Ask the Editor: Covering problems in the church

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Friday, April 5th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up, WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky on reporting on problems in the church.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: I suspect many of you have seen the three Indiana Jones films from the 1980s. Raiders of the Lost Ark came in 1981. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was 1989. I enjoyed both, but not so much the middle entry, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in 1984. It has one good line, though. Indiana, played by Harrison Ford, is struggling on a rope against Mola Ram, a renegade Hindu priest. Ford, in full grimace, says ,“You betrayed Shiva. You betrayed Shiva.”

I don’t much care about betraying Shiva. I do care about betraying Christ. When leaders in a Christian organization put money or political power ahead of following God, they betray Christ. At WORLD, when we get a report that a major leader may not be leading properly, we follow the procedure in Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew. We hope an individual, or then a group, or then a church will take action. If that doesn’t happen, we sometimes jump in. That can anger fans of a particular leader.

In December, WORLD reported the serious financial and anger problems of James MacDonald, head pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, one of America’s biggest megachurches. Some former Harvest elders had asked MacDonald to change his ways, but nothing happened. We reported some of MacDonald’s abusive behavior. We only used instances that had two or more witnesses.

Some of our readers were upset. They did not know that additional evidence verifying the problem had emerged. We have often found that once WORLD gets the ball rolling, others come forward. That’s what happened here. One person sent me a tape of MacDonald making vulgar and obscene comments about his critics.

I did not write about that tape or use it on WORLD Radio: I wanted to give the church time to take action. That’s what happened after a Chicago talk host also received the tape. He played parts of it on his show. Harvest elders then fired MacDonald. They said he evidenced “a sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger and domineering behavior.” Many of the elders resigned, and the others plan to.

One of our readers then sent a letter: Shame on WORLD! You have created division within the body of Christ. I am seriously thinking about canceling my subscription WORLD. I wrote back, “Thanks for your note and your vigorously expressed viewpoint.” I quoted the elders.

The reader responded, Will WORLD apologize for its articles on James MacDonald? If not I will not renew my subscription.” Our Mailbag editor responded that our coverage was accurate and necessary: Covering up big problems is unhealthy. That action betrays Christ. Cover-ups in the end do even more damage.

We lost one subscription and probably others as well. I believe we fulfilled our calling. The church did not act, so we reported the problem. We then gave the church time to act. It did. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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