Keeping the Faith

Inaction of the Church in the Past Requires Apology, Love, Compassion Now

I am sorry.

I am so desperately sorry that fellow Christians have at times misrepresented Jesus by protecting people who sexually abused children. People who should have faced immediate investigation.

royal-commission-child-abuse-ucqThe Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is revealing a disgraceful culture of cover-ups in the Church and other institutions.

The victims, often nameless to protect identity, have shared stories from many decades past with the clarity and emotional wrench as if it happened yesterday. Such is the impact of sexual abuse on a child.

Confronted with such stories, I have grieved their suffering and the way my Lord Jesus has been so seriously misrepresented.

Jesus was a passionate advocate for children.

If you would like to know what Jesus’ thoughts are on child sex abuse, in no uncertain terms, read no further than Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

There is no grey area when it comes to Jesus’ heart for the welfare of children. And take note: Jesus made no special allowances for ‘men of the cloth’.

Indeed, the Bible urges us to respect the government and its laws.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves,” Romans 13:1-2 says.

The cover-ups of child abuse within the Church amounts to blasphemy – a complete and utter misrepresentation of who God is.

God is love.

Which is why the Church (capital ‘C’, the collective churches of Australia) should strongly support this commission. Not only support it but offer an apology for failing to demonstrate Christ-likeness.

Protecting children.

Upholding justice.

Obeying the laws of the land.

Ironically, in doing so the Church would clothe itself with a quality that Jesus coined: humility.

Some church leaders have already done this. It was the comments of Trevallyn Life Church pastor Matiu Chamberlin that prompted this article, and Tasmanian Anglican Bishop John Harrower has openly supported the commission.

He told the commission last week that he would like to see institutions looking beyond “fear of litigation… to be concerned for one another as human beings.”

This is where it’s at.

Fear of litigation standing in the way of “I’m sorry”.

The lack of “I’m sorry” standing in the way of a person’s healing.

This is an opportunity to bring everything out into the light, to find forgiveness in Christ and allow the full scrutiny of the law. It will happen anyway…

“What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:3)

Those affected by abuse have the harder task of extending forgiveness, a necessary step towards complete healing.

I encourage church leaders everywhere to decry the inaction of the Church in the past in an attempt at expediting this healing process.

The character of Jesus would be evident in such a step.

First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday December 1, 2014.