This piece is from 2014 but still worth reading and thinking about whether you want to belong to a church like the one Boz Tchividjian wants you to have. He tells the story about a church who hired a senior pastor knowing the man's status as a registered sex offender, and the pastor's eventual arrest for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy. He says, "This church just doesn't get it."
He gives us four pieces of advice.
1. “The allegations were false”: At the time he was hired, the pastor informed the church of his past conviction and claimed the allegations were false. Despite the fact that a court of law found sufficient evidence to convict this man of a sexual offense against a child, the church preferred to believe his words. I have seldom encountered child sexual abusers who did not claim that the allegations made against them were false. I even prosecuted cases where the defendant gave a full confession to law enforcement as he maintained his innocence to friends and family.It is true that some people lie about their charges. This is true of drug offenders, wire fraud offenders, bank robbers, murderers as well as sex offenders. It can be true of people who are deeply ashamed of what they did, as well.
It is also true that innocent people sometimes give full confessions and true that some innocent people have been convicted in a court of law. A court of law is not a holy temple to infallibility so reminding us that someone was convicted there carries less moral heft than it ought.
It is worth noting that Boz Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor, someone who certainly understands how easy it is to convict someone--anyone--charged with a sex offense. Since the majority of defendants accept a plea agreement instead of going to trial, a former prosecutor certainly knows that there is no need even to prove a case in order to convict.
He offers suggestions for ferreting out the truth about the offense:
Does he offer the same advice for people who encounter other former criminals?
- Review the court file....
- Speak with the investigator....
- Meet with the probation officer....
2. “Everybody has a past”: All too often scripture is distorted in order to justify the blind embracing of those who have sexually victimized children. Though the interim pastor proudly states, “We are firm believers in the Bible”, he provides no scriptural basis for his “belief” that past offenses of a sex offender should be forgotten....
Don’t be fooled, offenders love a distorted theology that gives them immediate access to the little ones in the church. Whether or not the offender is a “changed” person before God, he/she is the same person who was convicted of sexually abusing a child. That is a past that should never be forgotten by those around him.All too often churches embrace sex offenders? This will be news to registrants who have a difficult time getting comfortable in churches that will not let them use the restroom.
Tchividjian refuses to believe that someone who is changed before God will improve his behavior to match his changed beliefs. This is interesting because for a guy who quotes the Bible frequently, Tchividjian doesn't seem to believe that Jesus--who set what is generally acknowledged to be a fine example of behavior--wants us to spend time with the scorned.
3. “Don’t judge the worshippers”: In one of the few public statements made about the pastor’s arrest, the interim pastor stated that he hopes people don’t “judge” the worshippers. A church hires a known sex offender who then sexually abuses a child in the church, and its primary concern is the reputation of the church? Perhaps its primary concern should how best to serve a 14-year-old boy who trusted his pastor and was repeatedly violated. Perhaps its primary concern should be cooperating with the police to identify other children who may also have been victimized by this offender. Perhaps its primary concern should be ways the church could serve other abuse survivors in their congregation who are likely being re-traumatized by this scandal. Perhaps its primary concern should be for the church to publically acknowledge that it was complicit in the abuse of this child due to its inexcusable decision to hire a known convicted sex offender. Perhaps its primary concern should be to reach out to experts for help in becoming educated on this issue so that this horror is never repeated. There is no lack of primary concerns for this church – its reputation certainly isn’t one of them. This church doesn’t get it.At first, I thought the writer was on to something good here, but he never quite gets around to talking about how to create an environment where proper boundaries are encouraged. Instead, he is all about action after the abuse has happened. Laying blame is a popular pasttime, and easier than figuring out how to prevent sexual abuse.
I do agree with him that the church reputation should not be a primary concern...unless the church thinks there is value in a reputation as a church that practices what it preaches about redemption.
4. “We did no wrong”: Tragically, instead of acknowledging the grievous consequence of hiring a convicted sex offender, this church has spent the last week defending and excusing its inexcusable actions. All too often, I encounter church leaders whose immediate response to disclosures of abuse within the church is to be defensive instead of wanting to learn where they (or the church) may have failed and what can be learned.Some day, Tchividjian's church will be rocked with a sex abuse scandal caused by someone other than a registered sex offender and he will be baffled as to how that could have happened in a church that doesn't hire sex offenders--a church that keeps a watchful eye on registrants who attend services.
Let's look at the people he seems to trust: prosecutors, investigators, parole and probation officers--people not on the registry.
Where does he think sex offenders come from? They come from people not on the registry.
Tchividjian misses the irony when he says,
It is time that more faith communities recognize the dark reality that there are predators in our midst and become more vigilant in making sure that they are never in positions to access and hurt little ones.The dark reality is that there are predators in our midst and they almost certainly are not listed on the registry. Another dark reality is that not all sex offenses are against children. While he worries about protecting little ones (I'd like to know if a 14-year-old likes being described as a "little one") from predators, he pays no attention to sexual assaults on adults.
The registry has provided a focus for fools who refuse to recognize facts. That is all the reason we need to abolish the registry.
Tchividjian doesn't get it.