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.
I was having a conversation last night about friends and trust.
Once I called what that pastor did to me abuse, my closest friends in life vanished. They didn’t even have the decency to have have a conversation.
We had done life together for over 15 years. It was spiritual. We prayed together, studied the Bible together, retreated together, worshiped together, and raised our kids together.
They rejected me in such a painful way, at such a painful time. How would I ever trust that someone is my friend again?
I’ve now been in a new Bible study group of women for 3 years. The women are so sweet. They say they love me. They really barely know me. My heart struggles to bond. Will they run if my truth makes them uncomfortable?
What is love? Even in the church, what is love?
Does love deny truth?
Does love abandon victims?
Does love protect abusers?
Does love lie?
Must love always be comfortable?
Does love require hard things?
Does love look ugly and evil right in the face and name it?
Does love pretend everything is perfect and the church can do no wrong?
Does love let wolves stay in pulpits & devour sheep?