The sins of some people are conspicuous. The sins of others appear later—Rev Iain Campbell being an example.
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. … The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Timothy 5:22, 24)
One very common and widespread practice that is opening the doors wide to evil concerns the manner in which church officers (pastors, elders, deacons) are appointed. This error also applies to the procedures used in denominational assemblies to appoint committee members and chairs. What is the error? It is simply this—members vote for (or against) candidates who they really do not know. Let us give you some examples.
This first example is from Jeff’s experience in his current church:– When our church was a member of ARBCA, we would be asked at each annual general assembly to vote on certain issues and on certain candidates. We voted on whether or not to accept an applicant church into the association. We voted on men who were nominated for various committees, including the administrative council which more or less “ruled” the association affairs. We voted on nominees to the theology committee, the membership committee, and so on.
But we had no way of truly knowing much of anything about the nominees. So, boom! Rubber stamp.
The same thing happens in local churches when someone is nominated as an elder or as a pastor. How much do the members really know about these candidates? Very little actually. And add to the complexity of the thing by considering the deviousness and deception of the devil’s plants who creep in among us and you have a real formula for handing over the keys of the church to evil.
And that seems to be exactly what is happening in so many churches today.
A pastor whose sins appeared later — Rev Iain Campbell
A pastor’s wife recently told Jeff, “the members of the church have NO idea what their pastor is really like, and they wouldn’t believe me if I told them.” We should not be surprised that evil men are so easily able to seize power and control in our churches when we are so careless about following the Lord’s instruction in these matters.
The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Timothy 5:24)
And it is the second category that is the real problem. The ones whose sin only becomes evident “later.” An example of this second category is the Rev Iain Campbell. He took his own life shortly after his wife confronted him about the emails in his computer trash files which showed he’d been having affairs with several women in his congregation. (see here)
Rev David Robertson, who like Iain Campbell was a former Free Church moderator, wrote in his blog post after Iain’s death: “I don’t know what happened and I don’t want to know . . . God will judge.” (Only a secondary source documents that now, but Barb read the post by Robertson when it was on his own blog and she attempted to comment there.)
Isn’t that typical of what we hear from so many leaders when we make allegations about leaders’ misconduct — “I don’t want to know what happened.” This equates to: “Go away, scram you pestering victims and whistleblowers!”
But thankfully the Presbytery which oversees the church Campbell pastored has investigated the allegations made by Campbell’s wife. This is the result:
The Western Isles Presbytery has completed a thorough investigation into serious allegations about the conduct of the late Rev. Dr Iain D Campbell prior to his death. The Presbytery has now sadly concluded that elements of Dr Campbell’s moral conduct were contrary to, and censurable by, the Word of God (Bible), and seriously inconsistent with that expected of a Christian minister. (source)
Some of you may not know that Iain Campbell had been an internationally respected and admired leader in Reformed & Presbyterian circles. Wonderful tributes were written about him after his suicide. See for example here. Ref21 and Christian Focus scrubbed their tributes some time after the allegations became public. But the tribute by Professor Donald Macleod is still online here. Here’s a quote from it:
Iain D. Campbell was a brilliant communicator, in constant demand as a lecturer and conference-speaker. He had a quite extraordinary fluency of speech, but the fluency was disciplined by clarity, precision and careful arrangement. The delivery was effortless, though often passionate, the mastery of the subject complete, and while there was no trace of arrogance he spoke with the Bible-derived authority of a true preacher. … Iain D was a rare combination: an academic and a natural preacher…
…within hours of his death an American pastor was writing, ‘I never met or heard Dr Campbell in the flesh, but I knew him from sermon audios, and the sermons I heard told me all that I needed to know of the man. The reason for his high reputation was obvious. He was a man of transparent piety, for whom the Bible and the God of the Bible was a Being with whom he was familiar. The Bible irradiated everything he said…’
Yet Campbell been practising serious immorality for quite some time. The Times UK reported that the “incriminating emails on his computer appear to have exposed a series of affairs dating back to the 1990s.”
The Presbytery of the Western Isles in the Free Church of Scotland is to be congratulated for doing a good investigation and announcing their result. In our experience, many church bodies that investigate allegations of heinous sin are not coming to the right decisions and are not willing to announce their decisions in public like this.
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