A few years ago a story was going around, for example as reported by Richard Bartholomew, that the megachurch pastor and best-selling Christian author Rick Warren claimed that he was the pastor of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. This was based on a quote from a 2007 story at WorldNetDaily:
In the New Yorker interview published in September 2005, Warren is quoted as saying: “I had dinner with Jack Welch (former chief executive officer of GE) last Sunday night. … And he said to me, ‘Rick, you the biggest thinker I have ever met in my life. The only other person I know who thinks globally like you is Rupert Murdoch.’ And I said, ‘That’s interesting. I’m Rupert’s pastor! Rupert published my book!’”
In fact WorldNetDaily starts the same story with a denial of the most obvious interpretation of Warren’s words:
Rick Warren Chief of Staff David Chrzan wrote to me last week to say WorldNetDaily made “some errors in definition, assumption and application” in our news story about the mega-pastor’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch. …
“First, the story is based on the assertion that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., is a member of Saddleback Church, which is not correct,” writes Chrzan. “In fact, he doesn’t even live in Orange County, CA, and has never attended a service here.”
Nevertheless it does seem that in some sense Warren considered himself, in 2005, to have some kind of spiritual responsibility for Murdoch. Warren has also sold at least 30 million copies of his book The Purpose Driven Life, published by Zondervan which is owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation. Warren has profited from his book sales enough to be able to return 25 years of his salary to his church. No doubt Murdoch’s corporation has also made a good profit from Warren’s books.
In 2007 Batholomew and others like Chris Rosebrough called Warren out for failing to discipline Murdoch over his ownership of pornographic TV channels, and suggested that he might have kept quiet because of the publishing relationship between the two.
In view of the latest scandals relating to Murdoch and his newspapers, likened by Ruth Gledhill to the Augean Stables, should there be renewed calls for Warren to discipline Murdoch?
Well, first we would need to ascertain that there is a continuing pastoral relationship between Warren and Murdoch. I have found no evidence of this more recent than 2005. It may well have terminated in the intervening years. Indeed it is quite probable that Warren did indeed attempt to discipline Murdoch about the pornography channels, in private as would have been proper, and at that time Murdoch repudiated Warren as his pastor. But in this case it would be helpful for Warren to clarify publicly that what he said in 2005 is no longer true.
If there is in fact a continuing pastoral relationship, I would indeed expect Warren to discuss the current scandal with Murdoch. But he should do so privately, initially, according to the clear teaching of Jesus (Matthew 18:15-16). As Murdoch is not a church member, the biblical next step of bringing the matter to the church cannot apply. It would be appropriate, if the matter cannot be resolved, for Warren to terminate the pastoral relationship and to announce this publicly. But this should be the end point of a possibly prolonged process of clarifying how far Murdoch’s business practices are compatible with whatever kind of Christian faith he may profess.
Of course there might well be legal reasons, part of Warren’s publishing contract, preventing him from making public statements about Murdoch, similar to what may have kept Wayne Grudem from commenting on the NIV 2011 update. On the other hand, it would hardly be in Murdoch’s interests to terminate such a lucrative publishing contract.
Please note that I intend here no criticism of my friends at Zondervan, who, like Ruth Gledhill, are innocent people caught up in a scandal for which they bear no responsibility.
Thanks to Phil Groom, @notbovvered on Twitter, for reminding me of this story.