Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Call For "The Church" To Repent

Around this time last year, a policeman came knocking on my door, summoning me to a court conference two days hence. My eldest son, who was home at the time, thought it was a some sort of joke at first. But it was anything but funny! The couple who had been part of the leadership crisis at my ex-church three years previously, were now alleging that I was a violent threat to the personal safety of both themselves and their children.

Once again I offered to meet with them, suggesting we use an unbiased, professional conflict resolution service. But apparently that was not acceptable to them. And so, I was forced to defend myself against a legal action brought by fellow christians.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I fell apart. To a law-abiding, unassuming person like me (who has never had so much as a speeding ticket in my life) this had me running scared. Here I was being accused in a legal document of such threatening and intimidating behaviour that these people were allegedly so fearful for their safety, I had to be stopped - by law - from ever being anywhere near them.

As far as I was concerned, the only complaint they made against me that I even recognised was that of writing a blog in which I shared my story of abuse in the church. None of the other allegations even made sense to me, so I was fearful how I could defend against things I had not done.

After three years of being pointedly shunned by this couple who had once been close friends (or so I thought) it was too much for me to cope with and I ended up a nervous wreck, unable to even leave the house without my husband's company. You might imagine how strained life was in our household. We even had to cancel Christmas celebrations because the stress of it was simply too much for me to cope with.

During this time, I reached out to one christian leader who knew us all. He told me he loved me just as much as he loved the litigants. When I said my family and I were being put through hell, he shrugged and told me to "let the courts sort it out." His professed love proved utterly meaningless as he turned his back on our suffering.

Another leader totally ignored my question about the credibility issue at play and instead told me what a good thing it was that I had family and friends around me. But a cup of coffee with a friend was not going to pay my legal bills.

Another - I was told - was shocked by the news of what was happening. But I never heard from him and his 'shock' didn't comfort my children as they witnessed their mother have a complete breakdown.

Another offered to pray for me, while remaining 'neutral' in the conflict. But neutrality wasn't going to persuade a reluctant eyewitness to attest to my innocence.

Each one of these christian leaders saw my pain and distress and yet they gathered their robes around them and walked past on the other side of the road.

People who are happy to hold positions of power and authority in the christian community refused to leverage it to step in and provide any type of help or intervention. They didn't want to get involved.

I wish I could say this was unusual behaviour or an isolated incident. But the truth is, it's not. Talk to anyone who has ever "rocked the boat" or been labelled as a "trouble-maker", and you will hear stories of people being attacked, rejected, and abandoned by "the church".

Thankfully, I did find help and healing (mostly from non-believers!). In fact, I've never been better. So why am I sharing my story? In the faint hope that it might open the eyes of those who are turning a blind eye and pretending not to see the bleeding bodies on the side of the road. Because I am constantly hearing the stories of other brothers and sisters who have been harmed by the church. Not just a little bit hurt or upset. Devastated. Shattered. Traumatised.

And people - often good christian people - don't want to know about it. "Oh, everyone's been hurt by the church at some time," they say dismissively. "Nobody's perfect." "I don't want to take sides." "Just forgive and move on." "We're all sinners, you know." "There's always two sides to every story." "You shouldn't talk about it."

But I cannot stand by and say nothing. I will not pretend that these things aren't happening. We must talk about these realities. We desperately need to change.

I'm asking the church to acknowledge the serious damage it is doing; to see how un-Christlike this behaviour is; to understand how abhorrent this attitude can be; to listen to your own brothers and sisters and actually feel our pain. And when I say I'm asking the church, I'm not talking about some impersonal institution. I mean you. And I mean me.

And I'm calling for repentance! Not just a quick and meaningless, "I'm sorry." I'm talking about a complete change of the way we do business; the way we treat each other; the way we think and behave. Because unless we do that, we are effectively choosing to harm our brothers and sisters without conscience. Ignoring the reality and looking away is a choice. But as William Wilberforce said when exposing the evils and injustices of slavery, "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know."

6 comments:

  1. Hope all is going well with you and you are surviving the havoc that the abusive church has dished out. I have been out of the system for over ten years and have freedom in following Jesus and studying the word as well as researching church history and doing greek word studies to help my understanding. Doing this will increase your understanding about the church system.

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    1. Thanks Peter. I'm doing very well these days and also walking in the freedom of simply following Jesus :)

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  2. That's so sad! I can relate to the non-help and the form of help coming from non-believers. Seems like people in the church live in la-la land. I think they think, "Well you are a Christian, so God will help you." and then turn their attention to the lost. Or maybe they don't care about them either, but it looks better on paper to say so. I don't even understand church people. I don't have a high opinion of most of them, but I will say this--that they live in their own worlds untouched by abuse (especially if they are the ones doing it) and instead of opening up their eyes, they would rather chat it up with people just like themselves. i think their motto is: If it doesn't affect me, I don't care.

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    1. Elle, I've found that too. Many church people do live in their own little world. I remember doing it myself and have been amazed how much it changes your perspective when you start seeing that there is so much beyond that little bubble x

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  3. Your experience was much worse than mine, it sounds horrendous. It's taken me 4 years to work through the majority of my negative experience as a church employee. When I moved on I went back into the secular work place precisely because I needed to meet people outside of the bubble and I discovered that people really are made in God's image and are more than just 'guest service fodder'
    I've been blessed now to find much healing as a church employee again but alongside a very different kind of leader - someone who recognises that he's not the saviour of the world, but Jesus is; someone who doesn't regard empathy for others as a weakness but a strength in God's hands. He has no desire to control others, or manopolise the spotlight, but is kind and humble. I've learnt from him that I can be me and it's ok! Of course he makes mistakes but he's not afraid to admit to them. I say all of this because sadly for many people who get hurt by selfish church leadership that's it, they find that returning to the established church feels too big a risk and that's so sad. I'm grateful that my experience this time round has been a healing one and that there are still many great church gatherings out there.

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    1. Thanks for responding Sue. It's wonderful to realise that we are all made in God's image, isn't it? I'm so glad to hear that you have found such healing :)

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