On Friday, September 8th at 7 pm the Diocese is offering “Lamenting Invisible Scars: Prayers of Repentance and Healing for Child Sexual Abuse in the Church” at Trinity Cathedral. Members of all our churches are welcome to join us for prayer, silence, and reflection.
When we first announced the service, one response we got was surprise that child sexual abuse has happened at Episcopal Churches. I’m afraid it is all too true that we, like all other churches and organizations that work with children, have a history of abuse.
One of the first things I did when I became your bishop was to pull out all the files on child sexual abuse in our diocese and read them so that I would know the history of our congregations, the ways in which my predecessors responded, and how it might impact our ministry today. There have been no cases of child abuse by clergy in recent decades that we are aware of, but just because we do not know about it does not mean it has not happened.
The Episcopal Church has invested resources in time and training to prevent child sexual abuse not just in our churches, but also in our communities. Each Episcopal leader who takes the Safe Church, Safe Communities training learns skills that are transferable to schools, athletic programs, and families in how to look for warning signs of abuse and how to respond if you see something that causes concern. Each time you refresh your Safe Church training, you are taking a step that makes the world safer for children.
At the Cathedral service next month, our liturgy will move through four stages: Repentance, Truth-telling, Justice, and Healing. As the Bishop of this diocese, I have a particular responsibility to repent for the sins of our collective past, even if I was not the bishop–or even born yet–at the time when some of the known abuse occurred. Other clergy will join me in repenting for our corporate sin in leaving the vulnerable unprotected. A survivor of abuse will share part of their story; we will light candles with prayers for justice; and conclude by blessing the water of Baptism that refreshes, restores, and promises us new life.
I am grateful for the team that has worked on this bilingual liturgy: The Rev. Canon Susana Santibanez; the Venerable Amy Bryan; the Very Rev. Troy Mendez, Serrena Fuentes; Clarissa Ortiz; Erik Goldstrom; Laurel Way; and Max Walker.