Tag Archives: sexual abuse

Egalitarians Respond to John Piper on the Source of #MeToo

In a recent Desiring God podcast Q&A, John Piper outrageously said that egalitarianism is to blame for sexual abuse in the church.

As a leading complementarian voice in Evangelicalism (he co-founded the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), Piper has influenced millions of Christians to follow patriarchal hierarchy in the church and home, with men holding all authority and power, leaving women on the margins to submit and follow.  Egalitarianism, by comparison, teaches that leadership roles and gifts are designated by the Holy Spirit without regard to gender, age, ethnicity, income, or any other qualifier.  All persons are equal in the Kingdom of God, and in the home, egalitarians teach mutual submission between spouses.

Implying that sexual abuse is a new development in the past five decades with the rise of egalitarianism is absurd, as we can see that sexual abuse is a timeless result of sin.

I would recommend reading these three responses to Piper’s analysis.  First, Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, Int., wrote, “Do Gender Roles Keep Women Safe? A Response to John Piper” —

It’s confusing that Piper, who has spent his life preaching the gospel, links human flourishing to male and female roles instead of intimacy with Christ. However, Scripture does not associate male/female roles with holiness/godliness. According to the New Testament, godliness is inseparable from our spiritual rebirth and flourishes through relationship with Christ.

The dividing line that separates spiritual death from human flourishing has nothing to do with gender roles and everything to do with spiritual rebirth through the Holy Spirit. It’s Christ in you—the hope of glory—that imparts holiness, as demonstrated by fruit of the Spirit (Col. 1:21-27, Gal. 5:16-25). Here is where complementarians make a catastrophic error.

By insisting that maleness qualifies men to lead and care for women, complementarians give men responsibilities that rightly belong only to those who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership. Maleness isnot morality. Maleness is not a character quality. Maleness can tell us nothing about a person’s intimacy with Christ, their character, or their commitment to holiness.

God intended humanity to flourish through male-female co-dominion, which sadly, does not endure. Adam’s sin and first failure was disobedience to God, not failure to protect and lead Eve. God did not tell Adam “protect and hold authority over Eve,” but “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat,” (Gen. 2:17). When they disobey God, their shared rule deteriorates into the “he will rule over you” of Genesis 3:16. Male rule, authority, and dominance is a consequence of sin. It is a distortion of God’s ideal for humanity. It wrecks the thriving that God intended.

According to Prepare/Enrich—the largest group studying marriage in the world—domestic violence and abuse are statistically linked with dominance. Theories that advance dominance can only fuel abuse. For this reason, humanitarian organizations “marble” gender equality into their goals for successful impact. Gender equality neutralizes the power imbalances that allow for abuse, which explains why adding women as middle managers and on boards lowers the rate of unethical practices.

Let’s turn our attention to the church. According to Kathryn A. Flynn, clergy-perpetuated sexual abuse (CPSA) is “not an issue of sexuality but rather one of a power imbalance that negates any possibility of ‘consensual’ mutuality. This distorted power dynamic has been accentuated by some clergy abusers through the misuse of significant social, cultural and even supernatural power ascribed to religious representatives as being derived from God.”[1] Further, the World Health Organization found that “traditional gender and social norms [are] related to male superiority.”[2]

The Sinnergists wrote, “No John Piper, Egalitarianism is not to Blame for Sexual Abuse”

Egalitarianism, by its very definition, is the belief that all people are equal and that there is no inherent difference of power, authority, worth, or status between men and women.

Sexual abuse, by its very nature, is about the exertion and the assertion of power. As experts have long noted, sexual abuse is not about lust or desire or even sex; it is about power and it is about control.

Egalitarianism and sexual abuse therefore, by their very natures and definitions, are mutually exclusive. A person who is truly egalitarian would never sexually abuse another person, because a person would never sexually abuse another person whom he or she truly viewed as an equal. To state it another way, a person who sexually abuses another has, by their own actions, demonstrated that they are not actually egalitarian because, as stated above, true egalitarianism is inherently and fundamentally incompatible with sexual abuse.

And Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Patriarchy doesn’t “protect” women: A Response to John Piper” is a must read! —

The #MeToo movement does not reflect some sudden increase in the abuse of women; rather, it reflects a growing awareness of those abuses, and a mounting, collective fervor to confront them. It’s a movement led by and for women, women who aren’t asking for some sort of paternalistic “protection” because they are fragile females, but rather to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve simply because they are human beings.

But what’s most dangerous about this posture is that Piper seems to assume that because evangelicals aren’t confronting sexual assault and abuse the way that Hollywood is, then those things must not be happening in their churches, that abuse only occurs in egalitarian communities where women have more power and influence. I would posit that, based on the many stories I hear from women who have left evangelical churches, it’s far more likely that abuse is flourishing in patriarchal homes and churches where women are given little voice and little recourse; it’s just getting swept under the rug rather than named and confronted. After all, Piper has said in the past that a woman in an abusive relationship should “endure verbal abuse for a season” and “perhaps being smacked one night,” before seeking help—not from authorities, but from her (male-led) church. As we have seen in the unfolding story of Sovereign Grace Ministries, in highly patriarchal churches where women have no power and where abuse claims are typically handled “in house” by the men in leadership, abuse runs rampant.

That’s because contrary to Piper’s argument, patriarchy isn’t about protecting women; it’s about protecting men. It’s about preserving male rule over the home, church, and society, often at the expense of women. 

In addition to mishandling his analysis of the #MeToo movement by blaming sexual assault on egalitarianism, Piper grossly mishandles Scripture in an attempt to proof-text his claims. For example, he points to the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis to suggest that an order of authority was established at creation wherein men are designed to lead and protect women, and women are designed to defer to and follow men. The Fall, as Christians sometimes like to call it, was the result of Adam’s failure to live into the masculine role of leading and protecting his wife. This is an…innovative….reading of the text for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2 to describe Eve, (typically translated “helper”), is formed from the Hebrew word ezer.  Far from connoting helplessness or subordination, the word ezer is employed elsewhere in Scripture to describe God, the consummate intervener—the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14), King David’s strong defender and deliverer (Psalm 70:5), Israel’s shield and helper (Deuteronomy 33:29). Ironically, in Genesis, the woman is literally the “strong protector” of the man!

In conclusion—

Banning women from the pulpit and silencing their voices in the church doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Instructing women to submit to their husbands by “enduring abuse” doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Handling abuse and assault allegations “in house” by reporting them to the male elders of a church instead of to the police doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Misusing Scripture to reinforce gender stereotypes based more on white, American, post-World War II cultural ideals than biblical truth doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Calling for a return to patriarchy doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

I particularly appreciated C. Allen’s responses to Piper’s tweet (posted above):

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“Somebody Say Something” – Pastor Howard-John Wesley on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in the Church

This is a POWERFUL sermon from Pastor Howard-John Wesley on the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual abuse in our churches, where the response to abuse is almost always cover-up rather than speak-up.  He is preaching on the story of Jephthah and his daughter from Judges 11 (a “text of terror”).  I am thankful for Pastor Wesley using his pulpit to defend the powerless and most precious people in God’s house and pray that more leaders will take his cue and bring awareness to the prevalence of violence against women and children, and also bring healing to the victims.  I pray our churches cease to be sanctuaries for abusers and places where victims are re-victimized by shame and disbelief.

Listen to the whole sermon and then forward this important message to your pastors.

Some important points from the sermon:

  • 1 in 4 U.S. women experience domestic violence in their lifetime
  • In 2013, there were 679,000 children under 18 abused and neglected
  • Of those, 1520 were killed; 79.4% were abused by their parents; highest percentage of those were under the age of 3; and the percentage of those abused with chronic illness or disability was twice as high


“This is NOT the will of God and God is NOT present in that violence!…God did not shape you in your mother’s womb for you to be birthed and then to be beaten on.  God did not make you in His image and say,’You are fearfully and wonderfully made’ to allow some man to call you out of your name.  God did not die on the cross and give you abundant life for you to be disrespected by anybody!  THAT IS NOT THE WILL OF GOD!”

“Somewhere there are has to be a community of faith that says, ‘We’re not afraid to talk about what’s really happening.’  Somewhere the victims need a voice.  Somewhere the abused need a refuge.  Somewhere there’s a body of Christ that says, ‘we not only send water to Flint, we put deposits on apartments for victims to be in a safe space outside from where they’re being abused.’  Of a place where there’s spiritual support, where there’s counseling for the Jephthah’s, where there’s confrontation and compassion.  But most importantly, where somebody stands up and says, ‘This is wrong.’  It’s wrong for a man to put his hands on a woman and its equally wrong for a woman to put her hands on a man.  It’s wrong to shake a baby because they wont go asleep.  It’s wrong for a priest/a preacher/a pastor/a coach/a counselor/a teacher to engage in sexually inappropriate behavior with a minor because they got relationship.  It’s wrong.  It’s wrong to ball up your fist, to throw a plate, to break the television. It’s wrong.  That’s not normal, that’s not healthy, that’s not godly, that’s not love.  It’s wrong.  It’s wrong to take an extension chord and beat a child for ANY reason whatsoever.  That is just dead wrong.  And just because somebody did it to us, does not mean it’s what we ought to do to somebody else…And just because it’s in the Bible does not mean God is saying it’s right, He’s saying it’s real.  We have every right in our godliness to look at it in Scripture and say, ‘It’s wrong.’  So that when we see it in church, it’s wrong.  When we see it in the community, it’s wrong.  When we see it on the news, we train our children, it’s wrong.  Somebody has to say something.”



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May Link-Up: Duggar Scandal Edition – It’s an Important Story, Church!

It’s been nearly a week since the story it's not persecutionbroke that Josh Duggar had molested five girls, including his sisters, as a 14 year old boy – the youngest victim being only 4 years old at the time.  Many articles have been written (shared hundreds of thousands of times) in defense of Josh and his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle.  This is troubling and infuriating because these articles demonstrate the widespread lack of understanding in the U.S. Church regarding the seriousness of sexual crimes, and are examples of the typical Christian response to sex abuse  – to deal with it in-house (even when church leaders are mandatory reporters), to minimize the abuse (thereby compounding the trauma of the victim), and to cover up the “mistakes” (rather, CRIMES) for the sake of saving face and the reputation of the particular church, organization or family.  Many Christians have demanded that we focus on forgiving Josh and leaving this story in the past, but I believe we should take this opportunity  to discuss and educate Christians on the proper response that is to be made to allegations of sexual abuse.

Let me reiterate – the critical importance of this story is that this is how churches overwhelmingly respond to and mishandle sexual abuse – by handling in-house like any other sin issue, rather than treating it like a crime and getting the victims the help they need.  How do Christians typically treat victims?  By silencing them and rushing the process of forgiveness and healing for the sake of protecting the reputation of the “Gospel” (i.e. organization).

My family lived in S.A. with New Tribes Missions for three years when I was a kid, during which time three pedophiles were sent home but not reported to authorities.  In the past few years, victim after victim have come forward about systemic sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of children in the N.T.M. boarding schools around the world (I previously wrote about this last year, “Reporting Sexual Abuse in Christian Communities”).  There have also been scandals recently with sexual abuse coming to light in very conservative schools and organizations, like Pensacola College, Bob Jones University, Bill Gothard of the Duggar promoted A.T.I. homeschool organization, Doug Phillips of another Duggar promoted organization, Vision Forum, and the list goes on and on.  I have followed multiple blogs that are shedding light on abuse in Christian environments and it is a much bigger issue than many Christians are aware (for starters, visit G.R.A.C.E.).  I think it’s hugely important to shine a light on this issue of mishandling sexual assault so that the tide will turn and children will be safer in our churches.  Here are some very helpful articles that do just that:


Have you read Matt Walsh and other conservative Christian authors summarize the events leading to the Duggar scandal?  Then you do not have an accurate picture of what went down.  Libby Anne, a former Quiverfull wife with inside knowledge of the Duggars’ extreme patriarchal sect (who wrote another insightful piece on the Duggars called “Carefully Scripted Lives: My concerns for the Duggars” in February 2012), here gives an excellent analysis of the police report.  In short, the parents knew Josh was groping his sisters for a year before it happened outside the family, at which point Jim Bob spoke to their church elders (who are in fact mandatory reporters), and they agreed that the Duggars could send their son to a friend for a few months where he did manual labor and read his Bible, but did not receive any counseling or therapy.  I also would assume that the girls did not receive counseling. When he came back Jim Bob took him to a state trooper (and personal friend…who has since been sentenced to 56 years in prison for child pornography) who did not make a report (another mandatory reporter not following protocol), but gave Josh a stern talking to. There was a letter detailing the incidents that was discovered and leaked to the Oprah Winfrey show a couple years later, whose producers reported it to the police but it was past the three year statute of limitations (THREE YEARS?!) at that point and no charges were filed.

You should really read this post.  Libby Anne shares 11 lessons to be learned from this scandal, and concludes by saying,

I still feel weird about posting this because of the gossipy angle so much of the media is giving it. So, I’d like to make a suggestion. When you see people talking about this story, whether on facebook or in person or in a comment section, steer the conversation toward the more substantive issues. Let’s use the attention the tabloids and other news sources are giving this story to educate the public about the problems with dealing with sexual molestation in house, the importance of sex education, and the dangers of judging the character of a family by outward appearances alone.

And while you’re at it, please remind people to protect the identities of the victims.

And let’s not gloss over the victims here – although Josh is being painted as the victim in many conservative Christian circles, there were five little girls traumatized by his molestation.  As G.R.A.C.E. posted on Facebook tonight,

“Why are many Christians quick to talk about perpetrators & grace, but slow to talk about victims & justice?”

Here are two posts from sexual abuse survivors:

THOUGHTS ON LEARNING OF THE DUGGAR SCANDAL – anonymous post from a Bob Jones University student.

These young women who were molested are now in the public eye, when I’m sure they just want to run away from the world and disappear. These girls have been told that they need to slap a sticker with the word “Forgiveness” on their problems, and move on, and pretend that nothing has changed.  We are reminded how wonderful it is that their brother found mercy and forgiveness and the power to change.  Their abuser has said, “I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life,” without acknowledging that great damage has been done to the lives of his sisters.  The parents find strength in saying that God used this to draw each of them closer to Him.    These girls somehow become like the family’s sacrificial lambs; their purity and innocence damaged so their brother can learn lessons and their family can grow closer to God.  The family moves on as if it never happened. He was just a child who made a mistake.  It’s all good now.  It’s all in the past.


Let me tell you a story about the devastating silences of youth and the messiness of redemption.

My brother? By the measures of this life, he is successful. For all intents and purposes, redeemed from his “youthful indiscretion.”

As for myself? I’ve fought tooth and nail to overcome childhood devastation that left me emotionally abandoned by my family. Left to fend for myself. Somehow I’ve managed my own “small” successes. In trying to piece together my life, I earned a few advanced degrees, one from a prestigious top 10 university. Yet somehow, despite all my hard work and efforts to escape a painful past, I find myself homeless… on Medicaid and food stamps… carrying all the accompanying shame. AND perhaps the most devastating of all, the one thing that leads me EVERY TIME to the absolute brink of self-destruction: a keen awareness of my lack of belonging anywhere. If my own family hung me out to dry, where else is there to go…who else is there to go “home” to? It’s the one place you are supposed to feel safe and wholly a part.

Here is a MUST READ:


This is a fascinating article that makes many excellent observations, from a former Gothardite (whose teachings are promoted by the Duggars) and criminal lawyer who has worked on multiple cases involving fundamentalist families and similar circumstances.  The intention of his article is to demonstrate that fundamentalist teachings on sex result in young men acting out in predatory ways, who would not otherwise be predators.  An important point that he makes is that Josh may not be a pedophile at all.  This could be another of many, many examples of bad fruit coming from bad teaching.  I found this article to be particularly helpful in understanding the underlying issues at play.

And a few more good posts in case you want to keep reading:















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Domestic Violence – Everyone is impacted and the Church needs to be making a difference

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  TShirt_DomesticViolence542x600Becoming aware of the statistics is beyond sobering.  While gender-based violence is a worldwide problem, it is overwhelmingly present right here in our own backyard.  All month, I have been reading articles that shed light on the prevalence and realities of domestic violence, watching videos of survivors sharing their stories, noticing the purple ribbons in yards and trees as I drive here and there.

My heart is bleeding.  Every person is created in the image of God and is designed for dignity and shalom.  Violence of any kind dehumanizes others in a vile and evil way, and so I believe that Christians are called to advocate for domestic violence victims and survivors.  Not only is domestic violence as common among church-goers as the general population, but it is sadly missing from many Christians’ radars.


I remember the first time that I learned of the prevalence of domestic violence among Christian families.  I was in seminary taking a class called “Ministry to Women.”  Besides two other female seminary students, the others taking the class were the wives of male seminary students who could audit one class per semester for free.  Looking back, I am sad that the male students were not required to take this particular course, which would have illuminated the needs of nearly two thirds of their future congregations.  When our professor shared the statistics of domestic violence in the Church – how it is equal to domestic violence outside of the Church – I was shocked.  Then one of the wives told us that as an EMT, she couldn’t understand the coldness of her colleagues towards her until one of them explained that when they learned of her association to the seminary, they were thinking of the horrible domestic violence calls they had responded to in the dorms.  I was absolutely floored.

Jesus’ heart was for the powerless, and so should ours.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:17).
And so, in this post, I want to share what I have been learning and digesting this month.  In a Huffington Post piece from 2012, Soraya Chemaly says,

Globally and domestically, violence against women is pandemic. And it primarily happens in the context of the home. Women are the overwhelming targets of intimate partner and domestic violence. Everyone suffers. The women suffer long term social, emotional, physical and economic trauma. Their children, likewise — girls being more likely to become victims, boys abusers. Men who abuse are untreated, controlling, violent and stripped of their humanity. The societal costs are great: everything from increased poverty and homelessness to maternal mortality and expensive emergency health care provisions. The drain on economies is deep and clear. And last, but certainly not least, violence in the home is the surest predictor of violence at the state level, a tolerance for such violence reflecting a propensity for militarization and war. These violences are preventable.

In that same article, Chemaly shares 50 facts about domestic violence.  Here are a sampling:

  • Number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq: 6,614
  • Number of women, in the same period, killed as the result of domestic violence in the US: 11,766
  • Number of people per minute who experience intimate partner violence in the U.S.: 24
  • Number of women who will experience partner violence worldwide: 1 in 3
  • Increase in likelihood that a woman will die a violent death if a gun in present in the home: 270 percent
  • Percentages of people killed in the U.S. by an intimate partner: 30 percent of women, 5.3 percent of men.
  • Estimated number of children, worldwide, exposed to domestic violence everyday: 10,000,000
  • Worldwide, likelihood that a man who grew up in a household with domestic violence grows up to be an abuser: 3 to 4 times more likely than if he hadn’t.
  • Percentage of U.S. cities citing domestic abuse as the primary cause of homelessness: 50
  • Percentage of homeless women reporting domestic abuse: 63
  • Percentage of homeless women with children reporting domestic abuse: 92
  • Percentage of women with disabilities who report violence: 40
  • Annual cost of domestic violence in the U.S. related to health care: $5.8 billion
  • Annual cost of domestic violence in the U.S. related to emergency care plus legal costs, police work, lost productivity: 37 billion dollars
  • Annual number of jobs lost in the U.S. as a result of intimate partner violence: 32,000
  • Average cost of emergency care for domestic abuse related incidents for women and men according to the CDC: $948.00 for women, $387 for men
  • Increase in portrayals of violence against girls and women on network TV during a five year period ending in 2009: 120 percent
  • Average number of times an abuser hits his spouse before she makes a police report: 35
  • No. 1 and No. 2 causes of women’s deaths during pregnancy in the U.S.: Domestic homicide and suicide, often tied to abuse
  • Number of women killed by spouses who were shot by guns kept by men in the home in the United States: 2 in 3
  • Percentage of rape and sexual assault victims under the age of 18 who are raped by a family member: 34
  • Number of women killed everyday in the U.S. by a spouse: 3+

A similar but much shorter list is BuzzFeed’s “11 Facts That Show How Widespread Domestic Violence Is.”  This is a great post to share on social media because it is short and eye-catching.  And The Center for Women and Families has a list of domestic violence stats here.

Physical violence is the most typical form of abuse associated with domestic violence, but abuse comes in many colors.  For instance, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, etc.  The Power and Control Wheel (from the State of Delaware web page “Dynamics of Domestic Abuse”) is helpful in demonstrating this (go to the page for further descriptions):

power and control wheel

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have a resource page on Moody Publishers linked from their book, “Is it my fault?” that I would encourage you to visit.  Their tab headings are “What is Domestic Violence?”“Understanding the Cycle of Abuse”, “Is This an Abusive Relationship?” , “Why Does He Choose to Abuse”, “How to Make a Safety Plan” and “God’s Grace for the Abused.”

On the Half the Sky Movement website, there is an excellent article explaining the impact of gender-based violence as the number one public health crisis for women throughout the world.  “To date, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not outlawed and more than 2.6 billion live in countries where rape within marriage is not considered a crime.  Without  legal retribution, assailants rarely face consequences for their actions and the victims are less likely to report the abuse.  In some cases, women are concerned that they will  be the ones punished if they report the violence.  Other times rape and sexual assault are so stigmatized that the victim stays silent even if there are laws in place.”

I have been following several Christian blogs that exist to support Domestic Violence survivors and raise awareness.  Here is a sampling of articles so you can link to their pages:

TED Talks provides this excellent resource list of organizations combatting domestic violence, and I would recommend these talks. Stories of survivors:

silence unsafe relationship

Finally, I’m going to leave you with an article on The Gospel Coalition, in which Lindsey Holcomb offers seven helpful ways that the Church can reflect God’s heart for women at risk:

1. Stand with the vulnerable and powerless.  God calls his people to resist those who use their power to oppress and harm others (Jer. 22:3).

2.  Believe the women; don’t blame them.  Blaming victims for post-traumatic symptoms is not only misguided but also contributes to the victims’ suffering.  Research has proven that being believed and listened to by others are crucial to victims’ healing.

3.  Respond graciously, offering comfort, encouragement, and protection.  Also respond with tangible, practical care.  Spiritual and emotional support needs to be accompanied by actual deeds.

4.  Get informed and inform others about the prevalence of women at risk.  They can be found not only around the world but also right under our noses, in our cities and neighborhoods and in our churches and small groups.  The prevalence is staggering.

5.  Learn about the effects of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse.  The only thing more staggering than the prevalence of abuse toward women is the acute damage done to them.  Trauma is not only done to, but also experience by victims.  The internal and deeply personal places of a victim’s heart, will, and emotions need a clear application of the gospel of redemption, along with tangible expressions of love.

6.  Clearly communicate the hope and healing for victims that is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the message victims hear most often is self-heal, self-love, and self-help.  The church’s message is not self-help, but the grace of God.  Grace does not command “Heal thyself!” but declares “You will be healed!”  God’s one-way love replaces self-love and is the true path to healing.

7.  Get involved with the issue of violence against women.  This can include addressing the issue in small group settings, praying about it in corporate prayer, and working toward preventing abuse together with community and national organizations.

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Reporting Sexual Abuse in Christian Communities


There have been a lot of articles circulating recently from victims of sexual abuse at the hands of high-profile perpetrators.  Dylan Farrow called out her step-father Woody Allen after his recent Academy Award nomination, and Tamara Green reminded us of Bill Cosby’s many accusers, long forgotten.  I have also been following conversations from little known victims: children (grown now), who were abused while they were at boarding schools run by missionaries.

When I was 9 years old, my family moved to South America as short-term missionaries (a 2-3 year commitment) with New Tribes Missions, where my parents taught at a NTM boarding school.  While much of our experience was wonderful, the psychological, physical and spiritual abuse at the school was shocking.  My parents were labeled trouble-makers for voicing concerns and reporting abuse, and ultimately they chose not to continue as career missionaries under the circumstances.  In addition to stunningly abusive corporal punishment (i.e. “swats” with a large wooden board, with holes drilled in it, administered gleefully by a bully of a principal), there were three men, that I know of, sent home for sexually abusing children – just during that three year span of time.  Sent home, but not reported to law officials or even to their own churches.  Just sent away to plug into other ministries with children.

It is hard to believe that even today, in 2014, there is still a reluctance among many Christians to report sexual abuse.  We have seen the fallout in the Catholic Church over covering abuse up, and yet there are abusers in all denominations and organizations throughout the world.

With the advent of social media, victims of abuse from NTM schools began to connect online and share their stories.  This led NTM to hire GRACE in 2010 to investigate alleged abuse at the Fanda School in Senegal.  Here is their report stemming from that investigation.  It is a harrowing read.  They are currently investigating other NTM schools, including the school my family served at.  I am very hopeful that there will be healing for victims of abuse through this process of being heard and hopefully, of perpetrators being reported for their crimes.  Thankfully, covering up can no longer be standard procedure for NTM, as Warren Kennell learned last week.

Logan and I attended a church conference in June of last year where we heard a woman tell the story of growing up in a home wrought with physical and sexual violence.  She and her siblings were beaten, sexually abused and starved.  The turning point came when she finally, at twelve years old, had the courage to tell her Sunday School teacher, who prayed with her to forgive.  Living without bitterness made her situation bearable, and she went on to be a wife and mother and a talented Bible teacher in her church, living a normal life despite her hellish upbringing.

Her story was inspiring, but honestly, I was furious that the abuse didn’t end when she finally had the courage to tell someone trustworthy, someone in church leadership.  I wanted to scream, WHY DIDN’T HER SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER REPORT THE ABUSE!!!


Too often, this is the reality of domestic and organizational violence against women and children, which occurs in equal measure in churches as it does in the rest of society.  The victims are nearly always silent, and if they do speak up to the leaders in their church, they are often met with disbelief, platitudes to forgive, advice to be obedient, expressed concerns for the reputation of the perpetrator and the church, etc.  Often, church leaders will opt to handle things in-house rather than report abuse and make a public issue of it.  The problem is, abuse is not only a sin, it is a crime, and it is criminal to remain silent when we have knowledge of abuse.  And allegations need to be taken seriously, as less than 5% of child sexual abuse claims are fabricated.

There was news this week that Bob Jones University fired GRACE, the organization it had hired to investigate claims of sexual abuse on campus.  This happened just weeks before GRACE’s final report was to be made public.  It would appear that BJU decided self-protection was of greater importance than protecting their most vulnerable and powerless, teenaged students.   Here is a great article about Why the BJU Scandal Will Go Away, and please take a minute to sign this petition asking BJU to rehire GRACE to complete their investigation.

Boz Tchividjian, the founder and executive director of GRACE, and Liberty University Law School professor and former child abuse prosecutor, wrote an excellent article yesterday, Christians and the Struggle to Report Child Abuse.  And Sandra Kim at everyday feminism posted this great article, 10 Ways to Talk to Your Kid About Sexual Abuse.

There is hopeful change with the advent of social media and heightened awareness and accountability, but there is still a long way to go.  Let us do what we can to protect the most vulnerable in our faith communities, first of all by ensuring that policies are in place for responding to claims of sexual abuse.  Not one allegation should go unreported.

First Image credit: Shane Claiborne quote
Second Image Credit