Fear of Lawsuits

Imagine yourself as a pastor.  One morning you receive an anonomus email from someone claiming to be a member of your congregation desperately seeking direction.  The problem: the member is being abused by the spouse and wants to know what to do.

Remember, you’re the pastor who receives the email.

Do you:  ignore the email and hope the problem goes away?  Answer the email as directly, honestly, and compassionately as you can?  Or tell the person that unless he or she identifies him or herself, you won’t respond?

Here is an individual looking for an answer.  This individual is more than likely afraid to confront the spouse, concerned about spiritual ramifications, or maybe fearful of how the church will handle it, ostrisizing the abused person.

I know intimately someone who recently wrote such an email.  The reply was that unless the abused person was brave enough to come forward, the church leader would not respond.  The abused person did not come forward, but 5 months later, when the abuser left the family and filed for divorce, the church leaders then “corrected” the abused member.  The correction?  Remove the abused spouse from all positions of ministry and offer marriage counselling.

When I asked the church leaders why they acted as they did, they had one reason: they thought the anonomus email could be a joke setting them up for a lawsuit or public reaction.

When did church leaders become more fearful of public reaction than ministering hope to the needy in their midst?  When did pastors and denominational leaders become more concerned with lawsuits than in offering the healing power of Jesus?  When did we start caring more about publicity than truth?  When did we pass on protecting the hurt and vulnerable in order to protect our organizations?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and personal stories.  You can comment here or email me at ChallengingChurchianity@comcast.net.

About Richard L Rice

Just an ordinary, balding, blind guy, making my way to Heaven by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Richard L Rice has been an ordained minister since 1986, and pastored 6 churches. A graduate of Multnomah School of the Bible (Portland, OR) and Abilene Bible Seminary (Abilene, KS), Richard is the author of numerous books, including commentaries on Matthew, Romans, the Minor Prophets, and the Pastoral Epistles of Paul. He is the pastor of a congregation in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the faculty of the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife Kimberly and son Daniel. Further details about him can be found written on the pages of his blog.
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