This is the letter that should have been read to my former church when the abuse by the former pastor was exposed. Every elder at the church had agreed to read this letter in it’s entirety, but instead they edited without our approval. The only reason I’d agreed that they could share my name with the church was with the understanding that they’d read this letter. I was told after the meeting that the inappropriate relationship with the former pastor was not labeled as abusive, but as a relationship that the pastor was responsible for. My husband and I requested a copy of the former pastor’s letter to the congregation, but were never given it. It helps me today to post this letter here, so that at least my voice is being heard. My counselor helped me to write this letter, and her part is in all caps.
I’m so sorry that you’ve had to hear this. WHILE YOU ARE HEARING THIS, WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A WEEK OF INTENSIVE COUNSELING WITH A COUNSELOR IN ANOTHER STATE WHO SPECIALIZES IN SITUATIONS LIKE THIS. WE ARE WORKING HARD TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HAPPENED, HOW IT HAPPENED, HOW IT HAS DAMAGED OUR MARRIAGE, HOW IT HAS HURT OTHERS, AND HOW WE CAN HEAL. OUR COUNSELOR BELIEVES THAT WE MUST FOCUS ON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD FIRST, THEN AN UNDERSTANDING OF OURSELVES, AND FINALLY A MENDING OF OTHER RELATIONSHIPS. I want you to know I take full responsibility for my part in this terrible deception that has occurred, AND LOOK FORWARD TO CONVERSATIONS IN THE FUTURE WHERE WE CAN SHARE WITH YOU GOD’S REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES IN OUR LIVES. WE KNOW THAT WILL TAKE TIME, AND WE HUMBLY ASK THAT YOU GIVE US TIME. WE NEED YOU TO BE THE BODY OF CHRIST THAT SURROUNDS US, JOINS IN FOLLOWING (the pastor – name deleted) IN LEADING, AND TAKES SERIOUSLY THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN.
I can only imagine your feelings may be similar to my own when I heard the words pastoral abuse from my counselor a couple of months ago when I shared with her for the first time about my relationship with (the former pastor – name deleted) that started ten years ago when I opened up to him about my childhood history of sexual abuse by my father IN THE CONTEXT OF A COUNSELING RELATIONSHIP. I truly believed at the time ( the former pastor name deleted) was God’s provision for a father figure, as did (my husband). I believed that he (the former pastor) loved me and had only the utmost concern for me, as did (my husband). But as I have talked to my counselor and worked through some of my pain, I realize that early on I was manipulated and controlled by (AND EVEN “GROOMED” BY (name deleted) FOR A SLOWLY UNFOLDING INAPPROPRIATE RELATIONSHIP). I became totally dependent on him over the years (WHICH (the former pastor) ENCOURAGED AS PART OF MY HEALING). In choosing to depend on him rather than God, (the former pastor) SUBTLY ENCOURAGED THIS DEPENDENCE TO THE POINT WHERE A GROWING INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP SEEMED NATURAL AND WAS ALSO ENCOURAGED AS PART OF MY HEALING.
Since he was my pastor, I believed what he said about it being ok to keep this a secret. I believed him when he said confessing to God was enough. IT WENT WITHOUT SAYING THAT BRINGING THIS RELATIONSHIP INTO THE LIGHT WOULD DESTROY EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE, AND SO I also believed him when he said God would not condemn me, but that He forgave and forgot BECAUSE STAYING SILENT WAS BEST FOR THE CHURCH AND THE WORK OF GOD. I had this conversation with him many times. I thought it was my lack of faith that kept me from accepting God’s forgiveness…I know now it was that God didn’t want the sin hidden. I know this because after I finally told the truth I experienced so much freedom and relief.
This past year being away from(the former pastor) and working for (the current pastor) it’s been like scales have fallen off my eyes. Slowly God has revealed to me the damage keeping this sin in the dark has caused our family and the church. With (the former pastor) gone from the church I had no one to HELP ME NAVIGATE THE WOUNDEDNESS, CONFUSION, AND the shame I never stopped feeling. I could not live with the secret anymore. It was killing me. When my counselor, WHO NOT ONLY HAS AN EXPERTISE IN SEXUAL ABUSE, BUT HAS WORKED WITH (CHURCHES) TO HELP BRING SIN INTO THE LIGHT AND FIND HEALING AND RESTORATION) started talking to me about pastoral abuse I realized(the former pastor) fit the profile perfectly. I was so upset hearing what my counselor told me that I confessed to(my current pastor) after my first counseling session. (MY HUSBAND) AND I MADE A DECISION TO TRUST (OUR CURRENT PASTOR) AND THE LEADERSHIP OF THIS CHURCH TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR PART IN THIS PAINFUL SITUATION AND TO PURSUE HEALING THAT DOESN’T JUST PUT A BANDAGE ON THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION, BUT WORKS TOWARD A DEEPER HEALING OF EACH OF US INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A COUPLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO HEAL OUR MARRIAGE AND THRIVE TOGETHER IN THE YEARS AHEAD SERVING GOD AND OTHERS.
I hope this helps you understand a little bit about my part in all this. I plead with you on behalf of our children that you don’t talk about this in front of your kids or to others who aren’t members. We want to spare our children from hearing about something they cannot understand at this time AND WE NEED TO BE THE ONES, WHEN NECESSARY, TO DISCUSS THIS WITH THEM. WE ARE GRATEFUL THAT THEY HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE THAT MOM AND DAD CAN STRUGGLE, SEEK HELP, AND GROW AND CHANGE. My elderly mom does not know I was abused by my father. I don’t see the benefit at this time in her knowing THIS NOW. IT WOULD BE CONFUSING AND POTENTIALLY VERY DAMAGING TO HER. Again, I plead with you to keep this in confidence.(My husband) and I have so much to work through over the next months. We will be in individual and couples therapy. We covet your prayers for us.
It’s going to be so terribly hard to face you knowing that you know this. Please understand I’m not ready to talk about this now and ask that you honor our healing process by not asking questions and wait until we are ready to talk about it. If I’m not here for a while just know I love all of you and I ask for your prayers and your forgiveness.
Thanks for hearing from me.