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.
My life was all about my family, I married very young and by the age of 24 I had my 4 children. I lived and worked for them my whole life.
Then at age 49 my whole life changed. My mum suddenly died it was a great shock, she was sick but I really didn’t think that she would die. She was a very strong woman, a peaceful lady she would find good in everyone and everyone was welcome to her home. Her dying shattered me.
My husband was not there for me during this time. He thought I should be over her death in a week. At the time of my mum’s death my dad was dying of lung cancer. My mum’s death was very hard on him as he had lost his soul mate. My sister who isn’t well herself and suffers from brain tumours helped me look after my dad for 9 months, which I will treasure the memories until the day I die.
I still worked full-time and would go and care for dad after work and week-ends, my life was on hold for nine months, this didn’t make my husband very happy he didn’t understand.
We managed to keep dad home until ten hours before he died , so I was very grateful for that, as he wanted to stay home. I am not the eldest sibling I am the 3rd eldest out of 8, but it was left for me to do both funerals. I was the executor of their will as well. This was very hard. It would have been so much easier if I had the support of a loving husband. But that was not the case.
During this time my children were all fighting with each other and just wouldn’t get along. One of my sons’s stopped talking to me and I didn’t get to see two of my grandsons or my son, this was extremely hard. Being so unhappy I gained about 20 kilo’s lost interest in everything didn’t exercise. Then my brother at age 50 died suddenly, Still my son didn’t speak to me.
I was and I am very fortunate to have great friends who helped me through this hard time. At 54 I was financially stable. I owned my home, was paying off a holiday home. I went to work to spend money not because I had to work. But I still wasn’t happy. Neither the money nor any of the material things meant anything to me, I was just not happy.
I had started to go overseas over the past 3 years, I went each year with friends, and my husband wouldn’t come. My husband drank and would get very aggressive; he mentally abused me for a very long time. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. My last trip I thought I don’t want to live another 30 years like this I want to be happy I want to find Gayle. So I walked out of a 36 year relationship.
I went and rented for three months this was hard as I had worked hard all my life and I didn’t want to rent. I was very depressed never did I think it was the wrong choice, but it wasn’t easy by any means. After three months I bought myself a home, my life started to change. I only just starting telling people that I had left my husband.
This past year has been extremely hard. Since leaving my husband and my home I got to a place where; some days I didn’t want to get out of bed. Most night’s I wished I wouldn’t wake up, but I did and I had to keep going. It took all my will power and strength, but I wanted happiness I wanted to be content. I just had to look around and see that I am a good person I am worth being here, that I have a great family, children, grandchildren, sister and friends. I am very grateful for that.
My ex-husband didn’t love me, he was just sad because he had lost the cook, the cleaner, chauffeur, the peace maker, my income and sex, not love. He soon found a replacement after seven months. Even though I didn’t love him, this hurt as it confirmed what I already knew that the love had long gone.
There were so many hurdles put in front of me some high, some low and I knew that if I wanted a happy life it was up to me no-one else to get over those hurdles. I would get over two then there would be three more, I would think to myself will this ever change. I can’t tell you how many tears were shed.
Then in March I made another big decision, get Gayle back. I worked hard and lost 22 kilo’s, it was hard work and I enjoyed working hard because it was for me, I also decided to find a good counsellor, who helped me find myself again, which I am very grateful for.
I have the sparkle back in my eyes. I go out with friends and have some fun, maybe later down the track I might find Mr.Right, but if I don’t I am happy with myself. There still will be hurdles to get over but I will get over them. As long as I keep my positive attitude and keep Gayle alive and live life because that is what life is about what you make of it yourself.
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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