Women in The Village Church Beware: "You Got No Right to Leave"

Women in The Village Church Beware: "You Got No Right to Leave" May 26, 2015
Art Courtesy of Creative Commons Clip Art
Art Courtesy of Creative Commons Clip Art

I’m in a state of shock. I cannot believe that in this day and time a church can get away with this.

But the male ego and the need for authority over others has no bounds, particularly in a church where no female voices may be heard at decision making levels.

A quick summary: The Village Church is a large, multi-site church pastored by the increasingly famous Matt Chandler. Matt, along with equally infamous Mark Driscoll, founded the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. The theology is neo-Calvinist and the movement is growing rapidly.

This church sponsored Jordan and Karen Root as missionaries to Asia as part of an organization called SIM. In December, it came to light that Jordan, whose many ministry positions have given him free and unsupervised access to hundreds of children, possessed a massive amount of child pornography on his computer.

The mission agency sent him and his wife home and eventually dismissed them from the ministry. His wife had learned that his child pornography predilection was a long-time pattern that pre-dated their marriage. She filed for an annulment. Clearly the union was based on false pretenses.

She also wrote a letter withdrawing her membership from The Village Church. Her husband, Jordan, was receiving pastoral care there and was encouraged to be in worship and attend his small group activities, although he could not go into the children’s areas.

Then Karen receives an email from the church leadership that says this: “The Elders of TVC [The Village Church] cannot presently accept your resignation of membership. In addition, should you not immediately revoke the petition for annulment, we would sadly move forward and formally discipline you as a member of the church.”

All copies of the correspondence from the church to Karen Hinkley, formerly Karen Root, may be found at this link. I am indebted to blogger Amy Smith who aggregated all this information. There is also a list on her site of all the places Jordan worked over the years.

Please note that Jordan is NOT under formal church discipline since he is doing what the elders of the church require.

This news comes on top of the sad Duggar Family scandal. In that case, parents have expressed only sorrow for Josh but not for the young women whom he molested. The kind of “counseling” the girls received would only suggest that it was all their fault. They would have been forced to “forgive” their brother/abuser and to stay in the same household with him until their parents married them off to some other man.

There is a pattern here: where women have no voice, they will be routinely abused. Period.

Jesus weeps. But these churches grow and grow and grow.

Perhaps the power of social media may help. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses rape culture is starting to be exposed.

In closing, may I suggest that you watch this video. It shows a waitress in a Russian restaurant dealing firmly with a customer who attempts to grope her. Should you find yourself also inappropriately touched, whether it be physical, social or spiritual, you might consider an equivalent response.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If9sco1qIw8

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I hope the woman in this report is fully informed of her legal rights, for I believe this kind of issue has been previously litigated in the US. The woman has an absolute legal right to leave her church at any time of her choosing. She need not apply to the Elders, or to any official body whatsoever in order to leave. The Elders are legally misguided if they believe otherwise. And if the Elders ACT on their misguided belief, they may open themselves and the Church they lead up to a prosecutable tort.

    • Thank you! I wondered about the legality of their stance. It helps to know this. Thanks for commenting.

      • The membership covenant governs the relationship between the woman and the church. Generally courts do not enforce membership covenants, because to do would “entangle” them in the workings of the church and thus violate the First Amendment freedom of religion. This is to the benefit of a church, because it allows churches to serve communion wine to minors, or to relegate women to certain specific roles, etc. without running afoul of relevant law. And certainly courts have no say at all in doctrinal matters.

        However, once a person separates from the church by ending their membership, the church has no more power over the individual. The church cannot invoke the membership covenant in a lawsuit to compel the member into certain choices (such as NOT getting an annulment). No judge would enforce such a covenant because, again, it would entangle the court in the affairs of the church.

        Such the strength of the concept of separation of church and state. The state cannot intrude on church affairs, and the church cannot intrude on state matters.

  • I should add that my comments previously are not vitiated in any degree by the fact that the woman signed a “membership covenant” promising to work within the structure of the church. She is not, as of the sending of her letter, a member of the church. And the Elders have no power whatsoever to compel her to work things through in any fashion.

  • As I have read the correspondence provided, I’m glad to see that the woman is fully knowledgeable about her rights to leave the church at her choosing. Good!!

  • I am disgusted that the man in this video continued to go after the woman who defended herself.

    • Yeah. And good for her! I was impressed. I would not have been able to hold my own.

  • wlyeager

    Was Mr. Root ever arrested? Possession of such images is a felony everywhere. If I were Ms. Hinkley, I would run (not walk) as fast and as far as I could from the Village Church.

    • I assume an arrest will happen, but don’t think it has to date.

  • Lauren Miller

    I pray Karen Hinkley says, “Watch me!” as she goes out the door and files for divorce, then reports the abuse to the proper authorities. There is absolutely NO excuse for such abuse, legally or morally and we should in no way confuse church leadership for Christ’s teaching.

  • Every man should realize his greatest enemy is his ego, before its too late.

  • Guy Owen

    Christy… thank you so much for your post. The arrogance of sin knows no boundaries. You are a powerful voice… thk you for following the Spirit’s leading. You are a marvel and a blessing to behold…

  • John Meunier

    Wow.

    I did not know you could get an annulment on those grounds.

    If this had been a more typical case, like adultery by one or the other, how would the church have reacted, I wonder.

    • From what I understand, John, no one who has signed a membership commitment there can get a divorce unless the elders (all male) agree upon the need for it. It’s a fascinating way for men who may be clergy but are certainly not trained therapists to get to peer into the bedrooms of others and to exercise massive amounts of power over the personal lives of thousands and thousands of people.

      • John Meunier

        Thanks for writing about this.

  • Jamie Carter

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2015/05/04/a-tutorial-how-to-assess-the-membership-contract-at-fort-worths-cityview-church/

    Commitment or covenants for membership tend to be designed to protect the church from being sued, not the members from the church. This site uses current church covenants as an example of how they are written. There are stories about churches pursuing ex-members to new churches and getting them involved in unresolved discipline issues.

  • Diane Furry

    I am confused. Why would this woman even bother to let her church know that she was seeking an annulment. How is her personal life anyone’s business

    This sounds like a cult. They won’t let her leave. Just walk out. They care more about a child pornographer than someone who was wronged.

    Divorce his sorry butt and live your life.

    • I’ve been doing a lot more investigation into this situation. Apparently when someone joins the church, they sign a membership covenant that gives the Elders what is essentially the first right of refusal if the couple is contemplating divorce or separation. In other words, intimate details of marital failures must be revealed to a group of men, none of whom will be trained therapists, who will then decide if the dissolution of the marriage is “biblical” or not. The covenant also states that a member under church discipline does not have the right to resign his/her membership in order to avoid the disciplinary actions.

      Yes, it does sound a bit cult-like.

  • Pingback: Five Signs that a “Membership Covenant” = “Cult” | The Thoughtful Pastor()

  • I have two nieces that are involved in this church to the point of taking mission trips to Kenya to help in an orphanage. It makes me wonder if they are aware of this. The Village Church started out under the Baptist banner, but like Ed Young’s church somewhat separated ways to become fairly independent churches. Matt Chandler is a very good preacher. He has appeared on the 1st Baptist channel on the cable in Paris, TX. Thank you for giving us the information on this. And to John Meunier, I would think that based on Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount pornography of any kind would be considered adultery.

  • Pingback: The Village Church “Apology” | The Thoughtful Pastor()

  • Katrina

    This is the reason why it is so difficult to be a Christian today. So many people have bought into an inaccurate definition of forgiveness. A person who has been wronged should never be coerced into forgiving a perpetrator and particularly those who have done the perpetrating and in this case, those who are attempting to cover for him. The church might believe that they are being unbiased, but clearly, they aren’t requiring much from him. Apparently all he had to do was say the magic words, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,” and try to stay away from children. Because, we all know that when people are caught in sin, just saying I’m sorry is all that it takes to keep them from sinning again.

    Do they not see that he is a threat to the rest of the congregation? If I was going to that church, and I had children, I would leave immediately. They wouldn’t have my children’s best interest at heart. They are too busy worrying about keeping the wolves happy.

    I pray that Karen finds a better church out there who are more interested in the health of the sheep and that she can recover from the abuse she has suffered at this church’s hands. And don’t get me started on the Duggar’s.

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