Bernadine Irwin Brings #MeToo Movement To Adventist Church's Doorstep


(Spectrumbot) #1

One of the repercussions of this #MeToo moment in which we are living is that many survivors of sexual abuse have been forced to relive the trauma they have experienced. For Bernadine Irwin, that trauma took place on the campus of a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy within the Southwestern Union Conference. Please be advised that her story, which follows, includes accounts of sexual assault that may be disturbing for some readers.

On a mild October day in 1962, sixteen-year-old Bernadine Irwin had it out with God somewhere between Ozark Academy and the bridge where Dawn Hill East Road crosses Flint Creek two miles outside downtown Gentry, Arkansas.

“Where were you last night? God, where were you?”

She looked skyward, cheeks tear-streaked, and screamed, “What happened to your words, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you?’”

Only a month into her junior year at Ozark, Irwin had her childhood stripped away. She now contended with very grown-up anxieties: “Are you even real? When I needed you most, you weren’t there!”

The evening before, Irwin said, her dormitory dean sexually assaulted her in the dean’s private apartment attached to the dorm. (At Irwin’s request, this article withholds the name of the dean.)

Irwin described the assault this way:

She had insisted that I come to her apartment with her. I responded, "But [dean of women], I need to go now. I have a big geometry test in the morning, and I need to study for it." Her expression suddenly changed. She firmly said, "No! You are coming with me now. I'm going to show you something in my apartment." Her office in the dormitory was right next to her apartment, with just a door between. I felt a wave of fear as she firmly took my hand and led me into her apartment. She walked me past her living room and into her bedroom. She ordered me to lie down on her bed. I began to shiver, but I followed her instructions. She lay down beside me and firmly moved her body over mine. At that point it felt as though I were separated from my body. She began touching me where I had never been touched before. When I resisted she shouted, "Stop it! Lie still! You thought you were so good, but really you're just a slut. Lie quietly!"

She said that when the dean violated her completely, she began sobbing, resulting in her being struck by the dean.

“She responded by slapping me across the face and then shouted, ‘Slut! Slut! You're just a lump of shit! I should have known you'd be no good at this. Get out! Get out you piece of shit! If you ever tell anyone about this, I'll kill you. I will find you and kill you!’”

Irwin recalled that when she returned to her room, it was after 11:00 pm and her roommate was asleep.

“I crawled into my bed, put my pillow over my head, and sobbed until at last I fell into an exhausted sleep,” she said.

The account of the assault was corroborated by another former female student at Ozark Academy who alleged similar abuse by the same dean. The former student asked not to be named, but described herself as “a close classmate” of Irwin’s. In a telephone interview, she told me that she recounted seeing the dean taking female students by the hands and seeing female students sitting on the dean’s lap. On another occasion, she said that the dean forcibly kissed her. “It was not normal and felt uncomfortable,” she told me.

Irwin said the same thing happened to her the next time she was confronted by the dean alone.

“When I next encountered [the dean] in the dormitory hallway, she checked to be sure no one was around, then she grabbed me, kissed me on the lips and said, ‘Remember what I told you would happen if you say anything! I meant that!’”

Irwin recounted feeling confused about why a woman would kiss her and do the other things she says the dean did to her. She wondered whether something was wrong with her that would cause her dean to behave that way toward her. But she did not discuss the incident with anyone for several nightmarish weeks.

After that, the dean became very distant and hardly acknowledged Irwin, who said that another female friend began spending nights in the dean’s apartment subsequently.

One evening, while Irwin and the classmate with whom I spoke were reading On Becoming a Woman by Adventist anatomist and professor Harold Shryock, they put their stories together.

“As we read, we came across a passage which spoke of homosexuality,” Irwin recounted. “Neither of us had heard that term before, but she said, ‘I think I know someone like that. Today in the hallway [the dean] grabbed me and kissed me on the mouth. I hated it! Wasn't that weird?'"

Though Irwin was fearful to talk about what she endured, the details of her assault came spilling out. “I didn't fully tell how bad it was though because I sensed my roommate was horrified by what I did share,” Irwin said.

“We discussed the possibility that something even worse could be happening to our friend who was spending nights in [the dean's] apartment. I suddenly realized that I had to tell. We discussed who to tell, and decided we both trusted Mrs. Bob Schneider, the boys' dean's wife the most. The next day, we both met with Mrs. Schneider.”

The following day, the girls were asked to meet with Mrs. F. H. Hewitt, the wife of Ozark Academy’s principal. Mrs. Hewitt asked them to relate what had happened. After they gave their account, they were told the Board of Trustees would be meeting the following week, and Mrs. Hewitt told Irwin she would need to give her account to the Board.

“Mrs. Hewitt told us that since it seemed that the worst had happened to me, I would need to meet with the Board in front of [the dean].”

Hewitt informed Irwin that her parents had been called, and they planned to drive the 600 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska to Ozark Academy. Hewitt also said that a call had been made to the principal of Milo Academy in Day's Creek, Oregon, where the dean had served the previous year as an English teacher. Irwin recounted that Hewitt said “there had been suspicions” at Milo, but evidently nothing that warranted specific action.

In response to a request for comment, Milo Adventist Academy’s current principal Randy Thornton said, “Our records indicate that [the dean] was employed at Milo Academy for the 1961-62 school year as an English teacher. I have not been able to confirm any employment prior to this school year. Also, [she] was NOT employed at Milo as a dean.”

Irwin said the prospect of confronting both the Board and the dean in person left her feeling alone and scared. “I felt as if an avalanche were crashing down on me,” she said. “The thought that the entire Board would hear all of that and that I would have to face them in front of [the dean] was terrifying.”

On the day of the Board meeting, November 3, 1962, Irwin was called to the principal’s residence where she encountered the board and the dean in the living room of the home.

“As I entered the room, my entire body began to tremble,” she recalled. “When I was asked questions, I had to be told to speak up. My voice was quavering so much that it is a wonder that they understood me at all.”

She remembered seeing all the men seated in black suits with white shirts and black ties. “I recall that one of them said it was important to protect teachers and deans from students who might not like them,” she said.

Irwin said the worst moment of the meeting was when she looked into the dean's eyes. “There was nothing there but unadulterated hatred,” she said. “I could almost hear her repeating, ‘I’ll kill you if you tell.’”

According to records from the Southwestern Union Conference, the Ozark Academy Board voted on November 19, 1962 to terminate the dean. No criminal or civil charges were filed.

Speaking on behalf of the Union for this article, Communication Director Jessica Lozano said,

It is difficult to determine what protocol may have been in place 55 years ago to handle a situation such as this. We apologize to any individuals who have been hurt and affected because of this situation. If similar allegations were to arise today, we can confirm that they would be handled with the utmost urgency, importance, and sensitivity. The incident would immediately be reported to the local authorities and child protective services; an employee would be placed on immediate leave pending a determination of the incident; and if the legal investigation showed that the allegations were credible, the employee would be terminated and the reasons for termination would be placed in the personnel file.

After her termination, the dean returned to her home in Lincoln, Nebraska, which was also Irwin’s home town. The dean did not respond to numerous phone calls seeking her comment on the accounts reported in this story.

Irwin recalled being told that the dean sought out a lawyer in hopes of suing Irwin, which never happened. She also recalls that her parents raised the possibility of Irwin’s having to testify in court against the dean. “I told them I really hoped not to,” she said.

The assault had a profound impact on Irwin’s parents, especially her mother. “To my mother's dying day she never forgave herself for sending me to Ozark Academy. Although I always told her it certainly wasn't her fault, she still blamed herself for not protecting me.”

That summer Irwin’s family moved to Oregon where she went on to graduate from Laurelwood Academy. “Though that put thousands of miles between me and [the dean], I still had nightmares that she would show up and fulfill her promise to kill me,” she recounted.

Irwin said the trauma of what she endured also had a physical manifestation. “Prior to the assault, I had a nice complexion. After the incident I developed a case of severe cystic acne so bad that it looked for a while as if I had oozing boils on my face.” She said she remembered feeling that now she was becoming just as ugly on the outside as she felt on the inside. “Over the years I have had multiple surgeries in an effort to modify the scarring,” she said.

Recovering from one of several surgeries, Bernadine Irwin is seen with her dog, whose head is also wrapped in solidarity.

Irwin said that the assault she experienced at age 16 marked a turning point in her life. Years spent dealing with the traumatic stress from those events led her to identify with the abused and the marginalized. “I coped by intimately identifying with those in our society who, in my opinion as a clinical psychologist, are the greatest victims, namely, the homeless, the gang kids and the mentally ill.”

Irwin pursued nursing at Walla Walla College and then chose a Master's degree in Psych/Mental Health Nursing in order to better understand vulnerable populations.

“While studying at Loma Linda University toward my M.S., I worked what was known at the time as ‘the back wards’ at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, California. That was where the ‘hopelessly mentally ill’ were housed,” she said.

During her time working with Patton’s “hopeless” patients, through “total commitment to listen to others wounds from the standpoint of love, compassion and hope,” she was able to make significant inroads.

In 1972 Irwin graduated with an M.S. In Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing from Loma Linda University, followed by both clinical practice and teaching at Walla Walla University from 1972-1974. From 1974-1977 she taught at Southern Adventist University. In 1984, Irwin received a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology with a subspecialty in teens and addictions from United States International University.

“I chose the doctorate I did and both the teaching and therapy practice I have out of my commitment to do what Viktor Frankl so aptly describes as finding transformational meaning in tragedy,” she said.

Irwin also taught at Loma Linda University for thirty-three years, where she came in contact with thousands of Seventh-day Adventist students.

Irwin’s Ozark Academy dean went on to teach again in the Adventist educational system at College View Academy in Lincoln, Nebraska several decades after her departure from Ozark. She taught in public schools in the intervening years.

Asked to comment on her employment at College View, current College View Academy Principal Brian Carlson said, “According to records, [she] was employed part-time at College View Academy between 1999-2003. Her duties included teaching, counseling, guidance, and testing.”

Concerning whether information regarding the dean’s dismissal from Ozark would have been made available to other prospective Adventist employers, potentially preventing her being hired, Carlson said, “I have no information about what was provided or not provided at the time of her hiring at College View Academy.”

All of the principals and administrators with whom I spoke for this story uniformly stated that the Adventist institutions do not tolerate sexual harassment and assault on Adventist campuses and pointed to written policies regarding the handling of allegations of assault.

Ozark Adventist Academy Principal Mike Dale during a phone conversation reiterated that Ozark has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment and directed me to the Southwest Union code of conduct. Dale noted employees’ responsibility to immediately report any abuse.

Randy Thornton referred me to the language in Milo’s handbook regarding sexual harassment:

Milo Adventist Academy will not tolerate acts of sexual harassment, nor will we tolerate retaliatory behavior in response to a complaint of harassment. In like manner, false claims of sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Such actions will result in a timely review and if warranted, disciplinary action. Students or staff who suspect or experience sexual harassment should report it immediately to the administration or any staff member. Further, Milo affirms the governing policy of the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) Education Code on this topic which we acknowledge and reprint in the Staff Handbook. A copy of this policy can be found here.

Brian Carlson said, “At College View Academy we deal with all reports of sexual harassment or assault in a swift manner and direct them to the appropriate authorities.”

The Southwestern Adventist Union Conference said,

The Seventh-day Adventist Church strongly denounces this type of behavior, particularly within the context of membership and employment. It is of vital importance that our children and vulnerable members be protected, and we work diligently to avoid the potential of these situations within our churches and schools. Our hearts go out to victims of this type of assault and we welcome dialogue with those affected to ensure that they are properly supported and provided with appropriate counseling.

Even with strongly-worded policies regarding sexual harassment in place, there have been acknowledgements that abuse still occurs and there is more to be done.

In a recent article for the Adventist Review titled "Predators in the Pews," David Fournier, chief client officer for Adventist Risk Management, wrote about sexual abuse within the Adventist Church. Fournier said that ARM, which handles most of the claims brought against church entities involving accusations of abuse, has responded to approximately 160 sex abuse claims over the past decade. Fournier cautioned that “many cases go undetected or unreported to ARM because not all instances of sexual abuse become claims.”

Fournier discussed ways the Adventist Risk Management and other entities have worked to mitigate abuse within the Adventist denomination, and especially to keep children safe. He concluded, “Despite these good efforts, there is yet room for us to grow in how we process and react when any type of abuse is suspected or discovered.”

Irwin, who now serves as the founding president of Freedom To Be - The George Irwin Foundation, said that over the course of her professional life (she is also a licensed equine therapist who works with at risk teens), she has witnessed hundreds of stories of abuse, including within the Adventist community. “The stories I have heard over the years have been totally horrendous!” she said. Irwin’s interest in the #MeToo Movement has stemmed from “multigenerational sexual abuse within Adventism” that she has encountered.

Many victims of sexual abuse have been hesitant to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse in large part because they have not been taken seriously, especially within faith communities. In November 2017, Emily Joy and Hannah Paasch introduced the hashtag #ChurchToo in order to call attention to the problem within Christianity.

“In practically every situation I have come across,” Irwin said of abuse within the church, “the victim is either not believed, or the perpetration is minimized and the perpetrator has stayed within the church's employment, with their criminal actions being further buried by them being moved to a different school or church or conference,” she said.

“There has been a ‘Big Boy's Club,’ with church administrators often covering for each other and saying such things as, ‘That was so horrible what so and so said about you when we all know what a godly person you are.’”

Even in the few cases that have gone to court, Irwin said that it is often other church leaders who have stood up and said the accusations are false. “In a case in Indiana the church even paid the legal fees of the perpetrator.”

Many victims of abuse in religious contexts have left their faith communities. I asked Irwin whether she ever thought of leaving the Adventist Church. She said that while she understands why many victims of sexual and religious abuse have chosen to have nothing more to do with their faith communities, “probably up to now I've stayed because of the brand of Adventism I grew up in. I am a fourth generation Adventist, and my own family were primarily unconditionally loving, and opposed to legalism.”

Irwin also cited her parents’ advocacy for her following the assault and “the abundance of multigenerational friends” she has had in each of the places she has lived as reasons her faith stayed in tact. “It's true that while I grieve the devastation of what I've described here, I also love my church. This love I hold in some respects both makes my anguish more acute and also my determination to evoke change more committed.”

Regarding what she hopes to see happen, Irwin said that her commitment is twofold: “I would like to reach out and be an advocate for victims, and I hope to transform the Adventist Church’s response to perpetrators of sexual violence and their victims.”

She has created a private Facebook group, Addressing Abuse in Adventism, for survivors of sexual abuse within the Adventist Church. She said her goal is to provide a place where they can be heard and to connect survivors with resources.

Jared Wright is a News Correspondent for SpectrumMagazine.org.

Title Image: Bernadine Irwin from Ozark Academy's Annual, The Flintonian. Left, in 1961 prior to the events described in this article and right, in 1963 following the incidents.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8622

(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #2

Our boarding academies are ripe for this potential abusive situation.
Although I am very aware that abuse has equally occurred in our day academies. Are our faculty appropriately screened ??

We take our very young vulnerable, cloistered teens, away from their protective parents and familiar home environment, and send them far afield to fend for themselves.

Our boarding academies should be closed, shuttered, shut down.

Teenagers do better when they are in their own family with their siblings and loving parents. In only a few situations where the family is very dysfunctional, would teenagers be better off in an alternative environment.


(Steven Johnson) #3

I wonder did the schools share information. They allowed this lady to continue going
from school to school during this. I hope in the future they will do a better job.


(Winona Winkler Wendth) #4

What do you mean by “lady”?


(Winona Winkler Wendth) #5

This is heartbreaking and enraging. And some of the problem (then) came down to “She remembered seeing all the men seated in black suits with white shirts and black ties.” And “It is difficult to determine what protocol may have been in place 55 years ago to handle a situation such as this.” No, it’s not that difficult, at all. Had this been a more “traditional” rape, there would have been protocols, and what seems to have short-circuited the group is that this was not an abuse of a “normal” relationship between the sexes, but one that was outside the pale of male-female social relations, to begin with. Further, a group of men were the ones who weighed in on this, possibly thinking that "it could have been worse . . . "


(Don Roper) #6

Robin,
I’m thankful that families have options. My loving parents felt I would benefit from a boarding school experience. I had a great time there. Some kids didn’t. Sexual predators are in the local church too. Mine was a Pathfinder counselor. It would be a shame to close down boarding Academys over this, in my opinion.
I can’t say I have a high regard for the competency of Conferences and Unions to deal with the problem. Twenty years after my abuse I read in the Union paper that my abuser was being honored for his lifetime of service in Pathfindering. That prompted me to write a letter outlining my experience to church leadership. The only effect was, I received a phone call from the perp claiming he couldn’t remember anything like that ever happening, but if it did, he was sorry.
These days, Adventist churches in our conference try to mitigate future liability by having people go through online abuse education. Our local church actually tried to have the entire church membership do the screening.
In my untrained opinion that just educates the potential abuser how to avoid detection.
If the church wants to do something, it should start by actively listening to those who were abused, and stop acting like they are more worried about potential lawsuits. I hope they are doing a better job now on the former. But the current screening process fails miserably on the latter.


(Carolyn Parsons) #7

This is a heartbreaking story but it ends with MS Irwin making the very best of a horrific act of abuse and cruelty. When I speak of abuse I am also speaking about the response from the institution to her report of abuse. Being required to confront a bunch of men in suites is adding to her abuse.

Times have changed and now everyone who has contact with teens in an official capacity should go through a thorough background check. I cook at a residential house for teens making their way into sobriety. It is also an alternative high school. Everyone who works there in any capacity has had a background check and agrees to follow strict guidelines in dealing with young people. If a church institution doesn’t do the same, I would think their liability insurance should be revoked.


(Andrew Dykstra) #8

This story is horrifying, especially because it took place in such a time of ignorance. It is completely unacceptable to protect the careers of teachers/deans while putting at risk the lives of vulnerable children.

Stories like this cause me great anguish because while they are true, they risk hurting another group too.

On Becoming A Woman had its equivalent for men. I believe it was that book that caused a friend of mine to be mortified, unable to accept that he was gay because In that textbook for young people, gay people were represented as sexual predators. He knew for sure he was not. The vast majority of sexual predators are heterosexual. I read these stories with anguish because our denomination has not yet clearly differentiated between the two. Silence is unacceptable. As long as the two are conflated, our church will never be safe for LGBT people. It should be safe for all.


(Jared Wright) #9

Thank you for raising the points you do, Andrew. This is important. The Adventist Church has come a long way in its understanding of homosexuality since the publishing of Shryock’s books, but still has a long way to go. Conflating same-gender attraction / relationships with predatory behavior is factually wrong and it is highly irresponsible.

And you’re right, both the #MeToo Movement in broad terms, and data on sexual violence in more specific terms demonstrate that heterosexual males are more likely to be perpetrators of sexual violence than any other group. See for instance the data presented here.


(John Carson) #10

Sorry, but that’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve read in quite some time. How many times over the decades did young people bring to someone’s attention the fact that they’d been sexually assaulted by a trusted member of the community and it all got swept under the rug, the victim blamed, or simply ignored?

The gender of the victim and the victimizer has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s a matter of ignorance, arrogance, and, above all, protecting the “good name” of whatever organization the assault occurred in.

@Lucky ~ Don, Boarding academies are little more than an abdication of parental responsibility for raising their child. The only scenario where this should be an acceptable alternative within western civilization would be the case where the parents ability or willingness to properly parent the young person is in question. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.


(Sam Matthews) #11

Ms. Winkler Wendth has written on another Adventist independent journalism website about a situation involving a female teacher at an Academy in Massachusetts who has been investigated for an alleged impropriety involving encouraging female students to swim nude in a lake for “hygiene” reasons. There was a male teacher who has been dismissed this year from the same school and the female teacher remains employed having apparently been found to have done nothing wrong. Perhaps nothing untoward occurred but as a citizen of the real world I have my doubts to the extent that I would remove my student from any school where a teacher with that lack of propriety remains employed.

These kinds of situations raised in this story and in the Massachusetts case are of great concern to the LGBTQ community as they paint us in a bad light. Recent developments and the long-standing pattern of abuse is a major reason why I cannot recommend that parents allow their children to spend overnights with these teachers. The prospect of a teenage girl being forced to meet her accuser in a room full of men in church rather than in a court of law is repulsive. It seems that this situation of 55 years ago has been repeated as recently as this year in Massachusetts. Perhaps it is happening now in secret.

Please, for the love of God, protect the children.


#12

About 20 years ago, when I lived in another conference area, my 2 older children were in Pathfinders. One of the Pathfinders father ended in jail for molestation of Pathfinders. You could see that he was of the world, …car clothes, talk. I labeled him CARNAL.

I have contempt for many leaders/pastors.teachers in the Adventist group because they do not promote spirituality.

I identify with Jesus , not the institution. I can spot in articles & replies the conventional/ institutional minded by the use of 1st person plural (“WE”). I have ranted and repeated so many times on this site about the shallow, phony lip service experience of members, who have never read the whole bible, don’t read the SS lesson and are stuck in a lip service , pretend, weekend warrior attitude.
I consider them a 5th column, enemy of the cross/Jesus.
It takes just moments to feel them out by their words.

“They are of the world. That is why they speak from the world’s perspective, and the world listens to them.” 1 JN 4:5

If one has a very limited “church” devotional life, they will be victims and offenders of the perverted depraved, secular, sex & violence American media /entertainment culture.
God & the bible are basically ANTI-nationalistic cultures.

Side bar: Pastors & conference officials need to make sure they take a college level critical thinking course.

To me this is typical Adventist lingo/thinking. When one does due diligence with analysis, the conclusion is not what is posted here. I do not agree with the “horrified” experience of the staff. I sense reactive processes instead of proactive ones. This is a quality control issue and is pathetic due to apathy and lack of training. Finally, the “devil made me do it” is just a blame shifting, institutional fanatic assessment.

What made the dean in the article so perverted & depraved? Satan?
She was not in control of her thoughts and environment?


#13

This is very common place in the Adventist Church. I know of at least three pedophiles who worked at the academy I went to. One was teacher. When he was busted he was just sent to another state to work with kids. Another pedophile was a Pathfinder leader. All the adults knew about it but nothing was done. The church is more worried about their reputation then protecting innocent kids.


(Roma) #14

I grew up in one of our Academy settings. I know that abuse happens because sin exists in this world and we cannot be protected from it. This does not advocate our responsibility for trying to protect against it, but it does have to be factored into our consideration. Furthermore, boarding school isn’t just a way for parents to advocate responsibility, but a way for them to give christian education that could not be found within the community. It was given as a loving way to ensure they met God, developed other strong christian relationships, and in many cases to ensure companions were of like minds.

I too was abused. I know it first hand and it is not easy to find healing, but I would never blame the conference or school. They did the best with the tools they had to work with. When they would find out things, they were as horrified as those who lived through the abuse. Lay the blame at where it should be, the feet of Satan himself. God has freed us laying his own life down and someday he will cleanse the world of all sin. Only then can be experience a life where it will be safe for all. In the meantime, we do our best to safe guard what we have and we deal with the individual consequences when sin rears its ugly head.


(Bryan Ness) #15

Jared and @adykstra,

I suspect that LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to BE sexually abused as well. Pedophiles prey on those who are more vulnerable. LGBTQ+ young people are often marginalized, teased, bullied and are consequently often more lonely and have lower self-esteem than others. These are exactly the kinds of kids the pedophiles groom and abuse. This is all the more reason that the church needs to be more affirming and supportive of LGBTQ+ young people.

On a more general note, i am so appalled at cases like this. When sexual abuse occurs in a religious environment, the abuse becomes two-fold. It is sexual abuse and spiritual abuse combined. No wonder so many who are sexually abused in such contexts leave the church. This is all the more reason that we must become many times more diligent in screening anyone employed in a church related setting. Sexual abuse in any context is very damaging, and I know this as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself, but when it occurs in a church setting it can damage the spiritual part of a person even more deeply. My heart goes out to those who have experienced this kind of abuse. I keep being reminded of the verse in Matthew 18:6: ““If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” With strong words like this from Jesus, we must take more serious measures to protect our “little ones.”


(David Kendall) #16

I have often wondered about the hiring decisions made by conference officials at the academy I attended in the 1990s. In Jr. High and High School we went through something like four campus pastors in six years, nearly all for sexual misconduct. One even went to jail. As a teenager, I never understood if conference and academy administrations were simply incompetent or unlucky in their hiring decisions, or if the problem of sexual predation among the pastorate was so widespread that it was impossible to hire anyone who wasn’t a predator. Silly as that sounds, twenty years later I don’t have have many better answers. At any rate, it is no surprise to me that nearly no one from that era is involved in the church today.

Among the positive outcomes of the #MeToo movement is the shedding of light on things that many would prefer to remain hidden. While this is very uncomfortable for many who have the potentially noble aim of protecting the good name of the church, it is nothing compared to the discomfort, pain, betrayal, and horror experienced by those victimized by authorities who distorted the very face of God while under the charge to more fully reveal it. We can not use strong enough language to condemn this appalling breach of trust, or expend enough time, energy, resources, vigilance and political capital to expose and prevent it. This is not a call for a witch hunt; at times of change like these it is easy to bypass established processes in the name of exceptional circumstances. Those processes (assuming they are appropriate and effective) are necessary because the circumstances are extraordinary. We can afford to provide fairness and due process, but never as a cover for minimizing, dismissing or further enabling abuse. With the grace of God, those days may be coming to an end.

Pax,

David


(Elmer Cupino) #17

I often wonder why foster a defeatist attitude? It is not the church that perpetuates abuse but the evil “Big Boy’s Club” mentality that has infiltrated the church hierarchy for so long and unchecked. Leaving the church would only foster bad behavior on those guilty parties. Anything that dilutes its influence and power must be implemented by the church. A solid and viable starting point is to allow WO and then to strike fatally the head of the Male Headship which feeds into the false notion of entitlement. Entitlement and absence of empathy are the root of all abuses.


(George Tichy) #18

Ditto!!!
Any abusive behavior on the part of an adult toward a child is also based on CONTROL.

It’s interesting how many males yell so loudly to protect children from being controlled emotionally and sexually by pedophiles. I wish they would also yell loudly to protect the women’s right to be 100% human creatures.

The embarrassing anti-WO people, who so loudly defend/promote discrimination of women, should also learn that what they are doing is nothing but pursuing CONTROL over the female population in Church. They all should be sent to China for an internship with the female Chinese pastors…


(George Tichy) #19

Didn’t you mean “abuser” instead of “accuser?”

For a teenage girl it must be very difficult to meet an abuser in a court of law. But it must be much more difficult to meet the abuser in a room full of black suited church leaders or teachers (usually males?). It sends mixed messages on who is the abuser and who is the victim.


(John Carson) #20

It’s no easier for a teenage boy, George. Far too often we address this issue as occurring between male authority figures and female victims when in reality it’s between authority figures, both male and female and teenagers of any gender who are vulnerable and often very afraid.