|by Hohn Cho|
s he is wont to do, Doug Wilson wrote and published to the general public a strongly-worded opinion piece regarding a matter of current controversy. I responded to him here, and Phil Johnson added a number of helpful points here. As an aside, I actually wasn't aware that Phil and Doug were friends, which I say only to highlight Phil's fair-minded impartiality in posting my article, and to reiterate that my words are my own and should not be attributed to Phil or anyone else. Regardless, Wilson replied here, which forms the basis of this blogpost. And like Wilson, I won't be addressing everything.
For all of Wilson's protestations about "one-sided story-telling" and people being too "free to accuse without consequences" the reality is that my conclusions have been formed based on formal judicial actions and official public documents relating to the cases of Sitler and Wight, and as I mentioned in the comments to my previous article, CREC's final 2017 Presiding Ministers' Report about Wilson. So yes, that means a lot of sworn testimony and opportunities to cross-examine, which is also the case with a large portion of Denhollander's March 1, 2018 summary about Sovereign Grace. In that light, my conscience does not impel me in the slightest to attempt to reinvent the wheel by interviewing or cross-examining witnesses who have already spoken on-the-record. In any event, putting to the side his many criticisms of GRACE and Tchvidjian, the organization that did conduct an investigation of the Sitler and Wight matters was Wilson's own CREC denomination, and I phrase it that way because Wilson essentially formed the denomination, has previously been its Presiding Minister, and is its most well-known minister. Despite the (again, potential) bias of such an in-house investigation, it was interesting to note that the final Presiding Ministers' Report contained numerous clear and at times rather searing corrections for Wilson, some of the most concerning of which are excerpted below:
A. Evaluation and Support of Wight
Interestingly, even after much clicking, I can't seem to navigate to the report from the Christ Church home page, it doesn't appear to show up on the Christ Church domain after even very specific Google searches, and when I go to the direct link, the report is contained within an odd and difficult-to-use document interface that prohibits copying and pasting and downloading.[*] Say it ain't so, Joe, but it's almost as if Wilson is doing his level best to downplay or even bury the public report! I also note with great interest that neither Wilson in his reply article to me, nor his daughter-in-law in the links she kindly provided in the comments to my blogpost, nor any of the other supporters of Wilson in those comments, either linked to or even mentioned this report.
Accordingly, it's deliciously ironic to see Wilson question whether or not I am to be "a trusted purveyor of information" and speculate about my "agenda" merely for declining to link in advance to some of his favorite defenses, particularly since Wilson himself is not a constant practitioner of this type of linking, and my blogpost was obviously an opinion piece opposing his position which made no claim to being comprehensive, devoting just two sentences to Sitler and Wight, since my focus was on broader issues.
In any event, it's true that no one will ever know the full or complete story, that there's always that one last detail which could potentially turn the case, here in the real world we will always have limited capacity, imperfect information, and fallible minds, and yet we're still called to make discernments and judgments, particularly of people in the church per 1 Corinthians 5:12. Sometimes those judgments will happen in criminal or civil court (with the caveat that I certainly agree with Wilson that believers ought to heed 1 Corinthians 6:1-8), sometimes it will be an ecclesiastical body with authority over the subject, as was the case in the CREC report and Wilson.
And sometimes it will happen in the court of public opinion, both inside and outside the church. That's the plain reality of the concept the Bible calls reputation and we see it in places such as Ecclesiastes 7:1, Proverbs 22:1, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 which I highlighted in my previous article, and 1 Peter 2:12. That last verse is particularly interesting, in that it calls us to make sure our conduct is so honorable that even when non-believers (wrongly) speak against us Christians as evildoers, our good works will serve as an even starker witness. So when a watching world condemns us for holding a biblical view of marriage, they will also have no choice but to acknowledge begrudgingly that we have in fact loved and cared for all people regardless of their particular inclinations... and not, say, insulted them as "small breasted biddies" or "lumberjack dykes" in Wilson's inimitable style.
To be clear, I stand against "mob justice" and "lynch mobs" right alongside Phil and Wilson. I also deplore the Twitter and mainstream media "rush to judgment" mobs, with the recent Nick Sandmann and Jussie Smollett cases giving us two prime examples why. As I stated in my previous article, I share Wilson's views on the importance of the presumption of innocence and his concerns about the "woke" movement in the SBC and beyond. And I have absolutely zero interest in defenestrating, detaining, deporting, or even denouncing Wilson, really. None of those factors are at issue here. What I am saying is that people make reputational judgments all the time, from Yelp reviews to dating decisions to job prospects to churches, and usually with far less information than months and years worth of public court documents and other hard evidence that we've seen in the Sitler, Wight, CREC, and Sovereign Grace situations. And from that wealth of information, after careful consideration and not rushing to judgment, my utterly draconian proposals are that maybe Wilson should think twice before turning his rhetorical blowtorch up to 11 on the topic of abuse, and that Sovereign Grace should engage an independent investigation. Remember that, the next time someone tries to tell you I'm looking to jackhammer the foundations of Western Civilization.
This brings me to the matter of Wilson's reputation, for he does indeed have one, given his high profile and his frequent and eager use of serrated blades on the Internet to propagate his own strong convictions and viewpoints. As a slightly more than casual observer for over a decade, I'd say that Wilson has a reputation for being a brilliant writer with an acid pen. He preaches a generally sound Gospel and promotes a generally biblical worldview, despite some minor to moderate concerns over matters such as paedocommunion, postmillennial theonomy, and Federal Vision, whether he's actually calling it that or not, these days. Obviously, he has a highly devoted flock of congregants, and I say that with genuine appreciation. And he's Mr. No Quarter November, who hates giving even an inch if he can possibly avoid it.[**] And I'd close by saying he's more than a little bit brash and bold, so much so that he often comes off like a bull in a china shop. Wilson himself has acknowledged similar things in the past, but the thing I'd sadly add is that from my perception, it's true to such an extent that I honestly cringe at even the notion of him attempting to counsel and shepherd abuse survivors, particularly in light of the public record on the Sitler and Wight matters. And before he or anyone else accuses me of being uncharitable, I will simply repeat the findings of the final Presiding Ministers' Report:
We note that this language has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson's ministry. Pastors should be careful not to give women reasons to avoid seeking help from the church. Instead, we should make it clear that the church is a place where all people are treated with honor and respect, and where victims can find grace.
Despite all of this, Wilson still considers himself to be well-positioned to speak on these issues, apparently because he's a longsuffering martyr who's used to false accusations. In light of the CREC report and the court filings, however, I can't help but think that adopting a course of discreet humility would be far better than the risk of harm and disaster that comes from speaking out of a potentially misplaced self-righteousness.
Anyway, Wilson is a big boy who gives far better than he gets, while I'm merely "a gent named Hohn Cho". And I have great confidence that this series of exchanges will have no lasting impact on his feelings, reputation, or honor. My far larger concern, and the reason I was even moved to say anything in the first place, is for the feelings, reputations, and honor of the victims of Sitler and Wight, for Denhollander and Mohler, and for survivors and their honorable advocates. They're inevitably the ones who are harmed by careless and unprofitable words, as I believe many of Wilson's have been, as CREC wisely pointed out. But again, I'm of no real account here, and so I don't have any expectation whatsoever that Wilson will heed what I say.
I do pray, however, that as a minister called to the biblical standards and qualifications of an elder and as a man under authority of his denomination, he will ultimately heed the wise counsel of his own denomination's Presiding Ministers' Report.
[*] The Website That Shall Not Be Named, for the benefit of Wilson's supporters, has conveniently provided a fully-searchable document with added hyperlinks to other referenced documents. As far as I could tell, the text otherwise appears identical to the version on Christ Church's website, but I will patiently await accusations that it's somehow a fraud.
[**] I stand by my perception that Wilson is known for doubling down far more than for apologies, but I acknowledge with thanks his link to point #7 of his Controversy Library, which I had never seen before. It contains links to two apologies from 2005 and 2015 for what I would call negligence relating to co-authors' apparently unintentional plagiarism (the latter of which happens to relate to A Justice Primer, the very book he cited in his original blogpost that I responded to), an apology to friends for a certain paragraph order Wilson used in the Sitler matter in 2015, and what I think is an apology relating to any offense from his "race" conversations with Thabiti Anyabwile in 2013. Whether the form and substance of these statements constitute "material" apologies I will leave to the reader, but having now been informed, I'm more than willing to stop saying that I cannot recall any apologies by Wilson.
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