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By Jeff Boyd, September 5, 2013

I humbly acknowledge that I am slow to encounter a significant cultural artifact. Last week I finally watched Half the Sky, a documentary about oppression that women around the world are fighting to overcome. The film is based on a book of the same title by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2010). In the first major segment of the film, Eva Mendes and Nicholas Kristof visit Sierra Leone, where they meet Hulamatu, a 14-year old girl who was raped by a pastor (PBS).

Hulamatu’s story covered ground I’ve been reading about recently—power disparity and sexual abuse in the church. Specifically, Anabaptist writers have been discussing the sexual abuse perpetrated by a leading Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder (1927-1997).

While I was studying at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), I heard stories about John Howard Yoder’s abuse back when he had been a professor at the school more than a decade earlier. In classes we spoke at times about the process of intervention by the seminary and by his congregation. For some time after the abuse came to light, the seminary refused to use his books. As arguably the most noted Mennonite theologian, his works are again read in classes, but now through a more critical lens.

Naturally, I was quite disappointed to learn about Yoder’s actions, to say the least. Enthusiastic supporters of Adventist preacher and writer Samuel Pipim likely felt the same way when they learned of his sexual abuse (we’ll return to him shortly). We rightly expect our spiritual leaders to walk the talk. Yoder’s academic and spiritual focus was on the ethical claims of discipleship, yet here was a glaring failure on that very theme. While it is reported that Yoder did not rape anyone, investigators have stated that he abused 36 to 40 women.

I was not alone in my confusion and disappointment. Yoder was widely read and respected, teaching at Notre Dame after leaving AMBS. In 2000 Christianity Today ranked his book, The Politics of Jesus, number five in their list of top ten religious books of the twentieth century. Closer to home, Doug Morgan shared in a 2011 conversation that reading The Politics of Jesus was one of the first steps leaders took during the formative period of the Adventist Peace Fellowship.

I am encouraged to see the Mennonite community addressing issues of equality and justice today in the context of Yoder’s legacy (see articles listed below). Because the Adventist community is not immune to these bitter realities (CEASE), are there lessons that we can learn from recent Mennonite efforts to confront this?

Interestingly, in all three of these stories—Yoder, Pipim and Hulamatu—the same power differential existed between spiritual leaders and laypeople. Amie Kandeh, head of the Rainbo Center in Sierra Leone, explains in Half the Sky that “the root cause of violence against women and girls” relates to “power and control.” John Hamlin, who teaches sociology of rape at the University of Minnesota, makes the same point. “Most rapists have access to a sexual partner,” he writes. However, they choose to rape because “gratification comes from gaining power and control and discharging anger” (List of Rape Myths). Speaking specifically about Hulamatu, Kristoff notes the power the rapist had in their social setting. “For a teenage girl at the bottom of the social spectrum to challenge and accuse a man, more-or-less at the top of that local social spectrum is an incredibly gutsy thing to do.”

This power discrepancy also existed in Yoder’s case. One woman addressed the power dynamic: “To confront Mr. Mennonite, a man of John’s stature in the church, is terrifying. When you’re dealing with a woman lay person in the church and John Howard Yoder, there is no way mediation will work because there is a gross imbalance of power” (Jesus Radicals). Charletta Erb reveals that “many victims feared for their own professional credibility, or their grades from him in seminary. Women feared him until his death, especially with the rumor that he still possessed a key to the seminary” (MCUSA, Women in Leadership).

And we find the same in Pipim’s rape of Nandipa (a pseudonym), who we later learned was not his only victim. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer (counselor, CEO of Michael Ministries & board member at The Hope of Survivors) shared Nandipa’s experience in a 2012 interview with Adventist Today. Here are excerpts:

Dr. Pipim had been invited there [Botswana] by a church young adults’ organization for a week of prayer. She was one of his contact people and hosts for the visit. She felt, and still feels, very vulnerable to this man of God who she so looked up to. …  Nandipa asked him for counsel regarding some scars from her life before meeting Jesus. He invited her to his hotel room. To Nandipa, he was an awesome, larger-than-life spiritual figure. Others were going to his room for counsel. It didn’t cross her mind that she should be afraid. So she innocently went into his “counseling office.” After talking awhile, he began to touch her. Nandipa wasn’t sure what the touches meant. She didn’t want to accuse a man of God of impropriety, yet he appeared noticeably aroused. That encounter ended when another counselee came. She left in a state of confusion.

He came to her later telling her to come to his hotel room again, that he wanted to give her a sermon on CD. [When she returned] she did take what she felt was a precaution: she rode to his hotel the second time with a Seventh-day Adventist chaplain, thinking that she’d get the sermon and she’d leave with the chaplain, as he was her ride. Instead, Pipim sent the chaplain away, saying he’d send her home in a cab. Essentially, he then violated her while she protested in tears. Before he sent her away he gave her $100 and some of his books.

Schwirzer address the power dynamic at work in this situation. “I pray people will understand the psychology here. She’s a struggling girl. … When you’re new to the faith, young, and female, you don’t question someone like Dr. Samuel Pipim. He was a hero, especially in that part of the world. … There’s a power imbalance. She did what women in her situation typically do: she pled for him to stop. He didn’t.”

Amazingly, some people still do not want to call Pipim’s action “rape.” When a woman protests and the man does not stop, this is, by definition, rape. Sex without consent is rape. Jaclyn Friedman calls us to protect women by setting the standard at “enthusiastic consent” (Ebony). She clarifies, “We assume guys don’t understand what consent is and that they don’t understand what they are doing and then we let them off the hook. They likely know they don’t have consent, even though they may not identify what they are doing is rape.” While extra-marital pastoral affairs are serious, I am here focusing on factors relating to abuse, and for that consent is critical.

­Culpability

Since blame is a central aspect of this issue, I want to address it directly. Who is to blame in cases of pastoral abuse, or in cases of rape or sexual abuse more generally? All too often the victim is blamed. It is said that she wore the wrong clothes, went to the wrong party, or was out too late. In the case of Hulamatu in Half the Sky, she bore the disgrace that came on the family. Hulamatu’s father forced both her and her mother out of the house, even as the perpetrator was released from jail and seemingly received no punishment. In response, the three activists—Mendes, Kristoff and Kandeh—repeatedly told Hulamatu that it was not her fault, she was not to blame, she had not done anything wrong.

Rather than blame the victim, should we point a finger at theology? Because this is such a broad question, we can limit our response to the three cases presently being explored—Hulamatu, Yoder and Pipim. Of these three, Yoder is the easiest to study in this regard because I know little about Pipim’s theology other than his opposition to women’s ordination, and I know nothing about Hulamatu’s attacker theological background. Focusing on Yoder, some have questioned whether his theology of “radical subordination” is at the root of his continued abuse. In chapter 9 of The Politics of Jesus, Yoder analyzes biblical teachings on subordination (Col. 3:18-4:1; Eph. 5:21-6:9; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7). Hannah Heinzekehr, a Mennonite writer, points out the following quote as especially troublesome:

The subordinate person becomes a free ethical agent in the act of voluntarily acceding to subordination in the power of Christ instead of bowing to it either fatalistically or resentfully. The claim is not that there is immediately a new world regime which violently replaces the old; rather, the old and the new order exist concurrently on different levels. It is because she knows that in Christ there is no male or female that the Christian wife can freely accept that subordination to her unbelieving husband which is her present lot. It is because Christ has freed us all, and slave and free are equal before God, that their relationship may continue as a humane and honest one within the framework of the present economy, the structure of which is passing away. (The Politics of Jesus, p. 186)

Heinzekehr responds to Yoder by noting the limits of his thought. “While he in no one way directly condones abuse, he certainly doesn’t offer a way out of violent patterns either. And, given this logic, one could even argue that it’s part of our Christian duty to remain in these harmful spaces. Yoder and I may share the same project, which is to suggest that Jesus Christ implies a re-ordering of structures and a doing away with unjust systems of oppression. However, I fundamentally disagree with the suggestion that acquiescing to these systems now, willingly or not, is an acceptable way to live and function” (The Femonite).

This is a difficult point to address, both because of the biblical material presently under review and because of the way these themes transfer into other conversations such martyrdom or the debate between nonviolence and the “responsibility to protect.” I will only briefly address the first difficulty here. Looking to the biblical passages Yoder references in chapter 9, I continue to be impressed with his interpretation of the radical nature of these passages as compared to the Stoic teachings and wider social realities of Paul’s time. For example, Yoder writes:

That the call is to subordination is reciprocal is once again a revolutionary trait. If this acceptance of the existing social order and the call to those who are subordinate to remain there were all that was said, then it might be correct when Lutheran tradition sees in these texts a reaffirmation of the creation order, which has about it the authority of revelation because God has made society thus. … But the Haustafeln [rules of subordination] do not consecrate the existing order when they call for the acceptance of subordination by the subordinate person; far more they relativize and undercut this order by then immediately turning the imperative around. For a first-century husband to love (agapan) his wife or for a first-century father to avoid angering his child, or for a first-century master to deal with his servant in the awareness that they are both slaves to a higher master, is to make a more concrete and more sweeping difference in the way that husband or father or master behaves than the other imperative of subordination would have made practically in the behavior of the wife or child or servant. (p. 178)

I continue to find this to be both a radical and well-reasoned argument. I don’t see Yoder’s theology calling for male domination with unquestioning obedience, but a mutuality of love and respect. The fact that Yoder did not live this theology does not debase the theology itself in my mind. As I continue to study, I could be convinced otherwise—my journey of understanding these issues continues—but at this point I don’t think Yoder is entirely wrong. Rather, I see a division between Yoder’s thought and his actions. However, I believe that Heinzekehr’s uneasiness with this teaching raises important issues. I agree that we need to remain vigilant in our awareness of the outcomes of theological statements. If a certain interpretation or belief leads to the denial of biblical values (e.g., treating others as we want to be treated), then the belief itself demands communal reappraisal.

Heinzekehr adds an additional thoughtful point, “It’s not that this theology mandates this sort of inappropriate behavior, but perhaps the problem is that, nowhere in it, does it stop these abuses of power from happening.” This is an important observation regarding chapter 9, and I believe it is why chapter 10 needs to be read along with it. In chapter 10, “Let Every Soul Be Subject,” Yoder digs deeper into the meaning of subordination. Although the spotlight moves from familial relationships to that of the Christian and the State (Rom. 13), the theme of subordination continues. Here Yoder discusses the difference between obedience and subordination:

It is not by accident that the imperative of 13:1 is not literally one of obedience. The Greek language has good words to denote obedience, in the sense of completely bending one’s will and one’s actions to the desires of another. What Paul calls for, however, is subordination. This verb is based upon the same root as the ordering of the powers of God. Subordination is significantly different from obedience. The conscientious objector who refuses to do what government demands, but still remains under the sovereignty of that government and accepts the penalties which it imposes, or the Christian who refuses to worship Caesar but still permits Caesar to put him or her to death, is being subordinate even though not obeying. (pp. 208-209)

Applying this distinction between obedience and subordination to a consideration of personal relationships may not be easy or obvious, but I feel it is an important aspect of both debates (interpersonal relationships and citizen-state). Just as honoring parents (the commandment) does not always mean obeying them, so subordination to a state or spouse does not inherently mean obedience. It is quite possible that Yoder’s desire to sketch out the difference between obedience and subordination in the context of the state rather than in the home or other relationships is an example of his own personal attitude toward women influencing what he choose to make explicit and what he left implicit and then ignored in his personal relationships.

Civil disobedience, which becomes theologically possible when one understands the difference between subordination and obedience, is an important thread in Christian thought and history. This is radical subordination. We see that Peter obeyed God rather than man (Acts 5:29), Ellen White told Adventists to disregard the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and Martin Luther King Jr taught nonviolent civil disobedience during the U.S. civil rights movement (Adventist Activism). By combining chapters 9 and 10 in The Politics of Jesus, I feel that we at least have the seeds of resistance to injustice (civil disobedience) that Heinzekehr is looking for, even if the tree is not fully grown. That is to say, even though I do not believe Yoder’s theology is necessarily sexist, I agree with Heinzekehr that Yoder left some critical issues unexplored in The Politics of Jesus.

Taking a step back, rather than focusing on blaming Yoder’s reading of the biblical material (or Pipim’s), should we blame the Bible itself? Is the book so patriarchal and misogynistic that the error lies in its pages rather than in the pages of commentary written by people like Yoder and Pipim? I have read biting analysis along these lines, and I hope this critique makes male Christian theologians and pastors pause long enough to at least consider what portions of the Bible are prescriptive for our time and what sections are merely descriptive of a long and bitter historical arc bending toward justice, to borrow King’s imagery.

Rather than address this criticism comprehensively (something I do not claim to be qualified to do), and instead of addressing more obvious portions of scripture dealing with female-male relations, I will simply address one of Jesus’ statements that I believe is relevant to this discussion of pastoral sex abuse and is often misunderstood—“turn the other cheek.”

Jesus taught his followers, both his male and female followers, that they should turn the other cheek when struck. Does this mean we accept all abuse passively? Does this teaching of Jesus in conjunction with Paul’s admonition to subordination leave victims with no biblical options but to experience continued violence? The abused wife, girlfriend or child is merely to accept the pain and give the perpetrator more opportunities for abuse? Walter Wink draws out the cultural depth of Jesus teaching and reveals it to be much more than is sometimes presumed.

First, we note that Jesus is specific about where the victim is struck—“whoever slaps you on your right cheek” (Matt. 5:39b, NASB, emphasis added). Wink points out that the “only way one could strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the right hand” (Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way, pp. 14). He continues, “A back-hand slap was the normal way of admonishing inferiors. Masters back-handed slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal. The only normal response would be cowering submission” (p. 15).

The laws of the time demonstrate the significance of the slap. The punishment for back-handing a peer was one hundred times greater than for striking a peer with a fist, but for back-handing someone lower in status, there was no penalty at all. We see that Jesus is teaching about a situation of significant social disparity, the same conditions in which pastoral abuse occurs.

What are the social and moral implications of turning the other cheek as Jesus describes? “Why…counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek?” Wink asks. “Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate. The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, ‘Try again…. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being just like you’” (pp. 15-16). Said another way, “You can strike again, but now you cannot back-hand me, I insist that I am your equal. I refuse to accept the power differential you are attempting to hide behind.”

It makes this statement because the turned-head presents a new situation to the aggressor. Wink explains, “He cannot use the backhand because [the victim’s] nose is in the way. He can’t use his left hand regardless. If he hits with a fist, he makes himself an equal, acknowledging the other as a peer. But the whole point of the back of the hand is to reinforce the caste system and its institutionalized inequality…. This response, far from admonishing passivity and cowardice, is an act of defiance” (p. 16).

The teaching to turn the other cheek is just one of the ways Jesus taught to respond to evil (also, go the extra mile, strip down, etc.). I do not believe these are intended to be three specific laws detailing what to do in these specific situations, but are three examples of the many ways that followers of Jesus can respond to evil in the world. They are intended to spark the prophetic and moral imagination. We gain principles and insights into unusual ways of responding consistent with the way of Jesus.

In the teaching to turn the other cheek, I see a significant principle that applies to pastoral abuse—radical equality. We are gifted by the same Spirit to play different parts in the body, but we are of equal value in our relation to our head, Jesus Christ (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:1-16). If someone tries to abuse another person, the victim needs to know that they are in fact of equal status with the perpetrator. We should have no room for rock-star leaders; we have one person to look to: Jesus, who taught us not to build up people with titles. “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matt. 23:8-11; NASB).

Jesus taught radical equality, and as the body of Christ, the church is called to embody this equality. One aspect of Jesus’ good news (his “gospel”) is that the differences we tend presume to be so determinative are actually illusions. We turn the other cheek because we insist on being treated as we deserve, that is, as equals, because we are indeed equals. We accept no other valuation (Gal. 3:28).

I am going to here forgo the important work of moving from principles (Jesus’ teaching on equality) to application (what victims should do in cases of abuse). I choose not to enter this important conversation now for a number of reasons. First, I find it burdensome when men claim to have all the answers to what others, especially women, should do to prevent abuse and rape (both before and within a given situation). Men should first direct their deep wisdom to other men. Male pastors are the ones perpetrating this violence, and men should speak directly to this side of the issue. To slightly alter a line by Bob Newhart, “Pastors, stop it!”

Second, every case of rape is different, and there is no one simple answer. Factors include whether or not the perpetrator and victim know each other, the presence of a weapon, the mental and physical state of the victim, the likelihood of escape or death, and other dynamics. Any advice that begins with, “All you have to do is…” is necessarily ignoring the complexities of abuse and rape.

Third, I believe that the Holy Spirit has a significant role in teaching us how to apply principles of the Bible to our lives and our situations. This principle can be applied in unlimited ways, depending on unlimited variables. As long as we are committed to equality, the Spirit will help us (both men and women, because both are abused and raped) know how to embody this teaching. We must each turn to God to know what we should do, to learn our duty. Ellen White writes that “we are not to place the responsibility of our duty upon others, and wait for them to tell us what to do. We cannot depend for counsel upon humanity. The Lord will teach us our duty just as willingly as He will teach somebody else” (The Desire of Ages, p. 668).

In the scripture instructing us to turn the other cheek, we have seen that a deeper understanding of the text makes what appears passive into something deeply proactive. I believe that if we dig into other controversial portions of scripture relating to gender relations and peacemaking, we will continue to find buried treasuries of God’s goodness and justice. Therefore, I do not blame the Bible for pastoral abuse. The Bible is replete with guidance for love, respect, equality and compassion. It is a sufficient guide for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

So far, I have asked if we should blame the victim, theology or even the Bible itself. There are two more potential culprits that I wish to note.

I readily admit that I have not addressed each of these first three questions comprehensively. There are many theologies or biblical interpretations I have not addressed, multiple verses of import I have not attempted to exegete, and there is some remote possibility that in some instance of taunting, a victim played a part in inviting abuse. I simply hope that I have demonstrated that the victim, the Bible, and general theology are not where we should focus our attention most directly when assigning blame.

Next, should we blame the institutions that employed these men? This question has surfaced in relation to both Yoder (Associated/Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) and Pipim (Michigan Conference and Lake Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church). Were both men confronted as soon as infractions were known by immediate supervisors and area leadership? Did victims have their voices heard throughout the investigation process? Were timely and appropriate actions taken? Was the safety of the community addressed by the actions taken? These questions are difficult to answer and demand significant institutional reflection and planning. I do not feel qualified to answer these questions in either instance, but simply wish to voice them as pertinent to this issue. If institutions failed in any of these areas, then they do bear some of the responsibility for any on-going abuse. Church institutions owe their members and Christ himself effective procedures for caring for every member, especially those who may be more vulnerable for any number of reasons. Interested readers can follow-up on these questions (Resources: Pipim: AToday 1 and AToday 2; Yoder: MCUSA Women in Leadership).

Finally, the last area of blame to consider is the perpetrator. Here I believe we can safely lay the blame. The perpetrator must take responsibility for his actions. There is no room to hide behind theology, one’s holy book or one’s institution. We are morally culpable for our actions. And when we remove theology, religion, institutions and victims from the analysis (at least for a moment), we are able to see that the problem of power and abuse transcend all of these boundaries or categories. For example, Pipim and Yoder are not the only abusers within their denominations. I surmise that not all of these other abusers entirely agree with the theology of either of these met, and yet they abuse nonetheless.

More broadly, abuse occurs in all faith communities. Andy Alexis-Baker gives a few pointed examples of this breadth in a 2012 article at Jesus Radicals. “What is all the more sobering is realizing that Yoder is not alone in his abuse of power. Indeed, there is a long list of dominant male thought-leaders who have used their influence to engage in sexual misconduct both within and outside of the church. Karl Barth, whose theology is unparalleled in Protestantism, had a mistress that he fraternized with openly and whom he did not credit for her written contributions to his thought. Paul Tillich, a brilliant philosopher, was well known for his womanizing. Stokely Carmichael, a pillar of the Black Power liberation movement, explicitly stated, ‘The only position for women in SNCC is prone.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.’s exploits with women other than his wife are as much a part of his legacy as his tireless work for Civil Rights.

This power issue extends beyond one religious body; it is not merely a Mennonite problem, an Adventist problem, a Catholic problem, or a religious problem. Furthermore, it transcends economic and geographical boundaries. Michelle Bachelet (Executive Director, UN Women) points out in Half the Sky that this is not solely a localized phenomenon within previous war zones such as Sierra Leone. “You see violence against women in rich places, in highly educated families, in very low income families, in all regions of the world.” Sheryl WuDunn bluntly states, “Rape and domestic abuse happen everywhere.”

Zainab Salbi (founder, Women for Women International) also emphasizes this point. “This is not a third-world/first-world issue.” Salbi shares in Half the Sky that world-wide three out of five women are abused in some way, which demonstrates that respect for women is still severely lacking.

Action

Instead of merely asking, “What should women do to be safe?” we need to ask, “What do I need to do? What does my congregation and denomination need to do?” Clearly, our work as Christians, as Adventists, remains. We must contribute to the safety and equality of our local congregations, our broader faith communities and our societies. No single action or policy is sufficient. Not coincidentally,  approaches to combating pastoral abuse are also beneficial to relationships within the church more broadly.

At the personal level, do I consistently demonstrate equality and respect in my words and actions? What is my response when people around me show a lack of respect toward others?

Collectively, we can work to create an egalitarian church culture, where all are truly seen as equal in Christ. For instance, when I enrolled at AMBS, I struggled a bit to adjust to Mennonite culture, which is much flatter than Adventist culture. For example, all seminary students, professors and administrators are on a first-name basis. Some time passed before I was comfortable calling my adviser simply Ted, even though he had an MA and PhD from Harvard. Listening to the Mennonite conversation today regarding Yoder, I see that the community continues to work toward an even more thoroughly egalitarian culture since existing disparities in the past worked to enable Yoder’s behavior. For instance, both the president and academic dean at AMBS are now women. Admittedly, reputation and institutional position will inevitably continue to create power differentials, so more is needed than a flat culture.

In our families and other learning environments, we need to promote emotional intelligence in our children, which includes respecting others and seeing them as equals. More specifically, in the area of education, Zerlina Maxwell describes fives things men (and teens) need to be taught: the concept of legal consent, respect for women’s humanity, healthy masculinity, believing women, and bystander intervention (Ebony). My wife points out the difficulty of teaching about consent in conservative cultures that take an “abstinence only” approach to sexual education. While I do not feel the need to argue against abstinence outside of marriage, a potential short-coming of “abstinence only” education is a lack of training about dealing with and expressing one’s sexuality in healthy ways. This also ignores the reality of rape within marriage. Sex without consent is rape, regardless of a legal marriage certificate.

Addressing an issue that impacts at least two of the issues raised by Maxwell—consent and intervention—Jennifer Chappell Deckert emphasizes that parents need to teach their children to speak up, both for their own needs and for the needs of others. Deckert, who is a Mennonite pursuing a PhD in social welfare, says, “Speaking out as an advocate gives power to people and situations that have been marginalized, and it is our responsibility to do so. When you feel something is wrong, speak up for a change” (The Femonite). How can we incorporate these lessons into the ways we raise and educate Adventist young people?

Finally, as we work to make our organizations and relationships non-hierarchical, and as we train young people how to communicate and how to treat others, we also need to have visible and meaningful disciplinary action for perpetrators. A culture of impunity must be avoided. There must be a fair and timely response process with significant implications for those found to be harming others.

May the world see in the church a body of loving disciples who treat others how they wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12) and who are servant leaders rather than hierarchical leaders, using power to take advantage of others (Luke 22:24-26).

Discussion Questions

1. Whether directly or indirectly, intimately or at a distance, have you ever been involved with a case of pastoral abuse? What do you think about the way it was handled—reporting, response, due process, outcomes?

2. What do you think about the conclusions given in this article regarding who is to blame in cases of abuse or rape? What other categories or entities would you include, and how do you evaluate their culpability?

3.When discussing these topics, it is easy to focus on others (other denominations, other religions, the other gender, etc.). How might Jesus’ teaching about removing the log and the speck give us wisdom when addressing sexual violence (Matt. 7:1-5)?

4. The Bible gives us a record of faith leaders’ failures and sins—David, Abraham, Moses, Peter and so many more. What role does authenticity rather than glorification play in our growth as Christians and in the health of the church? How have you used your past failings to encourage growth, both in yourself and others?

5. When have you seen examples of servant leadership from a pastor or some other religious leader?

6. Have you seen leaders who seemed to think themselves higher or more important than others? How did this affect their ministry? How did you or others respond or intervene?

7. Given biblical teachings on equality (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11), the sinfulness of all people (Jer. 17:9), the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9) and the importance of not showing favoritism (James 2), why do Christians so often view charismatic leaders in the same way that the world views entertainers and athletes? What does this say about the human condition and the “good news” God is still trying to convince us to accept?

Resources

Pipim (chronological)

Yoder (alphabetical)

Additional Sources

Services & Agencies