Update (June 10): Karen Hinkley, a former missionary at the center of a controversial church discipline case at the Village Church, says she forgives church leaders there.
Pastors Matt Chandler and Josh Patterson sat down Hinkley last week to apologize for the steps the Village Church took to discipline her after she annulled her marriage to Jordan Root, a former missionary fired for viewing child porn.
“Matt and Josh specifically told Karen, after further review of her situation, that she did have biblical grounds for divorce or annulment, that she should have been released from Covenant Membership as she requested and that she should not have been put under church discipline,” the church said in an email to members posted on the Wartburg Watch blog.
Hinkley accepted Chandler and Patterson’s apology, and “thanked them for their obvious sincerity and forgave them.”
“I am praising God for what He has done, and I continue to be amazed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to bring about reconciliation in the most unlikely circumstances,” she wrote in a public statement. “I know this is not the end of the story for many, but I believe it is the end of the story for me.”
Chandler had previously apologized—without mentioning Hinkley by name--during a sermon at the Village Church in late May, saying that church leader counseling had turned into “control.”
“That is behavior unbefitting to an elder of the church of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We did not act in accordance with the grace we have been shown by Christ. Please forgive us.”
In their letter to members, Chandler and other leaders apologized to the church and to Hinkley.
“We are sorry for our error and how it affected Karen,” they wrote.
The church also said it apologized to Root’s and Hinkley’s sending mission organization SIM as well.
“We reached out to several individuals at SIM, including the president, to apologize for times when we did not fully heed their counsel and were perceived to be threatening,” church leaders wrote. “Also, we are working with SIM to continue in our longstanding partnership to take the gospel to the nations.”
The Village Church told members that it had engaged a licensed sex offender treatment provider to counsel Root and that they would follow that provider’s recommendations.
The church’s abuse prevention and reporting procedures will be reviewed by experts, according to the letter, and the discipline procedures will be “a much more patient process” that keeps an eye out for the need for “specialized treatment that goes beyond the kind of care that we, or even a qualified biblical counselor, can offer.”
The leader of one of America’s most influential megachurches plans to apologize during worship services this weekend for failing to show kindness and compassion to struggling church members.
Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church, a multisite church based near Dallas, said elders there had been “domineering” in their approach to church discipline in a handful of cases.
That was wrong and unchristian, said Chandler, who also leads the Acts29 church planting network.
“We have sinned against some people—and we are owning that before God and specifically before the people we have hurt,” he told CT in a phone interview.