[Below is a letter we sent out to our congregation a couple of days ago regarding some of the recent questions that have been raised about our pastoral care of a family in our church. This is not intended to be a reply to any particular individual or quarter, but rather, as the statement itself says, is a letter of thanksgiving to our people. At the same time, we understand that other friends have honest questions about what’s been going on or perhaps face various pastoral challenges that are similar. And we want to be good stewards of the difficult things God has given us and share what He’s done in our midst.]
A Statement of Thanksgiving for God’s Grace
From the Elders of Trinity Reformed Church
to our Congregation
September 23, 2015
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Given a number of recent events and the many public questions and concerns that have arisen surrounding our pastoral care of the Jamin Wight family, we, the elders of Trinity Reformed Church, find it our duty and privilege to give testimony to the faithfulness of God over the last number of years as we have walked down a difficult and challenging path. What follows is a recounting of what we believe are some of the most significant parts of the public record, and we are happy to answer any of your questions on these matters to the best of our ability. However, it is also our duty not to divulge matters of a private nature in order to protect victims and their pastoral care.
We are grateful to God for our church’s former pastor, Dr. Peter Leithart, who had previously pastored Jamin Wight through another difficult situation, in which Jamin sinned against a young teenage girl and was convicted of lewd conduct with a minor. Dr. Leithart has recently published a statement regarding several mistakes he believes he made in his pastoral care of Jamin. Together, we learned a number of lessons that became important in our ministry to Jamin when he later married a young woman without the knowledge of the Trinity Reformed Church elders.
We are grateful to God for the many members of the body of Christ who were active and vigilant when the Wight marriage began showing signs of significant turmoil and dysfunction. Several close friends of the young woman challenged her to confront her husband’s sins and to seek pastoral counsel, and we eventually worked together to stage an intervention to urge a separation when things were particularly dark. We are grateful for the advice of a professional Christian counselor who came to Moscow to advise Pastor and Mrs. Leithart as they counseled the Wights during their separation. Her independent observations and counsel marked a significant turning point in our pastoral care of the Wights when the young woman decided to move back home. Over the years, elders from three other local churches have counseled the Wight family and each one worked together with us as their marriage deteriorated. We required Jamin to see a professional psychologist who evaluates mental, emotional, and behavioral issues, and with Jamin’s consent, he provided us with his expert assessment. We are also grateful for the many friends who reached out to the Wights to offer words of encouragement, admonition, and grace.
We are grateful for God’s grace ministered to Jamin through a lengthy suspension from the Lord’s Table, numerous private admonitions, several public rebukes, and a clear answer to our prayers when he was restored to the Table and almost immediately came under God’s judgment when his sinful treatment of his wife became clear and public. We advised the young lady to go the police if Jamin ever put her and her children in any kind of physical danger, and we are thankful for the friends who stood by her and were prepared to receive her when she was ready to flee an abusive situation. We are thankful for the involvement of law enforcement, the Latah County Prosecutor’s office, the young woman’s courageous testimony, and the conviction, sentencing, and stern words of the Judge who oversaw Jamin’s criminal trial.
We are grateful for God’s Word that protects and provides ways of escape for women in abusive marriages. After a period of due diligence and prayer, the young woman sought our counsel, and we recommended that she file for divorce, which she did. God has also provided protection for her through closely monitored and chaperoned child visitation arrangements, a continuing long term no-contact order, and vigilant friends who have always kept an eye out for her. And most recently, we are grateful for the courageous man that God has raised up to be her husband and for their new marriage. We are so thankful for the story God has told in this young woman’s life. It is a story of hope overcoming despair, of freedom overcoming bondage, of light overcoming darkness.
We are thankful for the lessons we have learned about abuse, forgiveness, trust, and working with fallen human beings. Perhaps most central has been a somewhat paradoxical lesson about the complexity of human beings. On the one hand, everything comes down to the difference between Adam and Christ, light and darkness, yet we also see the mysterious mixtures of sincerity, pain, manipulation, anger, and insecurity. Somehow, God’s grace winds through it all. We have also learned the necessity of careful communication and true accountability. We learned to forgive freely, to trust warily, to verify claims constantly, and to define perpetrators and victims biblically. We also learned how friends close to a situation can be sources of help and encouragement, and also sources of unhelpful complication due to their investment and deep loyalties. We thank God for carrying us through many challenges, which supplied the most important lessons to us. We look forward in hope to what He will accomplish in the future through all of it.
We are grateful for these and many other lessons we learned, including those we learned from our own missteps. We thank God for the occasions we sought and received forgiveness from the young lady and her close friends, for the second chances we were given, and for the course corrections we made. We are thankful for the current set of challenges, for the honest questions, for the false accusations, for the misguided opposition, for the constructive disagreement, for ardent enemies, for true and faithful friends and their kind words of encouragement, and for all the prayers offered on our behalf.
We are particularly thankful for the continued love and support of every member of Trinity Reformed Church. We love your joy, your hospitality, your ready laughter, your love of singing and worship, and your love and compassion for the lost and hurting and lonely. We love you, and we are so proud to call you our people. You are our delight and joy to serve.
Most of all, we are grateful for the faithfulness of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who shepherds the shepherds and all of His beloved sheep. We are grateful for His blood that was shed to wash away all our guilt and shame. We are grateful to Him for leading us through the dark shadows and again and again to still waters and green pastures and to His Table and for causing our cup to run over with His goodness and mercy.
We have learned much, yet we still have much to learn. We are grateful for this opportunity to testify to our God’s goodness. He has done all of these things, and therefore we are not ashamed of any of it. God’s goodness is amazing and more than sufficient, and so we are bold to boast in His grace.
With love and gratitude in Christ,
Timothy van den Broek
“I am glad to join the pastors and elders of Trinity Reformed Church in thanking God for His faithfulness through the long and agonizing care of the Wights. It was a privilege to work with these faithful, godly, wise leaders. Like these friends and colleagues, I am awed that God works through our weakness: “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our love to you all. We are praying for you.” –Peter J. Leithart