This comes the week that a member of the British royal family has been accused of participating in an international sex slave operation. (I was about to call The Duke of York “the cute one” but then I re-read yesterday’s post. My hope is that the 2015 currency in the Duke’s pocket is actually less about his appearance and more about his charitable work. And God help this guy if he’s guilty.)
Although we Americans ostensibly ascribe to the gracious notion of “innocent until proven guilty” let’s face it: we rarely do this.
In my line of work, I receive reports about clergy misconduct which can run the gamut from child abuse to adultery to financial malfeasance. The process involves accusations, investigations, proceedings under oath, reports, and – if necessary – consequences. Let’s be honest: there are pastors whom “everybody” knows are being irresponsible, to say the least. There are pastors that parishioners feel queasy about in some way, but they do not want to rock the proverbial boat. And there are people out to get pastors for whatever reason. Jealously? Power struggles? Evil?
It’s one thing to make our default response grace when someone cuts us off on the highway or breaks in line at the movie theater or refuses to quiet their children in the library. But what if someone is accused – like the Duke of York – of something particularly heinous and life-ruining? It’s tricky and fraught with crazy-making emotions. But:
- We have to trust. Listen to the stories with open minds. Prayerfully discern. Mostly trust God who ultimately makes things right.
- We have to support the victims – who are not always the obvious ones.
- We have to hold each other accountable. For the love of God, you all have permission to take me aside and hold me accountable if you observe me doing something that hurts the people I serve or God or myself or my dog. Honestly, please tell me. I (and maybe you) have taken vows that deserve to remain sacred.
Even when it’s determined that someone is unquestionably guilty, we who seek to follow Jesus are called to act accordingly. We all need forgiveness. We all have fallen short. We all carry something shameful in our lives. I’m not saying we should not hold each other accountable (I’m talking to you, abusive seminary boyfriend.) But what if grace was our (attempted) default response in 2015?