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The Long Journey Home

Like addressing obesity, only some groups are taking sexual abuse seriously. Abuse is an issue people don’t want to face till it hits their family or faith community, and even then some won’t go there. For many churches, it has been too easy to dismiss the epidemic of sexual abuse when their church doesn’t have priests, a tall hierarchy or a magisterium to follow. “Social justice,” particularly in its faddish forms, often appeals to issues “outside” its own group, but can be callous to difficulty within its own ranks.

There has always been a current within protestant church culture that delights in its independent or escapist identity. Abuse thrives where transparency doesn’t. Obviously, I don’t need to explain how primed for abuse such a church culture is: the isolated pastor, personality cult or the secluded community. It is one thing when the abusing priest speaks for God and is also called “Father,” yet protestant churches mimic this when obedience is enforced, evil is only mystical, and questioning of authority is punished. Abuse thrives when image management trumps accountability. The effect is similar among the insular Amish and Hasidic Jewish communities. Google such stories of abuse—the names can be easily traded out for other churches. The truth is, isolated churches lack: (1) the knowledge for adequate policies, (2) the mechanisms for accountability, (3) and the grace necessary for restoration. So unless pastors preach on abuse and seize the teachable moments in society, the sexually traumatized won’t hear this ancient sin named and God’s desired healing gets short-changed by servants who lack moral vision.

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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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