April 4, 2011

The Church Role in Child Abuse Issues



With The Rev. Monte W. Holland

     The trend of modern times is toward specialization in dealing with life issues. If there is a physical ailment, go to the health care professional, and further, to a specialist in the specific type of ailment that is exhibited. If there is a spiritual problem, go to a pastor or pastoral counselor. If there is a family problem, go to a family counselor or therapist.

     This has its advantages in many cases, because the expert has a deeper knowledge of in a very small issue. Yet there are disadvantages. Many physical and relationship problems cannot be boxed into a narrow category. What ails one segment either emanates from or affects another segment. It can take a well-rounded, multi-knowledgeable person to see the interconnections and resolve the issues. Secondly, persons are often reluctant, or financially unable, to go to the specialized person for help—at least over the long term. Thus, the generalist has a strong role to play in resolving many family issues.

     The first line of encounter with family problems is the lay person—a friend and/or a neighbor. The church’s first role in dealing with a troubled family or individual is one of preparing good listeners, persons of compassion who hear the hurt and pain in the situation and affirm the person in the situation in which they find themselves. Simply telling one’s story to a person can be therapeutic, if the listener cares and the listener is sensitive to the friend’s need for confidentiality. The listener must be able to hear the story without “claiming” or “owning” it. In addition, the friend can share, in a simple, non-threatening manner, the positiveness of life even when it is broken, because God created us for good. There is no hole so deep that we are beyond the reach of God’s redemption. The friend’s role may not be as a problem-solver, but only as a listening, affirming voice. Well-trained laity can sense the deeper issues in a person’s situation and urge the person to move toward healing by talking to a pastor.

     The church as a whole continues, week after week, to be the affirming voice that announces the nature of God and the hope and possibility each of us has in our lives as we choose God. The church is also responsible to teach the Biblical truths that guide us to loving and caring for others, that guide us to be with the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. As a body, the church calls the faithful to share good news and to be patient with nothing less than an impartial justice that affirms each and every person in this world as a child of God.

     Beyond these general actions that the church and parishioner can and should take is the work of the clergy professional—pastor or pastoral counselor. In many family matters rather tragic events have occurred in one or more of the lives of those involved. As has been mentioned above, love itself may be a distorted concept that must be unlearned in its present form. The whole concept of a loving God and a healthy love of self and of others must be relearned. Violence may have been the norm for living and no other way may be known, if the clergy person can reunite (or unite) hurting per sons with the ultimate values and obligations associated with God, healing can take place. In many cases, specialized persons beyond the church, those in the medical or social service area, will be needed.

     The church has a role in the whole issue of the health of individuals and the welfare of society as a whole. The church holds the key to the ultimate values in life and the responsibility to hold these ultimate values before its people, directing them to share these on the frontlines of life. The church needs to stand in the community as a champion of Christian justice—presenting fairness and full opportunity for all persons to life to its fullest for the glory of God. The church cannot give up this role and maintain its integrity. Salvation as a concept means nothing if our faith does not lead us to a life that affirms the ultimate goodness of our God!



When Children’s Service Agencies Won’t Respond to Complaints

How to Get Help for a Child








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