Hurt by church

I had lunch with a friend today who was recently deeply wounded by his church, by people he had respected, admired, and been faithful to for years. No need for the gory details, but sheesh this is a recurring theme in my life. All the way back in 1985, when I was just a typical 14 year old boy, the church we had been part of my whole life fell apart. Because of things the pastor and his wife were doing. No need for the gory details, but a lot of people were left with serious emotional hurts. It put me into a tailspin spiritually that lasted through one wild year of college before the Lord was able to get through to me again.
This issue has remained close to my heart and Amy and I often find ourselves ministering to those hurt by church. Part of my dissertation is exploring how the Pentecostal movement has perpetrated hurts through the codification of its doctrines and practices (the insistence that everyone speak in tongues being the most prominent, though not only, example). I think it is worth devoting some space here on my blog to this subject too. Hurt by church comes in many forms and there are no easy answers, but we should look at the ecclesiological problems that lie behind the abuse and look for a better way forward.
You can help me with this. If you have been hurt by church post a comment here (or send me an email if you want to keep it private). Be as vague as you like (no need for gory details) and focus more on where you are – where the hurt has left you emotionally and spiritually. I’m not looking for gossip or mudslinging, but a space where hurts can be voiced and addressed.

2 thoughts on “Hurt by church

  1. I honestly struggled with writing this because it’s so much easier to keep hurts that run deep like this out of the light where they aren’t so “exposed”. BUT, I think you are right in that it’s SO common and has such far reaching impact.

    I know there are others, but the one that hurts the most probably happened 6ish years ago. My husband was on staff at a large church as the Worship Pastor. As long as we have been married we had always done worship and other church music together so I joined him as part of the worship team on many occasions. After a few years of noticing that most of the other team members were asked to do “special music” for the services on a regular basis but I never had been asked (and he did the scheduling) I went to him curious about it. After a lot of digging, he finally admitted to me that he had been asked by those above him to not schedule me for those kind of things. Why? Because I didn’t fit the mold/look that they wanted to highlight. I wasn’t young/thin/pretty enough and they wanted to highlight people that wouldn’t be “distracting”. He was told that I could sing “back-up vocals” but nothing else. None of it was related to my ability or gifting, but purely based on my appearance.

    To say that it emotionally devastated me would be putting it lightly. I felt hurt, betrayed, ashamed, angry….you name it. Knowing that my husband had been put in this position was hurtful, but then knowing that he didn’t tell me (because he didn’t want to hurt me) and let me continue to be part of the team was more hurtful.

    I have not been able to help him lead worship without fear or shame since that time – and I HATE that. I haven’t really figured out how to move past it. I’ve only done worship a handful of times since then and each one has been a struggle.

    1. It amazes me how the most vile attitudes and actions get wrapped up in religious motives and thus made to seem okay. It’s like church becomes a zone where the normal logic, reason, and morals don’t hold anymore. If what you’ve described happened anywhere else in society there would be major trouble: lawsuits, people losing their jobs, etc. Churches shouldn’t be behind the wider culture in terms of its understanding and application of ethics, but sadly this is often the case.
      Thanks for sharing this. I know all too well the strain this sort of thing puts on relationships. I hope/pray that you have been/are/will be able to heal from this completely.

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