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"The God I serve is a God of presence, not a God of protection."

June 27, 2015 2 8 comments
Blog

Even in the walking alongside, there is a decision to enter into places of pain, knowing that you will hurt along with them, knowing that there may not be answers to the deep questions that arise.

June 19, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Website

We always seem to say that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. However, I would say that what King David did was sexual assault.

May 30, 2015 3 4 comments
Blog

I am not advocating for us to raise unruly, disrespectful children. Yet, there must be a bridge in which we can disciple our children to be Christ-like AND have a voice.

May 17, 2015 5 2 comments
Blog

In April, Safe Church leaders from the U.S. and Canada came together for strategic planning. One priority rose to the top. “We need to be able to talk about abuse!”

May 11, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Are our churches willing to put aside our own opinions and views about the people who report sexual harassment in order to help them and to follow proper reporting procedures?

May 2, 2015 2 0 comments
Discussion Topic

We often talk about bullying in schools and strategies to encourage decreased aggression for our children. But what about bullying in our everyday lives as adults in the church?

April 30, 2015 2 0 comments
Blog

He felt covered with such shame and guilt that he only wanted to hide from the presence of God. Instead, Philip said that he heard the voice of God saying, “Now, come worship Me”.

April 25, 2015 2 4 comments
Blog

There are ways to illustrate the horror and the impact of rape in the storyline, without explicitly showing the rape. What are your thoughts on this?

April 10, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar explores how healthy boundaries enhance ministry, how power dynamics influence ministry relationships, and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.

April 8, 2015 0 4 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

Strangers are only a fraction of the offenders out there; most are people you see every day. Check out the The Circle of Grace curriculum for an all-inclusive approach to recognizing the signs of abuse.

March 29, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Statistics have shown that people, even once they are out of abusive situations, often return to the abusive relationship. How are congregations equipped for the task of building up and walking alongside others?

March 21, 2015 2 1 comments
Blog

One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore this issue.

March 2, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

Find a variety of resources related to abuse awareness. 

February 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Image

The 'Power and Control Wheel' has been used for many years to describe the central power and control dynamic that operates in many kinds of abusive relationships. 

February 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Video

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Check out this video clip and share how effective YOU think it is in helping people spot the signs of teen dating violence.

February 23, 2015 1 2 comments
Blog

Which story would you rather read: A story about a woman alleging gang rape at a prestigious university? Or a story about how the reporter covering that story failed to maintain good journalistic standards?

February 16, 2015 3 6 comments
Blog

A report from the American Psychological Association states that childhood psychological abuse not only is just as harmful as sexual and/or physical abuse, but can have “long-lasting impact”.

February 7, 2015 3 9 comments
Resource, Presentation

This helpful presentation on Bullying by Alicia Mannes (Licensed Professional Counselor) shares some key insights into the world of bullying. 

January 29, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

One in four females and one in six males will be sexually abused by the time they reach 18. Are they missing from our congregations?

January 28, 2015 2 3 comments
Blog

In our very broken world, training up a child is not an easy task. How could our church communities be more helpful to parents?

January 25, 2015 1 2 comments
Resource

Check out these books, articles and other resources related to abuse by clergy or ministry leaders. 

January 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

The webinar Healthy Boundaries in Ministry Relationships explores how healthy boundaries enhance ministry and how power operates in ministry relationships. 

January 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Restorative justice practices give concrete tools for entering into tough conversations and actually setting the stage for Christian reconciliation.

January 14, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

You never know who is walking into the front door of your church. A safe church policy is the insurance policy that will protect you when you need it the most.

January 10, 2015 1 0 comments

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Thanks for posting this
Wouldn't I like to see every person in our churches see this movie or at least read your article.
As long as they do realize abuse is in every church not just this one in the movie.
 

The movie helps point out the systemic nature of the problem. It's our culture that allows abuse to continue - we must not let it continue in our congregations. As a college campaign against sexual assault states, "It's on us", all of us. We must work together to change culture. The stakes are too high to be complacent.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see our church culture reflect our belief that every person is valued as a unique image-bearer of God. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every Church leader followed in the way of Jesus, never using power for selfish gain, to control, manipulate, or harm; but instead used power as Jesus did to humbly love and build up the other (see Philippians 2). In that culture, abuse would be unthinkable.

Thanks, Faye - I'd love to see each congregation gathering together around this issue; we really need some momentum and unity around this issue. Thanks for your faithful work.

Thank you Monica for a well written article on the movie Spotlight.  In BC, the Safe Church Teams work with the directive "It takes a Whole church to be a Safe Church".  In the Safe Church work of the 2 classes in BC we are recommending ALL church leaders to watch this movie.  You have pointed out well the reasons this is so important.  It truly is the best movie/documentary style/drama available as an educational challenge to churches of all faiths. Its about ALL of us. Protestants & Catholics alike. 

Faye Martin (Safe Church Team Ministry: Classis BCSE & BCNW)

 

Thanks! Yes, I see it is working now. Thanks again. 

Preach it, Bonnie!  This is Gospel.

Thanks for letting us know of the problem. I'm not sure why this particular video just stopped working. The file has been replaced and it's working now.  

Sorry about this - I will check with the folks at the Network to see what the problem is. Thank you!

I can't get this one to play. 

I LOVE that, Bonnie. What a great illustration of the incarnation!

A book that I've recently read (Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown) described a scene in a church. As people walked into the sanctuary on the first Sunday of Advent they saw the front of the sanctuary littered with garbage, car bumpers, garbage cans overturned, cardboard as if set up as a shelter, etc... and in the middle of it all was a manger, with a spotlight coming out from it that lit up the cross behind. Jesus came down into our mess - and it's GOOD NEWS for us and for the world. Thanks for this blog that reminds us to enter into the mess of our humanity with a hope that is sure.

"the experience of Christmas is a bittersweet longing for hope"

This is a really beautiful meditation, Monica, with so much truth. I look forward to part two. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks S - I very much appreciated the sermon audio you provided! Wow - very challenging, very honest. We need more examples like these. I remember the first time I heard a sermon candid about these issues (online - I've yet to hear such candor in a church building) - it both left me shaken and deeply encouraged/relieved. (One slight 'disclaimer' I might make if I shared this sermon more broadly is that I think I see the concept of abuse a bit more broadly than this pastor does - there are varying degrees. I think of severe abuse as exactly as he describes (and that needs to be taken as seriously as he does for what it is), but there are less extreme forms of abuse, also very serious in their impact, which can sometimes be treated and of those kind of abusers I would not necessarily find describing them as monsters/children of the devil helpful. Either way, the naivete about the darkness of abuse and the impact destructive behavior has needs to stop.

Thank you for your interest and support - I'm very glad you found it helpful.

Great article, Monica.  I've searched all over for help with this naivete, from a Reformed perspective, and it's so very difficult to find.  But finally I found a sermon from a Reformed Church pastor, Sam Powell.  An amazing, excellent message, which pulls no punches, and yet is full of grace.  The sermon is in audio and can be found here.  http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?m=t&s=2101414322610  . It speaks directly to your thesis.   ---S

Thank you for the helpful blog.  

 

Robin will be missed. She contributed much to this discussion forum.

I look forward to getting to know Monica. Welcome!

Farewell, Robin! I really appreciated your writing and I will miss you! Thank you for sharing your gift with us.....

For sure I too an careful about who I 'let in' to my deep pain.
I do consider it an honor and a gift when others share their pain with me. Not that it is easy but it is important to do.

posted in: Forgiveness

I agree with you both.

Some people never repent or change and are unsafe.
With serious offense, true reconciliation can only happen when the offender is repentant,  asks forgiveness,  walks with accountability, proves themselves, takes responsibility, makes restitution......
However, I have been able to have a good  kind of a relationship with some people who seriously hurt me,  where I chose to walk in grace and forgiveness and they did not know how hard that was for me. I was able to choose to love them and help care for them. God brought this about in me where i did not think that was possible.

posted in: Forgiveness

Nor does it necessarily mean reconciliation. I've had someone recently tell me that reconciliation is the ALWAYS the goal to forgiveness. It may be Christ's example, but I do not believe that God would want us around toxic, un-safe people.

posted in: Forgiveness

Thanks, I agree it's often difficult for others to listen to, and sit with someone's pain. I've always been selective about the people who are allowed to see the deeper pain (scars)that I live with.I'm glad the post resinated with you..

posted in: Forgiveness

Thanks for your thoughtful response. We must be clear that forgiveness is NOT an alternative to justice. Those who hurt others must be held accountable, harm must be acknowledged, there are consequences, an opportunity for restitution must be given. Forgiveness does not negate the need for any of these things.

posted in: Forgiveness

I appreciate how thoughtful you were about this prayer and if you would talk about forgiveness or not.
I too have been hurt by forgiveness being pushed on me.
People think that forgiving a person means that what that person did does not matter, or you cannot hold them to account.
One thought I had was that if I forgive then it negates what was done to me, as if it wasn't that bad or it did not really hurt me.
Talking about forgiveness needs to include what forgiveness does and does not mean.
Having said that, I have come through a long journey to understand that forgiveness is a Gift.
I am thankful and appreciate it that I have been forgiven by God (and others) and i am thankful and appreciate that I have been freed to heal more when He enables me to forgive those who hurt me.
 

posted in: Forgiveness

We must guard against the tendency toward quick forgiveness that doesn't fully acknowledge the harm done. The journey toward healing is not a straight and easy path; rather it is most often painful, complicated, and difficult. Forgiveness is an important part of that journey, but one does not arrive there early in the process. There are no short cuts. Pushing forgiveness too soon can impede the process and delay healing. 

posted in: Forgiveness

Thank you for your post Elizabeth. I found the same thing true for me. Forgiveness came in God's time and in his way. Often a little at a time. I wonder if sometimes survivors are "pushed" to forgive because it more comfortable for the other person than really sitting with the survivor in their pain and anger.

posted in: Forgiveness

You are right, Reverend Shannon!  We do need to create safe spaces for our children to share and to feel safe.  We need to be continued advocates for both the boys and the girls.

posted in: Someone Did Know

Thank you for sharing this piece, Robin! There is too much silence in our families and congregations about abuse, particularly sexual abuse. I think when most of us picture victims of childhood sexual abuse, we usually think of girls, but as the story you share illustrates, boys are victims too. Too many suffer in silence and shame. I pray that, as family members and church family, we will cultivate communities where children will share when they are being hurt.  

posted in: Someone Did Know

Yes, Monica, please feel free to share this as a devotional.  So glad this blessed you!  Thank you!

Beautiful! Thank you for this wonderful message of grace and hope that applies to each of us! May I please read as a devotion as I begin our church's safe church training sessions this fall?

Thank you, for this thoughtful comment, MJill H!  Where you said, "When a person begins to believe in Jesus they are not usually all healed up and just lovely all at once." sums it up, perfectly.    

So true

I like this article because it brings hope.
Also it reminds me that everyone's walk with God is different.
When a person begins to believe in Jesus they are not usually all healed up and just lovely all at once.
We need to feed them and love on them and be patient and they will grow into who God sees them as.
 

 

Thank you for your comment. It begins with an openness and an ability to talk about a sensitive topic. We need to provide safe spaces where that can happen, whether it's a small group, or informally with friends. Unfortunately, abuse is not a rare event, space to talk about it can lead to healing as well as prevent future incidents.

Thank you for posting; it's not always easy when it comes from a place deep in your own heart. And thank you for your prayers, may God hear and answer them. God hears the cries of those who are hurting, may his church also hear and respond. 

I had a conversation with an elder about abuse awareness Sunday.
I am thankful that our council is talking about it and working to revamp our safe church committee and make sure we implement all of our abuse awareness policies.
I understand that it is difficult to talk about abuse issues.
Who wants to think about it?
There can be abusers in our church?
There are children being abused -sexually, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically?
It makes my heart sick to acknowledge a yes answer to both these questions.
It grieves me to think of the children who should be receiving help now and who may not get help for many years.
I pray they have a shorter healing journey than the 50 years it has taken for me.
I pray they have the courage to ask for help.
I pray that they are believed and not re-victimised.
I pray that gentle, loving, healing, help is given
I pray for eyes to be opened in their parents and families and teachers and friends.
I pray that these will have the courage to face that hard thing and stand up for the victim. Not turn their head and say- this is not my problem or I don't want to embarrass my family or it can't be true -he/she is a great person!

I also pray for the abusers that they will be stopped. That people will not cover up for them anymore. That they will be called to account. That the abusers will turn from their ways and receive healing for their brokenness and forgiveness.

We have to do the hard thing.
We have to face this issue.
The cost of doing nothing is a sentence  of PAIN -SEVERE PAIN.

 

 

I had a conversation with an elder about abuse awareness Sunday.
I am thankful that our council is talking about it and working to revamp our safe church committee and make sure we implement all of our abuse awareness policies.
I understand that it is difficult to talk about abuse issues.
Who wants to think about it?
There can be abusers in our church?
There are children being abused -physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically?
It makes my heart sick to acknowledge a yes answer to both these questions.
It grieves me to think of the children who should be receiving help now and who may not get help for many years.
I pray they have a shorter healing journey than the 50 years it has taken for me.
I pray they have the courage to ask for help.
I pray that they are believed and not re-victimised.
I pray that gentle, loving, healing, help is given
I pray for eyes to be opened in their parents and families and teachers and friends.
I pray that these will have the courage to face that hard thing and stand up for the victim. Not turn their head and say- this is not my problem or I don't want to embarrass my family or it can't be true -he/she is a great person!

I also pray for the abusers that they will be stopped. That people will not cover up for them anymore. That they will be called to account. That the abusers will turn from their ways and receive healing for their brokenness and forgiveness.

We have to do the hard thing.
We have to face this issue.
The cost of doing nothing is a sentence  of PAIN -SEVERE PAIN.

 

 

I agree whole heartedly with this statement:
"There is a deep need for more open conversation creating an environment of trust and safety, policies that put children’s safety first, and worship services that lament abuse, pray for justice, and open the door for healing for its victims."
I am very concerned about the safety of children and fragile people and I long for our church to become a safe place where children know where to go for help.
It makes me sad that secrets cannot be told and survivors suffer silently for many years, if not their whole life, without help.

"When does protecting privacy outweigh protecting the flock?" That's a very good question. Such questions are common when people with a record of criminal sexual behavior join our congregations. They arise when a beloved church leader is found to have committed sexual sin. Who needs to know? When? How is it communicated? How do we avoid descending into malicious gossip? These decisions are not easy, there are often many, many variables that must be taken into consideration.  It is best not to make decisions quickly. Prayerful reflection, getting input from others, and sometimes also legal counsel is important. Safe Church Ministry has resources that can help with many of the more common questions that arise. Safe Church Ministry is also available to offer consultation when these difficult and complex questions arise. 

posted in: Counting Voices

You raise a very good question and I have asked myself the same questions with regards to some incidents within the CRCNA.  I recall the incident when Synod nominated someone for executive director of the CRCNA but after his nomination something was announced that it was no longer proper for him to serve in this capacity.  I do not know if the reason was ever made public.

posted in: Counting Voices

Thanks for sharing this, Robin! This is how the body of Christ should work. Out of God's extravagant and grace-filled love for us, we learn how to love others. Powerful reminder. 

posted in: Come, Just Come

AMEN!

 

Thanks, Monica!  Glad we can rejoice in that! 

"The dignity of our humanity is what God puts inside us." - Love this, Robin!

Well said Michele. Thank you for sharing so openly. Something is lost when we don't share stories, even painful ones. Thanks again. We serve a God who redeems. He redeems the pain that we've experienced by using it to benefit others. And in the process we also find some healing for ourselves. Praise be to our Redeeming God.

 As I re-read the blog I realized I'd missed something when I replied initially.  God did not protect me from bullying or schizophrenia, and when I was contemplating suicide by drowning on the river bank a five-minute walk away from where I lived at the time because I was so tired, depressed and confused as to what was happening to me, He convinced me not to go ahead with the plan but to go home and stick through life even though it was a miserable affair at the time, and after MANY years I did find relief through medications and meaning through helping others.  It may not be appropriate to tell victims of abuse that their suffering will help others, but from personal experience I can tell you it is often helping others that gives meaning to what we endured.  I believe that the one thing that's worse than suffering is pointless suffering, and if you can use what you've learned to help others in any way whatsoever then you haven't endured hell for nothing.  But maybe it's best if it's someone who has actually been through hell on earth who says so.

Nope, David doesn’t get it wrong in Psalm 23.  And, he doesn’t get it wrong in other psalms, either, where he also talks of God’s protection.  But, in many of those psalms, David’s hoping in God’s protection comes only after David’s lament, and crying to God, and asking why God has abandoned him.  The psalms are indicative of where the writer was at that time.  This “The God I serve is a God of presence, not a God of protection" quote is indicative of one person’s experience.  Might that change, and evolve, and mesh into a different understanding of who God is, over time?  Who knows?

And, “goofy”?  Really?  Sometimes, God does say “no”.  Psalm 103:3 declares that God, “heals all your diseases”  Still, people die from disease, even after we pray for their healing.  So, God does not need a “free pass” or a “get out of jail free card” from the humanity that He created, because, well, He’s God.  He is the only One who can see our end from our beginning.

Beautiful comment, Bonnie!  We are thankful for His presence!

“…evil is part of the reality in this world, even in the church.”  That is so true, Michele.

And, the suggestion is not that we have to choose, between the two.  We see evidence of both in Scripture, don’t we, God’s presence and God’s protection?  The title was just to help generate some dialogue on this person’s perspective.  I found his comment and its context to be fascinating.

There are times in our lives when we think we only see His presence, which is why I offered this in the blog: “It is in His presence that we do find protection.”  Yet, protection might look different to our finite minds.  Protection might not always look like “rescue” or “reprieve”, right?

We often tell people and ourselves that God had a purpose for the abuse they/we suffered, and that is why it happened.  But, when people go through life never finding a justification or an answer to their "God, why?" question, churches are often ill-prepared to minister to people on that level. 

Thank you for sharing your perspective with us. 

It's an ages old question, "how can a loving, sovereign, all-powerful God allow ....? (fill in the blank). I don't think it can be fully answered in a blog, maybe not in a lifetime, maybe not with limited human understanding even with the best of minds. One thing I do know is that God is Good - ALL Good, ALL the time. He does no evil. There is no shadow of darkness in our God. Our God is so good, and so amazing, that He can take darkness and evil (that comes from us in our rebellion, and from the evil one) and He can bring something good from it. If we take an honest look at our life, we will find evil; yet we will also see his hand in those desert places, making us stronger, revealing himself to us more deeply, bringing good. He never does evil, He is only good; and his goodness shines, even in this dark and broken world. I praise him for his presence with his people, everywhere and always.

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