Apologia Church Saved Private Clergy-Penitent Recordings, Then Released Them to Punish Critics
Imagine you had a private conversation with ordained clergy, confessing your sins. Then imagine those clergy members secretly recorded that call and later chose to anonymously put that info online in order to punish you.
That’s what Apologia church leaders did when Tim Hurd called them to confess some ill-will in his heart and apologize for certain things he had said about them and why.
In most denominations, that breach of clergy-penitent privilege would be enough to revoke one’s ordination. Confidence between clergy and the sin-confessor has been considered ‘inviolable’ and has even been recognized by United States law (since at least 1813). It’s certainly expected that confessions of sin would not be made public unless it’s a matter of church discipline or criminal behavior when there is a victim in immediate danger.
The thought of the church intentionally recording that conversation as a club to beat him with later, should he ever find a need to criticize them in the future, is beyond the pale of clergy misconduct.
“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?
There was nothing terribly secret about Hurd’s 2017 phone call with Jeff Durbin, Luke Pearson (both were elders at Apologia) and Marcus Pittman (who was not ordained clergy at the church). There was nothing secret about it but the details because Tim Hurd spoke candidly about his sin and his phonecall with Apologia church leadership on his podcast in May of that year (here’s the link, and fast forward to the 44-minute mark). Tim did not repent for criticizing Apologia or Durbin, but repented for how he had done so and the motivations of his heart behind it.
However, unbeknownst to Hurd, the church was secretly recording his call, even though they knew that the discussion of sin would be the topic of conversation, an unconscionable thing for a church to do. Not knowing he was recorded, Hurd even eluded to the alleged sins of others, who did not agree to have their sins divulged to the elders, and certainly not to the world at large.
[Side Note: I had to wonder if Durbin, Pearson, or White—whoever was the elder who released that audio—considered the feelings of some implicated in sin by Hurd, who had nothing to do with this stuff unfolding. I feel sorry for those folks, who are innocent parties to all of this]
Several years went by without conflict between Apologia and Bible Thumping Wingnut. However, Tim Hurd critiqued Apologia’s stance on the best apologetics method several months ago. I asked Hurd about his criticisms of Durbin’s apologetic method on a Patreon-only podcast and pushed back on his concerns. Hurd clarified to me that it wasn’t personal, but took exception with Durbin’s apologetic strategy.
I reached out to Durbin with audio of my interview with Tim, because I knew that Durbin would not be able to access it behind the paywall and only thought it fair that he hear what was said and give him a chance to respond.
I thought it was odd that Durbin would send me an unsolicited audio recording of the above conversation with Tim Hurd and with an obvious implicit threat to release it. On my end, listening to gossip is gossip and I didn’t want to take part.
As you can see, I wasn’t willing to listen to a privately recorded audio that I was not a party to, when it does not pertain to me and is not of the public’s interest. I still have not listened to it. I know that Tim Hurd has linked it for full disclosure and because he has nothing to hide, but I think it is inappropriate for clergy to divulge such things to say the least.
I was contacted several years ago by Jeff Durbin’s family members. We had a several-hours long conversation, in which they lambasted him for various things in his past. They wanted me to write about their experiences with him, and, to be sure, the articles produced would be sensational, to say the least. I encouraged his family to follow 1 Timothy 5:19 and explained that I could not accept an accusation against an elder based upon their word alone. I then contacted Durbin and apologized for listening to their complaints as long as I did because I should not have ‘entertained’ them (according to the Bible) a single moment.
That conversation may or may not have been recorded (laws are dicey on these matters). Assuming there was a recording of someone spilling Durbin’s sins out to hear, I would not dare release the audio because it was a conversation that was pastoral in nature. Some things are sacred. When pastors hear sins confessed, that conversation is privileged and it is sacred.
Not long after Durbin threatened to release the audio, a full recording of Hurd’s 2017 phonecall with Apologia church leaders was posted on YouTube on a new, anonymous account. It’s the only video posted on that account.
When I posted a Patreon-only recording with Diane Gaskins about an upcoming expose’ on Rosaria Butterfield, James White decided to preemptively accuse us of slander (he claims to have not heard the audio, and no one has seen the forthcoming expose’ yet). In response, I addressed the issue on my next public podcast, which is hosted at the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, which is managed by Tim Hurd.
Apparently angered that my podcast episode about James White’s preemptive prejudging would be advertised by BTWN, White sent an ominous threat to Tim Hurd about the audio, eluding to it being weaponized against him.
Tim addressed this blackmailing threat in his webcast yesterday, posted below.
To be completely honest, if Apologia church is keeping audio recordings of sin-focused conversations and storing them aside for later use whenever they are criticized, the members of Apologia Church really should seek some clarity from Pastors Durbin, Pearson, and White (who has since been added to their staff).
It is not okay to keep a record of wrongs on audio, only to save them aside to threaten, blackmail, and intimidate the person in the future in the event you are ever ‘sideways’ again.
The posting of the audio with Hurd and the threats that preceded it by Durbin and followed it by White was legitimately one of the worst breaches of decency and professionalism I have ever seen from ordained clergy.
Literally all Tim did was disagree (kindly) with their apologetic method years later and the audio of his heartfelt confession was posted anonymously (and cowardly) in pure vindictiveness.
Apologia Church leadership acted in an unconscionable fashion. Weaponizing secret recordings about the candid confession of sin as a fail-safe measure to never be criticized again is an unspeakable breach of pastoral decorum.
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