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Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care?
Don’t you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?

How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done

- Keith Green

This past week I found myself grieving. I learned that a former volunteer of a large church was convicted of sexually victimizing three boys under his supervision.

I grieve that when the parents of one of the boys told a pastor about the abuse, he chose not to report the crime to the police and strongly discouraged the family from doing so. I grieve that the failure to report this dangerous sexual offender gave him two decades of freedom to find and victimize more little ones. I grieve that not even one pastor from the church came to court to support the brave victims who eventually came forward and testified. I grieve that many Christian leaders all around the country who don’t hesitate to express open condemnation for abortion, universal healthcare, and the firing of reality television stars who make derogatory statements about gays and African Americans are suddenly silent when it comes to open condemnation for other Christians who choose not to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.

St. Mary's Church in a blizzard - photo courtesy of LHG Creative Photography via Flickr

St. Mary’s Church in a blizzard – photo courtesy of LHG Creative Photography via Flickr (Image source)

I grieve that there are individuals within certain Christian communities who deliberately choose to remain silent out of a fear of alienating those who have the power to cancel speaking engagements and turn down book contracts. I grieve that friends of those responsible for not reporting this crime would rather spend their days (and nights) vilifying and marginalizing those who have stepped forward to express outrage then grieve over such a horrific failure. I grieve that Christian communities that preach humility and love are often unteachable and too eager to be defensive and condemning when rebuked, regardless of the consequences to human souls. I grieve that many within the Church prefer the sounds of conference speakers, blog posts and tweets about theological nuances to the cries of the abused and marginalized.

I grieve that much of the Church is asleep and doesn’t even realize it. I grieve that it is so hard to find Jesus in the midst of all this. For too many precious souls, inside the Church has become like Narnia – always winter, but never Christmas.

As I lamented over what I had seen and learned this past week, God infused me with hope. I was reminded of the beautiful and hopeful words of C.S. Lewis,

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight; At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more; When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death; And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

Aslan, The Greatest Lion - photo courtesy of peasap via flickr

Aslan, The Greatest Lion – photo courtesy of peasap via flickr (Image source)

It was at that moment that I realized that in all of this darkness and grief, Aslan is indeed on the move. I heard His roar this week. I heard it through the voices of so many amazing, ”everyday” Christians who stepped forward and refused to be silent any longer. Voices from all parts of the world that embraced and validated survivors by telling them that they are loved, valued, and will no longer be marginalized. Voices that spoke up on behalf of those whose voices are simply tired. Voices that called Christian leaders to repentance and pleaded with them to turn down the volume of their own voices so that they can hear the suffering cries of others. I even heard His roar in a note I received that said, Thank you from all of us who have languished by the road – bloody, beaten, and robbed – and watched the Levites and the Pharisees just walk on by.

I haven’t just heard His roars.

I have actually seen glimpses of Aslan’s beautiful white teeth that are bringing an end to the winter inside of His Church. Many of the victimized who gave up hope in a Jesus who couldn’t wait to condemn them have encountered Jesus – the One who chases after them and can’t wait to embrace them, affirm them, and seat them at the place of honor at His feast. His teeth have also begun to puncture the all-too-often callous hearts within the Church that have become enslaved to position and reputation.

A dear friend put it best,

At the end of the day I end up feeling sad, mostly for those truly injured along the way, but also for every one of these folks who live behind walls where secrets and quiet maneuvering to protect themselves and their causes control so much of their lives and ministries. That’s a heavy load to bear, and it’s so unnecessary. The Gospel needs no protection, and neither do we when Jesus is our source of security. Here’s to the always-reforming Church re-forming every part that requires shadows to survive.

Nothing is safe when Aslan is on the move. But rest assured, that is good news. As stated best by Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when describing Aslan: “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t safe, but He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” A sleeping church will never be safe from the roaming Aslan. He loves it too much to allow it to continue in slumber as so many freeze inside its walls.

Yes, there are days I grieve. But that grief is only overshadowed by the hope I still have in Jesus – the King who turns everything upside down, and who is very good.

47 Comments

  1. This post brought me to tears. I agree with every word you said. I’m so grateful for the work you do on behalf of those wounded by sexual abuse. I have had close friendships with three women who were sexually abused by their own fathers and saw with my own eyes the devastation that comes with it. One of these women was born again in college around the same time I was and I watched as the Lord brought healing to her day by day. The whole situation with SGM has grieved me to the core. My heart is broken for all of the children involved (as well as their parents) and I am so angry about the cover up and failure to alert the authorities. When I read that instead of calling the police the pastors would make the abused child set down with the pedophile and “forgive” him, I wanted to throw up (and throw something). I hope more leaders will join you in the wonderful work you are doing. Church leaders must speak out against sin in their ranks, especially the grievous sin of child sexual abuse.

  2. Kimberly Labine

    This post reflects so much truth. I am just left with the question of how do survivors of this get to a point where they actually see and know who the real Christ is and how He acts and responds despite the shadows of everything that’s been taught to this point that contradicts that?

    • I doubt that there was a major problem with what they were taught. The problem was spiritual leaders who didn’t live up to what was being taught, and that was also a problem in Jesus’ day (see, e.g., Matthew 23:13-39). A more serious problem for survivors is likely to be why God allowed them to go through what they went through – why HE didn’t intervene and stop it (or stop it sooner). And that’s a question that can really be asked by anyone who’s ever been a victim of sin. The question can only be answered by God himself. He has promised to work all things together for good with those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), but the details of this are individual.

    • Kimberly Labine May 23, 2014 at 1:17 pm This post reflects so much truth. I am just left with the question of how do survivors of this get to a point where they actually see and know who the real Christ is and how He acts and responds despite the shadows of everything that’s been taught to this point that contradicts that? -
      —————————————————————————————–
      By understanding Jesus only came into the world to save sinners ..

      .. A person must find forgiveness in Jesus for their own many mountains of sins against him FIRST..

      as Luther put it,,, if a perfect and holy God can forgive us for our beyond numbering sins against him.
      what does our neighbors sin against us really amount to?

      IN THE PRAYER JESUS TAUGHT US .. the Lords prayer WE ask God to forgive our trespasses against him as we forgive those who trespass against us ..

  3. Thank you for this post. My heavenly Father has brought healing to my aching heart 40 years after being sexually abused by my own father. Mother never knew. Under duress, I told no one. 40+ years later the Lord brought a younger pastor into my life. Totally unexpected, after a general comment he made, I blurted out my story. No judgemental attitude – just a heart of love, respect and appreciation. He was even instrumental in ministry to my aged father before his passing – forgiven and at peace with God. So thankful for the many safe men the Lord brought into my life to heal the brokenness and make me whole in Him. I’m greatly grieved that within the Body of Believers I do not see more safe love – even cross-gender – we’re still living in fear and jealousy of holy, pure, noble and loving friendships which can greatly help with the healing process. God have mercy!

  4. Elizabeth Heffernan

    Heartbreaking for these innocent ones that have lost something that will never come back until they get home. This evil is so pervasive and the destruction is so deep, only satan could conceive an evil this dark. Yet when our Savior hung on the cross even these sins were redeemed. Amazing grace. Deliverance for all involved Lord, forgive us and turn our hearts to You, reveal the truth so we all can be free.

  5. I am filled with many feelings after reading this article, Boz. I am grateful for your voice of compassion and truth. I feel blessed by my good Abba God for His gracious healing in my life. And I am angry at the abuse that goes on in His church and the complicit role that many, many leaders play in perpetuating that abuse. Most of all, I am grieved. My heart cries with yours as I watch this horrific story unfold over and over and over again. Where is the love and truth of God that sets people free? Where are the godly, holy relationships that heal wounded hearts? We MUST speak up and speak out. This is not okay. It cannot continue. How God’s heart must be broken each time one of His abused little ones is re-victimized by the very people that have been called to minister His love.

  6. thanks for writing this Boz, and for keeping on so this isn’t a topic that is just another daily news flash that disappears with no change in churches and the hearts of Jesus’ servants. the sin of child sexual abuse is horrible, if the perpetrator is a pedophile that is ungodly then the child can grow up and maybe make sense of it somewhat. when it happens in the church so often the perpetrator uses scripture twisted so the abused doesn’t come to the Lord because they are told they are in sin. I feared God and Jesus for so many years thinking I was responsible somehow for what happened to me. I was told later when I was in an abusive marriage that I had to submit to my husband in everything so I stayed in a marriage for 12 yrs, sure that God would be mad at me if I left. when churches use the fear of losing your soul to keep victims quiet it is very effective. then when the abuse comes to light the “church” blames the victim. many victims commit suicide when this happens and then the church says they are going to hell for that also. it is insidious, more than if the perpetrator didn’t pretend to have God on his side. also being a victim of abuse I spent many years in alcoholism and promiscuity and then couldn’t face the guilt of that either. One day my counselor said to me, while looking at a photo of my granddaughter who is 6, “if what happened to you happened to your granddaughter would you still love her if she grew up and was promiscuous?” I said “yes, I would love her anyway, it would just be what the world did to her” My counselor said, “that is how God sees you, He loves you so much!”
    I am still working on mental health issues from my abuse but I am no longer drinking and being promiscuous because I don’t have to be what the world tells me I am any longer, I caught a glimpse of who my Heavenly Father tells me I am. I pray that for every abuse surviver. Will the True Jesus please stand up. To the church: If you want to say you are a Christian then you have to act like Jesus Christ. To the abusers: It is better to face Him today and find forgiveness for your sins than to face Him in the day of judgement with no chance of repentance. Jesus died for the sins of the world, but forgiveness comes with repentance and renouncing of sins, not excuses for sin.

  7. Thank you, Boz, for putting into words the feelings that so many of us have been experiencing for too long now … such tremendous grief and sadness, a long winter which never seems to see a sign of Spring. You have given us some hope to face the day, and to keep on holding hands with the many others who truly love Aslan and desire his people to be a sanctuary. Blessings, brother!

  8. I was part of an SGM church when the law suit broke. For many, many reasons, including the law suit, we finally left. I’ve spent many months struggling with leaving. I buried the confusion I felt over the abuse cases though. There were people in my church who were angry that it was filed. They defended the leaders and in many ways called the victims liars. I am not an outspoken person in general so I just really kept my outrage to myself. My husband was a bit more vocal about why we were leaving (which was far beyond the law suit. The abuse was catalyst that started our departure.) I was having to field defense on many fronts despite leaving fairly quietly. I think the leadership was glad to see my husband go. He rocked boat of their controlled environment too much. All of that overshadowed my outrage at the time. I didn’t realize the hurt and anger I felt over it though. Fast forward to the verdict this week and I just feel angry. All the ugly words spoken by church members came flooding back. All the insistence from the leadership that nothing took place. I am much more angry than I expected to be. Your words hit the nail on the head. You said what my mind and heart could not. I should have said more. I should have said that it doesn’t make sense that leadership didn’t know. A good leader would have known. A good leader would have acted. I should have said it doesn’t make sense that so many victims would come forward and falsely accuse….all with the same story!!!! How can so many people from different congregations gather together to fabricate such intricate lies? That’s ridiculous. I think of my own children and how outraged and hurt I would be if these horrible thing had happened to one of them and the church did nothing…and then called them liars. I am sorry I didn’t speak out. I am sorry that was cowardly. I should have said more. There are still so many raw emotions mixed in this for me. But really it’s not about me. God’s precious little ones were hurt. The church turned their back on them. And they are still turning their back on them. That makes me angry. Thank you for this post. Thank you for the reminder that He is on the move. And thank you for helping me muster the courage to give myself permission to be outraged without stuffing it to hide. God bless.

  9. You and your brother and Grace Ministries are heroes to me. So many of us have been waiting for someone to come for us and stop the people who, for whatever reason, won’t stop hurting us. I know it’s been hard, but every time I read a story about another ministry who is recoiling from the touch of of GRACE, it fills me with joy. Some days I feel like I’m at a party watching and celebrating the destruction of the empire happening in real time. I just can’t thank you enough for having the courage and strength of character to go to battle for us. I pray that many, many others will follow your lead.

  10. “I grieve that there are individuals within certain Christian communities who deliberately choose to remain silent out of a fear of alienating those who have the power to cancel speaking engagements and turn down book contracts.”

    I grieve when people assume and malign fellow pastors and ministers who are trying to be faithful to the Gospel. This post is a joke.

    • Austin, why do you think they have remained silent? (Honest question.) TGC et al’s silence is deafening. Also, how are these silent pastors reflecting faithfulness to the gospel and to a holy, just, and truth-loving God through their silence in this situation?

  11. Gordon Magill

    The church of Jesus Christ is to follow all His teachings and not specialize in one or two. Love for God and man, faith in Jesus, life in the Spirit, righteousness, justice, faithfulness…. Why can’t we give attention to them all? Didn’t the prophets make it clear that is what God expected from Israel? Doesn’t our Lord Jesus Christ make it clear that is what He expects from the Christian church i.e. Revelations Chapters two and three? Thanks for posting Keith Greens “Asleep in the Night.” His words and passion always inspire, challenge and convict.

  12. Keep this area in the light! One of my abusers was a deacon and one of the others was an elder with a BA degree in Bible from a respected Christian University in Oregon. The elder had other victims, family and strangers. He was a cub scout leader and involved in boy scouts. I don’t know if he had any victims in those organizations. (This goes back to the 1950s and early 1960s)

    Those two abusers were family and the abuse didn’t happen in the church. But I’ve discovered that somebody at the church knew my family was messed up. I don’t know how much they really knew.

    God has some special words for the abusers as we all know. But he also calls those who know of the abuse or its potential to account as well:

    Proverbs 24:11-12:
    Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?

  13. I have been browsing the internet and Christian web sites to find more information on this recent case and it appalls me that the church has no problem publicly condemning people for the sexual sin of homosexuality but is silent on pedophiles in the church and those that enable them…

    • “I grieve that there are individuals within certain Christian communities who deliberately choose to remain silent out of a fear of alienating those who have the power to cancel speaking engagements and turn down book contracts.”

      I grieve when people assume motives of other Christian leaders.

      http://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/injustice-and-empathy.html

    • hi Sandy Im not familiar with what every one else seems to know about a
      certain church.. Yet unrepentant of either sin you mentioned would call for x communication .

  14. I am almost beyond words.

    “No comment” is all these so-called leaders can say.

    No repentance. No godly sorrow. No shame.

    Just let me do what my lawyer says, what the civil law expects. What about God’s law?

    Perhaps even more upsetting are all the other leaders covering up as well! What on earth is going on? Are these true followers of Jesus?

    I would like to see every member of that congregation go elsewhere to worship immediately. Their children are not safe.

  15. I think for now unless the bible says differently.
    yet I admit imjust not sure ,,I will have to examine the scriptures on this topic..
    if some one in the Christian church sins against some one else in the Christian church the final step I think is– to tell it to the whole congregation ..

    I think the bible says church not some government police force..

    I think it would be a different matter if it involved a Christian and non Christian however .

    than I think the source to go tell ———would be the police..

    I know what the governments laws state yet who would confess any sin at all to their pastor if a church pastor was known as a quisling? a betrayer of his
    sheep?

    Jesus wants a repentant heart and the pastor after confession is to proclaim Christ’s forgiveness.. no where have I read Jesus wants a pastor to call the cops on those repenting of any sin.

    When the religious leaders brought stones in to the temple to stone Jesus
    to death using a clever plan of a adulterous to trap Jesus so they could do it .
    Jesus said those of you with out sin cast the first stone.. he wanted repentant hearts not police intervention..

    tradition has it that Jesus who knelt and was writing some thing in the sand was writing the sins of each man that carried the stones into the temple that day.

    if the religious leaders were serious about using the stones not on Jesus but the women; by Jewish law they would have to had brought the man she had adultery with there also..

    they had planed not to murder the women for adultery ………. but Jesus
    its a interesting plan they had set up thinking Jesus would answer wrong no matter what he said when they questioned him .. and make the crowd angry..

    getting back to the authors point of his article ..

    i will have to study what God says in scripture more yet for now ..
    i

    makes one at least see how difficult it is to be a pastor ..especially with all types of ghastly sins we people commit .. and their work of leading Gods people to repentance through the gospel of Jesus the worlds only savior from OUR sins.

    • Hi Rob, You wrote, “if someone in the Christian church sins against some one else in the Christian church the final step I think is– to tell it to the whole congregation ..I think the bible says church not some government police force..” If I am correct, you are asserting that in cases of a sin committed by one Christian against another, the first steps of redress are to be limited to actions within the church body, and not to (outside) civil government. I think something to consider in this case (The SGM child abuse cover-up allegations), is that the crime committed was considered to be not only against the actual victims (the children) but also against the government itself, which has clearly stated that it is unlawful to abuse children. So, whereas the sin of gossip, perhaps committed against a fellow believer in the church, does not warrant the concern or attention of the civil government, the sin of, say, assault would merit their intervention. Of course, there is a difference between a civil and a criminal case, but the issue seems to be the same when it comes to recognizing that some sins committed in the church also demand the attention of civil authorities (ordained by God to punish evil-doers). For the church to ever protect some sorts of these sins, such as those committed by a pedophile, makes it a haven for those who practice those sins, and a house of horrors for their victims. How does that sound to you?
      Blessings, brother! ~Ken

      - See more at: http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/05/23/searching-jesus-todays-church/#sthash.SOgvzk5R.dpuf

  16. The pastor here has two souls to be concerned with the innocent child who was abused . And the one who sinned against the child and who is seeking absolution after he or she is repentant ..
    Luther said the best fruit of repentance is never doing the sin again..

    so one can see how difficult this would be on a pastor.. is the person truly repentant so the child will not be hurt again ?.now if it goes to the last step and the person refuses to listen to the whole church and is not repentant and x communicated i would think a police report should take place. . one would certainly have to protect the child knowing the person was not sorry and wanted to do it again..

    • Whoa, Rob! Without question, child abuse should be reported to the police! The perpetrator’s repentance is a completely separate matter. A child abuser is a criminal–period. They must be held accountable to the civil authorities. Secondly, a child abuser is a predator and must be removed from his or her prey. If a leader doesn’t do that, they are not worthy of the title. Third, by law, sexual abuse must be reported even when confidentialiity would normally be assumed, at least by certain professionals such as doctors and counselors, and I can tell you that even as a layperson, if someone confessed child predation to me, the police would know about it. I love the grace of God to forgive, but I also love his grace to protect. Seeing first-hand the devastation that child sexual abuse has on people 20, 30, 50 years later tells me that this crime is more like murder than it is like embezzlement or even adultery. Keep those things quiet if it seems best, but not this.

  17. after reading the article and going to the site .Boz” Tchividjian
    and reading where he says his degrees are from .. Every thing Is from a Baptist.
    perspective ..
    Their pastors don’t take peoples confessions when they are repentant or give absolution . So he would not be concerned about future trust issues with other congregation members this would cause if a pastor called the cops on some
    repentant fellow confessing his or her sins and needing absolution in Christ forgiveness spoken to them ..
    no matter what sin it was .

  18. one last thing .. The author is the grandson of Billy Graham .
    one of my pastor years ago .. Made a point I will never for get . for a Baptist

    repentance is mostly a one time event it happens before conversion ..

    and most brought up in a church that way look at sins evident in a persons life as showing the person was probably never converted in the first place

    while

    for a Lutheran repentance is a daily event after their conversion..

    a daily drowning of the old Adam .. because they soon find out that old rascal can swim..

  19. Thank you Boz for keeping this horrific practice of silencing/shaming victims in the light of truth. I am grateful for the voice of grace and truth on our behalf. Bless you!

  20. I resonate with your words. I not only saw it in my life experiences, but all too often in my ministry. It amazes me how many churches do not want to address any topic dealing with abuse across the life span, whether it is child abuse, sexual abuse or domestic abuse. God cares more about this than some theological debate or how we choose music for Sundays. I have a feeling when we get to heaven God is going to tell those debating you all had it wrong on so many levels. We all do. Some of us are trying to make a difference, but too often, though, they don’t want the education. Sad, grieving and brokenhearted…. but hopeful that His Lights still shines in the dark places.

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  1. […] The Gospel Coalition let Mahaney and Josh Harris step down, but they also booted off their blog network Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Reverend Billy Graham (and brother of Boz Tchividjian, a professor at Liberty University and founder of G.R.A.C.E., a non-profit that investigates mishandling of abuse in Christian groups like Bob Jones University). TGC said it was over a theological disagreement, but it seems like that’s probably a load of bull. […]

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