A grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham says churches must hold child abusers in their ranks accountable for their actions.
Boz Tchividjian, executive director of the group Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday that "all too often the response of the Christian community is contrary to this beautiful Gospel."
"This is done when the safety and care of abuse victims is sacrificed in order to protect the reputations of individuals and institutions," said Tchividjian.
"This sacrifice is most commonly demonstrated through ignoring or marginalizing victims and protecting offenders."
Tchividjian of GRACE told CP that rather than do this churches should adopt a "Gospel-centered approach" to dealing with incidents of child abuse.
"[Churches] should be the place where children and survivors feel most safe and most loved," said Tchividjian.
"My prayer is that one day churches will be the place offenders feel the least safe knowing that the church is vigilantly watching over its children and won't hesitate to report suspected abuse to the God-ordained authorities. I think Jesus requires nothing less of us."
Chaplains for Children
Tchividjian's comments to CP come as the GRACE leader is planning to attend a multi-day course event at Viterbo University of Wisconsin titled "Chaplains for Children."
Sponsored by the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center and scheduled for June 8-10, the conference will focus on equipping individuals to respond and to recognize incidents of abuse.
"The course discusses in detail the impact of child abuse on a victim's sense of spirituality and offers concrete suggestions for working with medical and mental health professionals to assist a child in coping with maltreatment," reads an entry on the Gundersen website. "The course also discusses ideal child protection policies for a faith based institution, including handling a situation in which a convicted sex offender seeks to join a congregation."
Tchividjian told CP that his involvement in the Chaplains for Children conference will center on "the importance of effectively responding to child sexual abuse disclosures."
"My experience is that the response to abuse disclosures (inside and outside of the church) is all too often dependent upon the influence, charisma, or wealth of the alleged perpetrator," said Tchividjian.
"The hopeful outcome of this training will be to help church leaders understand the importance and implications of responding to abuse disclosures with excellence."
The Duggar Controversy
Sexual abuse in the church has been extensively covered by major media outlets over the past several years.
Over a decade ago, the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal made global headlines as it was revealed that numerous Catholic leaders had looked the other way when priests were abusing minors.
Recently Josh Duggar of the conservative Christian family at the center of the popular reality TV series "19 Kids and Counting" was found to have committed child abuse while a minor years ago.
Rather than be legally prosecuted for his actions, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sent their son to a Christian group known as the Institute in Basic Life Principles for counseling.
The fallout from the controversy has led TLC to reportedly cancel "19 Kids and Counting," possibly indefinitely.
Regarding the controversy, Tchividjian told CP that the controversy was "tragic" and showed the need for legal accountability regarding incidents of sexual abuse in the church or in a Christian family.
"The Duggar situation has been a tragic reminder to all of us about the necessity of immediately reporting sexual abuse to the proper authorities, regardless of the age of the offender or whether or not the crime occurred inside or outside of the home," said Tchividjian.