Momentum is gaining for the recent social movement for rights for women, with a series of hashtag quotes to promote justice for women especially those suffering various forms of abuse. While these gain popularity on social media, they do not seem to influence change where it is needed.
It seems to take a Royal Commission for fairness, justice, and equality to get a hearing. We are led to believe that the church, the Christians of this world, are the ones to uphold morality and ethics and be a shining light in society – however, since the #metoo, #churchtoo #missiontoo exposure, this has proved to be incorrect. The horror of the reality of this situation will continue as long as victims are not heard. There is currently a court case to investigate a former Church Leader in my state, for a cover-up of abuse that spanned decades and led to offenders claiming more victim’s livelihoods. Yet, due to the Leader’s poor health, the court case has been suspended – leaving victims without any opportunity for justice.
Justice vs Justifying
When confronted with serious errors of judgment from our church leaders, who are meant to guard and guide the ‘flock’ we would hope there would be repentance, as we are often told – to turn around and commit to another course. There seem to be two responses – a case for justice or to justify behaviours.
When a long string of offenses spanning many years is presented about a church leader the tendency is to defend the leader and justify the behaviours. What does this do to the victims of abuse? It silences them, it denies the authenticity of the claims, it leads to the further demise of their social, emotional, mental wellbeing – it reoffends the victim.
A test case – if a list of a leaders’ offenses were to be published in the newspaper, would the Church Leader be mortified to the point where all credibility is lost, character questioned and career coming to a standstill? If yes, then the behaviours require a consequence that includes demotion. This enables victims to continue to live a normal life. Otherwise, it is the victim’s credibility that is lost, character questioned and career coming to a standstill. It reoffends the victim 70 times 7. When the Church Leader tries to question the character or emotional health of the victim to use as evidence for the offender’s innocence – this is a tragedy. Such a Church Leader should step down and allow a more competent person to guard and guide the flock.
Often it is a church worker/volunteer or attendee who is abused by the leader – here the leader has a paid salary and benefits (= right to protection by fellow leaders/authority). However, it is the church worker/volunteer or attendee who has sacrificed their time and potential salary for building up the church. In speaking out, there is no goodwill in this scenario – only lawyers and litigation. It is a crying shame when abusive leaders are protected so as not to bring public shame or humiliation on the church – because that would harm ‘gospel growth’. Conversely, it is very difficult for church attendees to want to bring friends or family to church when it is a toxic environment. Instead, having safe leaders means a growing church – based on the love of Jesus and not the power of money and authority.
Blindness to offenses is not part of ‘forgiveness’ – when a person in power denies justice to the vulnerable, they are using their power to re-abuse.
What kinds of behaviours have you experienced that continue to cause you harm?
What can be done to break the silence on these issues?