Part 2: Criminal or Saint? (Confronting Child Molesters)

What about Reporting to the Law?
As a believer I am asked how I can endorse going to the law with a fellow believer. Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 6 make it clear that ‘brother is not to go to the law against brother’?

To this I ask, Does 1 Timothy 1:9 not make it clear that the law is in place for the lawbreaker/lawless? Also, is child molestation not one of the most lawless acts a human can commit?

And for good measure let’s jump to a well-worn passage, in Romans 13 (KJV…just because), and read it in the context of obeying the law, including when the law requires us to report crimes. While this if often used to draw compliance from church members, it refers specifically to ‘sword bearers’, therefore hopefully isn’t talking about pastors and church leadership. I mostly avoid attending churches where the pastor carries a weapon.

Romans 13:1-5

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

It seems to me that we’ve gone cherry picking if we blithely toss 1 Corinthians 6 out there to guilt fellow Christians in reporting to the law. It is an agenda-driven-doctrine/belief to make such a thing a sin. Especially when some of the very people who fight against such a thing turn around and use it for financial gain and sue a fellow brother in a business deal gone awry. In essence that sends the message that we are willing to sacrifice our daughters and sons, but not our money. But that’s another topic for another day.

All that said, I can count on one hand–without using my fingers twice–the number of times I’ve gone to the law with cases in our ministry, and of two of those times it has been to support someone reporting, not to file an actual report. (Sorry to blow holes in the theory that I have only one goal: to put Mennonites in prison.) The reporting numbers are not low because I am against going to the law, but rather that clients are most often no longer minors, and it is out of my court. When victims are over 16 in Ontario it is utterly useless to file a report to F&CS (Family & Children Services) or the police. If I call F&CS, I am told it needs to be reported to police, and whenever I have called the policed, they have asked if the victim is filing a report. When I’ve answer that they are not, then they’ve told me there is nothing that can be done. And they are right.

Internationally I have made one report, and that was not about molestation but a homicide/suicide threat. While it was investigated, the officer pretty much snarked me off for bothering to call from Canada about it. (Okay then! Just trying to save a life in my spare time.) In several other cases I have made myself available to answer questions for police or social workers, and in two cases I shared details of crimes with a US citizen local to the crimes, and left it to them whether it was ‘reportable’ or not. Sometimes I receive updates and hear the outcomes, other times I hear nothing. When I have done my duty to the best of my ability, before God and man, I leave it in the hands of those responsible, and spend little time worrying about it or checking up.

Child Molesters in Church: Are they Criminals or Saints?
I’m not God, so I shall refrain from passing judgment. Whether a person is ‘right with God’ or not, or ‘saved and born again’ or not is none of my business, in the context of judging. But I know with certainty that God doesn’t look lightly on the violation of children. Consistently through scripture it is clear that sexual sin has consequences unlike other sins. From Old Testament consequences–take the group of men who were slaughtered after Dinah was violated–to Paul’s words in the New Testament (ironically also in 1 Corinthians 6) about it being the one sin against the body, and a sin that ‘joins Christ with a prostitute’ (v.15) when those who profess Christ engage in prostitution. And Matthew 18 offers harsh judgment for those who ‘offend’ children.

The grace of Jesus is big enough for every sin. There isn’t a doubt in my mind about that. But the grace of Jesus doesn’t wipe away all consequences. It never has. It never will. I’ve volunteered at our local Federal women’s prison (Grand Valley Institute) long enough to hear some amazing stories of grace, but the women remained behind bars. A woman who murdered her husband never saw another day of freedom outside those prison walls from the time of her arrest, until the day of her death, but she was free on the inside. (She died during my time volunteering). She is one of countless stories behind those walls, of people for whom Jesus died, and for whom God’s grace was enough, but for whom the consequences remained.

The consequences for those who molest children (thereby ‘murdering’ the soul of the child) should not be overlooked, and the consequences for these crimes not be neglected. (Whatever those consequences ought to be, which also is not my call to make.)

Does Prison Change the Offender?
In December I was invited to our local police station to meet with an officer and discuss the problem of crime in the Mennonite and Amish communities. At one point he leaned back in his chair and commented that he pictures taking them and booking them, “20 at a time” and then going back for the next 20. “What do you think?” he asked.

“Well sir,” I said, “we both know that wouldn’t work, don’t we?”

His shoulders sagged a little, he leaned forward, and said, “Yeah… so what do we do?”

We spent over an hour talking, brainstorming and exploring thoughts and ideas. We agreed to meet again after Christmas, and explore further possibilities. That meeting took place January 11, 2016. Several Staff Sergeants were present–including from the Major Case Unit–as well as the director of an assault treatment centre. In the end we all concluded, without exception, that there must be a way to help without pushing the crimes further underground in the church, thus creating an environment that will breed the problems, and create more victims in the next generation. At the same time they confirmed what we all know, that any cases that come forward must be dealt with according to the law.

What is the Solution to the Problem of Molestation in Closed Communities?
In the meeting on January 11, I presented some thoughts and ideas I’ve been brainstorming about for about 2 years, of ways that could help deal with past and present crimes, while focusing on protecting the next generation. These were the ideas I had run by the other officer in December, and in our brainstorming together, the ideas had morphed into an outline of a plan that would potentially make a dramatic impact for future generations.

It is unclear if such a plan is possible–now or in the future–but at least we’ve started the conversation. In the near future I plan to meet with several other senior team members from the assault treatment centre, to see how we can collaborate in the ‘here and now’.

The prospect of pursuing options that could potentially impact the generations to come is far more important to me than any longing for personal justice, for which I have no desire any more. I support the law, and work with the law, and believe firmly that there ought to be consequences for these crimes. But the hard reality is that seeking justice for past and present crimes is a reactive approach–which is currently necessary–when we so desperately need a proactive approach. And, in particular, we need a new approach in closed communities that have their own ‘internal laws’ and ‘justice systems’, so that the use of ‘the law’ doesn’t inadvertently push the crimes further underground.

This is true of Amish and Mennonites, and it is also true of Muslims and other ‘closed communities’. No, they should not get to make up their laws and have a double standard. What is offered to them should be offered across the board, but whatever the ‘justice system’ of the land is, it needs to become a partnership between the law and closed communities to work against crime, while not allowing closed communities to circumvent the law, or define it. Such a thing would create chaos. One extreme would let them all off the hook with a quick ‘I’m sorry’, and victims would be entirely overlooked and neglected, while the other extreme would stone them to death…. possibly both victim and perpetrator.

There is a better way. There has to be. And I am out to find it, and then do whatever it takes to fight for it. I will fight for the freedom of the children of tomorrow, and for ‘my people’… whether they like it or not.

On that note and to that end, God willing and if University of Waterloo accepts me–which I am fully counting on, I will start the Master Peace & Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College this fall. If I’m super lucky, I will be accepted without a qualifying term. We will wait and see.

Either way, I press forward and if I trip and fall a few times, I do. I will get right back up and press on. This issue needs a few warriors, and I am committed, by the grace of God, to be one who blazes trails.

And if I’m little old Granny Gertrude walking with a cane, and with gnarled little fingers for counting on, before I get there, then so be it. One thing my tombstone won’t say is that I didn’t try…

 

Love,+
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Day 30…

It’s November 30, and the final of my 30 days of focusing on victims of sexual abuse in these blog posts. A day or two after I made the commitment to do my best to post daily for the month, and acknowledge survivors of abuse, in some way, I realized that November is Canada’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are many aspects to family violence, and sexual assault is a part of that violence. That said, while offenders are often family members or close friends, it is not always the case.

My goal this month has been to lift a weary heart, to encourage those lost in the shadows of shame, and bless victims who have lost sight of their own value and personal identity. And hopefully it encouraged those who are not victims to reach out to the hurting around them.

My prayer has been, and is, that each victim becomes a victor… an overcomer… So that together we become a people who raise our sails against the winds, and master the winds of pain and trauma… using the very thing intended to destroy us, as the launching pad for a future filled with purpose and hope.

In this 30 day stretch I learned that it is very difficult to focus solely on the victim, but it can be done. And it was a good exercise for me. Longterm, however, both sides of this equation need attention, and both the victim and the criminal need the appropriate help.

I also learned that it is challenging to write daily about sexual abuse, even from a ‘healing for victims’ perspective. There is a heaviness to this topic that cannot be done away with, no matter how positive the ‘spin’. It’s painful and it is hard. From that perspective I understand why church leaders, parents, teachers and the general population want to run, deny or silence people. But it is a cowardly act, and it is not of God.

God welcomes the cries of His children, and comforts us. He doesn’t tell us we are making things up, lying, over-reacting, or just trying to ‘get even’. He doesn’t tell us that our reality is nothing more than a nightmare or a demonic imagination. He  hears us. He holds us. He comforts us.

But most importantly, He reminds us who we are; His beloved, accepted and healed; His adopted, with divine authority over the darkness; His redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit. His love flows into us, and out to others. We breathe in His life, in exchange for the stale air of sin that poisons us, and we breathe out His life to those around us.

That is purpose. That is hope. That is a good future. That is redemption.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Dear Victim: Just so you know…

Your story matters. Your pain matters. And most importantly, “You matter.” In fact, you matter so much that you are worth more than the chains they have tried to put on you.

You are worth a ‘prison break’, to leave that bondage behind and move into a place of freedom, purpose and healthy personal identity. If you are struggling to find that freedom, find someone–anyone safe–who will walk you to that place. It awaits you.

canstockphoto10707323

And, whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be free.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

WWJD with Child Molesters? And Are Public ‘Attacks’ Persecution for Faith?

(Part 3: The Forgotten Children)

The merchants sold things in the temple courtyard. There was no hidden crime, that we know of; they were right out there in the open, and obviously they thought what they did was fine. Even so, Jesus threw over tables, grabbed a whip and chased them out. The Pharisees made a host of man-made rules and imposed them on people as part of redemption, and Jesus called them hypocrites, a brood of vipers. He even declared them to be sons of hell. “You travel land and sea,” Jesus said, “to make one convert. And having done so, you make them twice the sons of hell that you are.”

Ouch. Definitely His outdoor voice, wouldn’t you say? And this isn’t the Old Testament God of wrath, talking here. This is Jesus, the gentle-hearted healer, speaking to those who defile the temple with ignored sin, those who defile God’s name by misrepresenting Him through external things, those who defile the temple by taking what is not theirs. That’s what thieves do; they take what is not theirs.

What would Jesus do with sexual abuse hidden in the ‘temple’? He would react. I know for certain He would not turn a blind eye, or shrug it off. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ response to sin, and the response of sinners to Jesus. When Zacchaeus encountered the Christ, he gave back 10-fold what he had taken. The impact Jesus had on him was not a, “thank God for grace so I can move on from my little mistake”… No, when Zac met Jesus, he was confronted by the wickedness of his own heart, and this stirred repentance in him. Repentance that included paying the consequences for his crime and acknowledging he had done great damage.

canstockphoto0605710 (1)

I am also confident that Jesus would not say the offender (or their family) is being persecuted for their faith, if such sin came to light and the world around was angry and called them hypocrites. My confidence comes from the Word of God, which clearly states that if our suffering is the result of wrongdoing (sin, criminal activity, gossip) then we are not to rejoice in it, and it is not being ‘reproached for the name of Christ’. Jesus would most definitely stand by the Word. Yes, he would extend forgiveness to the repentant, which I also promote… with boundaries to protect victims, and following the laws of the land. (Romans 13:1-5)  I certainly can’t imagine He would run around saying, “This man/woman suffered dreadfully for my name’s sake”, when there is sin or criminal activity linked to the attacks. Fallout in the world around, as a result of those things is called consequences, and shames the name of Christ–even when/if it has been dealt with through repentance.

When I hear the cry ‘persecution’ associated with some of the recent ‘Christian sex scandals’, whether Gothard, Provencher, Duggars, or any other ‘Christian’ suffering ‘persecution’ after committing a crime, it makes me feel physically ill. It isn’t persecution. Does the world react differently to Christians being exposed in sex scandals or crimes? Yes. And they should. They have expectations of us, behaviours they hope for, and when our sins look just like their sins, they are bewildered, angry and call it hypocrisy. Sometimes it is hypocrisy, and sometimes it isn’t. But to the world it all looks the same.

Persecution, in terms of Christianity, is when someone suffers for the sake, cause or name of Christ. If I am bullied for dressing in a particular cultural fashion, it is not ‘suffering for the sake of Christ’. Christ didn’t ask me to dress a certain way. My church may have, or my parents, and it is perfectly fine for me to dress that ‘certain way’ associated with culture or personal preference, but that attire has nothing to do with the name of Christ, because my attire doesn’t represent Christ. My life, however, does represent Him or misrepresent Him, as the case may be. But, if I declare boldly the love and name and teachings of Christ, and I suffer for His name’s sake, that is Christian persecution.

So, as a Christian, if I commit(ted) a crime and it comes to light and collides with what I teach, and I am attacked, bashed or shamed because the crime came to light, it is not persecution. It is a consequence of sin. It is one of the reasons I chose early on to disclose my own past–the things I did and those done to me–so that the name of Christ would never be shamed because some hidden thing in my own life comes to light, and my past would not be used against me. And as part of my healing I shared every sin ever committed against me, and every sin I could remember ever committing, and have written about many of them. I desperately wanted to be free, and my greatest fear back then was that people would discover who I once was and use it to destroy me, or it would give Satan a foothold. (And now it’s out there in book form. Who would have thought it?!) But I will say this, if ever I get attacked by the world for what I disclose in my memoir, it will not be persecution. If I get attacked for presenting Christ and my faith in Him, that will be persecution.

That said, there is forgiveness for every sin and Jesus is more than enough, for my sins, for your sins and even the sins of celebrities. All sins are equal in needing grace,  but all are not equal in consequence to us or others. We say sin doesn’t have ‘grades’, and then hold up homosexuality as ‘a sin unto death’ while brushing molestation under the proverbial rug. It would seem that Jesus might disagree with our grading system. There is only one sin for which He declares it would be better for the offender to be dead than to face the consequences, and it is the very one I see hidden most often in churches; sinning against a child or causing a child to sin. (And I deal with the fallout of ‘causing a child to sin’, and think often of this verse.) May God have mercy on our warped grading system, and open our blinded eyes to the impact of silence.

Children who survived abuse have long been overlooked, their pain gone unacknowledged. Let alone the devastating aftermath of sexual abuse. Many are later disciplined by their churches for struggles that are the direct result of being sinned against. All of this must change if the church–the Body of Christ–is ever to have a voice of hope or authority in the world. In Amos 5 God says He will turn away from every form of worship, if we don’t first love justice and righteousness. And there is no justice in turning a blind eye to victimization, while trying quickly to cover up the crimes through ‘forgiveness’. And there is no righteousness in that pretense.  We, the church, have so much more to offer…

Victims need compassion–not pity; understanding, not ‘blaming’; and time and space to heal, not a mad dash to forgiveness and silence…. for the sake of image or any other wicked motivation. They need affirmation; to know they are not insane, even when they feel it. They need encouragement; to know they can make it. They need a listening ear, without judgement.

Victims need a church that does not overlook their trauma, but invites the Jesus who whispers to children in the night; “I am here. You will never be alone”.

****

I will share this interview with Boz Tchividjian, on the last of the ‘Forgotten Children’ posts, because it is worth watching. Boz is a man of great wisdom on the topic of sexual abuse. He is a Christian and a former prosecuting lawyer in child abuse cases, who speaks with insight, compassion and offers balance. If ever you find yourself wondering if something is ‘sexual abuse’ or ‘normal curiosity’, have a listen.

Boz interview with CBN

Coming up… A few thoughts on the Duggar daughter’s interview.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Dear Anonymous Mennonite Friend

IMG_2128IMG_2129Dear Anonymous ,

I’m sorry for whatever happened in your life to make you this bitter and hateful. The letter speaks for itself, and for you–as all anonymous hate letters do–but I will let the readers make of it what they wish. I see no need to respond to most of it.

I will, however, address (with evidence) one item of misinformation regarding the ‘lie’ you claim I told. Evidence, for the second item I will address, would be documented at Family & Children Services (F&CS).

The minister I spoke to is from local church, along with another staff member as a witness.   (If you are involved in this case and would like to have their names/contact information, please email me using the Contact Trudy page and I will connect you with them.)I shared the details of what transpired the night your friend fled home in terror, leaving a child in the care of a man she feared, and I was encouraged to call F&CS, even months later.  (You will note in the text screen shot below that I never hinted at it being a Mennonite minister. I have the other texts as well, and there is no harassment.)
text to friends of anonymous letter

At some point, after speaking with them, I called F&CS using a hypothetical situation, to find out what my obligations are for reporting, months after the fact. They said they have to investigate and determine the danger/risk, it is not up to me. (I told them I hesitate to answer because I am concerned about backlash from the Mennonite community–see letter above for evidence/reason for such concern) They questioned me until they got enough information to make a house call, but even looked up the address themselves and guessed at the child’s age, because I did not know. (This, I presume, would all be documented at F&CS and is the extent of my ‘harassment’, as you and your police officer friend call it.)

I’m sorry that your friend cannot face the truth of what happened that night. Abuse only ends when confronted, regardless of what tragic past experiences trigger the abuse. And I hope she and her husband go for counselling and get the support and healing they both need.

Having said all that, your letter begs one question–what truth are you afraid of having exposed, to react this strongly to something that has nothing to do with you?  (And to which you clearly do not have facts. Harassment charges never come from a citizen doing their duty and calling F&CS, especially when advised by a church leader to do so. )

I offer my forgiveness for calling me a ‘BEAST’ and a ‘loser’. And, again, I am truly sorry for whatever it is that causes such darkness to spill from your soul onto paper.  I pray you will discover just how incredibly much Jesus loves you, and find peace.  I have nothing but love and compassion in my heart for you, and for your friend.

Sincerely,

Trudy

Ps. Mark, Stuart, Glen, Kenny and other pastor/minister in your church(es) are welcome to contact me about this or any other Mennonite abuse cases. I respect the three that I know and have heard many good things about Glen.  I’ve already met with other Midwest leaders and, in all but one situation, everything has been handled with grace and integrity. When one leader got angry, he later apologized, in front of two fellow ministers, his wife (I believe was there) and one other individual, and then thanked me. That takes humility.

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse Conference, Unleashing the Next Generation (Part 4): Personal Healing

To hear the closing thoughts, and ‘We Draw Near’, by Andrew Thompson, click here.

Unleashing the Next Generation__Part 4

 

 

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
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Sexual Abuse Conference, Unleashing the Next Generation (Part 3): Speaking Truth & Affirming Identity

We break generational chains by speaking truth, and affirming our children’s identity. Truth about sexuality. Truth about life experience. Truth about Jesus Christ.  To listen to Part 3 of Unleashing the Next Generation, click Here.

WARNING: Some content may offend. Homosexuality is something I refer to briefly.The statement I make is a true statement, based on my experience with clients. It is not a blanket statement, or the sole cause for girls/women struggling with homosexuality. It is one of many reasons. I make the statement in context, and time did not allow me to expound. Please bear this in mind.
Unleashing the Next Generation__Part 3

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Trudy’s YouTube Channel

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

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Sexual Abuse Conference, Unleashing the Next Generation (Part 2): Breaking the Silence

 

To listen to Part 2 of “Unleashing the Next Generation” click Here. (Note: I am temporarily redirecting to the full length version, as there is some issues with Part 1 & 2) Unleashing the Next Generation__Part 2

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Trudy’s YouTube Channel

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

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Mennonite Minister on Why I Shouldn’t Tell Sexual Abuse Stories

For several years now, in ministry, I’ve tried to be careful not to rock the boat too hard. I’ve tried not to influence people, in most situations, about church, preferring to separate the issues of sexual abuse from church struggles. And, for the most part, have even tried to not focus on many churches’ apparent avoidance of helping victims, or even acknowledging their pain and trauma. But that is history. The boat… it’s rocking. Whether I like it or not.  And it’s going to get worse before it gets better, I fear.

The whole ‘respect our differences’ thing has become glaringly lopsided. Mostly it has become one-sided. I’m supposed to take the attacks in silence, and pretend like things are not as they really are, is how I understand it.

Some time ago I wrote about a leader (and/or his wife) who cautioned a young woman in her connections with me. We had met with this leader and his wife not long prior to that, and spent time talking, heart to heart–at least so we thought–and even prayed together. At the time it felt powerfully ‘good’–a God moment in time–and gave me hope that I had a safe place to encourage victims to go.

Having them caution the young woman about me didn’t shatter that hope completely. Sure, I was surprised, since I have been very respectful of the culture in dealing with clients, and since we had such a good evening with them, in what we felt was mutual respect. That night they had opportunity to challenge us, confront us, even attack us, but gave no indication that we were a problem. To the contrary, we felt a sense of kinship, in goal, if not method, and in faith, if not practice. So it did take us off-guard when they put the caution out there, but we understand from past experience all the fears that go with ‘outside influence’.

However, little by little it becomes clear that ‘working together’ with most of the conservative Mennonite churches, as much as that has been our goal and desire, is not possible. It is, without question, not something most of them are willing to do. (Several congregations and leaders are an exception to this.)

It was May 2013 when we met with the minister and his wife, and had a wonderful evening together. I encouraged him that night to talk to his fellow leader–a bishop, I believe–because of an abuse case from years gone by. What role the fellow leader had I could not say with certainty, but he was involved either as a victim or a perpetrator. Unfortunately the information given me was incomplete and shared in confidence, leaving me with only that much knowledge. I encouraged the minister to talk with the man–leader to leader, brother to brother–because I had good reason to believe that something was brewing and the case would erupt at some point. If his fellow leader was half as sincere as I had been told he was, I wanted to give him opportunity to come clean, regardless of his role, and bring it to light.

I thought the minister would do something either way and, before we parted ways, I assure him that I would update him if and when I knew more. With that we parted ways. Only a few days later I had more complete details of the case, and left a message for the minister on his phone, telling him that his fellow leader was definitely a victim, not a perpetrator. A message he says he never received, and I accept what he says, at face value. Nevertheless, given that he knew something was brewing I would have thought he would follow through, even without that confirmation.

In recent weeks another case, involving the same man who abused this leader years ago, has come to light. I called the minister after I heard of it, and asked if he had done anything about the information I gave him earlier this year. He had not. When I questioned as to why not, he said he didn’t know for certain if the man was a victim or a perpetrator.

This I don’t quite understand, since I had told him there was something brewing–and I have reason to believe that it still is–and if exposed it would mean this fellow leader would be questioned. If I knew my friend or fellow leader was potentially going to be drawn into a sexual abuse case, I would talk with him or her. It’s called caring for hearts and lives.

Awkward? You bet! But not half as awkward as watching things erupt, and then saying to that friend, “I’ve known for months and turned a blind eye. I’m sorry your life just exploded.” (Or whatever one might actually say in a moment like that, if not pretend one had no idea.)

I also asked this minister what his issues are with me. He had several charges against me. The first, I don’t wear a veil. (We’ll disagree on that one. Respectfully. At least I will. Why that thing comes up for question before the question of ‘does she know Jesus as her saviour’, in many cases, is a bit concerning to me. But every denomination needs a baby to pamper, I suppose. If it isn’t the veiling, it’s speaking in tongues or some other thing we idolize.)

The second charge? I don’t keep confidences. The evidence? This blog. And he was quite sure he could identify many of the characters in the blogs. Not likely, but okay. (Granted, he would recognize himself in approximately 3 blogs plus this one, as well as the young woman. And I don’t think I’m saying anything here I have not said to him.)

Hmmm… And yet I have permission, or even direct requests to write the stories I share here. Even my Old Order friend from New York gave her consent, and I read the blog to her. Obviously the encounters I have–such as with Bishop Henry in my previous post–I don’t ask for permission. These are my experiences and I don’t need consent. Other stories, however, I told  the minister, I use with permission.

Well, the ‘not keeping confidentiality’ card fell flat so he spoke more directly and said he has a problem with it any way, even with permission. When I questioned why it is such a problem, he talked about all the abusers out there who are so sorry for what they’ve done.

When I told him how healing it has been for some of the victims whose stories I have shared–mentioning Abigail’s story specifically, as one example–he said he’s not arguing that. But–I understood him to say–my writing is too one-sided and doesn’t give voice to the perpetrator…. That I shouldn’t tell the victims stories without telling the perpetrator’s stories too.

We batted that around for a moment, and he reiterated his thoughts and said he questions my motive. That’s fair. I certainly question his motives too, and have lost trust in him. And I told him so, and disagreed on my telling of ‘bad’ stories in Christian circles.

I asked him if he’s read his Bible. The Bible is full of bad stories. What about Rahab, the harlot? That’s not a nice story at all! or Tamar? and Kind David who lusted and used Bath Sheba, then murdered Uriah to cover his sin? Not to mention Peter cussing away by the fire, shortly before Jesus tells him to feed His sheep.

And, last but not least, there’s Genesis 34, the story of Dinah being raped. When Dinah’s brother’s discover what happened to their sister, they do what any man of integrity will do, and they call it what it is–evil, and a violation of her womanhood, a thing that should not be done. And they did that, even though Shechem was a prince of the country. It wasn’t about status, influence, power, money, or any other thing. It was about truth, and justice. And these brothers saw to it that justice was served.

I’m not suggesting we get all the perpetrators what they deserve. Truth is, they deserve harsh judgement. All of us do. None of us deserve grace. Still we all need it and long for it, and as believers we should extend it. Grace, however, is not in any way related to covering for the sinner. Open confession, nothing hidden, brings freedom.

And God forbid that we hide truth and silence victims or stop sharing their stories to protect the perpetrators–no matter how sorry the perpetrators are, or how bad they feel. This imbalance of protecting the ‘image’ of perpetrators, while trying to silence the voice of victims, has tragically become a trademark of many churches. Just what is the driving force behind that, I can only speculate, so I’ll keep those thoughts to myself. It certainly isn’t because so many perpetrators are so sorry, or repentant, that’s for sure.

The perpetrators I know who are sorry–and I have many perpetrators in my circle of friends–are not so concerned about keeping their stories hidden. This week alone I had private conversations (which my husband also has access to, lest someone gets all distracted with that detail) with three men who told me of their crimes. These men are sorry. They have repented. They are men of honour in spite of what they have done. They have wept for their sins, laid the truth naked on the floor, and have accountability in place–the greatest accountability being their openness. They have taken ownership, with no pressure on the victims to be silent in order to protect their own pride. I trust these men. These men encourage me to keep going. (And some have even given me permission to use their stories.)

So why is it that the only people who seem to have a huge problem with my writing and my ministry, are those who have hidden stories… those who lead churches whose image seems more important than truth or people’s heart… or those whose family and friends are (alleged or convicted) perpetrators who are hell-bent on hiding the truth?

Why is it that victims who have forgiven, and perpetrators who have repented, are the ones who encourage me to keep going? Are they not a good authority on this topic? Do they not know the freedom that comes, to both sides, when truth is exposed and dealt with?

And why is it that those who oppose me, and accuse me of breaking confidentiality or ‘spreading gossip’, are the very ones spreading lies and gossip about me? The stories I tell are true, confirmed, and used by permission.

It is a thing that bewilders me how there seems to be two sets of rules–one for me, and one for them. Church leaders, and many of their congregants, have no problem talking about me behind my back–by name, and making up many colourful stories–but are not able to say it to my face. Yet they have a problem with me writing about anything to do with their culture, even without using names, congregation names or offering any information that would allow the casual reader, who is not involved in specific situations. to figure out who I write about. Of course those involved will recognize themselves, and I’m okay with that.

In recent days and weeks I have heard ridiculous stories, about myself. Very entertaining, to be sure… The one I heard with two separate twists, so I’m not sure which is the official story… Apparently I pretended to be a cleaning lady, or representing some business, in order to get into an elderly Mennonite couples’ home. Once inside, I supposedly stomped my feet, yelled, threatened and accused an old man. The son-in-law–also a good conservative man–said they could charge me with harassment for what I did!

The story is too far-fetched and absurd to even comment on. But the greatest irony in it is that, after all my terrible threatenings, I received a phone call from the old couple three days later, inviting me back to their home. They must have enjoyed the show and wanted to watch the sequel. I’m quite a fan of humour and comedy myself, so I get that.

The other irony, I suppose, given that I was so vile and they so innocent, is that their first question, on the phone that day, was, “Are you going to call the police? Will we go to jail?”

To which I responded just as I had said in their home, that the victim simply wanted to extend forgiveness. That was her motive, and I had no vested interest. I didn’t even know them, or their family. (Though that has changed, as family and their rumours have crawled out of the woodwork, landing pretty close to my circle of friends.)

Admittedly, when people add these colourful details to my life–however untrue–it makes for much more interesting storytelling, on their part, I reckon. It’s mostly a dreadful waste of time and energy to tell such lies, and produces nothing redemptive, but that’s not mine to carry.

To the best of my ability, and for the healing of victims and perpetrators alike, I will continue to write stories that bring light to the darkness. I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless–those victims whose lives have been wrapped in a shroud of darkness and fear.

For those who must criticize me for telling stories, don’t forget to read your Bibles and remember that nothing has changed. People still try to hide truth, just as Achan and others did. And God still brings them to light, and uses stories to touch lives.

And, as the case of the man who was caught molesting a young child–the case I had spoken to the minister about–criticize me if it makes you feel better, but I have a heart for that man too. And I can’t help but wonder… if some victim had been allowed to speak out thirty-some years ago… if it had been safe to share and they had been heard and the perpetrator confronted… I wonder if maybe, just maybe, a little boy would have his innocence today. Wouldn’t it have given the man accountability and made him think twice? And what if he had gotten help?

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What blood will be on the hands of the churches who discourage bringing things to light? Yes, out in the open, without apology, even if it hurts the perpetrator. It can be done with redemption, grace and forgiveness. The perpetrator’s reputation will not be quite so ‘perfect’, but it will be more real. And if done with grace, it will make him a better man, and her a better woman.

Maybe then the next generation of children will have their innocence and purity, and the church will again be a healing light in the world. That makes this fight worth it for me. So I press on…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

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Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series