An element of the Licking Baptist Church case that’s not been commented on in the media is the significance of 1 Corinthians 6 on such disputes —
(1Co 6:1-8 ESV) When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
Paul urges the Corinthian congregation to follow the model of the Jewish synagogues and try their own disputes. The elders of the synagogues served as judges in the Moses/Abner tradition, settling disputes among Jews of the same synagogue, refusing to go before pagan courts.
7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud–even your own brothers!
The conclusion of the passage has often been interpreted to mean that suits against a brother in Christ are entirely forbidden, but Paul’s point is that it would be better to file no suit at all than to file suit before a pagan judge. But he’s already said that the church should try these cases itself.
Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers … ?
Modern American law allows those with a dispute to submit their case to an arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators) who have the authority to decide the dispute and render an enforceable judgment. The disputants need only sign a contract agreeing to do this and naming the arbitrator.
Most elderships are reluctant to serve as arbitrators for fear of alienating whichever party loses, preferring to serve as counselors and conciliators. Therefore, they typically ask attorneys or elders from another church to serve as arbitrator — to take church politics out of the dispute.
In many communities, there’s a Christian lawyer association that has Christian lawyers trained to serve in such cases.
Now, given these facts, how should the molested girls have proceeded to seek civil justice against their pastor, their church, and the Baptist convention?
What would have happened, do you suppose, if they’d attempted a Christian arbitration, given that the courts will not force people to arbitrate?
What if the judges in their hometown were church-going Christians? Would that change your answer?
Does the fact that pastor had pled guilty to rape and served seven years mean that he is no longer a “brother” and so outside this rule?