Saturday, 28 October 2023 I’m still a Christian despite…the Church’s history of abuse.
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
The Church’s record at covering abuse up, turning a blind eye to it, treating abuse victims badly, and creating environments where abuse is allowed to continue, is appalling. We are a community which has been given the job of showing the world what God is like, and we have allowed, encouraged, and caused people to be abused.
It’s a grim start to a reflection, but it needs to be acknowledged and I fully understand why the Church’s record on abuse has caused many people to leave or, much worse, lose their faith. It’s not just churches. It’s media corporations, sports organisations, police forces, charities and educational establishments. But churches should be different, shouldn’t they?
I don’t believe that “The Church” is the problem, anymore than any other organisation is the problem. The problem always is people. God’s story was going really well until people turned up on page 2. The Bible is filled with stories of people messing it up. Try making a list… I’ll give you David, Paul, Moses, Jonah, and Samson for starters. However, the Bible is also full of people who sometimes got things right (the names on your previous list, will probably be on this list too). People that God used to heal, solve, and save. Even God’s master plan of salvation for the whole of creation relied on a person.
One of my favourite examples is Esther. She was probably a teenager when she was placed into King Xerxes’ harem and eventually went on to save her people. It is the powerful words of her uncle, Mordecai, that grab me every time I hear them.
God will carry out his will, one way or another. We have the opportunity to be part of God’s plan of salvation. I am still a Christian because the Church (including me) has messed things up so badly I want God to use me as part of the solution.
People are always the problem, but people are the solution too.
Dear Father, We have distorted Your image, created a caricature of You, and failed to protect the most vulnerable – allowing your Church to become dangerous.
We pray that abuse victims – especially those abused by the Church – will know true love and healing. Knowing we are the problem help us to be the solution, that the Church might be safe, and encourage all to speak up and be heard. Amen.
Ben Twelves is the Safeguarding Officer for the East Midlands Synod and member of Fountain Square Church (Methodist/URC LEP) in Tideswell.