An Open Letter to Tullian Tchividjian, Including a Personal Note from a Sex Abuse Survivor
Pastor Tchividjian, As a blogger who deals with abuse in church and connects with survivors of spiritual and sexual abuse, I wanted to share with you some of the feedback I have received regarding your recent Christian Post article, Tullian Tchividjian Blasts Sovereign Grace Ministries Handling of Sex Abuse Scandal; Prematurely Departs The Gospel Coalition and subsequent apology article, Tullian Tchividjian: Reflections On My ‘Break-Up’ With The Gospel Coalition. In the first Christian Post article, you gave survivors hope. Finally a prominent Christian leader was publicly speaking on their behalf and calling out leaders who defended C.J. Mahaney:
“Give me a break. These people, they’re family. Of course he knew,” Tchividjian told The Christian Post. “C. J. was, for many years, the micro-managing head of the organization and nothing happened under the umbrella of Sovereign Grace that he wasn’t made aware of, so for anyone to say, ‘Well he didn’t know,’ that’s totally naive.”
Tchividjian added that he was “pretty disturbed” when Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor published a statement on TGC website in May 2013 which defended Mahaney, saying that it looked “like the good-old boys club covering their own.”
However, in your apology, there was nothing mentioned about SGM and C.J. Mahaney, nor the sex abuse victims. I’m not a sexual abuse survivor, but it struck me that survivors might feel abandoned again. I wasn’t the only one who was troubled.
This comment came in on Facebook:
This comment came in on Twitter:
As predicted, some sex abuse survivors were disturbed and contacted me. Some of these survivors used to call themselves members of Christ’s body. They once were thriving members of the Body of Christ until someone committed a horrific crime against them.
How could sex abuse happen, under watchful eyes of a church body, a church shepherd?
While victims suffered shame, embarrassment and emotional anguish, it crushed their spirits, too. They felt that the very people who could bring a balm of spiritual comfort, encouragement, and refuge abandoned them — and sometimes even wrongly shamed them or even blamed them.
When church sex abuse survivors hear of other church sex abuse cases, they watch the response of church leaders. They want to see justice for those victims, even though they might not have seen justice in their own cases. They are watching leaders like hawks. Now, maybe it’s not fair that they do so, but I think some of them are trying to make sense of their own abuse story. They ask themselves:
How could I have experienced sex abuse with people connected to the Body of Christ?
Why do I as a victim feel like I am the sinner and the abuser is free?
Where is God in all of this?
The abandonment they feel is a very painful result. However, many of them transfer those feelings of abandonment over to God. They feel this way because if a pastor abandons them spiritually, one who should be so connected to God and His ways, they conclude that God must be abandoning them, too.
If these legitimate questions remain unanswered and are not addressed correctly and soon, some will abandon their faith. They’ve told me so. When sex abuse victims seek spiritual and emotional help from church leaders and don’t get that help, they become re-victimized in another way, by spiritual abuse.
Today at my personal church service, we discussed Romans 12. It brought to mind sex abuse survivors within the Body of Christ, how we are all connected in Him, and how we all have been given His grace and a measure of faith.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Without the survivors, we are missing part of the Body. They are that important. We then read the next few sentences about using our gifts appropriately. Now, the following verses show us where the rubber meets the road. What theme bears up the Two Greatest Commandments? Love. What is the best way to respond to someone who is hurt, whose faith has been shipwrecked, whose spirit is fractured? We love them. We stand beside them. We listen to them. We hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Pastor Tullian, we saw you show love towards the victims in your first response. We watched you abhor the evil suffered by little ones. You demonstrated righteous love — the kind of love that Christ would show. Now, the absence of your words in the public apology regarding SGM has brought confusion to the victims and those who minister to them. I would like to publicly ask you to address this issue for the sake of those hurting sheep who clung to your earlier words.
I don’t want these precious folks to feel abandoned, but that is what has happened.
If you have any doubts as to the necessity of such a public statement, then maybe this will help. I want to share one very personal e-mail with you because this person has become very dear to me. Over a year ago, she e-mailed me concerning another church sex abuse case. She wanted to offer her assistance to me (researching/transcribing) because she wants sex abuse in the church to stop. Over time, she has shared her troubling story with me.
When someone sends me a personal story, it is like gold to me. People who reach down to the most intimate and painful areas of their lives to share their story have given an amazing gift – a gift of trust, of hope, of human vulnerability and nakedness that I find to be so rare.
Please read this e-mail with those eyes of compassion, knowing you have been given a gift. I also want you to know that this dear woman has held onto this story for decades under silence as her generation did not talk about such things. Also, please note that my friend Billie is one who has suffered secondary abuse – spiritual abuse – which has led to a shipwrecked faith. Where would she be today emotionally and spiritually if church leaders had cared for her with the love that Christ commands?
Here is Billie’s personal e-mail to me that she has allowed me to share. I believe her e-mail represents the voices of many sexual abuse victims who have been deeply troubled by the recent sequence of events.
Billie McGregor is a 65-year-old mother of three sons and grandmother to a blended brood of eleven grandies whom she
adores. Having been sexually molested by a first degree relative beginning at the age of 13 who was a Deacon in a small southern Baptist church and law enforcement officer she was rescued at the age 16 after a suicide attempt and removed from her home. At the age of 18 she moved from the south and began her long, difficult road to recovery, which she attributes mostly to her love for her children, grandchildren and the children of her deceased brothers and sister; as well as years of appropriate therapy specifically focused on sexual trauma.
Dear Julie Anne,
When I saw the article on the SSB Facebook page about Tullian Tchividjian’s apology to say that I was left speechless is an understatement. If you recall, I didn’t even respond with a comment. How very unlike me. My powerful, outspoken self was momentarily silent.
I remember sitting here at the keyboard and my tremors began acting up as they do in times of stress. They start in my head and then usually work down to my hands until I have to either take another dose of my meds or lay down and rest for a while.
I took a break and thought perhaps I was just too tired from having had my grandies, Katie and Maggie for a while. Certainly that could have contributed I guess, but even though two active toddlers are a handful, that much love for a few hours brings me so much joy, that rarely do I suffer from an exacerbation of tremors from it, unless we’ve been outside running around.
Once I felt sufficiently rested, I decided that I would just write Tullian myself. Maybe it was time he heard from me. Perhaps he should hear my story and share my pain and feel how disappointed I am for victims among the faith he professes that he did not speak out about them in his apology letter. I even went so far as to get the first line or two written. But then I stopped and I realized: he just really doesn’t get it does he?
For a while he said all the right words, but for me; and I feel confident that for others as well, every bit of good that he may have been attempting came crashing down around our heads by his neglect of mentioning one word about the victims in his apology letter.
He said sorry to Tim Keller. He could have done that privately, which I’m sure he did over the phone. He said sorry to his fellow Christians and all the assorted Gospel Guys for arguing. He offered up a nice, seemingly “Christian”, humble letter.
But to me it was for naught because of his failure to mention his position regarding the victims of sexual molestation by clergy.
Not one word, not one single bloody reference to the little girls and boys, young men and women who have been forcefully violated by warped sexual predators. Not one thought did he offer regarding those children who have had their lives changed forever not only by those who molested them like Nate Morales, but also by those who covered up the crimes of their molestors for years like Grant Layman and to add insult to injury not one word did he speak in defense of the victims who have had to watch for so long while C J Mahaney has bamboozled his way across the stage portraying himself as a “Christian” and being applauded and begged for an encore by the likes of Piper, Carson, Mohler, et al…….Christian scholars? Godly men? Righteousness?
Not one word……..about the people who to me are the most important of all – far more important than Tim Keller or anyone affiliated with any of the rest of those groups…..the victims.
Thank you for being one on whom we can depend upon, Julie Anne. One with a voice and a statement that will always be on behalf of the victims of childhood sexual molestation. Many people who speak against this injustice give me the strength to speak out, but none more than you. Thank you for giving me a voice.
In Sisterhood I shall forever remain……….
Your friend forever,
Please, Pastor Tchividjian, will you please say something for the Billies out there? They need to hear your voice.
Related links: Second Amended Complaint: SGM Sex Abuse Lawsuit