From Victimization to the Seat of Power: responding to betrayal from church leaders

This issue keeps popping up. First, I told a story of interaction with former friends from my former denomination, after reaching out to see if they were up for reconciliation. The response was somewhat remarkable, and required some follow up. Then, a few people questioned whether I was speaking out my pain through bitterness or unforgiveness. Neither was true, so I responded with a post on the subject of speaking of betrayal without speaking out of our pain.

Betrayal CardWell, low and behold, someone else I know, who has been through issues of betrayal from leadership they had served for years, posted on Facebook about their experiences. Knowing that doing such a thing elicits critique, I spoke in support of the person writing the post.

The dialogue goes on from a number of people interacting with me about this issue. When do we speak out, is it right to do so in correction of “God’s leaders?” (Those words are in quotes, because it seems that speaking against leadership is especially wrong in the eyes of some, and that there are whole pile of people who consider themselves untouchable leaders.)

Betrayal and Authority

I believe the betrayed hold a special place in the heart of God. Their experience leads them to have an experiential understanding of the ministry of Christ, which only the betrayed can have. Their exile is His exile as they experience “the fellowship of His sufferings”. (Phil. 3:10) As a result, they can speak to those who are also being betrayed and help them through the process of forgiveness and moving forward in life. Of course, this assumes they have been able to do the same themselves. Some people wrongly believe that forgiveness means forgetting, and never speaking of the subject again, but this is not the story of scripture. There is a host of people we will meet in heaven, whose sins are written in the eternal Word of God. Their stories of sin, forgiveness and redemption are written for our example. So too, the stories being played out in flesh and blood today are stories written for our example. Those of us, who have been betrayed and yet have moved forward in spite of it, are here as a signpost of hope for those languishing in shame wrongly attributed to them by manipulative leaders. This means we must tell our stories.

Telling these stories is not for every Christian betrayed by leadership. The unforgiving perhaps should not apply for the position of correcting, and/or warning others to avoid the traps of manipulation (though in extreme circumstances this may change). The bitter need not apply for the post of healer of broken hearts. Some who feel betrayed have experiences that are minor in comparison to others. Their sense of offense may be birthed from misunderstanding rather than pure manipulation. The sense of betrayal may be sourced in oversight rather than lying. But, there are other stories with monstrous ramifications, and scores of broken people littering the path. These are necessary stories to tell, and there must be someone to heal the past, and verify that for those who were manipulated – it was not their fault.

Those closest to the events of betrayal, that have come to a place of peace with the past, stand in a strong position of authority to speak life and health to the still broken. From this position of exile they have a voice of authority, and it is in this position that the victim becomes enthroned on the seat of power. This is the story of Christianity itself. The victim (Christ) is seated on the throne of power. Likewise, a forgiving victim stands with an authority to speak to the spaces of darkness like no other person can.

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