Gaslighting & the Unraveling…

A promise made is a promise to be kept.
And God knows I’d rather forget.

It has been a few weeks since June 8… that fateful day in the present situation with attempting to expose an offender, and challenge the way the case was handled. Soon after that day, and after my ‘apology blog’, I pulled down the blogs I had written that opened up the crazy can of worms… or snakes… that led to that day in the first place.

I pulled all the blogs after discovering my apology was not warranted. I wrote it in sincerity, having been made to believe that I was wrong about the offender’s repentance and the way in which his public ‘confession’ came about. But I also wrote it in absolute confusion because the evidence I had didn’t line up with what I was made to believe. And I pulled them because I needed time to process the shock factor at discovering I had been tripped and gas-lighted.

I have yet to fully understand all the motives behind that day, but I made a promise to tell the truth that I know, after a bit of rest.

On June 4 an apology was posted by the man who sexually assaulted one young woman, and made sexually explicit phone calls to many others. I was told that it was a coached apology, written by a group of men – and that this information came from the leader I previously called into questions, who had been part of that process. On June 7, I called that out because of the incredible damage it was doing to the victims. The leader who knew about the sexual assault, and did nothing to protect other vulnerable individuals, had played a role in this ‘apology’, and had asked one of the leaders I was working with if it would ‘help’ if the abuser apologized. And then, as the attacks and poop-flinging ensued, he watched the destruction and attacks without the integrity to step in and intervene, but instead ‘liked’ abusive comments… on the bogus ‘confession’. (A pastor involved told me that he ‘is not repentant, but wants to be’.) Shortly after calling this out, a comment was posted attacking me. It was so vile and abusive it left me shocked. (And it takes a lot to shock me.)

In the wee hours of June 8, having spent a sleepless night processing what it all meant, another message came in…  I had spent the night struggling with the abusive comment, and the fact that this leader who works with sexual abuse victims would think such an apology was a good idea, (and then stand back and watch the destruction… as though that was ‘helping’), without the honour to stop it and admit what had been done.

And then I read the message that came in from one of the leaders I had worked with and trusted, “Trudy the misinformation coming from your public posts is staggering. It is truth with assigned motives that are very faulty. I also know about the editing. And why it was edited...” (There is a bigger piece to this that I am not free to tell, but will say that this leader did not agree with a half-baked confession, and if his advice had been taken, things would have shaken out very differently.)

I read it. Numb. Shock.

First, I understood ‘it is truth’ as meaning that the confession was true and sincere, and ‘with assigned motives’ as meaning that I was assigning faulty motives to the confession. And in that moment, I was a young teen, waiting to be excommunicated again. The allegations were not true, back then; I had not sinned the sins I was accused of. And in that moment, I was hurled into full blow flashback and PTSD. (It was not the first time in this experience of attempting to confront the abuser and bring an end to the abuse and hold leaders accountable that this happened. A previous time was when I was told that the leader (who appears to be) protecting the abuser, rates the man at a ‘3 out of 10’ for risk and/or perversion “because he gets no sexual pleasure from what he does”. Wait… Wha…?  I can’t even go there…)

In 27 years of working through my past, I recall a total of 6 … maybe 7 extreme PTSD/flashbacks. At least 3 have occurred in the past 3 months of dealing with this scenario and attempting to work with leaders, while watching as sexual abuse is downplayed, victims are re-victimized, and I am gaslighted. It is not an easy thing to deal with high level abuse. And hearing things like rating an offender a ‘3 out of 10’ because ‘he gets no sexual gratification from his crimes’ was horrifying on so many levels. That means many, if not most, child molesters are not a big deal because many touch the child without any form of penetration. This, again, effectively makes it all about the offender. God forbid we look too closely at the hell it brings into a child’s life.

By June 9 two things happened. I was informed that, in fact, what I had written in my status updates was truth. It was a group effort apology, and was intended to calm the chaos. (I am no longer convinced I was ‘off’ in what I assigned to it. It was to protect the offender, as I understand/see it, by calming the chaos. And such apologies always serve only to further victimize the victims and make the offender look good. It’s wicked, in my opinion and is often mentioned by victims as being one of the most damaging things in they have suffered in religious context related to the handling of abuse they suffered. “Let your yay be yay…” Don’t say an apology that isn’t true. That’s not appropriate. And if the man *wants* to be repentant, for heaven’s sake, help him face the consequences and stop lying to himself so he *can* be repentant!)

The other thing that happened by June 9, is that several people (unrelated to each other, and still unknown to each other) called me to tell me to watch my back. One said the leader close to the abuser had said I’m a Jezebel (more than once, over a period of months since January). And another said the leader called me a matriarchal woman and called one of the victims is a matriarchal witch. They commented on his hatred for Jezebel and his determination to destroy ‘Jezebel’. (Based on this, they were concerned that the leader was assigning his hatred for Jezebel to me, since that is who/what I represent to him.) Rather than ‘throw me’ or upset me, it brought clarity and understanding, and helped put all the ‘crazy’ in context.

I draw a line in the sand. I stand against abuse, and this is spiritual abuse to which I will not subject myself, and against which I will take a firm stand, not only for my sake but also for the sake of every woman and man subjected to this kind of abuse while Christian leaders rise up to protect each other. Until full ownership is taken (by him) for this abuse, and other abusive behaviours (by this leader), I am taking a firm stand to endorse nothing and partner with nothing in ministry that involves this leader. And ownership includes acknowledging the careless handling of the situation, disregarding those who approached him before me (at least 5 godly men and women – info that was forwarded to me via someone the leader’s wife shared it with), and apologizing for the name-calling and spiritual abuse.

I am choosing a path of forgiveness, but not a path of silence. And forgiveness also does not mean I won’t have firm boundaries, because forgiveness does not include letting abuse go unchallenged. And if we cannot hold each other accountable as leaders for abusive behaviours and putting others at risk then shame on us all. If we fear the blood-bath at our feet, when it involves leaders and ministries, and don’t recognize that the bloodbath has been going on for victims for many generations, with no one to intervene for them…. If we protect leaders and/or from consequences for abuse, and don’t protect victims from such individuals., then we have failed…. and God have mercy on us all.

I do not know where things stand with this whole situation, as far as what other leaders are doing with it. But I do know I am taking a stand against abuse, and I stand firm on the evidence and the account I have given of this situation.

If you have questions, send me an email. If it’s out of curiosity with no higher purpose, I’m not interested in engaging. If it’s to destroy people – whether ‘them’ or me – I’m not interested. If it’s for the sake of truth and for the good of your community, the actors involved here or some positive end, I’m more than willing to interact.

as always

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

At the End of the Road (Suicides, Crime & Fallout from Ashley Madison Leak)

The house is empty now… devoid of laughter and voices; perfectly still. The family dog no longer runs playfully after the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly she just lays there, on the mat by the door, disinterested and depressed.  The teddy bear, still curled up on the floor where it was dropped that day, remains untouched. I wonder, does she cry for it, or has a new one taken it’s place? Covers unmade, hanging off the bed… A dress never worn again, on the arm of the corner chair. Everything else, perfectly in place, and clean, except for the collecting dust. It builds up so fast.

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Has it really been only two weeks? Two long, hopelessly silent weeks? It seems like forever. The sun stopped shining, as if drawing a curtain on the world, with no promise of tomorrow. It has rained for two weeks now, and the forecast shows no sign of change. How did the elements know that on that day, my world would lose it’s light? I didn’t even appreciate the light when I had it…

I should have seen it coming, I suppose. And in a way I did. But I kept saying it would change. I would change. I kept promising to get help; to do better, that I would stop, and they would be safe. I kept telling myself that I meant it. And I thought I did. But always, always, I was too weak and gave into my addictions. And always I abused them one more time until there was nothing left of the light that once sparkled in their eyes. The joy that once danced there, gone.

I wonder, was their world this dark, all those years? Had the sun set on them long ago? Did I just pretend there was laughter… that the dog wagged and chased and played? Did I lie to myself about that too, just so I could live with myself? Telling myself it wasn’t so bad, that they’d be okay?

Are they okay now? Now that I’m not with them, does their sun shine again? Do they laugh, and play and sing? I can’t bear to think of it, of them…

The house is empty now… devoid of laughter and voices; perfectly still. The family dog no longer runs playfully after the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly she just lays there, disinterested and depressed.  The stuffing spills carelessly onto the floor, from the teddy bear still curled up on the floor, where it was dropped that day. The dog walks over, picks it up and carries it to her bed…  It’s all that’s left of the scent of her…

…that teddy bear, and the haunting memories and nightmares that visit me in my sleep…

This is the end of the road, for me, for us. The end result of the choices I made, this lonely hellish silence. I study the photos in my hand… My face has been ripped from some of them… I try not to think about it, but truth is I wonder which one hated me that much… or did they all? I run my finger along the outlines of their faces… I imagine standing in front of them and, if I had one more chance to talk to them, what would I say?

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“It’s not your fault.” I think that’s what I would want to say, to release them.

But it’s too late now…. now that I finally see it. Oh, I used to blame them, and say if they did better, I wouldn’t be like I am…. I wouldn’t make these ‘mistakes’. I did that to make me feel better too. But it wasn’t their fault, the way I was, and they were not ‘mistakes’, the things that I did… They were crimes,  and they were sins… And I did it to them. I chose to hurt them… I betrayed them. It was my lust, my lack of self control, my self interest, my sin… All of it is mine to own. Here. Alone.

“God, forgive me…. I don’t deserve Your grace. I don’t deserve them.”

****

As crimes and suicides are reported as possibly, even probably, being linked to the Ashley Madison leak, this ‘image’ of lonely people in vacant relationships played out in my mind… I pray that people will come face to face with truth in a way that is redemptive, not destructive, and that no more lives will be lost. The choices we make, relationally, always come with a price tag, a reward, or both. And the choice is always our own, and therefore the end result is the thing we each must face. And at the end of the road, when we stand in front of the mirror and see ourselves as we really are, we are confronted, again, with a choice. Do we accept responsibility or do we blame others and demand they overlook, ‘forgive on our terms’, or find some way or another to try to get off the hook?

There is always hope for a new life, and that is true whether you are a pastor, a police officer, a politician, a doctor, or a “Josh Duggar’–someone who has presented idealistic Christianity while sinning blatantly in the same arena–or any other human. No matter who you are, or what you have done, there is always an opportunity for new beginnings. But sometimes that ‘new’ begins by sitting alone in an empty house, because everyone who tired of the betrayal has packed and left. No matter who you are or what you have done, the ‘way out’ is to face it, own it, and ask for forgiveness without agenda; forgiveness that releases the people we wounded, allowing them to grieve and heal their way, and even to walk away.

My prayer is that many of the 40,000 people on the Ashley Madison list will own their sins, repent and find hope, freedom, forgiveness and new life.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

The Revealing, Exposing & Redemptive Truth of Our Heritage

I’ve made an interesting observation, as word gets out that I have written my story and that it reveals some less than noble truths of my cultural upbringing. That observations is:

We are comfortable with telling the ‘ugly truth’ of redemptions stories, as long as they don’t incriminate ourselves, our culture, our belief systems and expose things we are not willing to look at.  We protect tenaciously that ‘exposing truth’ that makes our lives uncomfortable… 

Some years ago, when my mother found out I was writing, she said something, gently, about not telling the ‘evil things’ that happened, that it is best to forget those things and move on.  This led to a heart to heart discussion, and it is the first time I recall thinking the whole thing through, and the beginning of this observation that the telling harsh truth is only comfortable when it doesn’t incriminate us.

That mention is not disrespect for my mother. In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Over the past few years some of the deepest, most meaningful and honest discussions I’ve had with anyone, have been with my mother. That day was one of them.

I asked her why the Bible tells ‘bad stories’, and I named some for her.  She thought about that for a moment. I then asked her how we can tell accurately the amazing redemption of God, and the wonder of who He truly is and what He has done, if we don’t tell the stories of what He has redeemed us from, saved us from, and the tragedies and sins He has helped us overcome.

Again, she thought about it, and said she sees what I’m saying, that God really didn’t hide the dark truths of Bible stories.  It was a new thought.

Many of us have been programmed to believe that ‘family secrets’ should ‘stay in the family’ and not be shared. And within our churches and cultures, the same thing is true, for many of us. It is one of the most crippling realities, in that it holds people hostage in silence.

It leaves us with no place to turn, no one to reach to for help–beyond those who are ‘approved’, whose agenda is often more about self-preservation than it is about truth, healing or redemption.  The result is generation after generation of enslavement to the same corruption, sins, addictions and strongholds.

Those ‘within’ who do ‘rise up’ and try to address things, are labelled as unforgiving, rebellious, or some other thing that justifies silencing them.  Some surrender to this control, others walk away. Of those who walk away, many remain in bondage to that silence, terrified of the cost that comes with telling the truth.

And those of us who begin to tell it are quickly ‘tackled’ on our motives, our methods and  judged as having ‘an axe to grind’ or being bitter, and again encouraged to retreat into respectful silence.

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One of the things that alerted me to the hypocrisy in this whole thing–since one can argue that the Bible is written under God’s authority, and no human has that right–is the stories that go back to our Anabaptist beginnings.  We are taught the evil of our ‘oppressors’ and ‘adversaries’–particularly the Catholics–and in these stories our heritage is shamelessly protected. Never, in all my studying or listening to our history, do I recall the dark side of our heritage and fore-fathers mentioned. And never do I hear the ‘good side’ of our oppressors and adversaries mentioned either. To share both, creates a richness that a one-sided story will never tell.

Perspective is a fascinating thing…

We mostly like to be ‘saints and heroes’ working against the bad guys. And to get that position, we tell their ‘bad’ stories to show our good. But what if telling our bad stories could show the goodness of God, through Jesus? What if our identity wasn’t wrapped up in keeping our ‘name’ untarnished?

The truth is, there was and is much good in our Anabaptist heritage, going all the way back to the beginning.   But there was also much corruption.  When I read in the Complete Works of Menno Simons, some time ago, something about how people should be dealt with, who murder, I was a bit bewildered. Most of our churches don’t have explicit instructions on how to deal with murderers, and we might be inclined to find a new church if such instruction was a necessity.

It wasn’t until I began discovering Anabaptists like Bernhard Knipperdolling, Jan Van Leiden, Jan Matthys,  Bernhard Rothmann among other less-than-noble-Anabaptists, particularly by the standards of my upbringing, that I started to see both sides had corruption, and both sides carried rich heritage and values.

Knipperdolling, a  follower of Rothmann–who came from very wealthy stock, and a ‘proud and bold Protestant–sued the Catholic Munster town council, in 1528. A few years later he became mayor of Munster and played a part in the Munster Rebellion.

Rothmann, if my memory is accurate, was very disturbed by the sexual indiscretions he saw in the priesthood, and spoke against it and,  after being censured by the Catholic church, he aligned himself with the Reformed faith in  1531. A few years later he joined the Anabaptist movement and in 1535 fought in the reconquest of Munster, where he is believed to have died, though his body was never identified.

The stories are too complex to paint a bigger picture accurately, without a lengthy dissertation, however, these realities give us a glimpse into a side of the truth that is often overlooked. I look at it, not with judgement for Anabaptists, or even for these men. They seem sincere men in their pursuit of God. But their behaviour matches closely, if not exactly, the very thing we have used against the Catholics.

I’ve heard the argument, “Ah, but they were not true Anabaptists. We mustn’t align ourselves with them in history, by acknowledging them as part of our heritage”–or some similar statement. Fair enough. I can grant that.

But then, should we not also offer the Catholics the same grace? Is it possible that there is good and evil in both? That their ‘corrupt ones’ are just as corrupt as our corrupt ones, and ours as corrupt as theirs?

Going back to the two examples I use–Knipperdolling with his ‘power’, thanks to money and prestige, and Rothmann with is ‘concerns’, which were legitimate, over abuse of sexuality–I find it intriguing that the two things that most corrupt our Anabaptist churches today, from what I have seen, are the abuse of power (and money) and the abuse of sexuality.  I have seen three cases of litigation–brother going to law against brother–in our local conservative churches, completely defying the ‘non-resistance’ we profess, and I have watched countless times as power and prestige sway the direction of leadership.

And the sexual abuse I’ve written about and made abundantly clear in past writings, so I won’t start into that, other than to go back to Menno Simons. In his writings, Menno Simons addressed immorality among Mennonite men with their daughters, maids and neighbours wives, after hearing it happened, saying he could not believe it would be among Anabaptists, and that was the reason he had not addressed it sooner. He had a higher expectation, and seems devastated to discover that ‘godly’ men would do this. Even this exists in our early history.

From Menno Simons, Complete Works, Excommunication:
“I would earnestly admonish the reader, that about 18 years ago I published an admonition , in which I made no distinction of sin; […] I say inexperience; for to the best of my knowledge I neither heard nor knew at that time, any thing of fornication, adultery, and such like. […] it is evident that […] concerning such gross, offensive abominations, we would make many great hypocrites; for I hear that there were some within a few years who carried on their horrible roguery and infamy in secret, till time and circumstances could no longer conceal them; yea, as I have understood, if some of them had not been detected by great wisdom, they would, I fear, have continued on their old course; but as soon as it was disclosed they began to wail and weep. Who could ever be so blinded, that when he has disgraced his neighbour’s wife, daughter or maid… that he would not say “I am sorry that I did so”.’

And finally, our silence surrounding our own corruption in Anabaptist history, and ‘picking and choosing’ which part of our heritage we will acknowledge, in order to make ourselves look like saints, has opened doors to corruption, in some ways.

(Granted, this all exists in other churches too. But they are not my history, my heritage or my struggle. I feel no need to make myself feel better about our heritage by saying it exists everywhere. I am only interested in facing the truth about myself, my people, and my heritage.)

I have believed for a long time that the answers to the roots of some of our strongholds lie with our early forefathers, and am more convinced now than ever. I also believe that if we name the name of any other person or movement, apart from Christ, and take pride in it and try to protect it, then we live in idolatry, and should repent. Furthermore, that makes us accountable for all things associated with that name, and we would do well to repent on behalf of our forefathers, as we see done by Nehemiah, in the first chapter, when he repents of his sins, and his fathers.

And to do that, bringing this full circle, we must be willing to tell the painful truth of our sinful past and present. Until we face our own corruption–as individuals and as ‘the Anabaptists’–and stop investing our energy in trying to silence those speaking truth, we will remain in bondage to sin.

Truth that reveals and exposes is not evil. It was never meant to be protected in a shroud of silence or secrecy. It was meant to be brought to the cross of Jesus, for forgiveness and redemption, and then declared as a victory on the mountain of God’s people.

We overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb, and by sharing the word of our testimony, the story of sins forgiven, addictions broken, sexual abuse buried, leadership used for manipulation, and any other thing that Jesus has done for us.

There is no shame in the truth. There is only shame in hiding it.

When we strip ourselves of all our pride, the image of perfection, the pretence of sinlessness, and stand naked before God, then we are in a position to have Jesus look on us with compassion, and slip on us the cloak of His righteousness.  Then, and only then, does God see us as holy and acceptable.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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

There is a cost associated with hiding corruption, or turning our heads the other way, and plugging our ears, so that we can say, We did not see, did not know. Not the least of the cost is the ongoing sacrifice of our children on the altars of Molech.

And, having done so, we are shocked, confused and horrified when our children abandon God. We fall on our knees and cry out, heartbroken, that they would leave their faith–not to be mistaken with leaving their cultural upbringing–and worship other gods.

Many turn from the living God because we have corporately misrepresented Him in leaving them willingly vulnerable by not exposing sin and protecting them. We have hidden the evil done against them, while judging harshly their failures, regardless of their efforts. Failures that are often born out of struggles resulting from the very sins committed against them. And until we acknowledge that we have sinned against them in this, our prayers will continue to echo from the walls of our homes and our churches, empty and meaningless.

But if we repent, and cry out to God for forgiveness for our sins, and if we stop hiding behind cloaks of righteousness that have holes exposing our own evil, then, the God of heaven will hear our prayers for our children and our nation. Only then will we see revival of spirit and soul.

2 Chronicles 7:14

New King James Version (NKJV)

14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

I urge us to repent and stop stuffing our filthy laundry in a corner, in pretence that it does not exist. It stinks to high heaven, creating a stench before the very presence of God.

Isaiah 65:1-9

New Living Translation (NLT)

Judgment and Final Salvation

65 The Lord says,

“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’
to a nation that did not call on my name.[a]
All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.[b]
But they follow their own evil paths
and their own crooked schemes.
All day long they insult me to my face
by worshiping idols (of greed, religion, image, lust and pride) in their sacred gardens.
They burn incense on pagan altars.
(…)
Yet they say to each other,
‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me!
I am holier than you!’
These people are a stench in my nostrils,
an acrid smell that never goes away.

“Look, my decree is written out[c] in front of me:
I will not stand silent;
I will repay them in full!
Yes, I will repay them—
7 both for their own sins
and for those of their ancestors,”
says the Lord.
“For they also burned incense on the mountains
and insulted me on the hills.
I will pay them back in full!

But I will not destroy them all,”
says the Lord.
“For just as good grapes are found among a cluster of bad ones
(and someone will say, ‘Don’t throw them all away—
some of those grapes are good!’),
so I will not destroy all Israel.
For I still have true servants there.
I will preserve a remnant of the people of Israel[d]
and of Judah to possess my land.
Those I choose will inherit it,
and my servants will live there.

On behalf of ourselves, our fathers and mothers, and the generations past, we must repent. And for the sake of the generations to come, we must stand and break the silence of corruption, and pray that God will have mercy on us. Not only on those who have committed these heinous acts, but on us for our silence, and not fighting to the death for the little children. For this evil, I pray that God will have mercy.

The next generation is already paying the price with the prevalence of sexual immorality, in the guise of abstinence, and abortions, and homosexuality, and more sexual abuse. All this, and more, is happening right under the noses of leaders who chose to look the other way. That blindness has empowered evil. And, were they to discover it, the sword would fall swiftly.

But that is not the biblical response of leaders. A true leader does not judge harshly and quickly the sins of those he or she leads, while shouting, “You have sinned!” A true leader falls to his knees and asks God, “Where have I sinned that your people are doing this under my leadership?”

We see in Ezra 9, when sin is revealed in the congregation, how he responds by taking personal ownership, as though he was the one who committed the sins. Only after personal repentance does he call for public, corporate accountability for those sins. Oh how such leadership would change the Body of Christ!

Ezra 9:3-8

King James Version (KJV–with edits)

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we… been delivered into … confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace has been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.

© Trudy Metzger

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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

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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Jesus, The Mennonite Bishop & His Wife, the Girl, and I

The Introduction

This is one of the most exciting posts I have written to date… but I struggled to know what title to give it… A dozen went through my mind, falling flat without making an impact. I thought about this one, but without ‘Jesus’ and using ‘the Outsider’ instead of ‘I’, but that sounded like one of those lame ‘St. Peter’ jokes, and this isn’t really that kind of post.

This post is a celebration of the things God can do, when human beings lay themselves aside, lay aside their religious beliefs–both sides of the equation–and focus on what really matters.

Today I’m sharing *Tracy’s story, with her permission. Tracy is one of the people I meet with, to mentor through the ‘stuff’ of life, and to find Jesus in day-to-day experience. Even in the tough situations.

Tracy and I connected first a year, or so, ago. Briefly. Superficially. The kind of friendship that is common on Facebook, where you ‘friend’ someone, but don’t necessarily engage in relationship. You interact from time to time, but don’t often go deep. Nothing wrong with that.

Our relationship changed, however, some time ago, when Tracy started reading my blog and my story began resonating with her. She contacted me, just to ask a few questions, and that led to more interaction, and finally our first face-to-face meeting.

Tracy is conservative Mennonite, and knew that I am not. One of the things I do, when I meet someone with different beliefs than my own, is talk about what my goal is, and isn’t. My goal is never to pull anyone out of their culture, or undermine their culture, though I do mentor from a faith perspective, but with neutral position on practical beliefs. My goal is to hear hearts, and heal hearts, through restoration and a healthy understanding of, and relationship with, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Confession

Having had that talk, we moved into the ‘stuff of life’. Tracy shared some of the struggles and conflicts in her life. Church rules, though rigorous, were bearable. Family dynamics were difficult. We talked about specifics and could only conclude that her parents love her deeply, but struggle with being over-protective, to the point of controlling.

In conversation I commented, “They simply want to protect you, possibly from something they, or a friend, went through when they were young. That doesn’t make it right to be controlling, I told her, but it helps understand them. “I’m suspicious they want to protect your virginity,” I said, when the discussion of dating came up. I sensed hesitance. I don’t remember what I said next, but I recall her answer.

“I’m not a virgin,” Tracy said. Too late for that.

Being a spiritual mentor, who predominantly helps people work through sexual abuse and violence, while establishing a healthy relationship with God, I reacted accordingly.

“Have you taken care of it? Asked God to forgive you?” I asked. “Are you free?” She said she had and it was forgiven, in her past, so we moved on.

Tracy and I have met numerous times in the past few months, always connecting at a heart level. From time to time, in between meetings, I would get that ‘niggling’ in my spirit, that I should send a note or a text, asking how things are, and we’d set up a meeting within a day or two. Frequently something had just happened, and she was in recovery mode, or something happened within a day. Often just before our meeting.

That is what happened last week. I messaged Tracy to see how she’s doing. To make sure she’s getting through things okay. Later that evening we spoke on the phone, and she was quite upset. Her bishop had asked for a meeting and she didn’t know why.

I asked if she would like to meet for coffee and talk through it. She did, so we met at Timmies. We talked through a lot of ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen ‘if” scenarios, bringing the fears back in check.

Before we parted she said she would like if I joined her for the meeting on Monday, with her bishop and his wife. She said she was nervous only because she didn’t know what to expect, but that they are very kind.

I’ve often told Tracy that any time she needs me for support or mediation, I will be there, if I’m available. When she asked, I knew I needed to prioritize it, because she doesn’t ask easily, or lightly.

The Meeting

Tracy and I stood outside the church, on Monday night, waiting for the bishop and his wife to arrive. We had agreed to meet a few minutes in advance and connect before the meeting. Her body trembled, her voice carried an edge of nervousness.

“We’ll probably meet in the minister’s room,” she said. We talked about how intimidating the room is. Laughed about it, concluding it’s because that’s where all the big decisions are made.

The bishop and his wife arrived.

“Hi,” I said, “I’m Trudy Metzger, and I’m here on Tracy’s invitation, to support her as she shares with you. I am the first woman with whom she shared her story, and have been her mentor through it. If it’s okay with you, I would like to be her support today.”

They shook my hands warmly, welcoming me, assuring me that was not a problem. “Why don’t we go to the minister’s room,” the bishop said, “it’s about as good a place as any.” He paused. We started up the steps. “Hopefully it’s not too intimidating,” he continued.

I resisted the urge to snicker. Funny that, only seconds before they arrived, we had talked about it.

“And we have nice plush chairs in there,” he said, trying to make things as comfortable as they can be when you have a Mennonite Bishop and his wife, a young girl who is struggling or perceived to be struggling, and me–an outsider.

In the early school days, I remember the worksheet that had four items and you had to identify one that didn’t belong. Well, this one would have been easy. I was definitely ‘that’ item. The one that looked different. The duck in a line up of flowers, The motorbike in a row of cars. I chose not to feel out of place, in spite of this obvious detail. And they really were trying to make me feel safe, I could tell.

On my way to the meeting I had prayed the blood of Jesus specifically and individually over each person’s mind, body, soul and spirit. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would have free rein, not held back by our differences in cultural practice and Bible interpretation, and that we would lift our eyes to Jesus, and not the stuff of life, or our beliefs. I had called my friend and mentor, Anne, to ask her and her husband to pray. I knew we were well covered. And I didn’t doubt that the others had also prayed.

We engaged in small talk for a few minutes before opening in prayer. The bishop then opened the conversation, inviting Tracy to share her journey, specifically addressing some of the family stresses she faced. How was she doing? What was her side of the story?

The Secret

Tracy shared from her heart. Raw. Honest. Bold. And yet gentle. She has a very sweet, gentle spirit and a deep thinker. Very deep. She is very open about her desire to know God, to serve Him with all that she is, and to pursue His plans for her. This came through.

Tracy paused, looked at me, as if asking a silent question. I’ve learned to read her. “Are you going to share some of the past stuff we talked about?” I asked.

“Should I?” she asked.

“It’s up to you.” We had agreed at our meeting on Friday night that it would be best if they heard it from her. The odds of rumours leaking out–now that she was breaking silence–and things becoming twisted was high. Truth, directly from the individual is always best. “Shall I share how we arrived at you telling me, and then you can pick it up from there?” I asked.

She nodded. “Sure.”

I shared about our initial meeting and how our conversation about family dynamics and her protective parents had led to her making a confession. There I stopped. The bishop and his wife looked at her. I looked at her. I could see the anxiety but with confidence she spoke the words, “I am not a virgin. My first boyfriend and I had sex.”

Shock as it registered on their faces, yet gentleness. The bishop looked tender and sad, not upset or angry. No judgement. His wife choked back tears, but held the same tenderness.

“Thank you for being honest and telling us,” the bishop said.

She went on to say that it wasn’t just a one time thing, that it started early in their youth and carried on until they broke up some years later. The boyfriend had promised a future… a life together…. downplaying how wrong it was. How could it be that wrong in a committed relationship, if they were to be married one day?

We talked at length about the ways we had worked through it. She said she had asked Jesus to forgive her, and had left that life behind, but had never cleared it with her boyfriend. They had shared the secret alone for years, just the two of them, and now one other friend, and me. She wanted the power of the secret to be broken, and she wanted to make things right with her first boyfriend.

The bishop asked us both some questions, and we spent some time just talking, heart to heart, exploring appropriate next steps. Breaking ties and the power of that relationship got most of our focus.

The Dilemma

The bishop applauded Tracy several times for her honesty, and her willingness to share the truth, no matter how hard.

“Tracy speaks very highly of you,” I said, hoping to reassure them that she does, in fact, have a healthy respect for them, and their desire for her, and the church family as a whole.

The bishop’s voice held emotion as he spoke, gently, tenderly, “So you trust us, Tracy?” His eyes filled with tears.

Tracy choked up. She nodded. The tears began to fall. I saw then, more than before, the depth of their relationship. Tracy is friends with the bishop’s children. She has spent plenty of time in their home, and has told me how much fun she has had with them. How the bishop has a great sense of humour, and his wife is ‘just the sweetest woman’.

“I love you, Tracy,” the bishop said, eyes glistening with tears that would not spill. “I really love you.” He looked at his wife, who could not speak, for the intensity of emotion. “She really loves you. Don’t you?” he said, now addressing his wife. She nodded. “We really love you.”

Tears fell from Tracy’s face. When she cries, tears spill, one at a time and drop. It’s quite beautiful, really. They don’t pour like a stream. It’s as if  each one has a unique identity, that it is not willing to let go of. And so they fall, one at a time, splashing, wherever they land, into countless little sparkles, testifying to the purity of the heart, from which they came.

The moment held a sacredness. An intimacy that was almost tangible. There was a few moments of silence. The bishop’s wife started crying, her face sweet and beautiful, eyes filled with compassion.

I sensed a powerful Presence in the room, and I knew we have not met to tell stories and gather facts. We had met with Jesus, the Healer.

The bishop broke the silence to present the dilemma. The church ‘tradition’ is to confess in front of the rest of the congregation, when caught in sin. At least sins of ‘this nature’. He admitted he wished he didn’t need to even propose such a thing, not wanting to shame Tracy or make a spectacle of her. But he believed it is best. It would allow her to share her story, her repentance and forgiveness with the congregation, rather than having rumours spread, without truth. For her to share her testimony would put the power where it should be, in redemption and healing.

It is a big deal, in the Mennonite church, where the sense of community is so strong, when something like this happens. Some mean well. Others, well, they love to sensationalize the stories. It’s their way of adding a bit of spice to life, often at the expense of others. Some are true saints about it all. Extending grace and forgiveness quickly, marvelling at the goodness of God, in spite of our fallen nature. Regardless of intent, the one thing not likely to happen, is silence, once the cover is blown, or the truth leaks out. Gossips and rumours, prayer chains and concerns. Whatever the method, word will spread in such a tight-knit community. That is the downside to a beautiful and powerful sense of community, that in many ways has advantages others lack.

Tracy and I had talked about this the Friday night prior to the meeting. Biblically, we agreed, according to Matthew 18, that if she confessed and repented it was finished. No need to get up front. But, relationally, and for the sake of all the others in the church, who were hiding the same sin, we agreed it could be advantageous for her to do this. So when the bishop reluctantly broached the subject, she was prepared.

Biblically, she said, she was free. It was done. But her heart was willing, if there was any chance it might help someone. It would be her testimony to the goodness of God, to His forgiving grace, to His healing of broken hearts and lives. And that’s where we left it.

The bishop said he would need time to pray. To make sure what’s done, is done scripturally and for the benefit of Tracy and the church body.

The Encounter

The time came for the meeting to wrap up. It was good. There was peace in the room. A powerful sense of the presence of God.

“Why don’t we pray,” the bishop suggested. “Maybe we could stand, and form a circle. I believe there is power in prayer, power in agreement.” He looked at Tracy, “Would you be willing to pray, out loud, with us? There is power in that too.”

Tracy nodded. We stood to our feet, and followed the bishop’s lead, meeting to the side of the room. There, in the once-intimidating minister’s room, the four of us huddled in an intimate hug, praying to God, our ‘Abba Father’, our ‘Papa’.

Tracy stood between me and the bishop, our arms wrapped around her in a secure embrace. His wife stood between us on the other side, also held in a firm embrace. Our heads were bowed, The Bishop was emotional, his wife wept quietly.

The prayer ended with the bishop blessing everyone, and thanking God for ‘brothers and sisters in Christ who are willing to step in…”

He hugged Tracy again, saying how much they love her. His wife held Tracy for a while, reassuring her.

The bishop shook my hand warmly, “Thank you, Trudy. Thank you. We really appreciate this” His wife gave me a warm hug, also thanking me.  And then it was over.

We had gone in, feeling uncertain. For several months Tracy had been meeting with other church leaders, about other things, only to leave frustrated and feeling misunderstood. Not heard at a heart level. Because of this she had been especially worried about meeting with the bishop and his wife.

We left having encountered Jesus and knowing they too had encountered Him. No cultural barriers. No debates, but heard from the heart. And with a common goal, to lift Jesus high and bring His healing to His children.

Tracy and I left, ecstatic! It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and been part of.

© Trudy Metzger

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