This, of course, is a fantasy. God has nothing to do with their anonymous treatment of Christians. They are licensing themselves, but who are they, and who authorises their approach? Who could know, since no one is supposed to identify them? They are a law unto themselves.
Rebuking elders is a serious business according to scripture, and not to be taken lightly. There are precedents set and procedures acknowledged on how to confront an elder, and the chookwatchers‘ approach is not it.
There are several problems with their methodology. The first is their anonymity, which has been spoken of at length on this site. They have made no attempt to deal with this important issue, and have, in fact, boasted that they have added to their number of secretive holders of the chookwatcher epithet.
They have created a chookhead comprising of eight veiled critics that goes by the name of chookwatcher. They are a self-authorised nonentity entity bringing accusations against senior ministers, movements and churches.
So what does scripture say about bringing an accusation against an elder?
Timothy 5:17-20 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
The important thing about context when reading scripture is getting it right. Who is Paul speaking to? Timothy, a young minister he has sent to oversee the very large church at Ephesus. What is the nature of the letter? It is a mentoring epistle to Paul’s charge. It is leadership advice from an Apostle to an Overseer. It is admonition to a specific person.
It is not a license for any blogger to take the law into his or her own hands and dispense a public rebuke of elders. That would be taking liberties with the text. Nor is there any reference to anonymous accusers (for this is what they are) bringing claims against leaders of churches.
Paul tells Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.”
Witnesses are always identified in court. They have to state their name. There is proof of their existence to verify their claims. They are never anonymous. And the charge is brought before the Overseer. He may have members of the Presbytery to assist him, but notice that the charge is brought by a minimum of two or three witnesses and before the Senior Overseer.
Witnesses have to have evidence – not opinion, or a contrary doctrine, or innuendo, or hearsay, or cloudy rumours enclosed in doubtful supposition.
Clear instructions on disciplinary matters
The instruction is clear, and it sets a precedent for hearing an accusation against elders. Again – do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses, and this before the Overseer of the church.
The obvious definition of and elder here is someone in a senior position in the church rather than senior of age. An elder is a faithful member of a local church who is respected and acknowledged in their assembly or in that city in a teaching or ministry office or position.
Note this well that it is Timothy, as the senior minister of the city, who is to adjudicate in any disciplinary matter. He has been given the delegated authority from Paul, the Apostle, to oversee any proceedings involving an accusation against an elder.
Notice, also, that he prefaces this charge with an instruction to take care of the ministerial elders by providing them with a double honour – pay them twice as much as you would normally. Yes, he is discussing remuneration of ministers of the gospel. He is talking about those who labour in the word and doctrine – teachers, preachers, ministers of the Word of God. These are quite obviously the elders Paul is referring to.
If there is an accusation, he says, it needs to be brought before Timothy, the senior minister and overseer, for his scrutiny. Then, and only then, should a sinner be rebuked in the presence of those who are called to the council that adjudicates between the witnesses and the elder.
The void of anonymity
Bloggers are in no way authorised to bring disciplinary charges against ministerial elders. Full stop. End of. Anonymous bloggers have no scriptural rights whatsoever. None. Even their opinions are rendered scripturally void by their anonymity. Granted they carry the weight all words do, but in a spiritual an eternal sense, they are voided by the lack of accountability of their bearers. No one is answerable to a pseudonym. Ever.
Timothy, you will notice, is not anonymous. He has ultimate responsibility for the adjudication of the case brought before him. He is known and recognised. He has recognised credentials. He carries the weight of authority in that church, delegated to him by the Apostle, and is the person who is authorised to dispense justice when an elder is accused.
This is obviously far removed from the practices of the chookhead at the chookwatcher sites, and on a number of scores.
First, the chookwatchers, who are the accusers, are anonymous. This in itself disqualifies them as witnesses. There is no evidence of their own character, standing, credentials, or reliability. There is no one who can vouch for them by nature of their non-disclosure of themselves or their fidelity.
That should actually be the end of the matter.
And it is clear that the senior ministers they target are acknowledged amongst their peers and congregations as Elders in he Church. That is indisputable. It’s not enough for the chookwatchers themselves, as accusers, to state that their targets are not Christian, or are not really pastors, or are leading cults. That is an unsubstantiated claim. It is opinion. It has no standing. The evidence is contrary to their claims on every point.
Opinion is defined as a view or judgment about something, but is not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Yet the chookwatchers have voiced their complaints about their target groups endlessly for several years, having started five separate sites all dedicated to what they consider the rebuke of certain ministries, even though they are disqualified from license to rebuke of an elder by their approach and by their anonymity. Oh, and they are disqualified Biblically, of course.
All for one and one for all
As a brief aside, it’s interesting to note hat the chookwatchers have the following disclaimer at the foot of their sites:
‘The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the views of all contributors. Each individual is responsible for the facts and opinions contained in his posts. Generally we agree but not always.’
Yet they all use the same pseudonym. They do. They are all chookwatcher, so there is no way to tell which of these eight individuals crammed into one nom-de-plume and gravatar have composed their ‘facts and opinions’.
So, in effect, whatever any one of them writes must, logically and reasonably, be attributable to all.
And the responsibility for what one says must be laid at the feet of all, whether they agree or not. It would be for that individual in the collective to state their disagreement, but they could only do this with any authenticity by revealing themselves and using there own name to identify themselves as a real human being, and not as a chook in a pen with an epithet joined to an opinion.
But none of the anonymous chookwatchers is qualified as a witness. None is qualified to accuse. None is qualified to make the claim that they have any authority to rebuke anyone, let alone an elder.
And they will say they can say what they like about their target groups because they claim their marks are not actually Christian, and their movements are cults anyway, which is a completely mute argument, because, even if it were in any way correct, they would then be talking about people who were without Christ – unsaved people – and therefore they could not apply the principles they claim of bringing to the world’s attention elders whom they accuse.
The chookwatchers are found wanting on every front.
If their accusations were correct, they are still in error because they have not brought their claims to the correct authorities – unless one of them is claiming oversight of one of the local churches or movements they are making their claims against. These accusations, if they are indeed witnesses, should be brought before the oversight, and not before the unsaved world.
Another point here is that the chookwatchers claim to be the witnesses and also want to be the judge. They want to bring the accusations as their own witnesses before themselves as judges for adjudication.
This could never be correct. They cannot be, at once, the prosecution, the witnesses and the judge. That is not how it works. In effect, they are bringing their prosecution as witnesses before the world, not before the Church Oversight, and this is not Biblical. Then they are judging their own witness before the unsaved world. Again, unscriptural.
Yet they not only continue to display their accusations before the unsaved, but encourage their followers to add to the rebuke, mostly anonymously.
On and on
Their rebuke, unauthorised though it is, is endless. It goes on and on, and covers mostly the same old ground, often constructed of falsehoods, innuendo, supposition, guesses, the views of atheists, the views of the unsaved media, the views of the unforgiving, and the views of people with a contrary doctrinal stance.
It is the long rebuke. It seeks no end. It is an overplay of an exaggerated exercise. They feed their need for retribution on their own habitual prejudice. They seek to bring Christians down, not encourage them to love and good works. They seek to divide, not repair. They seek to crush, not make whole. They want to damage not restore.
It is time for the chookwatchers to get their house in order, and, if they have a bona fide case, to bring it before the correct authorities to allow them to adjudicate. To do this they would have to recognise overseers, but their history declares that they do not recognise anyone to be in authority. They are their own authority.
They will fail in this because, being anonymous and without authorisation, they have no one to turn to for authentication.
They will fail because they have made up too many things that are not factual, based on too many claims that are opinion rather than evidence. Most of what they say is guilt by association. Most of what they claim would be thrown out of a court as hypothesis, supposition or presumption.
So how long will the chookwatchers continue their self-authorised rebuke? How long can they stretch out their meagre claims? How many atheists, godless media outlets and tweets will they serve up as confirmation of their feigned indignation?
They cannot appeal to God because they deny God by their approach, which, as we have seen, is illegitimate according to scripture. There is no precedent for anonymous witnesses who bring accusations against elders. I have challenged many such site owners to demonstrate the viability of their cause but there is no Biblical authentication of anonymous witnesses bringing accusation against an elder before the world, and there has never been a response that on any way matches scripture.
In fact, Paul expressly speaks against bringing accusations against the brethren before the unsaved. These things should and must be dealt with from within the Church.
That is an end of it, really.