Twenty years ago the scandal of the Roman Catholic Church in Boston broke wide open with the series of stories of sexual abuse in the Boston Globe. Those revelations rippled through the Catholic Church year after year. I can remember the profound impact it had in the Twin Cities when I pastored there.
Over the past few years that abuse that has gone covered up in other parts of the American Church has slowly been revealed. As it tends to happen, scandals that break “out there” generally start to circle in tighter and tighter until it reaches a circle close to you… or a circle you are in. When it was “out there,” it was easy to look at the speck in someone else’s eye and think it was a log. Now, the log is revealed.
In the past couple of weeks a diocese in the denomination I to which I now belong (the Anglican Church in North America) has gone through a revealing scandal as it became clear the bishop had severely mishandled a sexual abuse case.
This, of course, led social media to explode. It also led to broad brush thoughts on the entirety of the ACNA. When I had first come to join a church in the ACNA, there was a horrendous abuse situation in our diocese involving the largest church. What struck me at the time was how transparent the diocese was in reporting the scandal and then giving the full report on the investigation that followed. I have learned recently because of this newest issue in the Diocese of the Upper Midwest that each Diocese handles these issues very differently.
I was incredibly thankful when I wrote our bishop of my concerns that he responded with specific actions the Province is now taking and it is no surprise that some of our diocesan leadership is helping the province form better structure to these issues. The Archbishop has let everyone know what is proceeding specific to the Diocese of the Upper Midwest and how they are proceeding with possible provincial changes.
It is also helpful when a prominent scholar like Scot McKnight also happens to be ordained clergy in the ACNA because he has written extensively on the how the American Church can specifically do better in sexual abuse cases. HERE is an example. (McKnight was also clear this week that the ACNA was in a precarious moment and if this wasn’t handled well the ACNA could very well “be done.” He’s not mincing words.)
The thing STILL missing?
At some point a national call, even if it’s just within a particular denomination for their own concerns, needs to be made for everyone in that denomination (or wider) to spend some days in fasting and prayer. A solemn assembly.
For Anglicans, we have the gift of The Great Litany which can serve as a base for our repentance.
I am deeply thankful for the ACNA response this week. I am also painfully aware that policy changes aren’t enough. Prosecutions of offenders aren’t enough. Resources for survivors won’t be enough.
The American Church is in deep… DEEP… trouble and a call out in repentance breaks this darkness wide open so LIGHT can come in and heal us all.