A response to the Royal Commission into Child Abuse

In the last few weeks the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse has been hearing shocking evidence about the conduct of people claiming to be representing Jesus in Queensland.

How are Christians to respond to what is happening as this Royal Commission sweeps around the nation unearthing horrific truths about the depths of human brokenness? As we hear story after story of lives destroyed? What should our response be to the Royal Commission? What do we, at Creek Road, think about this Commission, and more importantly – what do we do about protecting children at Creek Road?

Thoughts on the Royal Commission

We believe God takes loving and protecting children, and any weak, or vulnerable members of our society very seriously. So we take loving and protecting children seriously.

There is no place for covering up dark deeds committed by people within the church with more darkness. This makes it worse for the victim. It doesn’t protect the Church (which is the misguided reasoning some have used). And keeping evil in the dark isn’t what Jesus is on about. It can’t be what people claiming to follow Jesus are on about.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t completely erase the capacity for humans to do terrible things to others. We are called to love and support victims of crimes and put their needs first in these situations, as we seek to model Jesus love to them and offer his promise of a future free from the pain and sadness associated with our broken world to those who bring their own pain and sadness to him. Part of the great news of the Gospel is that in Jesus we have a saviour who understands the pain of completely unwarranted abuse at the hands of broken, evil, and self-centred people.

While we are called to love and protect the victims of crimes, the Gospel is also for criminals.  We must be careful when speaking of such heinous crimes that we don’t dehumanise the criminal, or suggest that any sin – no matter how terrible – is too great for Jesus to pay for with his blood. Crime – not just abuse, but not excluding abuse, is often the result of a series of bad and broken decisions made by generations of people. Crime is a part and product of our broken world. Crimes are carried out by broken people. Broken people need Jesus, who specialises in unbreaking the broken. A person who commits a crime is responsible for that crime. The first sentences in that quote from John 3 are as important as the last sentences.  Criminals owe a debt to God. They stand guilty before God ready to be condemned, but they can be forgiven through the infinite mercy offered through the cross of Jesus. Whatever happens between the individual and God, the criminal also owes a debt to the state and to their victim. Followers of Jesus who want to live as Jesus wants us to live won’t hide in darkness, they might have their debt cleared by God, but they will be willing to face the consequences of their actions. They will be willing to pay that debt, in the light.

When people commit crimes – the state should rightly be free to punish those people – without people from churches or church institutions trying to interfere with that process. Even if they’ve those people turn to Jesus and are forgiven by God. Governments are appointed by God to do a job. God judges people, and does so justly, but he also appoints governments that we are to submit to (and appoints them to do a job):

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” Romans 13:1, 4-5

The Royal Commission is bringing dark deeds to light, and laying the groundwork for bringing punishment to the wrongdoer. As followers of Jesus we welcome the spotlight being shone on any organisation where child abuse might be occurring.  Especially if that organisation is associated with any church.

What we do at Creek Road

Creek Road takes child protection seriously.  Jesus loves Children and wants children to be part of his family. Children must feel safe, and especially have no reason to fear abuse, while they’re at Kids Church, on site at Creek Road campuses, or doing anything that Creek Road is associated with – including our holiday kids outreach – Community Connect, and when we go out to schools to teach Religious Instruction.

Creek Road complies with relevant child protection legislation, and recognizes best practice for the provision of services to children, in our operations. All Creek Road ministry partners and staff who work with children are Blue Card accredited, and we ensure adequate, ongoing, training is provided to our team through the Presbyterian Church of Queensland’s chosen training program ChildSafe. While we trust our leaders and select them carefully based on character, we want to be above reproach, so our Kids Church facilities are designed to ensure visibility and our programs ensure children are not alone with adults.

In the event of any complaint or accusation from a child about any abuse  at Creek Road we immediately refer that complaint to the police. This is the policy of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland, and we strongly support it.

It is possible that reading or hearing about the Royal Commission, or even reading this piece, has prompted some pain for you in response to events in your past. If that is true for you, we encourage you to take the courageous step towards relieving yourself of carrying this burden alone. You can raise this with your Growth Group Leader, or come straight to our pastoral staff via the church office. We are available to walk this journey with you, to listen, to help in taking events to the appropriate authorities, and to coordinating any pastoral care and counselling for victims of sexual abuse, or any parties affected by the long-term consequences of such abuse.

Prayer about the Royal Commission

This is a prayer that you might pray in the light of the Royal Commission.

Heavenly father,

We thank you that you are a God who loves the vulnerable and weak and that you encourage us to do the same. We thank you that you became vulnerable and weak for us, at the cross. We thank you for the pain and suffering you allowed us to inflict on you at the cross, where you offered not only to take our burdens and our pain, but also our punishment for the burdens and pain we inflict on others. Thank you that you transform our past, present and future through the cross – that you invite us to walk a new road, defined by a father who lovingly sacrifices himself for us, and by the new home we long for where the pain and brokenness of this world is no more.

We pray for those who are victims of sin, especially those who are victims of sexual abuse, especially those who were vulnerable children hurt by those whose job it was to protect and nurture them. We pray too for their families, dealing with the significant fallout of the hurt, the break down of trust, and the abuse of power involved in these crimes – that you would  be a comfort to them, that as we tell the world of your commitment to the vulnerable and the broken – that we offer the hope of the Gospel with its transformation of the present and the future, and the promise of justice where evil doers are brought into the light – they would know that you understand their pain. That they would know that you love them. Be a comfort to these families, and help us, as your people, to offer comfort and to work to rebuild trust as we too love through sacrifice, and seek justice.

Thank you that in the cross we also see your commitment to justice, to punishing evil, we thank you that you are not a God who is prepared to let injustice rule the world and escape into darkness. Thank you that you bring injustice to light – by providing us with governments who act to bring justice now, and by promising that you will judge each person justly for their actions. We pray for our Government – that you would give them wisdom as they carry out this task, we pray for those involved in the Commission, hearing about the worst of human behaviour and sitting with those who are suffering as a result of heinous and horrific actions of people who had power over them, we pray that you would give them peace and comfort, and strength to continue this task.

We pray for those who have committed acts of abuse in the past, or those who feel the temptation to commit such acts in the future – we pray that you would convict them of the darkness of their hearts, and convince them that Jesus offers the only hope of a transformed heart. We pray that we would faithfully offer this message of hope to all people, that we would extend your love to those society turns its back on, that we would remember that it is only by your grace and your transformation of our hearts, that we are no longer trapped in brokenness, that we are no longer agents of darkness, inflicting pain, without love, on the people in our lives.

In Jesus name, Amen.