The Orthodox Presbyterian Church now has a New Horizons page on its website which offers articles from “experts” on domestic abuse in the church. Even though there is truth in the articles, I want to recommend to you that we do not let the OPC off the hook so easily by being just so glad that a church denomination is finally getting it right.
They aren’t getting it right and I will tell you why.
First, there is no mention of repentance by the OPC specifically in these articles. The OPC has been and remains guilty of blowing off abuse victims and embracing their abusers. If you want confirmation of that just read You Know Me by Kelly Orr. So all of a sudden, the OPC bigwigs have turned expert on domestic abuse in the church and now they want to teach YOU! Heads need to roll at the OPC. The guilty need to be exposed for how they have mistreated abuse victims. They talk about domestic abuse being “the great scandal of the evangelical church.” Well, OPC bigwigs, how about the great scandal and crime of the OPC!
Second, as proven by the quotes below, they are still teaching the same old same old harmful stuff – only often this harmful teaching is presented covertly without being openly stated. But I can assure you that it is there. Check out these quotes from an interview The Church’s Response to Abuse by Robert Needham (a pastor) –
An abuser will admit that he is guilty of abuse. He won’t just cry and say he’s sorry. He will then willingly agree to have the church leadership get involved in the situation so that he and his family receive help. He will not resist close dealings with his personal life. He will be willing to meet on a regular basis, that is, every week or every other week, with a prayer partner to whom he will be accountable. And he won’t give up on this. He will also be willing to do a thorough study on biblical repentance and to assess his life with that standard before him. He will demonstrate tangible, visible evidences of a repentant heart. A truly repentant person will bring forth fruits in keeping with his repentance, including accepting the leadership and direction of the session.
The church leadership should immediately begin a process of careful investigation and examination, using the process of “two or three witnesses” (2 Cor. 13:1)….[A common error is ]Failing to recognize that the requirement of two or three witnesses (see 2 Cor. 13:1) usually can’t be met in abuse situations initially. Children, for example, will rarely testify against their fathers. You must wait on God to provide confirmation. I have never seen him fail to provide corroborating witnesses.
What is the problem with these statements you say? I will tell you (though most of you already spotted it). First, they proceed on the assumption that an abuser can repent and we must be wise as to what repentance looks like. The latter is true, but behind the scenes this statement reveals the fact that the OPC is expects churches to “work with” abusers. There is no mention of the new birth. No emphasis upon Jesus’ words, you must be born again. Abusers are evil people with wicked hearts who do not know the Lord. They are not born again. But no mention of that fundamental fact appears here.
Third, these quotes demonstrate that the OPC is going to proceed legally in these cases. By legally, I mean that the machinations of the OPC church courts are going to be put into play. And I can tell you, those processes proceed at a snail’s pace and often end up rejecting the victim. To handle an abuse case via “two or three witnesses” requirement is a serious mistake. The proper scripture for domestic abusers is 1 Cor 5 –
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 ESV But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Fourth, there is no mention of divorce in these articles except indirectly. Tell me if you find it, but I can see no clear statement of “abuse is a biblical ground for divorce.” And in connection with this, there is (once again covertly) the given that it is the OPC church that will determine the case and allow or disallow a victim to divorce. Please understand – you do not need permission from your church to divorce your abuser. But the OPC never says this.
Finally (and I bet I could go on) notice who is writing these articles. They are people who are connected with CCEF, and CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) has consistently refused to be corrected for their harmful teachings on abuse. Yet the OPC keeps embracing them. Furthermore, these people writing the New Horizons articles are largely the “in-crowd.” The celebs. The widely accepted movers and shakers who keep cropping up at conferences. People who remain in the good graces of entities like the OPC. They are, as I like to call them, the usual suspects who do far more harm than good.
So, there are no New Horizons at the OPC. Don’t be duped. They have not changed and at best all this “new” stuff is just the old stuff wrapped up in a new package. It is business as usual at the OPC.