Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Sunset at Brancoli's crux, 2007, Lucio Torre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord..."
that one night
I might sleep
the whole time through.

I came to your sanctuary
seeking solace from the Beloved
and instead received
more pain from your ordained.

I wandered the storms of the
desert trying to reclaim that
which was lost in the presence
of your ministers.

I looked for answers outside
the Faith, but nothing outside
would suffice.
I knew the answer must come from
inside the life of Jesus Christ.

So I returned to bow once more
to the knowing love of Jesus Christ
who is my Lord.

No matter how I needed the Church
to make it right.
I now know it was beyond its insight.

With prayers and words the healing
finally came, not from your ordained
but from the love of family, friends, and
Jesus Christ. Amen.

--The Reverend Canon Margo E. Maris, "Women's Uncommon Prayers," p. 76.

It's been almost two years since I attended a diocesan workshop on clergy sexual exploitation, and there is still a piece of the video that haunts me.

It hadn't haunted me for a while, but it flared up again when I recently attended the "official diocesan training" on the revisions of Title IV in our canons, effective today, July 1.

In the video the national Church made for the workshop on clergy sexual exploitation, my recollection is that all of the victims that were interviewed in the video they showed us, had left the Episcopal church.

The workshop did a wonderful job in explaining the categories of abuse and exploitation, it was professionally and tastefully done, and I learned a lot. But there was only one problem with it.

It never said doodly-squat about all the people who stay, and try to remain a functioning parish. It never really explained the "net" that this stuff casts over a parish. It talked about the denial a little, but mostly denial as it related to parish attitudes about the primary victim. It really didn't talk about the undercurrents of denial as it relates to the secondary victims--the people who "knew," and maybe even were pawns or henchmen in it all, but couldn't really talk to one another. It didn't talk about the folks who were totally broadsided by the situation, and have trouble with the "saint/sinner" paradox years later, who, for whatever reason, still don't "get it." It didn't talk about the tendency for all the secondary victims to blame each other. It didn't talk about the task of the clergy who inherit such a mess.

It was a good workshop, but there was a lot it didn't say.

One of the things the "new" Title IV does is create a "pastoral response team" to these situations, and allows for conciliation and mediation. Here's word for word what Title IV, Canon 8 says about the "pastoral response" part of it:

CANON 8: Of Pastoral Response

Sec. 1. The Bishop Diocesan shall provide for appropriate pastoral response whenever any report is made to the Intake Officer. Such pastoral response shall embody respect, care, and concern for affected persons and Communities. The response shall be designed so as to promote healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.

Sec. 2. In each pastoral response the Bishop Diocesan shall consider offering pastoral care to all those affected by the Offense or allegations thereof. Pastoral care shall be considered for the Complainant, the Complainant's family, the Respondent, the Respondent's family, Injured Persons, Injured Persons' families, any affected Community, witnesses, and the Disciplinary Board.

Sec. 3. In every case, and notwithstanding any other provision of this Title to the contrary, the Bishop Diocesan may disclose such information concerning any Offense or allegations thereof or concerning any Accord or Order as the Bishop Diocesan deems pastorally appropriate.

Sec. 4. The Bishop Diocesan shall give consideration to the respective privacy interests and pastoral needs of all affected persons.

Sec. 5. The Bishop Diocesan may designate a person to be responsible for the implementation of the pastoral response. Such person may be the Intake Officer. The duties of such person may include coordination of pastoral care and coordination of communications between the Bishop Diocesan and Advisors.

Now, I think this all looks reasonable on paper, but it will be interesting to see how dioceses implement this.

I look at these words, and what I have come to realize about the institutional Church is that, much like medical words, the "insiders" have one meaning for certain words and phrases, and the "outsiders" might not assume the same meanings.

I wonder what this "pastoral response" is. Are there going to be lay people as part of this pastoral response team? Or is it just going to be designated collared folk providing this pastoral care? Are the counseling and therapy records for the victims going to be a "no tickee, no shirtee" trade-off in that if victims agree to get therapy on the diocesan nickel, the Bishop's office has access to the records? Will there be transparency and training for incoming clergy who inherit such situations after the interim? Will there be education for lay leaders on how they are to live inside the sticky residue these things cause?

I really don't know, but I suspect these things will be different from diocese to diocese. I'm also no fool in realizing TEC isn't made of money. I know "past performance doesn't always predict future earnings," but my suspicion is, whatever it is, it will be strapped for money in diocesan budgets, and none of this looks cheap if one is planning on doing it right.

Again, there are many things here the canons don't say. They also don't speak to things that might flare up years or decades later, as a result of it. We are talking about a situation that from the get-go, trust has been eroded or exploded--and sadly, that probably includes trust in the institutional church to be a source of healing and reconciliation.

I fear that Canon Margo's words are prophetic. People will be, at the very least, expecting, at the most, begging--for the Church to make it right. The problem, of course, is that people vowed to protect the church and care for the flock did it--so in that sense, it's implausable that "the church" can ever really make it whole. Yet, in all fairness to the church, so much of this is outside of the institutional Church's insight.

The temptation for people involved--even in the second or third tier of such situations--is to leave--and I believe the temptation to leave, among those wounded at even the 2nd or 3rd tier in these situations also will be around for years to decades, and will be masked by other more acute situations in parishes as time goes on. Sometimes, I wonder, when someone leaves because of a nit-picky liturgical reason, or a "don't like the priest," reason, or a snit with the vestry/Altar guild/committee chair reason, "What's really behind that?" But people will leave, new people will (hopefully) come, and it's just the way those things go.

I believe what she says is true--the healing mostly won't come from the church. It only comes from the life of Jesus Christ. It will only come by people being brave enough to worship together, even when it is uneasy and un-reconciled. It will only come from living in the moment for a long, long time. Sadly, I'm afraid less of it will come from the ordained than the ordained would like to believe, and I say that even knowing some truly top-notch ordained folk.

I have read Title IV many times over since attending the training on it, and I do believe it is progress compared to the old Title IV. It's definitely progress, but not perfection. I also believe healing is healing. I'm sad that my gut feeling is most of the healing won't come from the institutional church, nor, from those vowed to care for her, yet at the same time I have faith that the healing can come from worship, in that the members of a community rocked by such things can choose to worship in the center of the tension. Wounded people can choose to embed themselves in the life of the parish rather than run from it. I know it seems one person can't do much in this, especially when the one person was affected by it. But a bucket of water is composed of many, many drops. One can choose to be in the bucket, and to be part of the whole...and isn't that what faith is all about?


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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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