A week ago I was contacted by ASAA stating that “communications with Generations Unleashed, both individually(individual board members) and organizationally(ASAA) will be on hold”, but no further explanation. This was the first I heard from anyone since I turned evidence over to Diane Langberg, other than two brief exchanges related to giving her access. It came with the usual confidentiality notice, and I chose to honour that, sharing it only with my husband, two pastors (and their wives), and one mentor.
Needless to say, it was jolting to be contacted by someone from USA, almost a week later, asking if the rumours are true. This individual had encountered two separate acquaintances of an ASAA board member, and was told that this board member shared details about the situation. (The member was named, however, I am choosing not to name him here.) It is disturbing to me that they are all not allowed to speak with me, but can freely share details that I – as a key player in this, and the one who offered the evidence – am not allowed to hear from them. This board member also had some less than positive things to say about me to these various individuals. Things that, to date, he has not said to my face. (So much for Matthew 18… No one has come to me directly with concerns yet.) Frankly, I’d rather hear things directly than from behind my back, but that is between him and God. I then heard this evening from others about conversations with board members – both the main board and advisory board – about the situation.
Until today, I have honoured the request for confidentiality, but am posting this to clear the air about rumours they started. The best way to stop a rumour is to tell the truth, so there you have it. Yes, ASAA has cut off communication with me and Generations Unleashed. I have been given no reason for this. No explanation. I contacted their ‘outside investigator’ – to whom I gave access to evidence – who responded that she is not allowed to discuss the case with me or anyone else. If I wasn’t the person who handed over the evidence, that would make absolute sense to me. She is highly professional, highly regarded and – I am told – amazing at what she does. I can’t imagine she would ask for this without legitimate reason.
I have since also contacted an ‘outside investigator’ – a lawyer/mediator who specializes in conflict and works with sexual abuse in churches – to see if he would be willing to get involved and look at the evidence, including the current handling of the investigation. My relationship with this individual holds less conflict of interest than ASAA’s relationship with Diane L, who reportedly advised in setting up ASAA and is also a prof where one of the board members studies. I am hoping this second outside investigator will be help guide through the lack of communication, and help me see if I have completely misunderstood the evidence. My intent is redemptive here, not adversarial.
With communication being cut off, and no explanation or conversation leading up to it, this is one of only two options I have. The other is to publicly post all evidence, on every aspect of this including all private conversations that took place in the process of addressing things with the pastor, originally. I am not ready to do the latter yet.
For now, I am simply confirming that, yes, communication has been completely cut off. I do not know what their plans are. I do know this is not the end.
And I also know that the day before this communication came through, I wrote what you see in the following screenshots. This was in response to a group who were hurt and frustrated that a meeting was cancelled by ASAA, which they had offered to hold. There was confusion and hurt feelings, and I was tagged in the comments even though I was not part of the group planning to attend or watch via livestream (or whatever their final plans were). Had I not been tagged, I probably would have missed the details, but as it stood, I felt I had no choice but to respond. (I was given permission by the couple with whom the meeting was arranged to reference that meeting in this blog.) This is what I wrote in response to the concern and frustration:
After being contacted, I had a conversation with a limited audience of people today – and not those already frustrated by cancelled meetings – regarding this, sharing only the barest of details, sharing that communication is halted without explanation, and asked them to pray.
By this evening I was contacted again, and that is when I decided to address the rumours publicly. They are true. It could be for the best of reasons and intentions, as one pastor in today’s conversation said. I don’t know. I’d find that easier to believe if the board was respecting the process rather than cutting off communication and then spreading rumours directly traced back to them, not through some long grapevine. (And before you ask if I have confirmed with them, remember I am not allowed to contact them. I did call one board member to clarify a concern *not* related to the details of the case, thinking surely they can answer whether two logistical questions, and was thoroughly reprimanded. And I also sent several emails in the first 24 hours of shock and stress.) In any case, when communication is ‘paused’ – whether as a form of pressure or punishment, or to protect the integrity of the investigation – it would be wise for those imposing it to also hold to that same standard I am asked to honour. (Not to mention that if they can’t talk to me but can talk to others… well, that just makes no sense.)
I break silence today because I learned ASAA is already talking. Just as, on June 8, when I had been asked to be silent, I honoured it until one of them was involved with constructing a confession, and they were not silent. So today I speak to tell the truth, os you know it is not rumour – you are getting it directly from me.
Regardless what happens next, I know where I stand. As I said in my Facebook status yesterday – before I knew any of the rumours circulating:
I will say it again, amid the storm and the crazy…
If I am wrong, I will do two things: 1. I will say I am sorry
2. I will repent
But I will not say it to appease the masses. And I will not say it for personal standing. And I will not say it because of a guilt trip. I will say it because God and people with an agenda for truth – not those looking to defend or protect power or abuse – have spoken and shown me that I am wrong. And no one can do that apart from having seen the full evidence *and* communicated with all involved parties, and lined up [what is said] with the evidence. Blindly trying to convince someone they have it wrong is not effective, and listening to it is not responsible.
I also maintain that the only thing I want now, and ever wanted, is to bring accountability, ownership and change going forward.
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. She no less led her people to victory. Sometimes the end of a warrior is the necessary reality for change. We should not fear such an end.
If I were to go back to the beginning, would I change some things? Absolutely! But I stand firm on what I saw and heard, and the writings and evidence I hold. It cannot be talked away. It can be addressed. It can be ‘owned up to’ and it can be forgiven. But it can’t be made to not exist. I pray it is addressed, so that healing can come.
As for this present pause, for the most part I am choosing to believe that good things still are and will be happening, all around, and that redemption will come.
What more can I say, than what has already been said. Oh, except that even truth is slander if it can hurt someone. God forbid that we hurt someone in power, or that those of us in power are confronted. Instead, let us all gather round and throw rocks at those who tell the truth that wounds, or confronts.
Frankly, I’d rather be confronted and have opportunity to be transformed – or repent if it is a sin issue – than to bring further damage to the brokenhearted.
And it’s not just the ‘wolves’ that need to be challenged. Good leaders have blindspots too. We all need it. If we can’t be wrong, handle being confronted and admit it, then we’re in no shape to be leading others. Because that is one of the things that definitely needs to be exemplified in this crazy battle against abuse. I’ve had to apologize before, and I will have to again. But before I apologize for speaking out against abuse – whether spiritual, sexual or other abuse – I’ll take the inevitable beating.
So, like the author said, “Listen to Chloe. You just might learn something.” And listen to Sam too.
Last week I was preparing for my Sunday School teaching on Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem. As I was preparing, I was struck by this message from Isaiah to Hezekiah:
Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard (2 Kings 19:20)
Hezekiah was in bad trouble. Sennacherib had conquered the whole world, and he was unstoppable. He had now surrounded Jerusalem and gave Hezekiah the terms of absolute surrender. There was no strength left in Hezekiah.
And Hezekiah took the letter demanding his surrender and laid it on the altar of God, crying out to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and telling God the problem. He spoke honestly and directly.
God delights when we call upon him. God takes pleasure in our prayers, when we speak to him honestly and directly. When we are in trouble, and when…
In my previous blog I touched briefly on the topic of pastors being charged with failing to report. As I pondered it, afterwards, I decided to expand on it somewhat, as one thing I failed to mention could be misleading.
In my previous blog I stated that “I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader“, but that is where I missed one critical detail. I mention that I support reporting, but I fail to say that I would do much more than ‘not interfere’. I would actively do my part in such a process of holding leaders accountable, and I would also personally report leaders who fail to protect and fail to report. However, if at any point they stop looking the other way and don’t justify or excuse having done so in the past, I am inclined to work cooperatively with them.
And, frankly, I would rather see them not receive a prison sentence by the time they ‘get it’ – no matter how they arrived there – because they are key to ending the cycle. We need men – leaders in particular – inside the conservative Anabaptist culture who will help end this dreadful cycle. And if we put them behind bars, we essentially work against our own end goal; to stop the cycle and have those within the culture help stop it. But if they return to covering for abusers, then let the full extent of the law be applied, as far as I am concerned. Taking ‘ownership’ just to get off the hook isn’t taking ownership at all. It’s manipulation. And it isn’t acceptable. It is but another contributing factor to the epidemic of abuse.
If reporting and sentencing all who ever covered would end the epidemic, then I could support such an argument, however it would more likely push the problem further underground. Many victims would rather carry their stories in silence than to see their leaders charged when, in their minds, they were doing what was in the best interest of all involved. So, if pastors are charged without any attempt at working with those who recognize in the process that their decision brought harm, and genuinely want change, then we will inadvertently bring further harm by pushing victims into deeper silence. But this silence will not be imposed. It will be chosen to prevent the fallout of leaders ending behind bars.
Furthermore, if leaders come around – even if only after a warning – and work cooperatively to end sexual violence, then doing so is our single best shot at impacting the next generation. Removing them at that point seems counterproductive to the true goal – breaking the cycle of sexual violence in our culture – for the sake of ‘giving them what they had coming to them’. This is not justice. Because justice considers the big picture. It considers the longterm impact. It works always in the best interest of those most vulnerable. Therefore, if we toss every pastor behind bars because he asked for it by not reporting, and it inadvertently causes an outcome that sacrifices the victims and potentially creates more, then we have failed.To navigate this objectively, and not cause more harm than good, will take wisdom and discernment.
I continue to see God moving, and I see progress within the conservative Anabaptist culture, as more an more leaders, as well as parents and other non-victims rise up to say “enough is enough”. As it becomes increasingly apparent that some leaders are colluding to cover up, and some are doing so to hide their own history of abusing, those in the pews are growing discontent with the facade and taking a stand against both abuse and coverups. And those leaders who are transparent are joining those discontented in the pews, or even leading them. That is a very good sign!
For this day we have prayed, and to this end we continue to press forward.
“Trust Me” ~ GOD ~ When God says “Trust Me”, and you do it, and then everything in your human nature wants to trust people – good people – and all the good advice they give. Advice that collides with what you know God has spoken, the most tempting thing as a human is to cave and cater to human reasoning and logic and explanations – on either side, whether the ‘most spiritual’ or the ‘most humanistic’. But just contemplating it, causes your spirit to rise up ‘in remembrance of what He has spoken. “Trust Me,” He says again. So you return to the place of discomfort and wait. Alone. Or at least feeling alone. And you do this because you choose to trust Him, above all.
Obstreperous Victims, and Repentant Offenders I’ve said it many times. I live in a space where both sides collide – where one force pulls this way on me and the other pulls that way – living between two sides in opposition. But I intentionally choose this place where generally neither ‘side’ is particularly pleased with me, and I do it because I genuinely believe it is one of the most critical aspects of breaking the cycle of abuse in churches.
I *advocate* for victims, and victims only. But I long for the healing and personal redemption of both victims and offenders. I hold tenaciously to the truth. And sometimes I have it wrong. But it will not be some human that convinces me I have it wrong, based on reasoning, excuses, explanations or any other thing. It will be God, and His people who take me to the place of my error and show me. Until He does that – directly or through His people – I will not say and do the things that please the crowds. I cannot live with myself if I do that.
And individuals on both sides of almost any situation I am in – whether a ‘situation’ or my day to day ministry – try often to persuade me to see it their way, or to “do this or that” or “do (whatever that thing is) this way or that”. Lovely people. Kind people. Well-meaning people. And all they want is peace. But true peace comes from letting latent and buried conflict rise to the surface, and erupt – sometimes into messy and chaotic ‘explosions’ – so that the ‘lie about peace’ is exposed, and true peace can be sought. Buried conflict presents as peace, but, alas, it is not. It is ongoing unacknowledged destruction. People’s spirits die. The next generation pays the price for the previous generations’ *peace* – which indeed was not peace – and the cycle continues. And most are content with this illusion of peace, because the alternative shakes things at a place that is uncomfortable, and takes the messy to places many cannot handle.
On the ‘Healing for All’ Side and Disrupting Norms I advocate for victims. I believe working in cooperation with the law is ideal. And I fight for the healing and redemption of both victims and offenders. Because whichever piece (or ‘side’) we neglect to bring healing, is the side that will drag the sexual violence into the next generation. On the one side it goes forward through coverup and silence. And on the other side it goes on through unhealed trauma. It cannot be about this side or that, in any conflict or trauma, if real meaningful and lasting change is to come, and the cycle broken. But that middle place is at times a lonely place to stand and fight, with just a few who stand together. It is a place of fighting for the past (those who already were victimized or who already offended), and simultaneously fighting for the future to break the cycle. It is a place of disrupting norms, disrupting the illusion of peace, and of standing for two unpopular and polar opposite positions.
For this reason I am uncomfortable at a personal level with a vindictive approach to exposing corruption. But I will not silence voices and police what is said, unless it becomes directly abusive. I tend, rather, to counter it with what I believe. That anger is the result of generations of not being heard, and is linked to deep, deep pain and trauma. And pain demands to be acknowledged, one way or another. The sooner we all learn that leaning in and really hearing those devastated by abuse, rather than writing them off as bitter, the better off we will be and the more effectively we will break this dreadful scourge, and end (at least a large portion) of this horrible cycle. Because bitterness turns to hope and grace when the love of Jesus touches it, and it is not done through formula. It is done through relationship. And once that trusted relationship has been built, you’d be amazed what you earn permission to say to someone to help them heal! But your goal has to be simply loving them, not some other agenda.
It seems ‘easier’ for many Christians to deal with offenders and give them a place in Christian community because of this messy process of hearing victims who have been silenced. (And I would propose that victims who are heard immediately, seldom, if ever, get as dark and as messy as those in religious communities who have been silenced, blamed and shamed). For offenders, all that is required for them to be embraced in Christian community is for them to say “I’m sorry”. That’s it. If they are sorry – genuine or just skilled at appearing that way; and both do happen – they are back in. Immediately they are surrounded, applauded amid tears of joy at the ‘prodigal returned’. After that, whether they play the victim who is hated, or the gracious martyr ‘sinner come home’ who acknowledges that the victim rightfully feels negatively toward them, in either case, the offender finds a place more easily than the ‘bitter victim’ does. Power is more easily integrated with Christianity than messy pain, and it requires little investment, if any, by the community. Victims, on the other hand, need care, compassion, a listening ear, someone to speak gentle truth, and so much more, on every level, than most offenders. So offenders are often more welcomed than victims, for many reasons.
I would like to see both – the life of the victim and the life of the offender – redeemed. Each, individually, restored to God and peace. Each with the support in the church that they need.
A Place of Safety for the Victimized
The victim given a safe place to acknowledge and experience the pain in its messy stages, while being guided to wholeness and redemption. To be allowed to grieve and mourn, without being labeled or thought insane. They’re not insane. In fact, the more they are allowed to honestly grieve, the more whole they will become. Rather than judging as bitter, we need to lean in and hear all that has been silenced and shut down, for many generations, behind that uncomfortable expression of grief. And the victim being protected from unnecessary upheaval, to the point of asking the offender to attend elsewhere if the victim cannot cope with their presence. Forgiveness to be the path we walk with them not the demand we place on them. The latter is damaging an shuts down the spirit, the former is relational and life-giving.
Speaking of bitterness and victims’ anger, I asked Mike Yoder of Milton PAthis week if he finds many victims of abuse wanting revenge or retribution. (Mike is“trained in STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) and has also received training in Restorative Justice and Community Peacebuilding through the Center for Justice and Peace at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VAH”, and is passionate about impacting the epidemic of sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities). He said no, but with a disclaimer and an exception of ‘unless they tried to speak out and their voices have been silenced’. (That is as close to verbatim as I can recall his statement.) This lines up with my experience. Victims generally want offenders to take ownership without excuse, and courageously face whatever the consequences and fallout is of transparency and repentance. (Because that truly does symbolize repentance, to be willing to face consequences. In fact, I would argue if self-protection is still present, repentance is not complete.) Many victims have no desire for retribution or revenge. Many don’t even want their offenders to go to prison,and will even actively try to prevent such a thing, unless they believe there is a risk of reoffending, in which case they may actively seek to have the offender imprisoned. This is not for their own good, but for the protection of potential victims. Countless victims have said to me that if they were absolutely certain there was zero risk of reoffending, they would want nothing to do with the legal process. So the notion and judgement that most victims are part of an angry mob wanting to get even or cause pain, is highly inaccurate. So that mentality needs to shift.
Does the Offender Have a Place in Church and God’s Kingdom? Yes, but not behind the pulpit.
For the offender, there must be both encouragement to repent, and permission to really repent – King David style, in sackcloth and ashes, with nothing held back, and no excuses left for sins committed. They need to be encouraged to face consequences with courage. It is the coward who assaults an innocent and defenceless child or vulnerable adult, and then thinks he/she doesn’t deserve the consequences for that crime. And it is a group of cowards who stand in the way of such courage rather than encouraging the offender to face those consequences, and daring to walk alongside. The enablers who play the role of protecting, are often good-hearted naive men and women who are of deep faith but have little understanding of predators – different than those who offend and then come forward and seek help, and change – and predators know how to play on the emotions and compassion of this crowd. The offender convinces this compassionate crowd that they were helpless in the face of struggle and meant no harm, or they “only did ___, not ____” and list a ‘small offence’ in contrast with rape. Or they may even say that the child intentionally tempted them. (Yes, I’ve heard this too often!) That offender is not helpless in the face of temptation, and not nearly as helpless in the face of a prison sentence as the child he/she assaulted. For grown men and women to band together and cover for such a person, or downplay their crime, is destructive and cowardly. Adults have physical, mental and spiritual advantages when facing consequences that the child (or vulnerable adult) did not have in that moment of victimization. That said, I would like to see healthy cooperation with the law to support offenders in this process so that redemption is possible for them, and the risk of reoffending is decreased. That is in everyone’s best interest.
Along with this ‘place to repent’, we need to believe that transformation is possible (I do believe that it is, as do many other professionals) but with the balance of recognizing that we have no right to impose risk on the vulnerable. An adult who has molested children should not be given positions of power or leadership over children. It is absurd to think this is wise, and it is the wrong place to prove that transformation has happened. It is wrong to impose that risk on children and the vulnerable, and it is wrong to place the offenders in such a position of temptation/risk. I may be a recovered alcoholic, but becoming a bartender to prove my freedom from addiction is foolishness. Even more so when that addiction imposes risk on innocent, helpless or vulnerable individuals.
There is a difference in situations where teens and children have molested and gotten help. First of all, in most places such knowledge cannot be made public. Secondly, in cases I have worked, many teens who offended came forward on their own seeking help. And statistics indicate that teens who get help are most unlikely to reoffend. Even so, I know of teen offence cases where those young offenders have grown up to self-impose boundaries and accountability for everyone’s protection, using the ‘buddy system’ to ensure no one is ever at risk, and that they are never tempted or falsely accused. There is great wisdom in this. And, whether teens or adults, we should always believe that transformation is possible, and be equally committed to not taking risks or imposing risks on others, by using healthy boundaries to protect everyone. This is the responsibility of families, church leaders, ministry leaders (and, by law, businesses, to an extent and in some places), and is in the best interest of all.
The “I am trustworthy, they are not” mentality I am amazed at how many adults have said to me that they don’t believe such transformation is possible, and it doesn’t matter if the offender is a youth or adult. It’s not possible. They insist that the offences of all who have offended by publicized, even if they were minors, and heavy boundaries imposed. (I’ve worked with several situations where 5 to 7 year olds were demonized for inappropriate touch. That, in my opinion, is another form of child abuse and is highly inappropriate. As is spanking the ‘offending’ party. But that’s another blog for another day.) When these individuals push this aggressive agenda, I sometimes ask if they ever offended sexually, as a pre-teen or teen, and the answer sometimes is, “Yes, but….” They make exceptions for themselves, because they know they: 1.) came forward on their own (or) 2.) only did it because, through the abuse they suffered, they were taught to reenact it (or) 3.) only did it until they understood what sex was (or) 4.) it’s obvious ‘my offender’ isn’t sorry, because he/she makes excuses (all the while forgetting they are making excuses as well)… and the list goes on. (I inject here that, depending on the conversation, it is perfectly appropriate to ask someone if they have offended but only on the condition that the individual asking is willing to answer the same question. If you molested as a teen and are not transparent about it, you have no authority or business to be holding others accountable. That’s hypocrisy, as is holding them to a higher standard in any way.) The truth is, if one offender can be transformed or rehabilitated, then we need to believe it is possible for others, and it is pride that holds oneself higher (or better) than another. It doesn’t mean that we have to get cozy with our offenders and pretend like it never happened, but we do need to allow for ‘them’ to also change their ways. (Again, I reiterate, while never putting minors and the vulnerable at risk to prove that ‘work of grace’ or transformation in the offender. That is one of the consequences that a humble and repentant offender will accept. And those who do accept it, are the least likely to offend because they don’t place themselves in a position of risk.)
Regarding Pastors/Leaders and the Duty to Report I admit, I feel an element of relief at seeing the law hold leaders accountable for not reporting, because of the incredible damage the silence has done to victims, and to the Christian community. I am equally relieved to have both secular and Christian media paying attention to the problem of sexual abuse among us, and the problem of churches covering it up. However, while I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader, on this front I hold a somewhat controversial personal position in that I don’t like the idea of having hundreds of leaders put behind bars for this failure unless they insist on their own innocence, and there is no reason to believe they will protect going forward. Where leaders get a revelation – even if it is inspired by pressure from the law – I am inclined to work cooperatively with them. Earlier today, Pastor Dale Ingraham – who is my personal ministry pastor and, together with his wife Faith, founded Speaking Truth in Love Ministries – and I had a lengthy conversation addressing this topic (as well as that of teen offences in closed communities), and we agree that there needs to be a healthy process for transitioning from the old way (covering up and silencing) to leaders embracing transparency, accountability. Meeting the leaders ‘where they are at’, if they so much as show interest in learning to respond well to abuse, rather than pushing for imprisonment, seems redemptive and critical in breaking cycles. We are both interested in helping leaders in this process, and supporting them in a restorative approach to dealing with past coverups and failure to report, as it is most likely to result in positive outcomes all around, going forward. (I read this to Pastor Dale prior to publishing)
The exposure – through media and law – will reveal the extent of the problem, much as the story in Spotlight and the exposure of sexual abuse in Catholic churches is influencing greater accountability and transparency among them. And restorative approaches to dealing with these leaders will most effectively turn the tide across our culture and bring positive change. And ultimately – Pastor Dale and Faith and I agree – our goal is to break the cycle and bring positive change. Where cover-up continues and offenders are not held accountable, prison is an excellent short-term consequence, but fails to influence long-term positive outcomes.
A Segue: Our Legal System & An Alternative That’s the spiritual/church/religious side of it. From a legal system perspective, the truth is the system isn’t equipped to work well with sexual violence. It is faulty and the only thing it seems to offer is getting offenders off the street for a time after which they return with an increased likelihood of offending. In this way it contributes to the problem, albeit not as much as religious cover-ups, from my perception of things. So, somehow these two things need to change, ideally simultaneously. At the same time as the church stops covering up for offenders and preventing consequences, we need to find healthier ways of working proactively and in cooperation with the law, even while the system for handling sex crimes is questioned. Here, from my observation, we need a new way of working with cases. Sexual abuse is one crime in which the criminal is often very closely related to the victim, though not always, and in which the arbitrary process of imposing the law on both parties can do a lot of damage to the victim, as his/her voice is lost in the process. It offers only the comfort of the offender being behind bars, if the case ends up being one of the few in which the offender ends up prosecuted. (Based on information provided by StatCan, between 2009 and 2014, if an accused is identified in 300 of 500 (3×100 of 5×100), the end result is that in approximately 129 cases charges are laid, 63.21 would go to court, 17.04 lead to a conviction, and in the end, 9.54 of the 300 are placed in custody. That’s a pretty low percent of convictions, meaning most who are charged, and almost half of those convicted, are never incarcerated.) This, alone, leads me to believe that we can be far more effective in partnership with the law than to leave the law to its own devices, or to expect the religious system to deal with abuse, when both are currently clearly ineffective.
For this reason, one of my dreams and passions and brainstorms is that, much like Child Protective Service organizations, there be an alternative to the police force – albeit one that works in cooperation with the law and within the confines of the law – to handle sex abuse cases. The more specialized the team, the more sensitivity there will be toward victims, and the more likely it is that offenders will be truly ‘rehabilitated’ and given ongoing healthy accountability and support to prevent re-offending. These things, as part of reintegration into community, are among the most effective and necessary steps in preventing recidivism. Like every other addiction, isolation and loneliness increase the risk. Therefore, the way we are most accustomed to responding – by alienating, shaming-without-redemption (because it is healthy to be ashamed of such crime), and excluding from community – are contributing to the problem.
What the church is doing in most cases is an epic fail, and no one can convince me it is the Jesus Way or God’s heart. It’s not. And what the law has to offer is sadly just as inadequate. So, somehow we have to transform these two ways of responding to sexual crimes. And it is my prayer that this will come.
A Place in the Middle, and a Path to be Pursued It is the thing for which I advocate, and for which I stand in the middle – that place between two opposing sides – and long to help both sides, while never compromising truth, justice, mercy and love. Calling out abuses, injustice, coverups, abuse of power and the like, and never silencing the victims’ pain even if it is entirely uncomfortable to hear their anger (yet not endorsing abusive attacks), and believing offenders can change. yet never compromising on the need for consequences and healthy boundaries even if the offender is completely repentant, and then working for the greater good… this, I believe, is key to a path forward.
And that is the path I seek to walk. At a leadership level, it is a path of being held accountable, and holding others accountable – and those leaders who are willing to commit to such transparency are the only leaders I wish to work closely with, even while allowing for failure in that goal. A path of standing firm and honouring the voice of God when those around insist you choose their particular path or condemn the path God set before you. It is a path that is groundbreaking, in this field of sexual violence, and is therefore one of failure and stumbling. Therefore it must also be a path of repentance, in which I humbly acknowledge “I have sinned’, when God reveals – either directly or through other godly voices (and dare I add, through relationally ‘present’ individuals who are not agenda driven) – that we have done wrong. (I throw this disclaimer in because I get advice from absolute strangers – even people I’ve never seen or heard of before – and while I listen and hear them, I do not take every criticism to heart, or adjust my position/belief at every ‘word of wisdom’ or ‘message God told me to give’.)
Truth is, even from people I know and have personal relationships, I can get two messages on any given day, both devout Christians who have a ‘word from God’, and the two messages are polar opposites. I am then supposed to decide which one is the true word and follow it, I suppose. But often they are opinion-based ‘words from God’ – advice that clearly supports one agenda or the other – and when I hold them up to ‘the JESUS Way’, neither is inherently wrong or right. Sometimes the difference is whether the person sharing ‘the word’ is endorsing Anabaptist non-resistant views, the Apostle Paul confronting Peter in public views, or some other personal opinion.
I choose to take my counsel from those nearest – those in my inner circle I never disregard – as well as those who I may never have met, who clearly are not agenda-driven, who reflect the heart of Jesus consistently (not perfectly). Those who listen, really listen…. Those who obviously and actively pursue God, truth, peace, justice and mercy… with love. These are the voices that I value most, whether they agree with me or not, because these are among the things that matter most to God. And it is my heart to value what God values.
So I press forward and onward…. thankful for grace. And I wait for God to speak…
A promise made is a promise to be kept.
And God knows I’d rather forget.
It has been a few weeks since June 8… that fateful day in the present situation with attempting to expose an offender, and challenge the way the case was handled. Soon after that day, and after my ‘apology blog’, I pulled down the blogs I had written that opened up the crazy can of worms… or snakes… that led to that day in the first place.
I pulled all the blogs after discovering my apology was not warranted. I wrote it in sincerity, having been made to believe that I was wrong about the offender’s repentance and the way in which his public ‘confession’ came about. But I also wrote it in absolute confusion because the evidence I had didn’t line up with what I was made to believe. And I pulled them because I needed time to process the shock factor at discovering I had been tripped and gas-lighted.
I have yet to fully understand all the motives behind that day, but I made a promise to tell the truth that I know, after a bit of rest.
On June 4 an apology was posted by the man who sexually assaulted one young woman, and made sexually explicit phone calls to many others. I was told that it was a coached apology, written by a group of men – and that this information came from the leader I previously called into questions, who had been part of that process. On June 7, I called that out because of the incredible damage it was doing to the victims. The leader who knew about the sexual assault, and did nothing to protect other vulnerable individuals, had played a role in this ‘apology’, and had asked one of the leaders I was working with if it would ‘help’ if the abuser apologized. And then, as the attacks and poop-flinging ensued, he watched the destruction and attacks without the integrity to step in and intervene, but instead ‘liked’ abusive comments… on the bogus ‘confession’. (A pastor involved told me that he ‘is not repentant, but wants to be’.) Shortly after calling this out, a comment was posted attacking me. It was so vile and abusive it left me shocked. (And it takes a lot to shock me.)
In the wee hours of June 8, having spent a sleepless night processing what it all meant, another message came in… I had spent the night struggling with the abusive comment, and the fact that this leader who works with sexual abuse victims would think such an apology was a good idea, (and then stand back and watch the destruction… as though that was ‘helping’), without the honour to stop it and admit what had been done.
And then I read the message that came in from one of the leaders I had worked with and trusted, “Trudy the misinformation coming from your public posts is staggering. It is truth with assigned motives that are very faulty. I also know about the editing. And why it was edited...” (There is a bigger piece to this that I am not free to tell, but will say that this leader did not agree with a half-baked confession, and if his advice had been taken, things would have shaken out very differently.)
I read it. Numb. Shock.
First, I understood ‘it is truth’ as meaning that the confession was true and sincere, and ‘with assigned motives’ as meaning that I was assigning faulty motives to the confession. And in that moment, I was a young teen, waiting to be excommunicated again. The allegations were not true, back then; I had not sinned the sins I was accused of. And in that moment, I was hurled into full blow flashback and PTSD. (It was not the first time in this experience of attempting to confront the abuser and bring an end to the abuse and hold leaders accountable that this happened. A previous time was when I was told that the leader (who appears to be) protecting the abuser, rates the man at a ‘3 out of 10’ for risk and/or perversion “because he gets no sexual pleasure from what he does”. Wait… Wha…? I can’t even go there…)
In 27 years of working through my past, I recall a total of 6 … maybe 7 extreme PTSD/flashbacks. At least 3 have occurred in the past 3 months of dealing with this scenario and attempting to work with leaders, while watching as sexual abuse is downplayed, victims are re-victimized, and I am gaslighted. It is not an easy thing to deal with high level abuse. And hearing things like rating an offender a ‘3 out of 10’ because ‘he gets no sexual gratification from his crimes’ was horrifying on so many levels. That means many, if not most, child molesters are not a big deal because many touch the child without any form of penetration. This, again, effectively makes it all about the offender. God forbid we look too closely at the hell it brings into a child’s life.
By June 9 two things happened. I was informed that, in fact, what I had written in my status updates was truth. It was a group effort apology, and was intended to calm the chaos. (I am no longer convinced I was ‘off’ in what I assigned to it. It was to protect the offender, as I understand/see it, by calming the chaos. And such apologies always serve only to further victimize the victims and make the offender look good. It’s wicked, in my opinion and is often mentioned by victims as being one of the most damaging things in they have suffered in religious context related to the handling of abuse they suffered. “Let your yay be yay…” Don’t say an apology that isn’t true. That’s not appropriate. And if the man *wants* to be repentant, for heaven’s sake, help him face the consequences and stop lying to himself so he *can* be repentant!)
The other thing that happened by June 9, is that several people (unrelated to each other, and still unknown to each other) called me to tell me to watch my back. One said the leader close to the abuser had said I’m a Jezebel (more than once, over a period of months since January). And another said the leader called me a matriarchal woman and called one of the victims is a matriarchal witch. They commented on his hatred for Jezebel and his determination to destroy ‘Jezebel’. (Based on this, they were concerned that the leader was assigning his hatred for Jezebel to me, since that is who/what I represent to him.) Rather than ‘throw me’ or upset me, it brought clarity and understanding, and helped put all the ‘crazy’ in context.
I draw a line in the sand. I stand against abuse, and this is spiritual abuse to which I will not subject myself, and against which I will take a firm stand, not only for my sake but also for the sake of every woman and man subjected to this kind of abuse while Christian leaders rise up to protect each other. Until full ownership is taken (by him)for this abuse, and other abusive behaviours (by this leader), I am taking a firm stand to endorsenothing and partner with nothing in ministry that involves this leader. And ownership includes acknowledging the careless handling of the situation, disregarding those who approached him before me (at least 5 godly men and women – info that was forwarded to me via someone the leader’s wife shared it with), and apologizing for the name-calling and spiritual abuse.
I am choosing a path of forgiveness, but not a path of silence. And forgiveness also does not mean I won’t have firm boundaries, because forgiveness does not include letting abuse go unchallenged. And if we cannot hold each other accountable as leaders for abusive behaviours and putting others at risk then shame on us all. If we fear the blood-bath at our feet, when it involves leaders and ministries, and don’t recognize that the bloodbath has been going on for victims for many generations, with no one to intervene for them…. If we protect leaders and/or from consequences for abuse, and don’t protect victims from such individuals., then we have failed…. and God have mercy on us all.
I do not know where things stand with this whole situation, as far as what other leaders are doing with it. But I do know I am taking a stand against abuse, and I stand firm on the evidence and the account I have given of this situation.
If you have questions, send me an email. If it’s out of curiosity with no higher purpose, I’m not interested in engaging. If it’s to destroy people – whether ‘them’ or me – I’m not interested. If it’s for the sake of truth and for the good of your community, the actors involved here or some positive end, I’m more than willing to interact.
There is no place where light shines so bright as in the darkest of night, No place I’ve found
where love is so strong,
as in the face of hate, No place where truth is so strong as in the wake and face of lies.
No place where life rises so glorious,
as when it rises from a grave. There God dwells among us; Jesus.
No place like here
No place like now
For Light, Love and Truth.
Rise and conquer, Victorious.
From the shadows, shines a bright light; from the darkness hope rises. From brokenness of shame and defeat, determination rises, strong and courageous.
Battles have been fought and won throughout the course of history, but never has land or territory been reclaimed without a price tag. In the spiritual realm this is no less true than in the physical, if not more so, but we have a promise that God will rebuild and restore when we return to our first love. “I will build you up again, and you, virgin Israel, will be rebuilt”. Virgin, or first love. Israel, or ‘my people’. Rebuilt, or strong and flourishing.
2 This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword
will find favour in the wilderness;
I will come to give rest to Israel.”
3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
4 I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful.
5 Again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
and enjoy their fruit.
6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’”
7 This is what the Lord says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say,
‘Lord, save your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.
9 They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them
and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’
11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob
and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.
12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
the young of the flocks and herds,
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.
13 Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
declares the Lord.
What has been plundered, what has been taken will be restored. I trust my heavenly Father to bring life from the rubble and ashes of every battlefield in the breaking of vicious strongholds. We take our place in the Kingdom, and wait His command, but it is God who shatters the chains of wickedness that have long bound His people. It is He who exposes and shatters lies and deceptions.
This is peace. This is rest.
There is no place… no place like the place rebuilt from wasted ruins. Because that place, is the place where God has come.
Her white gown flowed with grace and beauty. She was stunning. The bride. She stood at some distance from me, and I watched. Who was she? What was that glow? I couldn’t see her eyes clearly, but I had no doubt they sparkled with joy. Her ruby lips, full and sweet carried the kiss of love for her Bridegroom.
I, a stranger, watched from the fence line of my property. I didn’t know the bride or her groom, but when everyone talks about the most amazing wedding of all time – even greater than Prince Charles and Lady Diana, or their children’s weddings. The greatest wedding ever. That’s what the rumour was, when I heard it. So, from my place, my yard, I watched it unfold. She moved closer, the bride, on her path toward the groom, where he stood waiting to make her his. His eyes… Oh his eyes….
My heart skipped a beat, and a tear slipped down my face. Such love! I wondered what it would be like… But I pushed that thought back. Not me. Not in my world. Such love has no room in the rejected ones. My mind slipped back in time. I could hear my father beating her, the woman who had carried and birthed me. I was three then. I heard her, the woman who gave birth to me, curse me, curse my siblings, call us things… things so dark that I felt like a whore. I was still three then. I turned again to the bride, to the groom, trying to grasp this love… But, no, that love was not my destiny. I would always be one of the rejected ones, the unlovables. Best to not dream…
I could see her eyes now… the sparkle. Another tear … and then another. Oh, if only I could be part of that wedding! There were crowds and crowds on the other side of the fence, all wearing white. It was breathtaking…
But, I … I was one of the castaway ones.
And then, as the bride moved closer, the most amazing thing happened. She turned, in her glory, and her eyes looked right into mine. She raised her hand, gesturing for me to come join the wedding. I looked at my overall denim jumper, my gardening gloves covered in dirt, weeds still hanging from my hand. I looked at my weedy garden. And I shook my head, looking down, ashamed. She moved closer. I could smell the sweet perfume and hear her voice singing. The bride was singing to me, still beckoning.
I looked at the crowd. The white, in stark contrast with my rubber boots, covered in mud. They sang. The words. Why were they praising the groom, but also singing my name? Why was the bride beckoning? I looked around as if to find someone to pinch me and wake me. Surely this had to be a dream… a vision. I was nobody. Worthless. But the singing continued. They were all inviting me to join the wedding march. “Come just as you are”, they sang.
The bride pointed to the groom. He stood there, holding a white dress, for me. There was water for me to wash myself. Overwhelmed, I did the only thing I could do. I crawled over that old fence and ran to the Groom. Having washed, and dressed in white, I joined the crowd. The words of the song formed on my lips, and I sang. From my heart, I sang of the wonderful groom. And when I met them, the people on the other side of the fence, the bride and I sang the praises of the groom, and the names of those we met. Some joined. Some didn’t. All was well.
We were dressed, we were fed, we had every need met. I hardly thought of the past, the beatings, the name-calling, the rapes and abuse I had suffered. My new life was good. Too good to be true. But it was true. No one shook my body, calling my name to wake up. Reality. Truth. I knew love and care for the first time, in the wedding march.
One day I surveyed the train of the bride’s veil with great curiosity. It was long. So long, in fact, I couldn’t see the end of it. And then I saw it. A movement, as if there was struggle under the train, for as far as I could see, the bulges and movement continued. The bridesmaids carried the train, seemingly without questioning the thing I saw. Did they not see it? Maybe it was nothing. But it troubled me.
I ran for a groomsman – because the bride had said if ever we need something, anything at all, we should go to the groomsmen. They would help. And if it required a bridesmaid, the groomsmen would know which ones were equipped to help. The groomsman looked at the commotion I pointed to, and calmly responded, “There is no struggle. That’s nothing. Keep singing.”
His voice rose louder, and the people around sang louder too. The commotion under the train continued. I squeezed between the bridesmaids and reached for the train, trying to look under it. But, to my shock, one of the groomsman slapped my hand and then motioned for me to sing. I tried to sing. I wanted to sing, but something told me I had to see under the train. I lagged behind, trying to hide in the fringe crowd. From there, I would slip in and see what was under the train. I could see the writhing, and I would not quit until I knew what it was about.
I whispered to a sweet looking bridesmaid, and asked her what is under the train. She shushed me, urged me to focus on the wedding, on the groom, and keep singing. Seeing I would not stop, she explained. To look under the train would leave me deceived. I must not. I dare not. There was nothing under the train, she assured me. These imaginations had been presented by other deceived ones who wanted to destroy the bride, the groomsmen and the bridesmaid. She was only trying to protect me, she said. Her voice was sweet, consoling, reassuring.
I wondered what was wrong with me, and why I would imagine such things?
A man and a woman walked toward the train, carrying something. But what? The bridesmaids lifted the train, and I watched as they flung the large ‘package’ under the train. Their hands were red… Was that blood? I shuddered. No. This imagination, it needed to stop. I was going insane. I sang louder, more enthusiastically.
But it happened again. Another one tossed under the train of her robe. And another. And another.
I sang louder. And louder. And louder.
But the words… the words fell flat.
We sang of how the groom had given his mansion for us…
And then I heard the scream. Bloodcurdling, life-stopping scream.
A few in the audience mimicked it as if to make me believe it was part of the song. But I knew. I knew… I remembered that scream… It was my scream. I had screamed in the night. A child. A teen. A young woman. And the train had suffocated me. I would not, I could not hold back.
I ran, full force between the bridesmaids holding the train and grabbed it, trying to wrestle it from the bridesmaids. But they would not let me near it. They pushed me back.
A small hand reached out from under the train. I tried to grab it, but the bridesmaid stomped on the hand, and quickly it disappeared.
The bridesmaid called over a groomsman and soon others gathered around me, and gave me a row for creating such havoc in the wedding party. Had I no awareness that the groom wanted my attention? Did I not know that he would take care of these things? Why was I so intent on destroying the groomsmen and the bridesmaids? Did I not know that these men and women were forgiven? Had I learned nothing?
The small hand slipped out again.. and then another… and another… and another. And feet, as bodies tried to crawl out. I saw them, moving, blood-covered, flesh grown wild with disease and gangrene covering limbs.
Shocked, I gasped. Then vomited.
How…? “My God! My God!” I wept. I looked at the groom. The groom this wedding march had pointed to and told me to worship… Our eyes met. I watched as his body doubled and he vomited, and he wept. And I knew…
Without a thought, I dove under the train. Dead bodies. More diseased bodies. Bones from ages past. Some delusional ones holding bibles, trying frantically to find some word to heal them of their disease. Others, cursing the groom and shaking their fists at him, lifting middle fingers high toward the heavens. Fingers bleeding from being stomped on.
Men in what robes dove under, raped the corpses, the dying… even the infants. Women in white robes joined in, forcing objects into their little bodies, or forcing the little and dying ones to bring sexual pleasure to their own bodies, before kicking them and leaving them to bleed. As those in white exited they stood tall, and told those near them they had done things that displeased the groom. The crowd wept, and patted them on the back for their honesty, and washed the blood and diseased flesh off of them, and reminded them that the groom had forgiven. And together they sang.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, with everything in me, “These children are dying!! These women are dying!! These men are dying!! They carry the disease of the men and women who have raped and beaten them!”
A boot landed in my face. A white boot. A lead groomsmen. It left me reeling. Surely he doesn’t know what is going on here? I grabbed his hand and tried to show him the devastation. He nodded. “What you see here,” he said, “isn’t the fault of those who raped them. These are the ones who cannot forgive. They don’t know the groom. That’s the problem.”
He seemed to speak from a place of truth. So I started to sing. I sang under the train to those dying. As I sang, their flesh fell off their bones. Why, when I was singing the life-giving words that had brought me hope… The words the groomsmen had taught me… the words they said were the groom’s words… Why was the flesh falling from their bones? I was baffled.
The men and women who had raped and beaten the wounded ones, pointed at me. “You are angry. You are bitter! You won’t forgive!” they shouted. “Stop blaming us! We are forgiven! You need healing! We are suffering for the groom here! Can’t you see what you are doing?” And as they shouted the crowd gathered around them and sang, patting them on the back.
I looked at the dying child in my arms. Clearly these people were not going to help these wounded ones. I ran to the groom. I yelled. I screamed. I wept.
“Why?!!! Why are they dying? Why can’t they just forgive those who infect them with this flesh-eating disease? Why? I am singing! I am praising you! It’s supposed to heal them!”
The groom looked at me, tears running down His face. “As they have done it to the least of these… the most vulnerable among them, they have done it to me. If they have disregarded them, they have disregarded me. Come with me…”
He led me back to the dead and dying and eyes were opened. There I saw the groom, nearly naked, dressed in nothing but rags, and taking on the flesh-eating disease and other illness. He was healing them. He reached out, without shame or reserve, and touched the bones which held no flesh. And suddenly there was flesh. His hand bore the scar, having taken on their diseased flesh. He knelt down, breathed deep into the face of a dead child, and suddenly there was life. He took the hand of a cripple, and he danced with joy. He kissed the eyes of the blind and they saw. The heart that stopped beating, he laid his hands on and in one instant it started beating.
Then he stood and walked into the crowd and shouted. “I called you to be like Me! I confronted religious spirits. I healed the broken hearted. I acknowledged pain. I let the prostitute weep on my feet. I walked among the diseased, the lepers, the untouchables and unlovables. I never condemned them for speaking out. I never condemned those who spoke truth. I confronted half-truths and deception. And I healed the contrite sinner who held nothing back. I was not popular! I was hated, not protected by religious institutions. I called you to be like Me!”
He paused. He did not praise me, and he did not shame me. He pointed to the bodies, diseased and dying and commanded, “acknowledge their pain and let me heal them!” And then he walked deeper into the audience and began stripping the robes that had been handed out in his name, but without his blessing. There, the flesh-eating disease was carefully hidden, gangrene setting in.
“The truth… The truth will make you free. I AM Truth. Live my Life and Love among them,” he said, again pointing to the wounded ones.
He moved forward and lifted the train, exposing the bride’s feet. They were mottled, a sign of poor circulation and pending death. Gangrene was setting in. The groom fell to the ground and wept. “My bride! My beautiful bride! I gave everything I have for you!”
He turned to the groomsmen and bridesmaids. “I called you to protect her! I called you to guard her, not to destroy her by hiding diseases under her train! Pointing under the train he shouted, “This will destroy my bride if you do not rise up! Rise up! Stand for truth. I came to confront religious arrogance. I came to heal the broken-hearted. I came to set the captives free. You have not only neglected them, but added to their broken-heartedness and led them into deeper bondage. You will give account.”
And the people kept singing. A few touched up the bride’s makeup. But the train could never again hide the dying children, the diseased women and men, young boys and girls who had long lay under it. It could never again hide the dead bodies, the stench of which had stained the inside of the train.
And the groom, he stayed there on the ground. He did not dance and sing. He wept for the wounded ones even as he wiped the tears. He held them, as he sat there in sackcloth, and he healed them. He gave them each a white robe as he healed them. Most joined him in the ruins. Others went to the groomsmen, the bridesmaids and the crowds and kept pointing to the groom, directing the crowds away from the din and noise. They even spoke to the men and women who raped and beat the unlovables, and pointed them to the groom.
Because the groom… The groom will heal all who humbly accept truth.
Proverbs 31:8 “Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 12: 20
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.
Praying for the courage of many to rise up. We are losing too many victims to atheism, pain and depression. Dare to do what Jesus would do. Confront predators. Walk gently with the broken hearted. Settle for nothing less that truth. And invite all to Jesus.