A Word to Survivors on behalf of the Black Church
I stand as a survivor of child sexual abuse with my own story.
I also stand as a church member and a pastor of a Black Church.
To any and all of you sitting under the sound of my voice who suffered sexual assault as a child, who found no help in your church, and whose nightmares were made real by people who professed the name of Jesus Christ:
We have not loved you with our whole hearts.
We have fallen short by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
When we did not protect you, advocate for you, center you and do what was
necessary to hear you, we dishonored you and we dishonored God.
“I didn’t know enough” may have been true, but I didn’t know was not good enough for people who have been charged to protect children.
When we blamed you, marginalized you, silenced you and erased you with our
songs, our theology, our practices, our ways of being Christian, we sinned against you and we sinned against God.
I am deeply sorry. For you. For me. For the Church for God.
In many ways, the brokenness we experience and our inability to lift a credible
witness to the love of Jesus Christ is because of our theological dishonesty
regarding our complicity in your harm. It is because of our
comfort with expediency at the expense of the life and spirt of the people who trusted us and because of our romance with suffering and our gross misunderstanding of the meaning of the Cross.
The church was wrong.
Lord have mercy upon us.
The Church has been wrong.
Christ have mercy upon us.
The Church is wrong.
Lord have mercy upon us.
It is not your cross to get the church to be right and our brokenness is not on your back.
It is my prayer that you will hear this: being a good Christian, being a person of faith, does not require you to forgive and forget. It does not require you to give a pass to the people who knew and did nothing to protect you.
It is not your lot or your call to heal and fix people and institutions who will not acknowledge their own brokenness, and who will not stand on their own before the God who made them. Unless the church repents and turns around, it will never be the church.
And unless we parents, family members, community members repent and turn around, we will never live into the full humanity God has designed for us.
We will be messengers of death.
What we have been given today is a glimmer of hope. We lift up and we pray for
Children of Combahee and for every agent of God carrying a vision
forward for the safety and full humanity of all of the children of God.
You deserve healthy fruitful lives.
You deserve communities where your physical and spiritual safety is not a negotiation.
You deserve love and laughter and peaceful nights and days spent in the presence
of those who consider you to be a delight.
You deserve families and friends and meaningful work.
You deserve to win, and fail and to get back up again, and to win again.
It is your sacred responsibility not to settle for anything less.
May God strengthen you, shine light and love upon you, hold your hand and be your joy.