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The Long Journey Home

We know what can be done within the churches relational ecosystem, but do we have the moral will? It’s easier to write a check for trafficking ministries in Bangkok than reach out to the abused teen in our church balcony. As a ministry, trafficking saddens us, but abuse scares us because there’s always a power shake-up. There’s always triggered leaders who’ve not faced their own stories of abuse, so they project their frustration on those who are addressing it. Face it, who typically has the powerful public profile, the abused or abuser? Talk to survivors. Ask them if they feel the abuse topic has been normalized in their church. Ask them if they feel believed by those closest to them. So here are some points I would say build a profile of healthy church ready to minister to its victims of sexual abuse. Here is the relational ecosystem of a safe church:

  • Has an integrative policy (of theology and mental health) addressing both prevention and healing.
  • Has consistent training for all staff and volunteers,.
  • Holistically addresses broken image-bearers, not broken genders.
  • Addresses the strengths and weaknesses of 21st century media.
  • Normalizes the discussion of abuse to promote support for the broken—working on the victim’s time-table.
  • Routinely address “actual” sin, not just reminders of original sin.
  • Is looking out for pedophiles that attend, and has a redemptive plan for them, too.
  • Has “wounded” leaders (men and women) in positions of leadership.
  • Has a developing policy for sex offenders in their congregation.
  • Has checks and balances for the abuse of power in leadership.
  • Has publicized support groups for survivors.
  • Is cognizant of the language and tone delivered from the pulpit.
  • Teaches on biblical texts that validate the experience of survivors.
  • Has a reputation in the community for honesty, respect, and care.

PR: You quote Neil Plantinga, “Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.” What are some of the resistances happening in churches preventing or thwarting the restoration that God wants to bring?

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2013

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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