Many years ago when I was a missionary in Japan, a missionary from Evangelical Alliance Missionary molested my son. He was later sent home when another young man whom he had sexually abused reported him.
Years later, our home disintegrated under the fury of a boy who felt betrayed by parents who had not protected him from this sexual predator. We had labored under the false assumption that the right thing to do was to forgive the offender and forget the offense. Our boy got involved in drugs and drinking. He became promiscuous. He tried to strangle his mother. He ended up in jail and later did a thirty-month stint in a very expensive boarding school. Our family eventually broke up from the prolonged and severe stress. I sincerely believe this could have been prevented if the mission had followed the Biblical command to bear one another’s burdens and their own stated policy on child abuse.
Although the pedophile eventually admitted his guilt, he never sought our pardon or apologized for all the damage he had done, much less made restitution. TEAM concealed the matter. No one held them accountable so they continue to deny any wrongdoing to this day. But when confronted they will admit their missionary molested at least four other boys and they now screen their applicants for sexual aberrations.
Should I have forgiven the abuser? I believe it was my responsibility to manage my feelings of anger and betrayal, refrain from returning evil for evil and make forgiveness available should he choose to accept it. But until he was wiling to make amends for his behavior, he was not capable of receiving forgiveness. In this case, absolving him of responsibility for his transgressions only compounded the problem and put other young people at risk. Exposing him was the proper thing to do, even though it meant the loss of his job and eventually the breakup of his marriage. The mission failed miserably in its responsibility to protect other children by not holding the trangressor accountable. Because they failed to report him to the authorities, he was able to get another job working with young people. His new employer wasted no time in removing him once he found out about his past.
Is There Forgiveness Without Repentance?
Forgiveness is not just about the victim getting his feelings right. It is also about protecting others from the offender. When Christ said to bear one another's burdens, He meant for one thing that we intercede with the transgressor on the victim's behalf .
One of the teachers at the Mamou Aliance Academy of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in New Guinea molested dozens of missionary children from 1950 to 1971. Years later these victims told an independent commission how a childhood spent in fear and trembling had left them broken adults dealing with failed marriages, addictions, attempted suicides and fear to have children of their own.
When some of the victims appealed for aid to the predator's mission, they were told to forgive and forget. Mission leaders ignored the biblical command to bear one another's burdens by assuming some of the costs of therapy. One teacher who was accused of rape is still employed by the school.
The failure of the mission to bear some of the enormous costs imposed by their members shows a callousness and lack of love that is not uncommon among religious leaders who find themselves in similar situations. In fact, TEAM mission refused to pay even a token amount of the hundreds of thousands of dollars their missionary cost our family in medical and boarding school expenses. Nor did they ever show an ounce of remorse for the break-up of my family and the loss of my children that ensued. Here is what they told me in reponse to my request for help,
Here at TEAM we have carefully considered and discussed the matter of your request that we make a payment to you as a means to bring to a closure your ongoing dissent with TEAM because of the wrongful actions of Phil Fondaw. Along with you, we truly abhor the evil that was done by Phil in Japan and grieve for those children …who were abused by him—including your son. At the end of our deliberations, however, we have decided to not make a payment to you. We really believe that TEAM is not the party that wronged you and the other victims of Phil, rather it is Phil himself whom you need to address.
TEAM Director of Operations”
According to the website stopbaptistpredators.org, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention said this to one victim ofsexual abuse: “Abuse is sad. But because of that pesky matter of church autonomy, we can’t remove predatory pastors from the pulpit. Please stop calling and emailing about your suffering. Our hands are tied, but we hear prayer heals all wounds. God bless.”
These missions should have come alongside their victims to offer them the comfort and support they desperately needed. Yet the chairman of TEAM said they had discharged their responsibility by simply washing their hands of the pedophile. The chairman also happens to be the Director of The Association for Biblical Higher Education. He knows a little something about the Bible. Incredibly, he felt no need for his mission to make amends for placing this predator on the mission field and allowing him to molest five defenseless young boys. None of the victims has been able to get a sense of resolution for their pain and suffering.
Today's religious leaders are conflict averse. The vast majority of them are teachers, insulated in an academic environment. They pride themselves in their ability to be persuasive, to form an argument, to convey information in a compelling way. They convince themselves they are making a difference by giving a word of advice, saying a prayer, or giving a sermon or Bible lesson. But they rarely roll up their sleeves and dig in to the messy world of relationships. They want to hide behind a lecturn or pulpit where they are shielded from complicated and often messy situations.
What the victim wants, on the other hand, is a listening ear and an empathetic heart. He needs an advocate more than an admonition, and intermediary more that an interrogator. He needs someone to help bear his burdens by interceding with his enemy on his behalf. Unfortunately, because of our passive Christian culture, we fall down when it comes to defending a wounded brother or sister. Instead we offer them a cold, impersonal word of advice, “You need to forgive the one who hurt you.” Such words of advice are like salt in a raw wound. They place the onus for conflict resolution squarely on the shoulders of the victim, completely exonerating the offender.
Paul urges us to “bear one another’s burdens.” One way to do this is to intervene on behalf of the victim and urge the offender to confess his sin and repent—to rebuke him. Getting in the habit of issuing a free pardon to the offender while compelling the wounded party to graciously accept his humiliation only produces a target-rich environment for perennial predators. Repentance is essential not just for reconciliation between two people, but for the continued spiritual health of the church.
Paul never backed away from confronting sin. He stood up to Peter when he disassociated himself from the Gentiles. He confronted the Corinthians when they failed to break off fellowship with the man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother. He warned them that he would pull no punches when he met face to face with them if they did not repent and separate from this man. Today most pastors would accomodate Peter and the adulterer in the name of tolerance, grace, forgiveness and kindness. Why? Because most pastors are intellectuals and intellectuals are above the fray. They are poised and professional. Anger does not become them. It is beneath them. The reality is that they really are deathly afraid of confrontation because it would diminish their exalted stature.
Remember the time Jesus passed by the fig tree and found it had no fruit? When it still had borne none by the time He passed that way again, He cursed it and it withered. Jesus was not making a statement about fruit trees. He was illustrating what happens to the believer whose life produces nothing good for the kingdom of God. We rebuke the rebellious to save them from a much harsher judgment and to prevent the spread of an ugly blight on the church. When we ignore their sin, we do them a great disservice and we harm the body of Christ.
*Mission Children Abused
Published: Sunday, April 04, 2010, 8:48 PM
Updated: Sunday, April 04, 2010, 9:16 PM
The Casual Christian pp.23-24