A combination of factors precipitate this little note:
First, you may have heard about the Houston Chronicle article released yesterday which caps off a yearlong investigation into abuse in Southern Baptist churches. It details the devastating story of 700 victims of church abuse over the last 20 years. This follows closely on the heels of recent big news stories about Roman Catholic clergy abuse of children and women as well. The resulting conclusion of these stories is this: abuse is prevalent in churches, whether in a highly-structured system of church government—like the Roman Catholic Church—or the autonomous churches of the Baptist tradition. The assumption should not be “Oh, we don’t have that problem here,” but rather the opposite: “It is very possible something like those stories could happen among us.”
Second, I was deeply moved by the passage in the Daily Prayer Project on Tuesday morning, from Matthew 18: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea,” (Matthew 18: 1-5 ESV).
This brings me to our efforts of our network, Grace DC, over the last year, which continue this weekend with a mini-conference called Abuse and Healing in the Church with Dr. Diane Langberg, an internationally-renowned expert on abuse in the Church. This follows a network-wide training with G.R.A.C.E. we did in the Fall (you are encouraged to listen to those here). G.R.A.C.E. has also been working one-on-one with each of the Grace DC congregations over the last months to develop personalized policies and procedures to protect children in our midst. Finally, our congregations are putting together Child Protection Boards to ensure these policies actually get enacted. We have invested much time and money into this because there is nothing of greater importance.
I want to personally encourage you to attend all or part of the mini-conference this weekend if at all possible for several reasons. First, you need to be aware of the dynamics, results, and prevention measures around the reality of abuse in the church because Jesus calls us to do everything we can to protect the vulnerable ones in our midst. In fact, in our covenantal structure of the church, each of the members of Mosaic has vowed before our Lord to protect all of the children in our midst. Second, you will most likely be called—at some point in your life—to directly care for someone who has been impacted by abuse in the church and this conference will greatly equip you for that calling. I know it is a weekend and making arrangements to be there might be complicated, but this is worth your time.
Mercifully, we at Grace Mosaic have not had a situation of child abuse made known to us, but this does not mean it cannot, will not, or is not happening. Sometimes, it can be hard for us as Christian communities to admit the possibility because it is challenging to our faith: How could a Christian do this? How could the church cover it up? But we mustn’t have a shallow understanding of sin and the brokenness of the world. It is possible for such things because there are wolves among the sheep (Matt. 10:16); it is possible because the Devil is real and people are led into evil (1 Pet. 5:18); it is possible because we do not yet see everything placed in subjection to Jesus our Lord (Heb. 2:8). So, for now, we pray for God’s Kingdom of justice and righteousness to come and we work with fervor and love to ensure those ethics of the Kingdom are lived out in our midst.
Grace and peace,