The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse – how will the church cope?

church

The Australian Prime Minister has announced that there will be a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.  Whilst the scope of the commission will be broader than just the Christian Church, you can be sure that there will be substantial focus on abuse within church run institutions, as well as in the ordinary life of Christian congregations.

My friend Tim Hawkins has blogged here, with his usual insight, about the implications for the church.

For my own I think that this will be a major negative for the Christian Church.  Obviously the average citizen will not read the Commissioner’s final report.  But they will be exposed to occasional media coverage of the evidence, and the findings that are made.  That process will take many years.  There will be a steady drip of stories about people’s testimony, as well as more concentrated coverage when someone with a public profile gives their evidence.

I think that in the public mind the following conclusions will be drawn:

  1. That the leaders of the Christian Church are full of deviants and not to be trusted.  Even someone who has never set foot in a church knows that there are character qualifications to be in Christian leadership, as the scriptures make clear in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.
  2. The Catholic Church attracts sexual deviants because it demands that priests be celibate.  I think that this is probably already a belief held by a substantial percentage of the population.  The Royal Commission could well increase it.  Even though I am a Protestant myself, I can appreciate that heaps of good things have happened and are happening through the Catholic Church.  God is at work there.  However I don’t hesitate to say that an unmarried priesthood is an absurd and unscriptural thing.  The Catholic Church purports to hold that their Pope is in the office of bishop of Rome, first held by Saint Peter himself.  And yet Peter was married!  If it was good enough for Peter to be married, why not for his successor?
  3. The Christian Church in general cares more about its money and reputation than about children and the people it is meant to care about.  This is the inevitable conclusion to be drawn when tale after tale will be told of abuser priests being shuffled around from one church to another.  Much of this is already on the public record but giving it another airing will increase its impact on the public consciousness.

When you put all of that together I think that if you are sharing the gospel in Australia in 2022 then the average non-Christian will have a slightly higher level of resistance to dipping their toe into organised religion than what they do right now.

Child sexual abuse in obviously an awful sin.  That it happens anywhere, ever, is a work of Satan.  That it happens at the hand of Christian leaders is a double triumph for the enemy.  And for the enemy it is something that will ruin and scar the lives of not just the victims of the abuse themselves, but through the public airing that the Royal Commission will create it will harm the image and standing of the people of God.

Of course the church cannot complain about any fall in its standing or image – if that happens the church has no one to blame but itself.

But to end on a positive note, Jesus told his disciples, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  As we continue to serve God and spread his word the harvest will be brought in.  Because of God’s grace not even the evil deeds of various Christian leaders which will be exposed by this Royal Commission can stop that from happening.

John

2 Comments to “The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse – how will the church cope?”

  1. Here in Canada we deal with this constantly through ongoing court cases. But the solution is in the Bible verse you quote (Matthew 16:18). We (Followers of The Way) are the ones on the march, taking the battle to the walls and gates where Satan is holed up. All the things that happen in a church which go against Jesus’ teaching would be overwhelmed if Jesus’ people would do what Jesus ordered, “Go…make disciples”, not sit and stew or wait to defend the indefensible. Sorry, my tone is harsh, I think, because I am frustrated at congregations spending so much time on everything except our sole purpose – living as Good News ambassadors.
    That said, I still pray for God’s people in Australia for patience and courage through this. And that God will work it for good (Romans 8:28).

  2. And people thought I was too tough or strict on policy and protecting the kids. I say the church needs to get more serious about screening all workers and implementing policies that ensure children are protected whilst in their care. It is the Christian mandate to protect the young and vulnerable. It is sad that past practice has brought harm to children and disrepute to the church. We must learn from the past and change.

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