Ed Stetzer on What the Church Can Learn About Sexual Harassment, Accusations, and Transparency from the Bill O’Reilly Debacle

Powerful men, with organizations tending to cover things up, are a recipe for disaster.

The explosive controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly has captured the attention of global news networks, and his sudden departure has sparked conversation about harassment, bullying, and organizational response. Wednesday night, I watched Fox News briefly mention O’Reilly at the beginning of his former time slot, and then quickly move to other topics. This was in sharp contrast to almost every other major news network, which ran the story as a main focus of conversation on TV and online outlets.

The attempt to subdue the conversation actually just displayed a palpable disconnect.

There are many lessons Fox News needs to learn from this situation, and certainly O’Reilly has a lot to learn as well.

But I’m wondering something different.

I want to know, what can the Church learn from this debacle?

Here are some thoughts.

First, the way we respond to an accusation teaches people how we value others.

Many leaders have publicly dismissed these accusations against Bill O’Reilly as a smear campaign without knowing the facts. Dismissal like this has almost become a default in some organizations, especially in the case of sexual misconduct.

Yes, I know (and am glad) we live in a society where legally people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But when leaders respond to allegations of sexual harassment and bullying with automatic defensiveness, doubt, and dismissal, that teaches people who have been hurt how much you value them. To put it bluntly, it teaches them they won’t be believed.

The reality is that all legitimate allegations need to be investigated. Our heart response should be a genuine pursuit and desire for the truth. I’m not here to weigh in on the validity of the accusations, but I do affirm that your response is the message you teach others about how you value them.

When accusations are made, we need to take them seriously. And we need to respond in a way that affirms the value of women in our personal and organizational lives. There is a middle ground between unchecked acceptance of an accusation and unchecked dismissal. It’s called investigation. And in the case of a public situation like this one, when we aren’t the one in the position to investigate, we do have another option. We can simply wait and listen while others do the hard work. We don’t have to join the chorus.

Some are concerned for Bill O’Reilly, and there is no question that we should be. He’s made in the image of God. But, so are those who say they’ve been harassed and threatened. And we should remember that they are not the powerful, and they need our concern.

For those simply dismissing these allegations as a smear campaign, the women in your churches or organizations are getting the message loud and clear—and so are the men, boys, and people outside the church.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Ed Stetzer