Church must be proactive in preventing child abuse


Dr. Clay Perkins


By Clay Perkins

Saturday, August 25, 2018

“Children are a heritage from the Lord.” — Psalm 127:3 (The Bible, New International Version)

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”’ — Matthew 19:14 (The Bible, New International Version)

Here we go again. The church has been rocked by another sexual scandal. Clergy sex abuse within the church is too common. There should be zero tolerance for this broken trust. This type of abuse is totally unacceptable.

The headlines have recently been filled with reports of over 1,000 children being sexually abused in Pennsylvania within the Catholic Church. The details are sickening. These stories are too common. The headlines could have been from any other state, or any other faith group. It saddens me that through the years I have counseled many individuals who experienced childhood sexual abuse committed by ordained ministers. I have too many colleagues and friends in ministry that have perpetrated these heinous acts of violence. Visiting them in jail and helping them re-establish their lives after serving time is a long, difficult process — if they ever are released.

How do you minister in these situations? How can anyone, much less an ordained minister of God, commit such offenses against God and nature? I sometimes even wonder if, perhaps, I might have been able to prevent some of these incidences. Why?

In ministry I have also dealt with the victim side. Close friends and people that I love and have served have been torn apart by no fault of their own. Watching them deal with the lifelong consequences of childhood abuse breaks my heart. How does God bring healing? What else could I have done? How can these good people ever trust a minister again? Why?

At the conclusion of the “40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report” we find this summary … “If we learn nothing else from this and prior investigations, let it be this: that sexual abuse, in particular child sexual abuse, is not just a private wrong, to be handled ‘in house.’ It is a crime against society. We're issuing this report to make that clear, and to push for action.” Savvy words.

Those who have committed these crimes must be held accountable. Their privilege of serving as an ordained minister has ended.

The church must continue to be proactive to prevent such abuse from ever happening again. One victim is one too many.

In such times, we must remember that most ministers live by high standards. Ministers across the world serve with distinction and above reproach every day, decade after decade, but their stories will rarely merit headlines in local news, much less national news. Hour by hour, day by day, they serve each of us amidst the joys and tragedies of our lives. Pastors of churches of all types, both large and small, offer hope, love, grace, and peace. They do this without fanfare and for modest wages out of a duty and calling from God. They love you.

We can show ordained ministers love and gratitude even as we hold them to a high standard. May all of us in the Body of Christ — the Church — renew our commitment to the high standards of love and morality found in God’s Word for the sake of our children.

Stay focused.

D. Clay Perkins is an adjunct professor at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.