As a Pastor I have been saddened often by the vast number of people I have met who have been so wounded by their experience of Church, that it is now either impossible for them to attend or still very painful to do so. Today I feel so profoundly affected by this truth that I wish to make this sincere apology on behalf of the Church which I have served for over 50 years.
I wish to apologise, then,
To those whose experience of the church was of being judged and criticised because you did not measure up to some superficial man made standard. For behaviour condemned by Jesus as pharisaical, I apologise.
To those who have been physically, emotionally or spiritually abused by leaders in your church. For the use of power by people who were called to love, I apologise.
To those who grew up believing that God was a God of wrath and judgement and never heard of His Grace and Mercy. For the failure of some church leaders to teach the message of the Cross of Christ, I apologise.
To the families of church leaders, who felt abandoned and isolated by husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, who gave their whole energies to their church and failed to make a priority of their family. For the failure of some of us to understand what it means to love and nurture our families, I apologise
To Pastors who sought to be faithful but were opposed and restricted by their church or by their denomination. For a fear of change that causes some of us to become angry, aggressive and punitive instead of forgiving and understanding, I apologise.
To men and women who turned to the Church for help, because they were the victims of family or church abuse and were turned away. For a lack of the compassion that Jesus taught was the mark of a disciple, I apologise.
To those wounded by religion and institutional attitudes and who feel that they have not experienced the love and grace reflected in the life of Jesus. For those who stood at the door of the Kingdom refusing to go in themselves and preventing you from entering, I apologise.
I believe that God is our Heavenly Father, that He loves us with a passion and that Jesus is our Saviour in whom we find complete forgiveness and healing. I also believe in the Church as Christ intended it to be and as often, across the whole world it has been. It is not an institution, or an organisation, but the Body of Christ, made up of individual sinners who have been saved by Grace. The Church is not a perfect family, and sometimes we do get hurt, but it is the one and only place on earth where we can find complete healing and restoration.
Without negating or minimising your pain I invite you to allow God to heal your broken heart, and to restore you to a loving church family that reflects the love and grace of your Heavenly Father. Not only that but I invite you also to become beacons of hope to thousands of others as you reflect in your own life the love, acceptance and forgiveness that you have received from your Saviour and friend, Jesus Christ, who is the rightful head of the Church.
In offering this apology and invitation I feel that I need to affirm that a truth often demonstrated by godly church leaders and members, but forgotten by some is that in God’s kingdom we are called to serve Him and each other. It is when we forget this truth and resort to power instead of love and lauding it over others, instead of serving them, that people get hurt.
Pastor Graeme invites any pastor or leader who would like to add their name to this letter to do so, as a extension to those who may be hurting within their own community due to being hurt by those within the church. This can be done through comments on the top of this page. Graeme serves a pastor in Victoria, Australia.
Stories have been told from the beginning of time and stories will continue to be told till the end of time. Every life has a story and these stories inspire and encourage others on life's' journey. It is not how we start the journey that counts, but how we finish it.
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