By Brad Hambrick
If you missed Part 1, you may read the article here.
What do we, as ministry leaders, do when Romans 13 overlaps with Matthew 18? What do we do when there are civil responsibilities and pastoral responsibilities for the same people and events? Even by asking the question this way, we are much more likely to arrive at a wise and good answer.
Here are at least five key priorities necessary to answer this question well:
1. If civil authorities need to be involved, make sure they are notified. We, ministry leaders, did not know we had a role until the victim had the courage to come to us. The same is true for the civil authorities.
2. View civil authorities as complementary teammates who have the same initial objective: the safety of the victim. The jurisdictional authority of a social worker or police officer can help promote safety in a way that a pastor, deacon, or small group leader cannot. We should be grateful for their involvement
3. Realize the legal process may delay some aspects of ministry involvement. Church leaders can be frustrated when an attorney advises silence about the allegations until after a trial, when waiting on a series of hearings, or when a restraining order interferes with communication. However, these delays are not a reason to begin to view the civil authorities as a competitor in our pastoral care efforts.
4. Seek to be an asset to the civil authorities. When church leaders fulfill their role in notifying civil authorities, civil authorities are more prone to view church leaders as an asset to their work. Ask the simple, open-ended question, “How can we help?”
5. Realize that even though the church’s role is broader in a redemptive sense and longer, not just to the resolution of the legal concern, the input and expertise of the civil authorities can be very helpful to good pastoral care. How civil authorities gauge the severity of an abuse case can be very helpful reference point for a church. Churches do not have the same level of day-to-day experience with criminal acts compared to law enforcement, so we should seek to learn from their wisdom as we deal with abusers and victims.
This article is adapted from Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused. Access this free training at ChurchCares.com.
*Please note the curriculum is not intended to be legal counsel or to provide holistic training for counseling or pastoral care on the issue of abuse but is an accessible tutorial on how to respond with pastoral and ethical excellence. The curriculum gives a theological foundation for the topic, brings understanding on the issues connected to abuse disclosure and reporting, and gives practical wisdom by which leaders can navigate complex situations.
Brad Hambrick serves as the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina.