Just for fun… Almost-Keto Avocado, Strawberry/Cranberry Smoothie

Never before, in all my life, have I shared a recipe on this blog, that I can recall. (And I think I would remember.) But my doc told me to go Keto… Guess I’m too chubby. Also, my cholesterols have crawled up over the years, while on meds after the heart attack – the worst of which I managed to get off and stay off from 2015 until two weeks ago.

Doc failed to mention that I have to measure and limit berries, so this is only keto-friendly, not true keto. Also, I added protein powder because I like it. It was so pretty, and so delicious, I decided to share it on FB, and now here.

Layer One:
1 whole avocado
1/3 cup unsweetened premium coconut milk (not water)
squeeze of lime… or many squeezes
1/2 cup ice
(I added 1 tbsp protein powder *after* blending to avoid bubbling)

Blend until smooth and pour in cup/dish

Layer Two:
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/3 cup frozen cranberries
3/4 cup of remaining coconut milk
3/4 cup water (if needed for desires consistency)
squeeze of lime… or many squeezes
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (if you like it… mostly the taste gets lost)

Blend until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp. Olive oil and/or any other oils you need/like, and blend again (very briefly)
(I added another 1.5 Tbsp. protein powder)

Pour over avocado layer, and squeeze more lime on top.

If desired, a third layer can be added/substituted, using frozen mango in place of strawberries and cranberries. I am allergic to mango, so not an option for me. I got the idea in Ethiopia in 2005, where they serve this amazing and beautiful layered shakes everywhere.

Delicious!! And such a lovely break from the heaviness of what I typically write about! Enjoy!

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Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

UNSPOKEN HOPE

Hope rises.
Silence falls.
Hope shatters.
Her tongue cut out.
Pieces on the floor.
Pieces of her, of him… of me, of them
Strewn here and there

Walking here and there,
People stepping on
Pieces on the floor.
Tall people. strong people. Powerful.
Crushing flesh pieces on the floor.
Flesh, dragging here and there.
Red.
Dry blood on black shoes.

“Only trust Him… Only trust Him… Only trust Him now…
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now…”

Songs.
Prayers.
Tears
Helpless children.
Raped.
Used.
Cast away.

“Only trust Him… Only trust Him… Only trust Him now…
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now…”

Children weep.
Wail.
Hell licks their feet.

People walking.
Away.
Where has Jesus gone?
Why do angels weep dry tears?

Trust withers.
Silence falls.
Hope…

Dead.

Religion.

Hell wins.

;

Truth rises,
Tongue cut out
Oh hell be warned!
Death gives birth to unmatched power!
Wordless.
Silent.
Thunder shakes the strongest tower.

No more politics.
No flow’ry speech.
Truth will stand in ruthless silence,
Shouting without sound
Crying from the highest mountain
And all will hear
As, Truth, forced to silent grave,
Rises from the ground.

No white flags.

No powerless surrender.

Silence moves
Stealthy
Wise
Calculated.

Invisible hands,
Wrapped about my throat.
I cannot speak.

But I have my sword.

Truth.

;

Jesus walks into the room.

What will you say now?

Did silence pave His way?

Or was it the voice of those who cried against the norms:

Make a path in the place of death… the wilderness… where nothing of life has ever grown.
Where children’s souls are laid bare by reckless men!
Make way!
Behold! He comes! The Son of God! Make way
!”

He enters.
Holding no regard for rules.
Honouring no politics.
Crying louder for the lost
the wounded
the weak.
Standing silent only to accusation.
Crying out against their sin,
He eats of the forbidden grain.

I eat. 
With no regard for silence.
Breaking all the rules
of polite society.
Hearts are not healed
by
U
N
S
P
O
K
E
N
HOPE.

*************************************************************************************

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Another fine mess: FB account reported, and on becoming Dr. Gertruda… or is that Dr. Getruda? And La’wd… La’wd ha’mercy!

Sunday morning a friend contacted me pretty much first thing to ask I was okay. Yes, I was, great, why? He noticed my Facebook had disappeared…

When I signed in, Sunday morning – or more like, attempted to sign in – my account was not there. In it’s place were messages from Facebook ‘police’, asking me questions. I had been reported by one of my ‘friends’ for using a fake name on my account. Could I confirm I was using my real name?

La’wd… La’wd ha’mercy! With friends like that, you got the enemies all covered, right there too. No need for two lists.

It was, in fact, my own name I was using. I had Trudy, but with the title of Exec.Dir.,  as well as the name of an Admin person…..

And it all started when a brilliant idea struck me, recently….

I’ve contemplated how to manage the upcoming 4-year stretch, doing my PhD. I’m excited. I’m nervous. At moments it looks overwhelming. But mostly, I’m excited. The exciting part doesn’t need any explanations. The nervous part, that’s pretty simple too. It’s a challenge, an adventure in learning and experience. I like both. The overwhelming part, that’s so multifaceted I hardly know where to begin. There is home life. Social life. (That, I hear, is no more in the PhD process). There is family. There are friends. There are victims/survivors who are traumatized and reach out via FB. There are those who write to exhort and correct me, via FB. And I do not like to blow anyone off. No matter who you are, you are worthy of acknowledgment, whether you love me or hate me Since June I don’t think I’ve responded to less than 1000 Facebook messages and emails. Probably more. Before that, there were many, albeit not nearly that many in such a short time. And I welcome them and would wish to be able to respond personally and thoroughly to everyone, but at that rate, there is no way I can manage during university.

I had started creating a new forum for staying connected with friends, elsewhere, so that I would be able to deactivate my FB account. While deactivating was not my first preference, the idea of having messages build up for months at a time and never getting caught up overwhelms me. Those who have known me for years, know that in the past I responded to all messages within an hour or two (usually less) unless I was with a client, in a meeting, or away. In recent years that has not been possible. I don’t remember when I last had zero unread messages. So to have them collecting for weeks and months is not a good option. But to shut down an account where so many people message for resources – whether book suggestions, counsellor suggestions, or wondering if I know of any churches where victims are safe – I felt guilty

That’s when the brilliant idea struck me. I could add an administrator to my account. Rose Weber is a trusted friend whom we hired to be available for survivors contacting Generations Unleashed for support, locally, over the next four years.. She could respond to general questions, and forward specific ones to me. It was a perfect solution! Until it wasn’t.

And that moment came shortly after changing the information on my account. About two weeks prior to making the changes, I posted my brilliant idea on Facebook, to give friends a heads up about the upcoming change. No one seemed to have a problem with it. But within a few hours (or less) of changing the name, a friend contacted me, distressed that this ‘stranger’ would have access to all past messages. I responded, saying Rose would only be notified of new messages coming in, and take care of those. As we continued the exchange, I realized that I had not thought it through well enough. With text messages, when you add a new device, only new messages show unless taken from backup. With Messenger that would be different, and there would be no way to control that access. Upon realizing it, I apologized both publicly and privately, and set about letting my FB friends know I had made an error in judgement and not thought things through well enough.

The downside to this whole process was that Facebook wouldn’t let me change my name back for 60 days. I contemplated deactivating for that long, but decided to live with it, feeling a bit ‘Laurel and Hardy’ish, with “another fine mess” I got myself into by not thinking through the implications.

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Things went fine, after that, with friends sending messages, thanking me, and others talking about it publicly. Politely.

But it bothered me every time I saw the name. Only 57 days to go until I can change it… I was counting down.

And then Sunday morning, August 19, happened. My account wasn’t available. Some friend in the shadows was offended, or annoyed, or whatever…

In any case, I immediately set up a new account. It is Trudy Harder Metzger, just like the last one.  {Edit: my old account is back. FB approved my ‘name correction’. If we are not already connected, you are welcome to connect there: Trudy Metzger} However, please be warned in advance that I will not have much time to be messaging, as I start school in September, and Messenger has a way of becoming a time-consuming exchange (which I otherwise enjoy) as the back-and-forth happens, compared to email which is more like letter-writing. So please use info@generationsunleashed.com for the next four years for requests, to share your stories, or when looking for resource recommendations. I am committed to reading all personal messages, though I may have a volunteer assist with responding to resource requests etc.

After starting Generations Unleashed, I decided not to send friend requests anymore, with maybe a dozen or two exceptions in 6 years. The work I do, I figure if people want to read that heavy content, they can send me friend requests. That’s still true. I don’t need a large following, and I rarely send out friend requests. I am happy to interact in meaningful relationships – including those who respectfully challenge me, and even those who hate/despise me, as long as they are don’t resort to being abusive.

But, when it comes to those who are manipulative, underhanded and don’t have the cajones to say to my face what they say behind my back… Ima be honest… I really feel no need to connect with two-faced people. Just not at all. The same goes for those with an agenda to destroy others, or dehumanize them. I hate sexual abuse. I despise the wickedness. I advocate for victims/survivors and will always stand in their corner no matter who I am up against. I will not protect the crime or the criminal. I support criminals facing the consequences for their crimes – at the hands of the law, as well as the social protections that must be put in place. But I will seek redemption of the individual. Every. Single. Time.  Even the worst of offenders needs someone to care for his/her soul, to visit him/her in prison, to hold him/her accountable, to lead him/her to healing and to ensure he/she never again is given opportunity to offend like that again. It is unconscionable to think we should simply forgive and forget, and it is dangerous to presume they won’t reoffend if left floundering without that relational accountability and support. Part of redemption is creating that community where they are accountable and where redemption is valued – which does not always look like redemption to the religious who demand ‘forgetting’ as part of it. That is my heart. Still. If that is a conversation you cannot handle, or engage respectfully in spite of differences, I am probably the wrong person to connect with, and I certainly am the wrong person to align with in ministry.

That all said, if you want to stay connected via FB, and fall in any category except that two-faced, manipulative one, feel free to connect again. (And if you be petty enough to report a friend’s name change that offends you, without a conversation… Well, I’ll leave it at that.)

I value diverse relationships, but also expect I will post infrequently with university starting in a matter of two weeks, and don’t foresee having time for social media much.  I am told the process of doing a PhD is intense, and either makes you or breaks you, so I am preparing for something far more all-consuming than the Masters degree of the past two years. I’ve heard it’s a bit like hibernating. You go underground for weeks at a time, come up for sunshine, air, food and water, and then disappear again. Since my research focus is hopefully going to be about meeting with victims/survivors and others involved in crime among religious groups, I know it won’t be quite that bad, but nonetheless, it will be intense.

And the reward? I emerge on the other side with the title Dr. Gertruda Metzger. One might almost argue it is a punishment, a name like. But that’s my name. At least I thought it was, until I recently looked at my birth certificate only to discover otherwise. I was named in High German – Getruda, and then registered in Spanish, but using the High German spelling rather than the Spanish one of Gertruda, and then spent my whole life being called ‘Trutje’ in German, and ‘Trudy’ in English. I like both Trutje and Trudy. So Dr. Trudy Metzger would have been nice. All these years I have told people I was formally registered as Gertruda Harder, and now I find out ….

As it stands, I will love the next four years of study and search, only to become Dr. Getruda Metzger, but with Dr. Gertruda on the formal documents, because that is how I am registered in Canada.

As if hitting mid-life and starting menopause isn’t enough…

I think I’m going to buy a motorbike and do this midlife thing right. And maybe formally change my name.

On that happy note, I wish you all many blessings!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

 

 

Chantry, Hezekiah and Chloe

What more can I say, than what has already been said. Oh, except that even truth is slander if it can hurt someone. God forbid that we hurt someone in power, or that those of us in power are confronted. Instead, let us all gather round and throw rocks at those who tell the truth that wounds, or confronts.

Frankly, I’d rather be confronted and have opportunity to be transformed – or repent if it is a sin issue – than to bring further damage to the brokenhearted.

And it’s not just the ‘wolves’ that need to be challenged. Good leaders have blindspots too. We all need it. If we can’t be wrong, handle being confronted and admit it, then we’re in no shape to be leading others. Because that is one of the things that definitely needs to be exemplified in this crazy battle against abuse. I’ve had to apologize before, and I will have to again. But before I apologize for speaking out against abuse – whether spiritual, sexual or other abuse – I’ll take the inevitable beating.

So, like the author said, “Listen to Chloe. You just might learn something.” And listen to Sam too.

This is an excellent read!

My Only Comfort

When thoughts collide…

Last week I was preparing for my Sunday School teaching on Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem. As I was preparing, I was struck by this message from Isaiah to Hezekiah:

Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard (2 Kings 19:20)

Hezekiah was in bad trouble. Sennacherib had conquered the whole world, and he was unstoppable. He had now surrounded Jerusalem and gave Hezekiah the terms of absolute surrender. There was no strength left in Hezekiah.

And Hezekiah took the letter demanding his surrender and laid it on the altar of God, crying out to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and telling God the problem. He spoke honestly and directly.

God delights when we call upon him. God takes pleasure in our prayers, when we speak to him honestly and directly. When we are in trouble, and when…

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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

Trust, disruption, obstreperous victims, repentant offenders, pastors in prison, the church & the law, and finding a new way forward

“Trust Me” ~ GOD ~
When God says “Trust Me”, and you do it, and then everything in your human nature wants to trust people – good people – and all the good advice they give. Advice that collides with what you know God has spoken, the most tempting thing as a human is to cave and cater to human reasoning and logic and explanations – on either side, whether the ‘most spiritual’ or the ‘most humanistic’. But just contemplating it, causes your spirit to rise up ‘in remembrance of what He has spoken. “Trust Me,” He says again. So you return to the place of discomfort and wait. Alone. Or at least feeling alone. And you do this because you choose to trust Him, above all.

Obstreperous Victims, and Repentant Offenders
I’ve said it many times. I live in a space where both sides collide – where one force pulls this way on me and the other pulls that way – living between two sides in opposition. But I intentionally choose this place where generally neither ‘side’ is particularly pleased with me, and I do it because I genuinely believe it is one of the most critical aspects of breaking the cycle of abuse in churches.

I *advocate* for victims, and victims only. But I long for the healing and personal redemption of both victims and offenders. I hold tenaciously to the truth. And sometimes I have it wrong. But it will not be some human that convinces me I have it wrong, based on reasoning, excuses, explanations or any other thing. It will be God, and His people who take me to the place of my error and show me. Until He does that – directly or through His people – I will not say and do the things that please the crowds. I cannot live with myself if I do that.

And individuals on both sides of almost any situation I am in – whether a ‘situation’ or my day to day ministry – try often to persuade me to see it their way, or to “do this or that” or “do (whatever that thing is) this way or that”. Lovely people. Kind people. Well-meaning people. And all they want is peace. But true peace comes from letting latent and buried conflict rise to the surface, and erupt – sometimes into messy and chaotic ‘explosions’ – so that the ‘lie about peace’ is exposed, and true peace can be sought. Buried conflict presents as peace, but, alas, it is not. It is ongoing unacknowledged destruction. People’s spirits die. The next generation pays the price for the previous generations’ *peace* – which indeed was not peace – and the cycle continues. And most are content with this illusion of peace, because the alternative shakes things at a place that is uncomfortable, and takes the messy to places many cannot handle.

On the ‘Healing for All’ Side and Disrupting Norms
I advocate for victims. I believe working in cooperation with the law is ideal. And I fight for the healing and redemption of both victims and offenders. Because whichever piece (or ‘side’) we neglect to bring healing, is the side that will drag the sexual violence into the next generation. On the one side it goes forward through coverup and silence. And on the other side it goes on through unhealed trauma. It cannot be about this side or that, in any conflict or trauma, if real meaningful and lasting change is to come, and the cycle broken. But that middle place is at times a lonely place to stand and fight, with just a few who stand together. It is a place of fighting for the past (those who already were victimized or who already offended), and simultaneously fighting for the future to break the cycle. It is a place of disrupting norms, disrupting the illusion of peace, and of standing for two unpopular and polar opposite positions.

For this reason I am uncomfortable at a personal level with a vindictive approach to exposing corruption. But I will not silence voices and police what is said, unless it becomes directly abusive. I tend, rather, to counter it with what I believe. That anger is the result of generations of not being heard, and is linked to deep, deep pain and trauma. And pain demands to be acknowledged, one way or another. The sooner we all learn that leaning in and really hearing those devastated by abuse, rather than writing them off as bitter, the better off we will be and the more effectively we will break this dreadful scourge, and end (at least a large portion) of this horrible cycle. Because bitterness turns to hope and grace when the love of Jesus touches it, and it is not done through formula. It is done through relationship. And once that trusted relationship has been built, you’d be amazed what you earn permission to say to someone to help them heal! But your goal has to be simply loving them, not some other agenda.

It seems ‘easier’ for many Christians to deal with offenders and give them a place in Christian community because of this messy process of hearing victims who have been silenced. (And I would propose that victims who are heard immediately, seldom, if ever, get as dark and as messy as those in religious communities who have been silenced, blamed and shamed).  For offenders, all that is required for them to be embraced in Christian community  is for them to say “I’m sorry”. That’s it. If they are sorry – genuine or just skilled at appearing that way; and both do happen – they are back in. Immediately they are surrounded, applauded amid tears of joy at the ‘prodigal returned’. After that, whether they play the victim who is hated, or the gracious martyr ‘sinner come home’ who acknowledges that the victim rightfully feels negatively toward them, in either case, the offender finds a place more easily than the ‘bitter victim’ does. Power is more easily integrated with Christianity than messy pain, and it requires little investment, if any, by the community. Victims, on the other hand, need care, compassion, a listening ear, someone to speak gentle truth, and so much more, on every level, than most offenders. So offenders are often more welcomed than victims, for many reasons.

I would like to see both – the life of the victim and the life of the offender – redeemed. Each, individually, restored to God and peace. Each with the support in the church that they need.

A Place of Safety for the Victimized
The victim given a safe place to acknowledge and experience the pain  in its messy stages, while being guided to wholeness and redemption. To be allowed to grieve and mourn, without being labeled or thought insane. They’re not insane. In fact, the more they are allowed to honestly grieve, the more whole they will become. Rather than judging as bitter, we need to lean in and hear all that has been silenced and shut down, for many generations, behind that uncomfortable expression of grief. And the victim being protected from unnecessary upheaval, to the point of asking the offender to attend elsewhere if the victim cannot cope with their presence. Forgiveness to be the path we walk with them not the demand we place on them. The latter is damaging an shuts down the spirit, the former is relational and life-giving.

Speaking of bitterness and victims’ anger, I asked Mike Yoder of Milton PA this week if he finds many victims of abuse wanting revenge or retribution. (Mike is “trained in STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) and has also received training in Restorative Justice and Community Peacebuilding through the Center for Justice and Peace at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VAH”, and is passionate about impacting the epidemic of sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities). He said no, but with a disclaimer and an exception of ‘unless they tried to speak out and their voices have been silenced’. (That is as close to verbatim as I can recall his statement.) This lines up with my experience. Victims generally want offenders to take ownership without excuse, and courageously face whatever the consequences and fallout is of transparency and repentance. (Because that truly does symbolize repentance, to be willing to face consequences. In fact, I would argue if self-protection is still present, repentance is not complete.) Many victims have no desire for retribution or revenge. Many don’t even want their offenders to go to prison, and will even actively try to prevent such a thing, unless they believe there is a risk of reoffending, in which case they may actively seek to have the offender imprisoned. This is not for their own good, but for the protection of potential victims. Countless victims have said to me that if they were absolutely certain there was zero risk of reoffending, they would want nothing to do with the legal process. So the notion and judgement that most victims are part of an angry mob wanting to get even or cause pain, is highly inaccurate. So that mentality needs to shift.

Does the Offender Have a Place in Church and God’s Kingdom?
Yes, but not behind the pulpit.
For the offender, there must be both encouragement to repent, and permission to really repent – King David style, in sackcloth and ashes, with nothing held back, and no excuses left for sins committed. They need to be encouraged to face consequences with courage. It is the coward who assaults an innocent and defenceless child or vulnerable adult, and then thinks he/she doesn’t deserve the consequences for that crime. And it is a group of cowards who stand in the way of such courage rather than encouraging the offender to face those consequences, and daring to walk alongside. The enablers who play the role of protecting, are often good-hearted naive men and women who are of deep faith but have little understanding of predators – different than those who offend and then come forward and seek help, and change – and predators know how to play on the emotions and compassion of this crowd. The offender convinces this compassionate crowd that they were helpless in the face of struggle and meant no harm, or they “only did ___, not ____” and list a ‘small offence’ in contrast with rape. Or they may even say that the child intentionally tempted them. (Yes, I’ve heard this too often!) That offender is not helpless in the face of temptation, and not nearly as helpless in the face of a prison sentence as the child he/she assaulted. For grown men and women to band together and cover for such a person, or downplay their crime, is destructive and cowardly. Adults have physical, mental and spiritual advantages when facing consequences that the child (or vulnerable adult) did not have in that moment of victimization.  That said, I would like to see healthy cooperation with the law to support offenders in this process so that redemption is possible for them, and the risk of reoffending is decreased. That is in everyone’s best interest.

Along with this ‘place to repent’, we need to believe that transformation is possible (I do believe that it is, as do many other professionals) but with the balance of recognizing that we have no right to impose risk on the vulnerable. An adult who has molested children should not be given positions of power or leadership over children. It is absurd to think this is wise, and it is the wrong place to prove that transformation has happened. It is wrong to impose that risk on children and the vulnerable, and it is wrong to place the offenders in such a position of temptation/risk. I may be a recovered alcoholic, but becoming a bartender to prove my freedom from addiction is foolishness. Even more so when that addiction imposes risk on innocent, helpless or vulnerable individuals.

There is a difference in situations where teens and children have molested and gotten help. First of all, in most places such knowledge cannot be made public. Secondly, in cases I have worked, many teens who offended came forward on their own seeking help. And statistics indicate that teens who get help are most unlikely to reoffend. Even so, I know of teen offence cases where those young offenders have grown up to self-impose boundaries and accountability for everyone’s protection, using the ‘buddy system’ to ensure no one is ever at risk, and that they are never tempted or falsely accused. There is great wisdom in this. And, whether teens or adults, we should always believe that transformation is possible, and be equally committed to not taking risks or imposing risks on others, by using healthy boundaries to protect everyone. This is the responsibility of families, church leaders, ministry leaders (and, by law, businesses, to an extent and in some places), and is in the best interest of all.

The “I am trustworthy, they are not” mentality
I am amazed at how many adults have said to me that they don’t believe such transformation is possible, and it doesn’t matter if the offender is a youth or adult. It’s not possible. They insist that the offences of all who have offended by publicized, even if they were minors, and heavy boundaries imposed. (I’ve worked with several situations where 5 to 7 year olds were demonized for inappropriate touch. That, in my opinion, is another form of child abuse and is highly inappropriate. As is spanking the ‘offending’ party. But that’s another blog for another day.) When these individuals push this aggressive agenda, I sometimes ask if they ever offended sexually, as a pre-teen or teen, and the answer sometimes is, “Yes, but….” They make exceptions for themselves, because they know they: 1.) came forward on their own (or) 2.) only did it because, through the abuse they suffered, they were taught to reenact it (or) 3.) only did it until they understood what sex was (or) 4.) it’s obvious ‘my offender’ isn’t sorry, because he/she makes excuses (all the while forgetting they are making excuses as well)… and the list goes on. (I inject here that, depending on the conversation, it is perfectly appropriate to ask someone if they have offended but only on the condition that the individual asking is willing to answer the same question. If you molested as a teen and are not transparent about it, you have no authority or business to be holding others accountable. That’s hypocrisy, as is holding them to a higher standard in any way.) The truth is, if one offender can be transformed or rehabilitated, then we need to believe it is possible for others, and it is pride that holds oneself higher (or better) than another. It doesn’t mean that we have to get cozy with our offenders and pretend like it never happened, but we do need to allow for ‘them’ to also change their ways. (Again, I reiterate, while never putting minors and the vulnerable at risk to prove that ‘work of grace’ or transformation in the offender. That is one of the consequences that a humble and repentant offender will accept. And those who do accept it, are the least likely to offend because they don’t place themselves in a position of risk.)

Regarding Pastors/Leaders and the Duty to Report
I admit, I feel an element of relief at seeing the law hold leaders accountable for not reporting, because of the incredible damage the silence has done to victims, and to the Christian community. I am equally relieved to have both secular and Christian media paying attention to the problem of sexual abuse among us, and the problem of churches covering it up. However, while I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader, on this front I hold a somewhat controversial personal position in that I don’t like the idea of having hundreds of leaders put behind bars for this failure unless they insist on their own innocence, and there is no reason to believe they will protect going forward. Where leaders get a revelationeven if it is inspired by pressure from the lawI am inclined to work cooperatively with them. Earlier today, Pastor Dale Ingraham – who is my personal ministry pastor and, together with his wife Faith, founded Speaking Truth in Love Ministries – and I had a lengthy conversation addressing this topic (as well as that of teen offences in closed communities), and we agree that there needs to be a healthy process for transitioning from the old way (covering up and silencing) to leaders embracing transparency, accountability. Meeting the leaders ‘where they are at’, if they so much as show interest in learning to respond well to abuse, rather than pushing for imprisonment, seems redemptive and critical in breaking cycles. We are both interested in helping leaders in this process, and supporting them in a restorative approach to dealing with past coverups and failure to report, as it is most likely to result in positive outcomes all around, going forward. (I read this to Pastor Dale prior to publishing)

The exposure – through media and law –  will reveal the extent of the problem, much as the story in Spotlight and the exposure of sexual abuse in Catholic churches is influencing greater accountability and transparency among them. And restorative approaches to dealing with these leaders will most effectively turn the tide across our culture and bring positive change. And ultimately – Pastor Dale and Faith and I agree – our goal is to break the cycle and bring positive change. Where cover-up continues and offenders are not held accountable, prison is an excellent short-term consequence, but fails to influence long-term positive outcomes.

A Segue: Our Legal System & An Alternative
That’s the spiritual/church/religious side of it. From a legal system perspective, the truth is the system isn’t equipped to work well with sexual violence. It is faulty and the only thing it seems to offer is getting offenders off the street for a time after which they return with an increased likelihood of offending. In this way it contributes to the problem, albeit not as much as religious cover-ups, from my perception of things. So, somehow these two things need to change, ideally simultaneously. At the same time as the church stops covering up for offenders and preventing consequences, we need to find healthier ways of working proactively and in cooperation with the law, even while the system for handling sex crimes is questioned. Here, from my observation, we need a new way of working with cases. Sexual abuse is one crime in which the criminal is often very closely related to the victim, though not always, and in which the arbitrary process of imposing the law on both parties can do a lot of damage to the victim, as his/her voice is lost in the process. It offers only the comfort of the offender being behind bars, if the case ends up being one of the few in which the offender ends up prosecuted. (Based on information provided by StatCan, between 2009 and 2014, if an accused is identified in 300 of 500 (3×100 of 5×100), the end result is that in approximately 129 cases charges are laid, 63.21 would go to court, 17.04 lead to a conviction, and in the end, 9.54 of the 300 are placed in custody. That’s a pretty low percent of convictions, meaning most who are charged, and almost half of those convicted, are never incarcerated.) This, alone, leads me to believe that we can be far more effective in partnership with the law than to leave the law to its own devices, or to expect the religious system to deal with abuse, when both are currently clearly ineffective.

For this reason, one of my dreams and passions and brainstorms is that, much like Child Protective Service organizations, there be an alternative to the police force – albeit one that works in cooperation with the law and within the confines of the law – to handle sex abuse cases. The more specialized the team, the more sensitivity there will be toward victims, and the more likely it is that offenders will be truly ‘rehabilitated’ and given ongoing healthy accountability and support to prevent re-offending. These things, as part of reintegration into community, are among the most effective and necessary steps in preventing recidivism. Like every other addiction, isolation and loneliness increase the risk. Therefore, the way we are most accustomed to responding – by alienating, shaming-without-redemption (because it is healthy to be ashamed of such crime), and excluding from community – are contributing to the problem.

What the church is doing in most cases is an epic fail, and no one can convince me it is the Jesus Way or God’s heart. It’s not. And what the law has to offer is sadly just as inadequate. So, somehow we have to transform these two ways of responding to sexual crimes. And it is my prayer that this will come.

A Place in the Middle, and a Path to be Pursued
It is the thing for which I advocate, and for which I stand in the middle – that place between two opposing sides – and long to help both sides, while never compromising truth, justice, mercy and love. Calling out abuses, injustice, coverups, abuse of power and the like, and never silencing the victims’ pain even if it is entirely uncomfortable to hear their anger (yet not endorsing abusive attacks), and believing offenders can change. yet never compromising on the need for consequences and healthy boundaries even if the offender is completely repentant, and then working for the greater good…  this, I believe, is key to a path forward.

And that is the path I seek to walk. At a leadership level, it is a path of being held accountable, and holding others accountable – and those leaders who are willing to commit to such transparency are the only leaders I wish to work closely with, even while allowing for failure in that goal. A path of standing firm and honouring the voice of God when those around insist you choose their particular path or condemn the path God set before you. It is a path that is groundbreaking, in this field of sexual violence, and is therefore one of failure and stumbling. Therefore it must also be a path of repentance, in which I humbly acknowledge “I have sinned’, when God reveals – either directly or through other godly voices (and dare I add, through relationally ‘present’ individuals who are not agenda driven) – that we have done wrong. (I throw this disclaimer in because I get advice from absolute strangers – even people I’ve never seen or heard of before – and while I listen and hear them, I do not take every criticism to heart, or adjust my position/belief at every ‘word of wisdom’ or ‘message God told me to give’.)

Truth is, even from people I know and have personal relationships, I can get two messages on any given day, both devout Christians who have a ‘word from God’, and the two messages are polar opposites. I am then supposed to decide which one is the true word and follow it, I suppose. But often they are opinion-based ‘words from God’ – advice that clearly supports one agenda or the other – and when I hold them up to ‘the JESUS Way’, neither is inherently wrong or right. Sometimes the difference is whether the person sharing ‘the word’ is endorsing Anabaptist non-resistant views, the Apostle Paul confronting Peter in public views, or some other personal opinion.

I choose to take my counsel from those nearest – those in my inner circle I never disregard – as well as those who I may never have met, who clearly are not agenda-driven, who reflect the heart of Jesus consistently (not perfectly). Those who listen, really listen…. Those who obviously and actively pursue God, truth, peace, justice and mercy… with love. These are the voices that I value most, whether they agree with me or not, because these are among the things that matter most to God. And it is my heart to value what God values.

So I press forward and onward…. thankful for grace. And I wait for God to speak…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018