MemberFebruary 13, 2020 at 10:25 am
Hello, everyone. I am struggling with feelings of betrayal and injustice in my Church. My husband and daughter and I moved to a new town and joined this church about three years ago. Over time we both became involved in youth ministry, as our daughter was involved and we wanted to help out and give back to what we thought was a wonderful program. As I was very busy w my career, my husband took on more and more work w youth as he was asked to do so. The kids love him; he is just one of those people kids naturally gravitate to. He is open and kind and does not talk down to kids, which I think they appreciate. He is a wonderful father.
A few months ago our world was turned upside down when my husband was called to a meeting w our priest and told that he was banned from any further work w youth because of “safeguarding violations.” The letter also said that parish staff and wardens had been alerted to keep an eye on him and make sure that he keeps a respectable distance from children. The listed offenses were very vague, such as “horseplay” and “not allowing enough physical distance from children.” When I confronted our priest about it, he did not elaborate much but told me how we are still loved and welcome.
But how could we feel welcome in an environment where my husband has to be monitored every second around children? My husband was always out in the open with children and there was no allegation of any abuse or police involvement. He was given no feedback to indicate that anyone thought of him as a threat. Once at VBS a scared little girl (who did not know anyone at the church, and had basically been dropped off for the free babysitting) crawled onto his lap. He was told to take the child off his lap, which he did. Another time he was sitting on the lawn and some of the older kids thought it was funny to run up and tackle him. One of the youth leaders said “you can’t do that,” but my husband thought that feedback was meant for the kids, not him, since they were the ones jumping on him. That was literally the extent of the feedback he received. He was never told that he violated any guidelines and was certainly never told that his position was in jeopardy. All of this is based on the complaints of one person, but we are not allowed to know the whole story because that person’s identity is supposed to be kept confidential. I am 100% for reporting and investigating any concerns, but to be banned for life and treated like a pedophile because of one person’s statement about things like not pushing a child off their lap or picking up a child who was literally running off the church grounds and into traffic (something else that raised eyebrows, according to our priest) seems insane and unjust. I also think there is a double standard here. I have picked up children at the church if they need redirection and no one has batted an eye. Our culture has slowly come to accept women in the workplace, but I think there is still major suspicion about men as caregivers of young children. To make matters worse, my husband is finishing his master’s in education and looking for a teaching job. I have a prestigious job here in our small town. We are terrified of the rumors.
The letter my husband received said that he violated “Safeguarding guidelines,” which refers to one online training designed to be completed in 45 minutes. Once you click through everything and get your certificate, you can’t even get back in to see it again. I took it three years ago and I vaguely remember the contents, but not specific guidelines. Our diocese does actually have a required handbook for working w youth that has guidelines, and an appendix that is supposed to be signed by all youth volunteers saying that they received the guidelines. This was never done for us, nor for any other volunteers in our church. In fact, our diocese has required background checks for nearly a decade, and no volunteers at our church has ever had a background check. The lack of clear guidelines and transparency is astounding. I actually called our bishop and he said that that is a big violation on our parish’s part and that my husband and I needed to sit down w our priest and two lay leaders to determine a Just and compassionate outcome.
So we had the meeting on Sunday. They did ask me what they can do to reconcile this, so it does look like we can work with them. But we feel so scared in terms of the damage that may have already been done to our reputations. We also feel so sad and betrayed. These were people we loved and trusted; we really did think of them as q church family. One of the lay leaders in the meeting is a friend of mine—or so I thought. When I talked to her privately as friends she said the banishment was not her decision and she had never heard anything bad about my husband. In the meeting, she did a total 180 and said that she was the person to whom the concerns were raised and she was part of the decision. When I confronted her about the lie, she said that she lied because she “just thought I needed to vent.” That stung so much that I came home and just sobbed for hours after That meeting.
So now thE ball is in our court. We have been asked to tell them what would like in terms of compromise and reconciliation. But I felt so gaslighted in that meeting as they kept trying to defend their decision and saying that my husband was wrong to let kids tackle him on the church lawn (he did not want them to do it—they jumped on him and he thought it would be wrong to physically push them away—he did not like it), yet they did not seem to be too concerned that they have never done background checks (which my husband would pass, of course) or actually provided volunteers w actual guidelines other than that one online training. I felt like I was in some Kafkaesque alternate universe.
To make things even more difficult, we have a seven-year-old daughter who loves that church and their programs and has no idea about any of this. It is heartbreaking. She is, of course, my first priority and I would never keep her in a house with an abuser. If the church really thought he was an abuser, they should have presented any evidence to me as the parent of a small child. They have not done so. In fact, he was even told by church leaders that he did not have to involve me in any of this.
Any advice as to how to go forward would be greatly appreciated. We are both so emotionally exhausted from all of this.