American Association of Christian Counselors
American Association of Christian Counselors

Evangelical Christians Release Historic Statement Regarding Sexual Abuse in the Church

Boz Tchividjian of G.R.A.C.E. Ministries

Recent allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-up relating to Sovereign Grace Ministries, and the subsequent public statements made regarding this tragic situation have distressed and alienated many professing Christians.

On July 17, 2013, individuals representing a wide spectrum of evangelical Christendom have joined together and released a powerful public statement entitled, A Public Statement Regarding Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ. Individuals ranging from Michael Reagan (son of former President Reagan), Paul Young (author of “The Shack”), Diane Langberg (clinical psychologist and author) Jonathan Merritt (faith and culture writer), and Julie Clinton (president of Extraordinary Women) are just some of the signers of the statement. “To my knowledge, this is the first major public statement by the evangelical world regarding the horrors of sexual abuse within the church and the dire need to begin addressing this in a manner that loves and serves those who have been so hurt. This is a historic moment in the life of the Church,” says Boz Tchividjian, the executive director of GRACE and one of the principal organizers of the statement.

The primary purpose of this historical statement is to acknowledge and confess that the evangelical Church has largely failed in understanding, preventing, and responding to sexual abuse within its midst and such has caused incalculable harm to so many, inside and outside of the Church. Mr. Tchividjian states, “The Church must do a much better job placing greater value upon individual souls than ministries and institutions. God expended Himself for the individual and we must ask Him to help us do likewise, especially when it comes to sexual abuse within the Church.” Tchividjian also hopes that this statement will open the door for a broad spectrum of Christians to begin dialoguing and working together in addressing sexual abuse in a comprehensive and informed manner. He goes on to say, “Christians will always have differing opinions on issues such as theology. However, the protection of children and the loving of those who have been abused is one thing that all of us can agree on and work together to address in a way that mirrors Jesus.”

The statement can be found posted HERE. (The text is also included below). The statement provides the opportunity for readers to add their names as an expression of support. If you would like more information or would like to schedule an interview with Mr. Tchividjian, please contact him at boz@netgrace.org.

 

A Public Statement Concerning

Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ

 

Recent allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up within a well known international ministry and subsequent public statements by several evangelical leaders have angered and distressed many, both inside and outside of the Church. These events expose the troubling reality that, far too often, the Church’s instincts are no different than from those of many other institutions, responding to such allegations by moving to protect her structures rather than her children. This is a longstanding problem in the Christian world, and we are deeply grieved by the failures of the American and global Church in responding to the issue of sexual abuse. We do not just believe we should do better; as those who claim the name of Jesus and the cause of the Gospel, we are convinced we must do better. In the hope that a time is coming when Christian leaders respond to all sexual abuse with outrage and courage, we offer this confession and declare the Good News of Jesus on behalf of the abused, ignored and forgotten.

Through the media we have been confronted with perpetual reports of grievous sexual abuse and its cover-up. Institutions ranging from the Catholic Church, various Protestant churches and missionary organizations, Penn State, Yeshiva University High School, the Boy Scouts, and all branches of our military have been rocked by allegations of abuse and of complicity in silencing the victims. And while many evangelical leaders have eagerly responded with outrage to those public scandals, we must now acknowledge long-silenced victims who are speaking out about sexual abuse in evangelical Christian institutions: schools, mission fields and churches, large and small. And we must confess we have done far too little to hear and help them.

Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Weisel, once said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim…silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” When we choose willful ignorance, inaction or neutrality in the face of evil, we participate in the survival of that evil. When clergy, school administrations, boards of directors, or military commanders have been silent or have covered up abuse, they have joined with those who perpetrate crimes against the “little ones” – often children, but also others who are on the underside of power because of size, age, position or authority.

It goes without saying that sexual abuse is criminal, but within the Church we also believe that it is the work of the enemy of our souls — evil, horrific sin perpetrated in dark and hidden places, forever altering lives and destroying the faith of the abused. How could such evil be present and overlooked in the body of Christ? Surely as his followers, we would do everything in our power to expose the deeds of darkness, opening the mouths of the mute, the afflicted and the needy. The Church must never hinder those who so desperately need to run to God and his people for safety, hope and truth, while also providing them protection from the great deceiver.

But we have hindered the victims. By our silence and our efforts to protect our names and institutions and “missions,” we, the body of Christ, have often sided with an enemy whose sole purpose is and has always been to destroy the Lamb of God and his presence in this world. Our busyness and inattention have often resulted in complicity in allowing dark places that shelter abuse to fester and survive.

We must face the truths of our own teachings: To be a shepherd in the body of Christ and blind to the knowledge that your sheep are being abused by wolves in your midst is to be an inattentive shepherd. To judge merely by outward appearances is a failure of righteousness. To fail to obey the laws of the land as Scripture commands by declining to report and expose abuse is to be a disobedient shepherd. To be told that wolves are devouring our lambs and fail to protect those lambs is to be a shepherd who sides with the wolves who hinder those same little ones from coming to Jesus. To fail to grasp the massive web of deception entangling an abuser and set him or her loose among the sheep is to be naïve about the very nature and power of sin. To be told a child is being or has been abused and to make excuses for failing to act is a diabolical misrepresentation of God. To know a woman is being raped or battered in hidden places and silence her or send her back is to align with those who live as enemies of our God. Protecting an institution or organization rather than a living, breathing lamb is to love ministry more than God and to value a human name or institution more than the peerless name of Jesus.

Dear church of Jesus Christ, we must set aside every agenda but one: to gently lead every man, woman and child into the arms of our Good Shepherd, who gave his very life to rescue us from the clutches of our enemy and from sin and death — who rose from the dead and called us to the safety of his side. As we follow this Good Shepherd, we will “eliminate harmful beasts from the land, make places of blessing for the sheep, deliver them from their enslavers and make them secure in places where no one will make them afraid” (Ezekiel 34:25-28).  Surely it is for such a time as this that the Church has been empowered to boldly and bravely embody the Good News to accusers and accused alike, and to forsake our own comfort and position to love the hurting with an illogical extravagance.

To all who have been abused, broken, deceived and ignored, we have failed you and our God. We repent for looking nothing like our Lord when we have silenced you, ignored you or moved away from you and then acted as if you were the problem. You are not the problem; you are the voice of our God calling his church to repentance and humility. Thank you for having the courage to speak truth. May God have mercy on us all and oh may the day come when his church reflects the indescribable love and compassion of Jesus, even to the point of laying down our lives for his precious sheep.

Dated this 17th day of July, 2013.

 

Click here to add your voice and sign this statement along with those listed below.

 

Carol Ajamian, Retired

 

Jim Arcieri

Pastor of Community Bible Fellowship Church in Red Hill, PA

 

William S. Barker

Professor of Church History, Emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA)

 

Steve Brown

Professor, Emeritus of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at Reformed Theological Seminary, President of Key Life Network, Inc., and Author

 

P. J. (“Flip”) Buys

Associate International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship, South Africa

 

Rebecca Campbell

Member of the Board of Trustees at Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Alan Chambers

Founder, Speak.Love

 

Kelly Clark

Attorney with the law firm of O’Donnell Clark and Crew, LLP in Portland, OR

 

Julie Clinton

President of Extraordinary Women

 

Tim Clinton

President of the American Association of Christian Counselors and Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care at Liberty University

 

Wentzel Coetzer

Professor of Theology at Northwest University (Potschefstroom, South Africa)

 

James Courtney

Ruling Elder at Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Rye, NY

 

Margaret Courtney

Co-Director of Family Ministries at Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Rye, NY

 

Glenn Davies

Bishop of North Sydney, Australia

 

D. Clair Davis

Chaplain at Redeemer Seminary

 

Chuck DeGroat

Associate Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care at Western Theological Seminary and Senior Fellow at Newbigin House

 

Mary DeMuth

Author and Blogger

 

David G. Dunbar

Professor of Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Diana S. Durrill

Pastor’s wife and Sexual abuse survivor

 

Michael J. Durrill

Pastor of Valley Community Church in Louisville, CO

 

William Edgar

Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA)

 

Rob Edwards

Pastor of Mercy Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Forest, VA

 

Mr. Rinaldo Lotti Filho

Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (Sao Paulo)

 

Elyse Fitzpatrick

Counselor and Author

 

Ryan Ferguson

Pastor of Community Connection at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC

 

E. Robert Geehan

Pastor of The Reformed Church in Poughkeepsie, NY (RCA)

 

Shannon Geiger

Counselor at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Dallas, TX

 

Douglas Green

Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA)

 

Fred Harrell, Sr.

Senior Pastor of City Church in San Francisco, CA

 

Robert Heerdt

Chief Investment Officer at BenefitWorks, Inc.

 

Walter Henegar

Senior Pastor of Atlanta Westside Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Atlanta, GA

 

Craig Higgins

Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Westchester County, NY and North American Regional Coordinator for the World Reformed Fellowship

 

Justin Holcomb

Author and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary

 

Lindsey Holcomb

Author and former case manager for sexual assault crisis center

 

Peter Hubbard

Pastor of Teaching at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC

 

Carolyn James

President of WhitbyForum

 

Frank James

President of Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Karen Jansson

Board member of the World Reformed Fellowship Board Member and Treasurer of the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund, USA

 

Kathy Koch

President and Founder of Celebrate Kids


Diane Langberg

Clinical Psychologist and Author

 

Daniel N. LaValla

Director of Library Services and Development Associate at Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Samuel Logan

International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship, President Emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), and Special Counsel to the President at Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Tremper Longman

Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College

 

Kin Yip Louie

Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at China Graduate School of Theology

 

Fergus Macdonald

Past President of the United Bible Societies (Scotland)

 

Todd Mangum

Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Dan McCartney

Professor of New Testament at Redeemer Seminary

 

Scot McKnight

Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary and Author

 

Jonathan Merritt

Faith and Culture writer

 

Pat Millen

Member of the Board of Trustees at Biblical Seminary

 

Philip Monroe

Professor of Counseling and Psychology at Biblical Theological Seminary

 

Amy Norvell

Director of Classical Conversations in Bryan/College Station, TX, Pastor’s wife, and Sexual abuse survivor

 

Thad Norvell

Pastor at Community Church in Bryan/College Station, TX

 

K. Eric Perrin

Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Cherry Hill, NJ

 

Michael Reagan

President of the Reagan Legacy Foundation

 

Matthew Redmond

Author

 

Nathan Rice

Director of Middle School Ministries at First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Bellevue, WA

 

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

 

Adam L Saenz

Clinical Psychologist and Author

 

Karen L. Sawyer

Vice Chair and Chair Elect of the Board of Trustees, Biblical Theological Seminary and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Arcadia University

 

Scotty Smith

Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN

 

Ron Scates

Preaching Pastor at Highland Park Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Dallas, Texas

 

Andrew J. Schmutzer

Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute

 

Chris Seay

Pastor at Ecclesia in Houston, TX

 

Mike Sloan

Associate Pastor at Old Peachtree Presbyterian Church in DuLuth, GA

 

Basyle J. Tchividjian

Executive Director, GRACE and Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law

 

Laura Thien

LMHC and Board Chairperson of the Julie Valentine Center in Greenville, SC

 

Jessica Thompson

Author

 

Rick Tyson

Senior Pastor at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Willow Grove, PA

 

John Williams

Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Washington Island, WI

 

John Wilson

Pastor in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Australia

 

William Paul Young

Author

 

 

 

 

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