When someone is falsely accused

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This is the third and final part of my mini-series on false accusation. In my first article, I said that often the person who is falsely accused is not in a position to do much and so will be dependent upon the help of others. I believe that this is where others in the leadership of a church, and sometimes when leaders are involved – either as accused or accuser – from outside too. We have a responsibility to those who have been falsely accused.

It’s important to state here that our first responsibility is not to protect reputations. This is important because I think this has sometimes been forgotten. There are three reputations potentially at stake that we may slip into prioritising.

  1. The reputation of the person falsely accused. 
  2. The reputation of the church/ministry involved.
  3. Our own personal reputations.

The third one is crucial because even when we talk about the first two, if we are honest, this is the one that is driving our response. We fear that if the church’s reputation is tarnished then it will reflect on us. We fear that if a fellow leader’s reputation is tarnished then by implication and association, so too ours.

Now, the result of this can go either of two ways.  We may be tempted to cover up and suppress a complaint in order to protect the reputation of the church and the individual, that way, searching questions about our own responsibility in the matter won’t be asked. However, we may also be tempted to in effect, throw the person concerned under the bus in order to distance ourselves from them.

So, where does our concern truly lie?  It lies with our responsibility to love God with our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. So whenever accusations arise our concerns should be

  1. To ensure that God is glorified. God is truth and therefore he is honoured when the truth is told.
  2. That the people involved are loved. This means that where there is a true accusation then then the accuser is vindicated and victims/potential victims are protected and able to experience healing.  It means that when someone is a victim of false accusation that they too are protected and vindicated.

So, here are things that we will want to make sure.

  1. That the matter is heard by the right people. This means ensuring that those who sit in judgement are competent to do so.  Now, the church itself will have a role in this because it is a sin matter. However, there will also be plenty of occasions where the alleged sin crossed the threshold for criminal charges.  Churches and church leaders should encourage people to seek appropriate recourse and not obstruct/question the process (Romans 13:4).[1]
  2. That a fair and just process is followed. This means that the Biblical standard of “two or three witnesses” is followed. Note that there are likely to be many occasions where there is only one eye witness to sin (the victim themselves), however the principle is that we don’t allow people to bring frivolous accusations without some form of supporting evidence.
  3. That wrongful methods are not followed. In other words, we seek to protect people from gossip/slander/intimidation etc. This means that we may have to challenge people involved in slander and correct that slander where we know the truth of the matter.
  4. To ensure that the outcome is known, acted upon and respected.   This includes dealing with the sin of false accusation.

You may find this article provides a bit more detail on these things, especially as they relate to fellow leaders.

[1] Note that this is not contradicted by 1 Corinthians 6 where personal scores are being taken to court.

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