Sexual abuse is a growing problem in the modern prophetic churches as lack of structures to hold leaders to account and institutional assumptions and procedures tend to protect predators (the papa’s)and harm victims.
The list of victims accusing Prophets and Pastors of sexual misconduct appears to grow exponentially as the days go by. In the latest developments that have seen allegations of sexual abuse against Prophets and a growing outcry of financial misconduct, outright fraud and spiritual manipulation/abuse on the rise.
There are currently court cases against some of the big names in the modern day prophetic movement in Zimbabwe with names such as Walter Magaya and Emmanuel Makandiwa both facing some legal issues of sorts.
While some prophets and influential Christian leaders have defended or denounced these allegations as attacks on the prophets. There is a growing feeling amongst the public that there is a concerted effort from the churches to silence the victims. Though it may not be fair to paint all prophets and pastors as sexual predators or fraudsters. One maybe justified in questioning why other leaders in general are not speaking up against abuse of congregates? Why have they only chosen to focus on denouncing the victims and offer little or no consideration for those alleging to have been abused.
This is not only damaging to the body of Christ. It has destroyed lives and ruined family in the Christian community and beyond.
Onward Christian Radio recently reported that The Archbishop of York is currently under fire for not reporting a disclosure of rape to the relevant authorities after a congregate disclosed to him that one of the priests had raped him.
The archbishop of York was told by Matthew Ineson that he had been raped as a teenager in the 1980s by Rev Trevor Devamanikkan in Bradford.
A memo from June 2013 revealed that John Sentamu received Ineson’s allegation but recommended ‘no action’ be taken. Instead he replied to Ineson offering his prayers ‘at this difficult time’.
This was appalling in many ways but I can tell you now that most of you reading this article right now probably are like the Archbishop you know someone who has been abused or is being sexually abused by your church prophets or leaders. And the most you have said is let’s pray about it or God will take care of it.
Choir girls, ushers and hospitality teams in your church may have been ravaged by a marauding sexual predator Prophet or Pastor and they have no way to speak up or stand up for fear of persecution. Some victims have be called demons because they spoke out against these ‘so-called-Papas’.
The sad part about opting to offer only a prayer for the victim is that you leave the offender to continue with abuse elsewhere or even repeatedly abuse the same victim.
Sadly as reported in the case of Archbishop John Sentamu and the Anglican Church the accused Devamanikkan went on to live in a different city, before eventually being charged with three counts of buggery and three counts of indecent assault.
The church leaders chose to protect each other at the expense of the victim. And more people got abused by the same man the church tried to shield. Although the Anglican Church is not categorised as a modern day prophetic church this example further demonstrates that the problem maybe worse in the one-man-run Prophetic churches where the prophet is the sole centre of power and his authority is not questioned and there are no structures to hold the leader to account.
Such Churches are very quick to dismiss the victims and go into protective mode and became very defensive of their leader. In most cases these churches then set their legion of blind followers to harass the victim into silence.
It is not only sad but very concerning that some of these churches are not creating safe spaces for women and young girls. Too often victims are afraid to say anything because they are afraid of how people will respond. What’s even more grotesque is that the wives of some of these accused leaders are part of the system that not only facilitates the abuse of young girls but are also at the forefront of harassing victims into silence.
Although some church leaders respond appropriately to sexual abuse allegations within their walls, we, unfortunately, do have a lot of pastors and congregates who don’t think it happens, and prefer to embrace a false narrative that makes them more comfortable ( even confronted with had hitting evidence it is difficult for many to accept that their ‘man of god’ is a sexual predator an abuser) It’s common to see a desire to protect the institution at the expense of the individual.
A great deal of education needs to be done so that victims of abuse are not blamed, forced to forgive their abusers or made to feel ashamed for what happened to them.
It is encouraging to hear that there are now brave people who have stood up and are taking action. The South African pressure group ‘Speak The Truth’ has organised a “March Against False Prophet” for Wednesday the 14 of March it will be interesting to follow the developments and take part in the procession.
Enough is enough there are some very evil people out there who think that because they have enriched themselves with people’s monies raised for the church by the congregation, they can behave with such impunity. So much as to please and pleasure themselves by sexually manipulating the very congregates that they are supposed to lead spiritually, talk of wolves in sheeps skin.
An example of this institutional problem can be seen in a recent article from The Gospel Coalition by Erik Raymond titled “Is There a Different Process of Church Discipline for Elders?” In the article, Raymond seeks to provide guidelines for a biblical process of bringing charges of sin against leaders in the church.
While Raymond can be applauded for bringing the topic of church discipline for elders in sin into the forefront of discussion, he nevertheless argues for a principle lacking important nuance. While reflecting on the Bible’s prohibition of admitting “a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19), Raymond quotes the influential 20th century Anglican leader, John Stott:
“In short, when elders are accused the apostle builds in an exhortation to remind the church ‘two or three witnesses are required not only before an accusation is sustained, but before it is entertained at all.”
While it is important to give utmost consideration to faithful Christian leaders, Raymond’s application of 1 Timothy 5:19 is clearly unhelpful—if not detrimental—to instances of secret sexual abuse, where the victim is the only witness. As is, such a monolithically applied principle provides no readily available courses of action for a victim of sexual abuse to bring a charge—or even have their accusations considered—against a leader in the church. Rather, it even perpetuates the systemic problems of assuming blame and shame on someone who brings up accusations rather than going through the due process of examining the accusation.
The principle of St. Paul’s command may not be intended to be wholly exhaustive, and it may require wisdom to nuance its application in different contexts. Clearly, capricious allegations are not on the same level as accusations of rape and abuse. Especially in the current hyper-sexualized climate, where influential figures both inside and outside of the church have been charged with rape and sexual assault, it would serve the church and the most vulnerable within its walls to not give such unrestrained protection of leaders.
Onward Christian Radio encourages victims of sexual assault and those aware of such allegations to report these cases to the police.