It’s a question I’ve been asking myself this week — and I was heartened to read this thoughtful response to that question by Ed Stetzer, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College. It applies, I think, to our response on social media and from the pulpit. (And as an aside: this weekend’s scripture affords us an opportunity to preach not only about the “millstone” moment in Mark’s Gospel, but it’s also a chance to talk about divisiveness and polarization, and respecting those who may be outside our particular circle.)
Stetzer writes, in Christianity Today:
Silence is never an option when the accusations or incidents occur in your church or organization. When ministry leaders remain silent in response to the needs of their own people, they are abdicating their obligation to shepherd God’s people with wisdom and courage. They are, as Jesus describes, hired hands who desert the sheep at the first sign of trouble.
And, if the message your church gets from your comments today is that you will mock or dismiss accusations of assault, that’s a message you must not send.
Remember that we tend to defend those we support.
If you follow me on social media or know me in person, you know that I tend to be politically conservative. I’ve supported Judge Kavanaugh in writing because I want a conservative Supreme Court. The Atlantic magazine made it clear, quoting my words and support. So, it’s been clear where I’ve stood in regard to the nominee.
But we must always remember how these political biases can shape our reactions, sometimes in ways that subvert our witness and leadership. Right or left, if your immediate reaction is to overlook accusations against politicians you support or to revel in accusations against those you oppose, you need to consider how political tribalism is shaping your worldview.
Put another way: I do, indeed, have an opinion here. But, more important than my opinion in this situation is my responsibility to my congregation. My community comes before my opinion if I am truly a Christian leader.
Instead, we must strive to look past partisan lines when it comes to issues as serious as this.
…The church is in uncharted territory as we respond to accusations of sexual impropriety both in and out of the church. So much of this is good and long awaited as sin that had been covered and ignored is brought to light.
Yet there is still so much confusion in the pews and pulpit and no simplistic answer is going to solve the problem.
The women—and men—in your church are looking to you to see how to respond to the news. Sadly, too many are intimately familiar with sexual assault and with how little is done to support those who have been victimized.
This cannot be the case for us as believers.