A “Spotlight”, the Police & the Church

~  Strong trees are felled, with patient, persistent chipping. Little by little…  ~

On my way to an appointment today, I mulled over in my head what a local police officer shared with me on Friday; a project he is working on to create awareness of sexual abuse, and also give victims and offenders resources to get the help and support they need. As I processed this, on my drive, I started choking up quite unexpectedly… then the tears fell… then they poured…
With only minutes to go before my meeting, I tried to pull myself together, wondering what was wrong with me to fall apart over that. As I analyzed what was going on in my heart and mind, to unravel me like that, it hit me: I met twice with the local police–once with only one constable, and once with a team including the director of an organization that helps victims–and the action started, people wanting to make a difference. By this past Friday, less than six weeks after that second meeting, the officer shared what action he is working on to make a difference in our community.
 Before parting ways, he told me to go home and watch “Spotlight” with Tim, and to make sure I have a box of Kleenex handy. He  didn’t tell me what it was about, but assured me I would be glad we watched it. So on Friday night that’s what we did. Tim found it on Google Play, rented it for 4.99 (that’s roughly 3.5o for my American friends), curled up on the couch and watched it. I shed a few tears throughout, but less than I had expected. To see a group of people rise up and say ‘enough is enough’ in regards to sexual abuse and religious cover up was touching, but the intensity was almost too much to take in; my mind could hardly absorb the fact that this was a true story, and these non-victims developed such a powerful sense of justice and compassion that they were compelled to act. The main story was far too familiar… (Every Christian should watch this, even those for whom it is against ‘the ordnung’. Repent after, if you must.)


My weekend was too busy to absorb or analyze it all, but this morning when I came unraveled, I knew why…

“We are heard. Our suffering has been acknowledged.”

It took only a few meetings with the police to have them ‘rise up’. (Much like the employees at the Boston Globe, in Spotlight.) In my first meeting I felt truly heard about the need to do something. Anything. I’d rather do it wrong, trying to do it right, than to do nothing at all. So we sat there and brainstormed, the constable and I. And that started the ball rolling. The next meeting they asked for my story, and I sat there with an audience of four, and spilled it out, bit by painful bit, for two hours, asking questions, and answering questions. Speaking from my heart in a way that felt terrifying, yet safe. And then the commander and sergeant of the Major Case Unit each offered a heartfelt thank you, acknowledging the courage it must take to do that…

 Two meetings with the police, resulting in redemptive, informative and healing action. Only two meetings…

 canstockphoto14186527 (1)

 And that created a sense of thankfulness, but also a struggle. Because there was no resistance, no fighting against, only compassion and support, when in churches, there is still so much resistance….


 I sat in a pastor’s office and admitted that I wasn’t sure I could keep doing the whole ‘church thing’. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I could keep believing in God. If He and so many of His people–leaders in particular–apparently cared not one iota for the lost children, whose lives were wrecked by molestation in the church, then it seemed there was no place for me in His Kingdom.

 Pastor Gord Martin listened compassionately, and then encouraged me to connect with others who share a similar vision, if not the same one. If I didn’t find that support, he said, my fears would easily become a reality; I would turn my back on my faith, because the fight against abuse is intense, and having support critical. That was a few years ago.

 I now have a solid group of people praying for our ministry and a handful who offer support in various ways. It’s still mostly hard slogging, with a few leaders who really seem to ‘get it’ about the magnitude of the problem and the need to do more. But there are a few, and that’s worth a lot. It will take time for the silence of the church to lose its power, and for the broader church to take action in a meaningful way.  I pray the day will come, and believe it will.

On that bright note…

 In conversation with Pastor Blake from Westpointe Church Grand Rapids Michigan, he asked what I would share with their church, on Sunday March 20. I was thinking about ‘Radical love and Reckless Grace’, I said. There was a short pause before he said, “I thought you might talk about sexual abuse…” I told him I don’t do that on a Sunday morning unless specifically asked. Without skipping a beat he said he would like if I did. “It needs to be talked about,” he said. I was taken off guard, but encouraged that a pastor would not only welcome opening that can of worms in church, but actually ask for it.

To Pastor Blake, Pastor Gord, and other pastors  and leaders who have heard with compassion, and those who have fought for victims, Thank you.We have a ways to go, as the church, but we’re making progress. That death-grip of silence and shame is being shattered, little by little.

 We will keep chipping…


~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I cry out to Him…

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


And God rose up and went to war.

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

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

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

The children went out to play in safety.

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

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


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

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: The Travelling Missionary… Rapist

Life at home had remained sporadically abusive and dysfunctional, with seasons of peace.

During the peaceful times I loved life. We spent a lot of time playing games, especially outdoor activities like shadow tag, prisoner’s base, baseball and soccer. Besides denial, humour was our survival mechanism during hard times, so that carried over to times when life was good. Practical jokes done by older siblings, like hanging a bucket of water over a door for the next unsuspecting victim, and other pranks, impressed and entertained us.  Sometimes life was wonderful. But then it would take a sudden twist.

Three years after we moved to Canada, our family met the ‘white bonnet’ Mennonites, as we referred to them. Our parents were quickly drawn into their culture and beliefs, convinced that if we embraced their lifestyle, things would be good. Dad’s desperate pursuit of God and His acceptance, would finally be fulfilled, and we would be safe.

High hopes in humanity seldom end well. People, regardless of culture, religion, or any other belief system, are simply human beings. They looked so peaceful, presented so well… with such purity, that it was hard to envision anything lurking beneath that exterior.

It could have happened anywhere, but it happened in the Conservative Mennonite churches of Ontario, where we least expected it, when I was a young preteen….

A single man, a ‘missionary’ with many reels of film, maps, atlases, and picture albums, whom we will call Harold, travelled from Mennonite community to Mennonite community, all across Canada. ‘Harold’ visited many churches out West, and also frequented our little community, near Bayfield Ontario.

What was unique about this man, is that he dressed conservative, even though he was not Mennonite. Not quite like our culture, but close enough to be accepted, though more conservative.

Harold told stories, an engaging speaker, and had a way with children. I loved when he visited our community and especially loved when he spent time in our home. As children we crowded around him to get the best view of the photo albums that brought his stories to life.

I couldn’t understand why some of my siblings were not so engaged, why they withdrew–especially my older sisters. They couldn’t tolerate him. I had hopes that maybe he would marry one of my sisters and become my brother-in-law. But I was only a child then, of about age eleven.

At church I eventually overheard rumblings of negative opinion, criticizing Harold, but that was normal for ‘outsiders’. We never had a visitor that someone could not find fault with, whether it was their cowboy boots, the sideburns, long hair or some other detail that wasn’t within our church constitution. There was simply no one else quite as good as we were. We had a cutting edge on practical Christianity.

Gradually he came around less frequently, until he all but vanished and I all but forgot he existed.

Years later I learned that Harold left a trail of victims in his wake, having seduced young men, raped boys, and made attempts on others unsuccessfully.

What remains troubling to me is that the church leaders knew who Harold was, and that he victimized multiple people, and they did nothing. They could not help what he was, and what he did, but to remain silent and not report him is inexcusable. I do not know or understand their reasoning, and it wasn’t that their lives remained untouched. At least one leader’s family was directly impacted,, triggering a chain effect of abuse, as his victims became perpetrators and their victims became perpetrators. Still the church remained silent.

While I got by with no extreme violations, through the chain effect, others close to me were not so fortunate. In recent years some have shared their stories with me.

Why tell this now? Why not leave the past in the past and only look ahead? On a personal life experience level I have left it in the past. But in breaking the silence it needs to be addressed.

If I was convinced it was in the past, I would leave it there. But I am not and there are a few good reasons to speak up. First of all, people need to be aware that this kind of thing happens, and their children need to be protected. Only a few years ago I learned that his man still travels across Canada, from community to community.

Secondly, if you or your child was victimized by Harold, or anyone else, there is help available. If you don’t know where to turn for help, and don’t know how to access resources available, I will gladly assist you. (info ‘at’ faithgirlsunleashed ‘dot’ com)

Thirdly, it is an appeal to the church to begin speaking up and taking a stand. We are called to protect innocent victims under our care as much as possible. They need us. Jesus said that whoever offends one of these little ones, it would be better to have a mill stone hung around their neck and be thrown into the sea. God does not take lightly the abuse of children.

As the body of Christ we cannot always help what enters our churches. But when innocent children are at risk, and crimes are committed, we have a moral and legal obligation to report crime to authorities and let the law deal with them.

We do not need to stand helplessly by. Together we can make a difference. Together we can stop the ‘Harold’s’ of this world and create accountability.

© Trudy Metzger

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