Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Covenant Children

Scandals come and go in Moscow, and I on most days I could probably produce a headline, an email, a post from the local listserv — some form of documentation that marks the anniversary of one scandal or another. For example, yesterday marked an anniversary for Wilson’s little problem in North Carolina, tomorrow marks another special anniversary for Wilson, and today marks the anniversary of a very pastoral (at least by Wilson’s standards) email that Douglas Wilson sent buckshot-style to a group of young men whom he thought were involved in the Morton Street Casino, though he did not know for sure.

As scandals go, this would be no big deal except for one significant fact — Wilson sent this email roughly one month before the infamous 2002 Auburn Avenue Pastor’s Conference where the Monroe Four revealed the Federal Vision — that new theology designed for the children:

Believing the Promises
One of our fundamental concerns is this: we want to insist upon believing God’s promises concerning our children. This is just another way of believing that God will preserve His covenant people over time. We affirm the perseverance of the saints, and not just the perseverance of one individual saint. But the saints extend over generations. The promises do not come to detached individuals. Covenant children are placed in covenant homes by a sovereign God, and we are required as Christians to believe the promises of Scripture concerning these children. Further, as church members we must believe the words of our own oaths and commitments that we make at these baptisms. Those of us who are pastors often require others to make such commitments as well. It is most necessary in such settings to actually believe what we are saying. (Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons, ed. by E. Calvin Beisner [Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Knox Theological Seminary, 2004] 1, 2)

“Covenant children are placed in covenant homes.” Right. I am very close friends with three different couples who said that they learned about the casino when their sons showed them this email. Wilson never notified them their children may have been involved in illegal gambling activity. He just fired off a flamethrower at some of the young men whom he thought could have been involved, and that was the last of his pastoral involvement. Last, that is, except for the payoff.

Regardless, when I hear the FVists cry, “It’s for the children,” I know better. These men care no more for the children than they do the gospel, which is to say they care not at all. And if you don’t believe me, then read this email and ask yourself if you would appreciate your pastor sending this screed to your child before you ever knew about the incident. Then ask yourself if this was an appropriate pastoral response from the man spearheading the “new reformation” on behalf of the covenant children placed in “covenant homes.”

One thing is clear, at any rate: Wilson sure was jealous for his reputation and that of his pet institutions, whatever else he may or may not have felt for the souls in his charge.

—— Original Message ——
From: Douglas
To: —@juno.com; —@hotmail.com; eatwood@hotmail.com; —@aol.com; —@hotmail.com; —@uidaho.edu; —@usa.net; —@juno.com; —@hotmail.com; —@hotmail.com; —@aol.com; —@hotmail.com; —@hotmail.com; Patch Blakey; Doug Jones; Matt Gray; Roy Atwood; Chris Schlect; Wes Struble; Stan Miller; Bob Hieronymus; John Howell; James Nance; Matt Whitling
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2001 4:00 PM


I am writing you all this way because you are related in some way to the recent gambling events at the house on Morton. Your relationship might be tenuous or not — the fact that you are receiving this does not mean that you are accused of anything. It simply means that you are connected in some way — whether through personal involvement, residence there, or because you have somehow learned about it afterwards.

First, you need to know that this situation is not a secret, but neither is it fully public. We don’t mind if you talk amongst yourselves about what has happened, or if you pass on what has happened to anyone who needs to know. But if you pass it on, please include the contents of this email in what you say. We are not trying to hush anything up, but if you talk about it, please include this.

For those who were involved, there were three gross sins in all of this. The first was the grievous lack of love for one another displayed in various ways. Some supposed friends encouraged others to get in serious financial trouble, and helped them to do it. Some just knew about it and said nothing. Some should have known about it. Some others found out about it afterwards, and are now wondering what the elders are going to do. And so forth. Scriptures do not command us all to love our neighbor, except for the young men who get to be irresponsible. The Bible does not say that males in your age group are allowed to treat one another with the kind of contempt you have shown one to another in all of this. No one that I know of is maintaining that the placing of a bet is necessarily sinful — the problem is not penny ante poker, or betting with chips. Please do not think for a moment that we are obsessing over a friendly game of cards. The problem rather is the unfriendliness, the stench of selfishness, the astonishing me-first-ism, the aroma of death that exudes from virtually everything your circle of young men has done. If it came out in the church that your group was now talking junior high girls into a getting tattooed on the rear end, why is it that many of those who know about your behavior the last few years could only say that figures. And somebody over there would probably want to argue about it — “where does the Bible say we can’t talk junior high girls into whatever? They were just small tattoos.” The answer is that you do not love God, and you do not love your neighbor, and a number of your neighbors know it by now. So the first great problem here is selfishness and a self-willed lack of love.

The second sin was the lack of interest in all the issues of reputation and testimony that we have been urging upon you in the proverbial fathead talks for several years now. By now, the pattern of stubbornness in the face of such exhortations shows that a number of you are either really stupid or bona fide hypocrites, and quite possibly both. We know that some of you are hypocrites who will say and do anything to get out of trouble. And we know that others are just simply foolish. In the midst of this, the Bible requires us to take professions of repentance at face value, and so we do (Luke 17). But we want you to know that this obedience on our part does not mean that we are gullible. The fact that you are being obtuse about your spiritual direction and drift and reputation does not mean that we are obtuse about it. The reason we give so many warnings is because we see so many who need them. I am writing to a group, so you may apply this as needed. Your carnal mindset, your lack of spiritual concern, your love of the flesh, are the reasons we give such warnings. Jesus told the parable of the ten virgins, all of whom had the lamp of covenant membership. But not all of them had the oil of grace. Put bluntly, some of you do not understand the warnings we have been giving because you are intent on going to Hell, and I am not speaking metaphorically. Hell is capitalized here, because it is a place, like Seattle. Reputation is the least of your worries, but the fact that many of you are incapable of seeing the problem here indicates a far deeper problem. Take heed to your souls — you are drifting. What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?

And the third sin is the slander and false accusations that have been made against me, the elders, NSA, and so forth in the immediate aftermath of this. Some of you have participated in this, some of you have just listened. We know the kinds of things that have been said, and the fact that such talk can gain any currency at all shows how twisted your perspective can get when you care more about being cool than about holiness.

So consider this a severe rebuke from your pastor. Some of you are being rebuked, and some of you are simply observing the delivery of a rebuke to others. And I know that the circumstances have varied, and I do not yet have all the information, and so there may be more coming. But this is where it is right now. And so, what do we do now? Our understanding of the circumstances (since the problems with larger bets started) is as follows. If any of you know of facts that are otherwise than this, please let me know.

—— served as the bank, or the owner of the mini-casino.
Ethan Atwood served as the manager. He is currently owed a little money.
—— owes a little money. I don’t know how much.
—— played very little, never going in for more than five dollars, and is currently owed a little.
—— played frequently, and owes over $2,000 to Brett.
—— played frequently, and owes over $2,000 to Brett.
—— played frequently and is even.
—— played less frequently and owes $100 or so.
—— played only once, and played with very little money. He was paid in cash at the time, making $20
—— played only once, and with cash, not credit. He went down only $8 or so.
—— played one time.

What we want is for all of you to do what it takes to get back to the status quo ante — the way it was before the big money betting started. In other words, if you got a check from Brett for three hundred dollars, we want you to get that money back to him. If you cannot do this for financial reasons, please let me know. If you owe money generated out of credit, then the elders have determined that you no longer owe the money. All the betting was illegal in the state of Idaho, a misdemeanor, and as soon as the elders discovered that brothers in the church were treating one another this illegal and unloving way, they determined to cancel the obligations on the basis of the principle contained in Numbers 30. The day we heard of it, we said that brothers in Christ under our charge were not to be permitted to act this way. Therefore, to the extent that real money changed hands, we want it to go back to the original owner. To the extent that bets were made on credit, those obligations are now cancelled. If anyone has any question about what they are to do, please ask me.

There are other possible ramifications from this which do not concern you directly as a group. Please seek God’s forgiveness, one another’s forgiveness, and ours, and pray for us that we would have wisdom in the situation. And do not assume that if you do not know about something that it is being covered up.

I am also willing to meet with you singly or in groups.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Mark T.,

Did you see this one?

Matthew French said...

Well, since you asked: I think his response was entirely appropriate and I would welcome this kind of pastoral help with my children.

Mark T. said...

Mr. French,

I want to make sure I understand you. You’re saying that as a parent you would not mind your pastor circumventing your “covenantal” authority so that he could vent on your child and other’s before he had all the facts? And can you please show me where the pastoral help is, because I do not see it.

Thank you.

Matthew French said...

Mr. T,

My pastor would not be circumventing my covenental authority by exercising his. Do you know that he didn't work with the parents on the issue? I would think he did. Anyway, I don't see Pastor Wilson "venting" in this letter at all. I see it as offering stern pastoral help.

Mark T. said...

Mr. French,

If I did not make the answer to this question clear — “Do you know that he didn’t work with the parents on the issue?” — then please accept my apology. NO, HE DID NOT WORK WITH THE CHILDREN OR THE PARENTS IN THIS MATTER AND, UNTIL THE PAYOFF, THIS EMAIL WAS THE LAST OF HIS PASTORAL INVOLVEMENT.

Therefore, when you write, “I would think he did,” you are showing your ignorance of the facts and affirming my original point. Of course, you would think that he worked with the parents and the children, but since he didn’t I wonder if you will change your assessment.

But just so that we’re clear, I know that most of the families on the receiving end of this email left the church because of Wilson’s abusive neglect, and I also know that his little casino problem was the reason he planted Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow — it was an outlet for the people who were pulling their hair out at their pastor’s unbelievable conduct.

Try it this way. Just as Wilson withheld his knowledge of this scandal from the families involved, so he withheld his knowledge of a serial pedophile raping countless children in his church from the congregation. He worked with two families, and that’s it. Then he waited eight months to inform the congregation that “a sex offender would be returning to the community from prison.” And I’m sure this would be fine by you and your “covenantal authority.” For me, it reeks of a blatant violation of the Fourth Commandment.

Thank you.