The bride’s train… White boots… Gangrene… and dead children

Her white gown flowed with grace and beauty. She was stunning. The bride. She stood at some distance from me, and I watched. Who was she? What was that glow? I couldn’t see her eyes clearly, but I had no doubt they sparkled with joy. Her ruby lips, full and sweet carried the kiss of love for her Bridegroom.

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I, a stranger, watched from the fence line of my property. I didn’t know the bride or her groom, but when everyone talks about the most amazing wedding of all time – even greater than Prince Charles and Lady Diana, or their children’s weddings. The greatest wedding ever. That’s what the rumour was, when I heard it. So, from my place, my yard, I watched it unfold. She moved closer, the bride, on her path toward the groom, where he stood waiting to make her his. His eyes… Oh his eyes….

My heart skipped a beat, and a tear slipped down my face. Such love! I wondered what it would be like… But I pushed that thought back. Not me. Not in my world. Such love has no room in the rejected ones. My mind slipped back in time. I could hear my father beating her, the woman who had carried and birthed me. I was three then. I heard her, the woman who gave birth to me, curse me, curse my siblings, call us things… things so dark that I felt like a whore. I was still three then. I turned again to the bride, to the groom, trying to grasp this love…  But, no, that love was not my destiny. I would always be one of the rejected ones, the unlovables. Best to not dream…

I could see her eyes now… the sparkle. Another tear … and then another. Oh, if only I could be part of that wedding! There were crowds and crowds on the other side of the fence, all wearing white. It was breathtaking…

But, I … I was one of the castaway ones.

And then, as the bride moved closer, the most amazing thing happened.  She turned, in her glory, and her eyes looked right into mine. She raised her hand, gesturing for me to come join the wedding. I looked at my overall denim jumper, my gardening gloves covered in dirt, weeds still hanging from my hand. I looked at my weedy garden. And I shook my head, looking down, ashamed. She moved closer. I could smell the sweet perfume and hear her voice singing. The bride was singing to me, still beckoning.

I looked at the crowd. The white, in stark contrast with my rubber boots, covered in mud. They sang. The words. Why were they praising the groom, but also singing my name? Why was the bride beckoning? I looked around as if to find someone to pinch me and wake me. Surely this had to be a dream… a vision. I was nobody. Worthless. But the singing continued. They were all inviting me to join the wedding march. “Come just as you are”, they sang.

The bride pointed to the groom. He stood there, holding a white dress, for me. There was water for me to wash myself. Overwhelmed, I did the only thing I could do. I crawled over that old fence and ran to the Groom. Having washed, and dressed in white, I joined the crowd. The words of the song formed on my lips, and I sang. From my heart, I sang of the wonderful groom. And when I met them, the people on the other side of the fence, the bride and I sang the praises of the groom, and the names of those we met. Some joined. Some didn’t. All was well.

We were dressed, we were fed, we had every need met. I hardly thought of the past, the beatings, the name-calling, the rapes and abuse I had suffered. My new life was good. Too good to be true. But it was true. No one shook my body, calling my name to wake up. Reality. Truth. I knew love and care for the first time, in the wedding march.

One day I surveyed the train of the bride’s veil with great curiosity. It was long. So long, in fact, I couldn’t see the end of it. And then I saw it. A movement, as if there was struggle under the train, for as far as I could see, the bulges and movement continued. The bridesmaids carried the train, seemingly without questioning the thing I saw. Did they not see it? Maybe it was nothing. But it troubled me.

I ran for a groomsman – because the bride had said if ever we need something, anything at all, we should go to the groomsmen. They would help. And if it required a bridesmaid, the groomsmen would know which ones were equipped to help. The groomsman looked at the commotion I pointed to, and calmly responded, “There is no struggle. That’s nothing. Keep singing.”

His voice rose louder, and the people around sang louder too. The commotion under the train continued. I squeezed between the bridesmaids and reached for the train, trying to look under it. But, to my shock, one of the groomsman slapped my hand and then motioned for me to sing. I tried to sing. I wanted to sing, but something told me I had to see under the train. I lagged behind, trying to hide in the fringe crowd. From there, I would slip in and see what was under the train. I could see the writhing, and I would not quit until I knew what it was about.

I whispered to a sweet looking bridesmaid, and asked her what is under the train. She shushed me, urged me to focus on the wedding, on the groom, and keep singing. Seeing I would not stop, she explained. To look under the train would leave me deceived. I must not. I dare not. There was nothing under the train, she assured me. These imaginations had been presented by other deceived ones who wanted to destroy the bride, the groomsmen and the bridesmaid. She was only trying to protect me, she said. Her voice was sweet, consoling, reassuring.

I wondered what was wrong with me, and why I would imagine such things?

A man and a woman walked toward the train, carrying something. But what? The bridesmaids lifted the train, and I watched as they flung the large ‘package’ under the train. Their hands were red… Was that blood? I shuddered. No. This imagination, it needed to stop. I was going insane. I sang louder, more enthusiastically.

But it happened again. Another one tossed under the train of her robe. And another. And another.

I sang louder. And louder. And louder.

But the words… the words fell flat.

We sang of how the groom had given his mansion for us…

And then I heard the scream. Bloodcurdling, life-stopping scream.

A few in the audience mimicked it as if to make me believe it was part of the song. But I knew. I knew… I remembered that scream… It was my scream. I had screamed in the night. A child. A teen. A young woman. And the train had suffocated me. I would not, I could not hold back.

I ran, full force between the bridesmaids holding the train and grabbed it, trying to wrestle it from the bridesmaids. But they would not let me near it. They pushed me back.

A small hand reached out from under the train. I tried to grab it, but the bridesmaid stomped on the hand, and quickly it disappeared.

The bridesmaid called over a groomsman and soon others gathered around me, and gave me a row for creating such havoc in the wedding party. Had I no awareness that the groom wanted my attention? Did I not know that he would take care of these things? Why was I so intent on destroying the groomsmen and the bridesmaids? Did I not know that these men and women were forgiven? Had I learned nothing?

The small hand slipped out again.. and then another… and another… and another. And feet, as bodies tried to crawl out. I saw them, moving, blood-covered, flesh grown wild with disease and gangrene covering limbs.

Shocked, I gasped. Then vomited.

How…?  “My God! My God!” I wept. I looked at the groom. The groom this wedding march had pointed to and told me to worship… Our eyes met. I watched as his body doubled and he vomited, and he wept. And I knew…

Without a thought, I dove under the train. Dead bodies. More diseased bodies. Bones from ages past. Some delusional ones holding bibles, trying frantically to find some word to heal them of their disease. Others, cursing the groom and shaking their fists at him, lifting middle fingers high toward the heavens. Fingers bleeding from being stomped on.

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Men in what robes dove under, raped the corpses, the dying… even the infants. Women in white robes joined in, forcing objects into their little bodies, or forcing the little and dying ones to bring sexual pleasure to their own bodies, before kicking them and leaving them to bleed. As those in white exited they stood tall, and told those near them they had done things that displeased the groom. The crowd wept, and patted them on the back for their honesty, and washed the blood and diseased flesh off of them, and reminded them that the groom had forgiven. And together they sang.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, with everything in me, “These children are dying!! These women are dying!! These men are dying!! They carry the disease of the men and women who have raped and beaten them!”

A boot landed in my face. A white boot. A lead groomsmen. It left me reeling. Surely he doesn’t know what is going on here? I grabbed his hand and tried to show him the devastation. He nodded. “What you see here,” he said, “isn’t the fault of those who raped them. These are the ones who cannot forgive. They don’t know the groom. That’s the problem.”

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He seemed to speak from a place of truth. So I started to sing. I sang under the train to those dying. As I sang, their flesh fell off their bones. Why, when I was singing the life-giving words that had brought me hope… The words the groomsmen had taught me… the words they said were the groom’s words… Why was the flesh falling from their bones? I was baffled.

The men and women who had raped and beaten the wounded ones, pointed at me. “You are angry. You are bitter! You won’t forgive!” they shouted. “Stop blaming us! We are forgiven! You need healing! We are suffering for the groom here! Can’t you see what you are doing?” And as they shouted the crowd gathered around them and sang, patting them on the back.

I looked at the dying child in my arms. Clearly these people were not going to help these wounded ones. I ran to the groom. I yelled. I screamed. I wept.

“Why?!!! Why are they dying? Why can’t they just forgive those who infect them with this flesh-eating disease? Why? I am singing! I am praising you! It’s supposed to heal them!”

The groom looked at me, tears running down His face. “As they have done it to the least of these… the most vulnerable among them, they have done it to me. If they have disregarded them, they have disregarded me. Come with me…”

He led me back to the dead and dying and eyes were opened. There I saw the groom, nearly naked, dressed in nothing but rags, and taking on the flesh-eating disease and other illness. He was healing them. He reached out, without shame or reserve, and touched the bones which held no flesh. And suddenly there was flesh. His hand bore the scar, having taken on their diseased flesh. He knelt down, breathed deep into the face of a dead child, and suddenly there was life. He took the hand of a cripple, and he danced with joy. He kissed the eyes of the blind and they saw. The heart that stopped beating, he laid his hands on and in one instant it started beating.

Then he stood and walked into the crowd and shouted. “I called you to be like Me! I confronted religious spirits. I healed the broken hearted. I acknowledged pain. I let the prostitute weep on my feet. I walked among the diseased, the lepers, the untouchables and unlovables. I never condemned them for speaking out. I never condemned those who spoke truth. I confronted half-truths and deception. And I healed the contrite sinner who held nothing back. I was not popular! I was hated, not protected by religious institutions. I called you to be like Me!”

He paused. He did not praise me, and he did not shame me. He pointed to the bodies, diseased and dying and commanded, “acknowledge their pain and let me heal them!” And then he walked deeper into the audience and began stripping the robes that had been handed out in his name, but without his blessing. There, the flesh-eating disease was carefully hidden, gangrene setting in.

“The truth… The truth will make you free. I AM Truth. Live my Life and Love among them,” he said, again pointing to the wounded ones.

He moved forward and lifted the train, exposing the bride’s feet. They were mottled, a sign of poor circulation and pending death. Gangrene was setting in. The groom fell to the ground and wept. “My bride! My beautiful bride! I gave everything I have for you!”

He turned to the groomsmen and bridesmaids. “I called you to protect her! I called you to guard her, not to destroy her by hiding diseases under her train! Pointing under the train he shouted, “This will destroy my bride if you do not rise up! Rise up! Stand for truth. I came to confront religious arrogance. I came to heal the broken-hearted. I came to set the captives free. You have not only neglected them, but added to their broken-heartedness and led them into deeper bondage. You will give account.”

And the people kept singing.  A few touched up the bride’s makeup. But the train could never again hide the dying children, the diseased women and men, young boys and girls who had long lay under it. It could never again hide the dead bodies, the stench of which had stained the inside of the train.

And the groom, he stayed there on the ground. He did not dance and sing. He wept for the wounded ones even as he wiped the tears. He held them, as he sat there in sackcloth, and he healed them. He gave them each a white robe as he healed them. Most joined him in the ruins. Others went to the groomsmen, the bridesmaids and the crowds and kept pointing to the groom, directing the crowds away from the din and noise. They even spoke to the men and women who raped and beat the unlovables, and pointed them to the groom.

Because the groom…  The groom will heal all who humbly accept truth.

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Proverbs 31:8  
“Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

Matthew 25:40-45

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 12: 20 
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory

 

Praying for the courage of many to rise up. We are losing too many victims to atheism, pain and depression. Dare to do what Jesus would do. Confront predators. Walk gently with the broken hearted. Settle for nothing less that truth. And invite all to Jesus.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

 

Pt 2: Religious leaders are NOT untouchable! How we can stop them…

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men,
with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong.
If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power,
increasing as the power increases.
Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
~ John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton ~

****

Victims have long been brutalized by organized religion, and have been silenced. But God…

But God…

How I love those words. But God… He is gracious. He is kind. He is loving. He is for the brokenhearted and wounded. And He is a fierce and gentle Warrior. He has no room for abuse and victimization of the vulnerable in His Kingdom. He says He will cast down the arrogant and judge those who abuse their power. Those who do and justify these things are not affiliated with His kingdom. And those who cover these sins and silence victims do not represent anything of the heart of God or the life of Christ.

While God will not hold on forever, He is patient. He is loving. He is the Redeemer. He is the Restorer. And He will give even these offenders opportunity to come clean, to bring their own sins to Light and receive His grace and forgiveness.

But God’s process will not fall in line with the constitution.

He moves in Truth, Justice and Mercy… And He is calling…

But, having deceived many, betrayed many, violated some physically and sexually, and many spiritually, it is not enough for these leaders to fall on your knees and say sorry to God while you continue lying to the public and deceiving them. That is neither repentance nor receiving God’s grace. That is self-preservation. And what abusers try to hide, God will expose… or they will accidentally expose. Most offenders, no matter how skilled, make fatal mistakes in their cover-up plans and God is using those fatal flaws to expose them.

When King David had a man killed so he could have Bath Sheba, he thought he had a pretty good ‘secret’ going on. Shameless murder and the victimization of another man’s wife by the most powerful man in the country. But God…

God sent the Prophet Nathan to expose the sin, and when the prophet spoke, King David got it about repentance. Really got it! He, as king, humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes and let the whole nation know that he had sinned. There were no justifications or excuses. Never did he blame Bath Sheba. (Who was naked, by the way, never mind dressed to constitution standards). He owned his sin so he could give it over to God, and he understood it was his duty to protect her. And that is what we need from these leaders.

God has sent “Nathan” to some of you leaders, a ‘prophet’ to confront your sin, and you have lied, rejected and further covered up your sins and crimes. But God… He will not leave it at that. He’s not done, and the empire of lies is transparent; glass smeared with blood, but there are places exposed. And you still have the opportunity to take ownership for your sins, vindicate your victims, and repent.

Enough with blaming how she dressed. When it’s a male victim, whose fault is it then? (And please not the ‘he/she is troubled line! That’s all the more responsibility on you to protect them!) Enough accusing her of lying when you know the strangle hold of power you have over her and what she had to overcome to even tell one soul. Enough of all else except personal ownership, repentance and seeking help… Let the King David humility rise up…

If you are a spiritual leader (teacher, pastor, ministry leader, boys’ ‘rehab‘ centre support staff, Sunday school teacher, or other) – no matter how conservative or how not conservative – and you have committed sexual crimes and sins, whether against a child, a teen or a woman – I am committed to helping you get the help you need. (Yes, the law will be involved, no I will not keep a secret, but my motive is not destruction and I will walk gently even with you.) You don’t have to carry this to your grave, and your victim(s) surely should not have to! The first email I received from a pastor who had offended early in his life, came unsolicited in 2011 or 2012 from out of country. It was so shocking I fell to my knees and wept, and prayed for him and his victim, and prayed for wisdom. I then coached him through appropriate steps to take. I can tell you this, if you come forward and deal with your sins properly, which includes not covering for yourself or making excuses, you will fare much better than if it gets reported, whether by one, or a hundred and one victims. While I don’t expect a flood of these emails, I welcome them. Send an email here.

If you are a victim of sex crimes, molestation and abuse at the hands of a church leader or ministry leader in a Mennonite/Anabaptist church, there is a place to report and make public these crimes. (Ministry workers includes any staff at any Anabaptist organizations, whether missions, residential facilities where offenders are sent, schools, Bible schools and all religiously affiliated organizations, whether male or female). EDIT: (Since posting this and the previous and next blog, I discovered several websites doing the same thing we started here. As a result, and since there is no good reason to duplicate efforts, I am updating the info for reporting abusers. Please forward all requests to the contact info here: https://www.themaplist.org/#contact and check out the list already started here: https://www.themaplist.org/the-map-list/. This group is posting publicly, which we were not prepared to do.)

If you are a counsellor, police officer, or social worker – or any other professional –  wiling to be a resource for victims and/or offenders and are committed to confidentiality (except in the case of crime, risk to self or others, or involving minors), and if you are willing to serve conservative Anabaptist people, please email us here at Generations Unleashed. Before being connected with victims or offenders, to volunteer or offer counselling, someone will check your credentials, and you will need to go through an interview process before you are recommended to these exceptionally vulnerable victims.

As the magnitude of the problem looms before me, I am hopeful that some will do the right thing, and expose their own crimes and face consequences. I am also hopeful that as leaders rise up within who will be like Esther, and as more and more victims come forward and find a voice, those who have hidden behind their facades and the pulpit, will be crowded out of leadership roles by their own sins. As this happens, more and more godly leaders will rise up in their places. And I am deeply hopeful that as a result many victims will find healing, and offenders will find help for their addictions, forgiveness for theirs sins, and face the consequences of their crimes without excuse.

To this end I pray…

****

DISCLAIMER: This idea of exposing offenders was birthed (and discussed publicly) in 2016, through my work with victims through Generations Unleashed and the growing awareness that leaders victimizing their ‘flock’ and denying allegations is too common, leaving the victims with no voice. Any information collected through Generations Unleashed will be used to offer support to victims and connect them to resources, to hold offenders accountable, and to work in cooperation with law enforcement as required. All cases involving minors will immediately be turned over to appropriate authorities. It is the responsibility of each individual to be informed as to how The Map List will handle information sent to them.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Pt 1: Are religious leaders (who offend sexually) untouchable?

One of my favourite things about university has been the freedom to guide my own path in the area of research. Returning to studying after years of experience it was critical that it fit with my work with sexual violence in religious communities. For most projects and all research I chose to look at various aspects of religion and crime – mostly sexual abuse – in a variety of contexts, including Latter Day Saints, Orthodox Judaism, and conservative Anabaptists. I grew up in a series of conservative Mennonite churches – thanks to parents who never found peace in any of the ones we tried – so I am not unfamiliar with the terrain of religion. But I was shocked by the similarities in function between other fundamental religious groups and my background. We are not the only ones structured to protect top leaders.

At first I questioned if it was actually structured that way (on purpose) or if it was merely the inadvertent and inevitable outcome of ultimate power given to bishops and leaders. But after a bit of digging and searching for answers, I concluded some are intentionally structured to make leaders untouchable. Why? I am not certain, beyond the need to make the religious culture look perfect and maintain image. (To see how this plays out in the Orthodox Jews, read Michael Lesher’s: Shonda and Concealment). And then there is this notion that those called to ministry are just a bit more sacred and holy than the rest. Here I would propose that the calling itself may be entirely holy, but the human executing that calling is entirely flawed, completely human and particularly vulnerable to corruption when placed at such a level.

Someone said, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, or something close to that. I would echo that. Power that is accountable to no one is absolute power, and it absolutely is corrupt. No human gets to play God, be untouchable by those they lead, and still stay human and flawed in their own mind. That kind of power leads to grandiose thinking, narcissism and idolatry. When people who follow such a leaders start believing they have a special kind of ‘in’ with God, and maybe it’s okay for them to do things others can’t, rather than exposing leaders’ crimes, we have a real problem. And these were the testimonies of some of the women in the studies I read; rather than exposing crime they saw leaders are having ‘special permission’ from God. This matches what I’ve heard from victims I’ve worked with.

Every spiritual leader and person in ministry I’ve known is prone to failure and sin, myself included. We all have to repent. Every last one of us. Knowing many others, and knowing myself, I have concluded we are all the same. All human, just like you. All sinners saved by grace. We, like the Apostle Paul, do the things we don’t want to do and don’t get done what we want to do. But true leaders do not justify sin and crime in their own lives.

Do away with the pedestals. They are not stable and only stay up as long as people are willing to hold them up. On a pedestal repentance is difficult, as is facing consequences for sin and crime. There’s the fear that if people discover how broken and human we are they will be destroyed by our imperfection and lose their faith in God. Even in this we raise ourselves to a God-like-status. But it’s not truth. They’ll be fine, believe it or not, if they see our humanity. And if they aren’t, the perception of perfection is better crushed. It’s their one hope of replacing leaders with God, and giving God His rightful place.

So how do leaders rise to that place in the minds of (their) people? Because, let’s face it, none are ‘all that and a bag of chips’ once you get to know them. They may be wonderful and nice, and all, but they are human. And I’ve not met one that isn’t somehow selfish, no matter who they desire to be. Me included. We are all human; you and I, and on the same level.

I can’t speak to the ‘how’ of every religious community, but it struck me in my readings for the research I did, that it is a taught and controlled path to the top. A path carefully laid out in the constitutions and rule books, including Anabaptists and Orthodox Jews among others. Of course my ‘knowing’ from experience and observation also gave me insights other ‘outsiders’ wouldn’t see. (Regrettably, I cannot use the material from that research publicly at this time, t is also part of my PhD application package.)

Some church constitutions state that charges or allegations can only be brought against a church leader if there are several witnesses. If there is one thing sex offenders and child molesters know, it is to never leave room for witnesses. The lengths to which they go in planning and scheming, or their skill at taking advantage of the vulnerable person at hand, would leave room for little chance of ever having even one witness, let alone two. They are opportunistic, and have an uncanny ability to sniff out the vulnerable ones who have no voice.

Now take those skills, give them to a revered church leader who knows who is who, and what church families struggles with, and who is vulnerable, insecure, abused (by parents, spouse or teacher etc), and you have a perfect storm. When sex offenders and molesters become preachers and bishops, or ministry leaders, and especially if they have that lovable personality, they have access to victims with a reputation that is well fortressed. Offenders in church leadership are often very charismatic leaders who ‘love’ people, and are loved and worshiped by their followers. They have no need to defend themselves, because they have built their empire so that no one will believe the allegations, and the people will rise to their defence so they need only to sit back and watch as their voiceless victims scramble for someone, anyone to hear them.

These offenders will likely have made certain to have enough trusted relationships with the demographic of their victims who can vouch for them as respectful and safe, to ensure that allegations sound foolish and far-fetched. (For example, students are often shocked when the teacher is caught molesting because the teacher was respectful to most students. The ministry leader or minister who violates the vulnerable wives of the abusive men they help may have the respect of many of the wives of these men, having never made moves or crossed lines, thus making the rest sound ridiculous when they bring forward their allegations. And the leader who molests girls may leave his own daughters untouched, so that the whole family can vouch for him. You get the picture.)

These are skilled criminals, not people who ‘fall’ into affairs in leadership. These are not pastors, bishops and ministry leaders; they are wolves. They are predators. They are power-mongers with lust issues; lust for power and lust for sex. They excommunicate and ostracize those who fail to live up to the constitution, and excuse their own sin. They  have no regard for the sacredness of sex and God’s laws, not to mention the laws of the land. They rape, overpower, molest and lust… and excommunicate victims for not being silent. (In any case, if a leader molests or abuses someone, he/she should be removed and dealt with, even if only a one time offence. They are not safe in positions of power.)

The more these allegations against church and ministry leaders come to light, in various communities and churches, the more certain I am that one of the key sources of the larger problem is the result of corrupt leadership. Be that 20% of the leaders, or 50%, or 5%, it’s too many. And, unfortunately, those leaders who are pure of heart genuinely struggle to grasp that a fellow-leader would/could do such a thing, and they too write things off as false allegations made by a troubled church member. This needs to change.

And that leads me to the the next thing in the constitution… The word of a member in good standing, according to some constitutions, is to be taken over that of those who are not in good standing. It takes little imagination to see that sex abuse victims are often very troubled and don’t do ‘constitution following’ very well, making their testimony easy to write off. And those victims who are faithful constitution followers are silent, because that’s what the constitution sets up. Some state that members are to first attempt resolving issues directly with those who wronged them, before going to leaders, meaning victims must first face their offender before seeking help. They further state that once communion has been observed and peace is expressed, a matter is to be considered forgiven and done.

The way these things are structures make church leaders – especially bishops, but also prominent ministry leaders and lay members of good rapport – almost untouchable. And that perpetuates the crimes both at a leadership level and among the people. Almost untouchable…

But God…

But God is not done. He will expose. He will bring to light. And He will give voice to victims so that these wolves will be stripped of their facades, and they will stand naked in their sins. And more than giving them a voice He will be their voice and He will speak boldly. And then there will be no constitution to manage damage control. There will be no hiding. The truth will be revealed.

What excites me is that God is raising up leaders ‘among them‘ who will not be silent.  Leaders who will not look the other way, and who will hold them accountable and turn them over to the law. These leaders and their wives have reached out to me, internationally, and encouraged me to never quit, never give up… And God is also raising up a network of law enforcement workers across USA who are listening. They are seeing the patterns, the cover-ups and the crime in the name of God.

Reckoning day is coming…

And that doesn’t even begin to account for standing before God with these sins exposed, their covers blown.

Victims have long been brutalized by organized religion, and have been silenced. But God…

(To be continued…)

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

All Mennonites are Not Sexual Predators…

…any more than all Christians are hypocrites,  all Germans are Nazi’s, all blacks are gangsters and all priests are paedophiles.  Those statements are stereotypical and false.

But it is difficult to write about the crimes and cover ups in a particular people group, and be a voice for the victims, without making the whole lot of them look party to the crime, without naming names, one way or the other. If the telling of every story is required to justify those who are not party to the crimes and cover ups, it is just another way of downplaying the pain of victims, and taking away their voice. And that, in my opinion, is just as corrupt.

I wrote this blog in response to very particular ‘challenges’ I received, privately, from several ministers in conservative Mennonite settings concerned over how I make the Mennonite church look by sharing the stories of Mennonites. Both were respectful, for the most part. And my response was intended to validate their views, that all Mennonites are not Sexual Predators, and the stories I post misrepresent the culture.

My most recent blog post “Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: My abusers are my church leaders” , which received almost 4000 views in just over 24 hours,  was met with a sprinkling of similar criticism while many messages of support, appreciation, compassion, concern and identification poured in. And I say ‘sprinkling’ because, less than a handful of messages expressed frustration at the misrepresentation of the culture also arrived. Even ‘sprinkling’ is exaggerated.

So this blog, which was originally inspired by several church leaders–appropriately follows the most recent blog exposing abuse in the culture. (Though I challenge readers to take note that, beyond mentioning the victim to whom I am giving a voice, the culture is not mentioned. It was, and still is, intended as a challenge to ‘the church’, not ‘a culture’.)

Reflecting over the past several years of writing, in telling my story, I am keenly and painfully aware of this in my writing, that sharing the stories of Mennonite victims, and giving them a voice, casts a shadow over the entire culture. (And have been aware as I wrote. It is not a new thought.)

I have tried to balance the harsh realities with the good in the culture, and the beauty of certain aspects of it–particularly the sense of community. I have also shared of how my healing began at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, when Howard and Alice reached out and helped me, and Glen Jantzi, one of the ministers, reached out to my one brother. This care, on behalf of my brother and myself, had a powerful impact on my healing journey.

Furthermore, while I was always ‘different’, and never fit into the cultural mould, I felt loved and accepted by many friends at Countryside, right up until the time we left, and even after.

It was at Countryside where I first felt I had something of value to offer, and that I could make a difference in the Kingdom of God. This was thanks to the bishop’s wife, Florence Martin, who saw something in me, after she and I had a shared incident, in which she encouraged me to reach out to a young girl. She gave me a card with a thank you note. Placed inside was the calendar page from a little inspirational calendar from that day, it read: “November 9  Who knows but that may want to use you this day… ” and I don’t recall the rest. (Though I do have the note stored with memorabilia, because it had such influence in my life.)

Lena Martin, the deacon’s wife sat with me in a  coffee shop and answered hard identity questions, when I first started working through abuse. I can’t think of anything more she could have done. Years later, while watching a video of Lisa Bevere with a handful of other women, she said, “Trudy, I could see you do this one day.”  To which I responded with a laugh, “In a light blue suit?” because that is what Lisa had on at the time.

Countryside was, for me, a very safe place to begin healing. We loved the people, we appreciated and cared for the leaders–all of them. Not once did I feel unkindness, even when Joe and Esther had to ask me to tone it down on the make-up, and Glen and Elly asked me to scale back my heals, and Leighton sat me down, in a most fatherly way, and asked me not to skip service and go cruising with a bunch of rambunctious youth instead of attending special meetings.  In fact, Leighton, the bishop, spoke with such understanding and gentleness, even when chiding me, that my heart-felt completely safe.

Yes, some tragic events took place, rocking the church we knew. And we all grieved. Many of us, if not all of us, went through inner chaos and confusion. Why did God let the accident happen, and allow three children to be orphaned? Why did it seem no one knew how to handle the tragedy and grief left in its wake? There were no answers. Only pain, turmoil and disappointment.

Still our love for Countryside, and all the people we knew there, never faded. It lives on to this day, and always will. Because it was the place God took me, in a culture that had deeply wounded me–though a very different ‘brand’ of Mennonites within that culture–and began to reveal himself to me. I sat in that church, in God’s presence and shed many a healing tear, as I discovered a God of grace. And it was only the beginning of that discovery of God’s love and grace.

I didn’t get to know many of the other churches much in the Midwest setting. Only a few, and only a little.  Tim’s aunt and uncle served as leaders at Woodlawn, Abner and Almeda Martin and, to this day, are among the Mennonites I respect most for their genuine faith.

None of these realities have escaped me, or lost appreciation in my heart during this past two-year stretch of addressing sexual abuse in Mennonite and plain cultures.  And  those who have taken time to read the blogs I wrote before focusing on exposing the corruption, will know that I have said many, if not all of these things in the past. Hopefully you have not lost sight of them. I could not, however, go back to constantly reaffirming these things, while speaking the truth about the corruption.

And then there is the small matter of knowing people I respect would not necessarily wish to have me applaud them here. It creates a tie to me, and establishes in the mind of the reader, a relationship with them, and they may not wish to be identified in any way back to me. (There are those whom I admire and respect from my time in the Mennonite church, who would as soon not be associated with me, and I try to honour that, though I may have crossed that line in this post.)

I am not sorry for exposing the things I exposed. I’m mostly not sorry for how I said them, most of the time. (There’s a time or two, when a deep breath and a long pause would have served me well, when leaders refused to face truth. I regret not taking a deep breath and a long pause first, but also trust God to redeem my humanity. Therefore I will not live in regret.)

I am sorry that some wonderful people in the culture, who sincerely love God and fight for truth, were hurt in the process and feel their name and identity have been tarnished with my telling the truth of victims, and being their voice.

It is the thing with ‘carrying a name’, that becomes the price tag for that name. We hold it dear, even idolize it, until the image crumbles because too much corruption lies buried by those whose hearts are evil. And then we struggle to deal with the consequence of that name. That is true whether the name is Menno Simons, or Jesus Christ. Whichever name we carry close in our hearts, that is the name that will cause us the greater anguish, when not held up to the extent that we revere it. 

Even Jesus generalized and spoke out against the Scribes and Pharisees for their corruption as leaders. He didn’t go about saying things like, “a few of you… or ‘some of you’ or some other softening of the blow. No, He said it boldly, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees!”  And then each one had to decide in his own heart if he was guilty.

Amazingly, some of them were His inner circle. How could Jesus do this so boldly, and not risk losing the hearts of these men? Or were they so lost in Him, that the truth of the evil attached to their ‘other identity’ no longer frightened them? Even when it came so close to home that it could have been interpreted as an attack on their own identity? Had the name and title lost its meaning, with no idolatry left in their hearts, so that they no longer worshipped that identity? 

Is this the biggest problem many in the culture have with me?  That the painful truth of buried sexual abuse and sin, connected with my cultural background, is too personal because too much faith has been placed in a name–the name of a man, Menno, who would be mortified at that idolatry–and that identity has been a source of great pride, but is now a source of shame? (And this could also be said of Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian Fellowship, Non-denominational, Inter-denominations, and every other religious identity where corruption lies hidden, and the name is protected.)

Is it possible that God wants to unravel that cultural pride, and bring us all back to one identity–Jesus Christ?

If we were to embrace His identity as the only one that matters, and openly acknowledged the wickedness within, would that not open the door for healing, restoration and allow the Body of Christ to thrive? I would no longer be a threat with my truth-telling, but an opportunity to rise up. And only if I defamed the name of Christ would there be any need for personal offences, hurt feelings and emails challenging my message.

The truth is that the name of Jesus is the answer to this problem. Many a Christian has left me wanting for another name to identify myself by, because of the damage they have done to the name of Christ, and still, I carry the name of Jesus Christ with honour, boldness, and without apology. Because His is one name that, no matter how close I carry it to my heart or how wrongly people use it, does not bring shame to me. Christians shame Him. Religion does also. But not Jesus. He restores my honour, just by embracing His name, regardless of how He is misrepresented.

That is a name worth holding on to. 

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© Trudy Metzger

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