Lamenting Invisible Scars

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. 

3 comments on “Lamenting Invisible Scars”

  1. Thank you for the message and very touching concerns a bout the issues a round child abuse within the church. I will love to appreciate and offer myself and my family to join you in prayer and to celebrate with you during the service of repentance for the past sins. Iam moved by the step taken in time by our lovely Bishop Jennifer and others for the purpose of healing back the church.
    Thank you and may God keep and guide you during this hard time.

  2. I am grateful for this ministry towards the childhood as a man who has experienced the suffering of children in the Roman Catholic Church. It is very important to pay attention to the Children because some of them can be victims of sexual abuse by the matured people. To keep silence on eventual sexual abuse can be interpreted as another Sin . To talk about can be the best way to waive any responsibility on that crime.Pierre

  3. Our Heavenly Father will Protect our Children and our youth from the sexual abuse if we combine our efforts to talk about and denounce such criminal attitude of some bad Christians.