I am encouraged. In fact, I choose to be. Let me tell you why.

Yesterday I mentioned the Facebook post written by Pastor Mark Driscoll that caused public outrage because his words could very easily have led to pain for those who do not fit into the macho-masculinity paradigm espoused by many in our society. One of the most read responses was that by Rachel Held Evans where she called Driscoll a “bully” and then asked for people to contact Mars Hill Church where Driscoll pastors to ask for his correction. In response to Evans there was an article written by Dr. Anthony Bradley calling Evans’ response “libel” and warning us Christians of infighting that distracts from our witness to Christ. People commented on this article either defending Evans, defending Bradley, or some nuance of these positions.

I blogged about it because I thought it gave us all an opportunity to discuss public error and rebuke. What should we do in these types of situations? Who has the right to rebuke? What kind of rebuke is helpful and healing? What kind of rebuke comes across as spiteful and divisive? There were some good responses here.

Yesterday Mark Driscoll wrote a clarification. It was titled, “Gender: Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?” I am not sure that we can call it an “apology”, per se, but it is appreciated none the less. Driscoll wrote the following stratements:

“I…put a flippant comment on Facebook, and a raging debate on gender and related issues ensued. As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context. And, they’re right. Praise God I have elders who keep me accountable and that I am under authority. “

“In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case.

While some may not be satisfied because Driscoll doesn’t say, “I was wrong for what I said” this is an important step. If the church is graceful we will accept the step, pray for further maturity, and seek reconciliation. This is exactly what Rachel Held Evans does in her blog post in response to Driscoll’s response. She writes,

“… I am grateful that the elders at Mars Hill held him accountable and asked him to “do better” in speaking about these issues with decorum and respect. That means that our messages were heard and that something was done. I know that many were hoping for an apology, but as followers of Jesus we must be willing to forgive without one. This is a step in the right direction, and I thank Mark for taking it.

“Evangelicals appear to be at a crossroads in this debate, and Facebook is certainly not the ideal forum for productive dialog….

Mark is my brother in Christ, and I would welcome him to such a conversation with open arms.

This is a productive, I think, though I know it is not satisfactory for many. What it is doing to some extent is admitting wrongs (from both sides), seeking humility, and welcoming discussion rather than detached, impersonal rebukes. I think this is what happens when we put a face on “the other”. We find a way to be gracious (and again, let me applaud this recent response from Evans because I think it shows great courage in seeking graciousness when it would be easy to dismiss Driscoll’s statement as insufficient). We must see the (A) humanity in even those with which we disagree and (B) seek reconciliation, especially with those who are fellow children of God in the same household of faith.

I don’t know if we have solved this “public error and public rebuke” conundrum. I presume something like this could very well happen again and we as the body of Christ will once again face the difficult challenges involved. Yet at this point I applaud steps toward reconciliation, understanding, and most of all love.