How Abuse Affects A Child

My oldest son (J) is in college; attending the same school I am.  I help him and other students with their papers – editing but never writing, of course!  Last semester he made a statement in a paper that struck me.  I knew it was true but it was interesting to me that he realized and expressed it.  Here’s what he said (copied with his permission):

It seemed to me that I had to live my life to everyone else’s expectations and follow their dreams for me. I was raised going to church every Sunday, hating every visit, tortured by every sermon. Looking around, I had no doubt there was a God but I did not want more [rules]. I already had one father who seemed great in public then at home would verbally and physically attack me. I did not feel I needed another father like that so I rejected a heavenly father.

Fortunately, when he was 18, J did accept Christ and his life changed dramatically and visibly. My point is that his “wonderful Christian” father’s private abuse, which the church refused to acknowledge, nearly cost this boy his relationship with God. That is probably the single biggest reason it matters that the church get its collective head out of the sand and take responsibility for abuse in the homes of church families. There is a Biblical pattern to address church discipline – it needs to be Biblically exercised.

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It’s Not About Sex

Another fantastic blog post by Christa Brown can be found here. It is called “It’s Not About Sex,” dated January 12, 2008. I’ve excerpted part of it below — well said.

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Thinking that clergy sex abuse is about sex is like thinking the Bataan Death March was about marching.

Yet, over and over again, Southern Baptist leaders talk about clergy sex abuse as though it were just another form of “sexual sin.” Repeatedly, I’ve seen them list child molestation along with such things as pornography, adultery, and even lustful thoughts. They lump it all together and call it “sexual sin.”

This suggests that they think it’s about sex.

It’s not.

It’s about a predator’s need to have absolute power over another human being. It’s about control and dominance.

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are powerful tactics to dehumanize and degrade others.

When you combine the tactic of sexual assault with the authority of a pastor and the weapon of God’s word, the dehumanization of the victim is complete.

There is no weapon more powerful than the word of God in the hands of a perverse pastoral con-man who traps true-believers as prey…

What the Bible Says…

Here’s what the Bible says about judging accused church leaders…

Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. ~~~ I Tim. 5:19-20

The Word says not to accept an accusation against a church leader except before two or three witnesses.  The little word “before” could be taken to mean that the accusation should be made in front of two or three witnesses or it could mean the accusation should only be received upon the word of two or three witnesses. 

This does not mean that we can ignore accusations if the same accusation is not independently made by one or two additional people. At the very least, we should understand it to mean that if an accusation is made against a leader, investigation should be made to see if the accusation can be confirmed by one or two additional witnesses. Investigation must be made.

The law of our land demands that all allegations of abuse must be reported to the authorities. There is no alternative. No church leader in this country has the discretionary authority to choose not to report any allegation of abuse, even if he is completely sure the allegation is false. The Word says we are to be subject to our government authorities. This is non-optional.

If people want to be considered church leaders – this is all leaders, not just pastors, including denominational leaders, seminary leaders, elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, etc. – they must also accept this responsibility to investigate accusations made against other church leaders.

If the accusation is confirmed by one or two other witnesses, this passage is very clear about the consequences. Even if the individual is not ultimately convicted in court, if the testimony of these witnesses is credible enough to be validated by additional witnesses, even if it is “technically” not a crime but still violates God’s requirements that a leader be blameless, the accused is to be publically exposed and removed from leadership.

There can be no other conclusion drawn from this passage of Scripture!  Remember, the Word says church leaders are supposed to be above reproach – without blame.  It doesn’t say “proven guilty in a civil court.” 

Again I ask – is this Scripture remotely ambiguous? The church leaders I know of who are at fault in this epidemic of hiding clergy abuse say they believe the Bible is God’s Word and literally true. But they are conveniently overlooking passages they find uncomfortable.

Until these church leaders step up to the standard they say they uphold, it is the responsibility of those in the church who see the problem to continue to expose it.

In Their Own Words – Southern Baptist Leaders Speak

Christa Brown has written another exceptional blog post regarding Southern Baptist leadership and their statements about clergy sex abuse and abusers.  You can see the entire post here. It is the post entitled “Patterson & Vines: Their words raise questions,” dated Jan. 16, 2008. Christa points out the inconsistencies and gaping holes in the excuses offered by these SBC leaders.

I wanted to add a couple thoughts to one of these statements, so I’ve excerpted it below with my comments.

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Former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson now says:

“Mr. Gilyard is very convincing and he always denied the accusations.”

This is one of the consistent huge problems I see in church leaders’ responses to accusations of abuse, whether against clergy or against church members. If the abuser is convincing the leaders give themselves an automatic “out” and the subject is closed. Do any of these people ever watch Law and Order or other cop shows? Doesn’t everyone know by now that guilty people almost always deny their guilt, usually with believable sincerity and often even in the face of obvious proof to the contrary???

If the accused is not guilty he will deny his guilt (not gender specific; can be male or female). If the accused is guilty he will deny his guilt. A denial of guilt does not conclude or decide anything. The belief that denial equals innocence is a profound bit of flawed reasoning church leaders continue to embrace!

One of the qualifications for church leadership is supposed to be an ability, “by reason of use,” to “discern good and evil.” If this excuse is actually the truth – in other words, if “he is very convincing” was convincing enough – this is glaring evidence that these leaders are not qualified for church leadership. I’m not saying this out of any personal angst; this is just a reasonable Biblical conclusion.

The church has completely abandoned its function of making right judgments within the church. Apparently the church doesn’t want to step up to the plate of this Biblical function of church leadership. But the fact that this has become common practice (or lack of practice) does not excuse those who have set themselves up to be leaders in God’s church.