Thursday, January 17, 2013

Abuse allegations in ministries we love

What do you do if an organization/ministry you love is hit with allegations of abuse?

Here's what you may be TEMPTED to do:

1) Write off the accusers as bitter. See this link for why that is most likely an unbiblical use of the term bitter.

2) Stick your head in the sand. If you do that, it's probably because you feel threatened. Perhaps you believed in that ministry and thought they were really good guys that had a new philosophy of ministry that would change the world. Maybe that pastor or ministry was a balm to you after a previous hard season as a Christian. Or maybe you came to the faith through that ministry. That can be really demoralizing. And if you don't have good, gospel-centered, Bible based tools to navigate that, your faith will likely feel threatened.

Here's some wisdom for navigating it.

1) If there is one allegation, listen carefully and weigh the evidence. But if there are many allegations, while you still need to listen and weigh, at some point, you need to face some truth from 2 Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 12:21-13:1   I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Multiple witnesses establish credibility. In 2 Cor. 13:1, Paul quotes Deut. 19:15, so the truth he is presenting has long Biblical precedence. In God's recorded word, multiple witnesses establish credibility. You have to face that fact. Pardon the political reference, but this multiple witness thing is why I was always wary of the way things went down with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. There was no corroboration, but abusers usually don't stop with one abusive, harassing relationship (see Jerry Sandusky or Bob Packwood). If multiple similar accounts are coming out, then stop and consider, because the probability of serious problems goes up quickly with each new accuser. It is simply unbiblical to write off multiple accusers.

2) I wrote this week on the most needed peer pressure in Christianity, and that peer pressure to endure in love is definitely needed in such situations. Victims certainly need it, and I'm seriously hoping I don't need to give here all the Biblical reasons God expects us to defend and love those abused by authorities they trusted in their lives. The other issue is enduring with the accused. Enduring for the long haul with someone accused in such a situation does not mean you enable sin or excuse sin, but that you walk with them on their road of repentance and reparation. A lot of groups circle the wagons and dismiss accusers because the fear of acknowledging their sin, losing their reputation, and walking the long road of reparation overwhelms them. Other groups castigate the accused with ministries quickly severing the relationship with the accused, leaving them as a scapegoat to bear the weight of systemic problems.

But what if the accused had gospel loving friends who said, “I'll walk with you to the police precinct” (or where ever they may need to go to take the first steps of repenting and repairing). What if they had gospel loving friends who positively pressured them to repent and repair with the hope that such willingness to acknowledge their errors and the pain they caused would eventually lead to greater spiritual health for them and needed purification for their ministry.

THAT would be beautiful.

8 comments:

  1. how the contrast magnifies even more our Great Shepherd, who tends His flock in His arm, gathering the lambs and carrying them in His bosom;so much more even than David, He shepherds them according to the integrity of His heart and guides them with his skillful hands.

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  2. I'm glad you take time to share your thoughts and not shy away from serious issues. I'm sadly familiar with the circling the wagons and have felt shamed into silence regarding misuse of authority and improper conduct by church leaders. I have no idea about how to go about healing, because when I tried to share my situation no one was willing to look at the evidence I had and go from there. I cry almost every day over my situation....and when I do go to church I go anonymously, thinking that if the church leaders don't know who I am then they can't hurt me. I don't even allow myself to hope that I could be in a supportive church someday. I hope that the people who read your words will be changed by them and will respond in love and kindness for victims and responsibility for those inflicting the hurt.

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  3. Thank you for this thoughtful and well-written article. I am interested in purchasing your book on Theology for women!

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  4. While I completely agree with your points, I'm disappointed that you didn't mention anything about ministering to the victims and standing with them.

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    1. I assume you're a first time reader of my blog. I have a strong burden for and often write about the need to cry out and fight for justice for the oppressed.

      "Disappointed" is a trigger word for me. It's the polite way of alluding to deeper negative emotions, and I don't allow those type words to be used against others who comment on this blog, nor do I allowed them used against me.

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  5. You're right. I have not read your blog before, and I would have no way of knowing that "disappointed" is a trigger word for you. Your connotations are not mine. As I said, I agree with everything you wrote; I would have just liked to see something about standing with the victims in the same posts. Perhaps you've written that in other posts.

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    1. I did mention it in this post, and I have written about it previously.

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