I am not on Facebook, but it has come to my attention that there are anonymous accounts on both Instagram and Twitter that go by the name Renovation Survivors. While the person or persons who run these accounts have shared the memoir that I published on August 31st and have been referring to it in their own posts, I do not know the person or persons behind the accounts, and I am not affiliated with them in any way.
I waited a long time to tell my story – six years – because that’s how long it took for me to process the pain, anger, grief, and vengefulness in my own soul. It has required a tremendous amount of spiritual and emotional labor. Tremendous. There are no shortcuts to this process. I only went public recently when I became confident that I could do so without the weight of my own trauma determining my words and actions – when it was clear to me that I was finally in a place to seek restorative justice.
Restorative justice is a foreign concept in our culture. We may be familiar with the phrase, but we don’t have any concept of what it requires. We tend to gravitate toward one of two poles: exoneration and punishment. But exoneration equals justice only when the accused are truly innocent. Otherwise, it’s a miscarriage of justice. And punishment is often primarily about revenge. It doesn’t retrieve what was lost, restore relationships, restore trust, heal the wounded, or undo damage.
The gospel provides us with a third way. It invites us to tell the undiluted truth about the way we sin (confession) and the way others sin against us (bearing witness) and to do so as people who have received undeserved pardon through the radical sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This undeserved pardon and what it conveys to us about how profoundly God values us (despite our depravity), when understood properly, is what produces repentance (turning away from our own sin) at a deep level. In turn, this experience of seeing our sin for what it is, of being radically forgiven, of being profoundly valuable to God, and of substantive repenting is what enables us to unflinchingly hold an abuser accountable, work tirelessly to limit his or her power, reform an abusive system, empower the voices of victims, and actively seek and pray for the welfare of everyone involved, including the abuser and those participating in the abusive system.
In my memoir, I specified my reasons for going public and also several goals/hopes attached to this action. In honor of those reasons and goals, I have turned down two invitations to do interviews about my piece because I want it (all 18 pages of it) to speak for itself. Plus, I don’t want to give the impression that I am on a crusade. I am, quite simply, not. I just want other victims of the abusive system/leaders to find consolation knowing they are not alone. And for them to find the words to tell their own stories in whatever time or place they decide is appropriate for them. People should not feel compelled to share their stories until they are ready to do so. And to those of you who are only beginning to process your experiences, you should only share them with people who will hold those stories with the utmost care, discretion, and trustworthiness.
Peace and grace,
Categories: Church/Ecclesiology, Uncategorized
I didn’t see your story until now. I don’t wish upon anyone what you went through.
I am extremely thankful for you. I agree with all that you have shared just from the small amount I was exposed to during my amount of time there. I could see it, I could feel it, and to some extent, experienced some of it.
I feel like I will never be an “insider” at any congregation. The more you move in closer to any group, the more you realize how much you are not a part of it. At least that’s how I feel.
I don’t know what it’s like to be the insider. Maybe that’s a good thing.
But like you, I’m committed to the ecclesia and all its mysteries. Still waiting on God for next steps, praying for healthy fellowship and more glimpses on earth of what God intends for us as His body in expression of Christ.
It’s great to hear from you, Christina. We left quietly, without letting anyone except less than a handful of people know what had been taking place. At the time, all we were thinking was that we didn’t want to create division or ruin people’s own positive relationship with the church. Toward the end there, we found ourselves running interference behind the scenes to prevent the leadership from crushing & humiliating certain people. And we never told them. Crazy to think about!