By Sharon Merhalski
For over eight years our staff has been mentoring and counseling survivors of all kinds of abuse; physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual. One aspect of our experiences has ‘shouted’ at us in almost every situation…the survivor not being believed when they speak of their abuse. Sadly, this is almost always the case when the alleged abuse happens in a church or organization setting.
One of our staff members, Teddi Neevel, has labeled this scenario “the good old boys club”. Personally I call it insane given all of the public accounts of ministry leaders falling for committing abuse among their own church members! And…God has an opinion/warning for those who jump to conclusions:
Luke 6:36 “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:….”
Judge: G2919 krinō Properly to distinguish, that is, decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish: – avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
Condemn: G2613 katadikazō From G2596 and a derivative of G1349; to adjudge against, that is, pronounce guilty: – condemn.
Proverbs 18:17 “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” One-sided statements are not reliable. (JFB commentary)
Proverbs 18:13 “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” I found a good paraphrase for this verse: It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.
“They’re lying!!!” That’s the all-too-familiar instant conclusion assumed when an alleged survivor blows the whistle on an abuser. And when it is a church or ministry situation more often than not the Christian leaders are questioned and the conclusion reached before the alleged victim is questioned…if they are questioned at all. I wish this wasn’t true…but it is. And God clearly states in the verses above that He will judge and condemn them.
I have a friend who was raped by a Christian college student when she was in high school. The college student was questioned by the pastor and my friend wasn’t. She and her parents (who believed her) were called into the pastor’s office. He never let her speak or asked her any questions. He told her she was expelled from school. It was midway into her junior year of high school. The college student was not expelled. The ministry student was questioned and believed without hearing her words on the matter. Spiritual and emotional healing for my friend has been a terrific struggle.
New Hope Outreach has been faced with a situation in northwest Indiana that needs much prayer. Alleged survivors of a Christian children’s home—Hephzibah House in Winnona Lake, IN– have broken their silence about the alleged abuses they endured while residents of the home spannning over the past 20+ years. They did not break their silence to bring a lawsuit against anyone but rather to bring awareness of the need for a state law in Indiana to allow guidelines for children’s homes and investigation when there is an allegation of abuse made. (I live in Indiana and to this date there are no regulations or guidelines…no law.) The absence of a state law has tied the hands of Social Service organizations which seemed impossible to me until I researched it.
Sadly, without questioning the alleged survivors, contacting them or even reading online what they are saying, I know of some church leaders which have labeled them liars. The leader of the home, of course, is believed without question.
Many who read this may ask, “how in the world could anyone judge without questioning both sides of a matter?”. I’ve had to stop and search my own heart concerning how often I’ve done this while watching the news…or listening to information told to me by a friend…or from the pulpit or in a written publication. Searching my heart has caused me to do some repenting…with a renewed determination to withhold judgment and see a person as innocent until proven guilty…the Biblical and American way.