An Open Letter from Harold Herr’s Son Disclosing Details of Abuse Allegations

Since becoming aware of more abuse allegations against Harold Herr, in the past 8 months, I have been trusted with deeply personal communication from those making the allegations, and dating back many years. In particular, I have read numerous letters, emails and various communications written by Harold’s son, Daniel. Communication that was never intended to see the light of day; it was the ‘behind the scenes’ conversations and pleas, written in private. It is in those conversations where we are most likely to show our truest colours. And it is here I saw Daniel’s heart.

I asked Daniel for permission to share parts of that communication (posted after the letter to CAM’s supporters), dating back many years. I requested this because I want the public to see that the compassion he expressed for his father in the letter is the compassion he expressed in private conversation as well over the years. It is not a ploy. It is genuine. Daniel granted that request, though does not know in advance what I will share; a trust I do not take lightly.

First, I will share his letter to CAM and LIFE Literature. Daniel is a professional who has held the highest office in the field of mental health in the state of Virginia, and has worked closely with sex offenders and sex abuse victims. His care and compassion in this letter are consistent with all communication I have read, written by him.

TRIGGER ALERT:
To survivors of trauma and atrocities, and those with especially sensitive hearts, please be aware that the letter addressing supporters of Christian Aid Ministries and LIFE Literature shares in somewhat graphic (though not sexually explicit) details a few glimpses of the abuse allegations against Harold Herr by his son Daniel Herr.

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The first evidence from the past is a letter Daniel wrote in 1990 to undisclosed recipients. I share this as evidence of his motivation from the start to prevent the risk of others being victimized. While much has been redacted to protect intimate and private details, I am sharing the letter in Daniel’s own writing rather that typing out quotes, to preserve authenticity, dates and his own words. (EDIT: For clarity: To my knowledge this letter was not sent to CAM or LL at any point. They were not listed as recipients. Since I cannot confirm this with Daniel until tomorrow, I am adding this note to avoid confusion):

Dan H_Jan 11, 1990 a

Dan H_Jan 11, 1990 b

Dan H_Jan 11, 1990 c

The following is a letter  Daniel wrote  in 1998. It verifies his profession, and it also shows his compassion, as well as how and why he disclosed the abuse he suffered. (EDIT: For clarity: To my knowledge this letter was not sent to CAM or LL at any point. They were not listed as recipients. Since I cannot confirm this with Daniel until tomorrow, I am adding this note to avoid confusion): :

Dan H_ Dec 1998 a

Dan H_1998 b

Dan H_1998 c

The process of arriving at sharing this information publicly has not been easy for Daniel. Pray for him as you process all of this, keeping in mind what this does to someone who is compassionate, yet speaking publicly out of a sense of duty.

Last Sunday in worship, the song, “Not I but through Christ in me” unravelled me. The burden of this calling weighed heavy. Trust. My word this year. I do trust God. He has not called me to abandon me. He has not called me to destruction. He is shaking things up. He is shattering. But He is shattering for the promise of Jeremiah 31, to rebuild that which is torn down. It is a painful beautiful shattering. One that at moments crushes my heart… So I stood there in worship and let the tears fall as I prayed.

This morning. we had a quiet 3-part congregational prayer. I’ll be honest, I was distracted as the pastor gave instructions for the first part, so I sat there and had a wee moment with God that was not likely remotely close to the recommended use of time. In the second part, I unburdened my heart. I pled with God to bring truth fully to light in this situation. I am not God. I do not propose to know the answers. But I do trust His heart. So I prayed that Harold Herr would “remember and acknowledge any wrongdoing” so that he and others can heal. My heart cried out to God to redeem the horror so many have suffered. My prayer includes those in the peripheral; the friends and family of those who have offended, who are shocked or simply don’t believe it is possible, and friends of victims. My prayer includes the church, broadly, as we come to terms with what we have allowed to happen, through apathy and silence, on ‘our watch’. We need to repent. All of us.

In the third part of quiet we were encouraged to just sit in the presence of God and hear Him speak. To listen, quietly. So I did. And I started with, “If there was something You wanted to say to me, what would You say? How would You speak?”

Silence. Nothing. Nada.

So I asked, “Would I even know when You speak?”

Silence. For just a moment.

And then a still voice whispered, “My sheep know my voice.”

Followed by a pause.

Then, “I love truth. It is Who I am.”

Truth.

I pray constantly, daily, in every moment, for truth. My life’s prayer is for truth to come, for truth to be revealed. Because truth always brings freedom. Always.

So, in closing, I offer two songs of hope that are my prayer for you all:

BROKEN VESSELS: God is the master of redeeming broken pieces and bringing beauty from brokenness. This is true for everyone who is victimized. It is true for everyone who has victimized…. When we take ownership of our wrongs, God redeems. It’s truth. It’s Who He is. It’s what He does.

IF IT’S AMAZING GRACE: “If it’s amazing grace, let it do what it does. It can reach far beyond anything we have done…. I know my heart’s been changed, by this amazing grace.”

The offender needs grace. The victims need grace. You need grace. I need grace.

Apart from the grace of God, I couldn’t do what I do. I would crumble, burn out and lose myself to cynicism and see God very differently than the kind God who walks gently with us. But, because of grace, I find His hope in the hell of what I see and here. I trust He is doing what I cannot fathom, for I would not have chosen my calling. I would not choose, humanly, to expose what I expose. I do it because I am compelled to, not because I love to.

I trust God will bring something beautiful out of the chaos.

Jeremiah 31
Ezekiel 37

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

*****

Trudy offers conferences for survivors of abuse, and training to equip churches and the community in caring for victims and offenders. If you would like to inquire about having a conference or training in your area, send an inquiry via Contact TrudyTo support Generations Unleashed, the charity she works for, Donate Here.

SURVEY: Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse: If you are/were CA and have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you.

I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.

© Trudy Metzger

 

 

Laying my Mother to Rest, and processing forgiving my Father

Farewell Mom:
When I wrote my last blog before my mom’s death, on September 25, I didn’t know that only two days later I would stand by her bedside as she stopped to take her first breath of eternal life. One deep breath of the eternal, and she slipped away from us.

It is a strange and sacred thing to have been birthed from her womb, with my grandmother coaching her through the encounter, and to now stand beside her fifty years later, coaching her through her birth into an eternal world we cannot grasp. A world we feel inside, but are not privileged to preview. “You’re almost home. Soon you will rest,” I whispered

I wished for one moment that I could see through her eyes, the glorious world beyond, as her final heartbeat faded… I felt it, the dichotomy of a ‘farewell’ and a ‘welcome here’ happening all in one sacred moment as we watched her slip away, while in another place I imagined past heroes cheering at her entrance….

“She’s gone”, we whispered, as those in the Great Beyond cheered, “She made it!”

The last heartbeat lingered on my fingertips. Mom was asleep.

And then I stepped out of the hospital room, and doubled over weeping. Weeping for the loss of that moment. And the loss of a lifetime.

I will write more one day, I expect, but not right now. It is raw. It is sacred. It is broken… this story of my life with her. Above all, it is redeemed.  And when the time is right, I will tell that part of my story, because forgiving her was the right thing to do and brought healing to my heart.

For now, “Rest in peace, Mom. I’m glad you discovered the real Jesus and could say with confidence that you are ready to go Home.”

***

Trigger Alert (Forgiveness):
Forgiveness has been used and abused in religious communities as far back as I recall, and no doubt long before that. For people who have been traumatized and had their suffering disregarded, and then are guilt-tripped into ‘forgiving’, it is the Christian F-bomb. (Keeping in mind that what some teach forgiveness to be is not what forgiveness actually is). Therefore the warning. The following is a snippet of my story, involving my dad, which I usually tell at training.

My dad spent his life abusing his family emotionally, spiritually, and physically, at least into his late 50’s to early 60’s, and blatant sexual assault into his 40’s. There was one incident in his mid-50’s of crossing boundaries without blatant sexual assault.

That’s the backstory.

As he aged, in his late 60’s, dad mellowed out. And somewhere in there he was diagnosed bi-polar and put on meds; a detail most of his children only learned after his death. In his 70’s diabetes got the better of him and dad ended up in hospital, eventually having his leg amputated.

During his hospitalization, I chose to drive the 90 minutes once or twice a week, to sit by his bed. I usually went in the morning when no one else would be there. I had learned that when it was just the two of us we could go deep. Sometimes I sat and held his hand. He wept on numerous occasions, a broken old man (not that old, really, at 71, but older than his years), discovering God’s grace. Always I gave him a goodbye hug and told him I loved him.

When dad asked me to forgive him, I told him I’d forgiven him many years ago. I had done so for my freedom, not wanting to pass on the generational cycles to our children. (I broke many chains, yet failed our children deeply with my anger and emotional disengagement). The violence, death threats, name-calling and sexual abuse were never part of parent-child relationships. The cost of my failing still huge for my family.

Even though I had forgiven my parents, Tim and I made the choice to keep our children safe. None of our children had a relationship with my parents. We attended gatherings and tried to watch them closely. (In hindsight we wonder if we did enough). It never felt right to put them at risk. Even so, I chose to have relationship with my parents. I talked often on the phone with mom – especially after dad passed away – and occasionally chatted with dad. He wasn’t one to spend time on the phone with us. And I chose to pursue his heart in the hospital in his 70’s, and when he was arrested for uttering death threats in his 60’s. That was my choice. But boundaries for our children remained to the very end. With no apology, and no regret. I know with confidence my father never had access to our children.

Having shared this snippet at one of our training events recently, a delightful young woman contacted me not long after. She was happy for me, that I had been able to forgive so completely and sit there holding dad’s had. She’s not there yet, she said, but hopes one day she will be. 

Here is the thing, by the time I held my father’s hand, I had spent more than ten years healing from the damage he did to me, and had been away from home for over 15 years. By that time he was a vulnerable old man, broken by his own sin. I extended forgiveness many years earlier, but he remained a trigger for me at every family event we had while he was strong and healthy. I never trusted that he wouldn’t grab a gun one day and shoot us all. That fear never left until he was old and frail, and the nightmares haunted me even after his death.

Holding his hand had nothing to do with forgiveness, in and of itself. It did not make my forgiveness complete, though I could not have done it if I had not already forgiven him. It merely said, “I now feel safe enough to do this.”

Did it potentially help him grasp my forgiveness? That is possible. Even likely. But I was just as forgiving when we set up boundaries protecting our children, as I was when I hugged him and told him I love him, and when I held his hand.

Boundaries are not at odds with forgiveness. They should be part of it. That includes protecting our children from evil, and not putting ourselves in unnecessary harm. To force myself to hold his hand when I was in a place of trauma would have been a dreadful disservice to Tim and our children. They paid a high enough price for my journey. 

We all walk the path to healing differently. To be truly free from the offender’s grip, forgiveness must be part of that journey. Not the forgiveness taught by too many religious folks. The kind that looks the other way. That allows abuse to continue unquestioned and unchallenged. That silences victims and shames them. Forgiveness that lends a free pass to offenders, while sentencing victims to a life of bondage and guilt. Bondage to secrecy, and guilt if they dare to speak.

Not that kind of forgiveness at all. But the kind that says, “Your crimes/sins will not dominate my mind and my life. I choose to take back my ‘being’. I choose to heal. I choose to believe I have value, and the thing you did against me will not define me. So I forgive you, and set myself free. Free from your crimes, and free to speak truth without apology. And I leave you to stand accountable before God and the law.”

To forgive, when you go back to the original text in Matthew 6:12, means “send away, discharge, release, a separation…”

It’s time to reclaim forgiveness. The real kind.

 ***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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As always,

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Setting Back Time (literally), Cake Batter Disasters, and Other Mother’s Day Musings

How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it.  There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it.  She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again.  Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.

Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.

Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…

Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.

So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.

And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.

Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.

Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be.  Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.

This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.

And, this Mother’s Day,  if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.

Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.

Happy Mother’s Day!

With Love, 
Trudy

 

© Trudy Metzger 2017

Daily Grace for the Wounded

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Life is overwhelming, from time to time, for victims of sexual abuse and violence, when past memories haunt the mind, or trauma threatens to spill its pain in blood red all over our present. When flashbacks intercept the sweet wonder of a lover’s touch, and run like a thief with a moment blessed by God in marriage, leaving black footprints all over the marriage bed.

Or when the single heart longs for relationship, desiring that friendship of marriage, but fears of past loss invade those desires, and shut down a beautiful heart with lies. Maybe, for another, the desire itself has been covered over with feelings of worthlessness, hate and resentment. Desire, too soon awakened and having robbed little girls of sweet dreams, and little boys of adventures, has fled, leaving them empty with hollow eyes.

Life is overwhelming, from time to time….

Only God’s mercies keep us from being swallowed up, because His compassions never fail us. They are new each day and as fresh and tender as the morning sunlight that carresses the earth each day; Your faithfulness is boundless. Lamentations 3:22-23 (Paraphrased)

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

(…) The Church’s Response to Abuse (Part 2)

Don’t come to Church!
There comes a time when an individual can be asked not to come to church. But it is not the right answer every time.

The identity of a teenager who offends, in many countries if not most, is protected. While there should be vigilance–always, always–public exposure is not usually an option, by law. The teen needs help and guidance and whatever ‘judgment the courts determine to be appropriate, but banning from church is not one of them. At least not most times, though there may be an exception.

The adult who has victimized people in church, people who must face their offender and be continually traumatized, is a different story. In my opinion, an offender ought to have enough remorse to choose to go somewhere else, to protect the child. It’s easy math. And every now and then they do.

But, as it stands, more victims leave churches than abusers, based on the people I deal with, because the ongoing trauma becomes overwhelming. They forgive, they try to move on, but Sunday morning, when they should be hearing the truth of the Gospel, they are confronted with the trauma of flashbacks to naked genitals or breasts, or some other sexual exploitation in the past. A wife goes home with her spouse after church, and struggles all week with intimacy because the flashbacks make her feel gross and disgusting. The husband how remembers being molested, goes home and withholds himself, and possibly turning to pornography, feeling completely inadequate. (Let me inject that, surely we can try to understand that this is not about a lack of forgiveness–as is often the accusation–but about post-trauma anxiety and flashbacks.)

Why would an adult who has molested someone choose to impose such a thing on a victim, Sunday after Sunday, robbing couples of intimacy and forcing them to relive the violation? Is it not reasonable, in such a situation, to encourage the offender to find a church family elsewhere?

Instead, it seems victims are the ones who eventually uproot and find some other church family, or simply stop attending, spiritually stripped, having endured accusations of being unforgiving or making things up. The lack of healthy care and understanding for victims, combined with religious demands to ‘forgive and forget’ has done it’s share of damage, and has in essence told victims to either ‘shape up or get out’, while offering little in the way of healing.

Get Out!

I spoke recently with yet another victim of a now-church-leader; the third that I am aware of, who eventually just left, while the offender went on to become a leader. The victimizations ranged from coercing a peer in early teens to reaching under skirts, yanking down panties to molest–something I recently discovered is/was a very common occurrence with hired ‘maids’ in some homes–and grabbing and groping… well into his twenties. And in every case the victims ended up paying the price, while the offender managed to fly under the radar, with nothing more than a mild slap on the wrist for ‘sexual immorality’. That should not be. And yet it happens repeatedly.

If an offender refuses to take ownership, and comply with the laws of the land and church-imposed boundaries, or if there is any indication they are causing ongoing trauma, it is not asking too much to tell them not to show up. There is no repentance in self-preservation and rebelling against those boundaries, and that person should be deemed unsafe in every way.

Feel Free to Attend, but with Supervision and Boundaries
In the case of the church I worked with in 2014, a team of people met with the intent of creating accountability. There was no agenda to cover up or protect the offender, but neither was there any agenda to destroy. In all my life I’ve never seen such a healthy approach as I saw in that meeting, and in the  months that ensued.

A recommendation was put up for discussion, to allow the offender to attend church, but to always have someone supervise. Every trip to the bathroom, every exit from the auditorium, every event, someone would be assigned to watch over the offender. There would be zero opportunity for offending again. There would be guidelines of not working with children, or being involved in any way that would compromise their safety. Had his presence made victims vulnerable, I might have felt differently, but as it was I thought it was brilliant.

The thought of being ‘babysat’ was offensive to the perpetrator, saying he felt the church was not proving forgiveness. As a result, and of his own free will, he chose to leave the church and find a new church family. If my memory is reliable, the pastor felt it his responsibility to contact leadership at the new church to inform them of the situation, not out of spite, but for the protection of the children there.

All in all, the situation was handled responsibly, and in the best interest of the victims and church family.

What About The Law?
The law was involved early on, in the case of the church I worked with; even before the church was made aware. So, for an example of law, I will share from a conversation I had with a police officer in the past month.

My conversation with the officer led me to believe that when it comes to religion, she is on the outside, looking in, and trying to make sense of it all, and she wondered at the driving force behind that behaviours of churches and Christians, as it pertains to obeying the laws of the land in regards to child abuse. I tried to explain–not justify–from my perspective, what I see; fear, pride, the belief that we Christians are subject only to God’s law and not the laws of the land, among other things. I’ve had the same conversation with 4 police officers since May, where they talk about the religious community covering up and not getting victims or offenders the help they need, and it leaves them shaking their heads. It should.

But what this last officer shared, didn’t stay there. After questioning, she mentioned how several years ago she had a case unlike any other. A pastor, she said, had walked in one morning, accompanied by an offender who had molested his daughter. Immediately after having done so, he went to his wife, and told her, packed his bags and left so his daughter would be safe. The pastor was drawn in, and that is where the man stayed until morning, when they stood in front of the officer saying they have a crime to report. The entire police staff was flabbergasted, she said. Not one had experienced such a thing before.

She told me how the man ended up doing jail time, getting counseling and was eventually reinstated in his home, but is not allowed to be with children unsupervised at any time. He is humbly compliant, and understands that this is to make 100% certain it never happens again. This situation, is the ideal, when it comes to handling abuse cases, she told me.

I wasn’t involved with that situation, and don’t know the people, but from where I stand looking on, I see redemption, while complying with the law and facing consequences. The church is aware of what he has done, and works to make it a safe place for children all around, while allowing him to be part of his family and the church.

A Tragedy Cannot be Undone, only Redeemed
There is no way to make a bad thing good. It can’t be done. There is only redemption of evil in the lives of God’s people, and in the working of society. What our enemy means for evil, God will use for good, but the wickedness can never be made good. We have to accept that, and call the wickedness what it is.

That said, we undermine the grace and mercy of God, when we refuse to extend the work of Jesus on the cross to all sinners… including those who molested a child, or children. There must always be forgiveness for them. While the practical working out of healing should be done with great wisdom and seeking God’s heart–and God always fights for the children and the vulnerable–to sentence offenders to hopeless judgment, doesn’t sit right in my spirit.

I’ve worshiped in prison with those who murdered someone. And I’ve hugged them if they wanted to be hugged. It makes zero difference to me, at the foot of the cross, what you have done; you are my brother and my sister. Besides, I remember that “but for the grace of God, there go I”. And I mean that. Coming out of the sexual confusion of my childhood, it is nothing short of the grace of God that kept me from growing up to be in prison with the murderers and pedophiles. When it comes praying ‘thank God I am not like the sinner beside me’, the words choke heavy in my throat and I cannot spit them out.

Instead, I thank God for His liberal grace and generous wisdom so that we might be forgiven, extend forgiveness, while still choosing to respond carefully in every situation. Bitterness and hate destroys lives, as does overlooking sin and neglecting to address and deal with abuse. Somewhere, in seeking the wisdom of God, there is a better way…

We were molested, many of us, and we inevitably hurt and grieve the loss of innocence. We need to be given space to do that, and to express that hurt without being judged. But, horrific as that moment was, or the thousand times over, none of us really want to stay stuck in that darkness. Advocating for other victims, fighting for the safety of children and creating awareness are some of the many ways to take back our freedom, our God-given voice, and to bring good out of evil, without empowering evil through bitterness.

Together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope, if we avoid the pit of bitterness, and a sense of being entitled to live in it and speak out of it. Our life purpose is not defined by what happened to us, but it can empower us for greater things. The choice is ours. Always.  And I, for one, want to care for the hearts of all, but I want only to partner with those who bring hope out of darkness…

Yes, together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

I have the right to be bitter; I was molested… And the Church’s Response to Abuse (Part 1)

The Crime and the Calling
Standing against sexual abuse and violence is a noble and godly thing to do. It really is. And I applaud anyone who does so with a pure heart. Because I cannot think of many topics that stir deeper feelings than child molestation. And rightfully so. What is more horrendous than an innocent child or young person stripped of sexual innocence by an adult? I can’t think of a thing, really, that does the thing to my stomach that such a story does.

Especially now, as a married woman who understands what sex was supposed to be in the first place, as designed by God; a beautiful and fun bonding between husband and wife. For an adult to impose such a thing, and impose a life-sentence of struggle on an innocent child… to rob that victim of unhindered marital joy…

Even writing about it, like this, creates inner angst and tension on behalf of that child that the makes me want to vomit. And that’s not exaggerating. That’s how the mind and body should respond, with powerful resistance, against such a thing. And the instinct to protect children should rise, immediately, to the surface.

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The Danger in Fighting Against Abuse and Violence
But that is the very thing that makes it such a complex thing to stand against. Those feelings, legitimate and justified, must be acknowledged but cannot be the driving force, in and of themselves; there has to be a deeper goal to be effective. Those feelings must not be it, lest we move out of hate and bitterness. Because then the very thing we fight against, gains power over us, and makes us slaves to it. When we become bitter and hate-filled, and out to make the offender(s) pay, on our terms, a toxicity sets in that does nothing–not one little thing–to protect victims or change the world.

Bitterness is counterproductive in every way. Besides rendering your voice empty and irrelevant to those in positions to help change the world, its toxic poison will suck your soul dry faster than any hurt imposed on you. Every time. And not only that, it will suck dry those around you, if they don’t leave before it poisons them. In either case, it will leave you empty and friendless, or empty and lacking healthy support. It’s not worth it.

As Believers, What Do We Reach For?
There are good and positive things that can be done in dealing with molestation, without turning to the venom of destruction and the poison that is so prone to dribble from our lips. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve done it. I’ve lost sight, in the past, of what my heart really longs for in all of this; redemption, justice, boundaries, mercy, truth and ultimately restoration with God… even in situations where the last thing that ever could happen (or should, for that matter) is reconciliation between offender and victim.

In religious settings it seems often there is a dreadful imbalance in situations where an abuser is exposed, caught or turns himself or herself in. It is either carefully guarded and covered up in denial, or the individual is abandoned and thrown under the bus. Most often it is the former. And, to the latter, many ‘justice seekers’ would shout a hearty ‘Yay… serves them right’ and jump on the bandwagon that finally someone is listening.

At the risk of receiving hate mail, I will say publicly that I think both are corrupt; both are wrong. That’s my view. Justice and truth without mercy is barbaric. Mercy without truth and justice is endorsement of evil. As I watch the two sides play out around me, in various situations, I think surely there must be a better way! Surely there is some humanity, somewhere. Humanity that says, “Enough is enough!” to the senseless victimization, and humanity that says, “we are all broken and need help, so we’re going to get you that help.”

And then, beyond humanity to Christ-likeness, that says, “Someone died for my sins; He died for yours too.” To offer the grace and love of Jesus to my offender is the most freeing thing I have ever done. Freeing for me.

To not share that truth with others, is to keep them in bondage. And yet, as angry voices–and yes, they should be angry–shout around me, some with bitterness and hate, I find myself retreating, publicly, for fear of tomatoes… or worse, thrown at me. It is not the healthy anger that makes me cringe, it is the hate and offensiveness. And I am not alone. Other victims have written me, saying they are afraid to publicly state they have forgiven, for fear of being judged or ‘hated on’.

What Then is the Solution?
While abuse angers many of us, as it should, the greatest headway in change will come from calm, composed persistence. There is a time to expose, but doing so with venom will stop the ears of people we want to speak to; it is overwhelming. Furthermore, if there are defenses already in place–take for example a pastor, parent or other person of influence–where the person feels it is an attack on them, the attack and raging approach will trigger subconscious response–either tuning out or defending.

An approach that lacks attack, and rather appeals to the intellect, the heart and compassion of individuals in positions of influence, will produce a much healthier response. Reasonable dialogue is necessary, and exploring healthy solutions without demanding the heads of abusers on a platter, will go much further than raging and bitterness. And if we want to really make a difference, then we need to manage those feelings with honour.

What Can the Church Do?
When a molestation case comes to light in a church, there is inevitably much upheaval. In 2014 I was hired by a church several hours away, to work with a very difficult situation. I learned more in a few months, about what pastors and leaders go through, than I had learned in the preceding 44 years of my life.

When a pastor cares for his church and wants nothing but the best for everyone, abuse and molestation allegations cause heartbreaking struggle. When the offender owns up, admitting to the crimes, and it is confirmed reality and not allegations, the truth is harsh and offensive. The crimes need to be dealt with, and the person needs someone to walk with them, and the victims need to be protected along with all vulnerable church attendees, children in particular. How is a pastor to do all of those things, and not be harshly judged by some, if not all involved and aware?

Some want the offender banned from attending. Some want the church to ‘forgive and move on’. Others want boundaries and protections in place. Some want it taken to the law. Others say that’s not biblical, even when the laws require it. The latter, for me, is not optional; a crime must be reported. The Bible says that the law is for the lawbreaker, and if that lawbreaker happens to sit on a church pew, he or she is no less a lawbreaker.

How to handle incorporating the abuser, or banning, as the case may be, is something each church family must fumble their way through. Each situation and solution presents complexities that make a black-and-white-blanket-solution nigh impossible to implement. And while the protection of victims should alway take precedent over the abuser, I hesitate to judge harshly when I see a church trying to care for both.

I say that as someone who instigated inappropriate sexual interaction with a peer in my early teens. Sure, she came into agreement before we did anything, but I will always see her as the victim. I was a few months older and I suggested it, therefore I feel I need to own that. To this day, it is more important for me to know that she is cared for than to have my pride protected. She deserves that; I made her vulnerable. And any offender who steals innocence should pursue the well-being of the victim, over their own comfort. It’s the least any of us can do who have wounded another.

So what, then, should a church do? What are some options?

(To Be Continued…)

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Pastor Tullian (Billy Graham’s Grandson) ‘Caught in Adultery’; What headlines don’t tell you…

The headlines of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian committing adultery kind of hit me in the gut. If it was Joel Osteen, it would have far less impact. I am probably about 350 degrees removed from Joel; I don’t know anyone who knows him personally. If it was Joyce Meyer, that gap would close somewhat for reasons I won’t get into. And, while Pastor Tullian is less known than both, it had greater impact; he is one degree removed, and the ‘man in between’ is someone I deeply respect.

My first thought when I read it wasn’t, “Hmmm… another mega-pastor has fallen…” or some such resigned rhetoric. My heart squeezed a bit tighter in my chest, and I choked up a little. Not because of personal disappointment, but because of what sin has cost him; what it costs every one of us. Relationships take a hard hit, when ‘spiritual giants’ fall. Faltering Christians are confused and feel lost when heroes and mentors ‘betray’ what they teach. Husbands and wives struggle and ache. And the children… they always hurt like hell. Every time. When leaders fall, their children and young Christians under their leadership pay a high price. And that price is even greater depending on our responses… and the responses of believers at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

I will never forget that feeling… In my early twenties several women in our church took me under their wings, so to speak, spiritually and emotionally. I had started working through the aftermath of sexual abuse when they stepped in and mentored me. One on one, I talked as openly as I knew how then. Several years went by, and our connections had weakened, by the time it happened, but after all I had shared, it still felt very personal. Tim and I were dating, and the husband of one of these women was his Sunday School teacher at the time….

It was a Wednesday evening when our bishop rose to make the announcement, disclosing that this couple had fallen into sexual sin. How much detail was shared there, and how much was shared with me after I am not sure, but I knew more than I needed to know. I was crushed. Tim was stunned. And after church we sat on the grass, under the stars–a young couple wanting to save sex for marriage–and had a numb conversation, our minds reeling. It was a moment of grief at having trusted so deeply. “I talked with her about my struggles… the abuse… I had coffee with her… I trusted her…”  It all spilled out like a cup of tipped coffee, hot and scalding, as I absorbed what it all meant.

Hard as it was, those were not the defining moments of that event. Thank God. The defining moments came when I heard the couple sought counselling. The defining moments came when someone believed in grace enough to say, “It’s not over. God will redeem this mess.” My heart still felt hesitant, granted. It still needed time to heal from the shock of it, but the greater message was in the redemption. And I watched as God turned that evil into good, and now uses the woman to bring healing to others.

Pastor Tullian and I never met for coffee. He never sat and patiently listened to my broken story, reassuring me. And he was never Tim’s Sunday School teacher. But I have been blessed by his wisdom and words of grace, ‘from afar’. (A grace I pray he and Kim will hold onto most tightly, in this time.) But, more than that, he is a brother to the man who wrote the foreword to my book, BETWEEN 2 GODS. And, if Pastor Tullian was one to do book reviews, I would have had him do one of my book in instant. (I checked into it.) Because he believes in grace and redemption, I would have trusted him with my story.

pastor tullian

I, too, believe in grace and redemption. And I believe it for Pastor Tullian and Kim Tchividjian. Yes, it is sad, I won’t downplay that; looking at King David’s life there are and will be devastating consequences for such sin… But I hold the atonement of Christ in high regard. The only Gospel I offer is that Jesus is more than enough. I will not judge, but I will pray. I will not condemn. I believe that the Jesus of John 8 is the Jesus of today, and if Pastor Tullian and Kim were brought to Him for judgement, He would again kneel in the sand and begin to write… And in that humble moment, accusers would scatter, leaving only Jesus and the bystanders to witness and hear what the headlines don’t tell you; divine grace, flowing from tender eyes, and lips speaking with Heaven’s affection, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

And I believe that the God of King David–a very broken man whom God called ‘a man after His own heart’–is still God today. Like King David, Pastor Tullian and Kim, and the woman ‘caught in the very act’ of adultery, I too needed grace. And I need grace still; we all do.

I only hope that men and women of God who fall into adultery and sin, rise up again, like King David, to serve God with greater vision and passion… and broken. Because broken men and women are of far greater service to the Kingdom of God than great, strong, unbroken leaders. Our sins do not disqualify us from serving God, if we repent and fall harder on grace than we ever fell into sin. The grace of God is enough, whether alcoholism, gossip, adultery, gluttony, homosexuality, arrogance, or any other sin….

Because Jesus didn’t die for nothing. 

Love,
~ T ~

TO REGISTER for Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference,  July 10-11, 2015 visit: GenerationsUnleashed.com
full brochureLancaster County 2015_C


© Trudy Metzger

Learning From the Current Scandal & Shuffling Right Along

Psalms 85:10-11
10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

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The past few days taught me some interesting things…

Firstly, I learned that it is wise to speak with gentleness, always. You never know when words will travel further than you imagined. Secondly, sometimes people–Christian and non-Christian–demand we either blindly support, or blatantly attack/reject people in situations like the Duggar family. (I blatantly reject/condemn molestation/crime, and I believe abusers should pay the consequences; from church and law.)

Thirdly, there are angry people–and God only knows what each one is angry about; no doubt they have painful stories–who will attack, very personally, anyone they see as out of line. They see what looks, to them, like a punching bag, and they swing. (Here I refer to both sides)  The thing about anger, though, is that it is always a cover for a deeper emotion. (Helplessness, hopelessness, pain, rejection, betrayal, grief or any one of a host of other things.) To them I say, if swinging at me makes you feel better, have at it. Hopefully, with time the anger layer will strip away enough for you to begin to feel the deeper emotion and heal. My commitment is to try never to stoop to attacking you as a person, or your faith, identity or other tender struggles.

Fourthly, I learned (again) that I must be true to my heart before God. No matter what. I wrote my first blog from my heart, and made some statements based on faulty information, and the side of those who have their stones safely tucked in their pockets applauded and praised me. I was unwittingly dancing to their drums. The other side was a bit less happy with me. Most were not rude, but certainly they were riled up. And one was downright obnoxious. I’ve seen it enough, that it didn’t get under my skin; there’s usually some deep pain and personal bitterness, needing love and compassion. I heard the accusations and attacks, and tried to weed out the legitimate from the poison, and remain true to my heart before God, and acknowledge that I had some details wrong.

Psalm 85_10-11(b)

I posted the second blog to correct the glaring misinformation that influenced my statement about them ‘having done all they could do’.  It seemed to me that making this correction was the right and Christian thing to do, because I was wrong; plain and simple. I want the public to trust that my first commitment is to the truth, as much as one can find truth in anything the media has touched. That means I need to be honest enough to say, “I was wrong.”  As Christians, surely we can be humble enough to do that, can’t we? Isn’t that the only way to present Christ well? That, however, riled up some on the side of defending Duggars. Suddenly I was accused of losing all ‘grace’.

My question is, can we not walk in grace–with consequences–and acknowledge that things were not exactly as they appeared? I hope so. Where do truth and mercy meet, if not in our humanity? Where does righteousness kiss peace, if not in our lives? And when does truth ‘springing up from the earth’ ever meet with anything other than righteousness, when all truth is of God? I am convinced, beyond even a hint of doubt, that offering grace (not apart from consequences) in the reality of it all, brings healing and hope… When truth and mercy meet.

Having positioned myself between the two sides–feeling no need to destroy or defend, yet supporting consequences–I found a small group of people who acknowledge the crime, support consequences, yet walk in grace. These people feel no need to defend the ‘dark side’ of the situation. They feel no need to downplay the crime. And they felt no need to attack anyone. Having acknowledged that Josh committed a crime, they support consequences with grace, and pray for healing. Most intriguing is the fact that many of these individuals were sexual abuse victims who chose a path of  ‘forgiveness with boundaries’, and consequences. Some, in fact, completely removed the abuser from their lives and are labeled ‘unforgiving’ by family or church. Even with deep personal wounds, they value grace. When it is obvious to me that they do not overlook crimes, and yet want to find a path of grace and forgiveness, their words have credibility. These people have a voice… a quiet one… but a voice that carries authority.

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We scream, ’empower the victims’… ‘give back their voices’… and yet, when some speak out, they are attacked for not saying the ‘right things’. All victims will not agree. Some will want Josh Duggar hanged. Go ahead and say it. Some of us will cry out for something different; let us speak it too. Of all direct messages, comments and emails I received, where victims identified themselves as victims, the vast majority expressed thanks for acknowledging the crime, and yet extending grace. For some of us that is healing. Let us heal with grace and forgiveness for our offenders. If you need to arrange a pretend execution for your release, feel free to do so. Both sides have the privilege of being true to ourselves. And in the case at hand, the victims deserve that right too, to have their voices.

I pray we learn from this–individuals/churches/government–and live with purpose the life we’ve been given, protecting victims and promoting positive change going forward.

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COMING UP:  “Mandatory Reporting Laws” & Confidentiality of Juvenile records in various states and provinces.. You may be surprised what they are… I was!

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Ultimately, world changers take every situation, and advocate for change where it is needed. For some it may mean encouraging states and provinces to take a good look at the laws, or the lack thereof. There are gaping holes to be filled.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger