A friend posed this question/scenario on a Facebook thread earlier. I wanted to read the whole thing and the easiest way is to copy/paste it here, and then reply. So it evolved into a blog post…
Here is the scenario etc:
Jack, hypothetical and honest scenario – Your church is going through the hiring process of a new pastor. He is a super solid guy who has been with your congregation for decades. Actively involved in youth group both as a student, then an intern when he was in college, and even a volunteer now as an adult. The youth pastor loves him and all the youth can’t stop raving about how cool and awesome he is.
Unbeknownst to you he sexually assaulted your daughter when she was in the youth group as a student and he was an intern at the time. She never told you or anyone because she was afraid of the embarrassment, shame, guilt, and the too loud whisper in her head that says “maybe I shouldn’t have (fill in the blank: dressed that way, stayed that long after youth group, laughed so easily at his jokes… etc.)”
Days before the hiring committee selects him as a new pastor your daughter finally speaks up. She shows you detailed journal entries from the time of when it actually happened, and tells you how she revealed her assault in vague detail to another female small group leader a few years ago. You’re even able to confirm with the small group leader that your daughter did indeed seek counseling for being assaulted by an active church member, but made a passionate appeal not to tell anyone until she was ready. Additionally, your daughter revealed it in such vague detail to the small group leader that the leader was completely unaware of the seriousness of the issue. Perhaps she thought it was a miscommunication between the two.
What do you do? You’re in complete shock because you have loved the committee’s selection up to this point. The guy is a stand up man who has never given the slightest hint that he’d ever do something so evil and awful to anyone, let alone your own daughter. More over, you even have the thought, “will the committee believe me if I stand up for my daughter’s accusation? Will the congregation understand??” How would you handle this? How is this different from the current news?
I am aware that there are sick political games being played on both sides on this. I believe the democrats are weaponizing her story and I also believe there are too many republicans doing all they can to get the judge voted in before it’s too late, regardless of whether it’s true or not. I don’t deny those things.
But from a person perspective. Human Ford, and human Kavanaugh. One is lying and one is telling the truth. How do we handle it? How would you handle it if Ford was your daughter? How would you handle it if the committee was your congregation?
Here is my response:
Couple things before I answer –
- The scenario is not necessarily similar. You are writing this as it was an actual event; neither I nor anyone else at this point knows if the California professors story is true.
- I’d hope I am enough a man of character that the fact (in your story) that the girl was my daughter would not impact the way I responded.
Now, my response…
I would go to the church leadership, in private, with the girl/daughter and tell the story. I am, at this point, not sure what I would do if the girl refused to go with me. I’d probably drop the whole thing…but, again, I don’t know.
Assuming she went with me, I’d recommend that the leadership called in the potential pastor (without me or the girl present) and say something like, “We have been told that long ago you assaulted (not sure if I’d name her or not at this point) a girl. What do you have to say about this?”
His response would dictate the rest of the scenario. Obviously he would either admit it or deny it.
If he denied it I would not hold a general church meeting and say, “So and so has been accused of sexual assault. We need to know if anyone else in the church would say they have been assaulted by him.”
I might hold a general meeting and tell the church of the accusation, and that there is not enough “evidence” to decide the truth of the matter. I’d probably let the accused speak. And I’d allow for a vote (if that’s the way the church functioned)
Sexual assault is a horrific thing. But the fact that it happened, in your scenario, years ago, and that there has been no other accusation makes it fuzzy at best. Why would my daughter/girl “make it up”? No idea. Is it possible she did? Yup. Is it possible she made it up without even realizing it was not true? Yup.
If the accused admitted that yes, in fact, it happened; I would demand that he tell it to the church. Whether he tearfully confessed or simply confessed does not factor into my decision. I don’t know his heart; I don’t know her heart.
Then I would have them vote.
In other words, in my mind, the accusation in and of itself is not the proverbial deal breaker.
I have never sexually assaulted anyone; but I am a convicted thief, drug dealer, and the only reason I don’t have other convictions is that I plea bargained. I served my time (and as a result of incarceration was confronted with the glorious gospel and converted), was released after a few years and have been in full time youth and prison ministry ever since.
Had I been convicted of a sexual crime I believe I could still be in ministry though, obviously, not with youth or children.
I appreciate your question/scenario; and I’ve thought long about it. The whole thing stinks, but I’ve typed what I believe I’d do. No one knows what they would actually do in such a situation, but that’s my answer.