Finally, some good news to share! On the heels of The Elephant Grows Fat in Church, it is a thrill to share how a bishop in Mennonite church, in Ontario, took an unusual and bold stand in a childhood sexual abuse case.
But, good news, in the case of childhood sexual abuse, is always bittersweet, because it comes at a price. Tragically the good news always hinges on the initial crime of victimizing a child. That, in and of itself, makes today’s post as tragic as it is exciting for me to write about.
When it comes to the topic of sexual abuse, I find the material heavy and somewhat depressing. I take a bit more emotional ‘down time’ just washing away the darkness that inevitably wishes to latch on to me, depressing me. I cry out to God a little more. I feel a bit more emotional. A bit more vulnerable. There seems little good to write about.
I admit, I feel badly exposing the dark side of my Mennonite heritage when there is so much good in it, but I fear if I remain silent, as many have, the good will be lost. So, depressing as it may seem, I press on….
But this post is different. It is a beacon in a dark and stormy night, giving hope to the many on the rough waters of victimization in the Mennonite culture.
To protect the identity of any victims, I will not use real names, and will not disclose the ‘brand’ of Mennonites, other than to say they are very conservative. That fact gives me hope that more will follow suit.
The perpetrator, Dan, is a friend of mine from the past, whom I met when I lived in Fresno, California, in the summer of 1987.
Dan was a ‘nice’ guy, and respectful. He had Mennonite background but didn’t ‘buy in’ until he was in his twenties. And that was twenty years ago. Over the years he stayed single, a member in good standing in the church. From time to time, when mom had talked to him, she would pass on his greetings, saying he would love to see me again, and meet my family.
Recently Dan’s bishop discovered that during his twenty years in the church, he has been sexually abusing young boys. What makes the bishop’s response unique, and a noteworthy detail, is that Dan is related to him, quite closely, through marriage. What’s more, Dan’s family is ‘highly respected’ as the ‘elite’ in the church, which alone gives cause for cover up at times, because the potential damage to church reputation.
To his credit, Dan’s bishop talked with Dan and told him he needs to turn himself in to the local authorities and offered to drive him. I am sick and saddened by the discovery that Dan violated young boys all these years. My heart breaks for the victims, some of whom are now adult men, no doubt struggling to make sense of their journey.
And my heart aches for Dan, for making choices that brought so much destruction. I know a bit of Dan’s story. His father was a rather vile man whose example was about as destructive as they get. His older brother raped my best friend in California while I was there. Who was there for him? Who showed him the way? What was his story? Did he first suffer at the hands of another perpetrator?
Unanswered questions. None of which, if answered, would make the wrongs right. They could only shed light on the journey, but could do nothing to bring any sense of justice to the victims.
Above all, I am proud of the bishop for taking the hard road within the culture. I know him, though not well, having had occasion to speak with him a few times. It encourages me to see men of integrity within a culture of silence, men who are willing to take a stand. I never want to overlook honouring them and acknowledging the good they do.
Whether it will be the new norm, I don’t know. Whether this means that victims will be acknowledged and helped, emotionally and spiritually, without any guilt and shame placed on them, I don’t know. I pray so. I pray this is a new standard being set, for the purpose of hope and healing through Jesus, not any other reason. Not to judge, punish or condemn. But to bring redemption, through JESUS, to the mess stuff of humanity.
Jesus came to give life, hope and freedom, and truth is the channel through which these flow. Often we, humans, are called to guide that truth, to carry it, ad to ensure it is protected and revealed. Thank God for those who do it honourably.
© Trudy Metzger
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