On Sunday I stated that the church should not be a place where people are made vulnerable because of harassment and abuse from others (often though not exclusively men) who use power to manipulate and control for their own personal gratification.
It is shocking and disturbing when we hear about situations where people feel – or are even told – that forgiveness means that they must stay quiet or where leaders get away with at most a gentle reprimand.
Here are some implications
1. Sexually inappropriate talk, crude talk, putting down of wives, daughters, girlfriends should be seen for what it is, wrong and sinful. How we talk about others is affected by how we view them but also will affect how we and others view and treat them. I recently read a report on one of the Westminster harassment cases. It had involved innuendo that had left women present feeling deeply uncomfortable. Some people commenting tried to excuse this first by playing on the double entendre – “Of course they meant …(innocent option) … how could anyone possible think they meant … (crude option) …” That’s absolute nonsense and everyone knows it. Secondly, they suggested that it was up to the women concerned to be more robust. My response to this is that people who like to be referred to as “Gentlemen” should know that no gentleman would intentionally seek to make a lady feel uncomfortable in his presence.
2. Safe-guarding policies are not a bureaucratic inconvenience but an essential way of seeking to love God, honour his name and care for his people. So never apologise for having them or adhering to them.
3. When a possible crime is committed don’t mess around. Make sure that it is reported to the police.
4. As I’ve stated before, bullies in churches need to be challenged head on.
5. Grace, forgiveness and restoration does not mean that consequences are avoided. For example, this means that where someone is guilty of sexual assault then grace and restoration does not mean they don’t go to the police and confess – in fact a willingness to do this is a vital sign of genuine repentance. Rather, it means that you go with them to help them take this step.