#ChurchToo is now trending.
Taking its cue from social media’s explosive #MeToo campaign, #ChurchToo allows victims of sexual harassment, assault and abuse in a church setting to share their stories.
Now, frankly speaking, as I’ve read many of these stories, I’m beginning to discern an agenda behind this campaign that goes beyond merely empowering victims and spreading awareness of abuse. I’m noting that many are beginning to implicate God’s Word and the Body of Christ (the Church), in general, for their pain more than they’ve been discussing the culpability of their perpetrators. I can also see how this campaign will be used to contribute to the great falling away, as it seems another hashtag campaign, #exitthepews, is already underway and some social media users are suggesting the abandonment of “Christianity” all together.
Nevertheless, I don’t want the nefarious uses of this campaign to obscure the validity of the experiences the victims have endured. I also don’t desire to overlook the fact that there have, indeed, been leaders and others in church settings who have abused their power and misapplied scripture that they might abuse their victims and cover up their crimes.
When the Roman Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse scandal broke years ago, it was easy to immediately see how they had a culture prime for abuse. They abide by their own doctrines (false doctrines that grossly counter scripture, by the way); they are set up as an untouchable stand-alone entity; and they look directly to a sole, fallible man they’ve given optimal authority to change rules, ‘laws’ and declare a thing as he sees fit.
But, the truth is, sexual abuse occurs in Protestant congregations as well. While Protestant churches are made up of myriad denominations and, as such, aren’t a unified front like the Roman Catholic Church, they have also been infiltrated by wolves in sheep’s clothing who take liberties with scripture. Moreover, as more and more professed Believers study God’s Word less and less for themselves, parents and even leaders in these churches tend to be lukewarm in their faith, fail to 'test every spirit' (1 John 4:1), and will follow after false teachers blindly. Those who would typically be equipped to protect victims aren’t because, honestly, they’re in many ways victims themselves. There are just too many professed Believers who are deceiving others and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13). Meanwhile, the Word of God sits ready to offer truth and clarity to all who truly desire to seek after Him and live by His counsel, through Christ.
If every professed Believer, whether Protestant or Catholic, were willing to repent and do that, #ChurchToo and a myriad of other scandals in what most know to be “the church” could be mitigated. Yet, because Jesus has already told us that lawlessness will abound in these last days, that evil doers will wax worse and worse, and that the falling away has to take place before He returns (Matthew 24:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3), I’m sad to say that #ChurchToo will never ever fully go away. Neither will #MeToo.
But those of us who remain in the Church will continue to be accountable for upholding God’s standards, doing our part to protect His truth, and looking after one another. With that being said, I’d like to suggest three things the Church MUST do to address #ChurchToo.
THE CHURCH MUST EXPOSE EVIL
Victims of sexual abuse in church may feel morally obligated to keep silent in the name of love and forgiveness. Indeed, love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). Yet, in context, we know that this verse means we are to extend grace and forgiveness and to seek the best interest of fellow Believers that peace may be established and sin may NOT abound. In other words, when we love we help mitigate sin and facilitate peace. With this in mind, one who is truly a brother (or sister) in the Lord would never sexually abuse, assault or harass another in the first place, for “love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10). Sexual abuse not only harms a neighbor, it automatically entails sexual immorality and lewdness or lasciviousness, which are evil works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20; 1 Corinthians 6; Matthew 15:18-19).
Love covering a multitude of sins was never meant imply that we overlook wickedness, iniquity or immorality. Love doesn’t allow evil to prevail.
Sexual abuse must be brought to light that we deal with it head on. If it goes unchecked, the abuser remains free to victimize others, causing even more pain and sin amongst the brethren; the abuser remains in his sin before God, never having his wicked deeds exposed that he might be overcome with godly sorrow and repent; and, as sexual abuse is a crime against God’s divine and man’s natural laws, hiding it perverts justice and makes all involved complicit. Being complicit in sin is, in itself, a sin (Romans 1:32; Proverbs 29:24). But we are to be holy for God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). We are children of light who must shun the very appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:5, 5:22). So we should be even more vigilant to put off actual, ongoing instances of it. For if we truly walk in the light we will “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
THE CHURCH MUST PURGE 'LEAVEN'
In addition to exposing evil, the Church is charged to purge it from among our midst, whether it be in the form of doctrine or deed (Ephesians 5:3-7).
#Churchtoo is merely a boiling over of the damaging effects of congregations long tolerating false teachings, compromise, and failure to not only expose sin, but neglecting to excommunicate impenitent sinners. A little leaven leavens the lump (Galatians 5:9), and this has manifested into years of pain for countless individuals, has given many an excuse to forsake the assembly (and in many cases, their faith in Christ) and it has implicated the entire Church for the actions of a few.
The works of the flesh are evident, and Paul makes it clear that those committed to walking in the flesh are not even to be named among us (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-5). Knowing this, it would be disingenuous and rebellious to retain a member guilty of sexual abuse as one who's simply “stumbled”. He has to be cast out, and it isn’t unloving or ungodly to do so. In 1 Corinthians 5, we see Paul guide the Church of Corinth in removing a member engaged in incest - sexual immorality intolerable even to heathens. Even Hollywood was wise enough to remove Harvey Weinstein from his own company, no matter if it were to merely protect their bottom line. Thus the Church should be all the more willing and capable of ousting evil workers from our midst that we protect our members, preserve the integrity of our witness, and remain blameless before God. Better to lose one part of the body than for the whole body to be cast into hell (Matthew 5:30).
THE CHURCH MUST JUDGE SIN
We in the Body must be willing to call out sin for what it is. A philanderer, sexual predator, or pedophile is not merely “struggling” with sin, he is overcome by it. He is not repentant (2 Corinthians 7:10). He is not born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). He is not transformed by the renewing of his mind that he may prove what is that good and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2-3). He is not in Christ.
Ergo, he is not a brother.
“Judge not” is a popular retort by those who don’t wish to have their own sins, or the sins of others, called out for what they are. Yet Jesus’ actual directive was that we not judge with unrighteous judgment (Matthew 7:1-5; John 7:24). Judging all matters according to the word of God, by His Spirit, is righteous judgment, and it is what all born again Believers are expected to do (1 Corinthians 2:15). Yet there is often hesitation among many professed Christians to take up this charge. Perhaps most aren’t actually born again that they can discern sin, or perhaps it’s because they are distracted by their own transgressions, but it’s certainly not because calling sin “sin” is unbiblical. Maybe sexual harassment, abuse or assault in church can’t be rightly exposed, purged and judged because many local churches have allowed fornication, homosexuality, adultery or other "socially acceptable" forms of sexual immorality to go unchecked among its members. Whatever the matter, local congregations must repent that it is poised to boldly and consistently call out sin that it may be corrected. If a member fails to be corrected by the Church and continues in his sin, it’s not because he needs more time in church so that God can “work on him”. It’s because he’s unrepentant. He must be treated as a heathen and removed from among the congregation that God may judge him (2 Corinthians 5:13). And if his sin is also crime, as is the case with sexual abuse, we must honor God through obeying our authorities and report the perpetrator that he be brought to justice (Romans 13:1-7). Prayerfully, the Lord will use legal means to bring the perpetrator to repentance.
I SAID ALL OF THIS TO SAY
Sexual abuse in any setting is horrific enough, but I'm inclined believe that such experiences in a church setting present a whole other level of evil. The perpetrators in these cases take full advantage of one’s faith and trust in not only them, but in God. By doing this, they can set into motion spiritual, psychological, and emotional effects that might cause one to paint God or anything associated with even a semblance of Him as a threat to their well-being. It's a heartbreaking thing to even imagine. I've seen many online shun comments like "but that's not all churches", but that doesn't make it less true. Sexual abuse is not something supported by God's Word. If someone says that it is, they'd be met with context to demonstrate that they are not only in error, but that they were willing to twist the truth, making them no better than those who pervert God's word that they might engage in what is detestable.
While I can understand and fully support one leaving a local congregation that may have, in any way, been complicit in their abuse, I staunchly and lovingly must say that leaving the Church (the Body of Christ...the Body of Believers who truly follow Christ) is the last thing anyone suffering from abuse should do. Christ heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). I know this to be true because He FULLY healed me of my #MeToo experience. There is power, healing and restoration in Jesus Christ. He makes all things new and makes those who place their faith in Him a new creation. This is true for victims of sexual abuse and, yes, even for those who've perpetrated abuse and have a contrite spirit about their actions (of course, they'd remain subject to justice and earthly consequences). I pray for the victims and all impacted by sexual abuse in any setting, and I ask the Lord to give each person a heart to turn to Him that He may show them who He truly is and guide them to a house where His truth is preached and His Spirit truly dwells. The Lord is a refuge for His people. I pray the hurting and the lost would consider seeking after Him and find rest in the comfort He's more than willing to provide.
With all of the peace and love God intends,
I’d like to hear from you. What else can the Church do, according to God’s Word, to protect parishioners from sexual harassment, abuse and assault? Comment below, or share your thoughts on Twitter. Thank you for reading!