the sentiment "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity," which was coined by Lutheran Protestant Rupertus Meldenius more than 100 years after Katherine's death, might much sooner have become a Protestant ideal.

It seems clear to me that when Christ's church as a whole, or groups within His church, refuse to listen to the voices of their women, wisdom from God can be lost-- wisdom that could have spared much sorrow and harm.  Let Katherine Zell's life and teachings speak to us even now, and remind us of the voices that need to be heard.


Tucker and Liefeld, Daughters of the Church, Zondervan Publishing House (1987), pp. 182-184.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"Don't Talk About It"

I was in college, living in an ex-fraternity house made over into a Christian boarding house for members of Maranatha Campus Ministries.  It was 1983 or 84.

The leaders of Maranatha, Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, had come up with another new revelation that they said was from God.  They took their text from John 15:8:

"By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."

Bob Weiner and Joe Smith said that by "bearing fruit," Jesus meant "making converts."  This meant, they said, that the more converts to Christ you made, the more you had "proved to be His disciple."  Therefore, those of us who had never made a convert were not really disciples of Christ.  Oh, we were saved all right, and we would go to heaven when we died, but were were all a sort of lesser follower of Jesus.  Not bearing fruit.  Not proving ourselves.  Not quite measuring up.

I and some of my friends were very upset when we heard this new teaching.  We were accustomed to taking every word uttered by Bob or Joe as the very truth of God.  They had taught us "total commitment" to Jesus, to our leaders, and to our brothers and sisters in the church.  To follow Jesus as He wanted, we must follow Him with our whole hearts, not being "lukewarm" like so many who claimed to be Christians were.

I had embraced total commitment and believed I was following with my whole heart.  But suddenly now, even that wasn't quite good enough.

I began to search the Scriptures.  Could the passage really mean what they said it did?  On the other hand, should I be questioning my leaders?  Feeling a little guilty, but also remembering that they had also taught us to read the Bible for ourselves, I looked at every passage where "fruit" was mentioned in the New Testament.  It didn't seem to bear out what they were saying.  Somewhat relieved (maybe I was a real disciple after all!), I determined to wait for Joe Smith's upcoming visit to our fellowship.  Surely if I put my questions before him, he would see where I was coming from and maybe even get back together with Bob Weiner to discuss it again.

A few weeks later, Joe Smith arrived.  We  had spent the time before his arrival scrubbing the ex-frat house from top to bottom, preparing and handing out flyers for the meetings, and praying, praying, praying for lots of new people to come, be converted, and become members of Maranatha.  Since I was also carrying a full course load of college credits and trying to keep up with my regular household chores, I hadn't had much time to think about what I would say to Joe Smith after the meeting.

I don't remember what he preached about.   But afterwards, when other church members were clustering around the great man praising him for the sermon and receiving his blessings, I approached him, shaking inside, and asked if we could speak in private for a moment.  With a kind, fatherly look, he agreed and we stepped apart a little from the meeting room, out into the foyer.

Nervously I asked him about the new revelation, about what "bearing fruit" meant.  I told him that when I had looked it up in the New Testament, in all other passages where "fruit" was mentioned in terms of "bearing" it, it seemed to be talking character traits-- about the fruits of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, like love, joy, peace, patience, etc.  I told him that in every other passage where "fruit" was mentioned in terms of converts to Christ, it was spoken of in terms of "gathering," not "bearing."  I also asked if he thought "proving" to be a disciple really meant "proving to Jesus' satisfaction that you were a disciple" and not "proving to the world to be Jesus' disciple."

Joe Smith let me babble on for a few minutes.  The look of kind, fatherly attention never left his face. Then, in just a few words, he let me know that I was wrong.  "I discern that you are not letting Jesus' words into your heart," he said.  "You are not responding to His words-- you are only reacting.   You need to stop, listen to the truth of what we're teaching, and let it go deep inside you.  Do you understand?"

Speechlessly I nodded.  Joe Smith was telling me that not only was I wrong about what I thought the Bible said, but that I needed to stop fighting the truth that I was not a full, true disciple of Jesus.  I needed to let this truth sink deep inside me.  I felt myself letting it do so.  And as I did, I began to weep uncontrollably.

Joe Smith smiled.  "That's it.  Let the Spirit of God touch you."

How could I tell him that I was weeping not because I felt the Spirit of God touching me, not because the truth was sinking in and changing me, but because I now believed I was a second-class follower of Jesus, a person Christ was not really satisfied with?  That all my efforts to follow Him with my whole heart were in vain unless I could make a convert?  That since I could never seem to speak the right words to make someone else want to follow Jesus, I probably never would be a real disciple?

My tears were tears of despair.

I couldn't tell him.  Blindly I turned and stumbled up the two flights of stairs to my own room in the Maranatha house.  I sank down onto the floor, and cried and cried.

After about 20 minutes of hard crying, I felt a stirring in my heart.  Then four short words out of nowhere flooded into my mind, along with a deep warmth that filled my heart to the brim.  "Daughter.  He is wrong."

A wordless conviction filled me with assurance that I knew was not from myself.  Jesus did absolutely consider me His disciple.  He was fully satisfied with me.  Joe Smith and Bob Weiner could be wrong.  They were wrong.

My tears vanished, and joy welled up inside me as I wiped my face and blew my nose.  I got up from the floor and went downstairs to help serve food.  As I ran down the steps, the deep assurance filled me again.  Joe Smith was wrong, and God had spoken to me.  I was Christ's disciple no matter what any human being said.  Even if they called themselves prophets.

But I told no one.

Not even my friends, who I knew were also upset by the new teaching.  Not my pastor, or pastor's wife.  Certainly not Joe Smith!  A leader was never to be spoken against, in public or in private.  To speak out would be to rebel against his God-given authority and to shame myself by showing a rebellious heart.

So I held my joy inside me, drinking of the certainty that my leaders could be wrong, in the privacy of my own heart.  I never felt the same way about them again.  I continued to read the Bible for myself, and if something they said didn't make sense to me, I no longer felt obligated to believe it.

I guess for me, it was the beginning of the end of Maranatha Campus Ministries.  Years later, the group would dissolve under protests from some of the pastors of individual churches that the upper leadership was too authoritarian.  But my own freedom began that night, and as I rested in the vine (as the actual context of Jesus' words about "bearing fruit" in John 15:8 said to do), I did indeed bear fruit.  Fruit of strength in my own heart instead of dependence on others.  Fruit of confidence in my relationship with Christ.  Fruit of compassion for others who were being made miserable by destructive teachings.

And fruit of understanding-- first-hand understanding-- of what "spiritual abuse" meant.

Joe Smith was right and I was wrong, because Joe Smith was big and I was small.  Because Joe Smith was a leader and I was an underling.  Because Joe Smith was an authority, and I was a nobody.

No words against Joe Smith were ever to be spoken.  If I spoke them, it was I-- not Joe-- who was in the wrong.  Joe Smith could never be in the wrong, because he was in authority.  

Spiritual abuse.

This last week, a prominent Christian leader was forced to resign amid allegations that he was having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, a prior victim of sexual abuse, who had come to him for pastoral care.  Some blog sites devoted to exposing and helping victims of spiritual abuse have posted stories about it.  And some of the comments on these sites have taken a page right out of Maranatha Campus Ministries' old book.

How dare you post something like this about a man of God?  Who do you think you are?  

This girl consented, didn't she?  And anyway, no sin is worse than any other sin in God's eyes.  We need to show mercy to this pastor.  After all, "love covers a multitude of sins."  [The fact that Jesus placed greater emphasis upon offending "one of these little ones" than on any other sin, is not taken into account. Matt. 18:6]

This pastor is a godly man!  Don't contribute to the rumors! We shouldn't be judging him, we should be praying for him and his family! [No mention is made of possibly praying for the 17-year-old girl and her family.]

You don't know what you're talking about.  God will be angry with you for bearing false witness. 

This is an internal matter for the church involved.  Stay out of it.  You are casting stones at a man of God.  You should just be quiet. 

Counselors for adult children of alcoholics will say that one of the features of a dysfunctional, codependent family is the "don't talk about it" message.

Be quiet.  This is family business and no one else's.  How dare you talk like that about your father? 

Keep the secret.  Sweep it under the carpet.  No one must see.  No one must know.

But it isn't only families that can be dysfunctional.  Churches can be, too.  And when they are, they will tell their members this same thing.  The result is what's called "enabling:"

An enabler is a person who by their actions make it easier for an addict to continue their self-destructive behavior.

It is possible to become addicted to authority.  A person who is so addicted will uphold his or her authority at all costs, even at the expense of those whom their position of authority was created to serve.   And the person who is addicted will encourage his or her followers in enabling behaviors, to make it easier to hold onto his or her authority.  When religion, God or the Bible are used to encourage enabling, in ways that bring shame, harm or misery to the enablers, this is spiritual abuse.

I agree that this pastor needs help-- but not at the expense of his victim.  And "don't talk about it" will help neither of them.  It will only perpetuate the girl's shame and misery, and enable the pastor to continue in his abusive, dysfunctional behaviors.   In Ephesians 5:1-13 Paul talks about relating to other professing Christians who commit heinous sins.  He says in verse 11-13:

"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.  For it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.  But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that is visible is light."

Paul is not saying, "The person who did the deed is a Christian, and therefore we need to keep this quiet."  He is not saying, "The deed is disgraceful, therefore you will be disgraced if you speak of it."  He is saying, "The disgraceful deed must be exposed in all its disgrace, precisely because it is so disgraceful even to speak about!"

Yes, it is disgraceful to speak of a pastor entering a sexual relationship with a vulnerable member of his flock whom he was supposed to be helping.  But it is not disgraceful to the person speaking.  It is disgraceful to the person doing the deed spoken of.   However it also brings the deed out into the light, which is the only place where healing can happen.  

I'm not saying it's ok to have a free-for-all of name-calling and abusive words about this pastor.  Two wrongs don't make a right.  But in the light is where the enabling stops.  In the light is where the perpetrator must face himself and his deeds.  In the light is where the victim can see that the shame is not hers to bear.

So to those who are saying, "Don't talk about it," I say this.

Do talk about it.  Stop sweeping it under the carpet.  The stories must be told.  Stop shaming those who tell them.  The person who is in the wrong is not above the rest of us.  He needs the light just as much as anyone.

"For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth."  Eph. 5:9.