When church leaders ignore the victims of abuse, it is a time of darkness.
When church leaders choose to defend one another rather than those who are most vulnerable, it is a time of darkness.
When the church rushes to defend an abusive leader before asking what has become of the victim, it is a time of darkness.
When an abusive church leader is given a forum recount all that he has lost without a moment’s reflection on what he took from everyone around him, it is a time of darkness.
When respectfully dissenting comments are removed from a leading evangelical Christian website, it is a time of darkness.
Last week I joined the many voices online who spoke out against the great darkness of sexual abuse in the church. In case you missed it, a former youth pastor, now sentenced sex offender, wrote a lengthy moralistic post essentially recounting his errors and pleading with readers that it could happen to them. However, the article misconstrued his relationship with an underage student as “an affair,” and the article failed to take into account the grave damage caused to the student, his family, and his church.
When dissenting voices spoke up early in the week, Leadership Journal failed to remove the post. All dissenting comments were deleted—even the respectful comments from former victims of sex abuse who had to suffer the indignity of knowing their voices were not welcome in yet another corner of the church. An editorial comment added later in the week acknowledged the strong push back to the post, but noted that the article was important because sex abuse was the primary cause of lawsuits in the church.
You know… because money and institutional preservation outweighs the value of people.
While the post was taken down either late Friday night or early Sunday morning, Leadership Journal did immense harm to the church, showed a significant lapse in awareness about sexual abuse victims, and handled a matter involving sexual abuse in the precisely wrong way.
Although I personally have no interest in reading a journal dedicated to leadership, I don’t want to see Leadership Journal go under. It’s my hope and prayer that this dramatic failure becomes an opportunity for renewal and resurrection in the church.
Whether they want to know about it or not, this situation has once again put pastoral sex abuse on the radar for evangelicals. We can’t really avoid it when the number publication for pastors dramatically fails to write about it. Here, then, is our moment to properly engage this topic.
Leadership Journal has an opportunity to lead the way.
Whereas a convicted felon was given a forum to speak about sex abuse, Leadership Journal can invite credentialed experts, victim advocacy leaders, and pastors who have led congregations through a sex abuse scandal without taking part in a cover up.
Whereas the comments of former sex abuse victims were silenced on the Leadership Journal website, their voices can be honored and protected by enforcing a strong comment policy that deletes any comments that question the integrity of victims or attempt to silence or shame them.
Whereas Leadership Journal’s editors passed the buck and offered vague contact information when confronted on Twitter, they can provide a simple, clear point person who is empowered to handle any immediate concerns with the content of their website.
Whereas Leadership Journal emphasized the legal implications of sex abuse, its leaders can develop books, articles, and white papers on the human cost of sex abuse. Leadership has a chance to become the leading advocate for victims, for healing congregations, for guiding pastors through this difficult season, and for restoring fallen pastors.
Churches are all over the map with how they handle the prevention of sex abuse and its aftermath. Leadership Journal can become the new standard bearer.
Leadership Journal can become part of the solution to the evangelical culture of sex abuse—providing an unequaled forum for healing, restoration, and wholeness in the church.
My prayer throughout Leadership Journal’s time of darkness has been for resurrection.
When church leaders drop everything to help the victims of abuse, it is a time of resurrection.
When church leaders choose to defend the vulnerable rather than one another, it is a time of resurrection.
When the church rushes to defend victims when a leader steps out of line, it is a time of resurrection.
When an abusive church leader submits to counseling so that he can understand the gravity of his failures and the path to healing, it is a time of resurrection.
When the church, despite our failings, disagreements, and frustrations, can come together to support victims, pastors, and congregations, we have a chance to become resurrection people.
We can mourn with those who mourn, pray for those who are discouraged, and provide safety for those who don’t know how to trust again. We can practice resurrection because resurrection will always beat darkness.
NOTE: There were many excellent responses, but I suggest beginning with Mary Demuth’s Dear Man in Prison. Check the Twitter hashtag #TakeDownThatPost for more perspectives.
6 thoughts on “We Pray for Resurrection in Times of Darkness”
Hi – thank you. It was taken down around 11pm Fridays (CST time I think? I’m UK based but Dianne Anderson noted it). It was heartening over the those few days to note the number of men who did not try and take over the #TakeDownThatPost campaign but simply added their voices and were thoughtful and strong enough to keep the voices of the women and the victims centred when they blogged and tweeted. Whilst there are a few on the LJ facebook page who clearly do not understand, and in fact are quite vociferous in their anger at seeing the post be taken down, it was the unity shown to LJ and CT (IMO) that helped make the difference.
That same unity will be vital if the conversation that needs now to be had is to make any real, substantive difference church-wide in how we change the way this is spoken about and dealt with.
Ed, I support your ongoing call to healing from abuse, any abuse, and especially this latest abuse by the leaders of a “Christian leadership” magazine. I share your pain.
I don’t understand any need for a call to resurrection. Perhaps I’m dense as I normally am if left to my own devices. If the foundation of church leaders is strong in relationship with the High Priest who never has a need to be resurrected again then exactly what are we praying to resurrect? If we are dependent upon church leaders who have shown they don’t have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ why would we expect more than the blind leading the blind?
These are questions setting up the question most pressing on my heart and mind, “What criteria must I rely on to discern Jesus Christ’s actual church leaders from those who only intellectually think they are His leaders.”
I’m using it metaphorically that Christ will bring life and healing to a situation that has been destructive.
Thanks for this, Ed. You are right that it was a time of darkness. If light can break in at Leadership Journal on THIS issue, then I think there may yet be hope for the church’s (generally speaking) pitiful response to abuse. It’s vital that church leaders engage it. While they are busy talking about methodologies and church structures and theology, victims of abuse are leaving the church behind, many never to return. It’s a critical issue, and Leadership Journal claims to address those. I’m hopeful that they might see that this is not a fringe problem and engage advocates and victims as they move forward.
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As long as christians continue to see leadership in terms of having authority over others, there will continue to be abuse. When we learn to ‘lead’ by following Christ’s example of servanthood, the church will be a much safer place.
Great response, Ed! I read Mary DeMuth last week and found out about the article that way, but by the time I could read the offensive article, the journal had altered the sex predator’s words to make it sound nicer. I find that appalling in every possible way. There does need to be a resurrection. Jesus is the way, THE TRUTH, and the life.
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