On Monday May 20, 2013 a jury found Gordon Rideout, a retired Anglican Priest, guilty of 34 counts of indecent assault and two counts of attempted rape on 16 children in the southeastern English counties of Hampshire and Sussex between 1962 and 1973 (http://bit.ly/19VR2pH). The victims, which included both boys and girls, were visited by Rideout at St. Mary’s Church in Crawley in his role as an assistant curate. These acts are both appalling and vile, but what makes it worse is that the person responsible is in a position of trust and authority – a priest of all people. Sadly this is not the first time something like this has happened and even worse, I am sure it will not be the last.
Rideout’s case and others like it tend to receive a lot of publicity and create a lot of damage against the church, its leaders, and even Christians in general. The world around us, to whom we are called to be witnesses, watches our church leaders fall from grace and abuse the ones we are called to protect. Our credibility is permanently marred and many refuse to have anything to do with a church or religion whose leaders engage in such activity and in some cases, even attempt to sweep it under the rug.
As a youth pastor I have a great responsibility to live out the gospel in every area of life and to adhere to the requirements set forth in Scripture for those in positions of leadership, including living a life above reproach (1 Tim 3:2). I personally go to great lengths to remain accountable and to be completely transparent with my involvement with my youth. Things like never meeting alone with a youth, never driving a youth alone, having a female volunteer leader with me if counselling a female youth, watching my text/Facebook messages, maintaining appropriate touch (IE side hugs, high fives, etc), and much more. It is incredibly important for me to be a person of integrity and to be a person above reproach. I do not want to leave room for even a hint of indecency or question about my actions with my students and I also extend the same policy to all of my volunteer leaders. Every week parents place their trust in me that I will take care of their youth and protect them and I vow to never break that trust.
I think that all Christians, especially those in any type of leadership position need to place safeguards like these in place. Once trust is broken it is not easily repaired and for those in the church, it can even cost you your entire ministry. While we might not be able to do anything about those few who break that trust or abuse their position, we can make a difference in our settings and be a light to those around us. We can live above reproach in our personal lives and ministry, showing the world Christ living in us.
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