I was blessed to attend the recent Restore 2022 Conference at Judson University. The subtitle, A Conference Restoring Faith in God and the Church, hinted at the truth that our society is experiencing right now – many people have lost faith in our loving God, because of abuse in the church and in the home. The conference was sponsored by The Roys Report, a faith-based, investigative journalistic group that exposes evil in Christian institutions and also provides hope and ways to heal from the abuse of power.
I heard nine presentations over the two-day event. Psychologists, doctors, professors, authors, survivors, advocates, and various ministry leaders all spoke honestly about the abuse of power within the church in these days. They were not afraid to name names and the reports included Christian ministries and mega-churches in our Chicagoland area, in Texas, in Oregon and across the nation. In the days since the conference, even the Southern Baptist Convention has admitted a reprehensible cover-up of church and sexual abuse hidden for decades.
Surely a scourge in the church, a stain by the enemy against the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What I heard repeatedly is that the root of abuse in the home and abuse in the church is the same…power and control, manipulation and deception.
Whether it is a pastor or a husband, an elder of a church or an older brother in our family, the abuse of power by a trusted individual against a vulnerable congregant, whether man, woman or child, is a plague across all levels of society and civilization. And God hates abuse.
Dr. Diane Langberg, a well-known psychologist and author who has spent nearly fifty years of clinical work with trauma victims spoke a word inspired by Ezekiel 34 that will stick with me forever…
“Shepherds are called to feed the flock, not feed ON the flock.”
I met several women at the conference who have experienced not only abuse in their homes, but abuse in their churches in the form of disbelief of their stories, minimization of their abusive situations and disregard/disrespect for their personhood. In most cases, their husbands were exalted because of their charm and role in the church leadership.
We were so blessed in our recent support group meeting when three of the women I met at the conference joined our circle of safety to share their stories and offer hope to the others.
There is hope in Christ. There is hope even in the midst of pain because evil is coming to light. Mushrooms of abuse hide in the dark, isolated places, but the Light of the Love of the Savior exposes the evil. There is hope of healing for whistle-blowers and victims because of the justice of Jesus. There is going to be a return to truth and transparency and accountability in the church. There will be restoration of faith because we serve a GREAT God.