I saw this op-ed on the Chicago Sun-Times. It is reprinted with permission.
Imagine if the church said, ‘I’m sorry’
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14Imagine if the church said, “I’m sorry.”Imagine the collective of Christian churches across America creating, even for just one day, a safe space for those who have been abused in the church, or by the church, to say openly before the assembly — without condemnation —that something happened to them in this the most sacred of places we hold so dear.Imagine …Imagine if the church ceased from telling church-wounded brothers and sisters to simply “get over it.” Imagine if the church stopped scolding or shaming those countless “victims” over their inability to simply move on. Imagine if the church had a Me Too moment.
Imagine a church that no longer attempted to whitewash sins inflicted by the clergy upon the laity — often in secret and shrouded by a form of godliness, though purely evil and often criminal.The lesser sins: The backbiting from the pews, the shaming, denigration and legalism from the pulpit, the misuse of power. The abuses almost too incomprehensible to utter that have left the sheep bruised and scarred, battered or barely breathing, bitter, until finally turned off to the church and to God, as the church abides mostly in complicit silence.It is a pervasive silence that has swept over the church at large like a thick fog that obscures the truth and reality of life, love, joy and pain within the age-old institution.The church. It has been co-opted by a 21st century bling-bling Gospel, by prosperity doctrine and the emergence of the mega church. It is today a much more insular church than the church of old, intoxicatingly focused on building temples of brick and mortar rather than “community” and the temple called the souls of men.A made-for-TV church, it is a semblance of the church it was commissioned to be many centuries ago — enraptured by political correctness and with befriending the powers that be rather than speaking truth and practicing a social Gospel that is disruptive and also transformative. It is a church adept at seeing the speck in others’ lives but inept at detecting the beam in its own.But imagine. … Imagine if the church’s stiff-necked denials and knee-jerk reaction to criticisms from within or without was no longer to circle the wagons but instead to deal circumspectly with those criticisms, with the myriad tales of untold abuse, and to take measures to prevent it.Imagine the bold confessions of a repentant loving church: An admission that church leadership has indeed looked the other way amid glaring evidence of abuse. That the church is guilty of being MIA at times of great crisis and that it remains mostly mute about the scourge of murder, claiming black lives in genocidal proportions, and other social issues.Imagine a church that concedes that Pentecostals and Baptists and Methodists have no less sin than Catholics or those of other faiths who hide behind the collar and the cross while serial abusers devour the unsuspecting and vulnerable who once checked in safe at the House of God.Imagine a church that confessed that the church has brought shame to the name of Christ. A church that does not excuse the perpetrator or the flawed institution itself but seeks to heal and to protect the least of these.Imagine a church that said: “We are sorry that happened to you. … We believe you. You have every reason to never want to go to church again. Please forgive us and please accept our deepest regrets on behalf of the church.”Imagine that 2 Chronicles 7:14 is calling the church itself to repent.Now imagine if we, the church, don’t.