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August 21, 2018, 2:28 PM

Fighting the Monsters



The horrific accounts of sexual abuse and exploitation which have made recent news, point to a problem that goes beyond the Roman Catholic Church. (Indeed, it goes beyond churches.)

I think you need to know how our church responds. And I can tell you, based on personal experience...

In forty years of ministry, I have reported four cases of clergy sexual abuse.

One involved a member of the clergy from another denomination who was working in a counseling setting. He made an improper advance on a teen aged boy who had come for therapy.. I reported it to the proper authorities and the man quickly left the state. I do not know what happened to him.

The other three offenders were United Methodist pastors. Two became involved in sexual relationships with adult women who came to them for counsel in times of crisis. While the relationships involved no force, they were exploitative and both men turned out to be predators who had done this to several women, a couple of whom attempted suicide, as a result. When their victims came to me, I reported it to my superiors and they acted immediately to remove them from their pulpits and offered professional therapy to the women. Upon completion of the investigations, both men were permanently removed from the ministry.

The third case involved the abuse of a young child decades ago in another state. I only learned of it many years after the fact. The survivor had been too terrified and ashamed to speak of it. But, eventually she and I reported the assaults to the police and church authorities. Both were sympathetic and kind…but the passage of time and the lack of forensic evidence made it impossible to prosecute.

Even though she had no legal case, church authorities did offer to pay for therapy for the survivor. Decades later, she still suffers PTSD and long struggled with the feeling that God actually hated her.

Most ministers never encounter a case of clergy sexual abuse. Somehow, I’ve dealt with four. Not once, did it ever occur to me to hush anything up. Not once, did anyone at any level in the church leadership suggest that I do so. Not once, did they hesitate to take active pastors out of their positions so that they could not harm anyone else. Most importantly, not once were any of the survivors blamed for what happened to them in any way. All of them were offered care, at the church’s expense, from therapists of the survivors’ choice.

The sad reality is that some people in “helping professions” like clergy, therapists, doctors, police, etc., treat their credential as “hunting licenses.” They exploit the trust their positions give them, and the weaknesses of people who often come to them in deep crisis. It is a heinous thing which particularly enraged Jesus.

Jesus darkly declared, “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” For a guy who was so focused upon mercy and forgiveness to utter such iron hard words, meant he saw this behavior as especially contemptible and vile.

Sadly, we have come to learn that it is all too common. The vast majority of clergy do not and would never engage in such atrocities. But those who go over to the Dark Side, are often driven by such a terrible compulsion that it leads them to victimize one person after another until they are caught. Just a few such monsters can wreak widespread damage…unless they are stopped.

It is estimated that one in four females in our society will be sexually assaulted. One in eight males will be sexually abused. This kind of atrocity is pervasive. No part of society is immune to it.

The truth is that we don’t know how accurate those numbers are because so many survivors remain silent out of fear and shame. They fear they will be condemned and disbelieved. They feel shame because their abusers often tell them what happened was somehow their fault. And too often, other people say the same.

IT IS NOT TRUE!

Please know that you are not alone. There are people who will believe you and support you. There are people who will offer help without condemnation.

I am one of them, and I have found others.

If you have struggled with the emotional and spiritual effects of sexual exploitation and abuse, there is help available.

You will not be judged. There is grace for you. If you need a caring listener, and an ally in the fight. I am one. I know others.

Together, we can fight the monsters.


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