Blog

There are many reasons to have safe church policies; for example, we want to provide a safe environment at church for faith to flourish. No one wants to believe that abuse could happen in church. The sad fact is that it does happen.

May 20, 2014 2 1 comments
Blog

About 60 people attended the Safe Church Ministry conference April 25-26. The conference included a wide variety of workshops for those who are new to safe church as well as for those who have been involved for many years. There were many “newbies” present from classes where there are no active...

May 13, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

Porn is here and it will affect the church.

May 5, 2014 1 4 comments
Resource, Brochure or Pamphlet

Circle of Grace is a primary prevention program that trains children and youth to be an active participant in creating a safe environment for themselves and others.

April 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource

Preventing abuse takes bold leadership, leaders who are not afraid to talk about the issue and bring it out into the open.

April 22, 2014 1 1 comments
Blog

Can a pastor deposed for sexual misconduct subsequently serve as an elder in a congregation?

April 8, 2014 0 10 comments
Resource, Brochure or Pamphlet

This document shares the Christian Reformed Church's position statement on abuse as well as articles of the Church Order relevant to Safe Church.

April 8, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

How can a church maintain a safe environment and also welcome criminal sexual offenders? This webinar will help answer that question.

March 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

This brochure asks the question: "How can a church minister to those with a criminal sexual history and still be safe?"

March 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

Check out these helpful websites to get a better understanding of child sexual abuse. 

March 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

This bulletin insert describes bullying, why it is so harmful in our church communities, and what we can begin to do about it.

March 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

A happy relationship between a parent and a child is the most important foundation on which to build acceptable behaviour.

February 24, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Domestic violence or relationship abuse refers to a pattern of behavior, not a one-time event, not anger out of control. It is intentional behavior used to establish control through coercion, fear, intimidation, isolation, or other methods. It often (not always) includes the use of, or the...

February 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

When is it an affair? When can it be defined as abuse? The answers may not always seem clear.

February 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

Even in our own countries, and even in our own churches, statistics about the percentage of women who have experienced violence is staggering.

February 20, 2014 0 3 comments
Blog

It's hard not to get sucked in to all the Super Bowl hype. It’s a good thing to enjoy a game together, to appreciate the hard work and discipline that go into great athletic events. And there is God-given creativity expressed in ads that catch our attention. So, how do we watch the Super Bowl? Perhaps we watch with awareness.

February 5, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

“While poverty on its own does not result in child abuse and neglect, research clearly identifies a link between poverty and child abuse, mental health issues and woman abuse."

January 27, 2014 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Find supplemental resources related to sexual abuse awareness. 

January 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource

Find supplemental resources related to criminal sexual history and involvement in church.

January 23, 2014 1 0 comments
Blog

The CRCNA was nominated to the list by people in the CRCNA who were not helped, but were in fact were further hurt, by the response of the church in their experience of domestic abuse.

January 21, 2014 0 7 comments
Blog

"We’re very excited about what we can offer at the conference this year!" — Bonnie Nicholas, Director of Safe Church MInistry for the Christian Reformed Church. 

January 13, 2014 0 1 comments

Pages

RSS

Thank you for sharing this beautifully written and transparent piece, Robin. It serves as a good challenge to all of us to be the Church God has called us to be, where reconciliation and restoration are the ultimate goal.

This is very helpful. I think we need to be having more conversations about treating others with respect in our homes and congregations. It is such an important practice that can have a huge impact on the Church!

Thank you for your wise comments Pam. A power imbalance in the relationship must always be considered in determining abuse. Consensual sex assumes an equal-power relationship. It is always the responsibility of the person with the most power in a relationship to maintain and to guard healthy relational boundaries. That is the responsibility of the pastor or church leader in the context of the church community. It's important to place the responsibility where it belongs and hold those with sacred power accountable for their actions.

posted in: Is It Abuse?

Actually, John, I think you have to be careful about a focus on the wrongness of sex outside of marriage - then the focus is on the guilt of both parties.  A sexual relationship, even one where the young person feels they are "in love", between a young person and an adult church leader is abuse -- a mis-use of power.  That leader has ABUSED their position of power and ABUSED the young person sexually.  A focus on the wrongness of extramarital sex in general leads to blaming the victim. 
 

posted in: Is It Abuse?

Good article.   But it doesn't go far enough.   Sexual activity outside of marriage is fornication, and therefore immoral for christians.  So even if it was consensual and of a common age, it counters the leadership principles and ideals of all involved members of the youthgroup.   Yes involvement of minors with majors is inappropriate.  But casual sex is inappropriate regardless outside of marriage.

posted in: Is It Abuse?

Thanks for posting about this excellent resource. We believe it's one of the best tools available for equipping children and youth with the skills they need to actively participate in creating a safe environment for themselves and others. It will help build a culture of respect and healthy relationships for the next generation in our churches. Now is the time to get ready for Fall and plan on adding Circle of Grace to your church school curriculum.

Because we believe in it so much, Safe Church Ministry is supplementing the cost for this program - it's available from Safe Church Ministry to CRC, and and now also to RCA congregations, for only $25. (The information on our website has not yet been updated to reflect this - 50 churches received the program free of charge to pilot the project - that phase is now over). Here's what one CRC had to say about Circle of Grace, "The program is very good. It ties in well with what the kids are already learning ... The program is easy to adjust for a small church. We did not have any difficulty combining the classes and using lessons from multiple grades ... The parent information was a good addition to send home as well ... I would say it was a success."

 

 

I agree that it's so important to keep Safe Church and the topic of abuse visible, out in the open, where we can talk about it. That's a key for prevention. Thanks for your words of encouragement Elly - and for your prayers.

Yes, Safe Church Ministry will continue because of people like you, Bonnie, who put stock in the statistics and care so much about those who have been abused by members of the church.  Because you and others know that the CRC church is not immune to the sin of abuse, and that it is so important to prevent it rather than deal with it once it happens.  Because we know that abuse tends to occur in situations where there is secrecy, and therefore it is so important that keep the topic of abuse out in the open and that we all be able to recognize if abuse is possible occurring.  Finally, it is my prayer that Safe Church Ministry will expand to protect and deal with abuse to every member of the CRC, even its leaders, because it is needed here as well. With God's help we will keep everyone safe.

Thanks for posting. This blog was written as a report about a recent community event sponsored by Safe Church Ministry. Though I wrote it, the ideas expressed are those of the two presenters, who were men. They also reflect the views of many other men, including two men, who have done a lot of work and research with men, and wrote the book, Mascupathy:Understanding and Healing the Malaise of American Manhood, which was recently released (see www.mascupathy.org). So, just to be clear, this is not a feminist viewpoint, the source is very masculine. One of the main tenants of the presentation was that men and boys are socialized to minimize feelings, and that that can have very negative consequences in life. I wonder if most would agree with that assessment. It's not that masculinity needs to be overcome, rather it needs to be realized in all it's fullness.

Personally, I long for a world where all people are valued and respected and are free to be all that they were created to be - male and female. Both were created in the image of God and given the mandate to rule over creation (Gen. 1:26-30). Ideally it's a partnership. I could give you my take on what happened between the sexes in Genesis 3 and how that fallenness continues to affect gender relationships. But that would be a completely different blog (maybe another day).

posted in: Boys Will Be Boys

Thanks for posting - I think part of the problem is our inability to handle difficult conversations, about lots of things, not just masculinity. I believe all of us need to continue learning about how to value differences and honor one another.

posted in: Boys Will Be Boys

Thanks for posting on this subject. It's needed. But let me offer some critique. "Sacred masculine" is may not be the best way to avoid all the 'role fright' or patriarchal mantras that lay in the background of these discussions, for Christians, too. As a Bible Professor, I understand that 'biblical' really doesn't clear things up. Avoiding all these terms doesn't change the fact that there is so much confusion about what masculinity means. Rather than just say "requirement that honor the Lord," use Scripture that Christians claim as sacred. We need to learn from Scripture on sites like this, do we not?

Secondly, the reference to "emotional intelligence" seems underhanded. With Father's Day approaching, is there a way you could have constructed the strengths of masculinity, rather than closing with the learning curve. M. Volf is correct when he writes that masculinity no longer has anything to accomplish (that's the brute!), instead, masculinity must be overcome.

Avoid any debate all together--this issue has been torn apart enough--and have 2-3 male leaders or elders from you church give their view of masculinity.

Thirdly, would you let a male author write a corresponding piece on femininity? 

Just wondering, Andrew

posted in: Boys Will Be Boys

I think our church has a long way to go to even begin talking about sacred masculinity. Never mind bringing up the difference between sacred and cultural. I wonder how other churches have gone about this.

posted in: Boys Will Be Boys

Hi again Bev,

There are no easy answers here - rather we must learn to live in the tension of truth and grace, judgment and mercy, consequences and forgiveness. It's not an either-or proposition, it's a both-and struggle to find the best path. None of us are holy, yet we are called to be the church, Christ's body in the world. And I believe that church leaders especially need to be held to high standards to honor the great and holy name of our Lord.

I also believe that abuse thrives in silence and secrecy; therefore, we need to create a culture where struggles with sin are shared and not hidden. There is a tension that must be maintained, lived through, and wrestled with. We may not all draw the lines in the same places, but to keep it all hidden is not a viable option for a healthy church.

posted in: The Price of Porn

I know it's huge... and definitely not victimless...  just the tip of the porn iceberg is horrific... a friend recently shared Mark Driscoll's book "a call to resurgence" with me, and in it, he gives a list of some of the consequences which include the ones you mention, and again, this list is just the tip:

 

Objectification of women

lack of intimacy with spouse

no need to marry

couples who watch porn together and each fantasize about other people

promotes sex trafficking and abuse, especially of women and children (I would hope this would appall anyone enough to be so horrified that they would never want to view porn again, they are all horrible, but I would pray no one would want to be connected at all to this type of evil)

contributes to sexual sin in ALL forms

downplays severity of sexual sin

deteriorates ability to be faithful and content in marriage, which opens the door to lots more issues with children, relationships, etc.

corrupts relationship between parents and children

(paraphrased list from A call to Resurgence; mark Driscoll; 2013; Tyndale; p54-57

 

What do you mean by OK?

so does having a culture where it's OK for pastors to be honest about their struggle with porn, mean that we are saying they don't have to worry about losing their job, that we will be ok with leaving them in leadership? do we really think it's ok, for our spiritual leaders to stay in leadership if porn is an issue for them?  do we think they are still qualified to lead?  is that biblical?  Do we not view porn the same as adultery, even though that’s Jesus perspective in matthew 5?  Why or why not?  Why are the leaders so fearful?  are they fighting tooth and nail, like the Catholic church to keep it covered up, because it's so pervasive? is it possible we could have half (or more) of our leaders that should consider stepping down from leadership if the statistics are at all accurate? ... is this issue so HUGE, that’s why leaders are afraid to even begin to address it, because it would mean that maybe 50+% would lose their positions of leadership, including themselves?    are we downplaying how horrible porn is?    I'm asking, because I'm stunned at how poorly the church has so far addressed this and would like to understand what is going on that this HUGE issue keeps getting covered up by the Church leaders…  Do we think God is ok, with how the Church has responded so far?

 

...because at this point, doesn't it seem we are helping the enemy out because keeping it secret and hidden, in the dark – including through lies and deception, which is in agreement with the enemy's ways, (John 3 & 8) but God's way is bringing sin into the light, transparent truth (Eph 5), which doesn’t seem to be what we are doing?  Am I wrong?  I really struggle with understanding the fear, why are they so fearful?  that indicates a number of things, including lack of trusting God with His ways, and much worse...

 

Again, we all must be willing to lose our life/job/reputation for His sake, then we will find it... that's God's way...  hard? yes, but spiritually healthy per scripture!  One article says statistically, only 1% voluntarily share their struggle with porn, the rest get found out.   here's the link to a disturbing article on that...  I think i've posted this one before on another response... but it's worth a re-read...  http://blogs.christianpost.com/guest-views/sexual-sin-in-the-ministry-8613/

 

if it's child porn they are looking at, then they are definitely beyond any question not qualified, and I hope that would not even be a question...  even the secular world, thank God, recognizes that as very sick and very wrong...   so don't we see that when one is into porn, they are going to get more and more depraved and it tends to suck them into illegal child porn?  That will ruin your very life quickly, when it's found out...

 

http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/dozens-charged-in-child-porn-case-in-n...

again, I will add a warning, the reading the article could trigger responses connected with abuse... porn is evil, and especially horrific when kids are involved... and so the related articles are tough reads...

 

God help us, His Bride, to be holy as He is holy...

posted in: The Price of Porn

"Jesus’ way is the exact opposite of abuse." Amen, preach it sister... that line made me cry, because I've made a similar statment: we/the Church are doing exactly the opposite of what the Bible tells us when it comes to abuse and sexual immorality... I pray for the Church to step up and out, to walk in the potential God designed for her... being transparent and open, and humble, and honest, then, He will open the doors to bring healing through the Church...

I agree there is much potential, but we have to be willing to lose our lives (taking the risk to confess, repent, be honest and open, etc. ) first... and that's where it seems we get stuck... we don't understand and/or we refuse to acknowledge/recognize/admit it's the only way we can move forward... when in God's greater reality, it's the safest thing we can do, because it's God's way... He promises when we confess our sins TO ONE ANOTHER, that opens the door for healing (James 5)... and I have witnessed that and read testimonies that affirm that... it's a step of faith, and might feel like we are stepping off a cliff ( think of Indiana jones when he's going after the holy grail and he takes the step out into thin air, and there's an unseen rock bridge that blends in and so is invisible, but it's there!)

anyway... until there is significant, specific, transparent repentance (not some fairly safe, controlled, generic blanket statement acknowledging that we've messed up here and there, that just doesn't cut it or even come close)... I think the healing we experience in the Church will be limited... are we willing to lose our lives/reputation? are we willing to lay down our lives for those who have been hurt by/in the Church? somewhere I read, God's not worried about His reputation... the excuse of protecting reputation is a cop out by the leaders to justify cover up for each other... and it's the opposite of what Jesus did!

Thanks for your post Bev - great article. Pornography is often referred to as a "victimless crime" - it's not! In addition to those caught up in producing it, it causes devastation in relationships, marriages, and families. We need to consider what kind of future we are creating for our children. This is a HUGE problem that needs to be addressed!

I am also aware of many pastors who struggle with pornography, but are very afraid to be public about it. We also need to think about creating a culture where it's OK to be honest and to seek help. There is help available - but not as long as we refuse to acknowledge the problem.

Safe Church is supporting the efforts of "Shore 2 Shore With a Roar"  - a motorcycle ride to increase awareness about pornography. There are people in this group who have faced the issue head on, and have grace-filled stories to tell. Find out more at www.shore2shore2014.com.

posted in: The Price of Porn

here's a recent article (warning: possible trigger for those who have been abused or affected by porn)...

there's a lot of work that still needs to be done by the Church in this area.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tmatt/2014/05/porn-again-facing-denial-in-c...

very disturbing quote from article:

But while the culture wars rage on and draw the most attention, Lambert argued that the greatest moral threat to the church today is “the Christian pastor, the Christian school teacher, the Christian Bible college and seminary student, who exalts sound theology, who points to the Bible and then retreats to the basement computer to indulge in an hour or three of Internet pornography.”

and some of the comments are also very disturbing...

posted in: The Price of Porn

here's a recent article (warning: it's long and a tough, heavy read, with possible triggers for those who've been abused, so read only when you are at a healthy emotional place/time) about Boz Tchividjian (Billy Graham's grandson) and the ministry of GRACE he's involved with...  (I also posted this link under the judicial code thread)

http://prospect.org/article/next-christian-sex-abuse-scandal

here's a quote from the article that made me think about posting it on this forum:

BOQ “I want the church to become one of the safest places for children and abuse survivors,” Tchividjian says, “and sadly today, it’s one of the least-safe places.” EOQ

it's interesting to me that the verse used for safe church is in Ezekiel 34, the chapter on irresponsible shepherds/spiritual leaders...

and some of Boz' thoughts on transparency in the church (#4 on the list)...

another quote from the end of the article:

GRACE is challenging Christian institutions to live up to their teachings, to “expend themselves, even to the point of death, to demonstrate love for a very hurt soul,” as Tchividjian says.

“If you think about it in the Christian context,” he continues, “God did his most powerful work when Jesus, his son, was at his most transparent and vulnerable, on the cross. So why do we approach all these things differently? If I’m a Christian, why am I not driven by the fact that if we mess up as an institution, then when we’re most transparent and vulnerable, that’s when God can do his most powerful work? I’ve seen that in churches: When they do respond that way, it’s pretty powerful what results in the lives of survivors.”EOQ

and I would add, most likely in the lives of all involved, including the perpetrator

 

Part of a toolkit for prevention is paying attention to what we teach our children about themselves, about their relationship with the Lord, and how that affects their relationships with one another. With just a few lessons each year, for each grade level - K-12, the Circle of Grace program helps children and youth understand God's presence with them always, the sacred nature of all relationships, and how to talk to a trusted adult when something doesn't feel right. More information can be found on the Safe Church website www.crcna.org/safechurch - click on the left side bar, "Education is the Best Prevention."

 

You make a very good point Ron. I think we, as the church, tend to minimize our legal liability in situations such as this. Abuse by clergy or a church leader is the number one reason that churches end up in court. And scandals in churches and organizations (think Penn State) have shown us that attention must be paid to those who knew about it and did nothing. It's not only the one who perpetrates the abuse that is held liable; those who know about it also bear responsibility.

The matter would also be of some interest to the church's insurers if a "known abuser"  is reinstated as a church leader and subsequently re-offends.  It would be along the lines of "fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice, shame on me".  If a known offender is put in a position of authority and trust and that offender re-offends, those who placed the known offender into that position may be held personally liable in a court of law.  The civil action would seek likely seek damages from the Church and the members of Council by alleging that they knowingly placed an offender in a position of trust.... and they should have known better ("vicarious liability").   In fact, if Classis approved the reinstatement, the civil action would likely include the Classis as a defendant.  And any insurance coverage may be tenuous given that insured parties who negligently create the situation in which damage occurs might be denied full coverage

Such a council decision puts the church itself and the Council members at risk.   I'd be resigning from council.  In some instances of poor decision making by a Council when dealing with "Safe Church" matters, criminal conviction of council members has resulted..

I will try to forgive the child molester... but I won't ask him/her to volunteer as a youth leader.  

I will try to support the healing of an alcoholic... but I won't put him/her in charge of the communion wine.

I will try to forgive the fraudster....  but I won't ask him/her to be Church Treasurer. 

the Church has a responsibility to protect others from being abused by the same person, especially if it's a spiritual leader, no matter how repentant and forgiven the offender/leader is, and that will include being disqualified (as long as you are crc?) from certain levels of leadership which hold significant levels of authority and trust by people.    I am encouraged that classis Toronto made this decision and are sending a latter of regret for what this person had to go through (again).  It's a start/step, and has helped bring a significant issue into the light... so, as others have mentioned, what now, to prevent similar situations from happening...  including preventing the abuse happening in the first place!

Ezekiel 34 has been heavy on my heart for the last several years as more and more abuse by leadership situations come to my attention ... v 16 talks about those (fat and strong) who have sought their own welfare at the expense of others, and v 17 is about rams and goats (people of power/wealth) who oppress the sheep... v21 talks about the weak sheep (victims) being shoved and driven out by the fat sheep (those in power)... sounds like shunning to me... and lines up with Rachel's comment how someone said that she can never go to church again as she received hate from some for speaking out, and they made her feel like a horrible person...

Church, we are called to much higher standards of holiness... from a number of abusive situations that have been shared with me, the response from Church leadership has not been acceptable, and that includes the crc, so it is encouraging to see Classis Toronto step up with this righteous decision.  It's way past time...  this case took a year, there are others that have been going on considerably longer... or the person gave up, because it was so painful and traumatizing and continued to be abusive from the leadership's resistance to it being exposed.

 

I can forgive you for cutting off my leg. But my leg will not be able to come back. So too with abuse. I can and must forgive. But I will also bear the scars of that abuse. We cannot confuse the two. That was an important aspect of the discussion.

Ah yes we forgive but we don't forget .I forgive  you but I;ll always remember how you wronged me .How is that forgiveness

God may be able to remember our sin no more - unfortunately most people don't have that capacity. Being forgiven and restored to fellowship does not necessarily mean a sin is forgotten. As has been said, there remain consequences for sin.

Church leaders, especially those ordained, possess great trust that is assumed, and power that is inherent to their position. It’s in the best interest of the church to maintain high standards to protect these positions of honor. It also protects the church, as well as those who could be victimized by any re-offense. Many of us hold a professional license of some kind. We are held to an agreed upon code of ethical behavior in that role and will lose our license for violating those standards. Should we hold church leaders to a lower standard?

 

Many people over the age of 40 are afraid of using more modern online dating methods, believing them to be exclusively for younger generations. In actual fact, most of these websites have a large percentage of users over the age of 40 and the internet can be an extremely useful tool for dating for seniors and all adult age groups. Tips By: Edgardo Trenton.

Your sins are forgiven and I REMEMBER THEM NO MORE

I'm so glad to hear the actions of Classis Toronto and the resignation of the former Pastor. I do not think that there is ever a good reason to let a Pastor deposed for sexual misconduct become a leader in the church. I also think that there is a difference between forgiveness and consequences of sin. Many carry the consequences of past abuse by others are whole life. Why should it be different for the offender. I hope that there soon is a better accountability/monitoring system and that there is better education for the churches about what is appropriate.

Not even a hint of....  "Ephesians 5:3...   But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people."
 

Above reproach.....   "Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money."   I Timothy 3. 

That website is engaging in gossip and anonymous accusations, that is, they are engaging in abusive speech in the name of countering abuse. They may have good intentions but the execution is sorely lacking in integrity and hypocritical. Clearly they are unaware of our Safe Church ministry and the safe church teams of our classes and the policies of our individual congregations. I found the site exquisitely unhelpful, indeed, unjustly harmful to our church's reputation, in the way that it bears false witness against the church, leveling vague accusations against the church, allegedly up to the synodical level. Of course, we are just as prone to abuse in our churches as any other, and prone to hide it, etc, but we have also made very intentional and proactive efforts to prevent and respond to abuse. To smear the whole CRCNA in this manner is contemptible.

Angela, so good to hear that you had an advocate from the Mennonite Central Committee who could help lead the church to a place of true reconciliation. Restoration and reconciliation can only happen after the wrong has been acknowledged. A public acknowledgement doesn't leave elephants in the room. Rather it clears the air, and shows everyone that we all stand, together, in the mercy and grace of our Lord. What a testimony, made available through Christ Jesus, our Lord. THANK you so much for sharing your story.

I also have referred many people to "A Cry for Justice" website (both before and after the CRC "made the list") because it has many good resources that are helpful in understanding abuse, which is a necessary first step to respond appropriately. Keeping churches safer is a good place for Safe Church Ministry to start, but our mandate goes beyond that - I'd encourage you to take a look at some of the resources on our website www.crcna.org/safechurch. On the left hand sidebar click on "Additional Information" and you will find additional resources on domestic violence. In addition - a ready-made PowerPoint presentation about domestic violence is also available  - click on the left hand side bar "Resources for Safe Church Teams". That presentation, along with other domestic violence resources is a part of our Safe Church team training notebook. In addition, many workshops and educational events on the topic have been presented for Safe Church team training events, in churches, and at classis meetings. We are working to equip Safe Church team members to speak to the issue of domestic violence which affects so many people in our churches.

I'm looking forward to placing more of our Safe Church resources on the new Network - so they will be searchable and more easily accessible.

The survey presented to synod in 1992 (which led to forming the office now known as Safe Church Ministry) revealed that 85% of the abuse reported happened in the home - only 4% at church. So to ignore abuse that happens outside of church is to ignore an issue that affects a lot of people, many of whom are in our churches. There is great opportunity for ministry to those who have been impacted by this kind of abuse.

Please also feel free to contact Safe Church Ministry for additional assistance. I have been working in the field of domestic and sexual violence for many years before accepting the position as director of Safe Church Ministry. I have a passion to see churches respond in helpful ways. If you share that passion; consider joining in the work of Safe Church Ministry. As another responder pointed out - we have a long way to go. You (or others reading this post) can become part of the solution.

Well, this is kinda funny.  I probably made a few folks irritated yesterday because I posted a link from A Cry For Justice in another comment stream, because it had a link to a fantastic sermon that gave me some clarity on abusive men and how to deal with them in life and in the church building.  (http://network.crcna.org/qa/how-do-we-handle-domestic-violence-husband-w...

And I read what Cry For Justice says about the CRC, because I was curious about the link about making the list.  OOPS!!!  I tweaked someone's nose, I'm sure, by advocating a site that some folks here think is libelous.

But hey, after posting here for 3 or more months begging for help with dealing with an abuser, and getting opinions and book-learning, but really not getting any practical EXPERIENCED advice, I'm inclined to agree with A Cry For Justice.  It's pretty clear to me that we, the CRC, are pretty clueless about how to handle all the crud that comes with domestic abuse. 

And while we tout Safe Church as being so great, in MY understanding, Safe Church is about being Safe IN Church, not safe at home.  At least that's true at my church.  Yes, we have a Safe Church committee.  And they've made changes to nursery and Sunday School and catechism and rides home with kids in the car and such so that there is reduced risk.  But that's about being "Safe AT Church," not "Safe at Home."  I'm not on the committee, so I don't know the particulars, but what I can tell you from an outside-the-committee-person is that my impression is NOT that Safe Church is about how to deal with the abusers themselves, or how to protect or help the victims of abuse at home, who happen to be members of our churches.  And THAT is what A Cry For Justice is all about.  So yes, from their perspective, we ain't good at it at all, because Safe Church isn't about that.

Now perhaps I'm wrong.  I haven't studied Safe Church materials.  But the reason I posted in this forum in December about dealing with an abuser who wants to come back to services is because I assumed Safe Church could help in its area, or "sphere" if you prefer, of the church building.  I never expected any help or advice in dealing with him outside the church building, or in the home, because I didn't think Safe Church covers that.  Maybe it does and I'm ignorant.  But I'm no dummy, and I'm a lifelong CRC member, and if *I* don't know about any help the CRC offers in that regard, then A Cry for Justice is right in that the CRC doesn't have its act together, and they are not being libelous at all. 

It's clear from reactions I get from church members that they have no clue about the personalities of abusive men, and the manipulative ways they toy with their family's emotions, and the good-heartedness of their church members.  It's been a real learning curve for me too.  And most people aren't going to put in the time to understand the mind of an abuser, and how that wreaks havoc on his family.  And I'm not sure Safe Church is set up, at all, to educate the membership about it. 

Protecting Victims

Hi, I'm back.

I wanted to share this great sermon I found at http://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/03/09/stop-offering-the-blessings-of-zion-to-children-of-the-devil/  .  It is from Sam Powell of the First Reformed Church of Yuba City, California.  The entire sermon is good from start to finish, really solid.  It clarified a lot of the things I'd been wondering about how to act toward this man in our church.  It's really worth a listen if you need wisdom on this topic.  I was so glad to find a Reformed perspective on the issue, solidly based in scripture (mostly Psalm 129, with references to Psalm 51).  Thank God for pastors who have the balls to call a spade a spade, and as he says in here "stop worrying about hurting the feelings of abusers."  It also makes me wonder how he knows this stuff, because the issue of abuse is so complex and most pastors are clueless. 

I was so impressed by this sermon, that I've transcribed the last 10 minutes or so.  It's really that good.  The entire sermon is worth listening to, because he gives historical context.  The transcription is below. 

---Protecting the Victims

partial transcription follows:

"

……Now I must be very careful here, for i am not saying that the blood of Christ is not strong enough to save certain people. God certainly can save anyone whom he chooses.  The blood of Christ can cover even the vilest offender.  But at the same time, we must remember that there are many passages of scripture that speak of those who God has devoted to destruction.

Those that have turned the truth of God into a lie; those who are so hardened in their sin that the only thing left of them is to be drowned at the bottom of the Red Sea by the power of God.

I understand that all men are sinful and in desperate need of Christ's blood.  I understand that as Christians we all still sin daily and hurt each other and need to seek forgiveness from one another.

But as I said before this Psalm isn't about that.  We know clearly from scripture and from the psalm that there are those from whom God has removed his hand.  Given them over to their lusts, and they are full-blown children of the devil. They are characterized, as Jesus said, by their relentless pursuit of murder and destruction.  Their actions show that they have no restraint.

These are the people we are dealing with, and when we are dealing with them, it is an abomination to God to bless them in the name of the Lord.  That's what this Psalm is talking about.

Our prayer should be that they be exposed and outcast, so that the whole world will see them for who they are.   And it's about time that the church stop worrying about hurting the feelings of abusers, and started speaking the truth.

For all of you who have suffered this kind of trauma in your past, you may have been told how harsh you have been toward your abuser. You may have been commanded to forgive them.  You may have been instructed to let them back into your life because they're really sorry now.  You may have been confronted by your abuser with tears, making demands for reconciliation and restoration.  You may even have forgiven them over and over and over again, only to be abused over and over and over again.

How can you be set free from this cycle?

Only by the truth.  Quit offering the blessings of Zion to the children of the devil.

How can you tell who is who?  How can you tell the difference between David and Haziel?

And this is the beauty of it:  you don't have to.  God knows who his people are.  You can leave that to Him.  God knows whom he has devoted to  destruction.
You can leave that to him.  

Here's a Psalm written thousands and thousands of years ago dealing with a very current problem.
There are people that seek to murder and destroy because they are children of the devil, and as long as you keep allowing them in your life, they will continue to murder and to destroy.

It is true that you must put off hatred and bitterness and desire for revenge, and the only way to do that is to leave the question of their salvation or their judgment in the hand of God, for he is perfectly capable of taking care of it.

If they are truly repentant, they will rejoice in their salvation, and they will understand the depth and depravity of their sin and therefore they will understand that their relationship with you has been forever broken.

One thing we read about in David's Psalm of repentance, Psalm 51, is that he made no demands.  He didn't demand that Uziah's family forgive him and accept him back into their membership and their love.  He made no demands.  He cast himself only on the mercy of God and sought to quit causing damage to those whom he damaged for so long.

How can you tell someone who's not truly repentant and simply lying?

They're still making demands.   I demand you forgive me.  I demand you let me back in.  I demand you restore the relationship.  They demand that their  wife not divorce them.  Marriage is for life. I can do what I want to and you can't divorce me. They're still liars, manipulators and murderers.

And if you refuse, they will accuse you of hard-heartedness.  They will get many gullible and naive people on their side, and they'll seek to manipulate you with their tears, and cause you as much grief and they  seeking to constrict you again, and to afflict you again.  The only way to be free of them is to leave them in God's hands.

Certain sins are covenant breaking sins.

When a man plows a helpless back as he would plow a field, just because he can, he has forfeited all right and all expectation of any relationship.  

And again, that break was not your fault.  He did it, not you.

The only way you can put away bitterness and wrath and desire for revenge, is to leave all those questions in God's hands.  You do not plot revenge, you do not live in anger, but you also do not bless them out of Zion.

The Judge of the earth will do right.

When you leave it all in God's hands, you can finally know the freedom that you have been given when God cut those cords from you.  

And now we can live like it.

Let's pray."

 

"

I actually used an advocate from the Mennonite Central Committee to address past sexual misconduct committed against me. The CRC church was willing and a beautiful story of reconciliation happened. A lot that MEC had to offer was very helpful. The wrong was acknowledged publicly which was very helpful and healing for me. What MEC had to say about justice - making was also a path we followed. I hope the CRC church will develop more material like that and not just worry about wording in the church order.

Thx. Bonnie, always appreciate your insights...

sins become a much bigger problem when there is cover up/secrecy that goes with it... then that web of lies, deceit, etc. just gets more and more of a mess... and it is false grace that allows and enables this...

honesty/confession is healing... without it we cannot move forward in a healthy way... so honesty, transparency (instead of secrecy), and accountability are all healthy... and would all line up the Word of God and His plan for His Church.

a humorous story is of a friend (bless her heart, she's ok with me sharing this) who was new to the CRC, didn't realize the "time of confession" was silent and so shared a sin she was struggling with, and then realized no one else was sharing... that was the last time she did that there...

maybe the 10-15 seconds of silent time might be something we want to re-think how that might look/sound? =) maybe something a bit more in line with James 5:16 as my friend expected...

thx Bonnie, please keep talking!!

it seems some of the confusion comes from what is the loving thing to do? is exposing what is going on in darkness the loving thing to do, or is the loving thing not confronting it, and letting those in power continue to cover up wrong doing, so that the leaders (and the church's) reputation can be protected?   Hebrews 12 gives us the answer to that I think...  He disciplines those He loves... so that after the discipline, we will walk in the peacable fruit of righteousness... that can't happen until we first repent and own up to what is our fault, where we have dropped the ball of what He has called us to do. 

Every single revival was marked by open repentance...  and at this point there still seems to be denial of any wrongdoing and much resistance to genuine repentance.  so let's keep praying and speaking as the Spirit leads...

Thank you for your comments Bev. I agree that silence is no solution. So I will keep talking. We are called to be light in a world that is sometimes very dark - and it's not easy. I recall a line from a book I read recently, which went something like those who speak truth to power will suffer for it. We've seen that in civil rights movements. It's so hard not to respond in kind when we've been treated badly, or victimized by injustice and abuse. Yet we are called to always reflect the love of our Father to all people, including those who have wronged us. The enemy is prowling, we must not give him an opportunity to sidetrack or distract us from our Lord. That could dim the light that we are called to be, as His church. This sentiment that you also expressed seems a good a prayer - let us not grow weary but be strong in God's power. Amen.

Bonnie, bless your heart for being bold and brave and bringing this into the light!!

I see part of the problem directly connected to pornography (objectification of women)...  so am working on exposing what is hidden in darkness there and there is a huge connection between porn and violence... For me every level of porn is horrific, but especially disturbing/sickening is the fact that the porn industry fuels/feeds the human trafficking and abuse of children in the sex trade - child porn/prostitution... it has been an unbelievable battle...  several things i am coming to a conclusion regarding this battle and i think it's relevant for domestic violence, and other abuses of women/children as well:

1) silence contributes to the problem... be warned though, that when you speak Truth about things the enemy does not want exposed, the enemy will use those in church to try to silence you in various ways... ie discredit you, the enemy will use others to call you unstable, emotionally unhealthy, heretical, divisive, a gossip, slanderer, they will threaten, intimidate, manipulate, abuse, ostracize, shame and shun you to mention a few behaviors typical of silencing in order to cover up the "deed"...  you will quite likely lose friends...  sometimes even your job...

but don't let that stop you!!!  Go on in the Name of God... (*** See quote below)

2) secrecy... when things need to be kept secret, that's not a good sign...  God says expose what is hidden in darkness, and warns that the enemy will do everything he can to keep it in darkness (John 3:19-21)  Truth will want the light..

3) cover up...  beside trying to silence those who speak (see #1), manipulation, deception/lies, fraud, tampering of evidence, are a few more ways the enemy will try to keep the "evil" from coming out into the light.

so far in the situations I'm familiar with, it seems that those in leadership are protecting those in power at the expense of the victim.  Sadly, disturbingly so, I have not witnessed justice from the church leadership involved in these situations, and instead the women are treated as expendable, much like the woman caught in adultery (John 8).

*** here's an encouraging quote from a 1791 letter from John Wesley to Willliam Wilberforce:

Unless the divine power has raised you us to be as Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world), I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! ***Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

 

 

 

Thanks so much for your faithful work, Rachel.

I agree the article on the website sited could have done better job speaking to this issue but I also know that at every Synod churches and classis are encouraged to develop a Safe Church team. (and this has been going on for decades)

The agenda of the 2013 Synod reports that currently only 24 out of 47 classes have a Safe Church team. The CRC has a long way to go before we can pat ourselves on our backs and say we are doing all we can to ensure all our churches are safe places for everyone.

I agree with Brother Blacketer's comments.  This type of list does little to help--except maybe for one thing: By saying that the "CRC does not have it all together" is merely stating the obvious.  What denomination does have it all together--NONE!  I would refer interested readers to a book by Paul David Tripp with the title: "Dangerous Calling."  While it speaks of the work of pastors, it's just as true for elders, deacons and everyone.  The point of the book is that no one has it all together!  The moment we think we do, that's when we are in danger of losing the Gospel of God's grace through Christ!  So it making the list helps us to see that we don't have it all together, that's good.  But that's about all the good that will come from such a list.

@Randy Blacketer

 

Maybe it is a situation of them being aware of the Safe Church Policies and it's practices.

"Clearly they are unaware of our Safe Church ministry and the safe church teams of our classes and the policies of our individual congregations."

While I agree with that the list risks alienation of those need to hear, there is another side of the coin.

The list also brings attention to those who think they have it all together that they do not. Our denomination, classes, and most congregations have Safe Church teams. We think we have it all together. We have great resources on the website and we are working to increase awareness. But we don't have it all together.

The CRC, like any group of humans, struggles with pride. It manifests itself in many different ways and in many different areas, including Safe Church teams. We are proud that we have the structures and policies and so on. But the reality is that we still mess up, regularly even. And the consequences are life-changing and sometimes even catastrophic.  

The best response to an article like this is not deconstructing the article. The best response is confession. Confession (and forgiveness) is the foundation on which healing, justice, and a relationship of working together can be built on.

Looking forward to it!

That's wonderful Andrew. I love the the title "Naming Our Abuse: Men Doing the Write Thing" and the four units, with the car wreck theme sound really good. What a blessing the group must be to all the members. I will keep the group in my prayers. May the Lord work powerfully in and through it as you move toward Him and toward healing and wholeness (which will only fully come when he returns - yet much healing is availble in this life as well).

I used to work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the campus of Michigan State University. While on staff I met so many, mostly women, but also some men, who had experienced Sexual Assault. It's so devastating -  I know that from first hand experience as well. I found a support group hugely beneficial, for me, and also for many others as I went on to facilitate many support groups and write a guide that others could use to facilitate them. It's not a replacement for professional therapy, but a wonderful addition to it. Being with others helps normalize so much of the experience, and there's something about realizing that you are not alone that is extremely valuable. Therapy can't do that as well. And for me writing was also a key - freewriting exercises were often a part of our groups. I'm so thankful to know about your group. Blessings to you as you go deeper in your own healing journey.

I believe that the article you sited is right on when it says that churches need to have a greater understanding of the issue of Domestic Violence in order to have a right response to it. The article states that:

"It’s vital that the church stop making wrong judgements in these cases. Reform is essential so that churches can

  • rightly discern the sin of domestic abuse
  • resist the abuser’s attempts to recruit them as allies
  • label the abuser as the sole cause of the marriage breakdown
  • not mutualize the problem or blame the victim"

The needed reform will not happen on it's own. People are needed who are willing to do the necessary change work. It begins with change in the hearts and minds of individuals. And change must also reach to different levels, to the church community, and to the structures that currently maintain the status quo. It's not easy work. It involves meeting people where they are, engaging them in dialog and action, clarifying what's true, etc. I can see that you are very concerned about this issue; and I'm curious about how you are working in your church (beyond this blog post) toward creating change.

Then I will offer some 'progress reports' as my Support Group works through a series of episodes from our own personal stories. These are chronological and built around the metaphor of a car wreck. The four key units being: 1 The Wreck, 2 Accident Report, 3 Rehabilitation, and 4 Driving Again. Each survivor is submitting multiple entries for each unit that are read and sensitively discussed. We will conclude by writing to our "little boy," explaining who we've become. The entire project is called Naming Our Abuse: Men Doing the Write Thing.

All the participants have had professional therapy, and we find we are in need of something fresh and in story form as we continue on our healing journeys, addressing the effects of our SA on spouses, work, faith, and child rearing.

The reference to the 12 Step refers to programed SA curriculums, such as Allander's The Wounded Heart or Warren's Celebrate Recovery or Burdick's Open Heart Ministry. Addressing SA has models and materials outside addictive behavior programs. Of course survivors have addictions, but that's my point. Years into our healing journey, we're finding there are needs survivors have that exceed program contracts, statistics, and psycho-dynamic categories. I won't even get into the "triumphalism" and shallow theology present in some of these programs. Consequently, we are exploring other alternatives in our SA support group, because we feel other models are needed and simply not available, especially for men.

Andrew

Pages