Overturning tables: taking on abuse in Churches & religious organisations

This morning I read Nancy Beach’s description of the final outcome at Willow Creek Church: “Nancy Beach: A Voice of Wisdom”. I found myself, once again, facing the anger at the injustices that happen within churches and missions! I wrote about this in February of this year, when NBC had a segment dealing with the abuse that happened in New Tribes Mission: Shadows of the Past.

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The thought that came to me this morning as I read Nancy’s article was

Why does it continue to be more important to protect “the church” than it is to protect the victims? For example, in the Willow Creek case, one of the complaints by leadership (towards the victims), even in their apologies was:

It doesn’t matter how small or large the institution is — the knee-jerk reaction appears to be to protect the institution!

Apparently, it’s not a new problem.

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Jesus Cleanses the Temple

In some depictions — Jesus even uses a whip (at least to get the sheep and oxen out of the temple!).

Social injustice had become normal in the temple — the part of the temple where the sales were being made was the Court of the Gentiles. This means that the Gentiles no longer had a place within the temple to gather and worship! Their part of the temple had been replaced with money making!

There is also historical evidence that points to collusion between the temple and the rich, who allowed lending to the poor to take place within the temple. This involved the poor losing their land to the rich! There was both economic and religious business taking place in the temple grounds.

What does this have to do with “overturning tables”?

Jesus came into the courtyard and upset the status quo — changed the balance of power and the attention of the people. He obviously questions the authority of those in power within “the church” — questioning their motives and the outcomes.

What was the power structure in Jewish society at the time — especially as it involved the temple? How did the overturning of the tables impact this power structure?

So — what tables need turning now within our churches?

For starters — the tables on which it’s more important to hide the truth than it is to admit that people (pastors, elders or other members) have used the church and their positions of power to do wrong!

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Why is it that we are protecting men in power against women and children who have been victimised?

How is this any different from what God calls for in Isaiah 58?

What are the chains of injustice that need to be loosed today in our churches? How do we set free the oppressed — those who have been abused, harassed and then scorned by their very congregations because they dared to say “this is wrong”?

Which children and women have been left naked by the investigations that failed to clothe them?

How many more church members will be turned away?

The Truth will set you free!

Our churches need to be rebuilt!

Jesus said that he would tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days — maybe that needs to happen again within churches! Tear down the concern about preserving the financial viability of the church and start to really feel compassion for others!

Compassion for those who have been victimised by those in powerful places.

Victimised by the very structure of the church that allowed it to happen and then failed to respond when it was reported!

It saddens me to think that Christians are still more concerned with the financial ramifications of accepting the truth (the threat of lawsuits) than they are about the truth setting everyone free!

It becomes obvious when the lawyers have written the statements and press releases! Carefully couched language and failure to admit any wrongdoing that might have economic repercussions.

Is this really serving God?

Or does it simply serve human ends?

Perhaps it’s time to tear those buildings down and return to the grassroots of Christianity!

Perhaps we need Jesus to overturn the tables and upset the status quo.

blogger, coach, and international law consultant. Writing about faith, growth, transformation & change.

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