The Kingdom Is Not Served by Self-Serving Secrecy
“We can’t let this get out. If it does, he will never get a church anywhere!” These words, spoken by a missionary co-worker in leadership, startled me far more than being sexually assaulted by another.
I could not understand then, and still have only partial understanding of the “rationale” which would put other individuals and congregations at risk while giving “opportunity for restoration” to a perpetrator with multiple victims, including an adolescent and a national.
My consternation was based partly on my professional background. One of the largest pieces of insight has since come from author M. Jordan in Taking on the Gods (Abingdon Press, 1986).
Jordan refers to “secular scriptures,” his term for the destructive lies or distortions of the truths that our respectable God would have us confront in order to maintain an emotionally and spiritually healthy, safe world.
Among many secular scriptures used to protect perpetrators in the churches are these:
The hierarchy of the institutional church always knows what is best.
The people of the community of faith are to protect and honor dysfunctional leaders, even at the expense of the vulnerable.
All problems are simply spiritual and can be solved without outside information or help from professionals outside of the clergy.
Restoration means putting back together two people who have a problem with one another.
When there is an offense within the community of faith, it only affects the primary person(s) offended and the offender.
Problems in the community of faith must always be kept quiet. The burden for restoration and healing lies in the hands of the offended. They are not doing their duty to the community of faith when they fail to forgive and forget.
The institutional church is in no way to blame for the ongoing problems caused by actions of the perpetrators, so it has no obligation to victims.
The community of faith dares not admit these atrocities exist. Ignore them and they’ll disappear.
Once a clergyman, always a clergyman.
While our larger society says, “We are tired of hearing about all of this abuse stuff,” people in the community of faith often say, “What are you talking about? If this is going on as much as some are saying, how come we don’t know about it?”
We are starting to hear, but just starting. This is not just a Roman Catholic problem, although that is where the press has left it. It is much easier for fragmented Protestant denominations to escape vast exposure.
Yet therapists and some of the nation’s foremost authorities—Gary Schoener and Ellen Leupeker of the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis—assure us that Protestant victims far outnumber Catholics.
This “secret” is really no secret. According to surveys done through Fuller seminary and United Methodists, ministers by self-report are more than twice as likely to have sexual intercourse with a client than psychotherapists!
Furthermore, three-quarters of ministers know of at least one colleague who has. Finally, 48 percent of female clergy have experienced sexual harassment by male clergy.
Nancy Biele has spent years training victyim advocates for mainline denominations. She tells us how important it is to distinguish “confidentiality” from “secrecy.”
The first, she points out, is intended to protect the weak. The latter is in the service of power.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we are dealing with one of the most powerful professions in the world—even when individuals within it may feel weak.
Exposing the evil in our midst, whether done by BAPTISTS TODAY or by any other well-intended group or individual, is for the good of the masses. We refuse to keep the secrets.
Other articles in this series:
Article 1: Struggles with Cancer Teach Disciplines of Patience, Hope
Article 2: Churches Must Be Honest to Confront Sexual Abuse
Article 3: Denial and Ignorance Hinder Answers to Severe Problems
Article 4: 'Hold Hands in the Dark' with Victims of Violence
Article 6: Christians Need Courage to Break the Silence Barrier
Article 7: Victim Asks: "What If's?" about Clergy Sexual Abuse
Article 8: 'A Mistake of the System' Calls Out for Compassion
Dee Ann Miller is the
author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993)
The Truth about Malarkey (2000)
Dee Ann Miller is the author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993) and The Truth about Malarkey (2000)