Posted by: reformedmusings | November 23, 2009

Tim Keller’s Response to the YouTube Video

I normally don’t post identical writings here and at Greenbaggins, but this issue seemed to call for an exception:

I once participated in a discussion in which someone cast aspersions on a historic Reformed father over some things he supposedly said. I don’t know if the figure ever said those things or not. I simply replied that even if the individual had said those things, I hoped that someone didn’t write about my favorite sins 400 years from now. Worse yet, that someone would put them on YouTube for the world to see!

Having commanded several large units, I know all too well that a leader can’t possibly know everything that everyone does in his/her organization. A good leader sets their expectations, trusts their people to perform accordingly, and holds them accountable for their actions and performance. One key to good leadership is to correct mistakes in a just and appropriate manner when they happen and mentor those involved to do better in the future. I suspected that this might be the case with the ceremony in the video which sparked the discussion here. I wrote to TE Keller last night respectfully asking for clarification. I received his reply today and post it unedited and in its entirety here:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for your note about the video of our May, 2009, service in which a deaconess was being commissioned.  Having watched it myself, I can understand your concern! But I can also assure you that this is not our practice, and that it was only one of our newer ministers making a mistake.

We do not ordain our deaconesses nor do we ask our congregation to obey and submit to them. The minister in the video is newer on our staff and he accidentally read the deacons’ questions from the BCO and did not use the different questions we commonly use for deaconesses.  Others who go to Redeemer can attest that this is not our practice, and it will not be in the future. The minister in the video apologized when he realized what he had done.

The best way to understand what happened is to consider the case of another of our ministers who recently inadvertently baptized a number of infants without asking their parents any of the questions. In charity onlookers assumed this was a mistake, and no one assumed that either the minister or Redeemer was in violation of the Book of Church Order. I spoke to this minister yesterday and he was grateful that no one had put his mistake on You Tube!

I must say I was surprised that the person who filmed the service and the person who posted and re-posted the video clip did not first do the courteous and charitable thing, namely, to ask simply, “Is this what it looks like on the surface, or is there a good explanation?” If they had done so, as texts like Proverbs 17:9; 18:17; 25:8-10 urge, they would have saved you (and others) both time and concern.

I hope this response helps. By the way-you can share this letter with anyone else that expresses concern.

Tim Keller

I have had a number of interactions with TE Keller, sometimes holding opposing positions, and have always been impressed with Tim’s grace and integrity. The conduct of the ceremony in the video was a serious mistake which was taken seriously and corrected appropriately. The young TE involved could probably benefit from our prayers.

As most folks here know, I strongly disagree with the commissioning of women as deaconesses. I’ve actively and vigorously opposed it in the blogosphere and on the floor of the PCA General Assembly for the last several years. However, the appropriate place to make a stand is in the courts of the church – sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly – debating applicable overtures, not on YouTube.

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