[Trigger warning: child abuse]As you may know, Sovereign Grace Ministries, an association of Reformed church plants, is facing a significant lawsuit that alleges church leaders covered up the abuse of children by discouraging parents from reporting abuse to authorities and requiring victims to forgive their abusers in person.The pending lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, recently added five new plaintiffs, five new defendants, and 28 charges, including the allegation that some defendants engaged in abuse directly.As the situation has unfolded, some Christian leaders have called on their fellow Christians to withhold judgment from Sovereign Grace Ministries.
This follows SGM’s statement in November appealing to protection under the First Amendment to defend its freedom to provide confidential pastoral counseling.
"SGM believes that allowing courts to second-guess pastoral guidance would represent a blow to the First Amendment that would hinder, not help, families seeking spiritual direction among other resources in dealing with the trauma related to any sin including child sexual abuse," a representative of SGM said in a November 14 statement.
As David Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told in a helpful article on the subject, "the First Amendment is not—and shouldn't be—a defense against child abuse.” I bring this up, not to “sow disunity” or “pass judgment on fellow Christians” (criticisms I’ve already received), but to bring attention to a problem that Christians absolutely must confront.
Over the past year, I’ve been corresponding more regularly with victims of abuse who have patiently and graciously exposed me to the ways in which.
I’m working with several of these smart, inspiring survivors to post a weeklong series here on abuse and the Church, hopefully this spring or early summer.
He writes, “We tend to believe that the side that is slow or hesitant to release information must be in the wrong, that their silence is an admission of guilt. “Does he know what that line of thinking does to victims of abuse?Keep in mind, though, that Jesus did not protest his innocence and that people took this as a sign of his guilt, though he, of all men, was completely innocent." My friend Elora Ramirez was floored. Devastating.” As Christians, our first impulse should be to protect and defend the powerless, not the powerful.Furthermore, by characterizing allegations of child abuse as a sad case of “disunity” and “strife” within the church and urging his fellow Christians not to ask too many questions about the situation, Challies only perpetuates the painfully common narrative that those who raise concerns about abuse in churches are troublemakers, out to sow disunity and dissention, and that we are wise to keep this matters quiet.(I don’t think he intended it that way, but it's how it came across.)Even if these allegations turn out to be false—which they may be—how Christians respond to them sends a signal to victims of abuse about how they will be treated if they come forward.So we have got to put a stop to these shaming narratives that cast the "You see, victims – especially victims in evangelical environments – are told that their allegations of abuse are private matters, that opening their mouths and saying that things are not okay is “divisive” and “against Christian unity.” It is no small matter for victims to bring forth accusations and to go to court against their abusers.It is no small feat for them to stand up for themselves and continue to speak."And the fact remains: “slow to release information” is entirely different than evading external investigation by hiding behind the First Amendment, which is exactly what SGM is doing.