Written by Phil Monroe
Sunday, 22 July 2012 16:19
Our conference / course Abuse in the Church: Biblical, Legal, & Counseling Perspectives is over and now it is time for reflections. To be honest, depression and loss of faith are common reactions to spending 9 hours thinking about a bevy of issues related to abuse within the church. When you consider the huge impact of abuse on individuals and communities; consider how predatorial people deceive and use the goodness of others to do their dirty work; consider how organizations, including churches, often choose self-preservation over protection of vulnerable people; consider how hard it is to walk through the mess of abuse allegations…it is easy to lose faith in humanity.
But, our faith is NOT in the goodness of humanity. Our faith is in Christ who calls and empowers a people to rise above self-interest to sacrificial love and protection of others.
Still, we can feel that our meager efforts are insignificant when compared to the accepted statistic that 1:3 women and 1:5 men experience some form of sexual abuse prior to age 18. What can one conference of 110 people do to change the trajectory of how the American church handles abuse prevention and responses? What can 9 hours of training do to empower anyone to do almost anything of value?
You may be wondering if I have mistitled this blog post. Where are the “encouraging” reflections? Well, this morning our preacher took us through the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) and made a particular observation that puts our conference efforts into the right perspective:
Our work as disciples of Jesus is usually very ordinary. By asking Jesus to bless our little, it becomes extraordinary. Do the best you can with what you have. That is the call of the kingdom.
110 plus attendees comprising M.Div. and counseling students, pastors, deacons, lay leaders of churches, parachurch workers, social workers, psychologists, professional counselors, and at least one representative of the legal community
9 hours of training across topics such as child abuse prevention policies and procedures, caring for victims, offenders, and congregation, considering moral as well as legal obligations for reporting, developing the right reasons for protection (protection and love over liability reduction), addressing spiritual wounds of abuse, understanding how predators act, and considering church responses to abuse allegations
Numerous side conversations about incredibly complex and painful stories of abuse with lay and professional leaders working out how best to respond or even to correct previous missteps
Networking and resource-sharing among church leaders to support each other as they improve their own policies and trainings
And finally, none of this could have happened without the tireless volunteering and serving of so many. Thank YOU, Boz, for coming to Philly and giving us your expertise. Thank YOU Theresa, Bonnie, Anita, Pam, Steve, Tracy, Jenn, Jack, Chris, both Al’s and many others who made this conference possible.
Multiplying loaves and Fish?
Think about it this way:
IF predators find the churches easy targets for victims and IF the average predator violate between 50 and 100 individuals before first conviction and IF only 10 churches represented at the conference develop more effective abuse prevention and response policies
THEN it is quite reasonable to think that as many as 500 individuals will be protected and not victimized, and THEN we might protect individuals at risk of becoming sex offenders and harming others.
NOTE: Conference video and audio recordings were made. We intend to make these available after editing PowerPoint slides into the videos. Check back here or at www.biblical.edu for more information.
Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology at Biblical Seminary where he directs both the MA in Counseling program and the newly formed Global Trauma Recovery Institute. Phil blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.