Saturday, August 06, 2011

Qualified for the Ministry?

Over the last couple of days a number of various blogs have raised the whole issue of what qualifies or disqualifies a minister of the Gospel - and it's been useful to consider the whole issue. I guess in a way this is a "blog-spot";

1. Phil Johnson of the "Pyromaniacs" has written a devastating critique of the danger of charismatic theology. His rationale (or lack of) is not Scripture but anecdotes on Paul Cain and his moral fall. According to Johnson - Cain's moral fall disqualifies not only Cain as a prophet but indeed charismatic theology. I am writing a response to Phil Johnson because I think this requires a longer answer.

2. Dave Harvey of SGM has blogged again reflecting on the independent panel assessment declaring C J Mahaney fit for ministry. The whole question seems to be whether C J was right to step down before declared fit or unfit - and the question as to whether the sins of pride, arrogance, legalism, blackmail and so on disqualify him - the panel think not.

3. Brent Detweiler has blogged a good post considering the SGM situation from his point of view. He rightly and acutely points out that we are not quite sure what C J has really confessed to - so how can we know whether that disqualifies him or not?

It is an important question. Dave Harvey uses the words; "public scandal" - and seems to think that the involvement of a public scandal would be the deciding factor. So therefore from Harvey's logic - we could assume that sexual or moral and financial failure (money, sex) would be the contributing factor. But what occurs to me is where they get this justification from. Scripture?

I've been discussing this issue with Pete Day and he noted some other well-known leaders and some of their sins of humanity. He said a good point regarding Johnson and Harvey's "logic";

Would he say that the whole of Martin Luther's ministry should be invalidated because of his hatred of Jews? Or indeed the whole reformation????

Would he say that Calvin's ministry should be invalidated because of his alleged consent to the burning of heretics?? Or indeed the whole of Calvinism????

Would he say that Paul's ministry should be invalidated because of his bust up with Barnabas???? Or indeed all of his epistles????


Anonymous said...

So do you think C J Mahaney is disqualified for the ministry?

Dan Bowen said...

Good question Anonymous - you've noted that I've never actually stated it!

Well probably some would think (bearing in mind my chequered history with SGM) that I am delighted in CJ's "fall" and think he should disappear never to return.

I actually don't.

Yes - I DO think that his obsession with sin-centreredness and a Cross-centrered gospel (to the exclusion of resurrection) hasn't been helpful for SGM and the rise of patriarchy, authoritarian leaders and so on.

But the same excesses occured in the Shepherding Movement and I still love, respect and honour Ern Baxter and Charles Simpson and so on's ministry.

We have to be consistent.

I DON'T think C J is disqualified for the ministry. I think he's human. Do I think he should be President of SGM? That's not really up to me - that's up to the Board. I think Josh Harris would be better in place, but I don't doubt C J will be back.

But I do think C J has a place in the ministry of the gospel. I just think his more solitary emphases would work better alongside an apostolic leader (like he was with Larry Tomczak) to bring balance.

That's just my thoughts anyway.

Thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you Dan.

1 Timothy 3:2; "An overseer must be above reproach".

C J is not above reproach.

dave bish said...

What "above reproach" means is a subject needing consideration...

Can't mean sinless, can't mean no-one ever raises complaints against them, can't just mean always repentant for failings (if those failings are too consistent). The standard for leaders is both high and very ordinary isn't it?

And if we interrogate sin too intensively and keep too many records of it we'll all be cast aside - when evangelicalism is meant to be evangel-focussed, more of Christ and less of me. A qualified minister certainly lives out gospel reality but above all that would be by not causing me to notice them too much?

Dan Bowen said...

Nicely put Dave! "keep too many records - we'll all be cast aside" - aint that too true!

dave bish said...

With no idea as to who is in the right or wrong and no desire to diminish the seriousness of offenses committed and failures in systems and practice and all sorts of other things, the fact that "the Documents" exist disturbs me.

If love keeps no records of wrongs, and Jesus has washed my sins white as snow then personally I'd really appreciate it if my friends didn't keep and collate every email I ever sent...

Dan Bowen said...

Hi Dave,

A very interesting question - sorry for my delayed reply, the riots in Birmingham and extra workload have somewhat distracted me from SGM and "The Documents".

You raise an excellent point. "Love keeps no record of wrongs". I've never read a more detailed record of wrongs than "The Documents".

Ergo - does Brent not "love" C J and SGM?

I don't know. I've had a few personal email interactions with Brent and I honestly believe he DOES love C J and SGM very sincerely.

But my experience in the NHS intrudes - we are taught strongly - "if it isn't written down, it DIDN'T happen". Documentation is your protection. Write it! What Brent has done very carefully is protect himself in a way that the NHS would be proud.

Is it church? Is it biblical? Why did he feel he needed to write it all down? Lots of questions ....

dave bish said...

I wouldn't question their love for one another, and I get the professionalism of writing things down.. but as someone has said, "brothers, we are not professionals".

Real wrongs are done and there have to be ways to deal with them, and real mistakes get made... and who knows how this might all have been handled better.

Our failings don't invalidate ministry, and one can only hope that good comes out of all this - for the parties involves, for movements, for the church etc.