When we think of the church we find ourselves struggling with dissonance that we do not expect to have to deal with.
The Church, as the community of God's beloved people, should be a place in which we are able to live out the life in Christ we are called to live - a place to love and be loved, to care for others and be cared for, etc.
However, with all too great a frequency, we are confronted with the same fallen nature in the church as we struggle with within ourselves - it shouldn't be a surprise when you put it like that, but it always is. When we are confronted by violence and abuse within the community of believers our instinctive response is shock and dismay - "This shouldn't happen."
My most significant firsthand experience of abuse and violence in the church was initially shocking because of this. However, it was also shocking because what I experienced was first class workplace bullying by a person who had considerable form as a workplace bully - two of my predecessors and three subsequently have experienced the same, and a considerable number of other staff at the institution over the past 15 years have experienced the same.
Several things surprised me in the midst of this experience.
Firstly a colleague, whom I thought might support me through this, seemed to collude with my abuser and in some respects facilitated a form of secondary abuse or bullying on behalf of my abuser (I have discovered since that this is quite common).
Secondly, my Bishop also failed to offer me any support through this period of abuse, and indeed seemed to collude in the abuse by authorising a performance review of another part of my work that had nothing to do with the context in which my abuser was involved. He seemed to be carrying out part of my abuser's strategy or intention to really "destroy" me and my ministry.
I decided that since the Bishop was not going to find me any alternative employment, I should find something myself. When I subsequently found a position to go to and resigned my position, the Bishop saw fit to write an abusive letter to my future employer deploring his action in employing me without consulting him.
It was a great relief to be out of that position, but I found that the trauma lived on. So I thought I should bring these matters to the attention of those who seemed appropriate in the church.
A recently appointed body called The Professional Standards Committee seemed to have been set up just exactly for this purpose, so I prepared a very detailed submission of all aspects of my abuse and offered it to them for consideration. to give them their due, the took the matter seriously, they considered the issues raised at some length, but in the end decided that they were unable to initiate any action that might remedy the matter because the lacked jurisdiction - the statute they were set up under dealt specifically with child abuse and sexual misconduct by clergy. These were not involved in my case, so they could do nothing.
So I decided to speak directly to the Archbishop - he being the holder of ultimate authority in the Diocese. As we discussed the matter it was clear that he believed he would not be able to do anything effectively in this situation, so nothing was done.
Again I was left to work all this out by myself - and perhaps that is the way it should be, but you can see how this experience does not fit with the image of the church being a place of love, care and reconciliation.
The saddest thing for me about all this is that subsequent to my experience in that place, others have had exactly the same thing done to them and still no-one in the church seems able to act against the perpetrator of this abuse.
ROBERT INCHAUSTI: SUBVERSIVE ORTHODOXY
3 years ago