“The silence was worse than the rape “ Prince Of Tides
Look around you: We are everywhere. We are your sister, your daughter, your aunt, cousin or friend.
We are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It was only a matter time before the #MeToo movement impacted places of worship- places that should be a mecca for hurting hearts and at a minimum should protect children from people who live to harm them. Along with the rest of the world, I watched it play out in the Catholic Church and then various independent fundamental Baptist churches, and more recently the Southern Baptist Convention, of which I am a member.
I am a victim of abuse in both the independent fundamental arena as well as the Southern Baptist Convention. Two of my seven abusers were at church by people who were charged to protect me.
As an adult, I returned to the independent Baptist church where he was still in charge of protecting children, and my shameful admission to them was met on deaf ears. I never told anyone about the abuse at the hands of the Southern Baptist Convention staff member. This is largely because that church, at one time, was one of the largest churches not only in the Southern Baptist Convention, but also in America. Its storied pastors and rich history is well known in the Southern Baptist Convention and really around the world. Truthfully, I was just an unwanted kid who wandered into that church for some food, I knew that I would never be believed.
I’m not sure I was right. I never gave them the chance to prove me wrong. This is not uncommon and I join the ranks of probably thousands who didn’t speak up and were never given the opportunity to find out if we would have been protected. In so many ways, the silence of it all was worse than the actual abuse.
And so that fact that the whole thing has been exposed allows survivors to function in the light. I’ve followed the story of the SBC and my response may surprise you.
For the most part, the reality is that those in current Southern Baptist Convention leadership were young pastors in small and probably unaffected churches. Yet, they write blogs, stand in pulpits and shed tears. Reading, hearing and watching their response has healed something inside of me that felt fundamentally broken. There is no more silence. Many of them are carrying the weight of this on their shoulders and some of them had family members affected.
As a survivor, I appreciate the swift response from SBC leadership, but appreciate even more their desire to prevent this in today’s churches. Leadership is charged with two different jobs, helping survivors and preventing abuse. It is my prayer that the church would implement (or keep) leadership that will move the church forward in it’s pain by working closely with survivors to prevent abuse and to ascertain how survivors can both be helped and maybe help other survivors. Many of us would die on the hill that would mean that not a single child was ever touched again.
Use us; we are sitting under your leadership.
In the book Philippians, chapter one and verse twelve, Paul writes to the church:
“I want you to know that the things that of happened to me have really served to further the gospel”
This is my life’s verse and the true desire of my heart. You see, I am one of the fortunate ones. I sought and received solid Biblical counseling and the Lord has done a remarkable, redemptive work in my story. And incidentally, a Southern Baptist Church, and its leadership, was instrumental in saving my life when all of this along with other trauma put me in the hospital under suicide watch.
It’s easy for us to point fingers and rightly so. Surviving Southern Baptist Convention leadership that were abusers; complicit in abuse or silent about abuse have no place- except for a place of healing and restoration-in the church. Those that can be found and tried deserve to pay society’s price as well. But at the end of the day, it is my prayer that leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention will not take their eye off the ball.
Here’s the reality: we can hear apologies from blogs, from pulpits and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention himself –and that is great.
But it’s not enough.
It will never be enough because you are not enough.
ONLY Jesus is enough.
Please keep pointing us to Jesus, Who is more grieved by this then even survivors are. We need you to be patient with us as many of us blame God for the sins of these abusers or people who protected them. Many have walked away from Him; your job is to keep proclaiming Him anyway.
We are hurting people and in some ways you will find the angriest among us energized by recent revelation. That will level off as survivors find that ire at you does little to ease their life long pain. Remind us that Jesus understands our sorrows and that is why He went to the cross in the first place, so that we could have access to Him and His unconditional love.
Remember that day when you gave your life to Him; remember when you graduated from seminary; remember your first pastoral role. Remember why you did that in the first place.
You did it to tell the world the good news of Jesus.
You have a group of screaming people who need that good news. You are just going to have to out wait, out love and pray through the layers and walls it will take for you to get to us.
But we need the gospel, and you are called to give it to us.
Let the healing begin.