Making Lemonade out of Lemons

In light of the Penn State scandal, how can we as churches ensure that this will not happen in our own congregations? I know that a very similar situation occurred in the church I grew up in. ... From my travels, I've seen numerous similar situations. This is not meant to be a blame game and pointing fingers. I would like to see this topic discuss constructive ways to prevent these scandals from occurring.

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rogercarlson's picture

I think this is a good idea (to discuss this). It is easy to say, I would report this, but it often goes unreported. Even (and some would argue) especially in our circles. So, how do we encourage each other to make certain we are doing right in these situations?

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

ppayette's picture

I have often thought that when a crime like the one at Penn State happens, society gets so caught up in wanting to punish anyone who did not follow up on reports, didn't do enough, ignored signals that may have prevented it from ocurring in the first place, that we lose sight of the person who actually committed the crime, and the victim(s) who suffered and dilute our anger at the actual perpetrator.

In the Penn State case, I would bet that you could interview 50 people at random and the majority would know about Joe Paterno, but fewer would recognize the name Jerry Sandusky who actually committed the crimes.

You will read statements from many who say things like "...well I'll tell you what I would have done", or "...I would have gone in and beat the tar out of the guy in the shower if I had seen what he was doing", or "...I would have gone to the press and to the police and not rested until he was locked up". The truth is, most people cannot say how they would react in a situation until they are faced with it. It is much easier to say post event, what you would have done...but would you have? I'm sure each one of us can think of events in our lives that looking back, we wish we we had handled differently.

I believe and I would like to place myself in the "...I would have gone in and beat the tar out of the guy in the shower if I had seen what he was doing" group. However, when one is faced with the actual shock of witnessing something first hand...

People do not always react the way we think they should. That's because they are PEOPLE with fears and failings like everyone else. I also think that after having time to think about it, as is the case with Joe Paterno, he has many regrets over his handling of the matter.

In this matter as with others, let's never lose focus on the sin of the person who committed these heinous crimes.

rogercarlson's picture

ppayette,

That is true. I think though getting at the heart of what Grace is saying is how do we (especially pastors like me) make sure we do right in these situations. I think one of the problems that happens is we do want to deal with sin, but we struggle in dealing with sin when the one sinning is in leadership. We tend to be close with our church leaders, so we may go overboard on the benefit of the doubt. Another thing that I have found is that the "protect the ministry" attitude is sometimes above all things. I know of instances where kids were raped by school staff. The pastor and the victims parents decided to let the staff member go quietly as long as he/she promised not to do it again, so the ministry would avoid a public scandal. Not only do I find that incredible, it violates Biblical principle - Joshua would have rather let Achan go than a public stoning. yet Proverbs does tell us "whoever covers their sin will not prosper." I think another issue is that we as pastors feel we failed personally when someone we recommeded for leadership is a monster. So rather than deal with the sin, we sweep it under the rug.

Some random thoughts. I will comment as I have time. But my schedule is so full now.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Rachel L.'s picture

Quote:
society gets so caught up in wanting to punish anyone who did not follow up on reports, didn't do enough, ignored signals that may have prevented it from ocurring in the first place, that we lose sight of the person who actually committed the crime, and the victim(s) who suffered and dilute our anger at the actual perpetrator.

I think that the reason that society extensively discusses the "witnesses" rather than the perpetrator is a very, very simple one. Society realizes that any of us could witness or gain knowledge of such a crime, while almost none of us can fathom being the actual perpetrator. It is quite natural for society to examine itself and focus on those "like us" in a crime like this. It is a healthy exercise to examine ourselves, and not a sign that we have "los[t ] focus on the sin of the person who committed these heinous crimes."

BryanBice's picture

ppayette wrote:
I have often thought that when a crime like the one at Penn State happens, society gets so caught up in wanting to punish anyone who did not follow up on reports, didn't do enough, ignored signals that may have prevented it from ocurring in the first place, that we lose sight of the person who actually committed the crime, and the victim(s) who suffered and dilute our anger at the actual perpetrator.

In the Penn State case, I would bet that you could interview 50 people at random and the majority would know about Joe Paterno, but fewer would recognize the name Jerry Sandusky who actually committed the crimes.

You will read statements from many who say things like "...well I'll tell you what I would have done", or "...I would have gone in and beat the tar out of the guy in the shower if I had seen what he was doing", or "...I would have gone to the press and to the police and not rested until he was locked up". The truth is, most people cannot say how they would react in a situation until they are faced with it. It is much easier to say post event, what you would have done...but would you have? I'm sure each one of us can think of events in our lives that looking back, we wish we we had handled differently.

I believe and I would like to place myself in the "...I would have gone in and beat the tar out of the guy in the shower if I had seen what he was doing" group. However, when one is faced with the actual shock of witnessing something first hand...

People do not always react the way we think they should. That's because they are PEOPLE with fears and failings like everyone else. I also think that after having time to think about it, as is the case with Joe Paterno, he has many regrets over his handling of the matter.

In this matter as with others, let's never lose focus on the sin of the person who committed these heinous crimes.

....but can we stick with the OP focus for this thread: what can church leaders do to avoid such scandals in the first place? I think a good starting point is to communicate publicly that our church has a zero tolerance policy for child abuse of any kind...that leadership will not hesitate to report abuse to civil authorities and see to it that they conduct a thorough investigation...that an unrepentant abuser will not be tolerated in the church...that a repentant abuser will submit himself to the civil authorities, accepting whatever consequences his crime entails...that we are far more concerned with compassion for the victim(s) and their family, with justice being carried out, and with corporate and personal integrity than we are with institutional image.

Well, those are starting point ideas anyway....

ppayette's picture

1. Anyone dealing with children is now the subject of a background check.
2. A security team has been put in place with written responsibilities. The security team is made up of former/ current police officers, risk management personnel, and other church members.
3. The written protocol for reporting suspected offenses is clear as to responsibilities.
4. No adult is ever to be alone in a closed area with a child...minimum of two adults required at all times.

Grace's picture

Mr. Payette, in the example I mentioned above, the reason I am focusing on the church/pastor's response to the situation is that there is already an active court case involving the perp.

Any of us involved in ministry will encounter this situation at some point. The question is, how will we handle it.

I agree with an above poster, that those in ministry can be treated differently when an allegation occurs. An example, is the pastor believing the word of a respected deacon, missionary, or school teacher over a minor child. What we must always remember is that it is not our place to be judge and jury. We report the facts to the police and let them determine the validity of the accusations. Another thing to remember is that abusers rarely look like abusers (or at least our stereotype of how we think they will look/act). Many times abusers are well respected in the community and do a lot of good work.

We must never let our opinions cloud our judgment and harm a child.

Rev Karl's picture

I have been licensed as a foster parent in the past. I have twice been licensed as an adoptive parent. I have served as an advocate on behalf of children who have been abused. I have been in situations where a foster child in my home was the victim of molestation, and I must ask the Lord for His forgiveness for the things I wanted to do to that perpetrator.

I have no confidence in policies or Child Welfare organizations. If I personally observe child molestation, my first and only call is 9-1-1.

Child Molestation is a crime: a felony. This is not a domestic disturbance. It is a crime. Report it as a crime.

Zero tolerance is a given. As mentioned above, confession, forgiveness and restoration are possible in the Spiritual Body of Christ. But one must be held responsible for the criminal acts they commit.

In the short run, the church may take a hit to its overall testimony because one of its members committed such a heinous act. But it will be exponentially worse for the testimony of the church, and the testimony of Jesus Christ in that church, if the crime is not dealt with immediately.