My father is a psychologist. He told me once that any church that has children in it and is not looking for signs of sexual abuse is asking from trouble.
I thought of this after I learned of Bob Jones University firing an investigator it had brought in to investigate sex abuse on its campus.
The story led me to this blog by Boz Tchividjian, a former child abuse prosecutor who writes about sexual abuse in the church and investigates it. Here is the message he delivers at the end of one of his recent blog posts:
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from this ruling has nothing to do with who is or who is not an “actual supervisor”. It has everything to do with the urgent need for the Church (Yes, I mean both Catholic and Protestant) to expend itself in placing the value and safety of children above all else, including institutional reputation.
If we fail to embrace this fundamental Gospel lesson, not only will there be more prosecutions (as there should be), but the beautiful lives of those made in the image of God will continue to be devastated and discarded. Jesus demands that we learn this lesson and begin living it out.
The United Methodist Church has formal policies and programs in place that are meant to protect children. Reading Tchividjian’s blog reminds me that these are not merely bureaucratic rules, but the living gospel.