Last week Liberty University announced that Daniel R. Mitchell (picture at left) would be the interim president of their seminary, replacing Ergun Caner, who we all know is no longer the president as of July 1st, 2010.
I've never heard of Mitchell before - apparently he is an academic dean and professor at Liberty's seminary - but several bloggers sent me a copy of a very insightful 1988 article written by Daniel R. Mitchell entitled "Disgraced Preachers - The Word is Malpractice" (.pdf file of the article is here). Although written 22 years ago around the time of the Swaggart scandal, it is more timely today for Baptists than it was when he wrote it. Mitchell's article focuses not on just sexual sins committed by preachers, but those who violate codes of trust and honesty - "purity AND credibility" as he says in the quote above.
"Malpractice" is the term we use to describe incompetence, or reckless acts by professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers that hurt people. Mitchell advocated back in 1988 that the term be applied to ministers who violate the trust given to them by the church.
Here are some notable quotes from Mitchell's article:
"Malpractice is the term we must also apply to professional ministers of the gospel who violate their trust. Preachers who raise money for themselves and not the work, who use people instead of serve people, who lust for power and sex and status, and who use their platform to satisfy their greed violate the code of the spiritual elder (1 Tim 3)."And this one, referring to a "crisis in confidence" created by undisciplined
"We must correct the crisis in confidence that is generated by the present situation. More is at stake here than just the credibility of the offending preacher. When we fail to impose discipline, fallen preachers drag every minister of the gospel - indeed the gospel itself - into the mire with them. Legitimate preachers and church leaders must call each other to accountability and demand compliance with God's standard for ministry."Mitchell goes on to say that many local congregations "...[do] not have the inclination of the power to oust its wayward pastor..." and thus they do nothing to discipline the pastor.
And thus, we have blogs. Blogs I believe have filled the void that exists for accountability amongst the Baptists - a void that does not exist so much in other protestant denominations. That is what Christa Brown's blog is about, and so is Tiffany Croft's blog: holding pastors accountable in a religious system designed to have minimum accountability for its ministers allowing them to continue in their misdeeds. I would imagine when Darrell Gilyard is released from prison, there will be no "defrocking" of his credentials and no formal statement of his repentance or oversight of his restoration process - but he will likely just go to another church.
That may well happen, but thank God Tiffany's blog will be a voice of accountability and warning, as will Christa Brown's - and others - when that day comes.
I have long said that if there were blogs when around when Bob Gray was doing his dirty deeds at Trinity Baptist Church, the powerless would have had a voice early on and the damage he did here in Jacksonville would have been reduced by some measure. If there was a blog about Darrell Gilyard back in the late 1980's and early 1990's, perhaps some of the folks at Shiloh Baptist Church would not have been so trusting of the "man of God" Gilyard - for he came from a religious system - the Southern Baptist Convention - that was powerless to remove his credentials as a minister.
As I blogged about in 2007 in the early days of the Gilyard scandal, there WAS a voice to hold Gilyard accountable when he came to Jacksonville in 1993. His name was Pastor Harvey; but Shiloh church leadership successfully silenced him through legal processes. And before too long Gilyard was back to his old tricks. Too bad Pastor Harvey didn't have a blog back in April 1993.
As Mitchell says:
"We must view failure to maintain these standards as ministerial malpractice worthy of public censure and/or removal from ministry. The crisis in confidence threatens us all. Failure to take appropriate action will surely lead to continued widespread skepticism."Amen.
And failure to maintain these standards will most assuredly lead to widespread blogging.