Behind Our Pulpits…

To everyone who submitted emails via “Behind our Pulpits” website, thank you for your emails. If you would please send an email again as there were technical issues that caused us to lose all contact information and email addresses. (Or simply forward your previous email again to: behindourpulpits (at) gmail (dot) com.

Our goal is not to bring destruction, but healing, hope and accountability. This accountability includes accountability to the laws of the land, and also includes a willingness (even preference for) working with Restorative Justice initiatives where victims voices are heard and included, and where offenders are offered support to help them overcome their addictions and remain accountable to a team of people upon release from prison.

We are not targeting ‘our people’ to destroy anyone (not even the culture), to shame anyone (not even the leaders or the culture), but to give victims who are terrified to speak out a safe place to be heard. The power under which many victims function is suffocating. And in a purity culture of silence, the shame and consequences for speaking out make it all but impossible for victims to break free and find a voice. Advised to take medications (by leaders, family and friends) while held in that silence, is deadly. The spirit dies. The soul dies. The mind goes insane. Or numb. Everything goes numb.

Medications have a place, but they are not the answer, and the number of victims barely surviving, popping pills but speaking to no one, is tragic. It is also unnecessary. If you are a victim, I encourage you to find the courage to speak out. We will support you as much as possible in helping you find the supports you need. Those who want people ‘on the inside’ (leaders and lay people in the conservative Anabaptist church) we can connect you to these leaders. We trust them, and we are confident you can too. Those who wish for support only outside of the culture, we will honour that.

But you need to know, there are conservative leaders (none on our team, as that would prove intimidating for many victims) whom we know are 100% supportive of you and who will fight for you. They are amazing, godly men and women who are real ‘Jesus people’. Yes, in their straight-cut, plain suits, and black hats, and their wives in cape dresses, white coverings and black bonnets… they are there rooting for you and fighting for you. They pray and they care. They don’t ever need to know what you are going through (nor will we disclose your info to them) but you need to know that they are among you. That is true in Ontario, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Virginia and beyond. We are not asking you to trust them, or have any interaction and (it bears repeating) we won’t leak any info to them. But you deserve to know there are those who sit in your pews who bless what we (Behind Our Pulpits team) are doing, as well as the work of Generations Unleashed. (Those who oppose and hate us are repeatedly (and eventually) often exposed for sexual sin and/or hiding it for family or friends.)

God is moving on the inside… He has heard the prayers and cries of many, many wounded and their families, and is keeping His promise in Habakkuk, that he will do a thing that we would not have believed if someone had told us. Early in ministry, a conservative Mennonite woman sent me those verses and said God showed her that in relation to our ministry to victims. I still have her note. And I still believe that God is doing just that.

To this end, I pray…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Pt 2: Religious leaders are NOT untouchable! How we can stop them…

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men,
with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong.
If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power,
increasing as the power increases.
Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
~ John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton ~

****

Victims have long been brutalized by organized religion, and have been silenced. But God…

But God…

How I love those words. But God… He is gracious. He is kind. He is loving. He is for the brokenhearted and wounded. And He is a fierce and gentle Warrior. He has no room for abuse and victimization of the vulnerable in His Kingdom. He says He will cast down the arrogant and judge those who abuse their power. Those who do and justify these things are not affiliated with His kingdom. And those who cover these sins and silence victims do not represent anything of the heart of God or the life of Christ.

While God will not hold on forever, He is patient. He is loving. He is the Redeemer. He is the Restorer. And He will give even these offenders opportunity to come clean, to bring their own sins to Light and receive His grace and forgiveness.

But God’s process will not fall in line with the constitution.

He moves in Truth, Justice and Mercy… And He is calling…

But, having deceived many, betrayed many, violated some physically and sexually, and many spiritually, it is not enough for these leaders to fall on your knees and say sorry to God while you continue lying to the public and deceiving them. That is neither repentance nor receiving God’s grace. That is self-preservation. And what abusers try to hide, God will expose… or they will accidentally expose. Most offenders, no matter how skilled, make fatal mistakes in their cover-up plans and God is using those fatal flaws to expose them.

When King David had a man killed so he could have Bath Sheba, he thought he had a pretty good ‘secret’ going on. Shameless murder and the victimization of another man’s wife by the most powerful man in the country. But God…

God sent the Prophet Nathan to expose the sin, and when the prophet spoke, King David got it about repentance. Really got it! He, as king, humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes and let the whole nation know that he had sinned. There were no justifications or excuses. Never did he blame Bath Sheba. (Who was naked, by the way, never mind dressed to constitution standards). He owned his sin so he could give it over to God, and he understood it was his duty to protect her. And that is what we need from these leaders.

God has sent “Nathan” to some of you leaders, a ‘prophet’ to confront your sin, and you have lied, rejected and further covered up your sins and crimes. But God… He will not leave it at that. He’s not done, and the empire of lies is transparent; glass smeared with blood, but there are places exposed. And you still have the opportunity to take ownership for your sins, vindicate your victims, and repent.

Enough with blaming how she dressed. When it’s a male victim, whose fault is it then? (And please not the ‘he/she is troubled line! That’s all the more responsibility on you to protect them!) Enough accusing her of lying when you know the strangle hold of power you have over her and what she had to overcome to even tell one soul. Enough of all else except personal ownership, repentance and seeking help… Let the King David humility rise up…

If you are a spiritual leader (teacher, pastor, ministry leader, boys’ ‘rehab‘ centre support staff, Sunday school teacher, or other) – no matter how conservative or how not conservative – and you have committed sexual crimes and sins, whether against a child, a teen or a woman – I am committed to helping you get the help you need. (Yes, the law will be involved, no I will not keep a secret, but my motive is not destruction and I will walk gently even with you.) You don’t have to carry this to your grave, and your victim(s) surely should not have to! The first email I received from a pastor who had offended early in his life, came unsolicited in 2011 or 2012 from out of country. It was so shocking I fell to my knees and wept, and prayed for him and his victim, and prayed for wisdom. I then coached him through appropriate steps to take. I can tell you this, if you come forward and deal with your sins properly, which includes not covering for yourself or making excuses, you will fare much better than if it gets reported, whether by one, or a hundred and one victims. While I don’t expect a flood of these emails, I welcome them. Send an email here or visit this link and fill in the form: Pastors & Leaders Self-Reporting Sex Offences.

If you are a victim of sex crimes, molestation and abuse at the hands of a church leader or ministry leader in a conservative Anabaptist church, and you feel voiceless, I (and others with me) are committed to supporting you in finding the help you need. I am not a counsellor, and as a mentor I have limited time available, but there are people who can help you. I am committed to supporting as many of you as possible in finding your voice and offering you a place to expose your leaders without your names being made public, and helping you find the support you need. If numerous allegations come against a particular person, you will be contacted to ask if you are willing to have allegations investigated. Your name will not be forwarded to anyone without your consent to do so. If you wish to connect and share your story, please visit this link: I Was Abused By An Anabaptist Church Leader, Teacher or Ministry Worker and fill out the form. (Ministry workers includes any staff at any Anabaptist organizations, whether missions, residential facilities where offenders are sent, schools, Bible schools and all religiously affiliated organizations, whether male or female. I know this is a problem in those organizations). If information submitted is unclear, or vital details are missing, you will be contacted for clarification. You will also be contacted to see ask what support you most need, and we will do our best to connect you with the appropriate people and resources for healing.

If you are a counsellor, police officer, or social worker – or any other professional –  wiling to be a resource for victims and/or offenders and are committed to confidentiality (except in the case of crime, risk to self or others, or involving minors), and if you are willing to serve conservative Anabaptist people, please scroll down to the ‘Contact Us’ section of this link: BehindOurPulpits. Before being connected with victims or offenders, to volunteer or offer counseling, someone will check your credentials, and you will need to go through an interview process before you are recommended to these exceptionally vulnerable victims.

As the magnitude of the problem looms before me, I am hopeful that some will do the right thing, and expose their own crimes and face consequences. I am also hopeful that as leaders rise up within who will be like Esther, and as more and more victims come forward and find a voice, those who have hidden behind their facades and the pulpit, will be crowded out of leadership roles by their own sins. As this happens, more and more godly leaders will rise up in their places. And I am deeply hopeful that as a result many victims will find healing, and offenders will find help for their addictions, forgiveness for theirs sins, and face the consequences of their crimes without excuse.

To this end I pray…

****

DISCLAIMER: This idea was birthed (and discussed publicly) in 2016, through my work with victims through Generations Unleashed and the growing awareness that leaders victimizing their ‘flock’ and denying allegations is too common, leaving the victims with no voice. The information collected will be used to offer support to victims and connect them to resources, to hold offenders accountable, and to work in cooperation with law enforcement as required. The data will not be publicized or used for any other purposes, research or otherwise, without the explicit consent of contributors. All cases involving minors will immediately be turned over to appropriate authorities.

NOTE: I apologize that active support needs to be limited to my conservative Anabaptist culture. There are unique dynamics we deal with as victims in these cultures, and it is the area to which I am called and where I have most connections and am most equipped to help. That said, I welcome your messages, no matter who you are or where you are from, and will do what I can, but cannot commit to helping everyone find resources and support.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Of Elephants, Loud Speakers, And Thank God for the Mullet Family

So help me God, if I don’t say things I am supposed to keep to myself… Not confidential client things, but other things… Things that my inner being says should not be silent, and yet there sitteth a large and smothering creature on me…

elephant

****

It arrived in my FB inbox, had I seen the Mullet’s blog? I had not, and then I had. I felt something rise inside of me – a feeling, a real true deep feeling – and not a happy one. I felt angry. There are things that make me ‘angry’, in the sense of knowing they are wrong, but even as I say that it ‘makes me angry’, I realize it is a ‘knowing the wrongnesss’, not a feeling. Well, tonight I felt it.

The author expresses deep anger – and I don’t know which party wrote it, because the whole thing never did load for me, and if the author signed it, I couldn’t see it. But whoever it was, sounded kind of ‘hoppin’ mad’ as we used to say. Like, some righteous indignation had found it’s way out, and there was no holding back. And as a reader, I felt their anger. Not as my own anger, but as their anger. Oddly, that part made me feel good. They were angry, and not afraid to say it.

Finally. Someone all Christian, and nice and put together. Not to mention  from my Anabaptist background. Finally, one of them tackling this whole thing of sexual abuse and cover up in the church with passion. There comes a certain satisfaction when I’ve been more less silent for a long time, and such a thing happens, because it feels like ‘they’re getting it’ on the inside, and not just the victims who can’t hold their (you know what) together. It’s the other talking – the one in the spotlight, one of the ‘stars’ if you please. (Can we have a hallelujah? Thank you very much!)

Even as I read that blog and felt a certain relief, I started to feel angry. Not their anger. But my anger. And it wasn’t anger at sexual abuse. It wasn’t even anger at the church’s mishandling of it, which was the tone of their blog, and put into their words what I’ve said for years. (And, no doubt they have known for years). This anger came from the realization that if a victim was that honest, they’d get labeled. I’d get labeled. (Actually, even without the anger, I am labeled. Behold, I careth not.) We would be bitter, unforgiving, have issues, not healed…

There is something brutally wrong with that picture. I have spent the past two falls and winters (meaning this present winter as the second) studying and investing in learning, preparing myself to make a bigger difference. People at university have listened. They have cared. They have encouraged me, launched me further. They have cared for and fought for victims… I am not two weeks into working with the ‘church’, and already am asking myself how I used to survive that part of it…  Working with clients is not the hard part. Watching the other religious stuff… that’s what wears a soul down.

There is something backwards about that. Or at least lopsided

Thank God people are rising up to acknowledge all this abuse carefully hidden. That’s long over due. But seriously, shaming and silencing victims, telling them they are reacting? And then applauding others when they explode? Encouraging fellow ministries while shaming those who actually lived the hell? The fault is not on those who do what Mullets did. But it does expose the bigger problem, and one of the horrible roots of this thing: Victims have no voice. I am one of the fortunate few who refuses to be silenced. I am one of those who has chosen to stay in a faith-based community, continue to fight for a relationship with God, and choose not to be stopped by those who stick out their feet to trip me, or try to put duct tape over my mouth. On that front I am incredibly fortunate.

But all around are victims who are silenced by the church. By ministries. By Christians. The previous generation hid their sins. No one talked about it then, and by pushing it way far away in the memory, many left a string of victims in their wake. They went on to do quite well, many of them, while the victims got lost in their pain. Then they turned around and silenced the cries of the victims because they reminded them of their own sins, and they refused to face that truth. Because that truth is too overwhelming.

Never mind that the victim cuts to feel anything at all, or to numb the overwhelming pain. And drinks too much alcohol. And does drugs. And hates God. And the abuser for robbing her…  Spiritually starving, she shrivels in the cold of church, without cover… and is scolded for lying naked and not eating, while the abusers grow fat and rich.

It ought not so to be. So tonight, I’m angry. Angry that victims are silenced, over and over and over again.

And I’m thankful. So very thankful that the Mullets are speaking out. I don’t know them, so this is not an endorsement of them or their ministry. (Anymore I feel like I have to throw in a disclaimer. Thank you, Andy Savage, et al., for making that necessary by hiding your sins behind the pulpit.)  But because they dared to show feeling and anger, I trust their motives. There’s little religious whitewashing in what they have to say. (Thank you for that! You give me hope. You can read their blog here.)

So I’m angry and thankful, and a whole lot sad. With a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe…  One day victims will be heard in church, if enough of the compassionate ones, and especially those with power, start shouting for them…

loud speaker

As for the Mullet’s friends’ case, I hope it is dealt with, and the victims are not blamed. There is an uncanny ability in the church to manipulate the law. (Read Shonda and Concealment by Michael Lesher). But there is hope, even on that front. There are law enforcement officials across USA who are starting to see it, and they are finding one another. As that number grows, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Tonight in spite of the frustration… And as always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Why can’t you shut up about sexual abuse and get a life?

That question. Why can’t I just shut up? I’ve been asked this question in various forms over the past several years, by a variety of people. I’ve been unfriended (both in the real world and on FB) because I won’t shut up. One woman, a victim herself, who claims it’s had no impact on her and “it’s not a big deal” had a most condescending way of telling me to give it up already and find something better to do with my life.

Here’s the thing. With my personality, my nature, or the way I was trained – (I don’t always know where the ‘born this way’ starts or ends, and where the ‘trained this way’ picks up) – but in any case I would rather shut up. Yes, you heard me. I would rather shut up and pretend that sexual abuse isn’t an epidemic. And I’d especially like to pretend it isn’t in churches and faith communities. But it is. And I can’t.

In part I’d like to shut up because it’s not a fun way to spend my life. And I like fun. I love laughter and doing fun things. And I’d rather do them all the time than to even once get my hands bloody and feet dirty in the messy world of sexual violence against children. I’d rather plant flowers and manicure my lawn and sit in my flower garden and sip coffee, tea and water all day long in frivolous conversation with happy people. (Okay…stroke the ‘frivolous conversation’ bit. I don’t enjoy that.) And eat fruit. Because in The Garden it was supposed to be that peaceful and nice. But we don’t live in that Garden and hell has invaded our worlds in ways our first parents never imagined when they took that bite.

So the thought of sitting in a garden chattering with friends, laughing and playing games is appealing. Not gonna lie. No one would threaten to sue me.  No one would hate me. Everybody would love me. If all I did was sit in a garden with friends and never spoke another word of confrontation about sexual abuse and the agenda to cover up. Okay, they might hate me if I was super rich and if it was only an elitist group welcome in my garden. But if all were welcome and I simply served biscuits, treats and drinks, no one would hate me. Except maybe those who hate everyone and are always jealous. But mostly I would be loved. And that is my bottom line, based on my personality and who I am: I like to be loved and accepted. I am born for that. I am conditioned for it. Follow the rules. Don’t stir the water. Love everyone, and be loved back generously.

But I can’t shut up. And I can’t because every day children are conceived. Every day they are born. And every day they are molested, raped, brutalized and used. And every day I am aware that at any given moment, if I pause, a child enters the world, somewhere. And in that same moment another is being raped or molested in some way. And in that same moment an abuser, a church leader, a parent… someone, somewhere, is denying the horror that child lives. I cannot ‘un-know’ these things. They are as real to me as the breath I breathe.

But the real reason I cannot shut up is because I know there is hope for that child in spite of all that darkness and hell and trauma. And if just one child (whether an adult or still a child) hears that someone, somewhere is willing to fight for the truth and their hearts, then defying everything my heart longs for (peace, no conflict, Garden-kind-of-innocence, and to be loved by all) is worth it. Because that child might not commit suicide. That child might find the courage to heal and get help. And that child might not grow up to molest others, if that child knows that their story matters to someone.

So, go ahead, ask me if I can’t just get over it already, or move on or get a life. But first dare to picture the graphic truth of a toddler (male or female) being raped, an adult body forcing inside, and that adult getting away with it as a “member in good standing” because he said he is sorry. (Now recreate with a female offender). Too graphic? This is the reality of many children so we as adults better be able to handle it if we demand they live with it.

If you can physically step over that toddler, spirit torn and flesh bleeding, and keep on walking and literally ‘get over it’…. then send me your challenge to get over it and move on. But I can’t. And I won’t. Because I have ‘seen’ those little bodies left to bleed… I have seen them in the broken lives of struggling adults. I will continue to pick up those little bodies, wipe up the blood and bodily fluids that have left forever stains in their spirits – stains which remain, fluids which continue to spill, and blood which continues to flow from those scars for decades. And I will speak the love of Jesus over them, tell them who they really are and what they are worth. And I will confront boldly the dark sins hiding in our communities.

Because Jesus would. And He would say a whole lot more than I have courage or boldness or words for. And it wouldn’t be laced with an ounce of self-preservation or fear or wanting to be liked.

Matthew 18:6-9.

I invite you to speak up. Educate yourself about the truth. And fight for the lost children, stripped of innocence, and born into the silent sex-trade of what we call church and faith community.

Rise up. Join in transforming our communities so children are safe and offenders are called out and held responsible. Together we will create an environment where image means nothing and truth means everything. We need you. Even if the only ‘speaking out’ and ‘fighting for’ you can muster is on your knees in your room. The children need you.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2017

A Conference for Sex Abuse Victims With The Anabaptist, the Baptist, and Me

God willing and the crick don’t rise, on May 19 – 20 we plan to do a conference at Erb Mennonite church, Lititz PA, for survivors of sexual abuse, as well as those who offer support. This includes pastors, teachers, friends, family, mentors and anyone who wishes to offer understanding.

poster

Some years ago, when going through a particularly dark time in dealing with the abuses in my past – the sexual, physical and spiritual abuse – I cried out to God, as I have often done over the years. I don’t expect God to write on the wall, take away my grief or pain, or even say a whole lot in those moments. It’s mostly just a trusted place where I release my heart and know I will not be brushed aside, judged or disregarded; He always listens and always loves me just the same. But somewhere in that time He whispered something to me. And I just knew it was Him, and I just knew it would happen. Deeper healing would come from the place of my suffering, but the ‘how’ of it was not revealed. I shared it with Tim, a bit hesitantly. I didn’t know what it meant, but believed someone from ‘within’ would play a role in that healing and acknowledge that the problem is real. I didn’t hold my breath, but I held on to hope, knowing such a thing would have significant impact on many.

Being told it doesn’t happen or isn’t so bad, thus downplaying the impact of sexual violence, adds to trauma while also escalating the problem. And maybe it is the latter that makes it the denial so hard; we who were once victims know it continues and there’s no way to stop it from happening to other children. That thought torments us. So for someone within my culture to boldly acknowledge the problem, without excusing the offender, minimizing the trauma, or blaming victims, would have been enough. But what happened was so much better.

The note came at a difficult time. The challenge of helping victims is wearing, because exposing it disrupts people and systems, and anger is directed at those trying to help. And exposing the darkness is particularly exhausting when I’d rather be friends with everyone and believe there isn’t any evil in religious cultures. The fatigue of that resistance had set in when the note came from a conservative Anabaptist lay pastor; a simple apology for the attacks on our ministry, and on me as a person, simply for following God’s call, a thank you for daring to follow that call, and then speaking into that calling and affirming it.  I was overwhelmed.

Weeks earlier someone shared an incident where they heard a leader in our local community speak evil of me and our ministry. Because they are a couple I held in high regard, I contacted them and asked to meet and try to come to an understanding. They declined and till all was said and done, I felt inadequate and genuinely believed maybe God was telling me to walk away from my calling, that I was unqualified.  On the heels of this, I was astounded to receive the random note of encouragement, apology and blessing from the conservative Anabaptist leader. He even included the very verses God used many years ago to define my calling; verses which are documented and engraved in every phase of this ministry, and which always seem to resurface from random places when something is at stake.

That conservative Anabaptist leader was Kenny Kuhns.

Some time later, when I heard Kenny speak, I wept. Hearing a leader from ‘among my people’ speak such life and hope into the harsh reality of my past, and the past of every survivor of sexual violence in a religious setting, deeply moved me and gave me hope. For a second time, God used Kenny to bring deeper healing into my own experience. I’ve been in ministry a long time, and sometimes people ask if the past ever causes struggle. The answer? Of course it does. From time to time, something triggers the trauma. While this ever less frequent, the truth is that humans have moments when we are confronted with the past, and we must grieve, or run. I used to run. Where there is grief and pain, there is a need for healing, and that is something we need never be ashamed to admit, no matter how long we are in ministry, or how ‘healed’ we become. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is enough for me, and the power of the past is broken. I am not a victim. And I believe just as confidently that He sends representatives to unveil His love in new ways to bring deeper healing when needed.

After seeing Kenny’s heart, we invited him and Irma to join us at our upcoming conference at Erb Mennonite church in Lititz, to speak to the victims as a ‘voice from within’ who understands both the magnitude of sexual abuse in our culture and the cost to those who were victimized. Having worked with survivors for many years, he sees the damage done, but also sees the potential, the place for hope, and the power of Christ to restore and renew. His compassion for survivors serves as a life-line for those often misunderstood and unheard in churches, as he acknowledges the deep suffering. But he doesn’t leave us in our suffering; he honours the hard spiritual battles we fight and acknowledges speaks the life and hope of Jesus into that darkness.

We’ve also invited Pastor Dale and Faith Ingraham from New York to join us again. We’ve had the privilege of working with them numerous times in the past five years, and are always blessed and encouraged. Faith’s story of overcoming abuse at the hands of her father, also a Baptist pastor, while painful, is also a story of resilience, courage and faith. Their heart for the wounded is as genuine as any I’ve encountered, and the gentle message of hope God has given them, brings healing and life.

We are honoured to partner with Kenny and Irma Kuhns for the first time, and especially thankful for the long-term support and friendship of Dale and Faith Ingraham. We look forward to what God will do. It’s going to be good!

red brochure front

red brochure inside

All are welcome to attend. We acknowledge sexual abuse, however, what we focus on and talk about is God’s love, His grace and His redemption; that is something we all need. Registration is by donation until May 5. After May 5 it is $65. Refreshments and a noon meal will be provided on Saturday May 20, but attendees must preregister for this. This is to make meal planning possible, and avoid last minute stress for the organizing team. Register online: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events or by snail mail to: Generations Unleashed 15 Coral Gables Crescent, Elmira Ontario N3B 3P4.

For further information, call Dave Miller at: 519-669-3126.

Love,
~ T ~

Ps. Because of the unusual nature of this conference, in that we have invited a conservative Anabaptist leader to come speak, we are aware this may stir up questions, concerns and even fears for some who have suffered abuse at the hands of leaders within the culture, whether spiritually, sexually or otherwise. We acknowledge this risk and are open to questions, concerns and addressing those fears. Please feel free to contact any of our speaking team at:
Trudy: trudy@generationsunleashed.com
Kenny: kenkuhns@nls.net
Dale & Faith Ingraham: dfingraham@speakingtruthinlove.org

Manipulations, Rare Confessions, Horrific Stories and Freedom to Worship

[Trigger Warning]

There isn’t much that worship can’t soothe in my spirit, in the day to day. The key and the challenge is to be diligent in setting aside time for intentional worship in the chaos of this thing we call life, which can quickly feel more like a slow and painful death if we’re not careful. Especially for people in ministry, whether pastors or other ministries. There is something spiritually and emotionally draining about ministry, apart from taking time to refuel and ‘drinking deep’ from the well of God’s love, whether through worship music, meditation and prayer, or reading truth.

Hearing horrific stories of child rape, or watching adults weep or go into shock to the point of physically going pale and clammy, as they recall someone forcing themselves or some harsh object inside of them, tends to wear on the soul. In the past year I’ve heard so many of these tragedies it leaves my head reeling, and my heart aching…. though, in honesty, something of my ability to ‘feel’ was destroyed in childhood, so it is usually more of a ‘factual’ pain, than a feeling one. That is, until it is incorporated into art or music… there, and in God’s presence or Tim’s arms, I am able to feel pain. Rarely any other place. But back on track…

In recounting details with a local police officer regarding the third or fourth case involving forcing objects inside children or youth, the officer looked at me and said, “Yeah… what’s with that about forcing objects inside kids? That’s just crazy!” I couldn’t agree more. It’s insane, actually. And I realized when he asked, that this and molestation is the horror I listen to or deal with, in one form or another, almost daily. And when it gets too much, or hopefully before it does, I escape into a place of worship, filling my heart with a truth greater than the wickedness all around. If I didn’t do that, I would burn out relatively quickly.

And I’m not alone in the intentional battle against burnout. While painful to hear, I’ve listened to pastors confess the struggle that goes with their role. I’ve heard the admission that sometimes it seems atheists are more at peace with life than believers, and live to the fullest with greater kindness than those in the Body of Christ. I’ve listened as they told how difficult it is to be attacked or back-stabbed by their congregants. While that is not something I am familiar with, since I have no congregation, my imagination works well enough to know it would be hard; much harder than ‘distant’ attacks from those who oppose what I do, I imagine.

That is one of the things that has given me the courage to press forward in ministry, knowing the deep appreciation of clients. At least most of them, and most of the time. I’ve been very blessed with good outcomes in working with clients, walking them through to healing and developing longterm relationships. In five years of 1:1 ministry, most clients continue to keep in touch from time to time, letting me know how they are, and sharing struggles and victories from time to time. In fact, only one case has truly gone wrong, either due to sincere misunderstanding or blatant lies–and I am uncertain which–and it is the one case that made me realize how blessed I am that attacks are virtually never part of my life, with clients. (Attacks from strangers, or from ‘friends’ behind my back, and attacks on our ministry  don’t bother me much any more. They’re par for the course.) Nonetheless, initially it is jolting to be thrown into a world of unfamiliar accusations and it can feel like God has let you get hung out to dry… Giving 12 hours in one day, and extra time and expense over a period of time, all pro bono, to the person who ends up stabbing you in the back is disheartening.  And in that moment, questioning why I would continue, the thing that carries me through is the knowledge that God knows the truth… that God sees all our hearts–not only mine, not only theirs, but everyone of us… And, again, my heart is drawn to healing worship and I am refreshed.

****

In contrast with the ‘fatigue’ of fighting against the darkness so often covered up, a man spills his story without being confronted, and tells how as a teen he molested numerous children. We end the conversation and of his own accord, as I prepare to leave, he says he would like to talk to a police officer.

“Are you sure you want to do this? What if he has to charge you?” I ask, feeling a sense of duty to let him know the potential consequences, and to see if that changes his mind. “I thought about that before I said anything,” he continues. I tell him I will talk with an officer, and get a time set up and other details if that is what he wants. “If it takes making an example of me to stop this, then I am willing,” he says. And with that we part ways. A day later I have a time, and all the details of what this will look like. He responds with the admission that it looks pretty scary and overwhelming, and I tell him it is up to him. I don’t have enough information to do anything; it’s entirely up to him. He asks for a night to contemplate it.

canstockphoto10785757 (1)

The next morning, first thing, a text comes through saying he wants to proceed. And with that it’s a plan. As I type out the message to the officer, tears flow generously. I realize the man is not one of the ones who is a greatest threat to our community. He came forward of his own free will and asked for the police without so much as a hint of it from me. And through the tears, I worship a God who sees hearts and understands my struggle with knowing that many hide vicious crimes while a rare contrite soul exposes wickedness out of a desire for truth and freedom. And that one chooses to pay the price publicly, if that’s what it takes, to help end the epidemic.

****

Ah worship… it makes ‘right’ a world all wrong. It’s necessary to worship when the heavy stuff of life lands on us like a bucket load of bricks… or worse. It’s easy to worship when things are good. But when we sacrifice and are met with not so much as a passing thank you, but rather an attack, worship is critical. Drinking the toxic sludge of lies, rumours, manipulations and growing bitter quickly sucks the life out of us, so that we have nothing to give. And when the darkness hides in the crevices of Christian cloaks, it is worship that turns my heart back to my Heavenly Papa, and I am again lost in love, clothed in righteousness that is not mine.

So tonight I bask in the wonder of the ove of Jesus, who died to give me life… who died to give life for the one who comes back to say ‘thank you’… and for the one who manipulates and takes for granted sacrifices made on their behalf. He understands each of us with equal affection, and grants extravagant grace for our various struggles and burdens. And suddenly I realize that I have no enemies, only brothers and sister with pain, struggling through their story. And I pray that Jesus will meet each one in the place of their battle, and lift up the weary hearts and breathe life into us, every one, so that His purposes are fulfilled in us.

With confidence I move forward because Jesus didn’t stay trapped in a grave: Christ is Risen from the Dead, and that gives me hope for every one of us. Deep, eternal hope.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

A “Spotlight”, the Police & the Church

~  Strong trees are felled, with patient, persistent chipping. Little by little…  ~

On my way to an appointment today, I mulled over in my head what a local police officer shared with me on Friday; a project he is working on to create awareness of sexual abuse, and also give victims and offenders resources to get the help and support they need. As I processed this, on my drive, I started choking up quite unexpectedly… then the tears fell… then they poured…
With only minutes to go before my meeting, I tried to pull myself together, wondering what was wrong with me to fall apart over that. As I analyzed what was going on in my heart and mind, to unravel me like that, it hit me: I met twice with the local police–once with only one constable, and once with a team including the director of an organization that helps victims–and the action started, people wanting to make a difference. By this past Friday, less than six weeks after that second meeting, the officer shared what action he is working on to make a difference in our community.
 Before parting ways, he told me to go home and watch “Spotlight” with Tim, and to make sure I have a box of Kleenex handy. He  didn’t tell me what it was about, but assured me I would be glad we watched it. So on Friday night that’s what we did. Tim found it on Google Play, rented it for 4.99 (that’s roughly 3.5o for my American friends), curled up on the couch and watched it. I shed a few tears throughout, but less than I had expected. To see a group of people rise up and say ‘enough is enough’ in regards to sexual abuse and religious cover up was touching, but the intensity was almost too much to take in; my mind could hardly absorb the fact that this was a true story, and these non-victims developed such a powerful sense of justice and compassion that they were compelled to act. The main story was far too familiar… (Every Christian should watch this, even those for whom it is against ‘the ordnung’. Repent after, if you must.)

spotlight

My weekend was too busy to absorb or analyze it all, but this morning when I came unraveled, I knew why…

“We are heard. Our suffering has been acknowledged.”

It took only a few meetings with the police to have them ‘rise up’. (Much like the employees at the Boston Globe, in Spotlight.) In my first meeting I felt truly heard about the need to do something. Anything. I’d rather do it wrong, trying to do it right, than to do nothing at all. So we sat there and brainstormed, the constable and I. And that started the ball rolling. The next meeting they asked for my story, and I sat there with an audience of four, and spilled it out, bit by painful bit, for two hours, asking questions, and answering questions. Speaking from my heart in a way that felt terrifying, yet safe. And then the commander and sergeant of the Major Case Unit each offered a heartfelt thank you, acknowledging the courage it must take to do that…

 Two meetings with the police, resulting in redemptive, informative and healing action. Only two meetings…

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 And that created a sense of thankfulness, but also a struggle. Because there was no resistance, no fighting against, only compassion and support, when in churches, there is still so much resistance….

****

 I sat in a pastor’s office and admitted that I wasn’t sure I could keep doing the whole ‘church thing’. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I could keep believing in God. If He and so many of His people–leaders in particular–apparently cared not one iota for the lost children, whose lives were wrecked by molestation in the church, then it seemed there was no place for me in His Kingdom.

 Pastor Gord Martin listened compassionately, and then encouraged me to connect with others who share a similar vision, if not the same one. If I didn’t find that support, he said, my fears would easily become a reality; I would turn my back on my faith, because the fight against abuse is intense, and having support critical. That was a few years ago.

 I now have a solid group of people praying for our ministry and a handful who offer support in various ways. It’s still mostly hard slogging, with a few leaders who really seem to ‘get it’ about the magnitude of the problem and the need to do more. But there are a few, and that’s worth a lot. It will take time for the silence of the church to lose its power, and for the broader church to take action in a meaningful way.  I pray the day will come, and believe it will.

On that bright note…

 In conversation with Pastor Blake from Westpointe Church Grand Rapids Michigan, he asked what I would share with their church, on Sunday March 20. I was thinking about ‘Radical love and Reckless Grace’, I said. There was a short pause before he said, “I thought you might talk about sexual abuse…” I told him I don’t do that on a Sunday morning unless specifically asked. Without skipping a beat he said he would like if I did. “It needs to be talked about,” he said. I was taken off guard, but encouraged that a pastor would not only welcome opening that can of worms in church, but actually ask for it.

To Pastor Blake, Pastor Gord, and other pastors  and leaders who have heard with compassion, and those who have fought for victims, Thank you.We have a ways to go, as the church, but we’re making progress. That death-grip of silence and shame is being shattered, little by little.

 We will keep chipping…

Love,

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Part 2: Criminal or Saint? (Confronting Child Molesters)

What about Reporting to the Law?
As a believer I am asked how I can endorse going to the law with a fellow believer. Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 6 make it clear that ‘brother is not to go to the law against brother’?

To this I ask, Does 1 Timothy 1:9 not make it clear that the law is in place for the lawbreaker/lawless? Also, is child molestation not one of the most lawless acts a human can commit?

And for good measure let’s jump to a well-worn passage, in Romans 13 (KJV…just because), and read it in the context of obeying the law, including when the law requires us to report crimes. While this if often used to draw compliance from church members, it refers specifically to ‘sword bearers’, therefore hopefully isn’t talking about pastors and church leadership. I mostly avoid attending churches where the pastor carries a weapon.

Romans 13:1-5

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

It seems to me that we’ve gone cherry picking if we blithely toss 1 Corinthians 6 out there to guilt fellow Christians in reporting to the law. It is an agenda-driven-doctrine/belief to make such a thing a sin. Especially when some of the very people who fight against such a thing turn around and use it for financial gain and sue a fellow brother in a business deal gone awry. In essence that sends the message that we are willing to sacrifice our daughters and sons, but not our money. But that’s another topic for another day.

All that said, I can count on one hand–without using my fingers twice–the number of times I’ve gone to the law with cases in our ministry, and of two of those times it has been to support someone reporting, not to file an actual report. (Sorry to blow holes in the theory that I have only one goal: to put Mennonites in prison.) The reporting numbers are not low because I am against going to the law, but rather that clients are most often no longer minors, and it is out of my court. When victims are over 16 in Ontario it is utterly useless to file a report to F&CS (Family & Children Services) or the police. If I call F&CS, I am told it needs to be reported to police, and whenever I have called the policed, they have asked if the victim is filing a report. When I’ve answer that they are not, then they’ve told me there is nothing that can be done. And they are right.

Internationally I have made one report, and that was not about molestation but a homicide/suicide threat. While it was investigated, the officer pretty much snarked me off for bothering to call from Canada about it. (Okay then! Just trying to save a life in my spare time.) In several other cases I have made myself available to answer questions for police or social workers, and in two cases I shared details of crimes with a US citizen local to the crimes, and left it to them whether it was ‘reportable’ or not. Sometimes I receive updates and hear the outcomes, other times I hear nothing. When I have done my duty to the best of my ability, before God and man, I leave it in the hands of those responsible, and spend little time worrying about it or checking up.

Child Molesters in Church: Are they Criminals or Saints?
I’m not God, so I shall refrain from passing judgment. Whether a person is ‘right with God’ or not, or ‘saved and born again’ or not is none of my business, in the context of judging. But I know with certainty that God doesn’t look lightly on the violation of children. Consistently through scripture it is clear that sexual sin has consequences unlike other sins. From Old Testament consequences–take the group of men who were slaughtered after Dinah was violated–to Paul’s words in the New Testament (ironically also in 1 Corinthians 6) about it being the one sin against the body, and a sin that ‘joins Christ with a prostitute’ (v.15) when those who profess Christ engage in prostitution. And Matthew 18 offers harsh judgment for those who ‘offend’ children.

The grace of Jesus is big enough for every sin. There isn’t a doubt in my mind about that. But the grace of Jesus doesn’t wipe away all consequences. It never has. It never will. I’ve volunteered at our local Federal women’s prison (Grand Valley Institute) long enough to hear some amazing stories of grace, but the women remained behind bars. A woman who murdered her husband never saw another day of freedom outside those prison walls from the time of her arrest, until the day of her death, but she was free on the inside. (She died during my time volunteering). She is one of countless stories behind those walls, of people for whom Jesus died, and for whom God’s grace was enough, but for whom the consequences remained.

The consequences for those who molest children (thereby ‘murdering’ the soul of the child) should not be overlooked, and the consequences for these crimes not be neglected. (Whatever those consequences ought to be, which also is not my call to make.)

Does Prison Change the Offender?
In December I was invited to our local police station to meet with an officer and discuss the problem of crime in the Mennonite and Amish communities. At one point he leaned back in his chair and commented that he pictures taking them and booking them, “20 at a time” and then going back for the next 20. “What do you think?” he asked.

“Well sir,” I said, “we both know that wouldn’t work, don’t we?”

His shoulders sagged a little, he leaned forward, and said, “Yeah… so what do we do?”

We spent over an hour talking, brainstorming and exploring thoughts and ideas. We agreed to meet again after Christmas, and explore further possibilities. That meeting took place January 11, 2016. Several Staff Sergeants were present–including from the Major Case Unit–as well as the director of an assault treatment centre. In the end we all concluded, without exception, that there must be a way to help without pushing the crimes further underground in the church, thus creating an environment that will breed the problems, and create more victims in the next generation. At the same time they confirmed what we all know, that any cases that come forward must be dealt with according to the law.

What is the Solution to the Problem of Molestation in Closed Communities?
In the meeting on January 11, I presented some thoughts and ideas I’ve been brainstorming about for about 2 years, of ways that could help deal with past and present crimes, while focusing on protecting the next generation. These were the ideas I had run by the other officer in December, and in our brainstorming together, the ideas had morphed into an outline of a plan that would potentially make a dramatic impact for future generations.

It is unclear if such a plan is possible–now or in the future–but at least we’ve started the conversation. In the near future I plan to meet with several other senior team members from the assault treatment centre, to see how we can collaborate in the ‘here and now’.

The prospect of pursuing options that could potentially impact the generations to come is far more important to me than any longing for personal justice, for which I have no desire any more. I support the law, and work with the law, and believe firmly that there ought to be consequences for these crimes. But the hard reality is that seeking justice for past and present crimes is a reactive approach–which is currently necessary–when we so desperately need a proactive approach. And, in particular, we need a new approach in closed communities that have their own ‘internal laws’ and ‘justice systems’, so that the use of ‘the law’ doesn’t inadvertently push the crimes further underground.

This is true of Amish and Mennonites, and it is also true of Muslims and other ‘closed communities’. No, they should not get to make up their laws and have a double standard. What is offered to them should be offered across the board, but whatever the ‘justice system’ of the land is, it needs to become a partnership between the law and closed communities to work against crime, while not allowing closed communities to circumvent the law, or define it. Such a thing would create chaos. One extreme would let them all off the hook with a quick ‘I’m sorry’, and victims would be entirely overlooked and neglected, while the other extreme would stone them to death…. possibly both victim and perpetrator.

There is a better way. There has to be. And I am out to find it, and then do whatever it takes to fight for it. I will fight for the freedom of the children of tomorrow, and for ‘my people’… whether they like it or not.

On that note and to that end, God willing and if University of Waterloo accepts me–which I am fully counting on, I will start the Master Peace & Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College this fall. If I’m super lucky, I will be accepted without a qualifying term. We will wait and see.

Either way, I press forward and if I trip and fall a few times, I do. I will get right back up and press on. This issue needs a few warriors, and I am committed, by the grace of God, to be one who blazes trails.

And if I’m little old Granny Gertrude walking with a cane, and with gnarled little fingers for counting on, before I get there, then so be it. One thing my tombstone won’t say is that I didn’t try…

 

Love,+
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Criminal or Saint? (Confronting Child Molesters, Part 1

Over the years of our ministry with sexual abuse victims, there are a host of questions that have been asked by numerous people trying to understand the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of the way in which we handle meetings where a victim addresses his/her abuser. And the questions that have come to us are good ones; the answers to which are worthy of mention.

The Parachute Approach
The first question I will address is in regards to ‘springing surprises’ on the alleged offender when we go to confront. To some, it seems harsh to ‘parachute in’ out of the blue, so to speak, into the life of the alleged offender–typically accompanied by the victim–to address past molestation. To others it seems dangerous. Others are just curious as to our thought process or motivations.

The main reason we simply ‘show up’ and start talking, in most cases, is because of lies and deception we come up against. I don’t feel at all compelled to give the devil time to organize himself with that darkness. By going in, we get spontaneous responses, and when I compare with times we’ve given ‘a heads up’, the meetings are far more effective. Besides the lies and deception, there is this desperate need for abusers to try to overpower the mind of their victims, rather than take ownership. Giving them time to prepare attacks is entirely counterproductive.

The Opportunity
First things first, I typically ask the person being confronted if they know what I do, and if not, I explain. I follow this up with asking if they know why we are there, given the work I do. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t. And, sometimes when they know why, they make excuses before we ever get into the confrontation.

(Details shared by permission) In an effort to declare innocence, one man immediately said he knew why we had come, then followed this up with, “…but it wasn’t sexual.”

Hmmm… Such a quick defense, before any allegations were ever made.

“Yes, it was sexual,”  I said.

“No, it wasn’t,” he repeated. We continued with this little ‘yes/no’ routine about three times, at which point I tired of it and an idea popped in my head… There were several gentlemen present, including my husband, a ‘witness’ from the offender’s church, and the husband of the victim.

“Well” I said, “then I suppose you wouldn’t mind if these men did to your wife what you did to that young girl?”

“Okay… okay… it was sexual…” he said.

With that settled,  we moved forward. Almost immediately he broke down weeping and before long started asking for forgiveness, asking the husband of the victim to relay his apology to his wife. That would have been a convincing repentance, had it not been undone a few weeks or months later, when the church leaders asked the victim to not shop in the town where the offender shops, because it makes it too hard for the offender when he has to see her.

I. See.  …!

That’s one outcome.

More often the alleged offenders have no idea why we are there, and claim to have no memories, which (for the most part) I believe. They have forced those memories so deep, and blocked any sense of ownership, that they really don’t ‘remember’. In these situations I start with telling some of the scenes in graphic and horrific details, with the victim’s permission, and in the victim’s presence. When the ‘telling’ gets too painful, memories suddenly start coming back.

In one of the very earliest confrontations, some years ago, as the memories started returning, the individual started with, “but it was mutual”. To this I pointed out the age gap–also something I’ve had to do more than once–and made it clear that ownership doesn’t fall on the victim. At once the ‘repentance’ started, and asking for forgiveness, followed immediately by challenging the victim with what would have happened to her soul, if she had died knowing this sin and not having followed Matthew 18…

That was interrupted quite abruptly by yours truly, putting an end to such nonsense and re-victimization.

Responses are as different as the individuals being confronted, and there are no cookie cutter confrontations or responses. But always it is intended as an opportunity for the offender to come clean, and admit to the crimes committed, and take ownership.

Reclaiming Victim’s Voice
One of the things we hope to accomplish in that painful moment when a victim stands before their abuser, is for the victim to reclaim his/her voice. When a child is molested, the offender overpowers the victim physically, sexually and mentally. (And that doesn’t even touch the spiritual impact that takes place when the offender professes faith in Christ… that’s another power altogether, though intertwined with the former.) Furthermore, victims are often told to not speak of it, and some are even threatened should they choose to defy the abuser. In that overpowering, the victim’s voice is either ignored or never heard, and that disrespect and violation follows them through life. Until…

When the victim stands before the offender and says what is on his/her heart, it breaks something of that power. Granted, there is often a high price to pay if that offender is a family member and the family gets protective, or if the church rises up in defense of the offender, and attacks the victim and us. A price I warn the victim of before going in, but a price I am very willing to walk them through. In every case I’ve worked with so far, the victims have not regretted going that route.

As part of that ‘reclaiming the victim’s voice’, we give little voice to the offender, in that initial confrontation. And, going by the previous examples, it is not hard to see that if given liberty to speak without challenge, offenders still try to overpower the victims in that moment of confrontation, given half an opportunity. It is imperative that the victim is not subjected to such a thing.

Why We don’t Give Offenders Opportunity to Say, “Forgive me”
In evangelical settings this boundary is particularly offensive, when we don’t give that opportunity. In the case above, where the guilty party was given opportunity to offer an apology, and immediately launched into an attack, the ‘unsorry’ spirit landed before us with a bold ‘thud’. It was still about taking power. And that is only one of the reasons we stopped with giving that opportunity in an initial meeting. It certainly isn’t because we think the offender shouldn’t be sorry!

There is an intriguing reality in how offenders block memories. Whether it is the same way in which victims block, I am uncertain, but I have come to the conclusion that it is (at least sometimes if not often) real. They genuinely cannot access the memories because they have spent such a long time burying and blocking… lying to themselves or downplaying the severity. Whatever the reason or method, it is what I see playing out. I have not studied the psychology behind it, but it’s consistency tells me a lot about the human mind, and human nature.

With these blocked memories (or blatant denial, as the case may be), to move to a quick, “If I did those things, I’m sorry…” or “I’m sorry for anything I might have done…” is to rush a necessary step in this process: facing reality. A rushed ‘I’m sorry’ with no memories of wrong doing can leave the victim feeling further victimized, and allows the offender to quickly soothe the conscience, and keep things blocked. Then, if those memories come back, it is easy to say, “I’ve taken care of it”, and never acknowledge those wrongs. By not allowing that rushed apology, and by letting the offender mull it over and struggle against his/her conscience, those memories are far more likely to return, at which time taking ownership validates the victim’s suffering, and makes it far more meaningful.

 

(To be continued… )

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger