I believe this monumental failure on the part of the Christian community is a consequence of its failure to understand and embrace the gospel. The gospel tells us that it is Christ’s perfection, Christ’s obedience, Christ’s holiness, Christ’s selflessness (the list could go on and on and on) that reconcile dark and depraved sinners such as you and me with a perfect, sovereign, and loving God. Put another way, it is the “good works” of Jesus, not us, that draw us into the arms of our Heavenly Father. The consequence of fully grasping and embracing this indescribable truth is that we discover that our identity is not in ourselves and what we do, but in Christ and what He has done. Therefore, when we seek to control and protect the institution, we display that we have failed to understand the very fundamentals of the gospel. This control and protectionism is often carried out under the guise of “protecting the integrity of the gospel,” when it reality it is nothing more than protecting the identity and reputation of the institution.
Perhaps the most common method of such protectionism is secrecy and silence. An institutional-centered church will do all it can to silence those who expose sin in order to protect its “reputation within the community.” A Gospel-centered church will embrace light and be transparent about sin. It will also lovingly embrace those wounded by sin, regardless of what others may think or say, understanding that its identity and reputation is in Christ alone.
by Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, Founder and Executive Director
Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE)
You have stated that the common view of forgiveness indicates that you are supposed to forgive the man who harmed you physically, psychologically, and perpetually as you go about your day. Though you are no longer under his control–thanks be to God–you still suffer the immense pain and agony by re-living those moments every time–or almost every time–someone uses certain language, when someone jokes about abuse, when someone sounds like an abuser, and when someone trivializes that abuse. So, you are told, suck it up! Live with it! Move on and forgive him.
My responses to these requests are meant to be brief, but to the point. Forgiveness is not a dispensing machine. An abuser cannot simply press a button and demand that you act accordingly. So, principle number one is that if the abuser demands forgiveness from you and acts as if he deserves it, tell him that you are a human being and that you will not be treated like a machine. Forgiveness, if you wish to be theological, is covenantal.
Forgiveness is complex at this level. Not all relationships are created equal. At the very least, this conversation between victim and abuser can only be initiated if said abuser has changed his ways, proven that he has suffered the consequences of his actions, has placed himself in a community where his sins are known, and if the case involves sexual abuse, that he not be working near any children. If those conditions are met, then by all means begin the conversation if you are prepared. But though he may be ready to proceed and though the conditions are met, make sure that you are surrounded by a safe community, with a pastor (s) that understand the severity of the damage done and have agreed to walk with you through this process.
Dismiss any comment from counselors who make you feel guilty for suffering such abuse. Better yet, run away from them. You may think you have found an advocate, but you really are dealing with someone with little capacity to understand the depths of human pain. I pray you will find a voice of reason in a sea of miserable counsel.
- These names will remain anonymous (back)
The following answer comes from Leslie Vernick. She has done a remarkable job capturing the heart of the issue, rather than allowing evil men to twist the Scriptures for their own purposes. I am reminded of a quote from David Powlison who once wrote: “God is not a private refuge who shuts down recourse to other helps.” Women, a in an attempt to live pietistic lives or by immersing themselves in simplistic understandings of the text–primarily because it is all they have ever heard– continue to live a life of misery thinking that their suffering is a good thing, when in reality–as will be shown–is a horrendous evil that they are called to escape.
I pray this section is enlightening to many of you suffering under the heavy, abusive hands of wicked spouses:
This week one of my coaching clients shared that her Christian counselor told her that her role as a godly wife was to submit to her husband’s abuse and quietly suffer for Jesus. She was told that setting boundaries was unbiblical and asking her spouse to change specific behaviors for her to feel safe or rebuild trust was demanding. Is that true?
Does scripture encourage a spouse to patiently and quietly endure harsh and abusive treatment within her or his marriage?
The entire book of 1 Peter has to do with suffering, but let’s see what Peter teaches us about how we suffer in a godly way as well and when we should patiently endure suffering.
First, let’s look at how Peter tells us to handle ourselves in the presence of abusive people. Peter is clear that believers should be respectful of others regardless of how we are treated. Often in destructive marriages a spouse who is verbally battered or emotionally neglected or abused starts to lob some verbal bombs of her own.
Instead of responding to mistreatment in a way that honors God, she dishonors herself, her husband, and God by her building resentment as well as her explosive or sinful reactions to his abuse.
We must help her choose a different path. Peter encourages us not to pay back evil for evil by reminding us of Jesus, who, “when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22,23).
Second, Peter explains when we should endure abusive treatment. He writes, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
The good Peter is talking about here is a moral good, a doing the right thing kind of good. Although in this passage Peter specifically advises us to submit to authority, Peter himself was flogged after he refused to stop preaching about Christ even though he’d been ordered by those in authority to stop. Peter refused to submit because in doing so, he would have to stop doing good (Acts 4:19; 5:17-42).
In the same way when a wife refuses to submit to her husband’s sinful behavior, or stands up for her children who are being mistreated, or refuses to sign a dishonest income tax report, or calls 911 when her husband is threatening to harm her or himself, she is doing good even if it doesn’t feel good to her spouse.
Her behavior honors God, protects her children and does what is in the best interest of her spouse. (It is never in someone’s best interests to enable sin to flourish.)
When a woman takes these brave steps she will suffer.
She may suffer financially as her husband sits in jail because she called the police when he hit her. She may suffer the censure from her church when she separates from him because of his unrepentant use of pornography and verbal abuse. She may suffer with loneliness, retaliation from her spouse, disapproval from her friends and family for the stance she’s taken.
That’s exactly the kind of suffering Peter is talking about. He’s speaking about suffering for doing good instead of being passive or fearful or doing the wrong thing or nothing at all. Peter is saying that when we do what is right and we get mistreated for it, God sees it and commends us.
When we counsel a wife that God calls her to provide all the benefits of a good marriage regardless of how her husband treats her, provides for her, or violates their marital vows we’re asking her to lie and pretend. This is not good for her or her marriage.
This counsel also reinforces the abusive person’s delusions that he can do as he please with no consequences. It would enable him to stay blind to his sin and colludes with his destructive ways, which is not good for him, for her, or for their family. That kind of passivity does not honor God.
Peter concludes his teaching with these words. “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV).
If we encourage a woman to suffer for Jesus, let’s make sure we’re encouraging her to suffer for doing good rather than to suffer for staying passive or pretending.
- and I say “women” because in most cases they are the subjects of abuse (back)
Here is the powerful declaration made by the 42nd General Assembly of the PCA that ought to be considered by each denomination as they deal with the Church’s silence on this important subject:
OVERTURE 6 – “Child Protection in the PCA”
Whereas our Lord Jesus demonstrated his righteous anger at his own disciples, rebuking those who would do anything to prevent children from coming unto him, saying “to such belongs the Kingdom of God,” (Mark 10:14) and condemning those who would harm children, saying “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6); and
Whereas an epidemic of child sexual abuse exists in our culture, with the vast majority of such children being harmed by someone they know and trust, wounding children physically,
emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually with lifelong ripple effects; and
Whereas the silence of the church – when we fail to appropriately address “rape, incest,
sodomy and all unnatural lusts” (WLC 139) by not reporting disclosures of child sexual abuse, or not caring for those who disclose child sexual abuse, or not proactively taking steps to prevent child sexual abuse – is a fundamental failure of servant leadership, rendering the church complicit and culpable before the Lord, driving people away from the safety, healing and hope of Jesus Christ; and
Whereas Scripture warns leaders against the “careless exposing, or leaving [those in their care] to wrong, temptation, and danger” (WLC 130), and every jurisdiction acknowledges that child sexual abuse is a serious felony and has its own mandated reporting laws;
Therefore, be it resolved that we exhort all church leaders to become informed and to take an active stance toward preventing child sexual abuse in the church by screening staff and
volunteers, training them in child protection, and actively maintaining child protection policies pertaining to our obligations to love our children and protect their rightful interests as God’s image-bearers from the devastating actions of abusers (Matthew 18:5-6; WLC 129-130); and
Be it further resolved that we remind all churches that the heinous crime of child sexual abuse must be reported to duly appointed proper representatives of the God-ordained civil
authorities, in accordance with local laws, and that we must cooperate with those authorities as they “bear the sword” to punish those who do evil “in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered . . . to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever” (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14; WCF 23.3); and
Be it further resolved that we urge all church leaders to use their influence for the protection of children, by any and all godly means, including preaching and teaching against the heinous sin of child sexual abuse, warning anyone with knowledge of these sins to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11), and by supporting victims who often suffer in silence and shame without the vocal and compassionate support of the church; and
Be it further resolved that we direct the Permanent Committees and Agencies of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to review their policies, procedures and practices in the area of child protection, including their response to child sexual abuse disclosures, their faithfulness in reporting child sexual abuse to duly appointed proper representatives of the God-ordained civil authorities, in accordance with local laws, their care for survivors of child sexual abuse, and their future plans to help educate the PCA on child sexual abuse, and all other areas of response consistent with Scripture and the Constitution of the PCA, and report to the 43rd General Assembly through the Administrative Committee, after it has referred the matter to and received a report from the Cooperative Ministries Committee; and
Be it finally resolved that the 42nd General Assembly urge all members of the PCA to renew our allegiance to our Lord Jesus by loving our children as he loves our children, “for to such belongs the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14)
Boz Tchividjian grieves and so should we.
This past week I found myself grieving. I learned that a former volunteer of a large church was convicted of sexually victimizing three boys under his supervision.
I grieve that when the parents of one of the boys told a pastor about the abuse, he chose not to report the crime to the police and strongly discouraged the family from doing so. I grieve that the failure to report this dangerous sexual offender gave him two decades of freedom to find and victimize more little ones. I grieve that not even one pastor from the church came to court to support the brave victims who eventually came forward and testified. I grieve that many Christian leaders all around the country who don’t hesitate to express open condemnation for abortion, universal healthcare, and the firing of reality television stars who make derogatory statements about gays and African Americans are suddenly silent when it comes to open condemnation for other Christians who choose not to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.
I grieve that there are individuals within certain Christian communities who deliberately choose to remain silent out of a fear of alienating those who have the power to cancel speaking engagements and turn down book contracts. I grieve that friends of those responsible for not reporting this crime would rather spend their days (and nights) vilifying and marginalizing those who have stepped forward to express outrage then grieve over such a horrific failure. I grieve that Christian communities that preach humility and love are often unteachable and too eager to be defensive and condemning when rebuked, regardless of the consequences to human souls. I grieve that many within the Church prefer the sounds of conference speakers, blog posts and tweets about theological nuances to the cries of the abused and marginalized.
I grieve that much of the Church is asleep and doesn’t even realize it. I grieve that it is so hard to find Jesus in the midst of all this. For too many precious souls, inside the Church has become like Narnia – always winter, but never Christmas.
My last article Pedophiles in the Church a has drawn some attention. Partly because it is a controversial topic and partly because most evangelicals have a naive view of sexual abuse in the Church.
The Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse said Thursday (Sept. 26) to a room of journalists.
While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, “I think we are worse,” he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, saying too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims.
While we point our fingers at the Roman Catholic Church for their open sexual abuse scandals, we give a pass to the abuse scandals of the evangelical Protestant Churches. This happens mainly because the evangelical community is so individualized and privatized that sex scandals are often overlooked. The Roman Catholic tradition, due to its public hierarchical system, when it is found out, it is found out in a profoundly public way.
One individual who read my post summarized my position with these words:
“To exclude a blood-bought child of Christ from the body for past sins or present temptations is wicked.”
He assumed that I was excluding someone from the kingdom of God because of sin. But not all sin is created equal. The sacrificial system makes this point clear. This is almost an inexcusable error from that particular reader. Here is what I did say,
“We are dealing with a profoundly sick disease; a disease for which the Gospel has the answer, but the answer is not to re-incorporate these sex offenders into a community of faith where children play a large part.”
The grace of God can rescue and redeem these sinners, but the way to flesh out this redemption is not by incorporating this individual into the midst of corporate worship, but rather to realize that certain sins carry with them a certain level of gravitas that ought to force leaders in the Church to act in a way different than in other situations. I am not excluding him from the Church of Christ, I am simply excluding and protecting him from himself and others from the proven record of sex offenders.
As I mentioned, there are other ways to provide the type of help and renewal offered in the Gospel to repentant pedophiles. But, because of the extraordinary gravity of such sins, we as pastors, ought to provide extraordinary ways to minister to such individuals without putting into danger the flock of Christ.
- http://uribrito.com/pedophiles-church/ (back)
This is a very helpful 30-minute round-table discussion on the grounds for divorce. Churches have failed in this area by encouraging further abuse instead of protecting the victim. Pastors/Counselors need to watch this as they deal with these matters in the Church. The covenant of marriage presupposes basic human rights. This discussion highlights the nature of God and how that ought to shape our view of marriage. This is a topic worthy of the Church’s attention.