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“Ye Are My Whistleblowers” — 64 Comments

  1. Jennifer, thank you for standing up in this very important issue and bringing sexual accountability to the forefront.

    I believe it was back in 1993 we were drawn into an issue of a pastor who had been sexually abusing a daughter for several years. I called elder Joe Cews to see if he might know of any program the church might have to help rehabilitate this family with Christian counseling etc.

    His answer at that time surprised and shocked me. He said to turn him in to the local law enforcement authorities and that was all he knew to do for them at that time.

    Then he said, "Incest is rampant among Seventh-day Adventist pastors."

    Is there some sort of educational sexual boundary program required for pastors now? If there is not, shame on us. Healthcare professionals have been required to take courses in sexual boundaries since President Bill Clinton was in office and was accused of sexual impropriety.

    We definitely need to promote and produce a "safe" work and social environment for pastors and congregants.

    Of course, the safest environment is in the atmosphere of Heaven walking after the Spirit and letting God correct our sexual perversions, replacing them with His character.

    • In the health care field it is considered unethical to date a patient or to have any sexual relationship with a patient consensual or otherwise. It would be unethical to marry one of your patients because of the imbalance of power issue.

      If sexual innuendos are unwanted or wanted from a pastor to a congregant they are not appropriate and unethical. The sexually erring pastor is accountable even if sexual activity is wanted or encouraged by the congregant. This is because of his position. He should be an example for the flock encouraging always toward righteousness regardless.

      • "The sexually erring pastor is accountable even if sexual activity is wanted or encouraged by the congregant. This is because of his position. He should be an example for the flock encouraging always toward righteousness regardless." Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

        You got my meaning.

        • Let's go beyond that. As long as the two persons involved are not MARRIED, sexual activity (wanted or unwanted) is wrong. It is a SIN.

    • Don I haven't known of a lot of incest in Adventism, so this comes as a bit of a shock. But I agree with Crews' approach any time a child is involved. In fact, many of us are required by law to report even the suspicion or allegation of child abuse. I am and I do. Some stumble over Paul's admonition not to go to law against a brother. I do to, but I notice that he goes on to say that the saints will judge the world and angels, etc. So the implication is that the church should judge in these cases, and whomever Paul was addressing bypassed what the church could have done in that case, which he called "trivial" (1 Cor. 6:2).

      Paul didn't tell us what to do if 1) it was illegal not to go to secular authorities (which is the case with child abuse), and; 2) the church didn't even try to judge the case, which often happens.

      In other words, the principle holds true, but the application may change the outcome.

      I've had conference officials tell me to go to the law over even cases where the victim was an adult because they knew the church wouldn't do anything. We desperately need better policies and procedures and more education on the subject.

      • Jennifer,

        Are pastors and conference workers required to have training in "sexual boundaries?"

        If not, why not?

        It seems to me that they should be just as educated in this area as health care professionals. They could actually use the same or similar educational materials.

        Steps should be taken to help them to understand when and how they set themselves up for temptation to prey upon others sexually. "Love and compassion" can be selfishly motivated and very deceitfully implemented to produce sexual abuse.

        We need to learn how to love with compassion with a Godly motivation of true Love.

        • Hi Don,

          I don't think we get enough training in good boundaries. I address these boundaries in my post, "Loving One Another in Purity." There are many practical steps we can take to minimize temptation.

      • As a Mental Health Counselor, I was required by law to report sexual or physical abuse of a minor. A SDA teen was referred to me for counseling by an academy principal. The girl revealed that her Step father was physically abusing her. Punching her in the head while sitting strattle of her on the floor. As per my ethical principles, I immediately called the authorities and turned him in. They removed her from the home. The principal and her SDA pastor lambasted me for doing so. Turns out they both knew the situation but the pastor said he was counseling the family and I should not have called the law. Yes, I was a pariah, but I would do it again in a minute. The teens foster mom later thanked me for getting the girl into safely. The pastor was promoted to a conference position shortly afterward. Sad...

        • Oh, boy. That's a rough experience Ruth. Well, the law is the law. I've had similar very difficult experiences where someone of prominence is doing something horrible behind the scenes. Why we always focus on how what we do will affect the perpetrator rather than the victim? That is the question.

          • Got me, the most important issue is to protect the victim at all costs. Jesus said "suffer the little children to come to me." All victims are in effect little children. To harm those weaker than ourselves is one of the worst kind of sins. If we do not stand up for the victims, we become as it were, perpetrators also. Starting up takes more of us than to ignore or do nothing.
            If we don't take a stand for the right, will we compromise principles of faith? I doubt it. Besides that in my professional experience, most abusers are sociopaths, only extreme consequences will get their attention and help them turn around.

  2. Dear Jennifer,

    I am not surprised that there has been not many comments about your article because this is a touchy subject which brings about uncomfortable emotions. However, I believe it is important that these issues are highlighted so that ministers in power are held responsible for their actions in a Christian manner. I like the fact that you highlighted that a minister who becomes sexually involved with a lay person is in essence abusing the individual because of power imbalance..In other words he/she is using his/her powerful position to take advantage of a lay person. We need to educate our churches about the potential dangers of power imbalances. Thank you for sharing your experience here..Education on these issues is key..

    • Mark- "I like the fact that you highlighted that a minister who becomes sexually involved with a lay person is in essence abusing the individual because of power imbalance..In other words he/she is using his/her powerful position to take advantage of a lay person." I'll say the same thing I said to Don Litchfield: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. As soon as sexual assault has been committed, the victim needs to call 911 and report what has happened to them. This means ALL perpetrators need to be reported to the authorities. Preachers are the worst kind in that they hide behind their prestigious garb. I've worked in church offices and I am familiar with this sort of debased activity. My heart goes out to the victims of these awful, awful crimes. For those of us who are aware, we need to support any kind of program that ensures safety.

    • Absolutely, Carol. Rape and harassment are crimes and should be immediately reported. Things get more difficult when a congregant consents. I'm saying the pastor still bears the greater responsibility, as Don and Mark said above. Thanks for your clarity and commitment to what's right.

    • Unfortunately these things go on in churches. It reminds me that we all sinned and need a savior, it does not matter what position a person holds. We must establish methods to help both the offender and the offended.

      I have learned we do not our true feelings until it's to late sometimes.

  4. The article highlights an increasingly complex issue of sexual abuse by both males and females within the church. The balance tips more in the direction of males being the abusers. Though persons (particularly those who are the perpetrators) may seek to silence any individual who names/points them out, I am of the considered view that these perpetrators must be identified.The aim of the process should be to help both the victim (sometimes this person is complicit) and the abuser. We should all endeavor to see the process brought to completion in each case as often they are left to fester by the wayside. Importantly, every leader and parishioner has an ethical responsibility. Your article is a timely one and must not be ignored.

    • Golfrey I couldn't agree with you more. Share the article with your network and keep talking about it. All the great changes that come, come because the stones cry out.

  5. When the announcement is made that "Babylon the great" has fallen, fallen, it is added [the messenger cries out "mightily with a strong voice",] that Babylon has become

    1. the habitation of devils
    2. the [strong]hold of every foul spirit, and
    3. a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
    (Rev 18:2)

    I suggest that "Babylon the great", at that time, includes every professedly Christian denomination, and every branch of this world's religion. But it is among those with the greatest light (i.e. professed Christians) that the greatest offenders will be found.

    "The most revolting sins of the age find shelter beneath the cloak of Christianity." (4Testimonies p.13.) Unfortunately, I think that the prevalence and the depth of this truth will increase as time goes on.

    But Jesus warns us that "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax [or grow] cold." (Matt 24:12.) Let's be careful not to focus too much on the growing iniquity!

    There are, and will be, forces/influences "pressing darkness upon [us] to shut out Jesus from [our] view, that [our] eyes might be drawn to the darkness that surrounds [us]". (Maranatha p.201)

  6. I was looking for preventative/proactive advice in the article. I saw "educate" but what specifics?
    Is there a pattern of behavior that is similar and recognizable of those who to be aware of? Humans have basic needs..affection, acceptance, appreciation and achievement. Do the abusers hug differently at church? Maybe too close or too long? Can you tell a carnal pastor by his sermons? Is there too much worldly fillers in his sermons? Do the victims dress with short dresses and wear too much makeup? I see a few at church who do this. At a previous church I attended, a father went to prison for child molestation. He really dressed fancy and had a fancy car. Can you tell by the way people talk that they will be suspects or victims?
    1 John 4:5 "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them."
    This issue will only get worse due to most spending time watching perverted entertainment media. We have 1000 waking minutes each day to think and do things. What is done with those 1000 minutes??

    • Jim Bob, I think the articles "Loving One Another in Purity" and "Pastors Who Prey" might answer these questions. This article is one of a three-part series. If you search those titles, you'll find them. They're on Sabbathschool.net.

    • Jim Bob,

      Check out the articles "Loving One Another in Purity" and "Pastors Who Pray" for some more prevention strategies.

      I think there are signs, but they are subtle. Most often perpetrators come across as great people. This is what makes it so difficult. Victims, in my experience, don't have immodesty problems. The main characteristic of a victim is that they trust leaders too much. Perhaps this is where our education should start! Teaching people that spiritual leaders are as human as anyone.

      • Jennifer,

        Thanks for the replies and sources.
        I still don't find the details that I am interested in.
        This is what I found.. "In fact, through psychological manipulation alone, this man seduced most of the women in a small, conservative ministry."
        "Psychological manipulation" is a general/obscure statement without specifics/details.
        I would suggest that you include examples with details...ie what are the "come on" lines used?
        Do pastors say, "Can I buy you a veg-drink?"
        'Want to discuss this family issue further over lunch?"
        Do they listen to a female member's gripe about her spouse and then give her a nice long hug?
        Do they compliment on how they dress?
        By sharing specifics one can have their senses sharpened to not become a victim.

        General input like a pastor abuses his authority are too ambiguous.

        • Jim bob,

          Any person walking in the light of God's word and filled with His Spirit will know when a line has been crossed. God is a refuge and strength, and will not let those who walk in faith be deceived. However, those who only claim to be Christ's will always be deceived, and compiling a list of the ways of the wicked might not include every possible approach that would mislead the unwary. We are told to "watch and pray" to avoid temptation. We need only address this issue as with any other temptation: "it is written".

          Also, our counsel encourages women to share with women when there are such issues they must deal with. Victims too often open the door to temptation by not being wise as serpents.

        • Jim Bob, most of the things you mentioned are red flags, or potentially. I discourage pastors from marriage counseling individual women. I believe hugs should be brief. Comments about physical appearance can go in a wrong direction pretty easily. Another thing to watch for is controlling behaviors, a pastor asking a parishioner to do "special favors" for him. Also language like, "you're different than the rest," etc. You might visit the Hope of Survivors website as they go into more detail about this.

          • Thank you Jennifer for being able to discuss this topic.

            You wrote: "sex with congregants on the part of a pastors is always wrong, and always abuse, even if just abuse of his office."

            There are men in our church who are leaders but aren't pastors who have sexually used women.

            The signs are there but may not be understood by the women and it's helpful that some of these have been brought up.

            Hugs with women may not even be appropriate from pastors and leaders. There are ways to communicate caring without a hug.

            I hadn't thought of a woman being asked to do "special favors" for the leader or of language like, "you're different than the rest," etc. We certainly need some education on these matters.

            Thank you for mentioning the Hope of Survivors website.

  7. Jennifer,
    We have pretended for far too long that relationship abuse does not exist in the Seventh-day Adventist church, so thank you for bringing this into the open. May God continue to bless and strengthen you as you witness for him. I fully support your efforts on behalf of true victims, and will continue to keep you in prayer.
    Martin Luther King Jr. said the following:
    "The time is always right to do what is right." Thanks so much!

  8. Whatever the sin, we must remember and follow the clear instructions of our Lord, who walks among the candlesticks and holds the 7 stars in His Right hand.

    There is a proper procedure given to us for addressing any wrong within the church(or without when possible), and if we study this closely we see in it the offer of grace to every offender in an environment that encourages honesty, confession and repentance. If this is rejected, there is a 2nd effort, not so private, but still keeping the circle of awareness small while increasing the conviction to the sinner. If this 2nd admonition is rejected, the whole church is to be brought to judge the matter. Can you imagine the good that would result if we always followed this Divine procedure in any case of wrongdoing? How many sinners would be won to the salvation found in the Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe? It does not matter the wrong since Jesus made it clear concerning any wrong that might exist. If we make exceptions, are we tending towards vengeance? I would agree that some circumstances do not allow a merely "forgive and forget" response, such as in the case of this particular post/discussion due to the reasons already pointed out. When Moses transgressed, he was removed from his position as leader of Israel, though genuinely repentant and forgiven by God, and soon after resurrected and taken to dwell in the very presence of God. But isn't the lesson taught very clearly concerning the responsibility and influence of spiritual leaders? Is it a false assumption on my part that they are diligently taught to keep this accountability in mind at all times?

    If the Church was diligent and faithful in these matters, there would be fewer repeat offenders in the Church, a safer environment, and perhaps more truly converted sinners leaning on the everlasting Arms of the Lord who can save to the uttermost.

    Jesus is looking for faith when He comes, and only in genuine repentance and perfect obedience(by the power of God) will this faith be manifest in God's people. If God's Word is truly the Lamp for our feet and the Light for our path, how can we go wrong? Sadly, this proper procedure itself is often rejected, but what do we lose when walking where the light does not shine? Won't we be prone to stumble in the dark?

    • Robert,

      What do you do when the church decides to "stone" the victim instead of acting in the righteousness of Christ to help the sinner see his need?

      • Don, if such an intention were displayed, wouldn't it be obvious that one was not in a Christian fellowship? Have you seen this anywhere? I have not.

        • Robert, I wonder if you understand Don's question. In fact, member reaction to pastoral abuse is most commonly one of "stoning the victim," rather than confronting the perpetrator and helping him see his need. And this doesn't just happen with pastoral abuse. It happens also with the typical sociopath who is often very personable and popular. In each case, people do not want to believe that either their pastor or the very likable person could possibly be capable of such reprehensible behavior. And when members cannot escape the demonstrable fact that their very likable pastor or friend has indeed victimized an innocent person, the call is to "forgive and forget," rather than to bring the perpetrator to justice, which would allow the perpetrator some time to recognize his need.

          I have seen it. Time and again. Even right in my own extended family - both the blaming of the victim and excusing the perpetrator. The victim was shunned by the church and the perpetrator was petted. Let me assure you that this happens more often than the more desirable scenario of believing the victim and confronting the perpetrator. It happens in other churches, and it happens in our own Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, thanks to brave people like Jennifer, the situation may be changing. Let us pray that it does.

    • Hi Robert. Thanks for your very carefully thought-out post. We don't follow the principles of Matthew 18 as we should, and you're right that if we did, we'd have fewer distractions.

      Something I'd like to share is that Matthew 18 actually starts out with a discussion about "little ones." Jesus says that if someone offends a little one (Greek micros, or small), they deserve capital punishment. He doesn't tell the little ones to confront their offenders. He seems to imply that little ones need someone to come alongside them, advocate for them.

      To ask an abuse victim to go directly to the abuser to confront them could easily lead to more abuse. They were overpowered once, and going back again could lead to reoffending of the weaker party. When Jesus instructs us to confront directly, he says "When your brother sins..." implying a relationship of equals. This is why I don't advise victims to directly confront abusers.

      Again, thank you for your post.

      • Jennifer, my comment above was in response to what is often generated in such topics as you have presented since many see some sins as undeserving of Christian grace and the spirit of meekness toward the offender, and this is only natural in the world, but we are not to be of the world. Tolerance of continuing abuse is also out of place, but restoring sinners is always to be our first effort when it is at all possible. Where laws of the land are violated, offenders must be tried by that law. I think it's possible to discern where the correct methods must be applied. I believe what Jesus established was the optimal method of displaying the character of God when personally offended, while allowing genuine repentance to bring healing to the offender if they are willing and desirous of it.

        I cannot speak to every case, and with children or those unable to stand in the strength of Christ, there might need to be a helper to face their issues. But anyone of accountability who has learned to walk in faith will have the help of Heaven in their effort to follow the Lord's command, which is given with no exceptions as I read it. In Christ, the weakest is stronger than Satan and his hosts. Once we begin to modify God's directives we lose the advantage they provide, and are also in danger of eventually establishing another Inquisition or something similar as Don seems to elude to above.

        Jesus' instructions are simple, clear and if faithfully followed, will be the best possible opportunity for restoring the erring. If not, it will become quite evident. Also, if it is a repeat offense, it would be safe to assume the former "repentance" was not genuine, depending on circumstances. This will all require the wisdom of heaven, which is liberally promised to all who ask in faith. All this can be done in the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God if we seek with all our heart to obtain it.

        • Hi Robert, I'm all for restoration. I just wouldn't send a victim back to the perpetrator. Jesus said be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. He also said that there were wolves in sheep's clothing. Why send the sheep back for another mauling? Some need an advocate.

          • Jennifer, I believe my 2nd paragraph acknowledges the possible need of exercising the wisdom you speak of. I am in agreement where circumstances requires special accommodations to be allowed.

        • Robert,

          I don't think restoration in the case of sexual abuse means restoration to his or her original position in the church. This would be like giving a recovering alcoholic a job as a bartender.

          We must give the offender a realization of the severity of the heinous crime he has commited and recognize that this is a mental and sexual perversion he/she has allowed in the mind and has unfitted them to stay in the role of trust they once held. (Don't just move the offender to another such position where the people are ignorant of the offender's weakness of perversion).

          This kind of perversion does not correct just by the forgiveness of the crime by the church. It takes a serious confrontation between the criminal and his deeds and his God to fully correct the depravity of the perverted mind.

          Of course Jesus suggested that capital punishment would be the "better" way to go in this type of crime.

          Of course God has a way of salvation from every sin if the sinner is willing to be born of the Holy Spirit. Death to self and rebirth in the true Love and Spirit of Christ is the answer.

          For the sinner it feels as though he is going through an execution experience. It can be humiliating to admit the things we must admit about ourselves, especially if we think of ourselves as a pretty nice person. But if we will fall upon the rock and be broken, maybe it won't crush us in the end.

          • Don, I agree that when there is a breach of confidence in a high position that, while forgiveness is always to be offered to the repentant, reinstatement would be not possible. Moses was removed as leader after even a "minor" stumble. Not minor for his position/experience, yet minor if anyone else. Yet, Moses was forgiven and presently dwells with God in heaven.

            We also notice that capitol punishment was not sentenced against King David(except through his offspring, which I would say is more severe and fitting perhaps, under the circumstances?), who retained his position as king, yet his sin led him to be too lenient with his own family, which should teach us something as well.

  9. If those in authority would practice basic risk management, much of these issues could be resolved / prevented. These steps need to occur as much as possible concurrently.
    Step one Insure That No Further Harm Can Occur. Isolate the alleged perpetrator from any potential victims. In severe cases this might require law enforcement and detention.
    Step two protect and provide as much support / healing as possible to victims. Seek professional help. PSTD doesn’t only happen to combat soldiers. Always love, Gods love must be centered in recovery.
    Step three Gather the Facts. There are documented cases where workers have been accused unjustly. Both the accused and accuser need a fair review of the accusations. In severe cases, law enforcement, child and family services agencies may need to take the lead in the investigation, cooperation with them is critical.
    Step four Act. Take action based upon the documented results of the investigation. Act decisively, and keep in mind the ultimate goal is the healing of the victim and even the victimizer.

  10. "The lingering impression, and ultimately our witness, will be that we are a people who speak the truth regardless of the cost."

    Yes, regardless of the cost, the truth is so important. Education is difficult because people are still not seeing the imbalance of power involved in clergy abuse. Victims are shunned, ignored, and asked to leave the very place they were pursued, used, and abused. It is devastating and God is not letting it go without notice.

    The truth is, while there are godly leaders within the church, there are too many wolves in sheep's clothing, causing grave damage to their flocks. The truth is, forgiveness does not mean restored to leadership. The truth is, all clergy are 100% responsible to keep healthy boundaries between themselves and those they serve. The truth is, clergy abuse happens in every state, every country, every denomination, religious and faith community. The truth is, the church rallies around the offender, leaving the offended alone in the pain of their abuse.

    Thank you for bringing attention to this horrible reality and for calling on 'whistle blowers' to rise up and seek justice and offer compassion.

    The church is falling apart, from the inside out, and we can work together to stop this trend and help the church become the safe place God desires it to be.

    • Mary Jo I like your no-nonsense, clear approach to this! I think on this issue we must give the trumpet a certain sound.

      • If this means to uplift the crucified/risen Savior, while following His careful instructions on dealing with the unrepentant in the church, yes.
        Still, I believe nothing can be done until God moves to purify His people as He has foretold.
        Perilous times!

    • The church "will appear as about to fall", and the reason is unconverted sinners which results in sinning. There is no way to stop this cycle without following the admonition of Jesus who invites each to "deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." Without accepting this remedy, people in positions of trust as well as anyone else are prone to sin in whatever besets them. There is no safety except as individuals seek refuge in Christ. Children are not to be trusted in any circumstances where anything could go wrong. This calls for the strictest vigilance on the part of parents. For consenting adults, they need only follow the admonition above and guard every word and action, with God's word as the lamp for their feet and light for their path. The problem exists because of unbelief, while faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

      The problem increases when direct action is not taken to deal with known transgressions since there is no desire to discipline the wrong regardless of who has committed it. God is not partial to persons and the church cannot be either. Yet, it's taking place constantly as many promote "unity" while looking the other way. "Only love" is promoted while wrongs go unaddressed or simply swept aside as if not significant enough to deal with. What can members do when the local conference no longer follows the world church in it's decisions, or refuses to adhere to the instructions to the church from Christ Himself?

      I believe the answer will come soon as shown in the prophecy of Isaiah 4.

  11. Again a very helpful article. There is hope for the abusers, if only they will turn to the Lord. Isaiah 30:15. There is healing for the abusers if they will repent. Isaiah 30:18-26. There is healing for the victom. Look to Christ and persevere in faith. Hebrews 12:2.
    After we study Matthew 18:6 we must go back to Matthew 5:23,24. And put that with Matthew 18:3.
    Then if no repentance, I do believe drowning would be removing him from the position he is in, Matthew 18:6.
    He would feel like to be drown would be better, in my humble opinion. What is repentance? Repentence is surrendering entirely your bad habits to Christ. See Christ object Lessons page 118.

    • John, thanks for telling it like it is. Gracious but not permissive, redemptive but not weak. There is hope for perpetrators, but only in the Lord.

  12. Thanks Jennifer, I've been called antagonistic, angry, and unforgiving, but I like your description. I think I'll use it from now on. ?

    Working with victims of clergy abuse, I hear the pain not only caused by spiritual leaders but also from being blamed and treated with contempt by the church. It sickens me that predators are replaced only to abuse again. It angers me that the church cares more about its reputation and finances more than the souls damaged by clergy.

    Pursuing the wounded and vulnerable sheep is horrific and shepherds who do so are enemies of God. They should be considered enemies of the church.

    It's difficult talking about this without being forceful. It is awful what is happening within religious and faith communities.

    On a more joyful vote, thank you for all you do for victims of clergy sexual abuse. God will continue to bless you and bring the truth to light.

    • And on the same joyful note, Mary Jo, thanks for what you obviously do. You're right, you have to be very black-and-white, very definitive, and a big pushy to deal justly with the outrage of abuse in a church environment!

      • Jennifer, thankyou for this opportunity to ask questions, and for sharing your knowledge and experience. My question relates to your above comment about having to be "...very black-and-white...". With your knowledge and experience you will know that very little in human cognizance and behavior is very black-and-white, though it would make everything much easier if it was! As you mention, there is a spectrum of complicity in these things, when referring to adults' behavior. Education is the key - for ministers, teachers, church leaders of any sort, and also of congregants who look to their leaders as "the vessel of the Holy Spirit", who is thus rendered as faultless and totally credible. He is also just a faulty human trying to do his job, in most cases, anyway. But, I agree, it has to STOP. Awareness and vigilance from both sides, and we certainly need to be praying constantly.

        • Nerina, I see what you're saying. I mention in the Pastors Who Prey article that there is a spectrum of abuse, with varying levels of complicity on the part of the victim. What I meant by black and white when I replied to Mary Jo, is that sex with congregants on the part of a pastors is always wrong, and always abuse, even if just abuse of his office. We have to be firm on that as often the positive sentiments toward the spiritual leader confuse our better judgement.

          • We don't like using definitive terms such as 'always' or 'never.' However, when it comes to power imbalance, we must use such terms and here's why.
            Anyone in the helping profession, and even more so with spiritual leaders, the helper is 100% responsible to keep healthy boundaries between themselves and those they serve because they are working with a vulnerable population. They hold power over those they are called to help. Even if, and it's a big if and very rare, but if a woman pursues her spiritual leader, he must not give in, similar to Joseph running from Potiphar's wife. The person in charge, the leader, the shepherd, the man wielding the power, he is the one responsible to be sure he cares for and protects the ones he is serving. He must never use his position to seek someone under his care. Never.

  13. As an educator I am a mandated reporter by law to report any abuse done against a minor, even if the perpetrator holds any position in the church, including pastors. So my questions is: Don't the persons who are supervisors/bosses in the conference offices across this country/world also function as mandated reporters in cases of abuse? Why is that not regular protocol? And in our church schools as well? It has been sad to watch multiple cases over the years where this was not reported and the abuse continued or the abuser was moved and then continued. We really cannot condemn the Catholic church on this as it is too prevalent in our own. And in these kinds of crimes we only know of the ones reported, but many many more are often unreported. Thank you for identifying the elephant in the room (or church). Great article!!

    • Perhaps administrators feel it is okay to break the law "to protect the church" - all "in the name of the Lord," you understand.

      Some may genuinely feel that it was a "one-time mistake" and a bit of counsel and a new position will "fix" the problem. Since we have historically not talked about sexual issues in the church, the problem has been allowed to fester. It is best to let the sunshine in and be open about this.

    • Debra, Great questions. Yes, all who work for the church are mandated reporters. MR laws have come into the picture over the last 10 years or so. I believe they're state laws but that all the states have them. They may be federal. Not sure. But anyway, when you'd hear about child abuse being ignored or covered up in the church, it was generally years ago. It may still happen, but less often simply because there is a legal penalty attached. It's sad that it takes that to get us to do the right things, but whatever.

      What I'm primarily addressing in these articles is adult on adult abuse. Most of us understand that child abuse is wrong. In fact, the church has increasingly effective reporting policies in place with free legal support for victims, etc. But we tend to see adult on adult abuse as "well, she consented." I'm arguing that the power differential between pastor and parishioner make that abuse as well. I see it along a spectrum, with actual forcible rape at one end and consensual sex at the other. The whole spectrum is abuse, but there are varying degrees of complicity on the part of the victim.

      Legally, adult on adult abuse can be sexually harassment, so is in some cases still prosecutable. But that tends to be harder once the person is over the age of consent. Still, the church should punish it because the spiritual leader is in all cases abusing his office and in some cases abusing the person as well. Hope that helps. Peace and thanks for your concern.

      • Yes, there again is the "spectrum". This is a new subject for me, so I'm wondering if there are any stats within the SDA Church to give one an idea of prevalence - and incidence... of abuse between adults, especially. I'm shocked that in my whole life (63 years)in the SDA Church I have never heard of this, or maybe that's because I'm hearing now about affairs called by another name? I've certainly heard of "affairs", but I agree that with the power differential it certainly does throw a different light on so-called "affairs". The damage to the faith of the victim, her/his family, and the congregation, is probably the worst of the consequences...

        • Hi Nerina,

          Yes, I teach a spectrum. Say, for instance, a 35 year-old woman with a strong personality seduces a weak-minded, inexperienced, 30 year-old pastor. That woman would hold more responsibility in the situation than a 19 year-old, naive woman whose older pastor manipulates her into sex. I try to exercise some common sense and insight into these things. But in the latter situations and situations similar, it isn't an affair. It's abuse, abuse of power and abuse of the office of pastor. To call it an affair ignores the power imbalance and the greater responsibility that rests on the leader. Thanks for your comment--it was right on the money!

  14. Hi Jennifer, You are doing a marvelous job in stimulating such a timely discussion.The world has sunk it's ugly teeth into the neck of God's people in so many ways,especially through media/modern technology. Many of us have have been so distracted that we have taken our eyes of God and wandering aimlessly after the treasures of this world, resulting in holding on to worldly pleasures in one hand, and trying to hold on to heaven with the other. Eventually the devil will expose us to utter shame and disgrace, hoping to destroy all our hope in God.

    We have just have to Guard the avenues of our minds in Christ lest we all perish. One way or another. Our wisdom and strength is nothing compare to Satan's, we often forget that he is the fourth most powerful being in the universe, one who is wily enough to cause deception, and war in HOLY heaven, who can only be defeated by THE POWER OF GOD DWELLING IN US. All these problems, abusers and victims alike, are a part of his strategy to destroy more of God's people.
    Yes, we are all accountable for the things we do, good or bad, but too often we see the people who are all pawns in his hands, and not Satan for who he is. This is The Great Controversy/ The spiritual battle for our souls. May God Help us all! BUT THERE IS HOPE!

    If we turn our eyes upon Jesus! The more time we spend with Jesus...the less attractive this world appear.
    Finally, the world is busy educating us to be tolerant sin/immorality in every form even many of our children are being morally desensitized in schools.
    What are we doing as a church? Too many important topics...this one included are still off the books.
    It would be great to have discussions such as this in all our churches...just sayin.
    You are doing a great job!

    • Devon, thanks for the encouragement. I would love nothing more than that our churches would be able to discuss this in a frank, open, redemptive manner. I believe that grass roots can do a lot to swing culture and so I've taken to writing on this topic, hoping to do my part. Thanks for doing your part as well!

  15. Dear Jennifer:

    Thanks for this important, under acknowledged, critical discussion. I immediately sent this link to a friend who was abused in academy by a pastor who taught there. She has, since, left the church, and is an activist on these issues.

    A question, please: 1) How did your postscript turn out?


    • Harold, I'm so sorry to hear what happened to your friend. God will purify His people and some of those who've gone away will return. But until then, the lion's share of the burden is on those who failed them.

  16. Mary Jo, I agree. It's always the responsibility of the helper to maintain boundaries. Thanks again for the clarity. When we fail to believe this, we get lost in the muck of moral ambiguity.


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