Very recently I asked for readers to respond to a query I had about how people remember church when they were children (http://pieterstok.com/2013/07/13/your-experience-of-church-as-a-child/). I am still keen on hearing your responses.
One thing I didn’t expect (maybe I should have), was the number of private emails I have received from people recalling the abuse they received. This abuse sometimes arose because church authorities deliberately turned away from events in their families and congregation, or was perpetrated by them. This abuse ranged from spiritual and emotional neglect through to the more sordid examples we see in the news on a daily basis
It reminded me that in my years as a pastor I came across too many examples of events that had never been dealt with properly. The “lets sweep it under the carpet” syndrome was all too prevalent. In an effort to protect the church’s reputation we have mired it more deeply in hidden and unconfessed sin and with no real thought for the victims.
Jesus weeps at the sins of His people but the tears must be even greater when these atrocities touch the innocent and vulnerable who are largely made up of women and children.
So far I have seen two main results of this hidden abuse revealed in the emails. Some people turn their back on the church and faith and want nothing to do with either. This is a tragedy of eternal proportions. The other result is those people who, usually through a Christlike mentor or partner, have, at some future occasion, dealt with the abuse and have come out the other side with a stronger faith and a greater awareness of God’s love for them. This is miraculous!
These emails have convinced me that the issue of children in the church is a crucial issue at so many different levels. What do we do to protect them? How do we make them feel that they belong? What is their role in the church and what can we learn from them? These are just some of the questions!
And from you dear readers, I would still love to hear what you have to say.