Clergy

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

There are very few pastors and church leaders who knowingly and deliberately set out to do evil. Even the ones who are involved in significant criminal behaviors have justified and excused it to themselves. In fact, this is why they really are good people the rest of the time. But even these are the statistical minority, by far.

Most pastors and church leaders genuinely love God and are doing what they believe is best. I believe this is true.

So why do I say the things I do on this blog? I’ve been accused quite a few times of bitterness and anger against pastors. The first time someone said it to me I realized he was right. But I spent a few months with God on it and did learn to see pastors from a different perspective.

That said, however, I have still been unable to find practical justification to relax my vigilance of concern. It is not that pastors are nefarious evil-doers. I believe it is just that, with all the work pastors do, they do not see some blind spots where people are being wounded.

Some pastors and churches are doing virtually nothing or are grossly violating people in the name of godliness. This is a significant issue in the church which must be addressed in a straightforward manner.

Some pastors and churches are trying, but are fumbling badly without realizing how much damage they are doing in the process. Unfortunately, they are clinging to bad doctrine and practice out of arrogance and pride. I hope these can be willing to hear from someone outside their “box” and be humble enough to make adjustments, even if the truth doesn’t come from a source they would have thought to accept.

And some pastors and churches are doing so very much right. But are any of us ever perfect? Can we all learn from each other? Is it possible that even a church or pastor who is on the right page could gain insight for improvement from the perspective of those who have “been there and done that?” There is danger in getting so vested in our “Movement” or “Organization” that we miss truth that wears another label – or no label at all.

I don’t suggest that I have all the answers. All I have are the experiences of many, many, many abuse survivors in the church, what God has taught me from His Word in many years seeking Him through abuse, and what He continues to teach me as I continue to seek Him.

I will never be perfect and I will never get it all right. That’s why I always tell people to take everything from everyone back to the Word and the Holy Spirit for confirmation! I don’t care who it’s from. If that admonition was good enough for listeners to the Apostle Paul it’s good enough for the rest of us!

But one thing I do know – right now we have a problem. People are being horribly wounded. People are leaving the church in droves because the church has failed them. And that is not OK.

Pastors are shepherds. To shepherds has been given the responsibility to keep and tend, nurture and protect the sheep. Can it be acceptable to turn a blind eye to “attrition”? Especially when that loss is at our own hands?

These aren’t people who have walked away because they’ve decided they would rather hit the drag races or the golf course on Sunday. They have been hurt so badly by the church they can no longer walk through the doors. The pastors, the shepherds of God’s flock, should be in serious alarm over this fact.

That’s what I’m about. The lost sheep and the hurting church. I’m on your side if that goal is your goal. Unfortunately, if that is not your goal, I’m not on your side.

I will tell you ahead of time that most of these articles for clergy are very strong. There are some reasons for this.

First, church leaders need to realize this is an extremely serious issue. This is not just a “good idea” or “something they should think about.” People’s lives are literally at stake, people’s lives have literally been crippled because pastors have been negligent, and God takes this extremely seriously. We MUST wake up!

The offense you may feel is nothing compared to the offense that has been inflicted upon thousands of lambs in the flock of God. Truly, nothing. I ask you to sit a bit and think about that after you have read some of the clergy articles — and let that soak in.

I’m also not setting out to deliberately shock or inflict pain. But I do feel strongly about the offense that has been rendered. It is wrong. The only way I know to try to open people’s eyes is to speak the truth boldly, clearly and precisely — and that isn’t very soft and cushy. There is no way to wrap that up nicely without insult to the truth and to those who are suffering.

Making a Molehill Out of a Mountain

God’s Word to Shepherds Who Scatter the Sheep

Articles for Clergy

13 Responses

  1. Marie Fortune has aptly said:
    You shall know the truth, but the truth may make you flinch before it sets you free.

  2. pastors are supposed to be shepherds and teachers, but all too often it has become do the least of the evils. how can you learn faith from pastors that dont trust God when it comes to doing whats right? when their job is more important than the well being of the people?

  3. What most people forget is that pastors are just people like the rest of us and being so are subject to the same evil temptations and demonic warfare.

    Also, when we belong to a church, we should seek and worship God and not the pastor or other leaders of the church. We should seek God for our answers and then seek confirmation through a group of Spirit filled leaders and people to see if we are hearing correctly.
    Pastors should also surround themselves with Deacons snd Elders to govern the church and all (including pastors)should be subject to correction.
    And all should be open so if sin does come in it is nipped in the bud before it blossoms.
    The Last time I understood anything about God is that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Christian church and all others are servants of Him.
    If you follow a man you will always wind up on the short end of the stick.
    Seek Christ to be as He was, not what someone tells you He is. And check all doctrine by the Spirit of God.
    All sons of God know that He is the only answer.
    Praise Jesus

  4. I don’t think this issue is about following the pastor.

    In alot of cases if abuse is happening within the home the church is one of the first places – once they get the courage to say anything about it – to go to. I don’t know about you, but I was raised within the church. I was told if I was ever in trouble that my church family would be among the first to help support me during that time. I’m not talking trouble as in criminal behavior, but normal issues in life that are troublesome for our lifes.

    I do think that if pastor and their deacons were more educated about domestic violence they would be able to recognize it for what it is, and have a list of organizations, agencies, etc to help them. This is NOT something the church should be taking on alone. Goodness knows the church has enough on their plates, and you can’t be experts in every field! That’s unrealistic!

    In most cases victims may not even recoginze what is happening at first, and unless you recoginze the signs you can’t be of much help at first either. Victims mininize this, deny the big stuff – out of their own self protection with not knowing HOW to deal with it! The reality is scary, and you feel alot of shame among other things. Domestic violence is much more than the lists you see. There are very helpful guides and organizations of faith that can help to recoginize the reality that at times victims don’t have the courage to see.

    Fellowship is mentioned in the bible as well. If that fellowship is ignorant of what the dynamics are they can’t be that helping hand that God asks them to be. I will tell you when I started to learn about this it went against every grain of normal, acceptable thinking. It went against common sense – which for myself I tended to use ALOT!

    The Victims spirutual side is important to them or they wouldn’t be coming to the church for help. The church can be an awesome asset in that realm, or they can stay uneducated and become an extra burden very easily. NOT on purpose either! I had to open my own eyes and start to see things a little different myself.

    For myself I never quite understood the resistance of the bottleneck towards this issue. This doesn’t just threaten the marriage, but those within the marriage. It also encourages the cycle to continue with the children. Its a long hard road at times, but a very fulfilling one once you succeed.

    The servants of God need to know what they are dealing with in order to do what God calls them to do No?

  5. Jim said,
    “We should seek God for our answers and then seek confirmation through a group of Spirit filled leaders and people to see if we are hearing correctly.

    Pastors should also surround themselves with Deacons snd Elders to govern the church and all (including pastors)should be subject to correction.
    And all should be open so if sin does come in it is nipped in the bud before it blossoms.”

    It seems to me the above assumes open dialog. What if this communication is absent? What if they (church leaders) refuse to permit this communication? How does one create cooperation with the goal of communication to the end of one another being subject to correction. My context is to get the church leaders to submit to two-way communication and correct as required.

  6. Hannah said,
    “If that fellowship is ignorant of what the dynamics are they can’t be that helping hand that God asks them to be.”

    I say, if they are ignorant, far worse than not being a help is that they actually become a hinderance. Even a great hinderance. And if there be any authority in them, then they have lent authority to their hinderance. And that is a path of how one becomes to feel justified in doing what they’ve done. After all, the church said this was OK. Never mind they acted in ignorance.

    Yes, we (the servants) are called to have understanding. Not only in WHAT the nature of the sin is but HOW to correct it. This speaks of redemptive discipline. Ken Sande addressess this in his book, Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood.

    Far too many churches don’t understand. And not understanding they shy away and won’t get involved. Or sometimes worse, they do get involve but they create so many more problems. Because they are ignorant.

    O yes, there is much more to it. I’ve merely skimmed over the top.

  7. In the informative book, Preventing Boundary Violations in Clinical Practice, by MD Thomas G. Gutheil MD and Archie Brodsky BA, the stats are given that about 50% of professionals who sexually abuse their clients or students or parishioners are PREDATORY. These are not the one time offenders who because of specific vulnerabilities (marriage feels dead, midlife hits, business is suffering, health is failing, etc), but rather are the ones with serious character disorders (Narcissistic, Sociopathic, Borderline…).

    They have little to no victim-empathy, are extremely manipulative (see In Sheep’s Clothing, by George K. Simon), are repeat offenders, are usually quite charming, skillful deceivers, feign love for their victims, master groomers (seducers), feel entitled, play ‘humble’ really well, are expert readers of their victims (and human nature in general), are grandiose, and think they are above the ethics/laws to which we mere mortals must comply.

    I appreciate your posts so much AND I have to disagree with your optimism regarding the motives of perpetrators, whether they are pastors, priests, therapists, doctors or instructors. 50% are in fact predatory and character disordered.

    truth & grace

    • T&G —

      You said, “I have to disagree with your optimism regarding the motives of perpetrators, whether they are pastors, priests, therapists, doctors or instructors. 50% are in fact predatory and character disordered.”

      This is why I keep insisting that in-house “discipline” followed by quick “forgiveness” and restoration — are very, very dangerous!!!!

      First of all, any clergy that preys on an underage person is a predator – period. There’s no room for consideration of “it was a mistake” “he succombed to temptation” etc. That is blind foolishness.

      Second, in the instances where that sexual “misconduct” is with an adult, the church is unequipped to ascertain whether this individual “slipped” or is predatory. If it has happened more than once, it is predatory. But the occurence rate is not usually immediately known.

      Whether a fallen clergy member is a predator or not, for the sake of the safety of the flock, I think he must be treated as if he were one, first, while a professional determines the facts. This is not about assuming guilt before innocence. Guilt has already been determined! This is just part of the consequences of his/her choice.

      If it can be determined by a professional that this individual acted out of unmet needs in his/her own life, then after long-term professional counseling perhaps a measure of restoration is possible — though I still say that the Bible says a shepherd is to be blameless — and that doesn’t mean “this week.” Clergy ARE held to a higher standard than the rest of the body.

      But the church needs to wake up and realize that a HUGE percentage of clergy who become sexually involved with their parishioners are predators — and yes, that may very well include their own beloved pastor. We MUST begin to take this issue very seriously – and the church, in general, is not; starting with the upper levels of denominational leadership.

      — Danni

      • Hi Danni,

        I hear what you’re saying and I heartily agree! I have very little hope for remdeial treatment for sexual perps, especially in ministry, regardless of the internal issues or character disorders of the perps. And you make a salient point, ANY child abuser is a predator, period.

        I was responding to your opening paragraphs,

        “There are very few pastors and church leaders who knowingly and deliberately set out to do evil. Even the ones who are involved in significant criminal behaviors have justified and excused it to themselves. In fact, this is why they really are good people the rest of the time. But even these are the statistical minority, by far.”

        They’re ‘really good people’ because they justify and excuse it to themselves? This seems unclear to me. And statistically the predators are not a minority compared to one time offenders–that’s what I was attempting to clarify.

        “Most pastors and church leaders genuinely love God and are doing what they believe is best. I believe this is true.”

        Maybe, except priests in the Catholic Church. Research has shown that at least 50% of priests are sexually active at any given time [I believe it’s higher]. Who are they having sex with? Altar boys, little girls, adult female parishioners…

        Other self-report studies have shown that 30% of protestant pastors have been “sexually inappropriate” with their parishioners. Other studies show a lower self-report, equitable to therapist self-report of PSM (Professional Sexual Misconduct), around 12%. I personally believe that at least 25% of therapists and pastors exploit those who are in a fiduciary relationship (one of trust and vulnerability) with them, that is clients and parishioners.

        Truth & Grace

        • Yes — “they’re really good people” is a statement I hear all the time as an excuse for why they should get off with little or no consequences. I addressed this somewhat in my article Why a Short Sentence for Offenders Cannot Be Enough. I’m not saying “they’re really good people” because I believe they are not in bondage to do evil. I’m iterating what they believe about themselves and what church members, family and friends believe is true.

          By “few pastors” and statistical minority I meant of all pastors in general — and I didn’t make that clear! Among those who engage in sexual “misconduct” I personally think the number 50% (sexual predators) is a significant understatement.

          I also know the way of self-deception, particularly having seen it so many times up close and personal, and believe that even the sexual predators have justified their behavior to themselves. They genuinely believe they are “mostly good” and have “good intentions” — after all, look how many hours I spend on “God’s work” compared to the time involved in “just this little problem” – which really isn’t a problem, after all (not me speaking!!!) They are truly and deeply broken inside, given over to a reprobate mind. This is why rehabilitation is almost completely ineffective. They don’t believe they have a problem! This is also why they are so utterly convincing – they believe themselves inside their broken souls.

          Can God heal? Certainly – if someone is genuinely repentant. But that’s the big “if.” Crocadile tears do not equal repentance. Even good intentions, if they were actually present, do not equal repentance. Sexual predators have statistically proven unwilling to genuinely repent or look at the truth of their own condition – which is a non-optional first condition of even beginning to reach out to God for real healing. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” This is no more applicable than to sexual predators! And that healing would require submitting to long-term professional counseling and acceptance of all consequences for their behavior – including permanent removal from the ministry and permanent separation from their prey. I have yet to see that happen in any instance I have personally known.

          — Danni

        • AMEN!!! Well said! You have done your research! 🙂

          This is serious stuff, and it is sad that this is the reality, BUT for parishioners, healthy and loving church leaders, for clients (of therapists), etc, to keep their heads in the sand has caused enough damage and it needs to end. To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed.

          Thank you for being here and for the work you do!!!

          Truth & Grace

  8. P.S. For those of you who have been victimized by a professional (and this does not at all solely mean sexual intercoarse), and/or for those who know someone who is hurting because of ‘professional’ abuse, please visit:

    http://www.advocateweb.org

    It is a forum for those who have suffered PSM (Professional Sexual Misconduct). I have found it very helpful and healing for me in my recovery from PSM.

    T&G

  9. Thanks for your post, Danni! I know first-hand what it’s like to be accused of bitterness and judgmentalism, when I tried to highlight a problematic issue in my parents’ former church.

    Thank you for all the work you’re doing to bring awareness to issues that so many Christians would rather sweep under the rug. Please don’t become discouraged by accusations from people who don’t know your heart. It’s very clear that you’ve been called to this task out of your love for others!

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