Bishop Joseph Walker, the charismatic pastor of Mount Zion Church, has found himself at the center of a sex-abuse scandal which could have the effect of shaking the very foundation of the reported 25,000 member Nashville mega –church. In a lawsuit filed last week, several women alleged to have suffered “sexual, psychological and spiritual exploitation” at the hands of Bishop Walker (and other church leaders) over a time period spanning ten years. Unsurprisingly, since the initial filing of the lawsuit, other victims and witnesses have come forward.
What did the church have to say? Unfortunately, the women were not met with caring, compassion, and Christian sympathy. The immediate response of church was to point the accusatory finger at the alleged victims, naming “money” as their motivation. Mount Zion representatives did not emphatically declare that the church would conduct an internal investigation to seek the truth, before publicly condemning the accusers. They did not seize the opportunity to publicly express disdain and intolerance for any form of clerical abuse. They did not, simply, encourage communal prayer for the alleged victims.
Certainly, whether the allegations are true of false, the accusers stand in need of prayer and are probably less capable (than Walker) of spiritually navigating through their current situation. Undeniably, the church’s defensive comments give light to an underlying inference, that women will do anything for money, including subjecting themselves (and their families) to intense public scrutiny and humiliation.
We should remain mindful of the fact that these women are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, cousin, niece, or aunt. Personally and professionally, as a woman and a pastor, I am deeply saddened by Mount Zion’s response to this tragic situation. Serious allegations require serious thought and serious action, rather than immediate dismissal. When will we (as a society) stop persecuting female victims of abuse?
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