Holding the Church Accountable

I’ve been watching an incredibly sad story play out in a church community I love. There’s a church called The Meeting House in Canada that I’ve been connected with for a bit now. It recently came out that Bruxy Cavey (the Lead Pastor) was being accused of sexual abuse from a member in their community.

Not only have I been a big fan of The Meeting House, I’ve been a big fan of Bruxy. He’s helped me work through theological nuances on a number of topics. He endorsed my last book. He and I even talked briefly about the possibility of starting the first U.S. campus for the Meeting House after I left my last church. It’s a devastating feeling to learn that someone you have immense respect for has abused his power in such a profound way.

Yet my heart primarily breaks for this woman and the hurt and shame she has had to carry. When I was a Lead Pastor I resigned my position in our church after I fundamentally disagreed with the direction our eldership was going. That caused me to feel more isolated and alone in our community than I ever could have imagined. I cannot even fathom the depths of trauma this woman has gone through and continues to go through as she brings this to light. Especially as her voice has not been fully listened to in this process.

Another layer for me is that my friend Danielle Strickland was a teaching pastor at The Meeting House until she recently resigned after frustration with how the church handled this situation. Her desire to stand with the victim caused her to step away from her position at the church and look for ways to elevate this woman’s voice. She then recorded an Instagram live video with Jarrod McKenna. It’s about an hour long, but is absolutely worth the time to watch. She and Jarrod speak truth to the power of a church community in a way that may make many people uncomfortable, yet the posture they take absolutely looks like Jesus. I include the video at the end of this post as I think it’s helpful for us to see real examples in real-time.

As I watched the video and have processed all of this, there are two reflections I have:

  1. Pastors who sleep with a person in their church are not having an affair… they are commiting abuse. We need to acknowledge the profound role a pastor (or even an elder/deacon/overseer) can play in someone’s life through spiritual direction. When this role is abused for personal gain it can create immense hurt and trauma for others. As Danielle explains in the video, much of the mishandling of this current story is in the inability to name the severity of the abuse. I suspect the reason why this church (and many others) downplay the severity of these moments is that it’s more widespread than we will ever realize and it raises serious red flags for our current models of church ministry when we call it out for what it is.
  2. Christians who love Jesus must be willing to hold the church accountable. It can be seen by some to be automatically sinful to say any word of criticism against a local church. I certainly heard this argument when I left my own role in full-time ministry and explained why I didn’t agree with our elders. Yet Danielle and Jarrod are giving this criticism out of a deep love for the collective church as well as the Meeting House specifically. An unwillingness to name mistakes in the church fosters an environment for abuse. And I’m not talking about things you personally dislike or would prefer done a different way. There is a level of accountability needed that the pastor/parishioner model oftentimes removes.

I pray the pain and fallout of this situation would ultimately draw us closer to Jesus and to healthier church communities.

An unwillingness to name mistakes in the church fosters an environment for abuse. Share on X

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co. https://linktr.ee/JeremyJernigan