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Apologia Elders, Including James White, Should Step Down for Clergy Misconduct

News Division

As Pulpit & Pen has previously reported, Apologia Church secretly recorded clergy-penitent conversations to archive and later use for retaliatory purposes. After we reported that Apologia’s secret sin confession recordings found its way on YouTube (with both Durbin and White using it to threaten Tim Hurd), the church was silent for days while many of their fans assured the world that Durbin was surely not the one who released the audio anonymously. In fact, some even insinuated that I released it (Durbin would not correct them).

After days of putting together a strained, victim-flailing response, Apologia’s elders put together a three-hour-long video confessing that Durbin indeed released the secret recording on an anonymous YouTube channel but blaming Tim Hurd for “victimizing, slandering, and abusing” Durbin for years.

I discussed this with Tim Hurd for our Patreon podcast (it’s available for free to everyone) afterwards Wednesday evening and you can find that audio here.

Of particular importance to me (because it deals with me personally), Durbin falsely claimed that he tried to bring Tim’s “sin” to the attention of his board for the purpose of correction and we refused to listen to his accusations. This requires several points of clarification:

  • In passing conversation, Durbin sent me an audio link of a secretly recorded conversation with Tim Hurd, which I chose not to listen to because it was given in the spirit of pure gossip.
  • Durbin did not say he was seeking for my help in dealing with Tim’s “sin” of disagreeing with him. When I told him “that is none of my business” he did not explain he was sending it to me in my position as a board member of BTWN. In fact, Durbin did not know at the time I was a board member of BTWN.
  • Had he asked for help mediating conflict with Tim or to officially receive an accusation, I would still have not listened to that audio. I would have (as I have done numerous times before) required to make the plaintiff make their accusations with Tim on the phone (“present” so to speak, in keeping with Matthew 18). I do not receive Matthew 18 accusations without the accused being present, because that is not how Matthew 18 works. In fact, I have still not listened to that audio because I find its secret recording to be repugnant.

The three elders of Apologia went to their studio and attempted to defend the indefensible. Jeff Durbin secretly recorded a clergy-penitent conversation, secretly and anonymously uploaded it to Youtube, and then both Durbin and White sent ominous warnings about it in a clearly vindictive fashion to Tim, before it was discovered as having been publicly posted.

A few facts need to be straightened out for those who heard these three elders defend sin:

  • Durbin asked for Tim’s pastor’s number after (I repeat, after) he publicly and anonymously released the private secret recording, and only in response to Tim confronting him with his clergy misconduct.
  • Durbin made zero attempts to contact Tim with concerns between 2017 and when he publicly and anonymously released the secret recording roughly a month ago.
  • What Durbin characterized as “abuse” and “victimization” and “slander” amounted to Tim politely critiquing his apologetic method. In each podcast Tim did so, he also complimented Durbin, claimed he was a fine Christian, and even played clips of the positive aspects of Durbin’s presentations. Characterizing that as “abuse” and “slander” is nothing short of a pathetic attempt to justify Durbin’s own clergy misconduct.
  • Durbin lied by insinuating that Tim promised to never criticize him again or claiming that Tim said he would always contact him first (Tim said he would contact Durbin “if he had questions,” which had done on at least one previous occasion). There was nothing in Tim’s polite critiques of Durbin late this summer that required a question.

Let me put this in bold. There is no excuse for secretly recording conversations about sin (especially with three witnesses on the line to confirm words said), archiving that recording, or anonymously posting it to the world.

And yet, these elders made excuse after excuse for the inexcusable.

Since then, we have received confirmation after confirmation from Apologia members, former leaders, Phoenix pastors, and former associates demonstrating the use of secret recordings even among their own church members (and in some cases, minors without parental consent) for use in “church discipline” proceedings and in retaliatory actions against other area churches. The reporting on this will go forward, and without swift repentance, Apologia Church will go the way of Driscoll’s Mars Hill.

Furthermore, Durbin has repeatedly been approached by elders and church members about the wrongness of using secret recordings to keep a record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).

In my 21 years in pastoral ministry, I have never encountered any clergy member who would endorse the use of secret recordings of confessions of sin, their archiving, or their use for retaliatory purposes.

Pastors are bound to confidentiality on matters relating to sin unless there is legitimate belief that there is an immediate threat to the life and well-being of others, a subpoena in relation to the committing of a crime (and then, exceptions apply), and in the cases of church discipline after a ‘grand jury’ of multiple witnesses verify that the accusation has been biblically brought against the offender (Matthew 18).

As Ian MacLaren, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland, put it in 1896, “The pastor is to avoid every temptation to mere curiosity and meddlesomeness and to treat confidences as inviolably sacred.” This is the Reformed understanding of confidence in matters relating to personal confessions of sin.

As a journalist, I have certainly released correspondence with others (like when we released Justin Peters’ emails with Thom Rainer or Clayton Jennings’ text messages with abuse victims). I have never in my life released private correspondence with someone who is confessing sin and asking for forgiveness, no matter the reason. To do so is the opposite of pastoral. It is abusive and in no uncertain terms, is clergy misconduct.

I do not mean to imply in this post, that these men should be forever disqualified from pastoral ministry. I do, however, assert that their current actions and their doubling-down on sin, their defense of the indefensible, and their unwillingness to hold one another accountable disqualifies them from service until at such time they are brought to contrite repentance.

I have noticed a good deal of fans of Apologia or James White who are laymen do not understand “the big deal” with the secret recordings and their later punitive and anonymous release to the public. But with God as my witness, I don’t know a single pastor who believes it’s anything but horrific.