They might be right about that. Maybe Baptists will never institute clergy accountability mechanisms like other major faith groups. Or maybe it will happen long after I’m gone. But seeking institutional change is just one part of why I do this. Here’s another part.
I believe that whenever any clergy abuse survivor speaks out, it plants a seed in someone else’s head. One person’s voice begins the process of another person gaining their own voice.
Every clergy abuse survivor who speaks out helps some other clergy abuse survivor on their own journey of understanding and recovery.
A few days ago, I was reminded of this when I received this email from a courageous young woman named Sarah Parsons.
“I emailed you about 3 years ago, I live in Ontario, Canada. I am 23 now and I was abused by a pastor starting at the age of 15. When I saw you on T.V. talking about your story, you inspired me to take a stand and expose the pastor that abused me. I wanted to thank you for sharing your story to the world, you have given me the strength to break the silence.I wrote Sarah back to tell her that her email was an encouragement to me and that, by making her story public, she herself was certainly an inspiration to many others.
I filed a civil suit and a few weeks ago the pastor and the church (who tried to hide it) were served the papers. It is in the media now, in my hometown. I felt scared and ashamed when it became public. But I visit your website and I know I am doing the right thing. He is denying it now though, which I expected. But I am going to do whatever it takes to get my story out, so he can not get back into another church. The congregation at the church he is preaching at now, needs to know. I could not let him hurt anyone else....
Thank you for your courage, you are an inspiration to me.”
Sarah said: “I know that I will never put an end to clergy sexual abuse, but if I can help one person realize that it is not their fault and they are not alone, then it is worth it.”
Sarah summed it up perfectly, but I am also reminded of an Emily Dickinson poem:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
You can read the news report on Sarah’s story here. It involves a Pentecostal church.
Kudos to Sarah!