Dirty Laundry that Stinks to High Heaven: Sexual Abuse in Christian Cultures (Part 1 of 2)

What inspired me to share the information in yesterday’s blog, Age of Consent & Sexual Assault, and the links I will provide over the next several posts, is several sexual abuse cases that took place in my cultural background.

Two in particular have my attention. One is more recent, the other a bit longer ago, but less than fifteen years ago. They appear to be linked through generational chains. I have not pursued information on this case (yet), nor have I spoken to any of the victims directly… what I know has recently come to me.

It is very likely that some of my readers will recognize the story, and if you find yourself feeling responsible to report the case, because you know too much…. Well, follow your conscience…

The case most influencing me is that of a 14-year-old having sexual relations with an adult Mennonite teacher, who also molested other children. (Of this type of scenario, I have been made aware of several separate cases, in Ontario, and in USA. I will write here only based on Canadian laws, as I am not familiar with USA laws, or state laws.)

The problem here was that, since the relationship with the teen was consensual, so the church treated it as fornication and a mutual consent affair. This allowed them, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to quickly treat it as sin for both parties, and apply church laws to ‘take care of it’. (To my knowledge the teacher who abused the children and engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with the student has not been reported or brought to legal justice That is a matter I still need to confirm. Those who have spoken with me about it, did not know for certain. But that is not really the point I am trying to make, it is about putting responsibility on the student, when the teacher has the power.)

Under no circumstances is it appropriate to put this on a 14-yr-old child, nor would it stand up in court. It would not stand in defense of the teacher, who is in a position of authority and would be held accountable even if it was an older student, because it is an abuse of power. Nor would the law accept that church leaders and others in positions of authority, who were aware of the inappropriate sexual relations, are innocent.

I am still in the process of determining my own moral/legal obligations, having recently been made aware of these details. When I know what I am required to do, I will do it. And in the event that it has already been reported and dealt with, my understanding is that I am not required to do anything further. However, because of the situation with the teen, there may still be a legal obligation on my part, and, again, I will do it if that is the case.

It is a tragedy that numerous similar scenarios are coming to light, and, even with multiple victims, it appears as though it has been quietly swept under the carpet of the church. It is important, and it cannot be stressed enough, that a perpetrator of sexual abuse be reported. To apply church discipline is a matter completely separate from the law, and in no way overrides the laws of our land, especially when it comes to protecting innocent children.

There are questions surrounding consequences for children who abuse children. According to the information I posted yesterday, children, ages 13 and under, are not charged unless they are in a position of authority and trust. My understanding is that if they are 12 or 13, they still need to be reported, so that they can get appropriate help, and it is just common sense to find help for all children who display obsession with sexualized behaviour.

In the case of 14 to 17 yr olds, they are typically charged as juveniles, and those 18 and over are charged and tried as adults.

Religious leaders, principals, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and all those in a position of authority and trust, can be held to account for not reporting. However, all adults are required to report.

In a recent case (USA) a spouse who knew of abuse was also arrested, and in another case a priest was charged for knowingly covering abuse. More and more, I anticipate seeing this type of consequence for silence and turning a blind eye.

In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had recommended a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in all institutions, to determine how much cover up is happening. This includes, but is not limited to churches. If this were to happen in Canada, I am confident that what would come to light in the church would shock the world, and our communities, and it would cost the church. (Though it might also do some unexpected house cleaning.) I am saddened that this is the case.

I pray that we do some serious house cleaning before it comes to this. It would result in serious, and justified, attacks on Christianity.  And, undoubtedly, we would cry ‘Persecution’, but it would not be that at all.

Persecution is when we suffer for the sake of Christ, not for the sake of evil, corruption and iniquity hidden in the walls of the church, while declaring our own righteousness. That kind of attack is the result of our own godlessness.

1 Peter 3:13-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

Suffering for Right and Wrong

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”[a] 15 But sanctify the Lord God[b] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[c] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

God forbid that we would continue to hide our sin and crimes, while judging the world for their ungodliness, and then pretending to suffer for the name of Christ when they judge our lies and abominations. That is blasphemous, at best.

If we continue to do this, we will stand in judgement for such pretences, I believe, far more than the ungodly who have never known Christ. We have known Him, and willingly defiled His name and His church–the body of Christ–to protect our pride.

And to those leaders who declare, “I didn’t know”, my question is, “Why? Why did you not know? What door are you afraid to open, for fear of the consequences?”

Ask God to show you the true state of things, and then be prepared to act on that, both biblically, and according to the laws of our land. God isn’t much for turning a blind eye, so He will show you if you are willing to know.

I could name numerous leaders who have been approached by victims, who have been told how bad it is, but have not gotten their hands bloody to ‘know’ the truth. They have chosen not to believe, and each time they hear it again, they do the same thing.

But God is calling some, including some who have done this in the past, to rise up, hear hearts, face the truth and be the channels for God’s grace and forgiveness to flow out to His people. It is a call to all Christian leaders who will hear and respond, not only those in my cultural background, but every denomination.

God is not pleased with what has been done. He is giving us this opportunity, as believers, to deal with our sins appropriately and according  to the Bible and the laws of the land. (None of the laws of the land, regarding Child Sexual Abuse, violate our biblical call to repentance and God’s justice, therefore we are bound biblically, to live in submission to those laws.)

If we do not obey those laws and repent, God will expose our sins and the cost will be far greater than anything we can imagine.

We can pretend that we are ever so holy, that we have it together and our life is a picture of true holiness, but as long as we hide sin in our churches, and refuse to protect our children, we are nothing more than a spiritual slum…

(c) Can Stock Photo

…To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Church Leaders Convicted & Sentenced in Sexual Abuse Cover Up

What if church leaders, who cover up for sexual abuse, rape and molestation, could be charged and sentenced to prison? Apparently they can.On July 24, 2012, the highest ranking Catholic Church cleric was charged and convicted of child endangerment, for the cover up of child molestation and rape. (Read article here, at www.cnn.com)

Covering a crime is inexcusable. Always. Covering for a crime against a child is beyond inexcusable. And Christians covering up for crimes against innocent children, when Jesus clearly stated what should happen to people who offend little children (Matthew 18:6), is the most despicable of all cover ups.

It has long concerned me that leaders who hide victimization of children in the church, are (seemingly) not held to accountability. At least not in this life.

In recent news, including this case of the church leader, as well as the Sandusky cover up involving Joe Paterno at Penn State–a case that may or may not be accurately represented–it is obvious that leaders turning a blind eye is punishable by law. Granted, there is always the risk that the facts will be wrong, that things will not be as they appear, and innocent people will get caught, accused, and sentenced. That reality is unfortunate. But not as unfortunate as little children being raped and abused while adults look the other way.

This kind of situation can be argued both ways. People sympathize with the leaders who felt trapped and didn’t know what to do, maybe not certain if the facts were accurate. At the same time there’s the horrific crime against the innocent that leaves everyone feeling sorry for the victims, wondering if more could not have been done with what was known.

I get that there’s two sides. But standing idly by is inexcusable and allows criminal activity. If men and women are called to leadership, then this is a test of that leadership, and they need to rise up and face their fears, risking whatever it takes to do what is right. That’s what leaders do. And if they don’t, they’re not leaders.

I’m going to take it one step further. Whether we are leaders with a title or not, we have a duty to protect children and do what is right. If we are Christians, we are leaders, by virtue of doing the right thing, whether it’s popular or not. If we know that crimes are being committed, particularly against the innocent and helpless, we have a moral obligation to report that criminal activity. It’s not popular. I’ve done it. But it’s still the right thing to do.

Micah 6:8

New King James Version (NKJV)

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Who knows… If leaders are asked to take ownership, if they are at risk of ‘taking the fall’ when they knowingly neglect to protect the innocent, maybe it will help break the silence in abuse cases…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to 1st post in Sexual Abuse Series

Old Shoes & Bad Habits

Back in April Tim threw out a pair of Kordan’s old running shoes. They were in bad shape. The kind that make you wonder, ‘where are that child’s parents?’ when you see them on another child.

Kordan, not ready to part with his shoes, reclaimed them from the top of the garbage and continued to wear them. Almost daily they were his shoes of choice, even though he had better ones to choose from.

On Friday, after school was out for the summer, Tim informed Kordan that his shoes were going to be tossed and they were not coming back. It wasn’t up for discussion

Kordan studied them a bit, before trying to negotiate and convince his daddy that they still had some miles left in them.  They got tossed.

Old shoes, old t-shirts, old underwear…. There is something familiar and comfortable about clothes that know our body, clothes that fit. Even if they are worn out, ‘holey’ and less than attractive.


Habits we form can be like that. Sometimes they start out as good habits—or at least with good intentions—much like brand new shoes. Other times they’re not even good to start, more like a pair of used shoes we might find at a second-hand store.

With time we become familiar in our habits, oblivious to the fact that they no longer serve their purpose, if they ever had one. We don’t realize that we would be better to develop new ones to replace the old.

We all have blind spots, and the more our weaknesses  link to our habits, the less likely that we will recognize them on our own. Sometimes we need help to see through it.


Recently, while chatting with a group of wives, one of them commented how her husband and sons wear their underwear until there’s nothing left but threads. Is this a male thing? (I have a husband and three boys…)

That discussion reminded me of adjusting to this part of marriage…. and doing my husband’s laundry. Week after week, I would wash the same t-shirts and underwear, and week after week they became more threadbare. I washed, folded and popped them in Tim’s drawer, expecting that one day he would notice and throw them out. Since they were his clothes I thought it inappropriate for me to do it.  But he continued wearing them, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were wearing out.

When one pair of underwear was barely attached at the crotch—having almost turned into a mini-skirt—I decided to take matters into my own hands. I got a scissors and cut the final threads, then neatly folded them and slipped them into Tim’s drawer, expecting a good laugh in a few days.

I waited, thinking he would try them on one morning, only to discover a super-short skirt, and playfully scold me for my warped sense of humour. He never did.

I had waited patiently for a few days before I checked his drawer and the altered underwear were gone. That evening I asked Tim if he had found them.

Unfazed, he nodded with a chuckle and shrugged, “I just presumed they had worn through, so I threw them out.”


It’s much like that with bad habits. Even if we’re not aware that they’re not good for us, that something isn’t quite right, it’s easy to overlook how bad things are.

With old shoes, t-shirts and underwear, nothing too life-shattering will happen if they rip or tear. Our pride might be a bit bent out of shape, but that’s not the end of the world.

Our habits, on the other hand, impact us, and all those around us. They have the potential to destroy relationships, lives and leave us feeling exposed and naked, if they get out of control.

If we have friends in our lives who love us enough to help us see the truth, and protect us from ourselves, we are truly blessed. And if we’ll hear them, and take it to heart, we are wise, and better for it.

Overcoming bad habits takes time and dedication. Like Kordan and his old shoes, you may be tempted to go back to the trash, and reach for them. They’re comfortable. Each time you’re tempted, but choose instead to develop a new good habit, you will become stronger.

That said… it’s time for my walk. It’s a new habit I picked up a little while ago. Consistency and intentionality make all the difference in successfully adopting new good habits.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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