The Village Church has responded to criticism of its treatment of the wife of a member who had her marriage annulled after her ex-husband was found to be viewing images of child abuse.
The 10,000-member church, whose lead pastor is Matt Chandler, supported Jordan and Karen Root in their work with the SIM USA mission organisation in East Asia. Jordan Root was found to have been viewing child pornography and his appointment with SIM was terminated following an investigation and his admission of guilt.
Jordan entered a "process of walking in repentance" but Karen Root – now Hinkley – was told that her move to have the marriage annulled placed her in breach of the church's membership covenant. She was also told that her resignation of membership could not be accepted while she was in breach of the covenant.
After a storm of negative publicity, the church issued a statement to its members saying that "this case of sin has brought immense damage to a marriage and a ministry" but adding that "in the midst of this heartbreaking situation, we have maintained a tremendous love and burden for both Jordan and Karen, for both the offender and offended".
The statement outlines the steps taken regarding Jordan Root, including reporting him to the authorities. It said that following an FBI investigation of his computer he was not facing criminal charges. It says: "Jordan's sin is serious and difficult, and he has confessed, repented and appears to be submitted to the direction of his elders and pastors. This means Jordan is not in formal church discipline (Matt. 18:15). Instead, moving forward, Jordan will remain in a season of intentional pastoral care, where his role will be to remain faithful to actions in keeping with repentance (Acts 26:20), pursue holiness and purity, and continue to flee from sin."
Regarding Karen Hinkley, it said that she had "chosen not to accept our attempts to care for her and provide counsel", adding: "Karen's decision to pursue immediate annulment, to decline any attempt of reconciliation, to disregard her Membership Covenant and pastoral counsel, and to break fellowship with the body has led her into formal church discipline. While members in good standing are free to leave the church and seek membership elsewhere, those in the disciplinary process have covenanted to see that process through before leaving the church. Because of this, we have attempted to fulfill our biblical commitment to love and care for her according to the Membership Covenant she affirmed and subsequently renewed on multiple occasions."
In a series of questions and answers at the end of the letter, the church addresses questions about why it is still treating Hinkley as a member even though she has asked to resign and why it did not immediately support the immediate annulment of her marriage.
The covenant commits members to "walk through the steps of marriage reconciliation at The Village Church before pursuing divorce from my spouse". The church says, "We asked Karen to be open to the possibility of reconciliation but also clearly communicated that the elders wanted to hear Karen's side before helping determine whether there were biblical grounds for divorce."
The church has been widely criticised for appearing to treat someone with paedophile inclinations more favourably than his spouse, and for its apparently intrusive and coercive membership covenant.
Their church also sends out details of how to be nice to the man who owns child sexual abuse images http://t.co/XjEue5IRYV— God loves women ن (@God_loves_women) May 21, 2015
A lesson learned from Mars Hill & now The Village: using church membership/discipline to create closed systems of control never goes well.— Zach J. Hoag (@zhoag) May 25, 2015
Friends, if you have to sign a doc that asks for complete control over your most intimate relationship, to be a member then please rethink.— No More Perfect (@KellyWRussell) May 25, 2015