Bill Miller: A Bold Open Letter & Admonition from a (former) Beachy Amish Gentleman

The following blog post has three components, all written by Bill Miller. He has given me permission to share his email address for those who wish to reach out to him. I spoke with Bill’s son before I communicated with Bill. In the son I ‘met’ a man who cares deeply for the wounded children. (His son is also a ministry leader who forwarded their ministry’s protocol for handling abuse. I have never been more impressed!) He told me about his father, and some time later Bill reached out.

The first part is a letter of introduction, followed by admonition from James 5. And finally is a response to some concerns shared in response to CAM.

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I am 67 years old and have been a member in the Beachy Amish Mennonite church from age 16 to age 63. I have observed the rules of the church faithfully. I have failed and have been restored. I have been loved and rejected. I have held offices and sat silently. I have watch this same thing in many other brethren in the church as well. And I believe this is quite normal for the church of Jesus Christ. We are, after-all, human and “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels.” I have been under numerous church administrations, what with moving, bishops dying or being silenced, or moving away and being replaced, and church outreaches.

But there is one issue that I have never been able to understand. This is the issue of elevating the ministry onto a pedestal and thereby they become untouchable by anyone. I have heard bishops say that “There is no other bishop that has any authority over me.” I have heard bishops say that “The laity has no right or responsibility to ever question or rebuke anyone in the ministry.” I have heard bishops say that there is an absolute hierarchy in the ministerial circles. “You do as we say and we will have your back. We will make sure that you are protected in the event that you would get into trouble. We will make sure that you will have all the speaking engagements and that your name will be recognized.”  We have seen numerous times where minister’s children get to keep their sins covered under the proverbial carpet and not under the “BLOOD”. All this in order to protect the minister’s name. In Matthew 20:20-28, Jesus clearly condemns this program as from the world, saying in verse 26, “But it shall not be so among you:” 

I personally know of numerous bishops that keep a written file of every member’s failures. I have seen some of these files. Who keeps a file of their own failures? What are they going to do with these files when they turn their office over to the next generation? Do they not know that one drop of blood took care of ALL these files? Do they then wonder what happened when the church house becomes empty? Do they not know that conflict of interest always leads to loss of trust and confidence? And last but not least, is no body learning from the history of the last 75 years?

I was taught that any group that leaves a fellowship, a conference, a constituency, and go out on their own, have lost their way. But in the last 30 years the number of unaffiliated churches has mushroomed. People are tired of the the old program where the highway is littered with the broken and bleeding, the neglected and hurting, those lost and dying, all from the heavy hand of power of the ministry and executive boards, who themselves are quite comfortable in their own wealth and prestige. 

Is it any wonder that we now have the arrogance and pride exuding from the pulpit and executive boards that are doing so much damage? The longer it goes the more the next generation of officials feel entitled to the same level of grandeur, and the more the name of our Lord and Savior is mocked. Wake up! There is coming a day of reckoning, a day of persecution, a day where the sons will turn their own fathers and mothers over to the authorities of the land. And we have brought it on ourselves. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

It is with these thoughts that I was led by the Holy Spirit to write a message on James 5:1-6. Then I wrote a remedy for the sad situation from James 5:7-12.

Written with Love and a concerned heart.

 

Bill Miller
miller5254@gmail.com
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James 5:1-6

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries shall come upon you.

Wake up, you wealthy, powerful, influential, well known, ministers, charity organization leaders, and big, powerful business men, you better start weeping and howling, because your miseries are coming your way. There shall be no escaping the consequences.

Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.

You riches are filthy and rotten. They are no longer of any value. They will not buy your way to more power and influence. The game is over. Your riches are worthless in your pursuit of power. Your clothes are rotten and full of holes. Your arrogant deceit has eaten your façade as surely as moths eat old garments. People can see your nakedness through the holes in your self-righteous garments. Your plain clothes are a fraud and the people around you are ashamed to be in your presence. You would be better off dressing like the world than to look like some do-gooder Pharisee who hates when the light of truth shines into their dark, corrupt hearts. Your cover is gone and your riches and power are nothing but disgustingly filthy rags.

Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

Your riches, your fame and power, your influential positions, and business leadership positions have turned to battery acid in the hearts of the common folk. It will continue to eat at the very fiber of your heart and life as you watch the once grand positions and power disappear in the fog of people who at one time held you in great esteem. The battery acid that is eating you alive is also burning up the very lives of your victims, as they testify of your ingrained, accomplished, corruption. You have quite the treasure chest saved up for your last days. Your last days are here and your treasure chest will do you no good. It will only stand in judgement against you as you grovel alone in misery, rejection and isolation. Your acquired riches that you must spend to defend yourself, stands in judgement against you, as testimony of your guilt.

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

Behold, the people that have been doing the hard work for you, those who have been exposed to the elements of the world of evil, those that are working in obscurity, those that are in the ditches and misery for you, making sure your name stays on top, those that are accustomed to hearing commands and arrogance from you; are not getting their dues. You are neglecting them and calling it your privilege to treat them as those that are disposable and replaceable. You knowingly allowed your victim’s children to be brutally raped and emotionally destroyed by your own workers, while you are busy telling them of the love of Jesus, and feeding them from your hand. They are crying to the Lord and the Lord is hearing them. The Lord has a tender heart for the down trodden and he will hear the anguished cries of your victims, that you consider as “disposable”.

Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in the day of slaughter.

You have enjoyed the life of pleasure, ease and excess, while dismissing the needs of your subjects. You have required your own people to satisfy your extravagance. You have lived in the desires of your own hearts as though you have a fatted calf every day. Nothing is too extravagant for you. You expect and demand it.

Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doeth not resist you.

Whenever a person tries to shine the light of truth into your life, you berate, condemn and assassinate his character. You have no qualms about completely destroying any one that dares to question your integrity. You don’t care how it affects his health, his livelihood, or his name. You will put forth every effort to destroy that person.  You know you can because of your clout. You know you can because of his status and lack of resources. You know you can because you know  he is too timid to resist. Your victims are endless and you arrogant brutality knows no limits. Just like the “Generation of vipers” Jesus talked about.

You are where you are because of choices you made, each step of your successful life. That’s what brought Hitler and Stalin where they ended up being. You chose to allow HURT to grow and by your negligence you fostered it.

With all your riches, you are able and willing to hire lawyers to protect your assets, something your victims are not able or interested in doing. You reject the very Savior that you preached about for many years, and choose to defend your position with a worldly lawyer. How are your victims and past parishioners supposed to have faith in your past messages? The only winner in this situation will be the lawyers. You don’t need a lawyer, you need a Savior.

A Beautiful and Assuring Promise for the Meek and Humble, Faithful Children of God

                                                                        James 5:7-12

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

You, the person that has truly become the brother of Jesus Christ, has the full attention of the Lord who is watching the fruit of our “earth,” our flesh, which is under His direction and guidance. May the Lord receive the 100 fold fruits of our humble, faithful, and loving work in the Kingdom of God, as the early and latter rains fall.

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

You, brother of Jesus Christ, be patient. Don’t run ahead of God’s direction or get frustrated when you don’t see immediate results for your faithful labors. Let your faith in God grow deep. Trust in Him for He cares for you, His child. Let His Word dictate your life. The more you do this the closer you get to the Lord and the closer He gets to you. He loves you.

Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold the judge standeth at the door.

Forgive those who have hurt you and sinned against you, otherwise God cannot forgive you. Granting full forgiveness to those is the exact way Jesus forgave you. He allowed your sins to kill Him, while He trusted His Father to raise Him back to life, so that you can have a Father-Son relationship with His Father. Forgive those that have hurt you so that your Heavenly Father can show His love by forgiving you and you can love Him. Otherwise the greatest judgement against you is the Father not being able to relate to you because of your unforgiving heart.

Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

“Take”. Receive the prophets. Receive the real people who speak and teach the real truth of God. Do not listen to those that speak truth so that they can wield power and influence. But listen to those that present the truth with love, accuracy, and dedication, and also lead a life of holiness in spite of what others think or circumstances in life that you have no control over.

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

When we look at Job, it was when he proved his dedication to God and the devil, that God restored all that he had lost. God was full of tender mercy throughout Job’s experience. It was the devil that challenged Job, and once Job declared the truth, his life was in total dedication and praise to God. Let’s endure and be happy and joyful in the midst of these experiences. What greater joy can we potentially have than to endure for our Savior’s sake, after all He has done for us. He is patiently waiting while we declare and prove our dedication to Him.

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Let’s not place our trust in anything except Jesus and His Word. May our yes to Him and His cause, be a full YES, and our no to the devil and his evil ways, be a solid NO. Amen.

My Brethren, You are where you are, because of choices you made each step of your life. Abraham, David, Daniel, Paul, and all the thousands of martyrs, ended up where they did because of choices they made, every step of their life.

Willing, Obedient, Humble, service is a CALLING and a CHOICE between two options.

PRAISE GOD, WE HAVE MANY EXAMPLES OF THESE, BOTH IN THE SCRIPTURES, OUR ANABAPTIST HISTORY, AND IN OUR PRESENT DAY.

Blessings,
Bill Miller

***

After thinking over the statements made by those that feel that somehow the effort to recompense the victims would just bring more “victims” out of the woodwork, I say “So what?” 

First of all what was the offence and who caused it?

Should the offender and his supporters not be willing to take whatever reaping that comes as a result of his sowing?

Does the offender and his supporters not see Jesus hanging on the cross and asking the Father to forgive him, the offender, long before the offender was even born?

Does the offender and his supporters not see that Jesus was completely and totally innocent and yet chose to accept the whatever the ungodly world of sinners could and did place on his shoulders? 

Does the offender and his supporters not see that the possible falsified requests for remunerations of some extra supposed victims is not even measurable in compared to the iniquities of the whole world placed on Jesus’ shoulders?

Does the offender and all his supporters not realize the good that would come to themselves by willingly and totally forgiving those that would possibly “unfairly” ask for rewards?

Does the great organization of CAM not understand that they would benefit great and innumerable blessings form God by turning this whole thing over to a different Christian organization, that would have the right and responsibility of acting on the behalf of the victims, on behalf of the victims families and on behalf of the communities of the victims, regardless of the monetary cost? That’s exactly what Jesus did!

Does the offender and all his supporters not realize that there is nothing in the world that is cheaper than money? It is our most precious commodity but we are willing to part with it in exchange for anything else we want, except in the event that someone might get an undeserved advantage. How foolish and ungodly for us to begrudge the potential event that someone in Haiti might take undue advantage of a reward!

Oh how the great and mighty have fallen, both in deeds and theology! Oh how awful the results of this great fall! Oh how awful the fact of this fall, in light of the fact of the last 75 years of revival meetings, church plantings, ordinations, mission works and outreaches, Sunday Schools, summer Bible Schools, winter Bible Schools for the youth, and all kinds of teaching seminars. How many more teachings do we need in order to get back on the TRUE BIBLE WAY? Do we even realize where we are in relation this True Bible Way?

A concerned Brother,
Bill Miller
miller5254@gmail.com

***

I am encouraged by these compassionate men of God, who care for victims. I have never met Bill or his son, but hope one day to have that opportunity.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

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***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Five donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover . (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

She continues to be amazed by the support that she has felt and seen, and extends her thanks and appreciation. It has been encouraging for me to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with her counseling costs.

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ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

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If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Haiti: Sex Trafficking? Anabaptist Sex Offender Watch Lists & Pastors Admit to Broad Leadership Corruption

ANABAPTIST SEX OFFENDER WATCH LIST:

This week I’ve thought a lot about how to address the thing of missionaries in our Anabaptist culture going to other countries, and then molesting children there. (Yes, I realize it happens in other cultures too. But I don’t work in those cultures). I don’t know the rates and percentages, but knowing the vast number of offenders who go unchallenged, and unreported, and then hearing the news of Jeriah Mast’s crimes in Haiti, I find no comfort in sending missionaries. No, I don’t think most of our men and women are offenders, but the rates are higher than many admit to. And too many of them are especially interested in ‘doing the Lord’s work’ where they are most sure they won’t be spotted. To allow it to continue seems, at least to me, to be a form of sex trafficking. Since it is almost impossible to get offenders in our culture to stand trial, let alone on a sex offender registry, there is no protection. And if we include leaders who enable and look the other way, even better.

As I hear of counsellors and support people being sent to help those who were victimized by Jeriah, I am concerned that opportunistic child molester will be more than happy to give their time. Such a list would hopefully make every child molester across our Anabaptist churches especially disinterested in mission work, if they knew they were marked going in. And leaders who land on the list as looking the other way would hopefully think twice as well.

As I contemplated this, an idea struck me. If we all work together, we can create a Watch List of our own TO SHARE WITH HAITI GOVERNMENT and other countries, so they can flag potential high risks missionaries. Since the American and Canadian governments leave Anabaptists to more or less deal with their own people’s crimes (ie; Amish Steering Committees, Crisis Intervention Committees etc.), why can’t we also create our own version of the sex offender registry, through an OFFENDER WATCHLIST focusing specifically on child molesters?

Other than law enforcement and government officials, to whom the list would be voluntarily sent, the list would not be available to the public, or anyone outside the team managing it. It would be up to the country to investigate and interrogate the individual upon entering or attempting to enter their country. 

That in mind, I am appealing to every victim out there to send in the name of every person over age *16 who sexually molested you when you were a minor (excluding states/provinces where minors must be protected until age 18). Please include both male and female offenders and send the information to: REPORT ANABAPTIST SEX OFFENDERS, with a subject line of “Anabaptist Sex Offender Watchlist“.

UPDATE: Someone has reached out to suggest we form a team to manage the list. I am reaching out to a medical doctor and several other professionals to seek such support. 

NOTE: Please do not send ‘speculation’ cases. There must be at least one confirmed victim, and the victim(s) must be willing to confirm. Send cases only if you are the victim, or the victims’ immediate family or if the victim has requested you send the info. Only credibly accused will make the list, and the more information that is included, the more credible. Vague, rumour-based accusations with no specific information will not be included. (Church confessions to ‘immoral failure’, in which the deviance is known to be against a child, is not speculation. That’s about as solid evidence as gets produced in our culture).

In the body of the email copy and paste the following and fill in all information, especially what has asterisks:

  1. Name of offender:
  2. Gender of Offender:
  3. *Citizenship of Offender:
  4. Date (or year) of offence:
  5. Offender’s church at time of offence: 
  6. Was the offender a church/ministry leader (YES/NO):
  7. If yes, what was the name of the church/ministry:
  8. * Is offender currently in leadership:
  9. If yes, what church/ministry:
  10. *Age of offender at time of offence: 
  11. *Age of victim at time of offence:
  12. *Offence committed (ie: rape; molestation etc):
  13. *Any confirmed current minor victims (YES/NO):
  14. *State/Province & Country of offence:
  15. Reported to law YES/NO:
  16. Handled by (Church Discipline/Law/Both):
  17. Name of church leader(s) who knew:
  18. Address of church leader (if known):
  19. Approximate age of church leader (DOB if known):
  20. *Name of church:
  21. Address of Church:
  22. *Church Affiliation (Eastern; BMA; Charity etc):
  23. Any additional information that may be helpful:

NOTE: Include ministry leaders (male and female) and counsellors who engage or have engaged in practices of ‘holding’ – whether heads lying on laps, sitting on laps or other physical touch, massaging etc – as these are not safe for working with vulnerable individuals.

Since  leaders who look the other way are as dangerous as the offenders themselves, I have included information on them. We will take the information, create a list and release it to the Haitian government, as well as other countries where missionaries tend to exploit children including Guatemala, Mexico, Romania, Thailand, Cambodia, and any other country that is interested. This will allow them to flag these individuals, and keep them out of their countries.

We will make it clear which cases have been proven guilty by law, which ones were handled by church, and which ones are allegations with neither law or church discipline.

If you know of church leaders or leaders of other ministries who have covered up, or are ‘looking the other way’, please send them through. (The victim should not be named if you are not free to disclose).

All cases involving minors will be reported to the law. The list is available to law enforcement internationally and in the state/country crimes took place.

Emails sent to this address are managed by volunteers, and messages that are not on topic are not guaranteed a response. Hate mail will be deleted. Threats will be forwarded to authorities.

Offenders who would like to report themselves and get support, will be responded to. We have connections with several gentlemen who offended in the past who are willing to help you navigate the process of taking full ownership and walking you through genuine repentance. I am willing to help also, as needed, and support you and these gentlemen in the process.

Together we can stand in the gap and stop the exploitation of children.

Please be aware: I will be sending in the name of every leader (this includes some ASAA leaders) involved in the cover up and dreadful handling last year’s case, related to David Denlinger, and giving access to the evidence I hold of such mishandling. Not one leader, to date, has had the integrity to own their wrongs and the gaslighting. I will not stand by and watch them get sent to other countries until  such a time as that issue is resolved and full ownership taken for the mishandling, gaslighting and leaving the victims unacknowledged to this day.

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CHURCH LEADER CORRUPTION:

There is a network of people in our Anabaptist communities who are skilled at keeping truth tightly ‘managed’, and sex offenders carefully protected.  They know each other, and they work together. Make of that what you will.

Oh, and some are very ‘nice guys’, so don’t go imagining it’s all the ultra conservative ones. It’s not. Most are the charismatic, people-drawing ones.

In the middle of that, this week pastors and their wives across multiple ‘brands’ of our Anabaptist culture reached out. They are weary. It is a lonely place to serve, and knowing which leaders to trust is difficult, when they feel surrounded by wolves. Yes, they are saying those things. How can they connect with other like-minded leaders who love Jesus and want to serve the people, rather than be dominated by power-mongers?

My dilemma is this, I am happy to be here to support you as leaders in whatever way I can. But the truth is there is only one way to find each other, and that is by you each boldly taking a stand. Some leaders who reached out have already resigned due to corruption. Others see the corruption of power and feel helpless to influence change, having watched how the power was taken.

Church, we have a problem.

This is not the Jesus Way.

Leaders, I urge you to stand against the wolves among us at all cost. Do so wisely and thoughtfully, but do so. Leave, if you cannot walk in truth among them. Confronting them rarely works. (Which does not mean that you should not, but be forewarned that you will be stripped). They will get up on Sunday morning and go into lengthy manipulative speeches about your divisive spirits, about how your are in rebellion and sowing discord. They will shame you and make it look like they love truth.

I have received messages – including audio recorded evidence – from California to Florida, to my little corner of the world, of how such leaders attack their people when you try to confront them. What I’ve stated is not even the tip of that iceberg. They are bullies. They are abusive. They care about image. And they care about themselves and their power.

Church members and attendees, I urge you to be aware. Be discerning. Watch for the signs. And be there for the wounded. These leaders are leaving trails of (spiritual) corpses in their wake. Watch for those ‘corpses’ and don’t by the ‘he’s just divisive’ line. Any time that is used in relation to a wounded person in the care of the leader speaking is a great time to lean in and hear the wounded.  It’s a sign the leader is spiritually abusive.

And if they’re throwing around the Jezebel line.. it’s pretty much a given, that you are dealing with an abuser. I’ve not met one man or woman who flings that term around who isn’t spiritually abusive. It’s a glorified way of demonizing people so they can be dismissed, and especially to silence the voices of godly women. And it’s demonic. It’s certainly not biblical.

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CLARIFICATION ON BLOG RELEASED JUNE 13, 2019, REGARDING MR. SHANKSTER:

Some of you have asked for clarification regarding the blog in which Simeon Shankster withdrew from CAM. To read the blog click here: Anabaptist Missionary Takes Stand

They partnered together in various ways; he was not part of CAM.

Mr. Shankster is 100% for reporting sex offenders to the law and not interfering with the legal process. Hence, no nonresistant Christian should interfere with legal justice for the offenders, nor should they try to force it. (He does not agree with my advocacy methods. However, he also does not condemn me as a Christian. We come out at a different biblical understanding on this matter. I would not hesitate to work for the government or the law — apart from the fact that I’m lousy at following politics, and am much too independent a thinker to cow-tow to the system – and Mr. Shankster would not believe that is appropriate. I respect his opinion and understanding. And I most certainly respect him as a man of God).

Mr. Shankster believes “We ought to obey God rather than man” and that for Paul Weaver and Eli Weaver to not speak out about their knowledge (since at least 2012) of Jeriah’s crimes, is unbiblical. This is part of the ‘two kingdom’ doctrine he refers to. Ultimately, lawyer or no lawyer, CAM board of directors or no board of directors, he insists these men owe the public the truth. And at least three of us hold hard evidence of truth.

I have responded based on my personal conversation with Simeon. I have spoken as truthfully and accurately as possible, given my understanding of what he said in our conversation. If he sends any corrections, I will update.

If you have any further questions please send them to: Trudy Metzger.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

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.

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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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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

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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