The issue of integrity, or lack thereof, has reared its head within our community of Christian writers. (A link to the article “Sexual Harassment Uncovered at Christian Writing Conferences.”) It is a time of sorrow.
Many have been hurt, and the heart aches to hear and read the stories. It is ugly, horrible, and that’s just about what we know. It is inexcusable. Innocent lives forever changed. Our industry has been sullied.
Earlier this year I helped a conference director craft a “Conference Code of Conduct” and have adapted it as a statement for our agency:
Every person involved in our agency is expected to act in a manner that reflects biblical values and to act in a manner that pleases God. We are expected to be respectful and treat everyone the same – regardless of rank, gender, or socioeconomic position. Christian men and women are expected to maintain the highest moral standards as a reflection of God’s holiness. While much of today’s culture has abandoned these precepts, the biblical principles for behavior are essential. Our actions and words are a testimony of who we are as Christ followers.
(Ps. 51:9–10, Phil. 4:8, Ps. 41:12, 1 Cor. 6:19–20, Ps. 24:3–5, Gal 1:10)
This is not a debate. There should not be a question about how we behave as followers of Christ. Our words and behavior are indeed a testimony to Him whose name we proclaim. Harvey Mackay wrote, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
In our weakness, we must rely on Christ who gives us strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). That is why we are urged toward sanctification (Romans 6:19), to the “holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9), and to “walk worthy” (Ephesians 4:1).
A.W. Tozer wrote, “The purity of our life is simply the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. No other level of purity will be accepted. As I intentionally live the Christian life, I am focused on His purity, and He is living His life through me unencumbered by other things or interests” (The Dangers of a Shallow Faith).
Hebrews 13:18 reads, “Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” We are in the business of changing the world for God’s Kingdom through the words we write. It is a calling like no other.
Let us focus on that task, maintain our integrity, and support those who have been hurt.
Thank you for these reminders. I love that integrity quote.
Thank you for sharing. What a sad reality we face when sin creeps in and wreaks havoc. My heart aches for the victims of such ugliness – I’m glad to see this issue is being addressed appropriately. Thanks Steve!
Sharon Kay Connell
It is a sad thing that an agency like yours, or any other agency, group, or organization has to have a Code of Conduct. But Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. We have to remember that.
With the degeneration of any age, I suppose this was bound to happen, even at a Christian conference. But it is still inexcusable to me. People we look up to behaving like the rest of the world.
Thank you for publishing this article. If I ever decide to go with an agent, I will definitely try to be accepted by yours first. And thank you for the warning about conferences. Actions like this would have been the furthest thing from my mind in attending.
Kudos, Steve, for taking the initiative and articulating the expected behavior. This says to potential abusers, “If you don’t want to meet this standard, don’t come.” It lets potential victims know it’s OK to report questionable behavior.
Thanks for sharing. I think it’s important that people realize that we are called to a higher standard. We are Ambassadors for Christ. We cannot take on the ways of the world if we want our message to be taken seriously.
I like the Scriptures you gave. One thing surprises me though. When you reference first Corinthian 6:19, 20, why didn’t you include verse 18? I think “Flee fornication” it’s perfectly in this article. Just sayin. God bless.
Thank you, Steve, for this timely post. May God show his grace and mercy to us, and may each of us strive to be a reflection of Christ’s character of purity and righteousness. Praying for those who have been wounded and those who did the wounding.
Thank you, Steve, for your leadership and courage to set a godly example.
Thanks for addressing this issue, Steve. I love Tozer’s quote and appreciate the reminder that we must all pursue a life of integrity.
Thank you for addressing this in such a high-standard manner. This will preach, no matter who is reading it. Awesome post.
Through this night of quiet menace
when every quarter-chime was heard
and the pain became a penance
for the sins He’d not incurred.
He knew dawn would bring an endless
chain of horror, and His vision blurred
with the tears that proved the premise
of His Love for a lost, inverted world.
He wept as one without a blemish
could weep, as our sin-pride flags unfurled.
Our hands are red with blood and worse
but those very tears wash away our curse.
Rebekah Live Dorris
Andrew, you always get to the heart of the matter. Praying for you and alleviation of pain. Cyber-hugs to you my precious younger brother in Christ.
I have been disheartened by how few men in the industry have spoken out about these recent allegations. Thank you for writing this, for reminding me that there are many, many noble people in our industry.
AMEN! And thanks you for your Statement of Faith on your website.
keri w kent
I am thankful and proud to be represented by you, Steve. Thanks for speaking up and for being a man of integrity.
Thanks so much, Steve! This has not been an easy time for any of us. Support from people like you and Jerry Jenkins has been so appreciated!
Jim, I was in your class at the Taylor University Writers Conference this summer. Your having to be part of the investigation is appreciated. As I received the roster of faculty at the conference, I wondered then why Doc Hensley had been taken off the list. So sad, not only for the women, but also for the men who forsook integrity for their own interests.
Patti Jo Moore
Amen. Christians must rise above the world and its standards, and show others how Christ would have us live. Not always easy, but something all of us need to do. Thank you for sharing this.
It is so appreciated to see leaders like yourself facing these things head-on, not sweeping them to the shadows and ignoring them. Integrity also involves shining light on the truth, which sadly sometimes involves bringing to light the ugly.
Thank you for your integrity.
Thank you for addressing such an important issue. It would be nice to think that Christians don’t need to consider such issues within their own community. While attending the ACFW Conference this past week, I heard more than one person comment that it was perfectly fine to leave your personal belongings (including wallets, laptops & other valuables) unattended while you stepped out of a room for water or to use the bathroom, “because we’re all Christians here.” While I have not personally encountered or heard of a theft problem at a Christian conference, I find this a rather naive idea. As a previous commenter mentioned, we are saved, not sinless. We don’t know what sins the Christian beside us is struggling with. We should not place temptation in anyone’s path where it is within our control to avoid doing so. As sad as it may be that we need a code of conduct, I find it very wise. As a former foster parent, I am all too aware of how those we trust – both within and outside of the Christian community – may let us down or betray that trust. That includes both lies and inappropriate behavior. We cannot control another’s choices, but we can choose to conduct our own lives with appropriate caution and integrity. The rest is up to God.
Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Steve, one of the things I have appreciated most about you as an agent these last 12 years is your integrity. Thank you for that, for your example, and for your leadership in the writing field. I know you weren’t looking for kudos, but in the climate we live and work in, I believe we also need to encourage our encouragers–those who always take the high road. I’m sure all your clients and those who know you agree.
Rebekah Love Dorris
Thank you for posting this. Last week was a hard week, and it helps to know we aren’t alone in our grief.
God is so good to remind us all how we need Him to keep us from falling. It’s amazing how when He allows things to be shaken, those things which cannot be shaken rise into focus.
Platforms can topple, but He is the Rock. Thanks for building on Him and leading us to as well. God bless.
Thank you for addressing this topic and for being one of the good guys. Our collective hearts indeed ache as we consider what has been happening to so many women. This whole thing has caused pain, anger, tumult; but it has also deepened and broadened a much-needed discussion that will hopefully result in change.
Thank you, Steve. You and your staff are prime examples of how it should work. It pains me that we need to elucidate this code of conduct. Did the WWJD movement not take at all?
Thanks for sharing this timely post, Steve, and for being known in our industry as a man of integrity. I hope your agency’s statement of faith encourages writers, editors, and other agencies to follow your lead.
“That is why we are urged toward sanctification…”
Thank you for the reminder that we all still have work to be done (and there is grace along the way as we head there).
In the midst of everything that’s been coming to light, I have been thankful to have known you as a man of integrity for the 20+ years of our acquaintance. While so many stories are just coming to light, there has always been a sad understanding that Christian publishing (as in churches and everyplace else that we flawed, fallen people gather and/or work together) is fraught with the same challenges and failures faced in the world in general.
But hopefully, as you describe, there is a greater intention of being people of integrity, even when we aren’t worthy of the name of the One we attempt to follow. I hope we’ll spend more time looking at and for the examples of the best in the business so we don’t lose heart in the process.
I also grieve over the fallout for everyone who tries to tell someone about how wonderful it is to follow Jesus. It takes so little for someone to shut you out with the charge that it’s all fake and Christians are hypocrites, just look at (insert name). When any of us act without integrity, the waves of suspicion can wash away all the good seeds we’ve been planting.
Athena Dean Holtz
Thank you, Steve, for being one of the good guys, and for addressing this issue. For the 25+ years that I have known you at conferences and in business, you have been a shining example of a man of integrity. You never had to go back and post pre-emptive apologies, do damage control, shift blame, shame the victims or reframe a story to make yourself look innocent…because you have lived an honorable life! The kind of life that does not require these deceptive actions in order to save face (or your business). I appreciate you!
This situation is something no one is rejoicing in. There are no winners here. In time, I hope there will be healing for the victims, and new wisdom for those in leadership on how to move forward and keep writers conferences a place where attendees feel safe and where the expectation for faculty and staff is always for integrity and behavior “above reproach.” Thanks for calling all of us to that place, and for expressing your pain at the damage done by a few. I appreciate you, Steve, as a quiet leader and man of integrity in the Christian publishing industry.
This is heartbreaking. I have seen a lot of spiritual leaders over the years fall into every temptation and even heresy. I can’t judge, but I can weep and pray. I already know all of us sin, still. Thank God, our Mediator has taken this from us, and we strive for, work toward sanctification as we wait in faith only for His return and our ultimate sanctification through Him.
God forgive us all. We are to be light and salt, not the rank odor of death. How does this bring the Word to non-believers?
I can beam a light into my own writing. Does it glorify God or the flesh? Having this brought to my attention, I am making slash and change.
It’s so very sad that such misbehavior was uncovered at Christian Writers’ Conferences. But given the condition of the world, it’s not terribly surprising.
I pray for all involved, for comfort and healing. And I appreciate the Code of Conduct that you and others have written. It may prevent others from stumbling and falling.
I haven’t commented here for quite awhile, but I want to say I appreciate your Code of Conduct. That’s as straight and true as it gets.
I was saddened to hear of inappropriate behavior at Christian writing conferences. I would have been surprised to hear of it at secular conferences; I was shocked to hear of such things at Christian conferences. After some thought, I realized that in any setting where there are authority figures who have power, prestige, influence, ego, and little or no accountability, there is greater possibility of such abuse. As we have found out, that includes any Christian setting where people forget to keep in mind Who they are supposed to represent, whether they are at the conference or outside of the conference.
It has been a time of reeling from the impact of the ugliness of sin. As a conference director, I will do my utmost to make sure all are kept safe, and I so appreciate your Code of Conduct. It will be used at The Well. Thank you, Steve!
Thank you, Steve, for posting this article. It is sad that Codes of Conduct have to be created, but we all need the reminder of what integrity is and that we all need to have it. Thanks for pointing us not toward an earthly person, but Jesus. He is the perfect example of integrity. For too long, sexual harassment against women has been swept under the rug. It is good that this issue is out front and being discussed. We must discuss it from time to time since, today, men AND women have used sex as a weapon. Yes, even at writers’ conferences. But our God is great and He is the Healer of all wounds and Forgiver of all sins. Broken vessels like me are more than grateful for His forgiveness and repairs to the soul. Forgive one another as He has forgiven you. Remember you are a NEW creation in Christ. Love one another. Seek Him and live!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Thanks for the information, Steve. I hugged my agent at the ACFW conference when I got some great news. I hope that wasn’t sexual harassment. I certainly did mean it that way! We were in the presence of a lot of witnesses….I hugged some women, as well…..didn’t mean anything other than happiness with them, either. My goodness! Life is not what it used to be, that’s for certain.
Rachael M Colby
Thank you for addressing this heartbreaking situation, Steve. Praying for all involved. Clear cut high standards and accountability are crucial to maintain moral integrity and protect our testimony as light bearers for Christ. Set boundaries on the safe side, not as close to the edge as possible, as the preacher said. So many problems could be avoided by adherence to these:
Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV)
Neither give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:27 (KJV)
Brennan S. McPherson
Very glad to see your agency respond to this. Wonderful post, Steve. Thank you!
Thank you, Steve, for speaking up when so many prominent men in the industry stood by silently, witnessing the tragedy and saying nothing.
You have no need of an apology tour (like some of the named are doing) because you never came close to the line between integrity and compromise.
By speaking words of truth and compassion, you are standing for healing for those women who were groomed and victimized by these predators .
No matter how many prominent men come forward to express their concern for the victims in the future, you will always go down as one who led the way instead of one who jumped on a bandwagon.
As you’ve said for the 20+ years I’ve known you, words make a difference.