When the Dogs Stop Barking

His watchman are blind, all of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber (Isa.56:10).

Last week the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Peter Slipper, resigned after evidence was tendered in court of texted messages he had sent, which were disgusting and demeaning of women.

This man is a disgrace to the Parliament. I am glad he has resigned as Speaker. But there is another aspect to this unseemly matter that is unresolved. According to the Courier Mail, Slipper was “ordained as a priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion in 2008.” Slipper was ordained by his friend, Archbishop John Hepworth, who claimed that Slipper could still pursue a life as a fully functional priest.

Why? Well, said Hepworth, “the church has always believed in forgiveness,” and that Slipper’s fall from grace would be causing him “extreme trauma.”

Now it’s one thing to stand alongside a friend who has blundered but repented; we all have done that from time to time. But to imply that there need not be consequences for leaders in gross sin, indicates a rather coy case of Biblical amnesia, assuming the Archbishop even knows the scriptures.

No doubt there would be some today who would claim that it is not our job to judge Slipper. My response is this: the Biblical doctrine of a subject is all that the Bible says about a subject. It is not our task to judge the human heart: only God can do that. But we must make judgments about people in relation to their behaviour, to weed out people who show themselves unfit for leadership in the church.

In the Psalms, the Bible says that “God takes his stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Ps.82:1-2)
Paul lays out qualifications for leadership in I Tim.3:1-10, and twice he points out that an overseer or a deacon must be “beyond reproach” (v.2 & 10). Leadership begins with godly example.

When Paul was confronted with the incest evident in the Corinthian church, he wrote to them. He said that “for I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has committed this, as though I were present” (I Cor.5:3). He went onto say, “..do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (v.12-13)

How can the church expect to be taken seriously on vital aspects of society, if it cannot properly deal with its own fundamental issues of ethics? It is the ability of any hierarchy to deal proficiently with its staff problems that brings confidence to members of that institution.

There are rules in the Bible for private and public behaviour, beginning with the Ten Commandments. Those that show themselves unwilling to abide by these rules should have no hope of leading God’s people, for Jesus said that “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn.15:14).

And if church leaders who purport to be shepherds are unwilling or unable to properly lead and protect God’s people, they only expose themselves to God’s judgment.

The case against Slipper has yet to run its course, but we have a saying in Australia for men who show dangerous levels of incompetence: “he couldn’t run a chook raffle.” Where does the Archbishop fit in here?

“It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…” (I Pet.4:17).