A Letter to Pastors

By Jim Amstutz, Akron, Pennsylvania, a missional church coach and consultant. He was a pastor for twenty-one years in two Mennonite Church USA congregations and currently serves on several nonprofit boards that address issues of homelessness, poverty, and returning citizens. He is married to Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Restorative Justice Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee U.S., and together they have three adult children.

1. Abuse is a crime and a sin.

When abuse happens in the church community, it is both a legal and spiritual violation. If we over-spiritualize it, we miss the real-world consequences when a law that protects an innocent and often underrepresented person is broken. It also violates our sense of community and God’s desire for sin not to hold sway over us. We cannot pray away this problem, and we cannot ignore the civil responsibility of mandated reporting.

2. There are no safe spaces anymore, just brave spaces.
When sexualized violence happens in homes, schools, and churches, there is very little safe space left in our world. But there can be brave spaces. In brave spaces, we name the truth, assess who was harmed, and identify needs. 

3. Pastors want to make it a win-win for everyone.
Pastors embrace the gift and burden of caring for everyone in the congregation. When sexualized violence happens within the congregation or within the same family, there is an inherent tension of knowing how to care for all concerned. Setting boundaries and clear expectations on the perpetrator is best done in conversation with victims and in light of their needs. When a judgment call is needed, err on the side of victims.

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Dove's Nest's mission is to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities. "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children" 
(Luke 18:16 NLT).