Matt Chandler on The Village Church Abuse Case

The Village Had Apologized for a 2015 Incident

In 2015, Chandler and other church leaders apologized to Karen Hinkley, a former member it admits treating in an un-Christian way. After her missionary husband was fired for allegedly viewing child pornography, Hinkley sought an annulment. But Village leaders disciplined her instead, saying she wasn’t adhering to the The Village Church’s marriage protocols.

Bragg says she feared similar discipline but now sees the church’s “posturing” quite clearly. “No one was looking out for our daughter’s best interest,” she says. “She matters. Jesus says she matters. We say she matters.”

In a blog post titled “It Takes a Village to Deceive a Family,” Rod Dreher writes that the Braggs “discovered what so many victims and families have discovered around the country: when it comes to sexual abuse, church leadership often protects itself first, second, and third.”

Dreher draws comparisons to the abuse scandal within the Catholic Church: “The institution tries to put forth a public face, especially to alleged victims and their families, of caring, while deep down it’s working to protect itself.” Likewise, Protestant churches tend to use “theological arguments” to discourage victims from making police reports and seeking legal counsel, he writes.

Delaying the process is “unconscionable,” Dreher adds. “If you’re too busy to meet for months with a family whose daughter says she was molested by a member of your staff, then brother, you are too damn busy building your megachurch empire, and you need to think about why you went into the ministry in the first place.”

SBC President J.D. Greear has addressed the need for churches to protect people, especially children. “God gave his life to protect the vulnerable,” he says. “What greater lie could we ever tell about the Gospel than to turn a blind eye to people who are calling out for help?”

The SBC recently issued a lengthy report about sexual abuse, launched a “Caring Well Challenge” to churches, and provided curriculum to train congregational leaders about abuse prevention and caring for victims.

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Stephanie Martin
Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 26 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.