Sexual Abuse and the Church

Nov. 6–8, 2012



Session 1: Facing the Challenges

  • Tuesday, 7:30–9 p.m.
  • Dr. Dave Shumate
  • In recent years, high-profile child sexual abuse cases have brought this terrible evil to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Nevertheless, all too often there still exists the notion that sexual abuse is someone else’s problem. As these cases have shown, however, any institution that has children under its care must take steps to ensure their protection.

    In some cases a church or Christian school may discover that a leader or worker has been molesting children. In other cases they may hear of abuse that has occurred elsewhere. Some abusers may even seek out churches as trusting environments in which to take advantage of children.

    Many ministries have developed child protection policies, and many pastors and other leaders have responded to allegations of abuse by reporting them to law enforcement or child protection agencies. In addition, churches are a crucial influence for healing and spiritual growth in the lives of the victims and their families. Nevertheless, pastors and other leaders do not always have a clear understanding of the nature of sexual abuse, the effects upon the molested child, and the legal and ethical responsibilities involved. Misconceptions in these areas can be devastating to children and their families and to the testimony and effectiveness of a church.

    Drawing from past experience as an attorney, assistant pastor and seminary professor, and in his present ministry as an international missions director, Dr. Shumate will survey the issues facing the church in this area, giving a realistic assessment of the dangers and correcting misconceptions that get in the way of a right response.

Session 2: Understanding the World of an Abused Child

  • Wednesday, 8–9 a.m.
  • Rev. Bob Crawford
  • The world instantly changes for a child who suffers sexual abuse. Fear, guilt, shame, anger, doubt, despair and bitterness can become the norm. Children need an advocate—someone who understands their unique struggles and will be the adult to help them through the challenges ahead.

    Bob Crawford has been just such an advocate for 15 years as a guardian ad litem in Greenville, S.C. He has listened to hundreds of stories and visited as many homes and has been the voice of mistreated children before the court. In addition, his theological training and pastoral experience have equipped him to be an advocate with a biblical worldview.

    This session will help everyone understand why it is so important for all of us to see ourselves as protectors of children.

Session 3: Partnering with CPS & Law Enforcement

  • Wednesday, 9:45–10:45 a.m.
  • Sgt. Ty Bracken Miller
  • The church must not see itself in a competing role with law enforcement and child protection agencies. God has delegated to the state certain responsibilities as His agent for the protection of society and for the administration of justice. Understanding the roles of the law enforcement and social services communities will equip the church to better work with these government agencies, helping it to prevent abuse and to respond appropriately when abuse occurs.

Session 4: Applying Grace and Truth to Hard Issues

  • Wednesday, 11 a.m. chapel
  • Dr. Dave Shumate
  • An incident of sexual abuse in the church or in the home of a church member can test the faith and personal character of everyone in a congregation. To be truly scriptural, believers and churches must be voices that express God’s genuine hatred of child abuse. At the same time, a sinful response that is self-righteous and vindictive fails to acknowledge the true nature of human sin or of divine forgiveness.

    Both grace and truth are needed to bring genuine comfort and healing to victims as well as to teach genuine repentance and scriptural forgiveness for offenders. The Bible is clear about how believers should confront the “unfruitful works of darkness” around them. They must “walk” both “as children of light” and “in love.” The church must respond to the horror of child sexual abuse, as well as to other evils, in a way that is clearheaded and biblical and that demonstrates the love, grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

Session 5: Establishing Church Policies

  • Wednesday, 1–2:30 p.m.
  • Mr. Daniel Hicks
  • Churches must be proactive in establishing appropriate policies for those in the church who work with children, for reporting offenses and for addressing anyone attending church who is a registered sex offender. Attorney Daniel Hicks will walk through the practical preparations a church should make to protect its children more effectively.

Session 6: Counseling the Abused

  • Wednesday, 3–4:30 p.m.
  • Mrs. Debi Pryde
  • The damage done to the victims of sexual abuse is always significant; but its manifestations vary—depending upon the extent of the abuse, the sufferer’s relationship to the abuser, the spiritual maturity of the sufferer, the amount of force and threat used, and the duration of the abuse.

    Debi Pryde’s wide counseling experience with abused women and her extensive training in biblical counseling allow her to chart the biblical path out of shame, guilt, betrayal, hurt, fear and anger. The Scriptures deal with suffering from every human angle and provide divine answers and hope for the afflicted. The church must become better equipped to use the Scriptures effectively when ministering to those who are suffering.

Session 7: Handling Church-Media Relations

  • Wednesday, 7:30–8:30 p.m.
  • Mrs. Pamela Groover Snyder
  • A report of abuse must be handled biblically and lawfully; but even when a ministry does this, legitimate public interest in the offense coupled with realities of the news cycle and the Internet can create the need for the ministry to respond publicly to the situation. Churches need to learn how to respond biblically, not only to the underlying problem but also to the potential media and public reaction that can ensue.

    As part of their overall response plan, churches should formulate a strategy for media relations that will protect the privacy of the victims as far as possible, avoid interference with any ongoing criminal investigations, and demonstrate that responsible and appropriate actions have been taken. A sound communications strategy is not a substitute for appropriate prevention and response measures, but it is an important supplement to the ultimate purpose of helping the ministry respond in a way that exalts Christ, both in word and action.

Session 8: Panel Discussion

  • Thursday, 8:30–10 a.m.

Session 9: Meeting Trauma with Greater Trust

  • Thursday, 11 a.m. chapel
  • Dr. Ken Casillas
  • Trauma tests faith and character. Suffering is not an infrequent topic in Scripture where God ministers to those suffering by revealing Himself to them.

    The days before the coming of the Lord Jesus will be increasingly difficult and dangerous days for the souls of men. The believing church must know the Bible and its divine antidotes to affliction. Times of pain are times to “gird up the loins of [our] minds;” these are not times for sloppy thinking or fleshly reactions. The suffering soul must be biblically shepherded through the trauma with increasing trust in the love, power and wisdom of the Great Shepherd Himself.