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The Book of Daniel: How to engage with God after abandonment by one’s faith community?

An ancient text applied to a modern problem – clergy sexual abuse

The sad reality is that many victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse are abandoned and shunned by their faith communities.

As a result, some lose their faith in God. Others still have faith in God, but don’t have a supportive community in which to pray for one another’s needs, read and reflect on Scripture, and to worship God with others.

This morning, I read a text written about 100 years before the birth of Jesus which has some parallels to the situation of those separated from their faith communities today.

The Book of Daniel

In the Book of Daniel, located within the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), we meet Daniel and his companions who have been deported to Babylon.

In this foreign land, they are not able to practice their religion fully, but attempts are made to force them to adopt the ways of the Greeks.

Daniel and his friends , limited as they are in their then current circumstances, manage to keep some elements of their faith practices together.

The Spiritual Needs of Victims/Survivors

In the case of victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse, the unkind, sometimes slanderous words of some leaders and lay members of faith communities are responsible for the exile. Victim blaming is much easier than engaging in a profound conversion of one’s heart and intellect to accept the truth of abusive clergy.

Contributing to the forced exile are those members of faith communities who are happy to pray for victims/survivors individually or as a faith community, but are not willing to reach out to survivors to assess what their spiritual needs are, or how to make it emotionally safe to attempt to reconnect to their faith communities.

The Invitation to Gather in Small Faith Groups

Although a number of support groups exist for victims/survivors, most do not offer a spiritual support component.

Daniel and his friends had each other. Many victims/survivors have no one.

I pray that small faith groups will be formed for those victims/survivors who still want to practice their faith with others.

I myself am considering offering monthly Zoom meetings for those who would like to pray with Scripture in a small group.

Let’s not wait until faith community leaders reach out to us. For now, let’s reach out to one another and find new ways to connect to God together.

#ChurchToo: Online Discussions Launch

In my decade or so of looking for church-based ministries to clergy sexual abuse survivors, I have yet to find such a ministry. Not only has clergy sexual abuse directly harmed the abused, but it has also harmed their families, friends and other members of faith communities.

There are professional treatment centers for abusers who are in the clergy: there are none, to my knowledge, for their victims. Instead, churches of many denominations sadly leave survivors to secular therapists and anonymous support groups for help.

Some survivors have had their faith lives shattered and feel no desire to engage with others in a Christian setting. Others still have faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible, but don’t feel welcome in a church setting due to their exposure of wrong-doing on the part of the offending pastors.

Not all survivors are able to attend clergy sexual abuse survivor support groups in person – particularly if they live in remote areas.

There appear to be a number of survivors who feel called to help prevent abuse and to help support healing in other survivors, but struggle to launch a ministry solely using their own limited resources.

To help people of goodwill – survivors, their supporters, church members – to pool expertise, experience, and human as well as other resources to map out a path towards prevention of abuse and high-quality support for those directly and indirectly affected by abuse, I am inviting people of such goodwill to join online discussions on related topics, such as sharing:

  • Your own efforts to launch a ministry related to clergy sexual abuse
  • How you are moving forward after having experienced clergy sexual abuse (or having had a loved one experience it). These groups can be for general participation or restricted to persons abused as children, persons abused as adults, and so on). At the moment, these are informal peer-level meetings. At some point, perhaps some qualified therapists can host their own discussions.
  • How you as a religious leader have been affected by wrong-doing on the part of your peers
  • How the Bible, prayer or other spiritual discipline may be helping you to persevere

A draft ‘vision’ of the effort is outlined on http://www.listeningplace.ca (when I have some more $’s, I’ll invest in a fancier website 🙂 ).

If you are interested in being part of these discussions, please contact me through http://www.listeningplace.ca .

Reaching out may take you out of your comfort zone – offering this effort certainly takes me out of mine. If you feel ready to take a step in working with others in this effort, please consider being in touch.