A recent article posted on February 9 from Christianity Today criticized ACBC’s approach to counseling in cases of abuse. Understandably, we have received inquiries from our members and training centers that warrant a response. While we cannot speak to the veracity of every claim made in the article, we are able to clarify misunderstandings and recognize missteps that are not accurate representations of our Standards of Conduct in cases of abuse.
ACBC’s Standards of Conduct state that, “Biblical counselors must care for counselees in protecting the weak from harm… Biblical counselors understand that it is impossible to protect the weak from every danger in a fallen world and yet they endeavor to protect counselees from exposure to the harmful treatment of others through false teaching, unbiblical counseling, harsh speech, abusive treatment, and any other manifestation of sinful relationships.”
ACBC is committed to certifying competent counselors who rightly minister biblical solutions to the problems people face. We take complaints seriously and when certified counselors are in violation of our Standards of Doctrine or Standards of Conduct, ACBC is committed to addressing those errors with appropriate discipline in order to maintain our standards of membership.
We have been preparing new documents for our counselors that will act as a clearer doctrinal foundation and a more extensive practical guideline for addressing issues of abuse. One reason for creating these documents is our desire to address any training gaps and offer more practical detail for abuse cases consistent with our Standards of Conduct. Counseling cases of abuse requires godly wisdom, discernment, compassion, humility, and boldness to present the spectrum of Christ’s care—confronting evil, protecting the vulnerable, and compassionately mending the wounded.
Any failures of ACBC counselors regarding the complex issues surrounding abuse demand that we grow in biblical wisdom and application for the sake of Christ’s name and the good of those affected by such evils. Regrettably, in some cases of abuse, churches have demonstrated an inadequate approach offering a mixture of insufficient counsel from the world and misapplied counsel from God’s Word. As an organization that seeks to reflect the heart of Christ in counseling care, protecting the vulnerable and holding perpetrators accountable must be a priority. ACBC counselors must respond with humility and repentance in so far as any have mishandled abuse situations so that they, and others, learn and grow from past sins and errors in judgment. Any misinterpretation or misapplication of the Scripture is due to a lack of wisdom in man and not any lack in the sufficiency of our Lord Jesus or the Word he has given to us.
God’s good design of covenant marriage, with loving and Christ-like servant headship and submission, is a beautiful expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The evils of abuse do not portray the sacrificial love of Christ for His bride, rather those evils depict a different gospel—a false gospel. Biblical counselors are right to be zealous in their respect and honor of covenant marriage, but they also must have equal zeal in the correction of abusers and protection for victims of abuse for the sake of the gospel and purity of the church. This includes the freedom of conscience for victims of abuse to seek safety from dangerous situations.
We recognize the appropriate biblical involvement of both church and government. ACBC counselors must follow mandatory reporting requirements to civil authorities so that the government may act in accordance with its God-ordained role. Churches are to implement compassionate Christ-like care for the abused, and discipline as a corrective measure for the abuser.
Grace and Peace,
T. Dale Johnson, Jr.