What accountability is there in the various Christian denominational churches, when one of their 'clergy members' is knowingly complicit in making a 'false complaint’?”
I can recall many political examples, what about President Trump and the Democrat attempts to impeach. I remember former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie lodged claims of a 'false complaint' with the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC). Two weeks ago we see where senior FBI operatives concocted evidence against General Michael Flynn.
In the former Premier's situation, Queensland Nationals Member of Parliament Mr Rob Messenger forwarded claims to the CMC that Mr Beattie had an affair with disgraced minister Merri Rose and forced staff to cover it up, allegations that Merrie Rose angrily denied.
In turn Mr Beattie has called for 'false complaint' charges to be laid against Mr Messenger with the CMC, and set out reasons why Mr Messenger should be prosecuted. Mr Beattie said that he didn't think his family should have to put up with such 'rubbish' and claimed it was 'political muckraking'.
Herein lies a parallel situation within church communities and independent missions. I have serious misgivings that a 'clergy member' within the protection of their Denomination or Governance can point the finger at an innocent party, and then walk away without missing a heart beat. The result leaves the alleged accused distraught and often in some severe stress; sometimes leading into serious ill health, and even death.
The late Reverend, the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes AC. MLA., the immediate past Superintendent of 'Wesley Mission' (Sydney), the largest single Church in the nation, spoke of this very issue in his book 'Leaving a Legacy'. He describes a situation in which he became the target.
Christian history tells us that any Christian leader who has been blessed and honoured by the Lord beyond their wildest dreams in witnessing first hand the astonishing hand of God will be a target by 'fellow clergy' with 'false complaints'.
At times, as history shows, the structures within the various Church denominations have not allowed for transparent and fair investigation of complaints. In many cases, Christian leaders are charismatic and attract a high profile among parishioners and Church authorities alike.
Some fellow clergy like their ideas, others do not. If the leader is forthright, or has strong opinions, then 'fellow clergy' within the Denomination will tend to ‘love him/her’ or ‘strongly dislike him/her’.
In such a case, if a false complaint is made against this leader, then it is possible that the investigation will not be seen to be fair and open, as it would be in a Civil Court of Law. The prejudices of the authorities may override rational judgment, and the high-profile leader may be subject to unnecessary and untrue vilification.
It might go away
Even if the complaint is shown to have no validity, often there is no appropriate counselling for the Christian leader who may be expected to get his or her life back in order and get back into the fray and what is worse, no accountability process for the one/s who made the false complaint. All too often the 'false accusation' is within the rules of the Governance which protects the guilty.
Whether the falsely accused's confidence, health, well-being and family have been shattered is of little consequence. Church structures tend not to be designed to help those who have been critically wounded. In a macabre way, the sentiment is that the one who was falsely accused is following in the footsteps of Christ.
An alternative investigation by Church authorities may be to investigate the 'clergy member' who made the complaint. In this case, it would be treating this person's motives as suspicious, checking previous run-ins.
This may put this complainant under unnecessary stress if the complaint is legitimate. There may be agendas implied to be from this person, that might be coming from someone else or some other group entirely. Even if there is a legitimate reason to investigate the complainant, this is a sad reflection on the morale of the Denomination or those who corruptly planned the complaint.
These are the opposite extremes, but whether the case falls one way or the other, or even if the matter is left unresolved somewhere in the middle, people’s reputations and professional esteem can be irreversibly damaged because the processes and methods of the investigation are often kept dark and secret, and the ‘verdict’ is handed down as something final and uncontestable.”
As evidenced by the Queensland political process, it is legitimate to investigate someone who it is claimed has made a false complaint. Denominational churches might reflect on this. A specific mechanism that deters those, for whom making a false complaint is an end to itself, such as the Queensland political situation provides, seems obvious. Such a process would indeed be a cause for well being.
Exonerating the innocent to full restoration with a public apology including financial compensation with settlement anguish and injury costs as is the practice in civil society. The idea of forgiving the guilty is a quiet private approach. Sadly, restoring the guilty who purports’ false claims to higher office is the norm. Pathetic.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html