This tweet of mine has garnered the most attention out of nearly 9000 tweets.
Sexual abuse is not covered by pastoral confidentiality. //
The night my church plant launched someone came in mid-service & confessed to sex crimes. I never once thought he had confidentiality. He left in a police truck.
— rohadi (@rohadi) January 11, 2018
I remember the event of that day well. It was the launch service of a brand new church I co-planted called, Cypher Church. The story goes like this.
The evening was beyond our expectations (in a good way). The space we had rented was packed with nearly 90 people (which to us was huge). Our church forms worship around movement, not the singing of songs, so that’s what we did for the first half. (Check out the Cypher Church Instagram page to see the cypher in action.) It was followed by a string of spoken word pieces by various artists.
During this time I noticed someone in the corner of my eye. Because everything was so new there were many new people as well. An unknown young man was tucked away in the corner, and from where I was, I could see he was distraught. He was sitting sitting on the floor listening to deep words being shared of love and redemption. His head fell into his hands.
At this point, I’m ashamed to say, I was hoping a pastor would check in on the guy. This coming from one of the lead pastors! Although let me explain. My previous church plant was a combination of three different communities, and therefore three pastors. I could often (more than often) hand off roles I wasn’t good at, namely pastoral duties. Well in this situation I was the guy, I had momentarily forgotten.
Luckily, someone else approached him.
But after a couple minutes the person who approached him came to me and said, “you need to deal with this….it’s serious.”
We found a quiet place away from the activity and four of us sat down. In the midst of the conversation, it was clear this man had a lot to confess; a heavy burden was anchoring his soul to the pit of his stomach. The crux of his confession centered around some serious crimes that left me without any recourse. I had no skills to deal with his situation, but this wasn’t a situation where skill would’ve made a different. I had to make a choice: do nothing or do something. It never crossed my mind that he had pastoral confidentiality, nor did I think I could send him away with a prayer and a word of encouragement. That left the other option–do something. So I called the police.
2017 was a watershed moment for women, 2018 will be too. The #metoo and #churchtoo campaigns, along with the growing popularity of the Women’s Marches, are beacon that systemic oppression weighing over women in North America is crumbling. Although there is plenty of work yet to be done, the foundations are cracking. When the voiceless begin to grasp and grow their voice, to me it’s a good thing for everyone.
Those voices also need advocates and allies. #churchtoo or #metoo stories are not mine to share because they not my experience. But I can listen and open my platform to the stories. I can say in my listening I’m alarmed by how many women I know (essentially all) share a new emboldened voice alongside the campaigns. I can also work to be a part of the righting of the systemic injustice too. I’ll be happy to be a part of dismantling the layer of evil power structures in the church that perpetuate violence against women.
Lately, the culture shifts in the North American church, in particular the majority church, have been of interest to me. I see a crumbling of inherited privilege that inhibits the church from living out the fulness of its mission. With it comes the dismantling of systems that condoned the harm of the vulnerable. As more women and visible minorities become leaders in the church (institutional or otherwise), I believe the church of tomorrow has a hope.
A note to Canadians. In Canada, much like race, we don’t hear much publicly about #churchtoo. We tend to be more private, which in these times and over these abuses is the opposite of what we should do. Tell the stories, tell them loud for all to hear. I believe it will be through the shared stories where renewal and healing will occur.
That night, I made it clear that the only decision I could make with the young man’s admissions draw in those who could. Luckily, he agreed.
We did pray for him, a lot, that night. But in the end, as the joy of the event transpired above us, he quietly left the building, and into the back of the police truck. We haven’t seen him since, although we did try to track him down, so I can’t end this story with some conclusion. All I know is that when given the choice between right and wrong, pastors, leaders–just people–need to make the obvious decision. Always err on the side of right. Make the call. To do otherwise perpetuates wrongs and makes us complicit with evil.