One of the recurring themes I hear from those close to individuals who have been accused of abuse is that I am somehow wrong for posting the news stories about abuse in the church. Of course, I have persistently responded with my reasons for doing so.
But as I was looking through the news again this morning, and finding yet another story of a man charged with child abuse in the church I was overwhelmed with both discouragement and renewed affirmation in my actions.
My first thought on seeing the story I just posted was, “Will it never end? WHY does this just keep going on and on?” Take a look at the number of stories I have posted just during the past week or so. There have been new accusations of clergy abuse reported every day.
Today’s story was about a man accused of child abuse occuring over the past 20+ years. Statistically, there is very little likelihood these accusations are not true, given the fact that it includes multiple victims, including family members, over the course of a very long time. I am not a judge so I cannot say this man is guilty. I can say, based on abuse patterns, this story has the clear ring of truth.
This particular story is very typical. At the time a clergy member is reported to authorities, there is usually a trail of victims, frequently including family members, going back 20 to 50 years. Every one of those victims was permanently wounded. Their wounds directly affected their future spouse. It probably affected their family relationship, and their children once they had children of their own. That is the way sexual abuse works. The invisible effects are dramatic and devastating and they affect MANY lives.
This typical theoretical abusive clergy member also had a large number of church members in whose lives he has been an authority figure and in whose lives he has spoken for God. Over 20 – 50 years how many lives is that? It doesn’t matter if this typical clergy member was a fantastic preacher. His sin has affected the lives of everyone under him, whether they are aware of it or not. That is the nature of authority.
Eventually, it would be interesting to see a study of the effects of clergy abuse in the lives of those in his church. I have seen some consistent patterns. These things do not always happen, but I’ve seen it frequently enough to believe it is a pattern that results from spiritual authority with secret sexual sin. When the head pastor has hidden sexual sin, his church can become a haven for other sexual abusers. For some reason other abusers just know they are safe there. And when the church organization covers for the leader, this stronghold will continue virtually forever, even if the head is eventually exposed some other way. I have seen Christian organizations whose head was a sexual abuser, where the head was eventually removed but the sin was not addressed properly, and the organization remains a cesspool of hidden abusers. This can and will go on as long as that organization exists and the pattern of denial or improper dealing with abuse continues.
This issue of spiritual authority is why I believe this must be addressed by denominational leadership church-wide. Right now, as a pattern in the church, sex abusers are protected by the pulpit. Is that a spiritual authority pattern we want to encourage by ignoring its significance? What does it mean for the church? Take a look at Israel. God will not be mocked forever. He clearly said in the New Testament that church which was grafted in can just as easily be removed. Why do we think we are immune from God’s harshest judgment when we tolerate and pander to abuse in the church?
So, when people are outraged at me for posting these news stories this is why I will continue. By posting these stories I hope the church will start to see these are not rare or isolated incidents. This is a systemic problem in the Christian church, across all denominational lines. When it happens in a church, those in that church tend to think it is an anomaly that has struck their individual congregation. That is why it matters to post all these stories in one place. This is not a weird unfortunate thing that happens here and there. It is an epidemic.
Filed under: abuse and the church, Speaking Out, The State of the Church | Tagged: abuse in the church, abuse of power, authority, church abuse, Clergy Abuse, clergy sex abuse, molestation, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, spiritual authority |