More on Pastors failing to report, and positive transformation

In my previous blog I touched briefly on the topic of pastors being charged with failing to report. As I pondered it, afterwards, I decided to expand on it somewhat, as one thing I failed to mention could be misleading.

In my previous blog I stated that “I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader“, but that is where I missed one critical detail. I mention that I support reporting, but I fail to say that I would do much more than ‘not interfere’. I would actively do my part in such a process of holding leaders accountable, and I would also personally report leaders who fail to protect and fail to report. However, if at any point they stop looking the other way and don’t justify or excuse having done so in the past, I am inclined to work cooperatively with them.

And, frankly, I would rather see them not receive a prison sentence by the time they ‘get it’ – no matter how they arrived there – because they are key to ending the cycle. We need men – leaders in particular – inside the conservative Anabaptist culture who will help end this dreadful cycle. And if we put them behind bars, we essentially work against our own end goal; to stop the cycle and have those within the culture help stop it. But if they return to covering for abusers, then let the full extent of the law be applied, as far as I am concerned. Taking ‘ownership’ just to get off the hook isn’t taking ownership at all. It’s manipulation. And it isn’t acceptable. It is but another contributing factor to the epidemic of abuse.

If reporting and sentencing all who ever covered would end the epidemic, then I could support such an argument, however it would more likely push the problem further underground. Many victims would rather carry their stories in silence than to see their leaders charged when, in their minds, they were doing what was in the best interest of all involved. So, if pastors are charged without any attempt at working with those who recognize in the process that their decision brought harm, and genuinely want change, then we will inadvertently  bring further harm by pushing victims into deeper silence. But this silence will not be imposed. It will be chosen to prevent the fallout of leaders ending behind bars.

Furthermore, if leaders come around – even if only  after a warning – and work cooperatively to end sexual violence, then doing so is our single best shot at impacting the next generation. Removing them at that point seems counterproductive to the true goal – breaking the cycle of sexual violence in our culture – for the sake of ‘giving them what they had coming to them’. This is not justice. Because justice considers the big picture. It considers the longterm impact. It works always in the best interest of those most vulnerable. Therefore, if we toss every pastor behind bars because he asked for it by not reporting, and it inadvertently causes an outcome that sacrifices the victims and potentially creates more, then we have failed.To navigate this objectively, and not cause more harm than good, will take wisdom and discernment.

I continue to see God moving, and I see progress within the conservative Anabaptist culture, as more an more leaders, as well as parents and other non-victims rise up to say “enough is enough”. As it becomes increasingly apparent that some leaders are colluding to cover up, and some are doing so to hide their own history of abusing, those in the pews are growing discontent with the facade and taking a stand against both abuse and coverups. And those leaders who are transparent are joining those discontented in the pews, or even leading them. That is a very good sign!

For this day we have prayed, and to this end we continue to press forward.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Interview with Boz Tchividjian, Founder of Grace

The horrors of child abuse not only extinguishes the innocence of childhood, but so often defines survivors who spend a lifetime struggling to process such devastating childhood trauma. When abuse is perpetrated in faith communities and is rationalized with scripture and distorted theology, most victims come to understand God as the ultimate abuser. All too often, these precious souls get weary of processing what seems to be a forever dark journey and simply give up hope.

Last year, I was privileged to come into contact with an amazing individual who is walking that journey and has given up hope more than once. The life of Trudy Metzger is one that is both deeply tragic and remarkably hopeful. She was the one beaten and left to die on the side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan. She is also the one pursued, embraced, and loved by the ultimate Good Samaritan. Trudy’s journey is not unlike the painful journey of so many others who are weary and who have or are giving up hope.   Her life is a declaration that there is hope.  

In order to share this hope with others, Trudy recently wrote a book about her journey entitled,Between 2 Gods.   This amazingly honest memoir doesn’t hide the truth about the deep physical, emotional, and spiritual pains caused by childhood trauma. It also doesn’t hide the truth about a loving God who crosses the road and gets down into the dirt with the hurting and brutalized.

I hope that we can all find some comfort in Trudy’s words that have been formed out of a life that for all intensive purposes should have ended long ago. I’m so grateful God had other plan. – Boz

Boz: Can you tell us a little bit about your family background?
Trudy: I was the 12th living child, of what would eventually be 16, born into an Old Colony Russian Mennonite home. With a history of unaddressed abuse and violence in my father’s family, and murder and unacknowledged sexual abuse in my mother’s family, we didn’t stand much of a chance at escaping abuse. Intertwined with this were deeply rooted religious beliefs that presented God as volatile and harsh, rather than a kind ‘Abba Father’—or ‘Papa’—who loves us and understands our humanity.

Boz: What was it about the culture you grew up in that you believe contributed to an abusive environment?
Trudy: This topic would produce at least a chapter, but more likely a book, if covered with any kind of thoroughness. Certainly male dominance was a problem—and I say that as someone who believes all are created equal, with something of value to contribute in every situation—and this robbed women and children of any voice. Contributing to this was the ‘elders are to be respected view’ that required younger children to submit to older siblings, giving older siblings almost the same authority as parents. While these older siblings were not necessarily the abusers, the mentality very much affirmed ‘voicelessness’ and demanded submission and surrender to the wishes of anyone older. This is a set up for abuse throughout life.

I want to add that our communities in Mexico were infested with sexual abuse on every level, and it was not only the girls who were victimized by fathers, brothers and men in general. Male to male violations were a tragic reality, leaving young boys devastated by the impact of rape, often from older boys or fathers. Teen boys raped teen girls and older girls seduced younger boys, and mothers molested their children. I wouldn’t have known all of this in childhood, and didn’t address its brutality in my book but it goes without saying that such depravity is the result of multiple issues, not only male dominance.

Another piece was little teaching about sex, and what was communicated was presented more in strict warnings to ‘not sin’, and warnings to protect against ‘evil boys’. This made sex an altogether horrid thing, feeding the unhealthy lifestyles and resulting in much sexual promiscuity on besides abuse.

Continue reading interview here: Rhymes with Religions

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

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Breaking Silence: Hope for Victims of Abuse, Violence & Corruption

Disclaimer: I have received permission to write about the details shared in this post.

***

One evening this week I witnessed one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in my life. To protect the individuals, I will be skimpy on details….

It all started several weeks ago, when I met a young woman through a mutual friend, whom I vaguely remember ‘meeting’ many years ago. Because of our age difference, she was ‘but a child’ and I was an adult, so there was no interaction, that I recall.

We met at a restaurant for dinner, as perfect strangers, and spent almost six hours talking, listening, and exploring her story. As she shared, raw pain spilled out, and, with it, the guilt over having suffered less than others in her life, and yet suffering deep trauma. She felt lost and alone.  Abandoned and rejected. Always had.

The three most traumatic and painful memories that she can recall, are the result of incidents in her church and private school. In the first incident she recalls hearing that someone very close to her  was repeatedly whipped for writing explicit notes in school. Knowing (now) that the student who received the whippings was writing about ways they were being victimized sexually by several youth, and knowing that not one adult had the presence of mind to pursue the child’s heart, is almost too much for her. Understandably.

In the second event she was held, in her early teen years, in a locked church for hours, ending after 2:00am, as the church leaders tried to coerce her into accepting them as her only authority, even asking that she renounce her parents’ authority in her life. To share the details, however crucial they are, would be to make her vulnerable, therefore I can only leave it at that. Anyone reading this, who recognizes her, was either present that day, or is close enough to her now to know the story.

The third event was when she and her boyfriend ‘went too far’ before marriage. She was forced, by church leaders, to make life-altering decisions about their plans, without speaking to her fiancée, and was threatened with excommunication should she choose to defy them, and reject the alternative option they offered. The end result has been ‘hell’ in marriage. God, only now, many, many years later, is beginning to restore. (This is the fourth such story that I have heard, in a short time, either from the individuals involved or someone near them. Only one was handled well, when a CMCO church leader decided it is not critical for the world to know, or to postpone the wedding, since that would only serve to increase the struggle. Wise man.)

After meeting with this woman, and hearing her story–with the above being only a glimpse of the pain she shared during that 6 hour stretch–she asked if I would be willing to meet with other victims she knows, whose lives intersected at some point, and whose stories will open doors for freedom. I agreed.

The meeting, held this week, was the largest group I have mediated to date. It was a group of diverse Christians, including a Conservative Mennonite minister, as well as a variety of other evangelical Christians, some who had Conservative background and experience, and some who did not.

One by one they shared their stories of trauma, victimization and pain. Ranging from repeat rapes, to molestation, to being forced or coerced into performing sexual favours, these individuals shared their journeys forthrightly, and vulnerably.

Stories spilled out. Tears followed suit.

But what is most outstanding is the compassion, the heart and the ‘reaching out’ that took place. Nothing is more thrilling than to see Christians gather around one another, in spite of difference, and lift the hurting heart to the Heavenly Father for healing and hope.

The most important thing, next to the presence of God, was for the victims to feel heard, and for their pain to be acknowledged and not silenced. Pain always sounds negative, in its rawest form, and until that has been acknowledged, healing cannot come. The moment a victim is silenced, oppressed or shut down, the enemy gets a foothold.

At one point in the evening, one victim felt the trauma of this rejection and judgement, though not imposed intentionally. What we witnessed is the most shocking physical manifestation of rejection and silence, as the victim’s body began to tremble and heave, hyperventilating in agony. Three times I felt the victim’s body go limp in my arms.

I had never experienced anything like it, and could only trust God to tell me, one second at a time, what to do to keep things grounded. I tried to get the victim to breathe with me, the same way I had been taught to breathe during child delivery, but vacant eyes told me that the victim was not ‘present’, not absorbing.

I sensed God asking me to place my hands on the victims face, and command regular breathing, all the while reassuring the victim that He has not forgotten, that He has not overlooked, that He understands the trauma of that story. It matters to Him. And that every individual in that room loves and cares deeply. Then, whisper the name of Jesus, and His love.

As I did this, the victim responded and returned with relative calmness, and was able to finish the story. At the end the others in the room gathered around in prayer, love and support, bringing a new level of hope and peace into a broken heart.

God will break down walls. He will tear down strongholds. He will set His people free. If we let Him. We don’t call him Redeemer and Saviour for nothing.

Healing comes when The Hurt & The Healer collide…. When we, as the Healer’s representatives, dare to step into the ‘hell’ of another’s pain without judgement. When we arrange a head-on collision between love and grace, and pain and trauma of another’s story, acknowledging the destruction.

Redemption comes as we release our pain, our past, our story and let God use it. It is in saying, “‘You Are ‘I Am’, the all-knowing God who has my best interest at heart, and in spite of what was and is in my life, I will worship You. In spite of what I feel, I choose to trust you. Even if all I have to offer you is my tears and my pain, I will give these in worship.”

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

To anyone who grew up *in Canada* in a ‘closed culture’ religious setting, including but not exclusive to ‘White Bonnet’ Mennonite–any ‘brand’, Russian Mennonite, Old Colony Mennonite, Amish, Beachy, and any similar culture. If you were abused, either by the church or a private school, **prior to age 18**, (even if that was many, many years ago) and are willing to share you story privately and confidentially with me, I welcome an email at trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com. The abuse can include, but is not limited to:
1.) sexual abuse from an older student, teacher or individual at your church.
2.) emotional and psychological abuse: being held in meetings at school, at church or by the board, teachers, principals, ministers or other staff, for extended periods of time, exceeding what is appropriate for a child, particularly under 16 but up to age 18, or that otherwise traumatized you through coercion and manipulation. (If it left you traumatized, it counts. If you still struggle to forgive, and must choose to do so daily, it counts.)
3.) physical abuse: beatings, whippings, ‘ruler strikes’, in school, regardless of the cause, whether you disobeyed or were misunderstood and especially if it was the result of you misbehaving due to you being victimized by someone in the church or school

Your story will not be made public, however, it will help me immensely in a program we are developing in our ministry that is about to be launched. Through this ministry we will be reaching out to vulnerable people groups and closed culture settings, in an effort to assist victims and influence change.

I will respond personally to every message received, barring some unforeseen tragedy, and will begin to do so following our return from a conference in Ohio, October 15. Email: trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com

Thank you for your help!