Evil is Using “Unconditional Respect” to Hide Itself Among us. And questions about the case of Ps Tom Chantry.
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)
UPDATE: Todd Wilhelm included the full text of our post in his article Quiet! Don’t Break the Ninth Commandment! (Jan 2017). Todd was challenging R Scott Clark and others who were admonishing bloggers for writing about the sins of men like Tom Chantry and Tulllian Tchividjian.