"It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous." CS Lewis
After learning about a horrible pedophile situation in a former church, TWW has been committed to shining a light on this problem. It is time for the evangelical church in America to admit that it has shown a less than compassionate and intelligent response to this pervasive issue. One would think that the experience of the Roman Catholic Church would serve as warning to the Protestant church. But, it seems, we are just too clueless to learn from another's mistakes.
It is becoming glaringly evident that many denominations, along with para-church ministries, are experiencing pedophile situations on par, percentage wise, with the Roman Catholic Church. And we should hang our heads in shame. Our response to those who have been abused has been pitiful and we deserve the scorn of those outside the faith who point their fingers and call us hypocrites. We are, no excuses.
The following is a number of suggestions taken from both my experience in working with abused children as well as watching a pedophile debacle unravel at a church. I am frustrated by the recalcitrance of church leaders to intelligently address this issue and call the church into account. When will there be a Protect the Kids Coalition?
1. Admit that the church is filled with sinners, not saints.
Christians should be the first to admit that we are capable of great sin. Some of us appear to be under a delusion that Christian no longer sin…well….at least not the big sins. Just the nice sins like overeating, getting fat and dying years before our time. God doesn't really mind that, does He? The church has presented a "holier than thou" attitude to the culture at large. We condemn certain sins like homosexuality and ignore the reality that some of our members and pastors secretly struggle with this issue in their own life.
We have set up a system that demands that people hide their nasty sins. I had a woman approach me when I encouraged members of a class to find someone to help them walk through their issues. She said it would be too embarrassing to do so since she believed that most people in the church would be condemning. I told her that, in my walk as a Christian, I have known committed Christians who struggle with: homosexuality, affairs, pornography, physically and sexually abusive behavior, stealing, greed, anger, mental illness, drug addiction, gluttony, alcoholism and on and on. Oh, these weren’t the dregs off the streets-these were BSF leaders, pastors, Christian leaders, elders and deacons. If you do not believe this is possible, then you are purposely avoiding reality.
Folks, there are pedophiles in your churches and they may be your pastors or youth workers. Instead of spending time pontificating about societal problems, we should be openly and confidently proclaiming that the church is filled with sinners and we need Jesus just as much as those outside of the church..
2. We need to accept that there are unidentified pedophiles in our churches and set up checks and balances to protect our children.
This means we go the extra mile to make sure our kids are never alone with one worker. We question our children about their activities and make sure that said activity is what is really going on. If the youth leaders lie about the activities, they must be fired, on the spot. One pedophile I know about told the parents he was taking the kids to a G movie and then would bring them to explicit R movies. The pastors found out and, after a brief suspension, (the parents were not informed as to the reason for his absence) allowed him to continue to work with the teens. He molested teens for another 6 months.
Parents should not trust the pastors or others to properly vet and supervise the workers. They must take matters into their own hands. For example, they should surreptitiously show up at events, movies, etc., to be sure that the activity reported is the activity in reality.
3. Pastors are not capable of adequately judging whether a report made by a parent or child is valid.
They must call in the authorities when a family member, child, or anyone else in the congregation mentions a strange occurrence. Most police departments have specialist who know how to carefully investigate a complaint. They will handle the report discretely and will proceed only when they believe there is enough evidence.
I know of one incident in which a teen reported that a camp counselor exposed himself to him. The pastors, believing that they knew better, blew the kid off and the pedophile continued to molest kids for another year until police outside of the church setting discovered him.
Paige Patterson infamously demanded that a group of girls, who were being molested by Darrell Gilyard, provide two or three witnesses to the incident.The guy continued to molest the girls. This is the epitome of idiocy and they let this man run a seminary! Good night!
4. Pastors and elders often show favoritism to one of their own.
Paige Patterson infamously protected Darrell Gilyard for years, not believing he was capable of molesting teen girls. After all, he was a pastor, wasn’t he? And pastors don't do this stuff do they? He is now in jail. I know of pastors who gave preference to a seminary student over a teen when it came to a report of suspicious behavior. The family was told that the seminary student had more believability!!! Said seminarian brutally molested many boys.
This goes against Jesus admonition not show favoritism to people based on a particular position. But, that’s one of the nice sins, isn’t it. And pastors are almost always better than a teenager, aren't they?
5. Congregation members wrongly assume that their pastors are above reproach.
Church members-it is time to get a clue. Pastors and seminarians are capable of great sin and evil, just like the rest of us schlocks. I become very frustrated when church members act shocked when a pastor is caught in sin. Why? Do they actually buy the nonsense, pushed hyper-authoritarian types , that pastors are anointed and able to avoid terrible sin? This is not in the Bible, folks.
6.When a report is made to the pastors or leadership, the civic authorities must be notified immediately.
Do not waste time on meetings. The lives and well-being of our children hang in the balance.
7. Kids take priority over the pedophile.
Here is a comment that one of our readers, Arce, made today.
“Jesus put the entire culture on notice that children are the essence of the kingdom == unless we become like them, we cannot enter. So, when one is abused, harmed, hungry, needy, not being loved — then the church needs to move into forceful action to remedy that situation. Those responsible for abuse and neglect need to be told that they have failed to carry out Jesus’ mandate, and are not welcome in the body until they publicly confess and repent, comply with the civil authorities (best by turning themselves in and confessing there as well), and forever avoid situations where they are at risk of either repeating or being thought to have repeated the offense.”
8. Pedophiles should never, ever be “restored” to the ministry and must never be alone around children again.
Pedophiles almost always reoffend. Period. I know one church which allowed a convicted pedophile to wander ad lib around the church because they were told that he was cured! This after 30 years of molestations and one measly 8-month jail term.
9 Never blame the victim. Any pastor or elder who does should not be in their position.
Often churches will blame the victims. I have heard of elders chastising kids because they did not tell their parents about the abuse. “Didn’t you know it was wrong?” This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Children are manipulated and threatened not to tell their parents.
Such irresponsible church leaders are guilty of revictimizing the abused children. Not only should they should be ashamed of themselves, repent, and apologize, they should be removed from leadership, immediately.
10. The church’s first response is to care for the children, not the pedophile.
In one pedophile situation, some members of the church rallied around the pedophile, even suggesting that the victims not testify against him. These folks thought they could counsel him into full health “in the Lord.” They went to the court trials to give him support and continued to visit him in jail. Some even testified to his character! These same folks rarely, if ever mentioned the boys who were badly molested.
Such people need to be removed from the situation. They show either a basic ignorance of the seriousness of pedophilia or are emotionally unhealthy themselves.
11. The church should consider going to the media.
Bet this one surprised a few readers. First, if this situation becomes public knowledge, as it should and almost always does, the media will cover the story, usually on Page 1 with really big headlines. The church should be the first to speak to the reporters, giving them a Christian perspective of the tragedy. If the church does not do so, the press will define the situation, often to the detriment of the church. The church needs to enter the age of the Internet. Sexual abuse can no longer be hidden from the world and the church must learn how to operate in the Information Age. Give it up. You can't hide it anymore. All you will do is look guilty.
Secondly, the media can be effective in getting the story out. There may be other victims outside of the church who are harmed and in need of help. Recently, Senator Scott Brown announced to the press that that he had been a victim of sexual abuse. This confession took an interesting turn as other people, who had suffered in silence, came forward and said that they had been abused at the same Christian camp. Media accounts of one brave person can often give other people the courage to tell their own tales of abuse.They no longer need to suffer in silence. Good going, Senator Brown!
The church should rejoice when other victims are found. This gives the church an opportunity to demonstrate love and sacrifice in ministering to those who have been harmed.
12. Always provide counseling, at the church’s expense, for the victims and their families.
One church refused to assist with counseling, stating they could handle it within the church. One pastor, after a 45-minute conversation with one molested boy, deemed him totally healthy, no further followup necessary.
No pastor has the sufficient counseling background to adequately deal with the complex issues surrounding molestation. To do so anyway, shows a profound ignorance of the needs of the victim, a certain amount of egotistical hubris on the part of the pastor and raises the suspicion that the church might be attempting to “control” and silence the situation.
The church should immediately take the lead to provide the victims with financial resources to find the best help available.
13 The first response of the church should NOT be to protect the church from lawsuits. Stop acting like pagans by hiding behind lawyers.
If the pastors and elders truly believe the Bible, they should be aware that God, and God alone, will protect the church. God does not need their help. He gives and takes away. The church should keep the focus on caring and loving the victims , even if lawsuits become a reality.
And, if truth were told, some of these pastors and churches are so negligent that they should be made accountable, by the courts, for their actions.
14. Always tell the congregation that there is a sexual molester on the staff or attending the church.
Some pastors, out of a misplaced sense of priority or a temporary loss of common sense, have knowingly, and secretively, hired convicted sexual offenders, believing that pedophiles are now safe since the abuse happened in the past. Others allow pedophiles attend church with little to no supervision.
Here is a strong piece of advice to all pastors. Your congregation will find out, and when they do, there will be hell to pay for hiding this issue. You will lose members when it is revealed. Why? Because it is obvious that you care more about the offender than you do about the children in your congregation. Just ask Steve Gaines.
15. Finally, if you don’t feel pain and compassion for children and teens that have been molested in your church, you need to reevaluate your Christian walk.
I had a conversation with a lady from a church about the kids who had been raped and sodomized by a molester. She told me that she didn’t feel “led” to be involved in the situation. God had “other things” for her to do. Needless to say, said person is no longer a close acquaintance.
Here is a telling comment, posted on our blog by Lydia. It is a good note to end on.
"Whatever makes us think that this is “of Christ”? I think what amazed me the most is how many decent people on staff or consultants (including myself) could go along because we were thinking of the “greater good” the organization was doing. But was it?
I know now I was not really saved. I had little godly sorrow or brokeness for the hurting people because I was too busy trusting the leaders. I did not know them personally, they were numbers or problems to deal with. We were busy and had “important” things to accomplish.
After all, God must have been on our side to build up such great organizations. I had it all backwards. God most often uses the foolish (from the world’s perspective) , the poor, and downtrodden for His Purposes. He not only tells us that in the NT but models it throughout with who He uses. The “rabinically educated Jew” is sent to the Gentiles!
The bottom rung…basically those who did not make the second cut of rabbinical studies are chosen to be Apostles to the Jews! How could they have credibility with Pharisees, etc?
God’s economy is often the opposite of what we think. It was a huge lesson for me to learn. Many still need to understand this so they will quit following man and instead follow Christ. Guys like CJ want people to believe they are the same thing."
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 11:1-12:24 Luke 17:11-37 Psalm 84:1-12 Proverbs 13:5-6