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
Q&A

The men I'm a part of in an abuse support group are writing brief entries of their stories, and we believe it offers an alternative to the traditional 12 Step program. We're not convinced such programs are adequately meeting the needs of male survivors.

I would like to hear from leadership...

December 24, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...."

December 23, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

Wherever we find ourselves right now, we must keep the long view in mind. Our strength lies in humility, trust, and patience through trials.

December 17, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Seeking wisdom and past experience, but am staying incognito to protect the innocent.

Our church has been dealing with a husband for more than a year who has repeatedly violated his domestic-violence probation and been arrested.  He is very religious-sounding, the type who speaks of...

December 8, 2013 0 11 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 12/04/2013 This webinar explores how churches can navigate between these truths so that the church becomes a safe and healing community, a station of hope for those who are repentant and seek the Lord's help to make better choices and walk in righteousness.

December 4, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

What to do? We’d rather not think about it – but that won’t stop those with a criminal sexual history from attending our church. To ignore, or not even consider the issue may be the most dangerous option of all.

December 3, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

"[Your church's] abuse prevention policy should confirm your organization’s commitment to providing a safe environment for children and declare zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or neglect committed by any children’s or youth ministry worker, including employees, members and volunteers." - Robertson Hall Insurance

November 25, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Song

The following songs from the Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal would work well for an abuse awareness service. 

November 23, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Rallies along the way will provide special opportunities for churches and individuals to learn about the harms associated with pornography and supports that are available to those affected by it.

November 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Safe Church arises out of a call to be a community that reflects our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It's a collective calling; so our relationships are critical and the Bible provides the foundation. 

November 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Pay attention and report adults who repeatedly break boundaries and engage in inappropriate behaviour with children. Here are some helpful tips to reduce the risks of child sexual abuse.

October 31, 2013 0 2 comments
Blog

"Churches are natural targets for sexual predators. Thay have large numbers of children, a shortage of willing workers, and a culture of trust that no Christian could be suspect of such exploitation... What is really needed is a healthy suspicion of human frailty, our own as well as others." - Bob Harvey, Faith Today

October 21, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

If boundaries are less about rigid rules and more about a way of thinking about relationship; then what principles should serve to guide a ministry leader in setting helpful boundaries?

October 14, 2013 0 0 comments

Pages

RSS

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

In response to the question in the title, I would be very interested in hearing stories that would help me better understand the needs of male survivors. My job is to help churches respond appropriately and be supportive to those who have survived abuse. So greater understanding is always appreciated. Thank you for offering your story, and please feel free to contact me directly and privately. 

I must say that I am a bit confused about the reference to traditional 12 step programs, as those tend to be associated with addiction recovery. Addictive behavior may (often) be present when abuse is also present. However, treating the addictive behavior (a symptom) should not be equated with treating the trauma of abuse (the disease), even though they may be related.

I continue to look for advice "out there" on the Internet, from established church denominations that are at least somewhat close to the CRC in perspective and interpretation of scripture. 

One of the links I posted before had its own link to a site called A Cry For Justice.  The posts I myself find particularly helpful are from the category "Supporting Victims".  And of those approximately 100 entries, this one is probably the most relevant and helpful to the question I keep asking on this forum. One eye-popping aspect of the post is that the author recanted her previous book thesis, after she had continued to work with abused women and to understand their abusers.  And she herself had been abused--twice--by husbands.  It just goes to show how very very difficult and mind-boggling this issue is--even victims are confused and conflicted about how to proceed, and searching the Bible for help can be so very hard.  Worth a read:  http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/church-discipline-an...

And still, I ask for help from churches, from MY denomination, who have dealt with a wife-beater, long-term.  I suppose you could always contact me privately under my alias up above in the left-hand corner.  I'm very good at keeping confidences, and Protecting Victims.

Yours prayerfully.

 

Rachel, this is such a creeative and biblically-based discussion. I hope any leader who is afraid to address abuse would take some cues from your wonderful piece!

Thanks for your insight and faithful voice,

Andrew

Thanks for posting this Rachel - respect is critical in preventing abuse; and in being the kind of community that our Lord is calling us to be as his church, his body, in this world. It's one of the ways we can "shine like stars" in a world where disrespect is far too common.

 

To "protecting victims", I agree with Bonnie's comment above.   A truly repentant wife beater will respect and honor the desire of the wife and the church to maintain distance and he should seek another church.   While true repentance may eventually lead to reconciliation and change of behaviour, as it should in all cases of sin, in this case some clear evidence of change needs to be demonstrated.  That evidence would need to be a fairly significant time of distance apart, as well as other clear indications of a new life.   Taking the abuser out of his comfort zone would be the first step, and leaving the abused in control  would be important.  By significant time apart, away from the church grounds and away from the wife, I mean perhaps a year, before there is a re-evaluation.   In the case of a repeat offender as above, two years or more would likely be more appropriate, from the time of the last incident, and then only if elders are convinced he has become a new person.   This is not based on personal experience in our church, although I am well aware of some abuse cases within my circle of acquaintences.   It would be difficult to assess if the person has become new, with a new heart and new attitude, if he is an experienced liar,  so a variety of assessments should be made.   It would be difficult to shut the door entirely forever, since this would indicate that God doesn't have the power to restore, or mend, or heal.   On the other hand, the healing and mending and newness ought to be clear and evident, and the abused person needs to be comfortable with the decision.  

Now perhaps some others may weigh in.   We can not all operate in this out of experience, but need to be psychologically and intellectually prepared to deal with this if it happens and we are confronted with it. 

Hi again,

You point to some excellent resources. I'm glad that they are posted; and I hope that people will refer to them and gain insight into this serious issue. I think the lack of CRC response shows how hidden this problem is - we don't want to talk about it; and that isn't very helpful.

As I said in my first reply - the highest priority needs to be the safety of the family, and the needs of the one who has been victimized. It would be my recommendation that the one who has perpetrated the abuse find a different church community in which to worship; that the church property be included in the protection order so that the one who has abused is not able to be there. Safety must take precedence. And the one who has been victimized must now be empowered to make decisions that affect her and her family - she knows best what they've been through and what is needed. No one looking from the outside knows what she knows - she is able to make the most informed decisions, the role of the church is to support her in those decisions.  There are other places of worship for the one who has abused - it's his behavior that has prevented him from involvement in the church where the family attends.

When I was working as an intern at a domestic violence shelter - I was truly amazed at how many women went to their pastors for advice. I honestly never knew that pastors were so popular - they're the place people go for help. And I was also amazed at the bad advice given by well meaning, generally very good pastors, who had no understanding of domestic violence. I especially remember one client who came in with multiple bruises and abrasions and said to me "i went back because my pastor told me to - I was only doing what he said". The pastor had assured her that he had talked and prayed with her husband and that she needed to return to him. So, who is really responsible for those injuries?

We simply must be better informed; and bring this issue out into the light. I and many other Safe Church team members are willing and able to do educational programs in your church that could help everyone better understand the dynamics involved in abusive relationships so that we can respond more appropriately. Please don't hesitate to contact me or your Safe Church representative. It's why we're here.

Bev, the issues that the women you're working with are rough, no doubt.  Dealing with sins of church leadership is indeed a tough beast.  We can see this hairy situation in the Catholic church.

But that is not the situation in my church.  It's not about pornography, nor about church leaders protecting each others' backs.  Our council and pastor, though new to the type of situation, are doing well in supporting both parties appropriately.  This Forum is about Safe Church.  That is, Safe in Church.  And so there is upcoming conflict in the fact that the wife-beater (who has pled guilty) wants to eventually return to worship services, and the beaten wife and children won't dare be in the same building with him.  And so in that case, what is church leadership to do? 

I'm trying to find examples of what has worked, to see if there's any experienced wisdom out there. 

I could go on and on about what *I* think should be done, but that's just one person's opinion, backed up only by what *I* think is logical and scriptural.  So I'd rather depend on the communion of the saints, so to speak, since we are inexperienced in this.

There are very large questions or issues that could come from this, I realize that.  On degrees of sin; on how secret or public a sin is; on grace and mercy and forgiveness and shelter and compassion. 

What's a church to do?

I have several women that the Lord has connected me with that are involved in various abusive type situations within the Church, and if you want to get an idea on how that has fared so far, you can read my recent comment under the Pastors network in response to a post by James Dekker titled "of Rob Ford and Pastors".

to summarize, we have found that spiritual leaders are protecting each other, at the expense of the victim, and that abuse thrives in a culture of shame and silence/cover up... and this is a very sad witness to the Church.

anonymous aka protecting victims, feel free to contact me directly (I think you can do so through clicking on my name and there is a tab to email me)...  FYI, none of the situations in my experience deal with domestic abuse though, but would fall under other related type garbage.  In one of the situations, it has been going through the Church Order process, and so I have become familiar with the CO a bit through that particular situation.

Well, I don't know what to think about the lack of experiences posted here.  Either it's too painful to write about, or few in the CRC have heard about any such occurrence, or maybe there's just not enough traffic on this site.  So many Christian books about dealing with domestic violence end with her getting away, but not about the scarred aftermath a year or more later, and the Christian community's response. 

So I went out looking for more advice online.  I had to look for "related sins," such as murder, rape, or child pornography.  Something where a crime was committed and the person (usually male) was either convicted or pleaded guilty, because it's got to be bad enough to make congregants sit up in horror and take notice, and struggle with the forgiveness and grace on one side, and the protection and safety on the other.  And while it's true any sin causes us to fall short of God's glory, some sins here on earth are just so big and horrid that the victim will always be horribly scarred.

So here are discussions I've found:

This article:  http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/06/27/abusers-are-welcome-and-the-abuse...

The comments after this article are the most helpful, even though some make me wince a bit:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/2013/06/when-my-abuser-is-...

Interesting discussion here--the entire site is interesting (Managing Your Church), although most of the "safe church" info addresses protecting children:  http://blog.managingyourchurch.com/2009/09/handling_disruptive_people.html

and finally: Lord love these naive pastors!  I know men like this, and understand why they react with such profound wide-eyed disbelief of the abuse, and wide-eyed belief of the repentance.  And in their zeal to demonstrate God's forgiveness here on earth, overlook the silently suffering victim....http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-shore/pastors-and-domestic-viol_b_858...

The above links are helpful, and demonstrate genuine Christian struggle with an intractable problem.  But again, I crave help from my brothers and sisters in the CRC.  Knowing how one of our own has dealt with the problem, using OUR church order, and getting help from OUR denomination would go far in knowing how to proceed in a Reformed fashion. 

Yours prayerfully,

Protecting  Victims

I'm glad that you are able to post anonymously in this place. (I actually don't play Dutch bingo well, not being Dutch and not having not been raised in the CRC). I agree with you that this issue is very important, and also that RestoredRelationships.org is a wonderful source for information. I hand out their "Ending Domestic Abuse: A Pack for Churches" quite often. It clearly describes the dynamics of domestic abuse, affirms that safety must remain a top priority, and includes lots of helpful tips for how churches can respond. I'm wondering how (or if) that has been recieved by the pastor, council members, or other church leaders.
 One note - anger management is not usually the best intervention in a domestic abuse situation, neither is individual or pastoral counseling. Group intervention in an accredited Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) has been shown to be most effective. The group aspect is extremely important, because those involved in group often begin to see the harm of their behavior in other group members first before they see it in themselves. Groups can also model and teach accountability and positive interaction in ways that other interventions cannot. Accredited BIPs usually include at least 52 weekly group meetings facilitated by specially trained professionals. Real change needs to be considered in terms of years rather than months. And accountability with an eye for safety must be maintained for a long, long time. In MI go to www.biscmi.org/ I think there may be links to programs in other places as well.

Professional organizations such as Batterer Intervention Programs and Domestic Violence Shelters and Service Agencies often have a good relationships with the court and criminal justice systems - these coordinated efforts are variable from place to place and are very valuable to a community. Faith communities need to be connected with them. No church should try to "go it alone" or "handle things in house" when domestic abuse is involved. The needs are usually too great, and the potential risks are way too high.

I've been informed that my anonymous postings are against policy, but considering that safety of the victims is paramount, and the seeking of options is so important, I will continue to post.  This issue surely exists elsewhere in our denomination, and there are so very many CRCs where that church is the only one in a community, and so "people" will know precisely who you're talking about. Yeah, I've played Dutch bingo all my life too. So I would implore anyone reading this and knowing of a church who has dealt with this situation, to post <strong>on behalf<strong> of those churches who have wisdom and experience but also want to also be sensitive to their congregants. 

In response to Bonnie N, this man IS receiving extensive anger management retraining, counseling by pastor, psychologists and psychiatrists, psychiatric evaluations, probation officer visits, and regular check-ins by the police.  The police consider the family to be at high-risk.  He continues to curry favor and sympathy from other church members who have not been involved from the initial arrest, and of course they are Christian and sympathetic, because don't we all want reconciliation?  He speaks to everyone about it, without reserve; she is so ashamed of him and the situation, so she doesn't--and then who gets the sympathy?  But the abuse has gone on for fifteen years before she reported it, and then after arrests, separation and a trial reunion, he continued to assault and violate probation orders.  He talks well--he knows what to say--but his actions speak otherwise.  But he genuinely still wants to be reinstated to the marriage and to the community.  Yet the family is terrorized. 

And so, the question remains:  What does ANY church community do with a situation like this?  It doesn't even matter if they are divorced or not--just being separated applies. Her family is far away in another state.  The church is her lifeline--we become her loving family who helps her and accepts her.  When the restraining order is over, he wants to come back to the church......  And just imagine that.... the man you are terrified of, who wants to come back to your home, to have a life together, who thinks of you as HIS, staring at you across the auditorium, or at the back of your head during worship....

Bonnie, those resources are good, but the best packet I've found is here:  http://www.restoredrelationships.org/resources/info/51/  .  It's from the UK, but is written so concisely, with tables and lists that are so very sensible.  And two pages addressing the helpful and non-helpful interpretations of key Biblical passages--so dear to our Calvinistic hearts....  Some pages aren't useful for North America because they are UK law, but the meat of the message is there in about 10 different pages of the 30 page packet.  Very absorbable by members because it's not such a wall of text like books can be. 

The risks of domestic violence are very real - many people die each year at the hand of an intimate partner. It can happen in your church. Rev. Al Miles, in the forward of his book, "Domestic Violence, What Every Pastor Needs to Know" begins with these words: "The monotony of a church board meeting was broken by a woman's screams and the sounds of a frantic scuffle in the next room. To their horror, the board discovered a highly respected church member being strangled by her husband ..." He goes on to describe how the church board members dragged the man away from his wife, and after a time of prayer, in which the man was repentant and promised never again to behave in such a way, the couple was sent home. The next morning the pastor received a call that the man had killed his wife; although she was in fact resuscitated by the paramedics. The church was split over what to do in response to the situation. It was a wake-up call to this church of the need to gain an understanding of the issue of relationship violence. This problem, though hidden, affects many people in our churches. The time to take action is now, rather than after the death of a church member. I’d encourage every church to be aware of local domestic violence resources, which can be very valuable in dealing with situations that arise. And sooner is always better than later to contact someone for help as the abuse tends to escalate over time. More information can be found on the Safe Church website (www.crcna.org/safechurch) and also here (www.theraveproject.com)

I was impressed with the actions of one church that I know of. Aware of several restraining/personal protection orders in effect between congregants, the council decided to hire a police officer on Sunday mornings to monitor the compliance of these orders – the officer is right there ready to arrest the non-compliant party. Council members are aware that they are to contact the police immediately, during other times, if any non-compliance is noted. Other churches, in slightly different situations, have worked out a written and signed covenant or agreement with parties involved so that they are never in the church at the same time. However, if one person is “terrified”, this may not be a viable option. Those who choose to abuse also often choose to deny, minimize, or rationalize their behavior. Safety and the needs of those who have been victimized must be maintained as the top priority. They should have the option to attend church without fear from those who have perpetrated abuse. That may mean that those who perpetrate abuse need to find a different church community, they are the ones to suffer the consequences of their actions, which have caused so much harm already.

The man needs professional long-term intervention; again the local domestic violence shelter may be able help point to the right kind of resources for him as well. One option would be to include the church address in the protection order so that the man may not be at church at all. It should be understood that the police will be notified of any violation of his order. Accountability is critical.

 

Thanks, Bonnie! Yes Circle of Grace is an excellent curriculum! Check it out on the Safe Church Ministry website http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/education-best-prevention.

 

Thanks for your post Rachel - teaching our children personal safety is so, so important in today's world where the risk of abuse is high. The two websites listed 'kids in the know' and 'door that's not locked' provide excellent resources for families who are concerned with protecting their children from abuse.

Churches must also do their part; in collaboration with other community partners, churches have an important role to play in the protection of children. That's why Safe Church is promoting Circle of Grace. It helps our children understand that all people are created in the image of their creator, and live always in God's loving presence in their circle of grace. It affirms the sacredness of all relationships, and gives deeper reasons for treating one another with dignity and respect. This is something that secular programs cannot do, this message must come from the church.

Imagine that you are the only house on the block that does not have a security system and the signage that denotes it.  If a burglar has to make a choice as to which home to break into, your non-secured home will likely be the primary choice.  

The same logic applies to ministries without screening protocol.  Which church is most likely to attract the sexual predator?  As more and more charities and ministries implement screening protocol, your church (if it has no such protocol) will be more likely to attract the prowling of predators.

Screening is only a minor part of a proper Safe Church Policy but it is crucial (ask your insurer).  It won't stop the first-time offender but it will severely limit the likelihood of repeat offences.  

I agree whoeheartedly that boundary training is crucial for pastors.  Also a code of ethical conduct would help give some important information to pastors, church leaders and congregations which could prevent anyone from becoming the victim of any power or control issues within the church family.

 

I find it hard to understand that the implementation of a proper screening policy is being viewed by some as an unnecessary expense.  It is an INVESTMENT in the safety of your children.

And, if such a policy is required (either by state or insurance), non-compliance may result in the "directors" of your church (council members) being deemed negligent and being held personally liable for any resulting damages.  It is cumbersome that checks have to be repeated every 3 -5 years (depending on your insurer or local law) but I know of at least one church where a volunteer who had previously cleared screening was forced to resign when a subsequent screening failed to clear the volunteer.  So, while weighing risks and costs, take a good look at your children and youth... and then make the INVESTMENT!!  

As for the use of "common sense", I can't help but think of the days when "common sense" meant we didn't have to use seat belts for our children, smoking while pregnant was acceptable and hockey helmets weren't required.  Of course the use of common sense is a good idea but who defines it?  And should financial expense be a major determining factor?

Greetings,

In response to your first question: This Network post came directly from the Safe Church Newsletter, which goes out to all classis Safe Church Team members. The Safe Church Training Notebook mentioned is our way of equipping classis Safe Church Team members to be resources to the churches in their classis. The power point presentations, which are on our website, are included in the notebook; however the notebook also includes additional information, handouts, etc. that are not on our website. Since the Safe Church Training Notebook is a relatively new item, not all Safe Church team members have one yet. They have been distributed in places where Safe Church team meetings and training events have taken place. We hope to get them out to all Safe Church team members in time. We also hope that the notebook itself will not remain the same but will grow, by adding additional resources. We are working to create a web space that will be available to all classis Safe Church team members, where notebook resources will be held, so that all classis Safe Church team members will always have the most updated information available to them for their notebooks. If you have additional questions regarding this, please feel free to contact the Safe Church office.

Regarding your second question about general Safe Church resources for Abuse Awareness Sunday - I'm glad you asked! This is a great time to let people know more about Safe Church in general. The topic is there for those who would like to use that topic, but that is certainly not required. On our website, look at the quick links on the right side bar - especially the fact sheet. You can also click on the left sidebar under "What is Safe Church Ministry?" for additional ideas. Also, on the left sidebar under "Resources for Abuse Awareness Sunday" there is a page of general resources that don't correspond to a specific topic. A letter will go out soon to all pastors and to classis Safe Church Team members about Abuse Awareness Sunday - thank you for your interest in doing something at your church. Again, please feel free to contact Safe Church for assistance and for more ideas and resources.

 

I was glad to find this post today in my search for some updated materials on Safe Church. The second bullet points mentions a "Safe Church Training Notebook" and I was able to find the place that has links to the power point presentations (here: http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/what-safe-church-ministry-team), and I also see there are lots of resources like previous bulletin inserts, worship resources, etc., but I'm just sort of wondering where to start with all of this as far as what we should have in our Safe Church Notebook?

Also, a second question, I see that there is a specific topic for this year's Abuse Awareness Sunday in September, but I think we might be in a place where we need to talk about this more generally this year, and was wondering what of the resources you might recommend to meet that need?

Thanks for the post and the comments!

Check out resources at http://www.acalltomen.org/ - An organization dedicated to creating a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.

Pages