Update #3: Praise God. The Village and Karen Hinkley have reconciled. The Village apologized for how heavy-handed they were and agreed that she should have been released from membership when she asked, and she forgave them.
Update #2: I had written most of this post two days ago before finally completing it and posting it, and I had yet to see the response from Karen Hinkley until after I did so (linked below). I only had time to link it without responding, so I’ll do it in now, even though this whole post is ridiculously long already.
I learned some new things in her email and I’m not above saying that I was wrong on certain things, so I want to clarify things in the post (I will not edit it, so everyone can see what I originally wrote). I will say, though, that her email confirms my suspicion that there is a lot of miscommunication and difference of perspective here and not intentional deceit by either side.
-I implied in this post that Ms. Hinkley completely refused to meet with The Village’s leaders, but this is not so. She in fact did meet with them but stopped when she felt it was no longer helpful. I can still see how in the church’s eyes that this still constitutes refusal on her part to talk things out, but in her view she gave it a fair go.
-I can also see the confusion on annulment. Still, I put significant responsibility on her because while she says that the bylaws did not specify that the church viewed annulment as divorce, she admits that this on the church’s website. Also, this is something that would have easily been clarified had she spoken about it with the elders. As a member, she should know these things. That said, The Village deserves some blame here too for not making that clear in the bylaws because they should know that distinctions between annulment and divorce are debated issues in the church.
-With that confusion in mind, it is easy to see how they come down on this issue so differently. Ms. Hinkley views her marriage as a complete fraud because she would never have married her ex husband had she knew about his sin, but The Village sees her marriage as genuine (and therefore, her end of it as divorce), and they would probably argue that a lot of couples learn new sins about one another that possibly could have changed their decision in the past, but the fact of the matter is that both made a lifelong commitment before the Lord to make it work. This is not an easy subject, and that very fact should have led both sides to be more charitable in how they’re interpreting the actions of the other. Also, I can see how the word “immediately” can be interpreted differently. From the church’s view, she never discussed annulment with them and went ahead at it, so they saw it as “immediately,” while she rejects the term because she prayed about it for many days.
-It was not The Village but rather SIM who first reported the situation to the authorities. Ms. Hinkley expresses doubt that The Village was open about all of this, but that sounds odd: Even if it were SIM who did it first, that would mean that The Village doesn’t need to report it first because the FBI already knows. Their role would be to remain open and honest with an investigation, which they claimed they were.
-I can also see why The Village waited a little bit to see where SIM’s and the FBI’s investigation would go. If the required authorities know, there is no reason for them to go about telling everyone without further knowledge about the situation. You do not want to jump to conclusions about something this serious, and one has to balance between being cautious and destroying someone’s life. Ms. Hinkley disagrees with the amount of time it took for The Village to inform all the members after the conclusion of SIM’s investigation (they apparently already told all the leaders, especially those in children’s ministry), but it’s hard to jump to conclusions here because The Village may have waited for legitimate reasons.
-One big and obvious difference in perspective is this: Ms. Hinkley viewed her membership over right when she went in her letter, so all discipline was nonsensical. The Village did not view it that way. I still think she should have met with them at least one more time, say what she thought, attempt to hash it out, and if they still couldn’t come to an agreement, tell them that she was leaving no matter what they said. There’s really nothing more they can do after that.
-Still, I think, as I said below, that this emphasis on church authority was heavy handed by The Village. They are shepherds, not lords. Also, it seems that their level of care for her was not as apparent as it was for her ex husband, which if true was a grave misstep on their part. There is also a bit of wisdom needed to know when constantly reaching out to someone is causing more harm than good, and in this case, it does seem that The Village should have stopped a lot earlier.
Update: Ms. Hinkley has responded to an email The Village sent on the situation. You can find it here.
Because of car trouble this past Sunday, I could not get to my church in Arlington so I attended The Village’s Dallas campus. As the service began, the campus pastor alluded to current events that he said were heartbreaking and told everyone in attendance that they could find the church’s public statement on it on the church’s website. He also reiterated that The Village avoids discussing a member’s personal life in public, though the church leadership always remains open in communication with its members. Since I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, I looked it up on my phone and saw the sad story of a missionary couple’s marriage and ministry that was shattered by terrible sin of the husband.
Jordan and Karen Root (now Hinkley) were missionaries overseas, but it was found out that Jordan was into child pornography. The sending organization, SIM, understandably sent them back to their home church, The Village, where Jordan confessed. He was reported to the authorities by The Village and all the members were emailed about the situation. However, since he was repentant (at least, according to the church’s view), the church put him on what can be described as a restoration process. He can still attend service, but a church member always has to accompany him and he is disallowed from entering into the children’s building. As of now, the authorities have not decided to arrest him and the legal issues here seem murky to me since I have no idea how they handle things that happen overseas. In any case, this happened months ago, so why are we hearing about just now?
Apparently, Karen sought an annulment of her marriage and also wanted to resign her membership with The Village. She has not been interested in meeting with church leadership at all despite numerous pleas, and because it seems like her annulment violated The Village’s view on divorce, she was told that she could be placed under discipline. Also, because The Village, like many church’s, do not “cleanly” release people from membership if they are under discipline and not in good standing, the church refused her request for resignation. Evidently, she has claimed that the church “spiritually abused” and “harassed” her with texts pleading to meet with her, and she eventually went public. Her complete public statement can be found here.
This is no doubt a sad story on many levels, and it is difficult to address due to the strong emotions such a story evokes. Nonetheless, I’ll try to hit upon a number of issues brought up here, including whether The Village actually did something egregiously wrong or if, in fact, Karen Hinkley and her defenders are in the wrong. This may seem mighty insensitive for me to tackle, but I’ve never been one to believe that emotions dictate truth. I do not doubt that these events have dealt unimaginable harm spiritually and emotionally to Ms. Hinkley, but this simply does not automatically make her or anyone right. What needs to be done is to look at this situation with as objective a lens as possible, using both Scripture and calm reasoning. I know that’s not going to make everyone happy, but again, what we feel and what is true are not always the same thing.
Before I begin, I want to come clean about any potential biases I may have: I am not nor ever was a member of The Village, and I have always been a frequent critic of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement as well as Reformed theology, categories that fit The Village’s leadership. I am also not the biggest fan of multi-site mega churches, though I understand that sometimes it happens through no initial planning on the church’s part. That said, I have always respected and liked Matt Chandler and their Gospel focus there, even despite some disagreement, and my sister and others I know are either members there or regular attendees.