How We Handle Church Abuse Matters – A Synopsis

NY Times “I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded” by Jules Woodsen – Regarding Andy Savage

We use words like “forgiveness”

We put “timelines” on crime (“20+ years ago”) as if their “good life” after made up for it

We allow offenders to “step down” (this only means from this church because of the “blemish”, but they move on to others)

We “throw them going away parties and send them off with love”

We, as a church board, decide to “deal with it internally” instead of turning the crime and criminal over to authorities for earthly consequences, in essence, we break the law “for Christ”

We keep “the incident(s)” a secret from others and encourage the victim to do the same

We pull the “Grace card”, but only for the offender. The victim is shamed, blamed, silenced and ousted.

We promote a very broken “leader” and allow them to move on to “mega” ministry for the victim to watch the rest of their lives, sending a clear message of what really matters.

When called out “20+ years” later, when the victim finds her voice and cannot remain silent a moment longer or “take it to her grave”, we allow the offender to come up and “humbly” apologize while minimizing the “incident” and we allow him to make it sound as if it were consensual even though the victim has very clearly told the real story, it was not consensual nor even expected – it was a young girl, a student being put in a position of assault and non consent with an adult church LEADER…it is disgusting, and a CRIME.

If this were a school teacher and a student, it would lead to firing, reporting, arresting, trial, time in prison and a sex offender status – “consensual” or not – it would be taking advantage of a minor in layman’s terms, sexual offense criminally. Why does the church get to decide it was “an incident”?

How do we, as a church, deal with the victim?

Silence

Shame

Blame

Disgust or at minimum avoidance

They are pushed out of congregation and fellowship:

  • either by avoidance which makes them feel shameful
  • coupled with their own self-imposed shame
  • assaulted again by the process, the offender “steps down” which equates to “moves on” and is often celebrated since no one really knows what has been done, the ones that do remain silent
  • we minimize the offense if it is mentioned at all to others
  • we lie, cover, manipulate, whatever is needed to minimize the damage to the “cause” or to the “church” though one of the members of the church are suffering
  • we place an entire family into torment and destruction – the victim’s family – and place a lifetime sentence on them, remain silent and “let us handle it” (poorly) and we (as the church board) really hope that the family stops attending so we don’t have to feel bad or worry, they make us uncomfortable.
  • we leave the victim and their family alone and we move forward – that “grace” and “forgiveness” card is only used for the offender because it makes us feel better biblically (2 or more witnesses, apology, dealt with, check)
  • we continue to build our church, grow in numbers, preach about sin and forgiveness, amazing grace and we prosper – while the victim suffers and may never be the same or be able to fully recover.
  • the victim watches their offender grow big churches and followers, all the while living a lie and carrying the secret.

Every time a victim hears of a crime of the same proportions, they re-live their trauma. They wonder why their crime wasn’t important enough and why their offender prospers. They see stories in the news of an assault and watch the picture of the offender posted and his subsequent arrest – while their offender is publicly televised every Sunday preaching the word of God with a big smile, a soft voice, and a bunch of amen’s – hypocrisy.

And the bookend to it all? When the victim finds her voice, 20+ years later, and the offender has to face the music when she finally tells the real story…we as a church applaud the offender (that must have been so hard for him to admit) and we publicly blast and chastise the now adult victim on social media (tweets and messages) and in emails, we publicize her address and info so others can harass her and her family for the “crime” (?) of TELLING the TRUTH of the crime that happened against her from her teacher/youth Pastor when he took advantage of her and the trust of him. Yes, let’s attack the messenger while we applaud and celebrate the poor “man of god” – because this is how we “christians” handle church abuse.

Jules Woodsen, Megan Lively, Rachael Denhollander, Amy Smith, Lori Anne-Thompson, to Kelly Downing, to Christa Brown, to Julie Anne, to Suzanne van Dyck, to Rachel & other victims of Tullian Tchividjian, to the victims of John Finley, the victims of Mark Aderholt, the victims of Darrell Gilyard, the numerous victims of the cover up’s by Paige Patterson, the victims of Paul Pressler, to ALL of the others I have not listed…

I am so thankful for the grace of God and love of our Father, it is the only thing that gets us through. While I believe fully in His grace and forgiveness, I wrote the above acknowledging the cheapening of this gift when so easily being used to cover abusive men who should be Shepherds to us. I do know you are all strong despite the crimes against you and the ever present pain that the crime and injustice brought. I do not mean to place any of us in a “victim” mindset, though we are all survivors of crimes. However, we are more than conquerors and His grace is sufficient.

Much love and support, #MeToo #Churchtoo