Boz Tchividjian wrote a pretty good article about internal investigations that are configured to look like independent investigations. Because some folks out there were making application to the review that Christ Church has requested from the CREC, I thought I should say just a quick something.
There are two basic responses. One has to do with the application of the principles in the article to our situation, and the second is a critique of an assumption that the whole article rested on. In short, I think the article was good, but the background assumption really dangerous. I will keep this brief.
First, the CREC committee of our presiding ministers does not run afoul of Boz’s criteria for an independent review or investigation. The CREC is conducting the review, and they are reviewing two particular churches, not the CREC as a whole. So the article on its face does not apply to this situation. It condemns “independent investigations” which are not really independent because the institution being investigated stays “in the driver’s seat” by hiring the investigative agency, determining who is on the investigation team, requiring updates, controlling the process by limiting the scope or determining who can be interviewed, and maintaining control of the final report. Absolutely none of the criteria that Boz laid out apply to this circumstance. But to be fair to him in this, he did not reference our review in the argument he was making — but others have done so on his behalf. Strictly applied, this article provides really solid ground for trusting this CREC review process, for which I thank him.
My second point would be critical of a background assumption that runs through the whole article. It does not vitiate his point about the need for honest investigations that actually uncover what actually happened. While it does not overthrow the good point he was making, it stands itself in marked tension to it.
“While an internal investigation offers an institution the opportunity for self-protection, an independent investigation offer an institution something far more profound. It offers the institution an opportunity to understand where it failed in order to demonstrate authentic repentance to those who have been hurt, and to make the necessary changes so that the same offenses are never repeated.”
The institution gets “an opportunity to understand where it failed . . .” Notice how the outcome of the investigation is just quietly assumed. The institution will discover, at the end of the day, where it failed, not whether it did. We already know that. Similar expressions occur throughout the article, and there are no expressions to the contrary. It is plain that Boz is predisposed to hear certain stories with an alert sympathy (“the youth pastor molested me”) and other stories with disbelief from the outset (“no, I didn’t”). At no place in the article does Boz say anything like “if the allegations turn out to be false . . .”
And that is something that any real review or investigation needs to keep front and center as one of the live options. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17, ESV). As Boz knows well, cover-ups in Christian institutions are not rare. But neither are false allegations. Every good review or investigation, whether internal or genuinely independent, should want to find out the truth, and should not assume they know the last chapter of a story they have not yet read.