A new study by the Barna Group found the practice of marriage—which requires forgiving and being forgiven—shapes the forgiving attitudes of practicing Christians in significant ways. When asked to define forgiveness, married practicing Christians prioritized peacemaking, restoring relationship, and forgetting offenses, while never-married practicing Christians were more likely to say forgiveness is restoring a relationship but not forgetting. “With a priority set on moving past offenses, couples appear to encounter fewer barriers to forgiveness,” wrote the study’s authors. They found never-married practicing Christians were more likely to say there is someone in their lives they don’t want to forgive, as well as someone they can’t forgive. —K.C.
Facing its own reckoning over sexual abuse and cover-ups, the Southern Baptist Convention voted this week to make it easier to expel churches that mishandle abuse cases. The vote came on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
“This is not a distraction from the mission,” SBC President J.D. Greear, who was unanimously reelected to a second term on Tuesday, said of the fight against sexual abuse. “Protecting God’s children is the mission of the church.”
Delegates, known as “messengers,” on Tuesday voted to amend the SBC’s constitution to make it clear that individual churches could be expelled for mishandling or covering up sexual abuse. SBC leaders proposed the amendment earlier this year in response to a series of articles published in February by the Houston Chronicle and the San-Antonio Express-News detailing accusations against 380 Southern Baptist leaders that involved more than 700 victims over the past 20 years. A sexual abuse study group appointed last year by Greear released a report this week sharing the stories of abuse survivors and making recommendations regarding training and protocol, including background checks for churches and seminaries. The report said work is ongoing regarding a possible database of credibly accused abusers, a process leaders said has been difficult due to legal issues.
Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church, an SBC congregation with 10,000 members based in Flower Mound, Texas, made an unplanned appearance on a panel Tuesday and addressed a New York Times report published on Monday. The Times interviewed Christi Bragg, a former Village Church member whose teenage daughter said last year that a youth pastor at the church molested her in 2012 at a childrens camp. Bragg filed a police report and contacted the church, which also filed a police report. The staff member, Matthew Tonne, was removed from the Village Church staff in June 2018 and was indicted and arrested on charges of sexually molesting Bragg’s daughter late last year. But Bragg told the Times she felt the church did more to protect itself than her daughter.
Chandler on Tuesday said he thought the church did the best it could to care for the family and defend the victim. “We are an imperfect church with imperfect people,” he said. “I am painfully aware of my limitations, of the weaknesses of the Village Church, of our failures … but when it comes to reporting as soon as we heard, taking our cues from the [police] detective and the family, I’m not sure what we could have done different.” —K.C.