During the study day, the subject of child abuse in religious circles came up. The lecturer mentioned the well-documented abuse in the Catholic church but it was also interesting to factor in the child abuse cases that have happened within SGM circles. The Child Protection specialist wasn't particularly horrified or surprised by the SGM accounts -it seemed quite normal to him. This shocked me more than anything. Shouldn't he be horrified? The church - "the hope of all the world" - the glorious end-time church and there is CHILD ABUSE happening within it's ranks? And a non-Christian Child Protection specialist isn't particularly surprised that church leaders aren't dealing with this?
A caveat - I remain optimistic that the Sovereign Grace Fairfax church leaders have confessed their wrong-doing in allowing treating the molester and the victim on an equal footing. "Sorry" covers a multitude of sins.
But I remain disturbed, upset, angry that the church STILL persists in treating different sins on different levels. For example - I confessed struggling with sexual orientation (including some "slips") and was confronted with horrified panic. Oh there is no doubt homosexuality is seen as "uber-bad". Ted Haggard - a well-known evangelical leader in the USA - was discovered having made a moral fall and was widely and publicly disqualified from leadership. Financial misdeeds? I think we can also admit that theft of money would be something else that would discredit a church leader from the ministry and would indeed call a movement of churches into disrepute.
Yet - why is child abuse not seemingly treated as seriously as these other sins?
Hear me. I believe that ALL sins are the same in the sight of God. Jesus Christ had to die ONCE and once for all. God sees all sins as worthy of death - and that ONE sacrifice not only covers the homosexual but the child molester and the adulterer and the thief of money. But this discrepancy in the church? What's going wrong? Why are we not treating our children as precious beyond words?
Angry? Too right I'm angry. I was abused at a Christian school my parents spent thousands of pounds sending me too. And the mission statement of the school and the thing it prided itself on was that in that environment we were safe from the "evils" of secular education. We were in a spiritual greenhouse where we could grow and flourish until strong enough to "go out" into the world. And yet someone who should have known better and was in a position of trust did that to me when I was in my formative years. I know what sexual and physical abuse does to a child and how it can screw you up for years.
So what is the answer?
I think if the church is going to maintain integrity in this day and age - we have got to lose sight of the fact that the church is somehow set apart from the state. Church leaders should make it a PRIORITY to cooperate with child protection policies in all churches (which to give them credit - Sovereign Grace Fairfax are doing - albeit too late). Of course those with a history of child molestation should be welcome in church (just like homosexuals, thieves, murderers, transvestites, prostitutes) but they should NOT be allowed anywhere near children. If there are accusations made within the church then full cooperation should be made with the authorities. Surely transparency will be far less damaging in the long-run than cover up and financial support given to the family of the molester (as has been alleged in SGM).
We were taught on the study day how to make child protection referrals - and I believe that all children workers in churches should be educated how to do this - to the same level as healthcare workers - should concerns arise. Child molesters in church? Sin is sin and sin has consequences and I do believe that a prison sentence is no less than appropriate for even church members convicted of this most grievous of offences.
Not a pleasant subject and I'd far rather be discussing Ern Baxter or Rob Rufus or revival or the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit but it is one I feel passionately about. Our amazing Lord Jesus loved children - and we should do no less in protecting them to the best of our abilities. Hopefully a church environment where our children are protected against all odds will be an environment where families can flourish safely and we can move on to focus on our true mission.