Dear Congregational Family,
Church scandals: This past week, Pennsylvania has been devastated by the report which came out regarding the Roman Catholic Church and the findings regarding decades of sexual abuse that was covered up. It is hard to fathom the reality that hundreds of priests were involved and thousands of children were abused. I hesitate to even try to comment on it in just a couple paragraphs.
It has certainly caused many to lose their faith and trust in the church. Yes, I know that we are to trust not in priests/pastors/humans, but in Christ alone; however, this is heart wrenching and faith shaking. We also know that “all have sinned and fallen short” (Romans 3:23). It’s true, we all have an old nature and are capable of great evil. However, that does not make it excusable, nor does it alleviate the devastating hurt and pain caused to so many. The church must become an instrument of genuine love and healing and reach out to those who have been wounded. In the Gospels, Jesus said, “Do not hinder the little children from coming to Me.” Serious warnings are given to those who do!
It has been particularly disturbing that there has been little call for REPENTANCE in the lives of these perpetrators. They were simply shuffled off to different locations. They are living lives of deep brokenness and dysfunction, and need soul healing themselves in many ways.
Recently, Pastor Bill Hybels of the (10,000 + member) Willow Creek Church has been much in the news as well. Hybels was one of the main people to build up the non-denominational megachurch concept with the “seeker-sensitive services” which impacted all of Protestantism. He has been accused by many woman of sexual harassment, etc. which appears to have gone on for a couple decades, stemming from abuse of power and lack of accountability.
The list goes on and on…….. It is a rather frightening thing, and should make all pastors/priests and churches, not fearful, but wise and prudent.
A few years ago, at Ruthfred, we implemented background checks, etc. for all staff and volunteers who work with children in our church, as well as continuing the prudent actions of making sure to not have an adult alone while working with our Sunday nursery/childcare and weekly preschool ministry, etc. Protecting children and making a safe and secure environment for them in our midst is a godly endeavor!
Just the other day, ex-pastor Tullian Tchividjian (grandson of Billy Graham) called on churches to consider if there is a place for grace for “fallen clergy”. While pastoring Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (D. James Kennedy’s church) Tchividjian had an affair which ended his ministry there and also devastated the church and nearly caused its complete extinction. He blogged, “real sin is also met with real forgiveness.” It is true, most Christian leaders who “fall” become isolated, never forgiven by the church, and treated as “pariah” for the rest of their lives. Please note, forgiveness and restoration in the body of Christ, does not mean restoration to former leadership position in the church.
All of this, if nothing else, certainly shows how as a universal church body, we have a long way to go seriously addressing sin, and then also seriously addressing grace. The truth is, we are all very broken human individuals and all of us are desperately in need of healing. We have grievously wounded each other, and this needs to be genuinely addressed. Thankfully, Jesus suffered our abuse, bore our shame, and “by His stripes (scourging/suffering/death) we are [can be] healed.” There is much more to be said on this matter, but hopefully this gives some direction for further thought. [If you did not read Pastor Osier’s article in the Herald last month, it would be well worth your while on this.]
God bless you as we continue,
“Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God.”