I found a blog post, Abusers at the Communion Table, written in response to a post by Sarah Moon about taking Communion at church with her rapist.
If you have wounded someone, repented, and done what you can to repair with them (including serving your sentence in the case of abuse), then part of repairing is respecting the other person’s boundaries.
This is just common sense love for the person you have wounded. If you are repentant, do not show up in the place of worship of the one you sinned against.
And those counseling and pastoring repentant abusers need to lead on this as well. I understand the predicament if, for a 50 mile radius, there is only one assembly of believers. But that is rarely the case, at least in the US.
In the event that you do not live in the plains of Nebraska an hour away from the nearest congregation, then repentant abusers should find another congregation away from the person they wounded to receive communion. The Body of Christ is large. It’s expansive. It’s worldwide.
There really is no excuse for an abuser to stay in a local congregation in a way that his/her presence is felt regularly by the one he/she abused. Find another congregation, be honest about your history, and allow them to walk with you. —From Abusers at the Communion Table
I don’t recommend reading the comments, because some of the people don’t seem to understand what it’s like to be abused.
Or–maybe more likely–they (and the blogger) didn’t realize Sarah Moon’s blog post was about UNrepentant abusers. The ones who will hurt you again if given a chance. The ones whom the Church is actually directed in the New Testament to put out of fellowship and not even eat with.
For example, if my abusive exes and a few school bullies were at my Communion table, and they were Orthodox, I could share it with them with no problem, because apologies have been exchanged. People have grown up, moved on.
However, if my abusive ex-friends were at my Communion table, even though they are (last I knew) Orthodox, I could NOT share it with them, because they chose mocking, stalking and intimidation over repentance. For the safety of abuse victims, such things must not be allowed.
Now for Sarah Moon’s When my abuser is welcome at the [Communion] table, then I am not. Quote:
EVERYONE is welcome. But more and more it seems the “EVERYONE” that Christians are really going after is abusers.
And why not? How radical and Jesus-like does that sound? Abusers and survivors, sitting at the same table. Sharing the same bread and wine. The lion lying down next to the lamb.
Sure. That sounds great. Excuse me while I go have a panic attack or two.
I don’t know how to respond to this trend anymore. When I express discomfort about calling a rapist my “brother in Christ,” people accuse me of being a bitter, grace-hating person.
When I say that I can’t get over the hurt my abuser caused me, people tell me to get over my “perpetual victimhood.”
When I ask for a safe space, people tell me I’m acting just like the exclusionary fundamentalists, and that I need to learn that Christianity isn’t about being uncomfortable [sic].
There’s no grace for me, as I try to work through all the festering hate toward my rapist that I don’t know what the hell to do with. There’s no grace as I try to figure out whether I ever want to forgive a man who hurts me more each day even though we haven’t spoken in six years.
Maybe they’re right and I am the bitter, hateful person they think I am, but what about all this talk of grace?
Faith Newport wrote in the comments about her own pastor,
She protects her people. If there was someone in my life or my past who was a danger to me, who had abused or harmed in me in any way, the minute they walked in the door all I would have to do is tell someone in leadership, and that person would be asked to leave. They would not make it to Communion.
This is an issue for those who have been abused by people who share a church with them. Abuse victims really need to be allowed to deal with their various emotions without judgment or feeling pressured into “making nice” with their abusers.
How can you forgive someone who does not repent? I have heard all sorts of definitions of “forgiveness,” but the only one that really sounds correct to me, is that forgiveness means reconciliation. This is the definition used by God when WE repent.
And if you reconcile with an unrepentant abuser, they will only hurt you again. And again. And again. While you paste on a Stepford Christian smile.
However, lack of forgiving does not mean we remain trapped in bitterness, anger, and desire for vengeance. ESPECIALLY if we are not forced to push down our feelings during the healing process, or pretend that our abuser is innocent. If we are allowed to process our grief and anger without judgment, then eventually it will pass. Maybe once in a while we’ll remember and feel angry, but it won’t consume our thoughts and lives. In other words, “letting go.”
But that does not mean we want to be in the same room (let alone church) with this person, or share Communion with them. That would just lead to yet another abusive episode, over which to grieve and heal AGAIN. Letting go is not the same as stupidity.
If Jesus is the head of the Church, shouldn’t His church be the greatest protector and supporter for the vulnerable and the hurting? Where is Jesus when churches fail to respond wisely to sexual abuse and then refuse to take responsibility or repent for such colossal failures?
Where is Jesus when churches make expedient decisions that affirm offenders, rather than making difficult decisions in the best interests of children and abuse survivors? Where is Jesus when churches go out of the way to advocate for offenders, while hurting victims watch in terror and isolation?
Where is Jesus when churches refuse to acknowledge their need for help from experts, thinking that they know best? Where is Jesus when churches simply aren’t teachable? Where is He? These are the painful questions I am asking all too often these days. –Boz Tchividjian, Churches That Are Making Good Decisions About Protecting Children and Responding to Abuse
Something is wrong when churches protect perpetrators and marginalize victims. In recent months, we’ve seen a bit of the underbelly of covering up sexual abuse, demanding victims forgive and forget instantly for the sake of the poor offenders whose lives might be ruined if they were found out.
Cover up that exalts the “ministry” or a ministry personality over the well being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow. –Mary DeMuth, Churches That Prefer Perpetrators Are Being Contrary to Authentic Christianity
A few good blogs on abusers in church are:
Grace for my Heart
Spiritual Sounding Board
The Wartburg Watch