“Forgiveness means being restored to leadership.”
This false belief causes the most damage to the church because abusive leaders are being replaced, only to abuse again. The repeat nature of clergy sexual abuse must be acknowledged to prevent further and continued damage. When a church leader is reinstated after abusing his position, every person in the congregation is at risk of abuse or betrayal. Survivors have a difficult time understanding how the church would allow a leader to continue in their role after violating a member of the congregation.
If a treasurer stole from the church funds, it would be unwise to let him continue in that role. If a Sunday School teacher sexually abused a child, it would be extremely unwise and sinful to let him remain a teacher or be reinstated. When a spiritual leader deeply betrays and abuses their trusted position, they have disqualified themselves from that sacred responsibility. They can and should be forgiven but not restored to leadership. It is unwise and creates an unsafe environment when a church reinstates an abusive leader in the church.
Moses was forbidden from leading the Israelite into The Promised Land after he disobeyed God. Yes, he was forgiven. Yes, his relationship with God was restored. But, and this is vital; he did not return to his original position of leadership. The myth that forgiveness and restoration to leadership go hand in hand must be dispelled if the church is to become the safe place God desires.
Credit: The Hope of Survivors.