Emergent church leader Mark Driscoll apologized for comments on the fall of former National Association of Evangelicals head Ted Haggard, saying they were misconstrued and he never meant to blame Haggard’s wife for his transgresssion.
In November, amid allegations that Haggard had sex and bought drugs from a male escort, Driscoll, founder and teaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, wrote comments in a blog that were widely viewed as demeaning to women.
“It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go,” Driscoll wrote Nov. 3. “They sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness.”
“A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin,” Driscoll said, “but she may not be helping him either.”
The comment unleashed a firestorm of criticism on the Internet. It prompted a planned protest at Driscoll’s church this Sunday, which was called off after he posted a clarification Nov. 16 and apology Dec. 1.
“A blog I recently posted has exploded into quite a furor in some quarters of blogdom,” Driscoll wrote Nov. 16. “Sadly, my intent has been widely misunderstood and/or misrepresented. Therefore, it seemed prudent that I provide some context and clarification.”
Driscoll said he chose to write the original blog because of many young pastors he knows who were forced from the ministry because of sexual sin.
“What I did not mean to communicate was anything regarding the Haggards, particularly Mrs. Haggard,” he said. “She is not to blame for the sin of her husband.
“What I did mean to communicate is that most pastors I know who have fallen did so with a heterosexual adulterous relationship, often with someone they were close to in their church. In addition, as I met with many of these fallen pastors and their wives, I saw a common theme emerge: most of the marriages had serious troubles that included a lack of emotional, spiritual, and, subsequently, physical intimacy.”
In a Dec. 1 blog, Driscoll said he learned something from the episode.
“I learned that my theological convictions, even the most controversial ones, are as unwavering as ever,” he said. “But I also learned that as my platform has grown, so has my responsibility to speak about my convictions in a way that invites other people to experience charity from me, which means inflammatory language and such need to be scaled back.”
Looking back at his original posting, Driscoll said, he could see how it could be misconstrued.
In the meantime, Driscoll took a jab at women in ministry leadership roles, linking election of the first female bishop of the Episcopal Church to a study showing decline in adult male testosterone levels.
“All of this has led this blogger to speculate that if Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men,” he wrote. “When asked for their perspective, some bunny rabbits simply said that they have been discriminated against long enough and that people need to ‘Get over it.'”
Earlier Driscoll wrote a blog offering 10 “easy steps to destroying a denomination.” They included:
–“Deny that we were made male and female by God, equal but with distinct roles in the home and church.”
–“Ordain liberal women in the name of tolerance and diversity.”
–“Have those liberal women help to ordain gay men in the name of greater tolerance and diversity.”
–“End up with only a handful of people who are all the same kind of intolerant liberals in the name of tolerance and diversity.”
–“Watch the Holy Spirit depart from your churches and take people who love Jesus with Him.”
Despite the fallout over Driscoll’s remarks, an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse said it is not uncommon to blame women for the sexual misconduct of male religious leaders.
Christa Brown, a survivor of sexual abuse during her teenage years by a youth minister in her Southern Baptist church, said “this blame-shifting mode of thinking” might explain why Baptist leaders don’t act to rid their ranks of clergy predators.
“They don’t blame the predators but instead blame the females,” she told EthicsDaily.com, “even minor females. This is certainly the impression that many church and denominational leaders convey to victims who attempt to report a sexually abusive minister.”
Brown and other members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have asked Southern Baptist leaders to establish an independent task force to investigate allegations of clergy sex abuse and protect children from sexual predators who aren’t forced to leave the ministry.
Brown said whenever a minister’s sexual misconduct involves a congregant, even an adult, it is not merely adulterous but is sexual exploitation by a spiritual leader. In some states it is a felony.
She also said Driscoll tried to minimize most pastors’ misconduct by talking specifically about heterosexual affairs. In SNAP, membership is split about evenly between males and females, she said, and it makes no difference in terms of damage done to the victim.
“Whether a clergyman’s abuse is inflicted on a boy or a girl, it is equally devastating and constitutes a horrific physical and spiritual violation,” she said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.