church · faith

do better

It happens every other day. I get to work. There’s a pile of paper and notes and emails to attend to. Co workers screw up. I screw up. My boss yells. We all cower and put our heads down. We get bogged down in details, in the hard work – the parts we aren’t really too jazzed about doing and therefore procrastinate on for as long as possible and then put off some more.

It’s frustrating and cyclical. You go from I’m trying to care to no one cares to I don’t care that you care back to I’m trying to care. All within 20 seconds. It can be overwhelming.

And the more serious the situation, the more serious the paralysis. I just don’t want to do anything. I want to crawl back into bed and stare at the ceiling. Which feels slightly more productive than anything else I will do all day.

Recently, the PCA (a branch of the Presbyterian denomination) discussed a Statement regarding how to deal with sexual abuse allegations within the church. This is far more serious than whether or not I return a call to a client. But the more serious the situation, the more serious the paralysis. An issue like sexual abuse creates a stir like few other things do. Reading through comments on message boards or replies to a petition from all sides, I realize just how deeply wounded people are, how hurtful and destructive abuse can be, and just how ignorant and afraid people can become because of it.

Read the statement here – http://netgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/Public-Statement-Concerning-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Church1.pdf

There’s no way I can even begin to attempt to solve anything in this blog. I won’t even try. I am thrilled to see this long ignored issue brought up in such a public, widespread way, and I hope that it will gain traction and much needed leadership will step forward to challenge us all, both on church staff and all leaders and members of local churches to not turn a blind eye or to risk failing our kids and families in this way.

I was abused as a child at a church. I was abused as a teen at school. I never told my parents. I never told anyone except one friend who took the secret to his grave. I have since told my parents and my husband and countless blog readers. If there is such a scale, it was less harmful than it could have been, and the scars it left were manageable in the long run. (I wrote about it and its impact on my sexual health here – https://robinwootton.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/the-sexual-me/)

While the church situation was unique, it occurs to me that every situation is. That too often we hide behind the complexity of a situation and the people involved and are scared off from confrontation and overlook the need for justice and more importantly redemption. I have thought about what may have happened if I had told someone about what happened to me right then and there, and while for the most part I believe this is a mostly pointless exercise, it has given me the opportunity to consider what I would do as a parent of a child who told me such a thing and to mentally and emotionally prepare myself should something happen.

And of course it’s not something we want to think about. So when it does happen, and it happens far more often than we ever will know, we are flabbergasted, fearful, angry, broken, mystified, and overwhelmed. We want to deny and continue to be ignorant. We don’t know what to do. We don’t want to do anything.

But after the initial shock, those are no longer options for us.

I pray with all my heart that God will protect our church. But I am not naive enough to think that there isn’t someone in our midst right now who isn’t capable of harming a child. I know the statistics. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. It won’t always be the predator or the obvious person. It will be the award winning coach or the teacher of the year. It will be the pastor or the youth director.

And while this could turn into a witch hunt and make us all fearful and leery of everyone, let it make us vigilant. Let it make us talk about it and plan for it. Let it make us confront each other in proactive ways, asking tough questions, revealing honest answers, keeping each other accountable and stopping the secrets.

There is work to be done. There is always work to be done. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we must commit to do better, to be stronger, to do the work. Lord Jesus, show us the way.

An excerpt from the statement:

“Recent allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up within a well known international ministry and subsequent public statements by several evangelical leaders have angered and distressed many, both inside and outside of the Church. These events expose the troubling reality that, far too often, the Church’s instincts are no different than from those of many other institutions, responding to such allegations by moving to PROTECT HER STRUCTURES RATHER THAN HER CHILDREN. This is a longstanding problem in the Christian world, and we are deeply grieved by the failures of the American and global Church in responding to the issue of sexual abuse. We do not just believe we should do better; as those who claim the name of Jesus and the cause of the Gospel, we are convinced we MUST do better.”

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