BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (TAB) — How far is too far with church discipline? How much say should a church have in their members’ lives? And how do church leaders balance grace and truth?
It’s a hot topic in Christian circles at the moment, as megachurch pastor Matt Chandler apologized in June for the way church leaders handled the case of Karen Hinkley, saying they’d failed to show compassion. Hinkley, a former missionary, filed for an annulment of her marriage after her husband admitted to hiding a nearly decade-long child pornography addiction from her. Because she pursued the annulment, the church put her under discipline for violating the covenant she’d signed as a member, and they refused to accept her resignation from the church.
Autumn Miles, who said she was placed under discipline at a different church 13 years ago after divorcing her abusive husband, said she’s grateful Chandler apologized to Hinkley. In fact, Hinkley’s case spurred a deacon from Miles’ case to write her an apology letter 13 years later.
Church discipline, Miles said, “can be a very beautiful thing if it is done with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.” But, she said, “Satan can get into the process easily, and if it is not done carefully, those who desperately need the support of the church can become victims of a process gone wrong.”
She challenged church leaders to think about how, in these situations, they can be an “agent of change” to bring restoration.