Child abuse: grandstanding or pastoral care...

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(NOTE FROM TB: Earlier today, my wife and I read a statement against child abuse signed by a bunch of church leaders and their friends who are affiliated with the PCA, Biblical Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary (Philly), and an assortment of other organizations. Both of us were unimpressed. My wife said, "I'd like to ask all the people who signed it if any of them have ever taken even one man and woman from their own congregation or their own family down to the police station to confess their crimes? They all have child molesters and abusers in their own churches and families."

So I asked Mary Lee if she would do a short post on her reaction to the statement and here it is. Obviously, the statement leaves us cold. Despite their public declaration of moral indignation, we doubt more than a handful of them have done the hard work of pastoral care needed in matters of this sort. Too, if we're talking about "child abuse," why no mention of the murder of children? Which is to say, why no mention of abortion?)

(Mary Lee writes:) It is easy to point fingers at the people in the past who did not expose the abuse and wickedness in their churches and Christian organizations. It is easy to point fingers at those around us who have not done what was necessary to stop the abuse and wickedness they have been told about. It is even fairly easy to acknowledge that, surely, we too have failed in these areas.

It is not easy, when a man in your own congregation is found to have molested little children, to take that man down to the police station and help him confess his crimes. 

It is not easy to go with a woman in your congregation whose father molested her for years as she was growing up and... 

confront her father.

It is not easy to confront her mother for not protecting her when, surely, she had to have known something (despite her protest that she did not). 

It is not easy to sit quietly with a little girl and patiently wait for her to slowly, little by little and with many tears, describe what her older brother (and yes, older sister) did to her. 

It is not easy as shepherds and elders to meet with a couple for many hours, over many weeks, and finally decide that a divorce is the right thing to end the sin that has been taking place in the home.

It is not easy to have a man stand in front of the congregation to confess his sexual sin and ask for forgiveness.

It is not easy to wait with a man who has confessed sin and to go with him to his sentencing.

It is not easy to go to the pastor of another church to tell him of the sin in his church, to inform him that one of his leaders has, in fact, been molesting his grandchildren who are in your church.

It is not easy to fear for your own (and your family's) safety when you have had to confront a man with his sin and he is angry.

It is not easy to sit with a mother whose husband had been molesting her daughters and have her say that she will not let them testify against him in court because it would be too traumatic for them. 

It is not easy to explain to a woman who has finally had the nerve to come forward about the abuse in her childhood, that the police have decided to do nothing about it.

It is not easy sit with parents and explain to them why their son has to be taken to the police station.

it is not easy to sit with a dear friend who says, between sobs, that she had planned to go to her grave with the secret of her molestation that went on throughout her growing-up years.

It is not easy to explain to children why their father has to be removed from their home.

It is not easy to sit with a wife as her husband tells her the sin in his past.

Sin is ugly and messy. It is easy to write letters and sign our names to acknowledge our own and others' failures, but it is never easy to walk through these situations and spend hour upon hour with the abused, the victim, and the oppressed. It is also hard to sit with the accused and listen to his story of what was done to him in his own childhood that corrupted him leaving him a predator, also.

We are surrounded by sin in our own families and congregations and it is time to get down in the dirt and start the hard work of confronting the sin that is here, not there. And yes, this is spreading the good news of the Gospel. We cannot say we want to extend the love of Christ to the wounded and exploited unless we are the loving arms Christ.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!