A Reader’s Response

It’s not often that I get much response to my blogs other than a few short comments on Facebook and likes here and there. But, last week after I wrote about Men, Ministry and Sexual Misconduct I received an email that I want to share.

Julia Ruggieri is a high school math teacher in southern California and is very passionate about the issue I was discussing. She shared in her note areas that we need to think about when we discuss leaders who abuse their power, as well as some resources. I have had several email exchanges with Julia since which have been both engaging and educating. I agree with her completely that people in positions of authority abuse their power by manipulating others in these types of sexual misconduct cases. With her permission, I am publishing her note to me because I think she makes great points that are worth sharing.

Dear Pastor Mann:

I had the opportunity to read a couple of your recent posts on your blogs regarding sexual abuse in the church.  The purpose of this email is to address some concerns about your most recent post about men and the ministry.  You make some very good points.  However, I believe you get stuck in the weeds and express some negative stereotypical statements about what you perceive as some of the causes and the courses of prevention for sexual abuse.

To that end, I ask that you contact Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham who heads GRACE, a ministry working to combat sexual abuse in churches.

Sexual abuse and sexual harassment is about abuse of power and abuse of boundaries.  This is true whether it happens in the church or in secular institution.  Here is a quote from Boz Tchiidjiian from an AP article written yesterday.  “The pastor is someone who has authority, power, influence, and the victim usually is someone who doesn’t,” Tchividjian said. “The abusers walk away in great confidence that the victim will not speak out.”

You addressed this in your blog.  However, you talk about using your wife as a method of refraining from abusing the power of your position.  It’s great that you perceive your wife as your best friend.  I’m concerned that you are using her as a protection for your boundaries.  Similarly, because of your power, people will seek you out for guidance and support.  They may have damaged boundaries as well.  Many people with childhood trauma have troubles with boundaries if they have not received good professional or other types of support.  Meeting with people with bad boundaries probably necessitates witnesses or other observers.  This is true though whether they are men or women. 

When I read your post, I got the impression that you are still dealing with the issue of women being seductive by what they wear or how they might act because of their boundaries or their neediness.   I ask you to remember that sexual abuse and harassment is about the abuse of power and the abuse of boundaries, not seductiveness.

The Billy Graham method of not meeting with women is not addressing the issues of power and boundaries.  It is not just women who have been abused in Evangelical churches or the Catholic church.  Young men and boys are very often the victims as well.

I prayerfully and humbly request that you investigate the issues of sexual abuse and sexual harassment more extensively.  We, in the church, need more enlightened leaders on this topic.

Best Regards,

Julia S Ruggieri

In our discussions, I did share with Julia that I actually have quite an extensive background in the issues of sexual abuse and harassment, but that my original blog wasn’t really about that, it was about how serving ministers could do more to hold themselves accountable. That said, her comments regarding sexual abuse and harassment are right on the money, which is why I want to share them.

Thanks, Julia, for sending me your note! I always appreciate feedback to help move the discussion forward!

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