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Tumult and tears

From an abortion revolt in Argentina to grieving at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, here’s a weekend Whirled news roundup

Tumult and tears

Pro-abortion activists demonstrate after lawmakers voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Southern exposure

Abortion activists in Argentina reacted violently to news that the country’s Senate voted to continue protections for unborn children in the Latin American nation.

In a dramatic scene on Thursday night, throngs of Argentines watched the debate unfold on large televisions stationed outside the Congress in Buenos Aires. When lawmakers voted 38-31 to reject a bill that would have legalized abortion up to 14 weeks into pregnancy, pro-lifers rejoiced, but abortion proponents revolted.

The Evening Standard reported that protesters clashed with police, set up flaming barricades, and threw firebombs and glass bottles.

Abortion is legal in the predominantly Catholic nation only in cases of rape or risk to a mother’s health. Perhaps it seems unsurprising that Argentine lawmakers rejected abortion in the birthplace of Pope Francis, but the country isn’t a socially conservative stronghold on other issues: The Senate legalized gay marriage eight years ago.

Meanwhile, Latin American tensions over abortion are set to continue: In Brazil, the Supreme Court has begun considering whether to allow abortion of unborn children up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

Weeping Willow

Members of Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, Ill., are grieving this week, as the congregation’s lead pastors and entire board of elders announced their resignations on Wednesday night.

The leaders told church members they had failed in their handling of multiple accusations of inappropriate conduct by longtime former pastor Bill Hybels, and they apologized to the women who had come forward to report sexual harassment.

Steve Lundy/Daily Herald via AP

Willow Creek audience members react to Wednesday’s announcement that lead pastor Heather Larson is stepping down. (Steve Lundy/Daily Herald via AP)

Many undoubtedly will analyze the breakdown at Willow Creek, but here’s at least one misguided takeaway from Scott Thumma of Hartford Seminary. Thumma told The New York Times: “It challenges the idea that a group of elders internal to the congregation can truly be a healthy check and balance on leadership and direction and accountability.”

I’d submit the problem isn’t with having elders who come from within a congregation. But serious problems can arise when those elders have no accountability beyond themselves.

Any board of elders can fail, so it’s important that church members have recourse to an outside body (like a presbytery or a synod or some other system) with authority to check local elders when necessary. (It’s true that outside bodies can fail too, but that’s not an argument against layers of accountability.)

I’ve seen it in similar stories I’ve reported on in the past: It can be hard to get elders to challenge a charismatic leader, and when there’s no one else to go to, the problems grow far worse.

Of course, scandals can and do happen within every form of church governance and denomination, and it’s important to remember that good systems alone won’t save us: We need God’s mercy and the help of a whole community of believers willing to speak early and truthfully, even when it’s painful.


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  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 08/10/2018 09:25 pm

    Extra layers do not protect against corruption, as the Roman Catholic Church has proven.  Congregants need to read the Scriptures and think for themselves.  Jesus must be the only One upon whom they look with starry eyes.

  • SW
    Posted: Fri, 08/10/2018 10:57 pm

    Regarding "layers of accountability" comments - I'm wondering about the scriptures one would use to support this concept? Where are Denominations mentioned or alluded to? Even Dr. Thumma's comments surprisingly imply a Church body can't possibly have the internal ingredients necessary for its health! I have yet to see an example of a Denomination that can exhibit the kind of health local Churches can and do practice.  I'm convinced the Lord gives each Church body the gifted persons and health prescriptions (The New Testament's clear instructions) necessary to govern itself.  When we adopt business models for the Church (such as the concept of a "Board") rather than New Testament teachings, it's a dangerous choice, not a wiser one.  There is no structural solution that makes Christians' sin impossible.  Failing to follow clear Biblical teachings with truth and grace is always the issue that blocks health, both individually as disciples, and collectively as a Church body. 

  •  Cdh's picture
    Posted: Sat, 08/11/2018 09:08 am

    Amen, Steve -

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Sat, 08/11/2018 04:57 pm

    Concerning the Willow Creek article, I agree with Jamie on this one. The Holy Spirit of God is like the wind (John 3:8), and like pretty much all Christian or secular groups of which I have been a part, mixing is generally a good thing, in much the same way that mixing inside air with outside air in an enclosed room is a good thing. Churches can become spiritually ingrown, just as families and kingly lines who practised incest in the old days became biologically ingrown. Not only do the elders and leaders in churches need outside Christians to whom to make an appeal, congregants do as well. Clearly, the women in Willow Creek who appealed to the secular media didn't find the kindly, impartial ear within their own church that they so very much needed.

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Mon, 08/27/2018 06:48 am

    Thanks for these two whirled news items. The wave of abortion hysteria and violence seems to be a sign of our age and the power and influence of the enemy of our souls. 

    And your second item is certainly a concern. There is no easy fix, and in the NT there were Apostles, esp Paul who worked to keep churches in line. Do we have Apostles today to do this?

    I like the way you sum it up at the end.

    "Of course, scandals can and do happen within every form of church governance and denomination, and it’s important to remember that good systems alone won’t save us: We need God’s mercy and the help of a whole community of believers willing to speak early and truthfully, even when it’s painful."