The Hagar Policy: A Plea to The Meeting House

As believers, we cannot allow ourselves to become immune to the ongoing sexual scandals of Christian leaders, and slowly begin to accept them as part of a normal path in redemption. If we are to continue to allow Christian leaders to stand before us every week to moralize, to sermonize, and to teach how we should live our lives, then we must raise our standards of accountability. We are without excuse. We have all the necessary resources.

On November 30, 2021, it was reported to The Meeting House by one of its pastors, Danielle Strickland, that Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor, had been involved in a sexual relationship with a woman who had revealed it to Strickland. She reported it immediately to TMH who acted swiftly and responsibly by placing Cavey on leave while commissioning a professional third-party investigation. On February 18, 2022, TMH received the report, which confirmed “a sexual relationship between Bruxy and the Victim, which lasted over an extended period of time, constituted an abuse of Bruxy’s power and authority as a member of the clergy and amounted to sexual harassment.“ Cavey was given the opportunity to resign by TMH, which he exercised. In my opinion, the professional findings warranted termination for cause. Nevertheless on March 8, TMH communicated the report’s findings via a townhall on YouTube.

Prior to this March 8 townhall Strickland had resigned from her position in order to advocate for “the Victim.” On March 9, Strickland released a video on Instagram that referred to “the Victim” as “Hagar.” Alluding to Hagar of Genesis 16:13 who said, “‘You are a God of seeing, . . . Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’”

Strickland communicated a statement by “Hagar.” It can be read on hagarsvoice.com; a website that intends to provide forthcoming recommendations by “Hagar” on preventing sexual abuses in the Church. Strickland’s resignation was honorable, and “Hagar’s” decision to come forth was encouraging. “Hagar” stated, “This began during a pastoral counselling session when I was 23 and he was 46. I was in crisis and trusted him, and I did not, nor could I, consent to a sexual relationship with him.” She continued, “it was a devastating twisting of pastoral care into sexual abuse.”

Cavey was definitely the authority figure who pastored a young lady, half his age. So what can account for Cavey’s transgressions? He appeared to have it all, a thriving ministry, a wonderful and loving family, and the respect of the Canadian community of faith. How could he cross the line?

Within a few hours after TMH concluded its March 8 townhall, Cavey released, “My Confession,” on his blog at Bruxy.com. What disappoints in his confession is the undertone that excuses it as an affair that happened long ago: “Some years ago, I had an extra marital affair.” At TMH townhall, someone asked, “Wasn’t this just an affair?” The chair of TMH’s overseers, Maggie John, responded, “No. The investigator found given how the relationship started . . . Bruxy abused his power and authority.”

Cavey’s confession also seems regretful that he did not confess “years ago:” “I wish I had had the courage years ago to divulge what has now become publicly known through the bravery of the woman I was involved with. . . . I am sorry upon sorry for my cowardice.” TMH’s third party report, however, also confirmed that the “sexual relationship . . . lasted over an extended period of time.” If this is so, didn’t he have numerous opportunities to come forward and confess during this “extended period of time”?

The point we must grasp in every sexual scandal involving high profile Christian leaders is that communicating the Gospel, teaching it, regardless of how grand one’s platform, does not automatically equate with personally knowing “the breadth and length and height and depth . . . of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19). Knowing and teaching the “depths of Christ” are a completely different matter, and a necessary discussion for another day. The Church must WAKE UP to the reality that being idolized as a celebrity is hardly ever good for a Christian leader. As Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you . . . “ (Luke 6:26). The supply of attention can become intoxicating for any Christian leader and it can often obfuscate reality.

So, should fallen ministers of sexual sins be reinstated to ministry? The Gospel says, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). By no means should one be reinstated to their former role without a serious recovery program. One’s former status is immaterial. A return to pastoral ministry should begin in a voluntary capacity, by visiting the sick, by serving meals, by running errands for the elderly, all with accountability to church leadership. After a year or so of practical ministry, perhaps one can begin to lead a small group for another year or so, again, with oversight. Genuine repentance should have no issues with such a recovery process. A refusal should constitute ineligibility for pastoral leadership, regardless of any supposed gifts of teaching or preaching. Let’s bear in mind that a minister is a Christian first, preacher and teacher second. The repentant must demonstrate a commitment to live the message and to being discipled, for ministry is about serving others and not self-aggrandizement. This recovery process should be part of standard policy.

Of course there is God’s grace and mercy. Sure there is confession, repentance, forgiveness, and we should definitely forgive. Nevertheless we must acknowledge that the emotional pain caused to a victim and the faithful is immense. With the aid of professionals in various fields, the Church must commit to preventative measures not merely as best practices or a change in culture, but as official policy.

“Hagar” has communicated that, “in the future I would like to share about how clergy sexual abuse can be prevented, and other victims and survivors can be protected from further harm when they come forward.” When “Hagar” decides to share we should be ready to listen and seriously implement what we learn. TMH should prepare itself to adopt “The Hagar Policy.” Moreover, TMH will have an opportunity to lead by example so that other churches, denominations, and Christian organizations will hopefully be encouraged to institute their own “Hagar Policy.”

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About the author

Marlon De Blasio, Ph.D. is a Christian thinker, cultural apologist, and author of Discerning Culture. He lives in Toronto with his family. Follow him at @MarlonDeBlasio on Twitter.