Without adding to the flurry of comments and opinion already floating around the internet, I’d like to skip the specifics and make some general observations.
Sexual Abuse Knows No Denominations
We hear the stories and we immediate conclude a Catholic Priest was involved. Or may be an Episcopalian. There is a blog devoted to Baptist sex abuse. But abuses can take place in churches of all types, of all sizes, urban and rural. If you’re on staff at a local church, in leadership, or the parent or grandparent of a child in the Christian Education program; this is not somebody else’s problem. It could be your church everybody is talking about 60 days from now.
It is Natural to Try to Keep Your Church Out of the Headlines
It may not be morally or ethically right, but I believe it is part of our human nature to see our church only hit the newspapers and late night news when we’re feeding hungry people in the park or helping seniors clean up storm damaged yards. Denial kicks in and we hope that if we close our eyes it will all go away.
The Buck Has to Stop Somewhere
One summer I took a course in avant-garde, electronic music. The rule of synthesizers was, “Every parameter you can control, you must control.” That’s true of the church. The pastor can’t know what’s going on every minute in every Sunday School room — or every broom closet — but in a very real sense, he needs to know what’s not going on. Safeguards need to be part of the structure and leaders must have their discernment radar turned up to “10.”
It’s Hard to be Humble When You’re Wired for Arrogance
Many times in the capital-‘C’ Church we encounter an attitude of superiority among certain groups. Usually this is doctrinal, but sometimes sects or denominations will believe that they have a general superiority to everyone else at every level: Theological, administrative, evangelism, etc. When this happens, it is very difficult to say, “We’ve messed up;” or “One of our number has erred.” Especially if you’ve always looked down your nose at others who have transgressed in similar ways.
Every Movement or Organization Has an Achilles Heel
James writes, “We all fall in many ways;” but there are some areas — such as sexual sin — that are really common to all of us. No group or local church is immune; sooner or later the problems associated with sexual temptation — or acting out on sexual thoughts — come home to roost. Despite their seriousness, which I do not want to minimize here, often these weaknesses or vulnerabilities are a microcosm of more serious flaws and fragility within the organization. We once sang, “It only takes a spark…” with spreading God’s love in mind, but the source verse — also in James — has to do with the damage caused by wildfires, and a single incident can bring down an entire organization.
Although I haven’t taken the course, churches in our area require child and youth ministry volunteers to take a course called Plan to Protect. There may be something similar in your area.