Friend Defends Matt Chandler, Alumni Release Statement, and Nothing Else Is Clearer – Baptist News Global
If you thought Matt Chandler’s situation couldn’t be more particular, guess again.
Chandler’s August 28 announcement that he would be taking an indefinite leave from preaching and teaching at The Village Church north of Dallas has generated endless comments from other Christian leaders who think something does not stick. Chandler admitted to exchanging “reckless” direct messages with a woman who was not his wife.
Although Chandler clarified that nothing sexual or illegal was involved, his confession appeared to involve some sort of transgression that required him to temporarily resign over a “disciplinary” matter.
The speculation worked mainly in two ways about what this means: Either Chandler and the elders of The Village Church do not have the ability to allow a man to have a normal conversation with a woman he is neither married nor sexually involved with, or there is much more to the story than what is told.
A Sept. 1 message from one of Chandler’s friends claims the situation is overblown.
This assessment came from Preston Sprinkle, an evangelical author and president of the Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender. He is also the organizer of an annual conference called Exiles in Babylon, where he said Chandler was still welcome to speak this year.
Sprinkle’s comments were reportedly sent to his funders via Patreon, but BNG could not independently verify the source as the messages are only available to donors. However, an image of the post was captured and flagged as verified by a few online bloggers, including far-right reform site Protestia, The Evangelical Dark Web website and Instagram account Wrecked Wretch.
“The church’s message framed it in quite negative terms that could be misconstrued.”
In the message shared by these groupsSprinkle said he spoke to Chandler twice about what happened and spoke with an 18-year-old church worker. “The message from the church framed it in quite negative terms that could be misinterpreted,” he reported.
As for Chandler’s actual transgression, “he basically broke the Billy Graham rule,” Sprinkle wrote. It’s a reference to a long-held and much-vaunted policy of the late evangelist Billy Graham, who would never be alone under any circumstances with a woman in order to avoid even a hint of impropriety.
Graham’s ministry, of course, happened before social media and direct messaging were available. But The Village Church and Chandler seem to have applied Graham’s rule to text-based conversations in the modern setting.
While Chandler said his frequent messages with the female friend included “crude jokes,” those comments weren’t about sex or even sexual innuendo, Sprinkle said. “The ‘crass joke’ was booze jokes…and the big deal was that his relationship with DM seemed too ‘familiar’ for someone he didn’t know very well in person.”
Sprinkle then responds to a common issue that surfaced in reaction to the disciplinary action taken against Chandler by both his church and the Acts 29 network, which he leads.
He wrote: “To be clear, the woman he was messaging wasn’t offended at all and told Matt ‘don’t you dare apologize; You haven’t done anything wrong!’ It was the woman’s friend, who lives by a very strict Billy Graham-type rule, who was offended that Matt was caring for a married woman (even though Matt’s wife and the woman’s husband in were fully aware).
Sprinkle reports more information than either the church or Chandler has provided, including that an independent organization “searched his electronic devices and found no porn or any other type of inappropriate or romantic message.”
The situation is so exaggerated, Sprinkle said that “if we applied the same standard to all speakers, I’m not sure I would be able to have speakers at the conference.”
And regarding the conference, Sprinkle said, “I have no problem with Matt speaking again at the Exiles conference this year.” And, indeed, Chandler still appears on the website promoting next year’s Exiles conference.
Acts 29 Network states on its website that “in view of the findings of TVC’s investigation and in accordance with the preaching and teaching leave that the village church has placed Matt on, the Acts 29 Board asked Matt to step back from Acts 29 speaking engagements during this time. We hope Matt can use this time without speaking to focus on the process the TVC alumni have mapped out for him.
What is this “process” possibly also is unknown.
A statement now posted on the church’s website says the elders “have commissioned an independent law firm to conduct a review of Matt’s messaging history across social media platforms, cellphone and mobile. The investigators’ report led the alumni to conclude that Matt violated our internal policies for the use of social media and, more importantly, that while the general pattern of his life was “flawless”, he did not did not meet the 1 Timothy standard for elders to be “beyond reproach” in this case.
“We are strong believers in friendship between brothers and sisters in Christ, but there are limits to what is appropriate in these kinds of friendships.”
He continues, “We are strong supporters of friendship between brothers and sisters in Christ, but there are limits to what is appropriate in these kinds of friendships. A pastoral role requires a greater awareness of these limitations. In this case, while the messages weren’t romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line. They revealed that Matt didn’t use appropriate language for a pastor, and he didn’t model behavior that we expect of him.
And: “While the ancients believe that this does not reach the level of disqualification, we hold the elders to a higher level of behavior. The elders concluded, and Matt accepted, that Matt’s behavior was a sign of poor health in his life and that the best course of action would be for him to take time off to teach and preach at the village church. Matt’s leave is both disciplinary and developmental, allowing him to focus on raising awareness in this area. The timing of his return will be dictated by the expectations the elders have set for his development.
Matt Chandler takes indefinite leave after exchanging ‘reckless’ online messages with woman
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