“Just because we are Calvinists doesn’t mean that our celebrities are any more immune from the temptations of fame and wealth as the heretics of the Word/Faith movement.”
Todd Pruitt, “Gospel-Centered Monster Making,”
“…out from the door of the farmhouse came a long file of pigs, all walking on their hind legs…out came Napoleon himself, majestically upright, casting haughty glances from side to side, and with his dogs gambolling round him.
He carried a whip in his trotter.
There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything-in spite of their terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened-they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of-
“Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!”
It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had marched back into the farmhouse.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm
“Since when have Evangelical pastors ever looked to the law in determining whether they should speak out about evil?”
-Boz Tchividjian in an interview by Janet Mefferd (listen below).
Recently I, and several other “watch-blogs” who are much better known than me, have published articles concerning the indictment, arrest and jailing of Reformed Baptist pastor Tom Chantry. Chantry has been indicted on five counts of molesting children and two counts of aggravated assault with serious injury. He now awaits a March 27, 2017 trial date. It appears the professional clergy class of the ARBCA conducted an investigation into the Chantry abuse and wrote a detailed report which they have sat on for fifteen years.
Predictably, the profesional clergy class rushed to the defense of their colleague, quickly accusing the rock throwing peasants (that would be me) of slander and breaking the 9th Commandment. Their actions are eerily reminiscent of the scene from “Animal Farm” above and seem to me to be carried out with the intent of silencing the laity.
In the days prior to the internet and “watch-blogs,” clergy intimidation was largely successful. Things are changing however; the sheep are not so quick to bleat out “preacher good, laity slanderous.” Instead, Christians in ever greater numbers are boldly standing up and truthfully speaking out on behalf of the victims.
R.Scott Clark recently wrote an article, which, in my opinion was an attempt to silence the laity. The article may be read here. Obviously I was not the only one with this opinion, as Clark addressed it in the comments section of his blog. I suggest you read his article and form your own opinion.
Here is, in part, what R. Scott Clark, a highly educated member of the clergy class, advised our actions should be on the Chantry scandal:
Observe the ninth commandment. God’s moral law has 10 words or commandments. On the internet, however, the ninth commandment, takes quite a beating—as do the others. The substance of the ninth commandment is to tell the truth. Indeed, the ninth commandment is intended, in the first instance, for judicial procedures. It applies well beyond civil and ecclesiastical trials, however. It applies to the internet. I have addressed that application repeatedly in this space. See the resources linked below. It is sufficient here to urge those who are concerned for the victims, and the alleged victims, as they should be, to observe the ninth commandment. They are not more righteous than God. Their concern for the well-being of victims and potential victims does not excuse them from the obligations of the ninth commandment. It says: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Like it or not Tchividjian and Chantry are our neighbors.
My response is to, first of all, recognize Clark for acknowledging that we should be concerned for the victims. Based on his past track record, I believe he is sincere. Many of his colleagues are not. (Boz Tchividjian makes this point on the audio above.)
What bothers me is Clark appears to make a blanket implication that people such as myself do not tell the truth and that we think we are more righteous than God. I and the bloggers I am acquainted with carefully research subjects prior to writing about them. My goal is to write accurate, truthful accounts; if I am shown to be in error on anything I acknowledge my error and correct my article. My conscience is clear in relation to the observation of the ninth commandment. As for anyone thinking they are more righteous than God, none of my friends would fit that bill; in fact, the only ones I can think of who possibly fit that description is the Pharisees in New Testament times, and possibly some modern day Christian celebrities.
Below is some additional information on the ninth commandment. Again, I would refer the reader back to the audio of Boz Tchividjian for examples of individuals who may want to read up on this.
The Westminister Larger Catechism
Q145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence; suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, out-facing and over-bearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expression, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale-bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling; rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vain-glorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defence; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practising, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name. (Link)
Here is a screen capture from Clark’s same article. It made me wonder just who is slandering whom?
Clark seems to think the only option available to a Christian concerning Tom Chantry’s alleged crimes is to inform ARBCA church leaders of Chantry’s abuses. He told a friend of mine “People with relevant testimony should present it to the churches. They should contact Jim Renihan for direction on how to proceed.”
When my friend questioned Clark about how one can be sure that Jim Renihan will deal with evidence in a godly manner, Clark replied: “I’ve known him for twenty years.”
Clark’s article received numerous comments of praise, some from fellow clergymen. He and I engaged in a short, fruitless exchange on Twitter.
On the bright side, I did receive this helpful response:
Need I remind the reader again of the greatest Commandment? (See the Matthew 22:36-40 quote at the top of this article.)
Also among the clergy class attempting to shame the rock throwing peasants into silence was Todd Pruitt, he of “Mortification of Spin” fame. He tweeted this in response to the Tom Chantry scandal:
Pruitt also retweeted Clark’s article:
And then he added his voice of approval to Clark’s article:
I was thrilled when I heard Aimee Byrd, Todd Pruitt and Carl Trueman, leaders from the reformed evangelical world, finally calling out their colleagues for participating in a conspiracy of silence regarding fellow leaders participation in, or coverup of sexual abuse of children. (See Mortification of Spin Podcast from April 19, 2016 here.)
You can imagine my disappointment when I observed Todd Pruitt once again criticizing those of us who have spoken out against Reformed Baptist pastor Tom Chantry, indicted on five counts of sexually molesting children and two counts of aggravated assault with serious injury. Below are quotes from Pruitt and Trueman on sexual abuse. You can also listen to them on the audio clip.
“I would encourage, I would plead with ministry leaders, well-known Evangelicals, to sit and talk with some of the victims of this child sexual abuse, to some of the parents, and to begin to empathize with the horror that they have gone through.” – Todd Pruitt, Mortification of Spin Podcast
“This has done incalculable damage to ordinary Christians, not only those who have been abused, but those who, quite frankly get sick of the cover-ups, and sick of the self-serving rhetoric at the top. I can understand why people drift away from the Reformed faith on this score …our faith is being damaged by the need to preserve certain organizations and certain ministries – that’s a problem!” -Carl Trueman, Mortification of Spin Podcast (listen below).
Over the years it appears the MOS crew, and especially Pruitt has been quite enamored with Chantry. One wonders whether Pruitt’s frequent recommendations to read Chantry’s blog are partially influenced by a friendship between the two men. I readily admit this is speculation on my part, but it would explain how Pruitt has apparently regressed from his position of concern for victims of abuse, and speaking out about cover-ups, to once again promoting silence until such time as a jury has returned a verdict.
Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts author a great blog titled “A Cry For Justice.” They wrote an excellent article, published on December 14, 2016, titled “Evil is Using “Unconditional Respect” to Hide Itself Among us. And Questions about the case of Ps Tom Chantry.” (Link)
The article deals with how Christian leaders mishandle the Scriptures in an attempt to silence valid criticism of themselves or their friends in ministry.
They have graciously given me permission to post their article on this blog. I have done so below.
In a recent post, we dealt with a typical distortion of Scripture which insists that a wife must respect her husband no matter what he does, no matter what kind of person he is. Respect. Obey. Honor. We saw that such mishandling of Scripture is very common. We saw how it hooks out a precept from God’s Word and turns it into absolute, unbending principle that supposedly applies no matter what.
Jesus exposed this kind of evil distortion of God’s word among the religious leaders of His day when they were turning the Sabbath into a heavy burden —
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8, emphasis added)
Now, here is an incredibly evil thing that these “unconditional” lies effect among us. When we are taught, and when it is enforced, that the Christian must NEVER speak negatively about those God says we are to honor and respect and obey, evil is using its darkness to hide in our pews and homes. Evil is of the realm of the kingdom of darkness. Secrecy. Hiding. Deception. And what better gimmick to remain unseen, appearing as some angel of light or a wolf disguised as a sheep, than to convince everyone in the church that evil can never be spoken of, pointed out, called to accounts, especially when it is seen in those we are to “unconditionally respect”!!
We all know it’s true. Christians are being taught and commanded that they must NEVER “speak against” a pastor, a church elder, a church member (especially if such member is a supposed ‘pillar’ of the church), a Christian author, a Christian ministry leader, a husband (we would include “wife” here too but the fact is that it is often much more permissible for a husband to speak of his ‘cranky’ wife than for a Christian wife to expose her husband’s sins), a parent…and so on. To say something negative about such a person is said to be gossip, slander, breaking the ninth commandment, speaking “against the Lord’s anointed” and so forth.
An example within Reformed Baptist circles
Recently it has become public information (see here) that pastor Tom Chantry, a “notable and respected” Reformed Baptist leader has been charged in the state of Arizona with five counts of molestation of a child (the five counts relate to two minors), and three counts of aggravated assault on three separate minors as well. The events are alleged to have occurred in 1995, 1996, and 1998–2001. We do not know which years pertain to the alleged molestations and which pertain to the aggravated assaults, so we caution readers to make no assumptions about which years pertain to which charges.
The secular justice system works like this: anyone charged under the criminal code is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the alleged offender is only convicted when the evidence is judged to be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. That’s how the criminal justice system works. (At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.) The prosecution’s case against Tom Chantry case must comply with those principles. And the New Testament tells Christians to recognise and respect the responsibility and the role of secular governments in the delivery of justice (Romans 13).
But Christians are required to pay attention to more principles than just the ones which govern the secular system. We are going to explore some of those principles in this post.
We have no doubt that we are going to learn that quite a number of church leaders knew about at least some of the allegations years ago, before Chantry was arrested in July this year. We think it highly likely that even now, with the charges having been laid, some church members are being told things like:
- We must not speak of these things or we will be guilty of gossip.
- The ninth commandment says you must not bear false witness against your neighbor, so any speech, especially public speech, about this case is wrong.
- We must respect Chantry because he is a fellow Christian and a pastor.
- Respect means BE QUIET! (this does not have to be said in words; it can be conveyed by a frown or a glare)
Here is a very typical lashback at someone who works to expose evil:
“Any discussion about this is gossip. There is nothing here that should be exposed.”
“ANY discussion. ANY questions. So just…shut up.” To expose evil in the church is gossip, you see. The fangs quickly come out and snarl those kinds of words. But the Lord says—
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:11)
The website of the church which Chantry has pastored for the last ten years or so—Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Hales Corners, Milwaukee, Wisconsin—says he is on ‘leave of absence’ (link). Here is a screen shot from the church’s website.
If you click on the screen shot it will enlarge. You will see that since leaving the pastoral position in Arizona, Chantry spent four years teaching in a Christian school in Chicago, and has been a pastor in at least one other church.
We wonder if Chantry is on paid or unpaid leave. We wonder why the church website does not state that Chantry’s leave of absence is related to him having been arrested and charged on multiple criminal charges. We wonder why the church website does not inform the church members about the charges which Chantry is facing.
Journalist Tiffany Stoiber writes:
According to a police report filed in January 2016, an elder of the church [Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Hales Corners, Prescott, Arizona] reported that Chantry had, during a private meeting, admitted to spanking some kids at the church and said that “maybe he had taken it too far.” He added that Chantry apologized to one of the families and left the town a few days after.
Once Chantry left, the same report said, “more allegations from other victims was (sic) revealed.” The elder said that a committee of church association members investigated the claims, which included interviewing every adult and child at the church about their contact with Chantry.
After the church investigation, the elder said in the report that other elders, parents, and other church members were “not happy with the end result.” He added that the church association told parents about their options, including reporting the incidents to law enforcement; however, it seems that no families contacted the police at that time.
The first report of these incidents to law enforcement, according to police records, was not until July 2015.
Chantry was arrested in July 2016, and now, December, the indictments have been announced (court record details here or do your own search here by writing Chantry, Thomas, Prescott Court into the appropriate fields.
Scripture requires that a man be “above reproach” to be a shepherd in Christ’s church
… appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, … not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. …
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith … To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:9-16 ESV emphasis added)
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, … sober-minded,self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. … Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:2-7 emphasis added)
Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those [elders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. (1 Tim 5:19-21, emphasis added)
Some questions about the Tom Chantry case
By listing these questions we are not implying that we know any of the answers. Nor are our questions pointing to or hinting at any snippets of the truth. Our list of questions is not exhaustive, and it is not meant to be used to infer how to join dots and so find out the truth. But they are legitimate questions to ask.
Five key questions:
- When did church authorities first become aware of an allegation or allegations against Chantry, made by one or more of the children or their caregivers?
- When church authorities became aware, what did they do about it?
- How long was Chantry allowed to remain a pastor after allegations became known?
- When church authorities became aware that Chantry had been arrested in July this year, what did they do about it?
- Since the indictments have been spelled out this December, what have church authorities been doing about it?
Thirteen subsidiary / more detailed questions
- If Tiffany Stoiber’s report is correct and elders, parents, and other church members were “not happy with the end result” of the Church Association’s investigation, how come Chantry was able to go on pastoring in other churches and teaching in a school?
- If Tiffany Stoiber’s report is correct, how could the representatives of the Church Association which investigated the claims back in year x (whatever year they did their investigation) not feel duty bound to report the allegations to the police?
- If Tiffany Stoiber’s report is correct that Chantry had “admitted to spanking some kids at the church and said that ‘maybe he had taken it too far’ … apologized to one of the families and left the town a few days after” — is it likely that Chantry was above reproach from then on?
- A pastor who admits to ‘maybe’ spanking kids too hard and apologises to one (but not all) of the families and leaves town a few days after — is there not a question mark over his reputation, by (a) his own admission and (b) the fact that he skipped town so rapidly?
- How could any later churches Chantry pastored after he left Arizona be confident he was above reproach?
- Did the unhappy church in Arizona get the opportunity to pass on to other churches their warning about Chantry — how and why they thought he was not above reproach?
- Did the Arizona church try to tell others in their stream of Christendom, only to find their testimony discounted?
- What did the Church Association Representatives who investigated Chantry’s Arizona conduct do? Or not do?
- What did the other churches who were members of that Church Association get told?
- If those other churches were told anything, what did they then do or not do?
- Why didn’t the wider church get warned about Chantry?
- After Chantry was arrested this July, did the leaders at the church where Chantry was pastor and the leaders at places where Chantry he had worked before tell their flocks immediately?
- In cases like this, the congregation has a right to know early on because they need to re-examine what they have been listening to. If a man has been preaching to others week after week but has been evading responsibility for crimes against children, wouldn’t he have been interpreting Scripture through self-justifying lenses? And therefore, wouldn’t that preaching have been endangering the flock?
Since Chantry has been charged with child abuse, it is VERY important to inform all the parents of families Chantry has pastored or taught. By knowing that information, parents may be able to care for their children more wisely. And informing parents sooner rather than later may give rise to more information being reported to the secular prosecuting authorities — information which could enable justice to be done.
Here is part of a statement made by David Clohessy, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in relation to Tom Chantry’s indictment:
… now is not the time for complacency. An arrest is not a conviction. Many times, we see shrewd predators get expensive lawyers and exploit technicalities, escaping convictions or long sentences. Then, sometimes they assault more kids.
So we call on Chantry’s current and former church supervisors, colleagues and members in Wisconsin and Arizona to use pulpit announcements, bulletin notices and church mailings to help law enforcement prosecute Rev. Chantry and seek out – and help – others he may have hurt.
These churches gave Chantry access to kids. So their civic and moral duty doesn’t end with his arrest. …
Ministers call themselves “shepherds.” In cases like this, a caring shepherd admits there are likely other “lost sheep” out there, suffering in silence, shame and self-blame. He or she would use every possible method of reaching out to them – church signs, bulletins, mailings and pulpit announcements. Instead, most ministers do little but focus on protecting themselves from criticism and litigation. We hope this doesn’t happen here.
Jeff Crippen’s experience of ARBCA
In the past couple of years, I (Jeff Crippen) had some conversations with several pastors whose churches (like mine) were formerly members of ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America). When our churches were members of ARBCA there was huge turmoil and division over what I consider to be, at best, a third-level doctrinal issue (at least, that was the STATED issue). The doctrinal issue, divine impassibility, was being elevated by the Theology Committee and Association Council to the level of a definitive doctrine to go to the wall for, and which must be adhered to or a person/church would be put out of the association. Many, many pastors and churches and missionaries left ARBCA as a result.
As I spoke with these pastors who left ARBCA, at least three of them who were “in the know” said that they had seen evil at work in all this. AND YET THEY WOULD NEVER SAY SO PUBLICLY. At all of their meetings, in all their larger circle discussions of the matter, they would call this whole thing “a sad disagreement among Christian brothers.” Those who went on to hold organizational meetings for a new association would start off their meetings with something like, “Now, we don’t want to speak negatively at this meeting. We don’t want to say anything negative about our brothers in the Lord. We don’t want to dwell on that.” So any and all discussion of the possibility of EVIL having been at work among us was effectively squelched. They did not learn their lesson, and they are destined to repeat the very same allowance of wickedness to assault them again from within.
There is a Code of Silence taught and enforced in the church and Evil is hiding out because of it.
The Code-of-Silence dynamic works constantly in our churches. It is the ugly sister of the more genteel-looking Tone Police. Wives must never speak negatively of their husbands and if they do—even if they are reporting rank domestic abuse—they are often silenced with the accusation that they are sinning by disrespecting their husband. Children are taught to obey their parents, and rightfully so; but even that obedience does not mean unconditional obedience no matter what a parent does. Family secrets lie buried. Church secrets lie buried.
How do you think that pedophiles so successfully continue to work in the flock? The signs are seen. The revelations are (sometimes, eventually) made by victims, but the matter is consistently hushed up. “Oh, we must not think such things about a brother in Christ. That man is a pastor, God’s anointed. Where are the multiple witnesses you need? Don’t ever say such things again.” Or else they “tell you about your options, including reporting the incidents to law enforcement” but they don’t report it to law enforcement themselves, even if as ministers they are mandated by law to do so. And people like this don’t offer to support you if you decide to report it to the police. If you look like you might be thinking of going to the police, they give you cold vibes, to deter you.
There is a Code of Silence taught and enforced in the church and Evil is hiding out because of it.
This code of silence is promoted by false teachings on “unconditional” respect, obedience, love, forgiveness, patience, yada, yada, yada. This is how false sheep/shepherds successfully continue their masquerade.
Years back when I (Jeff) was just beginning my sermon series on domestic abuse hiding in the church, the series that led to the book A Cry for Justice [you can still access that sermon series here], I met strong resistance immediately. A man who was an elder in our church and who is no longer in our church, how shall I say it, “freaked out” in anger. He tried to stop me from preaching that series. He threw fits at elder meetings, making accusations of unforgiveness against us. The Code of Silence, you see. By God’s grace it didn’t work — and A Cry for Justice as a ministry began.
It is long past time for us to stop being silenced by this wicked Code. This is what needs to happen. Christ’s Word needs to be spoken once again, and when it is we will be astonished because it has been sooo long since we heard it:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)