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CONTENT WARNING: CONTAINS THEMES OF ABUSE
This last week (1 to 7 February) was Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. You might have seen support services using the hashtag #ItsNotOkay to show solidarity and advertise events. The topic has been close to my heart for a number of years now. And whilst awareness within churches has come a long way, obstacles still hinder us from taking it as seriously as it deserves.
Scripture – and the ways we use Scripture – are not the least of them.
Last Christmas, for example, I wrote about how Jesus was a king from David’s line. I believe this link is good news, but I couldn’t explain it authentically without acknowledging the violence in David’s story.
The difficulty arises not just because he abused his position to have sex with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband Uriah by proxy, but also because some Christians use David as a comparator when modern leaders (typically men) commit abuse.
Phrases abound like ‘flawed leader’ and ‘otherwise good man’ alongside ‘She should have cried out,’ and ‘What about false accusations?’
This complicity enables a deeper undercurrent. For if the church continues to honour David as a shepherd-king and inspired author of Psalm 51, is it really too much to ask if a remorseful church leader wants to remain in post?
Yes. Yes, it is.
It’s not counter-scriptural to form considered judgements, nor unforgiving to remove a dishonest person from positions of authority. It’s safeguarding.
The process of accountability is undoubtedly painful for the perpetrator – and their friends, family, and colleagues, who will often feel grossly betrayed. But taking this issue seriously also means weighing of the pain of survivors, not relegating it down the priority list.
Meanwhile, the world is watching. Are we educating ourselves about abuse dynamics? Survivors outside the church will want to know how safe our communities are. Will we own that abuse is a choice and does not happen by accident? Or will we deflect and say, ‘We’re all sinners’?
For now, I want to highlight the link between how we live and how we present Scripture. If we claim our lives are honest, aware, and informed, we need to demonstrate that in how we tell our stories. This won’t diminish the gospel; on the contrary, it’ll be part of our witness.