Cissie Graham Lynch, daughter of Franklin Graham, recently started podcasting. Her third podcast “Criticism in the Church” caught my attention, so I gave it a listen. Since she publicly critiqued those who publicly critique church leaders, I think it’s appropriate to publicly critique her public critique. That’s a tongue twister. It’s shy of 13 minutes, so please feel free to give it a listen and publicly give your thoughts.
Same message. Different deliverer.
Cissie cites Romans 16:17, “Watch for those who cause division,” and addresses those within the church who publicly criticize pastors or ministries. She warns that those who publicly criticize pastors and ministries divide the church and destroy the message of the gospel.
How many times have you heard these words? What does Cissie think of those who publicly talked about their abuse by members of the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church? Or abuse experienced at the hands of pastors and volunteers in the Southern Baptist churches? What about the men who publicly blogged about James MacDonald or the women who bravely told of their abuse by Bill Hybels? How many children have been abused by predators because parents were told that everything would be handled internally and they were cautioned not to go to the police?
The argument that talking about problem pastors, volunteers, or ministries having an affect on the gospel message is a myth. This is a controlling message which uses fear to rein people in from being truthful and honest about their experiences. This message needs to stop!
What is this really about?
Cissie talks about how people in ministry publicly attack her father and his ministry. In fact, there’s a lot of talk about Franklin Graham. There’s even a story of when Billy Graham visited Jim Bakker in prison, which was used as an example that we should not talk negatively or gossip about fallen pastors. Again, the warning is that we should not destroy the message of grace and the gospel.
This leads me to wonder what the real motive is behind the message. Is this Cissie’s personal message, or is she a mouthpiece for Franklin Graham? She works with Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, so lines are blurred between protecting her father and the work of his ministries. Cissie’s bio states that she advocates for “women, children, the weak, and the hurting.” Does this mean she will advocate for any of these people harmed by pastors? If so, how would she do that?
This is message is not in the Bible.
Cissie cites examples such as Paul and Barnabas, Saul and David, and Matthew 18 for why we need to address pastors privately. How well did addressing Mark Driscoll privately work out? Many who read here know that privately addressing church leadership about issues tends to backfire.
Cissie doesn’t address the times in the Bible where leaders were publicly called out for their sin. The prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus addressing the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Herodians. Paul addressed Peter in front of others for his mistreatment of Gentile believers. Paul told Timothy of Demas’ love for the world and his desertion.
There is a time and a place for public critique. Often it only takes one brave person to use their voice for others to feel safe enough to do the same.
Again, same message. Different deliverer.
Cissie ends her podcast with steps to take if you find yourself wanting to talk publicly about ministers. First, she says to evaluate your heart if you have ever been critical. I say, if a pastor sins, it is not your fault and it certainly is not your heart “issue.” I find no need to evaluate your heart when the problem resides in the one who offends. When you are able, find your voice and use it!
Second, she wants us to pray for offending pastors because this will change your heart. I say if you want to pray for the offender, that is your choice. Pray for the offender to recognize the harm inflicted. People do find ways to forgive their offender, but that is an individual process. No one should have the Bible used in a way to shame if they are unable to forgive.
Finally, Cissie encourages her listeners to only do the job that God has called you to do. I suppose the meaning in this is focus on your own work and not the work of others. Or, mind your own business.
Has Cissie learned any lessons from those who publicly called out church leaders or abusers? Recently, many church leaders have been removed from ministry due to their years of abuse or lack of addressing abuse. Some church leaders have been gone for a short time only to resurface in new ministries. Some are still in leadership even though people continue to publicly address their abuse. The important thing is to never stop talking.
While listening to this I recalled the women who bravely told their stories of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar. Imagine if these women remained silent. Nassar would still have access to sexually abuse little girls and organizations would still be hiding it. I recently re-watched the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2018 ESPYS. This award was presented to the sister survivors. Ally Raisman said, “Predators thrive in silence.” If we do not publicly call out abusive or neglectful church leaders or ministries then abuse thrives. Silence and privacy is not an option.