The nation recently discovered again that a church body, in this case the Diocese of Baltimore, is accused of decades of sexual abuse and physical torture. However, as seismic as the Maryland Attorney General’s revelations were, it’s hard to say that terrible news like this shocked anyone anymore. Thanks to the courage of scores of victims and whistleblowers of all religious backgrounds ready to come forward, the past decade has been marked by long-kept church secrets finally coming to light, including not only sexual assault but also abusive workplaces, bullying, financial misconduct, and above all, lies to cover it all up. .
As an ordained pastor who has served the church for over 20 years, and as someone who has been associated with Christian churches in one way or another for most of his life, I know that all too often abuse and misconduct falls to the religious community’s reaction. short. Even when religious leaders believe in the right of victims and take action, we time and again treat these actions as isolated incidents and label the perpetrators “bad apples.” And very quickly, the Church chooses to move forward without looking at what else might happen. In doing so, church and denomination leaders fail to do the difficult but necessary work of honestly examining the roles of systems and structures within our denominations and religious institutions, let alone wanting to protect those organizations, playing into allowing and perpetuating misconduct, misconduct, and cover-ups by leaders and members.
This cannot be an option going forward. At the very least, those charged with running churches, denominations, and other religious organizations must take ownership of the ways our institutions have allowed and perpetuated abuse and misconduct. This includes a comprehensive policy and compliance review, setting clear standards for ethical behavior and abuse prevention. Taking ownership also includes a clear commitment to holding all leaders accountable, and prioritizing the safety of past, present, and potential victims regardless of the cost to the organization.
But this does not fall solely on the leadership of the Church. There is something anyone who is part of a religious community can do. Often when someone is looking for a church or other religious community, they go to the organization’s website and look for a statement of beliefs. It’s time to start expecting and demanding more as members. It’s time to call on all of our faith communities to make public our ethics standards and abuse prevention policies and to conduct mandatory abuse prevention training every three years. Whether we attend multi-site megachurches or know the name of everyone in our faith community, members should not wait for the next report to come out to demand these basic standards of accountability, ethical behavior, and transparency for our organizations and leaders.
Rev. Benjamin Park is an ordained Presbyterian minister and member of the Twin Cities area Council of Priests. He is driving Today for tomorrow Dedicated to nurturing the next generation of churches from their leaders.