Recently I was interviewed on Family Life Radio in Western New York on the issue of abuse in the Church. Abuse is a serious issue that must be taken seriously by church leaders. Abusive situations occur in almost every church, and up to half of church members have experienced some kind of abuse in their past. Church leaders must be aware of how to recognize and respond to abuse in the Church in a Christ honoring way. At New Life Ithaca, we take the issue of abuse in the church seriously and are seeking to be a safe environment for the survivors of abuse to pursue healing.
I was the chairman of the Presbyterian Church in America’s Committee on Abuse for three years. Last summer we wrapped up our work and presented our report to the General Assembly (you can see that presentation and read the report here). That report recommends that whenever there is an allegation of abuse in the church environment, local church leaders seek outside help in navigating the issue. The main point is that church leaders are not equipped to deal with these issues in-house.
Jesus’s Concern for Abuse in the Church
The Prophet Isaiah prophesied this about Jesus Christ: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice,” (Isaiah 42:3, see also Matthew 12:18-21). Christ warned abusers himself saying, “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 18:5-6). Church leaders should heed Christ’s example to work for justice for abuse victims while taking great care not to break bruised reeds or quench smoldering wicks. It is our calling as shepherds to do so.