|Once and Done—Jennifer Jill Schwirzer, LPC|
I've thought carefully about this and have come to what I believe is a firm conclusion:
Clergy who use their office to take advantage of congregants should lose their credentials/ordination forever. Here are my reasons:
1. We must make a statement to the victims. I would sentence every administrative good ol' boy who sweeps sexual scandal in a church setting under the rug to listen to the testimonies of the victims 24/7 until they completely realize the extent of the damage. Damage from incestuous sexual abuse is known to exceed damage from non-incestuous sexual abuse because the former signals the breakdown of the family relationships that are positioned by God to help us prevent and recover from trauma. Incestuous abuse is like an autoimmune disease where the protective system itself poses a threat. Clergy sexual misconduct is a form of spiritual incestuous abuse. The church should be a safe haven, a city of refuge. When it becomes something a victim needs refuge FROM, a great outrage has taken place. Victims of clergy sexual misconduct often leave the church and even God in order to recover. We must make a clear, unambiguous statement that God condemns such abuses. Then the victims may begin to see God for who He is, and to heal.
2. Clerical office is a privilege, not a right. The privilege is given to those who prove themselves worthy of it. This doesn't mean that any of us are sinless, that any of us can stand before God in our own merits. No, no! Let's not confuse horizontal accountability with vertical worthiness. But any well-run organization has requirements for leadership, especially the church. If a man of his own choice exempts himself from leadership by acting the part of a wolf instead of a shepherd, then he is exempt, and God will honor that. So should we.
3. There must be a deterrence factor. The pastoral office, by its very nature, draws perpetrators—did you know that? No, I'm not saying all pastors are perps. I'm saying perps like to be pastors. As a pastor, they get automatic credibility over a body of people, most of whom are extremely trusting of the pastor. What a perfect cocktail of circumstances for a man addicted to sexual exploit! We must give a clear message to wolves that we won't harbor them here. And for those who were drawn to pastoring for the right reasons, but could become defiled in motive somewhere along the way, we must give a clear boundary and consequence in order to prevent such a tragedy.
4. The perpetrator himself needs justice. God is filled with tender mercy, but justice is the foundation of His throne. Mercy dismantled from justice becomes sentimentalism. The withering disappointment of losing a career, reputation, pay, and honor can be used by God to strike at the thick tap root that would be cut by nothing less. Let's not deprive sinners of the benefits of the consequences that might sober and ultimately save them.
That's my rant for the day! Yes, inspired by present circumstances. Pray for the watchmen on the walls, of which I am apparently one.
Jennifer Jill Schwirzer enjoys the challenge of running a small non-profit organization through which she writes books, presents seminars, conducts a counseling practice, produces and performs Christian music, and just generally exhausts herself.