Thursday, May 15, 2014

'Relational Restoration' in Child Abuse Cases Is Never an Excuse for Lack of Exposure

 An extraordinary church sexual abuse trial in Maryland just came to a conclusion today. Former Covenant Life, Gaithersburg, Maryland church leader Nathaniel Morales was found guilty on all five counts related to sexual molestations of minors. A corresponding civil lawsuit that addresses what some call "the largest evangelical church child sexual abuse cover-up" in history is stalled in the courts over a fight regarding the statute of limitations. However, the criminal trial this week brought attention to the horrific abuse perpetrated by the molester. One of the men instrumental in bringing this church child abuse case to light, Brent Detwiler, wrote an extraordinary blog a few weeks ago where he responded to the withering criticism he received on Facebook for forcing leaders in the Sovereign Grace network of churches to acknowledge and account for the mishandling and subsequent cover-up of child sexual molestation. The victims, as adults, decided it was time to hold the molester accountable. At first, church leaders "denied" a cover-up. But when the civil suit was filed, the lid was blown off. Caution: the allegations in the civil suit are graphic.

One has to wonder why church leaders who were told about child sexual molestations occurring within their church did not go to civil authorities (the police, child protective services, etc...) when they first heard the allegations. Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently said this about the responsibility of church leaders when given information of child molestation:
“If someone comes and says ‘I have been abused sexually’ or ‘I know someone who’s been abused sexually,’ you have to first of all recognize that there are two authorities at work here, and both of them need to be involved. Caesar has a responsibility to deal with this at the civil level. The church has a responsibility to deal with this at the ecclesial level. You immediately call the police. Even if you don’t know whether this is true or not, you don’t know whether or not this has actually happened, you call the police and you say, ‘Caesar has a responsibility, the government has a responsibility, to investigate this."
Amen, Dr. Moore, Amen. Unfortunately, some evangelical churches refuse to report child sexual molestation to the proper civil authorities and practice what is called "relational restoration." This is an attempt by church 'authorities' to get the victim of abuse in a room with his or her abuser and bring 'restoration' to the relationship through leading the molester to seek repentance for his or her molestations, and to lead the victim to forgiveness of the molester for his or her acts of abuse. It is my opinion that the practice of relational restoration is often the reason churches refuse to report child sexual molestation to police. Church authorities feel such matters should 'stay within the church.' It seems I'm not alone. At last year's national convention of the Presbyterian Church of America, a motion was brought before the assembly requesting that Presbyterian churches cooperate with government officials in "exposing and bringing to justice all probable perpetrators..." and to refrain from private "church discipline" or "relational restoration"  apart from the fulfillment of mandated reporting duties. The pertinent paragraph within the official motion reads as follows:
RESOLVED that we pledge our commitment to work and fully cooperate with duly appointed God-ordained government officials in exposing and bringing to justice all probable perpetrators, who morally and criminally harm the children placed in our trust, and not in any perceivable way display reluctance in fully cooperating with lawful authorities by attempting to handle the issue internally by subjecting either the supposed victim or alleged criminal perpetrator to private “church discipline” or "relational restoration” apart from the fulfillment of our mandated reporting duties to God-ordained government authorities....
Those church leaders who practice 'relational restoration' or 'church discipline' without exposing and identifying the perpetrator of child sexual abuse do more damage than they realize. The fact that church officials did nothing to expose Nate Morales at the time they discovered his acts of molestation has led to years of pain for both the victims and those who tried to warn the church of their civic responsibility.

It's hard to argue against a statute of limitations in a civil case when a criminal court convicts a man of child sexual abuse decades after the abuse occurred.  Regardless of repentance, forgiveness, and any 'relational restoration,' forced or unforced, acts of child sexual molestation require full exposure.


Anonymous said...

I wonder just how much these guys would push "relational restoration" when a child or woman is abused if they were raped and then called to "relational restoration."

Sounds like good ole boy network to me.

Oops--my redneck is showing again:)


Wade Burleson said...

Good point, Linda.

Bob Cleveland said...

The church, of all institutions, ought to be the most honest, upright, law-abiding of them all, and the most intolerant of evil, misleading, lying, and all such of the "world's ways" it sometimes uses to protect its image. I suggest that the Church Jesus is building needs no such protection.

Anybody ever heard the term "ministerially speaking"?

Brethren, these things ought not to be.

raswhiting said...

Sad to say that CJ Mahaney was the lead pastor, the ruling pastor, at this church all during the time of this man's "ministry" and fostered a theology and culture that enabled non-reporting and cover-ups. His associate pastor and brother-in-law, Grant Layman, admitted on the witness stand to knowing about this and not reporting to the police, and confessed this was wrong. Yet some SBC leaders, such as Al Mohler and Mark Dever still honor Mahaney and defend him. Mahaney was seated with the leaders of the Together for the Gospel Conference recently, given a place of honor as their friend.

Rex Ray said...


Maybe this church operated under the reasoning of one of the bylaws I didn’t mentioned:

“Senior Pastor shall be removed…for falling into sinful practices without repentance…”

The bylaw didn’t specify how many times the pastor could repent for the same sin over and over.

The one service I attended was all about the pastor’s golf. The service ended with his therapist demonstrating how she used exercises with weights to relieve tension in his neck.

The name of Jesus was not mentioned but he kept the congregation laughing. I thought they were frogs not knowing the water was boiling. I wondered if Jesus might return saying, “You’ve made my House a YMCA!”

For a change of pace, some might not have heard this story:

By Rex Ray July 2012

Six years ago, my cousin, Gary Hicks, and his grown son, Jared, went on a mission trip to Colorado with a large group. They did a lot of mountain climbing.

On the way back, Gary felt they should return to their ‘meeting town’ a shorter way, but it was a small mountain road with no guardrails. Everyone else went back the long way.

Going up a steep hill, they saw a shaft of ‘smoke’ shoot up in the sky and disappear.

Curious; they stopped at the top and walked to the edge of an 80 foot cliff. They saw a van upside down in a river. The ‘smoke’ had been steam that lasted for a few seconds.

They got their ropes and repelled down the cliff. A family of four was trapped by seatbelts and trying to breath in a foot of airspace. The father who had gone to sleep driving was hurt. Two young boys were in the back seat.

They got them out and to the road. The first car by was a paramedic on vacation. The next car was a patrol car who called a helicopter that took them to a hospital.

Gary and Jared were eating pizza when the others drove into town.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Ever notice that mst of these weirdos sport some kind of facial hair? Just an observation that I notice sitting here on the sidelines.

Ken said...

Thank you, Wade. I've wondered if a good goal for future safety of children in the church community might be to have an initial policy statement available to all parents and members and visitors that clearly tells them what the church leadership is bound to in the event of any abuse allegations that come to their attention. At least that way, the parents would clearly know if their church will take the old school, "we'll keep this in-house" approach, or if they will immediately appeal to civil authority. Seems to me a parent, or grandparent, who learned that an abuse allegation would NOT be taken to police might not want to stay in that particular church, and, an abuser who was aware of a "we report, immediately" policy wouldn't either. Just a thought! Have a great Sunday, Wade!