Is church safe for the abused?

Is church a safe place for victim of sexual violence? (Or domestic violence, for that matter. While not my areas of expertise to the extent that sexual violence is, the more I hear, the more I realize the glaring similarities.) I have asked this question for a great long while, and have been asked by survivors. I wish to offer a resounding ‘yes, it’s the safest place on earth for you’. But, I cannot. Sadly. I fear the institutional church is one of the most unsafe places for them. It would not need to be that way. If I am perfectly honest, my advice to those who have suffered sexual abuse would be to never open that door in church. Find a safe place outside those walls, unless your leaders have made it very clear and proactively let you know that they care and will hear you. (There are safe places/pastors, and I could list some, but will refrain. And if you are one such church or leader, thank you. Please don’t take this personal, but recognize you are not the majority, regardless of denomination.)

While (most times) church is not safe for the abused, it is one of the safest places on earth for offenders. So to offenders looking for community and a space to find belonging and acceptance, I recommend church. Almost any church, really, but with some being especially accepting. By virtue of this reality, it cannot be equally safe for survivors. In fact, it cannot be safe for victims at all, as long as preferential treatment exists for offenders. It simply is not possible.

The idealism some churches hold of wanting to be a safe space for both abuse survivor and offender is often an illusion. Most end up advocating for one or the other which is different than ‘being there’ for people. Inevitably, and of necessity, to advocate for one is to disadvantage the other, and church has a way of advocating for offenders. “They are sorry, and can’t undo what they did. They repented, therefore you should forgive. They were tempted by the way you dressed. You threw yourself at him. You flirted with him. It if un-Christ-like to not forgive”.

Blatant advocating for offenders inevitably and effectively silences victims; it is 100% impossible to advocate for both. You can advocate for one and try to point the other for help elsewhere but you cannot advocate for one and offer both help. If they are searching for community, so long as they remain silent about abuse, church is a great place for victims to find community, but it does require excluding that very significant experience. Therefore is not safe.

When  someone does bring allegations forward and victim or offender needs to leave a congregation, almost without fail it is the (alleged) victim who leaves. And often they simply give up on church, but more importantly, many give up on their faith journey. Yet, ironically, many still long for that safe place within church, and a safe place to grow in faith, but it simply is not there for them.

So what is the answer?

Advocating for truth would be a brilliant start. Just truth. Just brilliant. Truth in every circumstance.  But we don’t know what truth is, or what really happened – we were not there, we are not God, so we cannot judge the offender. Just truth, without rationalizing. Without saying, if it was my son I’d want to believe he was innocent, and I’d want everyone to believe he is innocent. It fascinates me how many are comfortable with asking that question – what if it was my son – but how few are comfortable asking, “what if it was my granddaughter… my daughter who was raped/groped/molested?” I would dare to say if we are going to ask the first, we better ask the second too, and really pause to consider what that would mean… especially if you happened to walk in as it was happening.

If you choose the path of believing the offender, by virtue of that stance, you immediately say, “the victim is guilty of lying, misconstruing facts” or some such thing.

What if, instead, we sat ‘near’ and listened with the heart… very near; near enough to feel the pain? What if we honoured the suffering and cared for them without determining whether she/he is lying or not? What if we simply acknowledged pain?  And, for the offender, what if we ‘entered in’ and gave them a place to come clean and confess? And what if we walked with them simultaneously toward grace and consequences, if they confess, thus offering true freedom?

By releasing the accused immediately from guilt and judgement, we automatically sentence the victim to guilt and judgement. And if the accused are indeed guilty, we have sentenced both to bondage a life of struggle and injustice. We’ve also done two things God hates: acquitted the guilty, and condemned the innocent (Proverbs 17:15). He hates both. So we are right to pause when we hear an allegation, but we are not right to make a judgement call either for innocence or guilt. It is our duty to get our hands bloody and feet dirty, so to speak, and ‘enter in’ with both.

The church community has not done well with this on either front. We have made quick judgements – usually against the victims – and in this we have sinned against God.  I have spent 8 years standing in the gap, working with both victims and offenders, making myself available 6 or 7 days many weeks. It has been lonely, in many ways, but it has been more fulfilling than lonely. And it has been sheer joy watching the downtrodden rise up and find their identity, their voice, their Hope. It has been church, for me, more than any gathering I’ve attended anywhere. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully with less mistakes. But I’d do it either way.

I say that to say, I acknowledge it is hard to care well for victims. I know it is easier to look the other way than to get into that messy real of pain and suffering, and the brutal injustice. But it is possible, and we (church) could do better. We must do better, if we want to name the name of Jesus.

****

We have a conference  in Lewisburg, PA), in a few weeks, where the abused gather, and feel understood. When it’s over, people often linger a great long while after. Sometimes just ‘resting’. Sometimes sitting and chatting with one another. Sometimes weeping. Sometimes praying together.

We don’t decide if alleged abusers are guilty. We don’t accuse anyone of lying or making up stories. We simply offer compassion and love.

That’s safety. That’s what it means to be understood.

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2018_Oct_PA_Brochure_Inside

The Oct4 Training Day is for those wishing to support victims
Itinerary :

SESSION ONE: The role of Restorative Justice in Addressing Crime (Mike Yoder)
SESSION TWO: Understanding Victims’ Needs (Trudy Metzger)
SESSION THREE: Protecting Against Secondary Trauma (Trudy Metzger)
SESSION FOUR: Setting Healthy Boundaries When Working with Victims (Trudy Metzger)

To register, visit: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events

****

Wishing you blessings this week, praying for peace and hope on your journey, and the courage to trust God on your healing journey. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. Together, we are ‘church’, and together we will create a safe place for the abused to struggle, to worship, to heal.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INK SPILLS

INK SPILLS
Red ink
Spills on white paper
Paper thin hearts
Crumpled
Shredded
Cast aside
Crystal tears
Hit the ground
Shatter
Scatter
Left to die
Dying hearts
Bleed
Transparent tears
No one sees
No one cares
No one hears
Silent cries
Not a sound
As words
Bleeding pain
Carved deep
Etching tattoos
On wounded flesh and
Tender souls where
Red ink spills…

They button suits
Suit up in crisp white shirts
They tie their polished shoes
Walking carefully, they step in
Red ink, spilled on their floor…
They point to the noisy bleeding…
New shoes, with red footprints,
Crushing paper thin hearts
Broken
Crumpled hearts
Scattered here and there.
Who made this mess?
We didn’t know
They were there
Those angry
Bitter
Messy
Ones:
“Forgive
Forget
Move on!
You unforgiving souls!”

Aren’t those messy ones
So disruptive?

Have you noticed how good and kind I am?
Just like Jesus.
Do you see my beautiful new shoes?
These are my Gospel shoes
To spread good news.
We better go;
Go save souls
Do things that matter
For Jesus.

It’s such a beautiful day today,
Isn’t it?
The sunrise,
A brilliant red
Isn’t that cloud stunning?
Almost like a crumpled
Paper heart
Bleeding tears.

Have you ever wondered,
Does God cry?

***

God weeps
Crystal tears
Shattered
Scattered on the ground
His heart crumpled, crushed,
Stepped on
Bleeding
Red ink…
His blood
Staining
New shoes
His Love
Beating
Paper
thin
hearts
to life.

His life, His Love, His hope, etched in forever tattoos on my heart.

***

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

More on Pastors failing to report, and positive transformation

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.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Gaslighting & the Unraveling…

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 endorse nothing 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.

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

(Hypocrisy & Excommunication): The Woman, The Scraggly Few & The King’s Son

She stood to her feet, hands clammy, confessing her guilt.  Ashamed.canstockphoto13092176

She begged for mercy… admitting she could not pay for her crimes and outstanding debt… Without a pardon, she would be sentenced to death.

The judge sighed as he looked at the list of crimes she had committed. He looked about the courtroom, then back at the woman. “Is there anyone who will pay your debt?”

On the far side of the room sat a large audience of well-dressed onlookers, pointing and sneering. She had it coming to her. They sat, straight and tall, noses turned up, looking down at her.

“A disgrace,” one man muttered.

“Our world will be better without her,” huffed a woman, looking away, as if the very sight of the woman might contaminate her.

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A few among them looked uncomfortable, squirming. But not one spoke up.

A scraggly few supporters sat near the woman, silent. Tears flowed freely. It was almost as if each believed they were guilty, and deserved her sentence. One by one they fumbled through tattered bags, purses and pockets, pulling out what bits of valuables they might hold, if any.

One produced a pack of gum that appeared to have been carried too long in her coat. Another a comb, bent and with hair hanging from it. An old man pulled out a handkerchief but, alas, one corner was crumpled together, obviously used, dirty.

An old man, stumbled through the door, and walked forward. He looked like one of the filthy scraggly few. He held in his crippled hands a worn piece of paper.

“You intend to pay this woman’s debt with that… that… whatever it is you hold there?”

The old man smiled, exposing decayed teeth—the few he had—and raised bushy grey eyebrows. “No, shir, Your Honour” he said, mispronouncing ‘sir’. “I haven’t a penny to offer, shir, but I know Shomeone…

The well-dressed onlookers scoffed. One woman cackled, “He knows ‘shomeone’… I sure wonder who… probably ‘shome’ drunk ‘shtreet’ bum.”

“Order!!! Order in the court!!!” shouted the judge, his gavel pounding the block. He turned his attention to the old man. “Continue sir.”

The old man told of his life of crime, and the many lives he destroyed in that process, until one day, only  a few years earlier, it all caught up to him.

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“Your Honour, a man paid my debt that day, and I was pardoned. All He asked in return, was for me to share the good news, and tell others about Him. He will pay her debt.”

“And, just where might I find this generous man?” the judge asked.

“He’s waiting, just outside the door,” the old man said.

He shuffled to the rear of the court, opened the door and the generous man walked in. Jaws dropped throughout the courtroom.

Before them stood no ordinary man. He was the King’s son. With kind eyes and gentle smile, He walked to the condemned woman, and took her place, accepting her judgement.

She fell at His feet, weeping, too overcome for words. She was free. In one moment, she was released; thanks, not to some ability to correct or pay for her crime, but because of this man.

She stayed there a long while, weeping.

The King’s son looked at the scraggly supporters, then at the well-dressed, arrogant crowd. “Each of you owes the same debt this woman owed.”

The scraggly few bowed their heads, nodding. Some wept. The man pulled out his stained handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. A woman sobbed shamelessly.

 

“Some of you are familiar with your crimes, and carry that debt with great shame,” He said, looking at the scraggly few. “Bring me any debts you owe, I will pay them.”

One by one they shuffled forward, tears flowing, praying. Reaching for mercy.

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The King’s son continued, looking now at the well-dressed crowd, “Some of you are oblivious to your debt, and choose to ignore it. You justify your crimes, and believe that as long as you present well, and hide your crimes, you are justified. What’s worse… you do this claiming allegiance to my Father and His country.”

The well-dressed crowd listened stoically… Most of them…. A few shifted in their seats.

The King’s son spoke again. “You were quick to judge, but every one of you, if you take off those fine clothes, will find a layer of tattered rags. Hidden in the pockets you will find unpaid debts. If you strip back those layers and acknowledge your need, I will pay your debts too.” He paused, looked over the well-dressed crowd.

The woman who taunted earlier, squirmed. The man who scoffed, looked at his feet. Several others shifted, unable to look the King’s Son in the eye. A few tore off their outer garments, exposing filthy, stained rags. In humble acknowledgement, they joined the scraggly few.

“Yes, I will pay your debts, but only if you strip yourself of image, prestige and religious pride, and acknowledge your need, as these have.”

***

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

Do Not Judge

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Often we ‘Christians’ judge others harshly, while hiding our secret sins. We proclaim the name of God, and yet defy the way and words of Jesus–Emmanuel, ‘God with us’–as we toss rocks in arrogant self-righteousness.

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In the same church where a man has an affair and his wife is ordered by leaders to keep silent and never mention it again because he is repentant…. the same church where child molesters are treated with ‘grace’–aka cover up and their crime is down-played… there repentant sinners get the left foot of fellowship for some hidden agenda.

Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

The evidence speaks for itself. Too long, too many good men (and women) have done nothing. There have always been a faithful few, but it is time for the people of God to rise up together and stand for Jesus, and for what He taught and exemplified. He lived truth fearlessly, judged by the most religious and ‘self-righteous’ of His day, to the point that they sought to kill Him.

To be named with Him, we will need to be willing to face the same abuse and judgement from many religious folks–leaders and laity, alike–who live in pretentious holiness. If there is one place the devil has a stronghold today, it is with those who preach God, hell fire and brimstone, while defying Jesus Christ.

Until we are willing to face the wrath of the enemy and these people, by confronting this stronghold, exposing the evil–yes, even publicly–the body of Christ will remain crippled and ineffective. Jesus warned us about these false teachers and, unfortunately, they exist in every denomination. Coincidentally, the warning comes in the same chapter as the instruction on judging:

Matthew 7:15-19 (NKJV)

You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

For those who will take the challenge, and turn to Jesus Christ, abandoning every other thing for His sake–including leaders and churches that blatantly misrepresent God and live for personal agenda–there is grace for the difficult journey ahead. (If you find yourself ‘stuck’ in such a place, don’t be afraid to search for a life-giving fellowship. None are perfect, but many are passionate about Jesus and biblical truth, and compassionate toward people.)

It is not easy to stand up against evil in religious settings–against spiritual wickedness in high places. But it is the way of true holiness, to set ourselves apart from the world of sin, as well as the sin of religious arrogance that all but replaces the need for the Atonement of Christ.

Rise up! Stand for Truth; Unadulterated, pure, simple Truth!

© Trudy Metzger

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All Mennonites are Not Sexual Predators…

…any more than all Christians are hypocrites,  all Germans are Nazi’s, all blacks are gangsters and all priests are paedophiles.  Those statements are stereotypical and false.

But it is difficult to write about the crimes and cover ups in a particular people group, and be a voice for the victims, without making the whole lot of them look party to the crime, without naming names, one way or the other. If the telling of every story is required to justify those who are not party to the crimes and cover ups, it is just another way of downplaying the pain of victims, and taking away their voice. And that, in my opinion, is just as corrupt.

I wrote this blog in response to very particular ‘challenges’ I received, privately, from several ministers in conservative Mennonite settings concerned over how I make the Mennonite church look by sharing the stories of Mennonites. Both were respectful, for the most part. And my response was intended to validate their views, that all Mennonites are not Sexual Predators, and the stories I post misrepresent the culture.

My most recent blog post “Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: My abusers are my church leaders” , which received almost 4000 views in just over 24 hours,  was met with a sprinkling of similar criticism while many messages of support, appreciation, compassion, concern and identification poured in. And I say ‘sprinkling’ because, less than a handful of messages expressed frustration at the misrepresentation of the culture also arrived. Even ‘sprinkling’ is exaggerated.

So this blog, which was originally inspired by several church leaders–appropriately follows the most recent blog exposing abuse in the culture. (Though I challenge readers to take note that, beyond mentioning the victim to whom I am giving a voice, the culture is not mentioned. It was, and still is, intended as a challenge to ‘the church’, not ‘a culture’.)

Reflecting over the past several years of writing, in telling my story, I am keenly and painfully aware of this in my writing, that sharing the stories of Mennonite victims, and giving them a voice, casts a shadow over the entire culture. (And have been aware as I wrote. It is not a new thought.)

I have tried to balance the harsh realities with the good in the culture, and the beauty of certain aspects of it–particularly the sense of community. I have also shared of how my healing began at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, when Howard and Alice reached out and helped me, and Glen Jantzi, one of the ministers, reached out to my one brother. This care, on behalf of my brother and myself, had a powerful impact on my healing journey.

Furthermore, while I was always ‘different’, and never fit into the cultural mould, I felt loved and accepted by many friends at Countryside, right up until the time we left, and even after.

It was at Countryside where I first felt I had something of value to offer, and that I could make a difference in the Kingdom of God. This was thanks to the bishop’s wife, Florence Martin, who saw something in me, after she and I had a shared incident, in which she encouraged me to reach out to a young girl. She gave me a card with a thank you note. Placed inside was the calendar page from a little inspirational calendar from that day, it read: “November 9  Who knows but that may want to use you this day… ” and I don’t recall the rest. (Though I do have the note stored with memorabilia, because it had such influence in my life.)

Lena Martin, the deacon’s wife sat with me in a  coffee shop and answered hard identity questions, when I first started working through abuse. I can’t think of anything more she could have done. Years later, while watching a video of Lisa Bevere with a handful of other women, she said, “Trudy, I could see you do this one day.”  To which I responded with a laugh, “In a light blue suit?” because that is what Lisa had on at the time.

Countryside was, for me, a very safe place to begin healing. We loved the people, we appreciated and cared for the leaders–all of them. Not once did I feel unkindness, even when Joe and Esther had to ask me to tone it down on the make-up, and Glen and Elly asked me to scale back my heals, and Leighton sat me down, in a most fatherly way, and asked me not to skip service and go cruising with a bunch of rambunctious youth instead of attending special meetings.  In fact, Leighton, the bishop, spoke with such understanding and gentleness, even when chiding me, that my heart-felt completely safe.

Yes, some tragic events took place, rocking the church we knew. And we all grieved. Many of us, if not all of us, went through inner chaos and confusion. Why did God let the accident happen, and allow three children to be orphaned? Why did it seem no one knew how to handle the tragedy and grief left in its wake? There were no answers. Only pain, turmoil and disappointment.

Still our love for Countryside, and all the people we knew there, never faded. It lives on to this day, and always will. Because it was the place God took me, in a culture that had deeply wounded me–though a very different ‘brand’ of Mennonites within that culture–and began to reveal himself to me. I sat in that church, in God’s presence and shed many a healing tear, as I discovered a God of grace. And it was only the beginning of that discovery of God’s love and grace.

I didn’t get to know many of the other churches much in the Midwest setting. Only a few, and only a little.  Tim’s aunt and uncle served as leaders at Woodlawn, Abner and Almeda Martin and, to this day, are among the Mennonites I respect most for their genuine faith.

None of these realities have escaped me, or lost appreciation in my heart during this past two-year stretch of addressing sexual abuse in Mennonite and plain cultures.  And  those who have taken time to read the blogs I wrote before focusing on exposing the corruption, will know that I have said many, if not all of these things in the past. Hopefully you have not lost sight of them. I could not, however, go back to constantly reaffirming these things, while speaking the truth about the corruption.

And then there is the small matter of knowing people I respect would not necessarily wish to have me applaud them here. It creates a tie to me, and establishes in the mind of the reader, a relationship with them, and they may not wish to be identified in any way back to me. (There are those whom I admire and respect from my time in the Mennonite church, who would as soon not be associated with me, and I try to honour that, though I may have crossed that line in this post.)

I am not sorry for exposing the things I exposed. I’m mostly not sorry for how I said them, most of the time. (There’s a time or two, when a deep breath and a long pause would have served me well, when leaders refused to face truth. I regret not taking a deep breath and a long pause first, but also trust God to redeem my humanity. Therefore I will not live in regret.)

I am sorry that some wonderful people in the culture, who sincerely love God and fight for truth, were hurt in the process and feel their name and identity have been tarnished with my telling the truth of victims, and being their voice.

It is the thing with ‘carrying a name’, that becomes the price tag for that name. We hold it dear, even idolize it, until the image crumbles because too much corruption lies buried by those whose hearts are evil. And then we struggle to deal with the consequence of that name. That is true whether the name is Menno Simons, or Jesus Christ. Whichever name we carry close in our hearts, that is the name that will cause us the greater anguish, when not held up to the extent that we revere it. 

Even Jesus generalized and spoke out against the Scribes and Pharisees for their corruption as leaders. He didn’t go about saying things like, “a few of you… or ‘some of you’ or some other softening of the blow. No, He said it boldly, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees!”  And then each one had to decide in his own heart if he was guilty.

Amazingly, some of them were His inner circle. How could Jesus do this so boldly, and not risk losing the hearts of these men? Or were they so lost in Him, that the truth of the evil attached to their ‘other identity’ no longer frightened them? Even when it came so close to home that it could have been interpreted as an attack on their own identity? Had the name and title lost its meaning, with no idolatry left in their hearts, so that they no longer worshipped that identity? 

Is this the biggest problem many in the culture have with me?  That the painful truth of buried sexual abuse and sin, connected with my cultural background, is too personal because too much faith has been placed in a name–the name of a man, Menno, who would be mortified at that idolatry–and that identity has been a source of great pride, but is now a source of shame? (And this could also be said of Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian Fellowship, Non-denominational, Inter-denominations, and every other religious identity where corruption lies hidden, and the name is protected.)

Is it possible that God wants to unravel that cultural pride, and bring us all back to one identity–Jesus Christ?

If we were to embrace His identity as the only one that matters, and openly acknowledged the wickedness within, would that not open the door for healing, restoration and allow the Body of Christ to thrive? I would no longer be a threat with my truth-telling, but an opportunity to rise up. And only if I defamed the name of Christ would there be any need for personal offences, hurt feelings and emails challenging my message.

The truth is that the name of Jesus is the answer to this problem. Many a Christian has left me wanting for another name to identify myself by, because of the damage they have done to the name of Christ, and still, I carry the name of Jesus Christ with honour, boldness, and without apology. Because His is one name that, no matter how close I carry it to my heart or how wrongly people use it, does not bring shame to me. Christians shame Him. Religion does also. But not Jesus. He restores my honour, just by embracing His name, regardless of how He is misrepresented.

That is a name worth holding on to. 

canstockphoto7397539 B

© Trudy Metzger

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Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: “My abusers are my church leaders”

canstockphoto7032676 BI received a message from a Mennonite reader who follows my column in the local paper. (She faithfully contacts me every time to say thank you for being a voice for those who have none, and to tell me how much it means to be understood.)  She had read the article, in last week’s paper , “Sexual Abuse: To Confront, or Not to Confront the Abuser”.

When I let her read this blog, before posting, she said, “I wonder what kind of response you will get. It means a lot to be understood.” I hope the response is compassion for victims, and outrage–or righteous indignation, if that makes you feel better–that this is hidden and protected in religious settings.

The reader’s message, that inspired this blog, was quite simple. It wouldn’t make any difference to confront at least two of her abusers, she wrote…. because they are church leaders. And she learned a long time ago that church leaders get to do what they want.

As a little girl, this woman lived in an environment with hired men, coming and going out of her world, using her as their own private little prostitute. She was ‘sold into the sex trade’, right in her own home, and when she tried to tell people, they told her she was lying. This pain, she says, is more difficult to forgive than being violated over and over again.

Her purpose for writing was to ask me ‘How do I forgive?”

But that’s not a question I am going to answer today. Today I am simply going to acknowledge her pain, and the damage done by the abuse, and the leaders who cover for themselves or others.

Forgiveness is so easy to preach from the front of the church, and I presume it gets even easier when hands, covered with the blood of innocent children, grab the podium for support while teaching it.

Even the demons, I expect, attend those mornings and delight in listening to the sermon of unrepentant men who hide sin while ‘guiding’ the children to salvation. Even demons, yes, I think they show up for church those days, bright and early.

And the women in the audience write to tell me how the demonic attacked them, and they wonder why they shake and tremble when certain men take the podium. And others write to tell me that the way some men look at them–men who are leaders, men who are bullies, men who have sin hidden–and they strip them naked, right there in church. And they wonder why, and they ask me, too, how to forgive.

And I could pull out old messages, just like the one I got yesterday, telling the same story, and I could line them up and count them…. and the questions they ask, about needing to forgive… But each person is an individual, and each story is unique, told for the first time, even if you’ve heard it somewhere else a thousand times.

As the messages trickle in, and the tears trickle out, I tremble too. And each time, my heart shatters for them… my heart, weak after the intense battle of last year, breaks again. Yet, with that breaking a new courage rises up. I will never lay down my Sword for these children. No, I will carry it… drag it on the ground if I must because of lack of strength, but I will carry it to the finish.

And in the face of the enemy hope will fill my chest because I know the One who knelt with those children… the One who keeps account of every little deed He saw, committed in the dark against one little one… And every one who silenced that child to protect image, family name or some other pride…

And I cry out to Him…

“God, we need your help!  We carry the Sword to fight against the enemy. But we need You to Shatter the Silence of sin hidden in the church… We need You to vindicate the children and acknowledge their pain… We need You to expose the corruption hidden behind titles and position… We need You to end this violence against children.”

***

And God rose up and went to war.

Every man and woman who had hidden sin was exposed. Everyone who had not repented, confessed and taken ownership of their crimes, was held to account.

And the heavens opened again in blessing on God’s people.  No longer did they believe the enemy’s lies and fall prey to his confusions and perversions.

The wounded were healed, the dead raised back to life again. And the soldiers, weary from the fight, fell to their knees in worship. The Warrior had come… Freedom, sweet freedom, had come…

The children went out to play in safety.

The angels watched over them closely, clapping their hands in delight. At long last, having witnessed many years of heinous crimes, the children were free to laugh, free to run, and free to dance.

Matthew 18:10 – Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

 

READ NEXT BLOG: “All Mennonites Are Not Sexual Predators”

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church  (Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

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