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Monday, May 28, 2018

Why biblical advocates against abuse deserve church support

Blessed is the church to have such resources as the above at its disposal.

I was perplexed recently when an advocate for victims of abuse said that ‘very few men and very few church leaders actively endorse and promote’ her work. As I pondered my response, God said to me, ‘There are too many reasons why this is all wrong. Write on that.’
So, this is an attempt to analyse the depth of the problem and the amount of reasons why there is a lack of support for this and other advocates for victims of abuse:
1.      This particular advocate is widely read, knowledgeable, biblically astute, with a wealth of personal and direct experience of others to draw from. This is true of most advocates. Because of what they’ve seen and gone through, they devote their lives to doing what they do. They live and breathe it. They leave no stone unturned. And they’re constantly learning and engaging with their network. The church needs people like this to lead, to be given a prophetic voice, for that’s what they are.
2.      Advocates stay the journey, for they believe they have a purpose in putting a spotlight on something the world and the church would rather pretend doesn’t exist. Advocates deserve a hearing simply because they bear a terrifically negative burden for the years of their lifetime. Advocates won’t go away. They simply won’t bow to the injustices that have and continue to take place. And they suffer the constant indecency of being undignified.
3.      Advocates are like prophets, and we know how poorly prophets are treated; we only need open our Bibles to discover this historical truth. The prophet’s voice is often received abysmally when it’s a rebuke. And despite the elements against it, advocates continue courageously delivering words from God. They deserve a hearing simply for the toll being ignored must take.
4.      It’s concerning that the church does not generally want to promote the work of a person who will inevitably speak into many lives. A church of 200 must have at least 30 people who’ve suffered abuse.
5.      Point 4 needs to be elaborated. The advocate I have in mind has not only had a long experience of domestic abuse, that account was exacerbated by worse than poor support from the church. Today’s church is being damned for its re-traumatisation of abuse victims through, in many cases, of not taking claims of abuse seriously and not investigating (though there is far more to it than this). So that is ever more reason for the church to endorse and promote this work. It doesn’t at its peril. It’s the role of the church to champion these kinds of issues.
6.      How can the most obvious reason fall to number 6? It’s easy to answer that. These are all obvious reasons. The most obvious reason is the support they lend to those who have similar if not the same stories. They’re guides for healing ultimately, but initially they’re human resource centres, sounding boards, confidantes, believers-in-victims, and even human shields. I know an advocate personally who has put her health at risk and on the line many times to stand in the gap for those individuals coming behind her.
7.      This is the last reason, for seven must surely prove the point. There are more, and I will add them as they come to mind and as I have time. The seventh reason is simply the recognition that for return on investment (normally a financial term) the advocate experiences far less encouragement and far more ostracization contrasted with the deeper work they do as compared with other ministers (and I mean deeper in the spiritual warfare realm).
It’s astounding when churches don’t give overt support to advocates for the abused, but I think this could be about to change. I thank God for the #MeToo and #ChurchToo campaigns. The church must advocate for the abused, not be part of the problem.
As the prophet Amos said, ‘But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.’ (Amos 5:24)

Acknowledgement to Barbara Roberts, the advocate who inspired this article. She can be followed at: @NotUnderBondage and https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraRobertsNUB/ and cryingoutforjustice.com and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/A-Cry-for-Justice-196307250499415/

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