Reformation Earthquake: Three Epicenters

Reformation Day 2016

The date that marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation is October 31, 1517. No one could have known it then, but what happened that day set in motion an earthquake whose aftershocks are still being felt in the western churches today.

That earthquake had three epicenters, one in Wittenberg with Martin Luther, another in Geneva with John Calvin, and still another in Canterbury with Thomas Cranmer.

What were the contributions of each of these men?

Wittenberg: Martin Luther (1483-1546)

On October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints' Day, the monk Martin Luther nailed a statement to the church door in Wittenberg, offering to debate his Ninety-five
Theses. At the time what most troubled Luther was the sale of indulgences which were said to obtain remission of the temporal punishments of sin for the individual or for a loved one in purgatory. Tetzel, their salesman, is supposed to have created a couplet to aid the sale of the indulgences:
As soon as a coin in the coffer rings 
the soul from purgatory springs
There are two contributions I associate with Martin Luther.

Supremacy of Scripture. Luther was required to appear and answer for his condemned writings at an assembly held at Worms and presided over by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V. The man who represented the Empire and the Roman Catholic Church was John Eck. Eck laid Luther's writings on a table, and asked if the writings were Luther's and if Luther stood by what he had written. Luther was backed into a corner. Would he assert that what he had written was the truth or would he submit to the church and recant his writings as being in error? His famous answer was:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
Secularists and theological liberals like to think that Luther struck a blow for the supremacy of individual autonomy against authority, particularly church authority. That's wishful thinking. Luther had studied the Bible and become convinced that the Roman Catholic Church now held serious error. Popes and church councils could make mistakes and had. What then was the ultimate authority? God speaking in Holy Scripture. The Scriptures stood above the church and its hierarchy. The church had to submit to Scripture interpreted by the use of God-given reason.

What Luther did was serious and revolutionary in his day. It put his life in danger, but, more important, it could potentially put people's souls in danger. It was not his intent to undermine the church or its legitimate authority. He surely was not thinking to assert the authority of private judgment, every man alone with his Bible and the Holy Spirit deciding what Scripture says and what he would believe. But what was he to do with the dilemma? Would he choose to submit himself to the authority of the church or would he call upon the church to submit itself to the authority of Holy Scripture?

Luther's choice had consequences he could not have foreseen and which he would surely reject. He did not mean to make every man his own pope or to subject the church to seemingly endless divisions. Nevertheless, Luther made the right choice. The Bible is the supreme authority, and even the church in its teaching ministry must submit to the Scriptures.

Centrality of Justification. Luther faced a theological and personal problem. The theological problem was, "How can a man be right (justified = accepted as righteous) with God?" The personal problem was, "How can I be right with God?" Luther believed that God is righteous and that God requires righteousness of us. But how can man who is a sinner be righteous before a perfectly righteous God? Luther tried very hard to be a righteous man, but, no matter how hard he tried and how successful he was, he always came up short. His best wasn't good enough. His conscience tormented him. He was frustrated with himself and angry with God, because what God demanded of him Luther could not produce.

The breakthrough that opened all of the Scriptures to Luther came as he contemplated Romans 1:17: "For therein the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to to faith; as it is written,The just shall live by faith." To this point his understanding had been that God is righteous, that God requires that man attain righteousness by doing the things commanded by the law and the church, and that God in righteousness must condemn and punish unrighteous man. Then he realized that the righteousness of which Paul speaks is the righteousness that God provides in Christ and is received by faith. Forgiveness comes from Christ's dying for our sin. Righteousness is found wholly in Christ (an "alien" or "outside us" righteousness) and is imputed (accounted) to us. We are saved by the grace of God alone, not by human co-operation with God. We are saved by faith alone, not by human works or goodness.

In recent years, the theologian N.T. Wright (with others) has challenged Luther and asserted that he (and the other Reformers) did not understand Paul. For Luther justification is a legal term having to do whom God regards as righteous; for Wright it is a relational term having to do with membership among God's covenant people. Justification for Luther is about the doctrine of salvation; for Wright it is about the doctrine of the church. For Luther justification is individual; for Wright it is communal. For Luther we are justified (declared righteous) by faith in Christ and his righteousness; for Wright we are justified (included among God's people) by acknowledging and following Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Anglican Gerald Bray has written: "Nowadays some people claim that the righteousness of God refers primarily to the covenant community of God's people, something which was achieved by the works of the law in the Old Testament and is now by the church as the body of Christ." After pointing that this "communitarian" view was held neither by Roman Catholics or Protestants (both of whom Wright believes wrong because they did understand Paul's religious background), Bray says, "Either way (R.C. or Protestant) it (justification) applied to individuals not groups and modern theories to the contrary notwithstanding, this approach still seems to be the one that is most faithful to the meaning of the Biblical text" (The Faith We Confess, pp. 74-75).

Luther said of justification by faith alone,"This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification, is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness."

Geneva: John Calvin (1509-1564)

Luther was bombastic; Calvin was rational. Luther was hot; Calvin was cool (though he had a temper).  Luther was the man I'd like to drink beer with on Friday; Calvin was the man whose class
I'd like to attend on Monday. I'd like to sit at Luther's table; I'd like to sit beneath Calvin's pulpit. I'd prefer Luther's style; I'd prefer Calvin's content. Two of Calvin's best biographers are Anglicans, T.H.L. Parker and Alister McGrath.

There are two contributions I associate with John Calvin.

Clarity of the Commentaries. Calvin produced commentaries on almost all the books of the Bible. Calvin's commentaries are scholarly, but clear, concise, pastoral, and practical. Though written 450 years ago they remain very helpful aids to the understanding of the Holy Scriptures. Dr. Joseph Haroutunian of McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, writes:
...we find Calvin bent upon establishing what a given author in fact said...Allegorizing was misunderstanding, and misunderstanding was the evil a scholar had to avoid by all means... he was protesting not against finding a spiritual meaning in a passage, but against finding one that was not there. The Word of God written for the upbuilding of the church was of course spiritual, but in the primary sense of leading to the knowledge of God and obedience to him. Calvin’s “literalism” establishes rather than dissolves the mystery of the Word of God, provided for the Christian’s help and comfort.  
...Calvin was a conscientious historical critic. His comments did not degenerate into the undisciplined exhortation which often goes with “practical preaching.” He neither practiced nor encouraged irresponsibility toward “the genuine sense” of Scripture...any “spiritual” meaning other than one derived from the author’sintention was at once misleading and unedifying.
One has only to consult Calvin on a few given passages of Scripture to recognize that he is indeed a teacher without an equal. Calvin comments with the conviction that any passage of Scripture he may examine contains a Word of God full of God’s wisdom, applicable to the condition of his hearers and readers in one respect or another. This conviction enables him to respond to the Bible with a vitality and intelligence... 
Dr. Haroutunian sums up nicely:
Calvin published his Commentaries to give his readers insight into the Word of God and to point out its relevance to their own life and situation. To this end he cultivated accuracy, brevity, and lucidity. He achieved his purpose to a degree that has aroused the admiration and gratitude of generations of readers. And in this day...a man who would understand his Bible will do well to have Calvin’s Commentaries within easy reach.
System of the Theology. When Mortimer Adler of the University of Chicago was asked by William F. Buckley if there was anything omitted that he wished had been included in the Great Books series, he replied "Calvin." The second edition of the Great Books included a whole volume (20) with selections from Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Historian Will Durant counted the Institutes among the world's ten most influential books. Calvin scholar John T. McNeill wrote, "Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is one of the few books that have profoundly affected the course of history."

Calvin was the first of the Reformers to produce what we now call a systematic theology, the first edition published in 1536, the final much fuller edition in 1559. The structure of the work is the traditional Christian catechesis: The Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. With this structure Calvin deals with all the essential subjects of theology, including the Trinity, the Person and Work of Christ, the Holy Spirit, ecclesiology, sacramentology, etc.

A systematic theology is an effort to organize the teaching of the Bible in categories such as the doctrine of God or the doctrine of salvation. The Institutes are a systematic exposition of the Christian faith, an explanation and defense of the historic catholic faith. Calvin reveals an excellent working knowledge of the church fathers, whom he greatly respects. More important Calvin consciously intends to go "back to the source" and ground all of theology in the Holy Scriptures.

Recently the whole idea of systematic theology has been questioned by many scholars, including N.T. Wright (see above). The criticism is that systematic theology imposes an order and system on the Bible so that the message of the Bible is distorted. The way to approach and understand the Bible is by means of exegesis (vocabulary, grammar, historical setting, immediate context) and in light of Biblical theology (the unfolding of God's saving work in the Bible and its history). Systematic theology is categorized as "scholastic" because it takes a "scientific" approach to the Bible, treating it as though it were another department in the curriculum of the university.

This objection to systematic theology seems to me wrong. Systematic theology begins with the conviction that the Bible is a book of truth given to us by God. It is true that truth is not revealed to us in the abstract but concretely in history. God has spoken in the Bible progressively, revealing himself and his plan of salvation. However, while God revealed himself progressively in history, God does not contradict himself. What God has revealed is harmonious with itself.  Systematic theology believes that God has so constructed the human mind and human language as to lead us to think about truths in categories. The truths of God's Word can be developed and understood in relationship with one one another. Systematic theology answers the questions, "What does the Bible say about....?" and, "How does what God says about x relate to what he says about y?" Exegetical theology, Biblical theology, and systematic theology are not enemies or even rivals but friends who work together and mutually support each other.

Biographer T.H.L. Parker brings together Calvin the exegete and Calvin the theologian:
"I am eager for people to know Calvin not because he was without flaws, or because he was the most influential theologian of the last 500 years (which he was), or because he shaped Western culture (which he did), but because he took the Bible so seriously, and because what he saw on every page was the majesty of God and the glory of Christ.

Canterbury: Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

There is one man who links Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Thomas Cranmer. Martin Bucer was the friend of all three. Bucer came to the Protestant faith under the influence of Martin Luther. Later in Strasbourg he influenced John Calvin. After his exile to England, he had an impact on the Reformation there, especially on the second Book of Common Prayer.

Of the three Reformers we are considering, only Cranmer died for the Protestant faith. Cranmer
served as Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Henry had set the church and nation free from Rome, but he wasn't much interested in reformation of the church's worship and doctrine. Cranmer was, and, when Edward VI, still a boy and a convinced Protestant, succeeded his father, the reformation made real progress. However, Edward died still a teenager and was succeeded by his half-sister and Henry's daughter, the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor. She reversed the reformation and eventually had Cranmer burned at the stake.

There are two contributions I associate with Cranmer.

Book of Common Prayer.The primary factor that led me to Anglicanism was The Book of Common Prayer. I came to believe that the so-called "directed worship" of Presbyterianism allowed for all the chaos of worship one sees across the spectrum of evangelicalism.The only solution I saw and see is prescribed worship, and I believed that the Prayer Book provided ordered, Biblical, Protestant, reverent worship. I came also to believe that there is no reason to drive a wedge between written prayers and the spirit of prayer. And, as one friend (a Prayer Book user but not an Anglican) puts it, "If you can do better than the Prayer Book with free prayer, have it." My conviction is that the Prayer Book gives us substance to pray that would never occur to the vast majority of evangelical ministers or people. To put it another way, my heart resonates with the Prayer Book.

Cranmer wanted to reform the church's worship to make it consistent with Protestant theology while conserving what he could of  the historic liturgy. James Wood in his introduction to the Penguin edition of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer writes:
Theologically the 1559/1662 Book of Common Prayer is both radical and conservative. Its Protestantism can be felt in its emphasis on man's sinful depravity, and on the unearned gift of God's salvation (justification by faith alone, not by good works). One scholar has said that "the triple beat of sin-grace-faith runs through the whole book." 
Cranmer ensured that the Anglican Prayer Book took a definite position on the fraught (and violent) issue of the eucharistic "real presence"...This insistence can be felt in the words the presiding minister says to the Anglican communicant as he offers the sacraments: 
The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life: Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, andfeed upon him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.
Still...the Book of Prayer was also an eclectic and consoling, even conservative document, the least revolutionary and more Catholic of the European Protestant liturgies...Along with the services of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion the 1662 Prayer Book has a calendar of the church year; a list of saints' days...liturgies for special days...; and services for the Burial of the Dead...and so on. Gordon James points out that it was clever of Cranmer to borrow collects and prayers from the English Catholic and monastic traditions, from Greek Orthodox and from old Spanish rites...
Above all, the Book of Common Prayer offered Cranmer's language as a kind of binding agent, a rhetoric both lofty and local, archaic and familiar...  
Articles of Religion. In addition to the Prayer Book Cranmer also gave us the Articles of Religion. One of the things that troubled me about the branch of Presbyterianism of which I was a part was subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. I heard man after man take no exceptions and offer no clarifying statements. Every time I wondered, "With as many words and and the amount of detail there is in these documents, how can this be?" While I believe that the Westminster Standards, which as J.I. Packer points out were written by an Assembly the majority of whom were Anglicans, are a most excellent statement of Christian faith, I appreciate the Articles for their brevity.

But what kind of doctrine is found in the Articles?They are catholic in that they affirm the catholic theology of the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. But they are also clearly Protestant, as distinct from Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologies, in places reflecting Lutheran theology and in other places (especially on Baptism and the Lord's Supper) reflecting Calvinistic (Reformed) theology. Gerald Bray has written:
The Thirty-nine Articles are usually printed with the 1662 Prayer Book, but they have a different history (from The Prayer Book)...The Articles were given official status by King Charles I in 1628; since then they have been the accepted doctrinal standards of the Church of England. Other Anglican churches have received them to a greater or lesser has to be said that most Anglicans today are scarcely aware of their existence. Even the clergy have seldom studied them, and only evangelicals now take them seriously as doctrine. 
The Articles are not a comprehensive systematic theology in the way that the Westminster Confession is, but they do address questions of theological controversy in a systematic way. In that sense, they are more advanced than earlier Protestant doctrinal statements. They start with the doctrine of God, go on to list the canon of Scripture, and then get into more controversial subjects. Justification by faith alone is clearly stated, and there is also a clear defense of predestination. The sacraments are numbered as two only, and they are defined as witnesses to the Gospel. Towards the end there are articles defining the powers of the civil magistrate, along with one that sanctions the two books of Homilies, collections of sermons in which the doctrines of the Articles and Prayer Book are more fully expounded... perhaps their brief and judicious statements will one day gain them greater acceptance within the wider Reformed community.
I would prefer for Anglicans not to separate Cranmer the liturgist Cranmer from Cranmer the theologian and not to separte the Prayer Book from The Articles. The Prayer Book and the Articles come to us from the same author (in the main) and should be assumed to be in harmony with one another.  On the great Protestant doctrines of the authority of Scripture and of justification by faith alone they are one. On the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion there is to my mind no conflict between them nor between them and the Continental Reformed. The Prayer Book and the Articles give doctrine which is truly catholic and decidedly Protestant.

Wittenberg, Geneva, Canterbury. Luther, Calvin, Cranmer. An earthquake with three epicenters. May the quake continue to roll.

Trump Talks Dirty and Worse

What's a Conservative to Do?

I feel it important for me to say once again that this is my personal Blog where I express my personal views about matters social, political, and sometimes religious. What I write here should not be linked to my parish or my denomination. No one who reads what I write at this Blog should, after reading, say anything more than, "That's what Bill Smith thinks, and you know what that's worth."

Throughout the Republican primary season Donald Trump and Ted Cruz traded places as the candidate I most hoped would not get the nomination. Donald Trump because he is a boor, a loud-mouth egotist behind whose facade I suspect is a lot of insecurity. Ted Cruz because he is the un-Reagan, the kind of purist-absolutist conservative who alienates his colleagues and can't get anything done. I could have been happy with any of the others though my preferences were Rubio, Bush, and Kasich in that order.

My friends over at World Magazine have called for Donald Trump to step aside. I wish he would step aside and said so on Saturday, hoping Mike Pence would take his place before Sunday's debate. World is trying to be consistent. When the Lewinsky scandal broke, World called for Bill Clinton to resign. (I was a columnist then and wrote a couple of columns on the subject of the scandal.) Now it has come out that Trump groped women, which by today's standards could lead to his being accused of sexual assault. He also bragged of his acts using lewd language. World believes they must demand the same from Trump they demanded from Clinton.

But, as World admits, Trump is not going to step aside. That means that on November 8, the country is going to elect either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as President of the United States. Come next January either Trump or Clinton is going to be sworn in as President of the United States.

With that said, I offer a little perspective on Trump's language and actions. I wonder if Trump's language and behavior present us with a unique moral challenge.

Language. In 1962 I was released from the custody of Pensacola Christian School. Fortunately for me they had not yet built a prison for high school inmates. So I moved on to Pensacola High School at age 14. It was a shock to move from a class of about 30 to a school with several thousand. A big part of the shock had to do with PE class. I remember doing squat-thrusts on the tennis courts in August and ending up with blisters on the palms of my hands. Then there was the locker room. Here I heard words of which I did not know the definition. I heard boys calling for other boys to come do for or to them acts I could not imagine. The things they talked about doing to or with girls was beyond the most lustful imaginations I had in junior high at PCS. I also worked on my father's construction crew in high school and college. There, too, I had to figure out a new vocabulary and a new world of behaviors. The counsel the foreman gave me just before my honeymoon was reprehensible.

I expect many who are condemning Trump's language have laughed hearing Richard Pryor concerts. He was a genius as a comedian, but his vocabulary was awful, particularly as he talked about women and their bodies. People who have said people don't talk in locker rooms the way Trump did may forget the language of rappers and comedians or, as Darryl Hart has noted, Beyonce.

None of what I just described, or many experiences I could add, justify the crude, lewd, sexually charged language which I have heard. That Trump, now a seventy-year old, who was not and probably is not a Christian believer, should have talked the way he did ten years ago is not surprising or shocking to me. It is condemnable, but it is not surprising or shocking. He is one of those guys who never moved on from high school locker room. And, if you hang out in a golf club or other locker room that does not include women, you are likely to hear such talk today.

Behavior. That the moral behavior of Trump puts him in the class with Clinton and thus merits the call by World, seeking consistency, for him to step aside is not disputable. But, perhaps that is not the point. In my lifetime there have been three Presidents whose behavior has paralleled the Trump of the past (what Trump is today I do not know). There was John F. Kennedy, a user of women and prolific adulterer whose staff not only enabled but helped him to procure and to gratify himself with women. There was Lyndon B. Johnson, who was used to imposing his will on people of both sexes, who like Kennedy was a user of women and adulterer and whose language was crude. Then, of course there was William J. Clinton who groped, used, abused, and is accused of raping women as a Governor and as President. All three defeated men who by comparison were sexual prudes - Nixon, Goldwater, and H.W. And all three were, despite their sexual behavior, relatively successful as Presidents. (Yeah, I know, there was the Vietnam thing with LBJ.)

Times have changed for sure. Men and women are mixed in the workplace, the military, and even the locker room. The government has definitions and rules which are quoted by Joe Carter at the Gospel Coalition website as he condemns fellow evangelicals who have stuck with Trump:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. When the harassment becomes physical it becomes sexual assault, which the U.S. Justice Department defines as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Harassment can include activities such as a business owner walking in on female underlings while they are naked and discussing in front of females employees which ones he’d like to have sex with (and asking other men in the room which ones they’d like to have sex with). Harrassment becomes assault when it includes forcible kissing, groping, or grabbing a person’s genitals without her consent.
These are new definitions and rules for men of Trump's generation. They grew up with the mindset, "Do what you can get away with doing." That was true of Christian boys who were not doing the really bad stuff: "Take a kiss if you can get a kiss." This is to say it was different in the Trump days. I am disqualified by age from saying how men view things today. The sexual revolution has turned out to be a double edged sword for everyone. Things are much freer. Today you can do whatever you want with whomever you want whenever you want wherever you want, but you better make sure he or she is consenting at every step of the way. No one can condemn you for what you do. They better not or they will be condemned. But you better be sure, no matter how many "yeses" there have been along the way, that there has been nothing that can be construed as a "no" or you can be in big trouble. The only rule left about sex is the rule of consent. But this is not the world in which 70 year old men grew up.

Am I defending Trump? No. I am giving perspective. Do I think his speech and behavior are OK? Not for a moment. I condemn both. If Trump tried to grope one of my granddaughters or spoke about her with the language he used, my instinct would be to end his mortal life. Am I endorsing Trump? No, I am not.

I am saying the choice is between two candidates. One is a lecherous, foul-mouthed man whose knowledge, self-control, and judgment are at best questionable. The other is a woman who believes it is a sacred right to kill full term babies who have not yet entered the birth canal and who has enabled her husband's treating women as Trump has. The reality is that one of those two persons will be elected President.

I might be wrong, but I think Trump is done for and that almost certainly Hillary Clinton will be elected President - probably by a wide margin. I think that the conservative movement whose vehicle is the Republican Party, will be in disarray. The House may be retained, but the Presidency, and very likely the Senate, will be lost. 

What am I going to do? I don't know. I can duck for two reasons. First, living in the state which elected Tim Kaine as Senator, it is highly unlikely my vote will make any difference in the Presidential race. Second, I am scheduled for my second knee replacement on November 4 so will not be venturing out on November 8. I can vote only if I go get a an absentee ballot. 

But what is the "Christian" thing to do? There isn't one. So you may (1) vote for Clinton, (2) vote for Trump, (3) vote for a third party candidate, or (4) not vote for a Presidential candidate. Make the best decision you can.You might do something stupid, something you'll live to regret, but you won't sin. We're electing a President of this secular republic. For that you need wisdom, discretion, instinct, and intuition to decide what is best for the republic at this time and which, if either, candidate is most likely to accomplish it. Still doesn't answer the question does it?  

I Do or Maybe I Don't

There is a lot of talk about "privilege" - talk of the privileges other people have and the negative impact that status of privilege has on those who do not share it. Of course, there is white privilege. And if you break that down further within the Black community there is light-skinned privilege. Then there is male privilege. And if you look at that more closely within the female community there is blond privilege. 

As a member of the disadvantaged old community, I would like more emphasis on youth privilege. For instance, I think doctors should be required to ask the 18 year old the same questions he/she asks 70 year olds: "Have you fallen within the last 6 months? Do you feel safe in your home? Can you recite the alphabet beginning with A and ending with C?" (My answer one time to the nurse who asked me the first question was, "If I had, I wouldn't tell you.")

Recently I came across a Blog post titled "Consent is everything." It's a variation of the theme of male privilege:
Men, you hold the place of privilege and power in your conservative evangelical churches. Your physical, ecclesiastical, and familial dominance put you in a dangerous and fragile position. 
The "Consent" Blog even carries the now ubiquitous "trigger warning." I will follow through and offer my own trigger warning. His Blog and my response deal with topics of sex, marriage, consent, and the reality of abuse within marriage.

He cites several cases (I will not repeat the acts he reports) and asks, if you were were a pastor, if you would label them abusive (and possibly report them). His answer:
I suppose the answer depends on whether or not these things occur while you are a member of an OPC or a PCA church. Yes, it turns out that while “The World” seems perfectly clear about these things, actual pastors in the OPC and PCA who found themselves confronted with these exact situations in their churches told the victims that they hadn’t been abused at all. Their reason? According to them, consent is irrelevant to a Christian sexual ethic. 
He believes a pastor who does not say yes to his question, and the sessions that support their pastor, should be subject to church discipline. He says you don't have to know the details to agree with him about these pastors and sessions being subject to discipline. They are guilty, apart from the facts, because they did not consider the issue of consent:
My gut reaction on encountering this information was that these pastors should be defrocked and the sessions disciplined. By refusing to address abuse, they are complicit in it. By manipulating or bullying victims into not reporting abuse, they become perpetrators of abuse themselves. Such men are wolves, no matter how pretty their pulpit words may be. You don’t need to know the details of those cases to agree with me here. The issue is that before the details of the case can come to adjudication, their refusal to consider the consent of the abused relevant to the case already determines the outcome. That this happens among us belies how deeply and shamefully confused we are about the issue of consent.
For the writer consent really is everything. Why is it not in conservative churches? Because, he says, we are suspicious of and resistant to perspectives that come to us from the world. Consent is one of those perspectives that originates in the world:
I understand some of the reasons for our confusion. As many see it, the church’s “worldview” differs from "The World’s", and we feel defensive about this. Our ideology makes us suspicious that the world tells insidious lies about pretty much everything, and we should maintain constant vigilance against its deception. Of the insidious lies we think "The World" tells, one is that I own myself. And so many conservative Christians suspect that talk of one’s well being, one’s feelings, one’s self determination, and yes, their consent to sexual intimacy even within the marriage bond, encodes their 'wretched grasping after autonomy,' the very sin that Eve gave into in the garden. Being good Christians, steeped in the language of scripture, we counter that our bodies are not our own, and that the marriage bond is built on mutual submission, sacrifice, and selflessness.
He asks what "a theology of consent would look like." He knows, of course, that there are no Biblical passages to expound to say what he thinks needs to be said. So he reasons from his understanding of Christ, which frankly does not seem to derive from the Bible, but which, if it were derived from the Bible, would not lead to his conclusions by good and necessary inference: 
... I’m the first to admit that the issues are complex. Being prone to philosophizing, I’m usually glad to take a mental meander through the analysis of subjectivity, of agency, and so on. And as an armchair theologian, I’d find it fascinating to pick apart the trinitarian heterodoxies and christologies that animate today’s debates about complementarianism. But as satisfying as those sentences would be to me, and to other like-minded folks, I fear that indulging our impulses to argumentation would obscure our vision of the bright light of any Christian ethic, sexual or otherwise: Jesus, the God-man, incarnate Lord, the heart of our faith. 
From Him there resounds a “yes” so compelling and penetrating that it echos in our hearts, expressing itself in our own “yes” to what Jesus has accomplished in us, through history. Our yes emanates from beyond mere acquiescence or submission, arising not from need but from the fullness of union with the risen and glorified Christ. The yes of Christ joins the being of one to the being of another. Do you desire a union with others who are joined in the same way to their savior, that echoes your union with Him? Do you desire it with your wife or with your husband? Then why would you settle for anything less than their “yes” in that expression of intimacy that is yours alone to share? And how does your entire being not rebel at the wickedness of extracting that intimacy to the sound of their “no”?

There are several things to note:

1. This is another example of something that to me seems rampant: "Grid thinking." You put on the glasses of a perspective, and then you see everything perfectly through that perspective. There are good grids: The Apostles Creed or the Confessions of the churches. These creeds and confessions keep us from error as we exegete and teach the Bible. I compare what I have come up with looking at Scripture to what the church says is settled doctrine, and, if I disagree, I am probably wrong, and in any case should not teach it for truth. But a sociological or political view is not a grid through which a Christian can safely view everything else. The fact that I am a capitalist does not mean I should condemn Joseph for laying up food in government barns or the early Jerusalem church for holding all things in common. The writer of the blog has taken a grid from the world and thinks that pastors or sessions who do not see things through his grid are benighted.

2. He describes three cases and acknowledges he does not give us the details; he tells us about the pastoral counsel given in these situations and asks us to rely on his very brief reports of what the pastors said; he says these pastors and their sessions need to be disciplined by higher authorities. Now, if he accurately describes the three cases, I agree with his point of view regarding those cases. If he accurately describes the pastoral counsel, I would question its wisdom. But you would have to know a whole lot more than he tells you even to consider launching an inquiry, much less entering a disciplinary case against these pastors and elders.

3. He ignores and so does not address our civilization's historical view of marriage. Civilizations accumulated wisdom is far more reliable than a trendy contemporary view. 

Understand what I am saying. I believe "not tonight honey" should, after a little pleading of one's case, be "not tonight." But it also needs to be pointed out that historically the "I do" of the Christian marriage ceremony, is a statement of implied consent. That's why we have the concept of "conjugal rights." There is in the law an assumption that the two parties who enter into marriage then have a "right" to sexual relations. A brief definition from Webster of conjugal rights is:"the sexual rights or privileges implied by and involved in the marriage relationship: the right of sexual intercourse between husband and wife." My guess is that in writing his "Consent" blog the author was not aware of such rights, and, had he been aware, would have considered this an antiquated concept that represents a society where male privilege prevailed. Civilization deserves the benefit of the doubt and ought not to be quickly and thoughtlessly jettisoned.

4. The most important deficiency of the blog is that, apart from confused and misused Christology, the writer does not wrestle at all with the relevant passages of Scripture. There are all the cases of marriage in the Old Testament to consider. There are Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 in the New Testament. And there is this:
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
No "theology of consent" that does not understand and wrestle with the implications and applications of the words of the Apostle, which are the words of God, is a theology of consent. Consent is one thing, but, if the Apostle is right, far from everything.

Now those who feel guilty about your youth privilege may ease your consciences by sending reparations to me. I will accept them on behalf of the whole class of old people. Make your check out to "Bill "the Curmudgeon" Smith. 
As soon as your deposited check the bank clears,
You'll be free from your guilt, and tears, and fears.