As more and more people come forward to publicly renounce leaders who have abused their positions of power through sexual harassment, perversion, and molestation, there is a growing freedom to confront this evil.
“On October 5, 2017, The New York Times published a series of allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein from women who claimed that he sexually harassed them…Shortly after the bombshell report about Weinstein, the hashtag #MeToo, intended to demonstrate the prevalence of harassment and assault within our culture, went viral on social media.”
The sexual escapades of powerful people are sometimes closely linked to toxic leadership as Graham, a manager in a global mission organization, found out. He was fired after confronting the founder for sexually harassing many women in his mission.
After confronting the founder of the organization with two other high-profile Christian leaders, the founder went to his office, got on the phone, and began blackballing Graham to associates across America. When he was finally fired after the events described below, he spent two years looking for work in ministry.
Expecting the Best
Graham and his cohorts expected the leader to be humble and receive their loving recommendations to seek counsel. Like John (upcoming blog), they were expecting the founder to see their confrontation as a lifeline out of his sinful behavior. They recommended he take a leave of absence for counseling, while retaining his position as CEO. Yet, the founder rejected their counsel, denying any wrong-doing.
When the board got involved, they voted to fire the founder. However, a political leader who was a major donor to the organization, threatened to withdraw his support if they followed through with the firing. So, instead, the board fired Graham and retained the founder. Emboldened by the board’s actions, the founder fired nearly 40 other employees who had expressed concern about the leader’s behavior.
After nearly 10 years, another round of courageous women came forward with their stories and the board finally took action. They fired the founder and, according to Graham, the founder went down the street and started a new organization.
Graham said, people would say to him, “Who [are you] to be going up against God’s chosen?” He complained, “That was thrown at me a lot.” He went on to explain that supporters and leaders of projects from around the country believed the organization’s founder “totally.” He said,
“The facts really didn’t matter at all. Anybody you talked to had a way of dismissing those facts whether it was based on [the founder’s] description of the women – one woman was simply too ugly to harass – or you know, those kinds of things. People would say, ‘I’ve talked to [the founder] about these women, and this is what he said, and that’s the fact and so you need to be under submission.'”
Often leaders of Christian organizations are called “God’s chosen” or “anointed.” Though God gives men positions of authority, man’s authority is never ultimate, as discussed in another blog. Their failures at times result in authority legitimately being stripped from them.
As 1 Timothy 5 notes, leaders can in fact be confronted and rejected from their places of power. Paul makes this very clear as he calls on the Galatians to challenge authorities who fail to lead the sheep well. Consider his comments in chapter two:
“But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” Galatians 2:11-14 (ESV)
Paul argues against leaders in the church called “Judaizers” and calls on the Galatians to live in freedom from their warped [non]Gospels. When considering the whole of scripture, it is important to remember no man is above his responsibility to the Lord and those under their authority may be required to call them to account. Those who suffer the abuse of leaders, who wreak havoc on their subordinates, are called to freedom.
 1 Peter 2:13-14 (ESV) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.