A friend/reader sent me an article this morning and wow - the emotions - I got teary-eyed and a little excited reading it. This pastor GETS IT!! Lord, please let his voice speak LOUDLY about this issue. This is definitely an article to share. I encourage you to Tweet it, share it on Facebook, send it to your pastors and church leaders. I am highlighting a few paragraphs, but please read the whole article which is posted at the Gospel Coalition website.
Does Your Church Have Policies and Practices to Protect Against Pastoral Failures? by Thabiti Anyabwile
Remember the names Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, and Jack Schaap? Scandal among evangelical pastors has been so steady that wikipedia has a list of evangelical scandals.
While working on a chapter for an upcoming book, I had the blessing of researching the moral failures of several prominent church pastors. I say “blessing” because it was enlightening to observe some common dynamics and failures in the scandals. In most cases, men who should have been disqualified were back in their pulpits or establishing new ministries within months. In most cases, churches were seriously injured by the transgressions and hurt further by the inadequate efforts at redress. In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit. It was a sobering exercise.
DING, DING, DING: Did you read that sentence, " In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit. " BINGO!!!! We see this alarming pattern time and again. It is spiritual abandonment. The victim is hurt TWICE: once with the initial abuse and then by not being properly cared for or abandoned.
In the article, Anyabwile quotes a paragraph from researchers Diana R. Garland and Christen Argueta about grooming. It is excellent. Unfortunately, people who need help and are emotionally distraught are the ones most vulnerable for grooming. They are in a very weak place and of course, abusers can sense that weakness and in their sin, hone in on it:
Grooming includes expressions of admiration and concern, affectionate gestures and touching, talking about a shared project, and sharing of personal information (Carnes, 1997; see also Garland, 2006). Grooming may be gradual and subtle, desensitizing the congregant to increasingly inappropriate behavior while rewarding her for tolerance of that behavior. Offenders may use religious language to frame the relationship, such as “You are an answer to my prayer; I asked God for someone who can share my deepest thoughts, prayers, and needs and he sent me you” (Liberty, 2001, p. 85). Grooming is essentially seduction in a relationship in which a religious leader holds spiritual power over the congregant.
The final paragraph rightly concludes with a call to action. The author first acknowledges he has his own work to do at his church.
Does your staff, leadership team, elders and congregation have a set of practices and policies that help guard against the moral failure of leaders and to address it when it happened? After reading sifted through a fair number of recent articles and scandals, I’m freshly convinced I need to lead First Baptist’s leaders through discussions and proposals on this issue. The costs are too high to neglect with inattention.
Let us pray for the protection, wisdom, and sanctification of both church leaders and church members. Let us intercede against the schemes of the evil one. And let us be prepared to respond in cases of scandal with love and justice as defined by the scripture. Again, so much is at stake.