It brings me peace to know that I don't have to concern myself with my abuser's attitude of repentance or his position with God. The greatest vengeance would be to hope that God would reject him. But I don't want to be that person. I don't want the responsibility of determining his eternal fate. That's too much weight, too much responsibility.
I'm not perfect or holy, so it's just not my place. I'm at peace with that. Scripture (Jesus's own words) show that He alone is the author of salvation. He's the Great Discerner. He's the Judge re: eternity. Matthew 7: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’"
No matter how smooth talking & charming they are, if they've led others to Him with those smooth words, Jesus knows who the false prophets are and He will judge accordingly. I can hope for justice on this earth. I can "judge" in terms of warning others and speaking truth, but I don't have to concern myself with my abuser's final judgement. What if he is a believer? What if he does go to heaven? Hard questions, but in my heart, I want him to have a repentant heart, so if he steps into eternity, that's fine with me. My eyes will be on Jesus. I won't be concerned w/ my abuser.
All this to say that I refuse to give any power whatsoever to my abuser. My healing and moving forward is not in any way tied to a single thing that man does. If forgiveness means leaving his fate in God's capable hands so I don't have to think about him, then I've forgiven.
I want true, absolute freedom. I sought justice and failed. I'm proud of the way I've fought this battle. My priority was to seek justice and bring honor to God. To do it His way as best as I could understand. That was for me, my journey.
I don't judge any victim's journey or pursuit for justice. I stand with them. But our journeys may look different. We do what we need to do to find freedom, to survive, to seek justice, to find peace, to heal, to move on. There is no one way to get through this, no one way to fight. We must give each other room to be ourselves, deal with our trauma, and find our way to wholeness.
Just the perspective of one survivor of clergy abuse. Feel free to disagree, but be kind.
God, when will You stop these wolves?
When will people in church open their eyes and see?
When will they care more about truth and safety than losing their social community or needing the validation of wolves?
When will they truly worship You instead of these criminal predators calling themselves pastors?
How much longer do we have to watch more victims be destroyed by the place they went to find and serve You? Be led to hell by one they had the right to trust to always, always point to You?
How much longer do we have to fight pastors and elders for our safety? For care? For truth? For justice? For dignity?
When will we be safe at church and not preyed upon by pastors? How much longer will church be the safest playground for predators?
How much longer, God?
Church victims are so tired. Why, after our abuse by pastors are we on the front lines of the fight for truth and justice?
God, please stop this madness. Clean Your house. Show us Your real church.
Give us care and rest. We’re tired, Lord.
We’re broken, abandoned, spit on, and tired.
Father, I pray for clergy abuse survivors. I thank You that You love each one with an unfailing love.
Father, I ask You to make Yourself known to survivors in a way that leaves no doubt in our heart that You are here. Remind us that You know us by name. That Your thoughts for us outnumber the grains of sand on earth. (Psalm 139)
Father, we don't know why You, in Your sovereignty, allow some terrible things to happen. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Help us to trust You. Show us that you take what Satan and our abusers mean for evil and use it for Your good (Genesis 50:20).
God, thank You for listening when we cry out in grief, anger, and pain to You (Psalm 56). Please surround these precious survivors with people who will also listen and support without judgement. Please surround survivors with love.
Father, please keep us safe. I ask that you will give each of us the courage to do what we need to do to be safe. Again, Father, that You will surround each of us with people who will help keep us safe (Psalm 91).
And, Father, we plead for justice (Proverbs 21:15). We ask that truth will be known. That the truth will set all survivors free (John 8:32).
And Father, we ask You, beg You, to help free our churches from all types of abuse. Church should be safe. And, Father, we plead for justice (Proverbs 21:15). We ask that truth will be known. That the truth will set all survivors free (John 8:32).
And Father, we ask You, beg You, to help free our churches from all types of abuse. Church should be safe. tempted to cover up sin to "protect the church."
And Father, where our leaders lack courage, we ask that you give the congregation the courage to stand up to the leadership. We, the people, are your church.
Again, Father, I ask you to embrace each survivor and hold us close to Your heart throughout our journey to healing and wholeness.
Thank you that in Jesus, we are truly free (John 8:36)! In Jesus's Name. Amen
In 2017, I would walk this park every night after work & try to deal with the stress of torture from my boss that day. I stood in this area shaking my fist to heaven in tears & begged God for help. I told Him I was in trouble I couldn’t handle & asked Him to rescue me.
He didn’t answer for another 8 months. It was on one of these walks that Satan convinced me that I was unlovable & even God only loved me because He had to. My heart tonight remembers that pain. It’s a bit triggering to remember.
Tonight is different. I know I’m loved. I’m free. Nobody loves me like You, God. I truly believe Jesus was praying for me just as He prayed for Peter when Satan sifted him. It’s all going to work out according to Your glory. I’m trusting You even though I don’t understand Your ways.
I’ve been thinking through all the conversations I’ve had with women who were groomed into what was sexual abuse by their pastor.
1. The grooming lasted for months, even years.
2. Every single woman told me they resisted, said no, called out the behavior in the beginning.
3. The women all had a level of fear of the pastor. Said he had bullying characteristics.
4. The pastor ignored their lack of consent, relentlessly persisted and pushed boundaries until they got compliance. Compliance is NOT consent. It became survival for the victim.
5. We, the women, had something going on that made us emotionally vulnerable. That does not make the abuse our fault. Everyone is vulnerable at some point. Pastors should always point to Christ and to therapy if needed, not seize the opportunity to abuse their power.
6. The abuse wasn’t about sexual activity. That was the trap into emotional and spiritual abuse. Torture for the pastor’s entertainment. The target is nothing but a challenge.
7. The pastor convinced the woman that the sexual activity was her fault. Upon discovery, she typically took the responsibility only to learn later that it was not an affair but it was sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse.
8. In almost every case, it cost the victim everything. All sympathy and support went to the abusive pastor.
9. In every case, the church elders blew it. They protected themselves, the abuser and the church image at the expense of the victim.
10. The congregation, the bystanders, didn’t support the victim out of ignorance, fear, or having been gaslighted by church leaders and didn’t know the truth. Many later learned the truth, but couldn’t handle it. Weren’t willing to do the uncomfortable thing and speak up.
11. These women are strong, brave and articulate. They’ve survived being led through hell by a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. They’re fighting like hell to heal. Many are also still fighting for truth & justice in their churches & denominations.
12. Even though wounded, they’re on the front lines fighting for truth, justice and safety because the church leaders, congregations and Christian influencers are silent about the fact that the vast majority of sexual abusers in the church are the pastors and evangelists.
It's not that I dislike pastors and evangelists. I dislike wolves pretending to be pastors and evangelists. It's not that I dislike church. I dislike abusive systems pretending to be a church.
But I am angry with pastors. Why? Because any true pastor that loves the Lord's sheep, couldn't possibly see all of the wolves pretending to be pastors sexually abusing the sheep and not be outraged. Jesus left the 99 for the one. True pastors would be as righteously angry as Jesus was when he turned tables in the temple. And yet, so very few even mention it, let alone scream about it to stop and protect the victims.
Instead, I see other pastors and church leaders downplay abuse by these pretending pastors and even protect them by covering it up, by their silence, by moving the wolf to another church, by slandering or silencing victims, by expelling victims, by calling truth gossip, by calling the pursuit of justice bitterness and unforgiveness and by telling victims to just forgive and move on.
It's simple, the sexual abuse of children and adults by wolves calling themselves pastors will not stop until the true pastors and congregations move to stop it. Why do pastors and congregations continue to let these wolves have the power to sexually abuse children & adults? How are they not sick about it, outraged? Grown, adult men calling themselves pastors are raping children, teens & adults and getting away with it. I can't be a part of that system and love Jesus.
How can you, as a pastor, look the other way, especially when it happened in your church or community? Who or what do you worship? I can't worship Jesus and not be sick about sexual abuse in His church. Are you like my own former church leaders that are fine with people leaving their church if they don't agree with you, if they want to hold you accountable to your position, if they want church to be safe for everyone, if they aren't afraid of and know God works in truth, if they don't worship the ground you walk on? Then, all that's left are those who do worship you, think like you, cower to you?
"He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them." John 10
__signed A Victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse who is tired of fighting abusive wolves when I should be focused on healing and feel safe in church.
Because church is so triggering still and because there’s too much denial about wolves fleecing the flock, I just can’t be a part. So, I work out my faith in God and Jesus absent from corporate worship. It should break Christian’s hearts that I don’t feel safe in church, but instead of asking questions to understand, they judge. It’s unfortunate.
But I love Jesus. I think about Him constantly. I don’t understand why He chose to free me from the torture of a pastor in such a painful way, but I trust Him. God chose a painful way for Christ to conquer sin and death. I grasp that sometimes He allows pain for His cause. It’s just that often I spend more time trying to make sense out of “why me?” than just moving forward in the freedom. I know He loves me but I still struggle with the shame a pastor put on me abusing my trust.
He’s let me see that He never left me even though I thought He had. He’s let me see that He is using my experience and my story for good. I pray He lets me see the miracle of justice. But I know that my healing doesn’t rely on apologies and justice. My abuser has no power over me or my healing. I’ve left him in God’s capable hands. My healing comes from God and my own work.
But I want healing for the church, too. It’s sick and in denial which leads to death. That’s tragic. To die because of arrogance and denial. Because, even though you preach accountability and truth, you can’t bring yourself to live it. I’m in the light now. Trust me! That’s where the healing is. God brought me through the darkness into truth and freedom. He will do the same for His church.
Today I celebrate my freedom in Christ. I now completely understand that freedom is not free. But if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed. I will never hand my freedom over to anyone or any church. Have you given your power & freedom in Christ away to a pastor/church?
I recently found out that the week my abuse was discovered & labeled an inappropriate relationship, my Sr. Pastor admitted to fellow staff members that my abuser, the Executive pastor, had abused his power and I was a victim. Only they didn't tell me that. They let me believe I had failed. They victim-blamed and sinned-leveled.
They, knowing it was abuse, called me out by name to the congregation on a Sunday morning as resigning my job due to an inappropriate relationship with that pastor. They then sent a letter to the body. As my husband and I learned the truth about clergy sexual abuse, we sent many emails attempting to explain, educate, correct the narrative about me and to plead for them to make that church safe.
In the beginning, they got an attorney and presented me with a NDA to "protect me" because "they loved me so much." I fought for my right to share my testimony and won. Sort of. I can talk, but they are hiding behind the specific language they assigned to themselves.
A year later, in one of our meetings, I asked them how this church attorney didn't know from the beginning that this was clergy sexual abuse and my abuser had abused his power. The Sr. Pastor & an elder looked me in the eye and immediately admitted they knew from the beginning it was abuse. WHILE THEY PUSHED A NDA ON ME AND PUBLICALLY CALLED ME AN ADULTRESS, THEY KNEW IT WAS ABUSE!
My husband was so frustrated, he emailed the truth to some in the church body. This made the elders so angry, they emailed the entire church body against me again. This is the first sentence of that email: "Headlines from a variety of media remind us daily of the importance of maintaining proper boundaries in interpersonal relationships in any workplace, including the workplace of the Church."
Two sentences later: "Rest assured that church leadership addressed the issue sensitively, forthrightly, and in a spirit of transparency and Christian forgiveness. Since both parties confessed their participation in the misconduct, our goal at the time and since then has been to graciously promote reconciliation and restoration in their marriages and to the church body as a whole. The recent e-mail that went out from the spouse of one of those involved to many in the (church name) family was an effort to reopen these wounds and we believe it was grossly unfair and factually incorrect which works at cross-purposes to the healing process of all involved and is damaging to the testimony of Christ in the Church and in the community."
They called our pursuit of truth, which they already knew, "damaging to the testimony of Christ in the Church and in the community." Liars said this about the only person who took responsibility that wasn't mine, apologized for it, learned the truth, spoke the truth and begged for the safety of the very people who turned away from me. They called ME damaging to the church.
I think this has been more traumatizing than the abuse was and it was awful. I walked into that church healthy, vibrant and a willing servant of Christ. I loved and served well, with all my heart. I was tortured by a pastor and then shamed by elders. I continue to trust God and speak truth. My heart is absolutely broken that these pastors I served and trusted turned out to be abusers, manipulators and liars.
And they so easily kept saying, "You know how much we love you."
Eighteen months after my abuse by my pastor boss was discovered and labeled an inappropriate relationship, Randy and I met with new Sr. Pastor hoping it would lead to an investigation and corrected narrative. I had learned the elders were untrustworthy by this time, so I recorded the meeting. I was refused both an investigation and correcting the narrative that was shared on a Sunday morning from the stage about me.
God continues to move, though. Recent discussions with some former staff prompted me to go back and listen to the recording of that meeting where I shared my story. I’m listening to me tell my story. It’s 2 1/2 hours long. I can only take it in short sessions because of triggers.
I cry as I listen to her. Her soul was crushed by a pastor’s abuse and then again by elders who preach truth but lie to her and to their congregation. Pastors and elders who cheapen grace and use the word “love” to manipulate her to protect themselves.
My heart hurts for all she’s been through, but, damn, she’s articulate and strong. She’s not mincing words. She’s confident in truth. She’s taken her power back. I still have an hour to listen to. Right now, she’s afraid to hope. She had asked God for a miracle thinking He would reveal truth, but instead the elders had sent a 2nd all church email about her blaming her for weak boundaries and accusing her husband of hurting the testimony of God and the church.
I know now that the miracle was God opening her eyes to see the truth about these elders and the effect on that church. Now, she sees truth and speaks truth. Other eyes are opening. While now I just watch instead of hoping, I’m proud of her, of me.
She's learned God is always present. He’s mysterious in His ways, but He’s trustworthy. Miracles happen but they might not look like we expect. She’s going to survive although she thought this might kill her. She’s lived through her greatest fears. She’s found her strength and her voice.
Most of all, her heart is still soft. She loves. Freedom looks good on her!
I haven’t attended a church service in well over a year, maybe two years. It’s just too triggering. This morning I delivered some books to a church where my boss was speaking. I got there about 30 minutes before the service was to start.
As I carried in one of the boxes through the door and again as I was leaving, there was this group of 10 people standing on both sides of the door to “greet” those coming in. They were right on top of the doors, clearly smiling and very eager to serve. They were “on.”
The problem is that for the first time this came across as overtly manipulative. This was their volunteer duty—to be excited and greet people the moment they walk through the doors. It wreaked of Christian manipulation to me and I couldn’t get out fast enough. My heart raced on the verge of a panic attack for about 30 minutes.
I could remember all the staff meetings where we planned the Sunday morning experience for attenders. Now, I see we were manipulating emotions from the moment they walked in until they left. And if membership or visitor numbers dropped, these serving volunteers were basically accused of not doing enough. We never dared to question if it was the preaching or if our church had other issues.
I don’t want a church with official door greeters in my face as I walk in, trying to give an appearance of love and friendliness. I want to just walk in and as people are going about their business, they are very friendly. See the difference? Church should be church, not an experience. We should treat people as people, not consumers.
More time should be spent praying over the message than conjuring up the most impressive sermon illustration. The worship team should reflect the body, not be only the very best and performance based. It’s worship, not a performance. Greeters, performers, pastors using neuro programming language no longer look like church to me. It’s eye opening what you begin to see when you step out of the system. I’m yearning for messages and community like in Acts.