Part 2: When Restoration Is Not Possible
Hello Brent, You ask me when restoration is precluded for the accused. First, let me say that I think that God can forgive and redeem us from all our sins, including more horrific sins like violence and sexual abuse. So we are discussing restoration in our more limited human context. Second, we want to distinguish being accused from being guilty. Simply being accused is not equivalent to being guilty, though even being accused may implicate a safety plan.
Whether restoration is limited is going to depend on our definitions of restoration. You define restoration in three ways. The first is relationship. Restoration is not possible in relationship if one person is not repentant or another person is not willing or able to forgive. I heard of one situation where a now-adult victim went back and confronted the man who had sexually abused and seduced him as a teenager. The man acknowledged that he had done it, but refused to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with his actions. Although the victim as willing to forgive, no restoration was possible because of lack of repentance. In other cases, victims are not able to work through the difficult process of forgiveness, or simply are not willing to. It’s important to add the caveat that even if there has been some restoration in the relationship, full restoration may not be possible. If the relationship has not been healthy, it would not be wise to have the same depth in the relationship or the same access to the person. There may even be legal liability for allowing an abusive person access to a victim.
Your second definition of restoration involves position. If a person has been involved in certain activities, it may not be appropriate for them to keep their position in the organization, either for a certain period of time under an action plan, or forever. This does not speak to God’s forgiveness, but to our practical realities. On the Scriptural side, the Bible has very specific requirements for a leader. On the legal side, an organization can be responsible for negligent supervision if it gives an abuser or someone who is guilty of destructive behaviors in other ways an opportunity to keep going. I will go on record and state that I believe religious organizations need to remove those who commit child sexual abuse, usually by termination (the kind where you fire the person by HR action, not by firing squad). Seriously, missions need to practice zero tolerance on child sexual abuse, whether or not the person appears to have repented.
Your third definition of restoration involves location. It may not be possible or wise to restore a person to a particular location. For instance, if the person’s behavior has been triggered by stressors in that location, that place might not be right for them. Or suppose that there is an allegation of abuse, but the allegation is found inconclusive. If you believe there is a 30% chance that the person has abused a child, you might not terminate the person, but you would likely remove the person from locations where he or she had access to children. This would not be a disciplinary action, but a safety plan action.
Sometimes, we hear the phrase “under the blood” used as an excuse not to deal with abusive behavior. One investigator told me that if he hears “under the blood” one more time, he is going to throw up. It is true that our sins are forgiven under Christ’s blood. That does not change the hard work of facing up to the damage that sin has done, taking care of victims, putting in place safety plans, working through one’s personality disorders, and generally doing the hard work of restoration. Christ’s blood was costly, and so is restoration on the human level. And we have to remember that spiritual restoration does not mean that the person can stay in their job.
Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion
Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations