Addressing Sexual Abuse in the Church

Heather Ablondi

Syndicated Columnist. Speaker. Activist. Wife and Mother. Vintage-loving disciple of Jesus

June 11, 2022

Originally published by Berkshire Hathaway Media on June 11, 2022.

Scroll to the bottom for links to resources.

Like so many others, my heart was broken and filled with righteous anger upon reading the report from an independent investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and their handling of sexual abuse in their affiliate churches.

The Guidepost report revealed that SBC EC kept a secret list of more than 700 abusive pastors. Instead of taking action, they chose to protect the denomination from lawsuits rather than work to protect their congregations from further abuse. Survivors have been met with a pattern of stonewalling and denigrating responses to their pleas for change over the past fifteen years.

After following the story for several days, I said to my husband, “I wish I could go to the SBC Annual Meeting so that I could be counted among those who worked to prevent these horrible injustices from ever happening again.” It was something that seemed so impossible, I didn’t even bother committing it to prayer.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

But God heard the desire of my heart. In fact, like the Psalmist says in Psalm 37, when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. This doesn’t mean that He gives us whatever we want, rather it means that it is He who plants His desires for our lives in our hearts.

For over a year now, the Lord has been stirring something in my heart in regards to His love for the women in His church. I feel as if that stirring, that placing the desire in my heart, was all leading up to this moment. Through an “only God” turn of events, I will be representing my church as a messenger at the SBC Annual Meeting next week in Anaheim.

For far too long, predators have found a safe haven to commit the most heinous acts in the walls of our churches. Thankfully, God’s people are waking up and demanding change to not just policies, but to the culture that seeks to protect the abuser while silencing the abused.

To other survivors reading this, I want you to know that your are not alone. I am so sorry for what was done to you. I know the pain and shock you experienced at the hands of someone you trusted. I also know the confusion it causes when the abuse takes place in a church environment. It is tempting to want to run from God, but please don’t. Instead, run towards Him for He is the only one who can heal our broken places.

To abusers and those who seek to protect them, Jesus said it would be better for you to have a large millstone hung around your neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea than to cause the downfall of one of His children (Matthew 18:6). Repent. Turn from your evil ways. Get help. Never forget that God also promises to bring to light what is done in the darkness (Luke 8:17).

One in four women in sitting in church on Sunday morning are survivors of sexual abuse.

Statistically, twenty-five percent of women sitting in our churches are survivors of sexual abuse. We must do a better job caring for them and creating an environment in which they feel safe, validated, and affirmed.

As I looked across the dinner table at my four daughters last night, the numbers 1 in 4 kept running through my head. One in four will be the victim of sexual abuse. Which one of my precious girls will it be? The answer? None. I will work tirelessly to ensure that none of them experience the soul-crushing impact of abuse. Thankfully, I am not alone in the battle. God is awakening an army that will fight to make the walls of our churches the safe haven they were intended to be.

If you feel led, would you please pray for me over the next week? The subject matter that I am reviewing to prepare for the meeting is extremely disturbing. I covet your prayers for protection over my heart and mind. 

Would you pray for God to keep me from anger, bitterness, and resentment in lines with Romans 12:19? “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

I know that I am going to be walking into an emotionally and spiritually charged environment. Please pray against division and for a spirit of unity where appropriate as we seek to move forward from this horrible revelation.

I desire wisdom in how to vote on key resolutions that will shape the Southern Baptist Convention in the years ahead. Pray that God makes those steps clear to all involved.

Please pray for the survivors, the ones who were silenced and marginalized. Pray for the healing of their hearts, minds, and souls.

I am so humbled and honored to have this opportunity. Amazingly, I am not nervous or apprehensive. I have no doubt that God has paved the way for me to be there and that He will continue to move and work all things together for His will to be done.

Below are some recommended resources on how to prevent sexual abuse in the church as well as materials for survivors and those that love them.

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