Tough love for sexual abusers

Outrage, accountability, forgiveness, potential reconciliation
How do we handle clergy sexual misconduct faithfully and compassionately? The issues and challenges extend far beyond any one crisis, and indict all churches that have failed to recognize the complexity of those issues and faithfully engage them.

My wife served for four challenging years on the committee that dealt with clergy sexual misconduct in her United Methodist Church conference. The committee tended to oscillate between two extreme postures: sweeping the offense under the rug as if nothing had happened, or adopting a harshly punitive stance that seemed to ignore any prospect of forgiveness and reconciliation. How, my wife wondered, can the church offer a distinctive witness to the importance of taking sin seriously—thereby ensuring accountability—while also embodying the power of costly forgiveness?


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