A plea to fight for the necessary changes

From a professing author and their family, who would like to add their voice for victim-survivor support and advocating for change going forward.

My family roots can be traced back to a Senator friend of Lincoln’s who took a stand for abolition and was beaten on the Senate floor, later dying of his injuries.  He took a stand for what was right in the biggest fight of his generation without fully knowing or caring about the cost, as did Lincoln. That said, we are also descendants of a Northern President who remains a stain on American history. That man with his pro-slavery ignorance, lack of empathy, greed and hunger for power was insatiable at the expense of so many innocent people. His ignorance over 150 years ago doesn’t define us or our values today.

My great grandmother bravely took a stand for what was right at great cost by kicking my abusive great grandfather out of the house and raising 9 kids on her own during the Great Depression.  I’m told they had their share of eating lard and cornmeal as well as wearing homemade potato sack clothing.

We also have a deceased relative by marriage – she was married at 14YO with parents’ permission to a 20+YO man many decades past. She raised several capable children, built homes and businesses and never considered herself a survivor to my limited knowledge.

In our family history, we have both pride and shame; good and evil; joy and sorrow interwoven. People who will be remembered for their wickedness aside, we accept that there is a measure of good and bad in all of us. We accept that cultures change with time, and sometimes at great cost to the people willing to advocate and even agitate for change. We accept that some of what we practice is just tradition, and not doctrine.  Practices and the way we deal with this issue in particular can and must change significantly.

Our collective and personal past shaped who we are today, and we have some choice in what we dwell on, and what we chose to do with it.  We can choose when and what battles we fight and how we apply ourselves. Many of us are fortunate to have been spared, but we acknowledge that many were not.  We have some choice in practicing resilience when we can find the strength, and we have a duty to protect and help others when we can. If knowing what we know now, in educating ourselves through recurring ministry safe training, we sit and expect others to make all of the changes, we might wait for a long time. 

If we bicker among ourselves, we’ll delay progress. If we ask for or promise the impossible, we’ll remain disappointed. If we stop at training and don’t implement child safe, code of conduct and zero tolerance policies we’ve done way too little.  If we write policies but don’t take action, we’ll have accomplished next to nothing.  If we make assumptions, assuming the worst about people who do not have allegations of this type against them, we’ll collaterally damage people who are also committed to making changes.

That said, we can’t continue with a lack of transparency and failure to report to law enforcement promptly. If we simply look forward with blinders on, and don’t purge the wickedness of the past from among us, it won’t be nearly enough. Let’s advocate for and embrace change together regardless of our differences, encouraging each other in this fight for progress and clearer, better informed thinking and actions. It’s easy to criticize, and I’m sure there is much to criticize in what I’ve already said. I recognize I have a lot to learn.  Let’s focus on the big picture in supporting and helping those who are leading both inside and outside – to offer ideas, and be advocates for change together.

As parents, we recognize a shared responsibility for keeping our children safe, and we expect the enforcement of our laws, together with our communities to help accomplish this goal. We understand there are risks, and we do what we can in our limited knowledge and ability to live life with balance while managing the risks. 

My family lives in a big city. There are registered offenders in our neighborhood, yet I take my kids to the park.  No one notifies me when we go to the park which people are offenders and where they are at any given moment. I go with my children to the park to manage this risk.  I grocery shop where these same people probably shop, and frankly I’m glad I don’t know which ones are offenders or I’d walk around with a curled lip, disgusted by them and probably working on some way to chew them out. 

There have been offending teachers and coaches in the past at other schools, but my kids go to school and play soccer where adults are background checked and supervised with rules for safe interaction. We expect all suspected abusers to be fired promptly, and all potentially impacted families to be notified when these things happen to children in our schools or sports organizations. There have been bullying and harrasment cases at large companies, but my wife and I go to work.

We can’t blame overseers as a group and expect overseers to fix all of our problems. Many of them are working hard on this issue as they are hearing from many of us, and many of them recognize big changes are long overdue like never before, the same as we do.

We share responsibility with our overseers and workers to get informed and make changes.  We can’t blame all workers as a group – that’s naive, unhelpfully oversimplifying this problem, and incredibly unfair. The vast majority are wonderful people.

Some elders and friends have also behaved criminally in the past as have individuals in every other large group of people throughout time and across cultures, but that doesn’t mean that you or I are criminals too.  There have clearly been both many good, and too many who will be remembered as criminal individuals in every profession, country and historical period. There are laws in every nation on earth because of this.

We should have started this long ago, but can’t go back in time. It is our duty to accomplish the necessary changes now in our generation.  In our generation we have both the responsibility and ability to take a stand for what is right, and to stand against what is wrong, to be better informed and advocate for justice.  We should together commit ourselves to that noble purpose. 

It is imperative we make any and every change needed within scripture to purge this evil from among us to the best of our collective ability (I Cor 5).  We acknowledge that we are just getting started, that we are learning and don’t know everything about anything.  We know that significant changes can take time but we expect rapid, continual progress of ourselves and of the group on this issue.  We appreciate the leaders and professionally trained, and want them to take courage in making big changes knowing we support this effort and want to help.  This is the battle of our generation within the fellowship.

Let’s recognize those who are survivors, some of whom may be outside, that have brought this evil to our attention.

We recognize those who have courageously fought for change from the front lines for many years without being heard, and even now are actively working to identify and mitigate the scope of this stain on our history worldwide. While this type of evil has always existed and will always exist, it remains a battle worth fighting. While there is no perfect solution, there are many changes that are long overdue and must be made now.  We can have an impact together on how quickly and thoroughly changes are made. We know which side the Lord is on. We know which side will be perceived as the right one in the arc of history.  I am new to this fight, but I want to help you who are veterans of it to the end. There will not be peace until the necessary changes have been made, nor should there be.

Our family and those I’ve talked with in our state have been encouraged to see appropriate steps finally being taken to confront this issue, remove and report suspects, communicate better, enlist professionals, discuss changes and listen to each other. We’ve discussed these things openly with many parents, family, elders and workers and we are looking forward to further changes going forward. As changes are accomplished we’ll be safer, stronger and better for it.

– One of many


2 thoughts on “A plea to fight for the necessary changes

  1. Thank you! Very well written and exactly what we need to hear.
    Some present workers were silent during the coverup of abuse and the pushing out of ones who came forward. Some were silenced.

    Transparency through truth and reconciliation is the only ways forward if we truly want to protect our children and ourselves.

    Prov. 21v13 whoever shuts his ears to the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.

  2. A few months before my Oregon overseer died in a Best Western hotel room, I was communicating with him about an important matter. It was not about CSA, SA, or anything remotely related. In the course of our communication, me speaking “truth to power” and Dean trying to help me, Dean actually thanked me for my interest in the standard of the ministry. He also told me that the conditions of the Ministry 1) have not changed, and 2) cannot change. It’s chilling to reflect on those conversations now, and it saddens me somewhat, but I was glad to be reassured with those words at that time.

    Some time ago I was in a Sunday Morning meeting in Nevada. On that sunny, quiet Sunday morning, a good-looking, charismatic brother worker spoke to that meeting a long time about hypocrisy. Since I was a guest in that meeting, I sat back and enjoyed a needed review of that doctrine.

    If God can use morally compromised workers to do a few things, imagine what he can do with a purified ministry. I think this a wonderful time to be included in God’s great Family, and I’m encouraging my family to put their best into it.

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