Monthly Archives: August 2007

Restoring the fallen [victims]


I’m blogging a bit these days about the restoration process for dealing with Christian leaders that fall into serious sin. In particular I’ve been interacting with the book Restoring the Fallen written by the Wilsons, Friesens, and Paulsons (IVP). But I take a break from the issues of the fallen leader to talk about the very important issue: the restoration of the victims.

 

A few days ago, I received a private letter in response to my initial blog entries on the topic. With permission, I’ve copied a couple of this victim’s thoughts on feeling lost in the restoration process,

 As you can imagine, I have read with great interest your recent entries on “Restoring the Fallen.” I am in ABSOLUTE agreement with the fact that a team needs to be formed to walk through the restoration process for a fallen pastor, counselor, leader, etc. And, I am in ABSOLUTE agreement with you when you suggest that every leader ought to have a team like this surrounding him and holding him accountable to PREVENT him from falling. I couldn’t agree with you more on that point, and believe that we would see alot less leaders “falling” if they were surrounded by such a team.  What was so difficult for me, as a victim of a fallen Christian leader, is that when a leader falls, an incredible amount of attention often is given to him and his restoration process. In my situation there was a team committed to seeing him restored – making huge commitments of their time, energy, and more. And the victim? Where’s her team?Just because I’m not a leader doesn’t mean that I don’t need to be restored emotionally and spiritually…I wish that there would be such books [similar to Restoring the Fallen] that are as well written and give such good guidance and counsel when it comes to restoring the victim and understanding the wounds and pain for the victim and family. 

There are many victims of fallen leaders. The leader’s family (consider the agony they have to go through when the infidelities of their spouse/parent/child is made known to the public), the larger community (it often shakes the faith of many), and specifically the victims of the abuse of power. These are those who might have been vulnerable parishioners lulled by sweet words or threats into sexual activity. Maybe some believe that a leader/parishioner sexual act is mutual, but I do not. The leader’s power, gift with wordsmithing, ability to create a mood, and authority means that it is never mutual.

 

So, what becomes of the victim once the abuse has been discovered? The book that I am reviewing certainly does spend some time on the issue of what to tell the family, the spouse, the children, and the larger community. The authors recognize that victims are often branded as co-conspirators (p. 85). Rather than keep the situation secret, they believe that the truth should come out and “victims should be comforted, affirmed, and encouraged by all who know them and understand what has happened” (ibid). These authors are inclined to have the truth told so as to avoid further damage to the victim by embellishments, rumors, half-truths, etc.

 

The victim should also have his or her own spiritual care team to help them in the path of understanding, comfort, spiritual healing, forgiveness, self-evaluation (there are times that victims have made choices that put them in a place of danger; choices that come from a place of prior brokenness. This evaluation should not be misconstrued as blaming the victim but using the pain and suffering to do exploratory work that every Christian must do. It would be my opinion that while this work is necessary, it ought not happen first. Rescue and stabilization come before surgery). The authors suggest that the spiritual care team for the family of the fallen leader (and I would include the victim as well) should provide tangible security (a place to talk freely about the pain and confusion), stability (a calm reply to the inevitable anxiety and panic experienced), support (someone to stand up for them, challenge poor thought patterns in the victim), and spiritual challenge (to look for God’s handiwork in the midst of suffering). 

 

While care and healing for fallen leaders (and prevention in the first place) are important works that I am burdened about, let us not forget the victims (both the abused and the families of the offender) and let us make sure we give them seats of honor and a double portion of our mercy and kindness. Let us never forget that justice is an essential ingredient of the Gospel (Micah 6:8).

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Filed under Abuse, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership

What is restoration for leaders who abuse power?


Been blogging on Restoring the Fallen  and some of its ideas. Chapter 5 of the book is entitled, “What is restoration?” This is a key question we counselors face. The book really addresses this topic through many chapters but I want to highlight some of the points in this chapter:

1. “An effective restoration process must deal not only with the ruin of the disaster, but also with the internal weaknesses that caused it.” (p. 42). “…major lifestyle adjustments can be readily identified by team members as desirable goals, and these often become the focal point of restoration. They are not, however, what restoration is all about. If they are all that is addressed, the real work will not get done.” (p. 43)
2. “The foundation for restoration is reconciliation with God…For someone to desire restoration, he or she needs a renews view of God’s mercy and his demand for personal holiness.” (p. 44-5).
3. Restoration (healing, strengthening, rebuilding) is a choice. Either the person will choose not to repent, feign repentance, or repent and chose restoration.  
4. They do a nice job of describing pseudo-restoration

a. “lets just get this behind us” mentality
b. excuse making and justifying by pointing to circumstances
c. ignoring the impact on the family; ignoring the devastation to others
d. stopping with confession; then focusing on getting forgiven

Choosing restoration means,

a. confession of all secrets (a process NOT an event)
b. shunning denial and defensiveness
c. submitting to the care of others; giving up control for decisions

Of course, restoration in this context means restoration to God and to the people of God. It does not necessarily refer to restoration to former positions, careers, etc.

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Filed under Abuse, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, pastoral renewal, Uncategorized

What do you do when sleep doesn’t come…


I couldn’t sleep last night and so I got up to read some Scripture. Also found a book on Galatians on my shelf that I’ve had for quite some time but never read. Checked it out and found it helpfful. But I digress.

Anyway, I found comfort in Psalm 77. The Psalmist here is crying out to God but wondering if God has forgotten to be gracious, has ended his promises to care for him. One of the Psalmist’s griefs is that he remembers the days of old when he was always in worship and easily meditated on God’s character. But now he is feeling empty, weary, disturbed. Maybe he, like me, was pondering the struggle to pray and worship.

But what does the Psalmist do about this problem? He decides to remember the deeds of the Lord. Verses 11f:

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate on all thy work, and muse on thy deeds. Thy way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God? Thou art the God who workest wonders; thou has made known thy strength among the peoples. Thou hast by thy power redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.  (NASB)

The Psalmist goes on to give specific instances of the Lord’s powerful acts in leading the Israelites with a pillar of fire through the Red Sea.

Here’s my question: Do you think the Psalmist felt instantly better? Do you imagine that he is comforted right away? Do you think you should be? Did what he was feeling in the first verses (rejected, forgotten, weary, unable to sleep or speak) immediately get replaced with joy and lightness? Sometimes this happens. But likely, he decided to recall the wonders of God’s power toward the people of God (and thus to himself) in spite of what he felt. In this way, he would not merely listen to himself and his feelings since God is bigger than the passing feelings of a creature.

I was comforted. But I wasn’t on any cloud nine. It was helpful to recall several blessings the Lord has given me the past 17 years (my anniversary is coming up this week so memories of blessings have been on my mind).

And so I went back to bed deciding to rest in God’s power and a prayer of blessing on my lips for my wife.

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Choosing wisely your Spiritual Care Team


In Restoring the Fallen, (blogged first 8/13 on this book), the authors list qualities a spiritual care team member ought to have, using Acts 6 (full of the spirit and wisdom” as their foundation) (37f):

emotionally and spiritually mature, compassionate, committed to confidentiality, humble, trustworthy, cooperative, not easily intimidated/willing to confront hard issues, strongly committed to truth, willing to engage in self examination, willing to commit time, willing to commit finances if necessary, and more.

Interestingly, they suggest that pastors not sit on this team for other christian leaders due to the time commitments.

A friend of my sent me this article from Christianity Today that listed questions you might ask to discern whether a potential leader is wise:

1. Does this person live a life of grace?
2. Do others seek this person’s counsel?
3. Does this person live a consistent life?
4. Does this person show depth of thought?
5. Does this person show breadth of thought?
6. Does this person make judgments impartially?
7. Does this person understand suffering?

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Spiritual health of Christian leaders


Well, my vacation was wonderful but now over. I ended it with a routine trip to the dentist for a cleaning (torture). It helps (I’m kidding) cement the reality that the fun is done.

While away I read a book, Restoring the Fallen: A Team Approach to Caring, Confronting, & Reconciling (IVP, 1997). Authors: Earl and Sandy Wilson, Paul and Virginia Friesen, and Larry and Nancy Paulson. It tells the story of Earl Wilson’s infidelity with a client (he is a psychologist) and the interventions his spiritual formation team enacted to help him over a multi year period of time. In between the story, they detail the best ways for a spiritual formation team to work through the process of repentance and restoration.

Very helpful. Over the next month, I’m going to blog a few of the chapters here given that it is so close to the kind of work I have done and am doing. They have put into words some things that I have done but not written about.

But, here’s my thought. This book suggests a spiritual formation team process for after the “fall.” Why not have one of these teams before a  fall? Why not have it as required care for the Christian leader, whether pastor, elder, missionary, counselor?

Here’s what they said they did as a team. They committed to:

1. Be in regular communication with both husband and wife.
2. Pray regularly (daily?).
3. Meet as a team regularly.
4. To consult with others who had experience in particular areas
5. To hold the leader accountable for specific promises made.

The team worked toward the following ends:

1. Spiritual health (interested in ferreting out the spiritual roots of problems, and to help the person become grou8nded anew in a relationship with God)
2. Body life (the team provides spiritual gifts such as discernment, intercession, admonishment, encouragement, mercy, etc.)
3. Accountability and sensitivity (the team acts as advocate for the spouse and family members as well as holding the leader accountable)
4. Penetrating denial and clarifying reality
5. Synergy (combined wisdom and consensus of the group led by the Spirit)
6. Intercession (“Restoration ministry is divine in nature and is characterized above all by grace. It cannot be driven by anything apart from consistent intercession.” (p. 37).

Obviously, this book is focused on the restoration of an offender. However, each of these goals and purposes ought to be part of a spiritual care team for any christian leader.  I wonder how many pastors, professors, counselors, missionaries have such a team?

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Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, pastoral renewal, Repentance, self-deception

Why 2 weeks of vacation ought to be mandated


I realized today that I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in some time. 1.5 weeks into our vacation. And that even though I just finished driving up and down the auto road to the top of Mt. Washington. 6288 feet. Hairpin turns, 12% grade, no guard rails, above treeline. Yikes. But a glorious day on top. No wind, 55 degrees, sunny, views for miles and miles.  

Also, just finished Steven Carter’s The Emperor of Ocean Park. If you like depressing stories, that one will do for you. Well written.

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Perfect evening on a sandbar


Our friends, The Papanicolaous, took us on their boat last night to a sand bar off of Crane beach, Ipswich, MA. Crane beach, for those who like toilets, is named after Mr. Crane, who invented the flush toilet. Anyhow, we had a beautiful warm evening on sandbar. We anchored in about 3 feet of water and walked to a sand bar with our food, chairs, even a low table. Had a wonderful meal with their friends and walked around this very large sand bar. The kids found a couple of dead skates. Looking east we saw the wide Atlantic and the small waves criss-crossing just before the sandbar. Looking west we saw the setting sun. What was especially nice was the breeze that kept the “greenheads” away. Greenheads are biting flies that live for about 1 month and were biting quite nicely at the beach we were at earlier in the day. 

As our friends say, this kind of quiet, warm evening when the tide is low doesn’t happen very often so we were glad to have the experience. Reminds me of the days when my parents lived on the coast of Maine and we did similar trips to deserted islands in order to cook and eat lobsters we had just bought at the dock.  

Just as the sun set,  we packed up for the return trip up the Rowley river where they moor their boat. Around 9 pm we finished off a great day by going to the “cow” or White Farms of Ipswich (it has a cow on the roof), an ice cream shop that makes their own ice cream.

These kinds of nights remind me why I love New England so much. While the water is warmer in NJ, it lacks the appeal of the hills and varying coastline of New England.

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Springfield, Vt on the map!


My hometown has had its 15 minutes of fame. It hosted the first premier of the Simpsons movie after winning an on-line vote for the best Springfield video. The town of less than 10,000 that has been dying slowly since the loss of the tool and die factories in the 80s.  I was surprised that its movie theatre still exists in the center of town. It used to be (may still for all I know) owned by a family that went to our church.

On my way back from Northern NH I’m going to pass through to see what has changed since I was there some 10 years ago.

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