Some years ago I was pondering over the epidemic of sexual abuse which was afflicting our churches. In my mind this was the kind of thing which should “never be named among us”. While I firmly believed there was a solution, I felt that I needed the help and co-operation of men in position of leadership to find and implement a plan of action. My dilemma was this: I knew of no leader who had either the will or spiritual understanding to tackle the matter with me.
Finally, I considered approaching a certain prominent elder on the subject. However, I first decided to confer with a friend who had alluded to some disappointment in the same individual’s past administrative dealings. When I spoke to the acquaintance he informed me that the man had a questionable history in his interaction with adolescent girls. Although the information was highly troubling, I had to refrain from pursuing it further because nobody was ready to come forward to confirm the negative report. It became a matter of urgent private prayer.
Several years later someone had a dream about the man in question to which I was given an interpretation. It appeared to be a warning regarding him. Immediately I began to prayerfully conduct an investigation and was soon made aware that there was a valid reason for concern. A counsellor and a pastor were among those who were able to provide me with valuable information. I informed a trustworthy member of the community in which he was employed as a teacher and left the matter in their hands.
Over a year passed without hearing further word. Things changed overnight when one of his former students brought forth allegations of inappropriate past behaviour. While the mentioned incidents were quite ambiguous in nature, a response of utter panic ensued. Logic and rational thought fled and a frenzied culture of denial occupied the stage.
I attempted to submit my knowledge about the situation to the church elders but found myself facing a wall of intense anger. Consequently I became the object of a twisted narrative in an effort to discredit and silence my concerns. No reasoning on my part made a dent on the mob-like response opposing me. I was forcibly excluded from any investigation of the matter and severely pressured to abandon what I believed was the ethical reaction to what had presented itself to us. Thankfully both my family and I received distinct direction from God as to how to navigate through the circumstances as well as confirmation that we had done the right thing. One strong impression we all received was that we needed to immediately remove ourselves from the situation without further becoming entangled in it. I had a strong conviction that God was snatching us from the culture for our protection. I had spoken up as I felt was my responsibility but my words were soundly rejected. I believed that God was about to take the case into His own hands but we had to be out of the way for Him to perform His work.
Because my story had been so badly distorted I wrote a documentation of what had really taken place to keep the events clear in my own mind. Afterwards, I recorded the conclusion to which I arrived regarding my experience.
Nothing could have given me a better overview of the sexual abuse problem in churches than finding myself in the position where I stood. It is not a problem of individuals doing bad things. It is a religious culture gone awry. We are not concerned about sanctifying God’s Holy Name. We are protecting the reputation of an institution. We are exalting leaders to an “untouchable” position where they cannot be held accountable for their misdeeds. Family members and friends of prominent people within the culture are likewise protected from being held accountable for their actions. Those who are punished are the victims who come forward or those who speak on their behalf.
Education on the subject of abuse has had little positive effect. I have witnessed how the cultural mindset takes over regardless of how “educated” people are when the issue hits “close home”. The root of the matter evades our understanding, whether by choice or by the subliminal influence of our religious environment. Suddenly rational thought and even ethical values take flight and a twisted image-protecting panic overrules.
What is the root of the matter? Our recent experience brought some of this to light.
We are created spiritual beings, born to have communion with our Creator. Christ came to restore this vital part of our being after it was destroyed by sin. It is not restored by default – rather only as we receive His offered redemption by repentance and faith. From there it does not automatically develop on its own – we need to continue to do our part in nurturing the relationship through prayer and communion with Him. This is a personal experience which needs to take precedence over all other things. A church culture has the potential to help it to develop but it can never replace or override it.
Through His Spirit, God teaches us, opens the Scripture to our understanding and guides us daily in His way. The unity of the Spirit is when God collectively guides His children to be of one mind. When a crisis arises he will lead His people plainly if in faith they seek His counsel. I, along with others, have also discovered that He warns His children of danger when the natural senses cannot perceive what lies hidden. This marked the lives of the saints of the Bible and holds true today.
My experience with church life is that such camaraderie with God has largely been replaced by religious culture. It is so far removed from church “norms” that the person who actually lives by it is viewed with suspicion as one who is a threat to “doctrinal correctness”, or more accurately stated, traditional expectations. Yet without God’s indwelling Presence we are no match for deceiving spirits which can blind our eyes and skew our understanding. Over and over in cases of abuse, a bizarre pattern of bumbling – re-victimizing victims, vilifying those who seek truth and justice, protecting abusers etc. is seen. God’s kingdom cannot go forward in the wisdom of men who are not men of prayer and know nothing of being explicitly directed by Him. In the past I have been repeatedly “corrected” by one man for promoting the idea that God responds when men pray.
One of the most famous Biblical men of prayer, Joshua, made two recorded blunders when he went forward without first “inquiring of the Lord” – once at Ai in which a number of innocent young men were killed as a result, and again in the story of the Gibeonites. Today, my fellow churchmen appear to believe that such direction by God is no longer meant for today. “Following the Bible” seems to be a phrase often used in taking an isolated passage to promote an agenda. In my mind, following the Bible is also seeking and receiving specific direction from God in current circumstances just as did the faithful ones of past ages.
All our “educating” or “policy making” will do little until we scrap our loyalty to an institution in favour of honouring the Name and Reputation of God. Our concern for the helpless and innocent will override our desire to “protect” the reputations of those whom we highly esteem when our hearts are aligned with His Heart. However, this will never happen by reformation – rather, only by repentance. Repentance will never take place until we realize how far we have strayed from a living faith. I fear that only an act of judgment will accomplish this.
Ezekiel 9:1 – “He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar and the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; and the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity. Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.”
I know that God has brought me to this place for a reason. Regardless of the cost, I need to speak up now against “the abominations that be done in Jerusalem”. I want the “mark of God” to be upon me at the time that He doles out justice upon those who have offended His precious “little ones”!
When His Name is no longer sanctified in the church – when the “salt has lost its savor – God uses men of the world to bring judgment. He will then raise up a people, a church, which properly represents Him to society. “Hallowed be Thy Name!”