Hi Mr. McNally,
Your name seems very familiar to me. I think I might know you and that we went to the same church once or twice. Anyway, I wanted to tell my story. I know that many people have all kinds of stories about growing up in the church. I can relate to almost all of it. Mine is a story of abuse and eventual dis-fellowship by the church. Not only were the hearts and minds of people distorted in a way that harmed them, but some of us were seriously harmed in less subtle ways. The amazing thing to me is that it took me over a decade to realize that I wasn’t the one who was wrong, but what was done to me by the church leadership was wrong. I was so indoctrinated and afraid that I kept thinking that they were right and I was wrong. Obedience and submissiveness was so highly valued by the female members that I struggle with this in my life to this day, even though I “left” in 1992 at the age of 14.
What happened to me was atrocious. During the time that I was in the church, I suffered several years of abuse that was known to several people in the church and was covered up until I pulled the plug by telling a school counselor. The people that covered up my abuse got in trouble with the law, but not the church. One minister can’t live in the state of California because of the incidents that happened so the church just moved him out of state. The church actually sanctioned keeping me in a situation where my abuser still had access to me because the alternative probably would result in me losing contact with the church. I went along with it like a good WCG girl. I was only 12 years old. I trusted those people to take care of me. However, I was further humiliated by having to tell the details of my abuse to another person in the church who was grooming me for further abuse. I didn’t realize this until years later after “detoxing” from church doctrine and learning that this adult male who was developing a relationship with me was also acting inappropriately with friends of mine.
There was more to it. Even through all of that, I still wanted to be in the church. I wanted to be saved. About 2 months after being placed in a children’s shelter as a result of what I told my school counselor, when I needed friends most, I was disfellowshipped from the church. I was told that I was a “bad apple” by an elder because I was hanging out with a boy from my high school outside the church. On top of that, my mom wanted me to have sex education that was not sanctioned the church. In his opinion, I should be ashamed of myself for these things and needed to be punished by the church. He came into my home and made me feel ashamed of what I was doing to my friends by doing these things. I carried the guilt of hurting my friends by what felt like choosing certain behaviors over them for years, even though that wasn’t the case at all. I loved them very much and still do.
It hurt a lot to have them allow the people who abused me to continue to attend church and cover up what they did while I wasn’t allowed to attend services or go to any YOU (youth group) events. For years people thought I made a choice to leave because everyone was told lies about me. They heard that I left because I wanted to date outside of the church. This wasn’t at all the reason I was no longer there.
When I left the church, I had yet to realize all the damage that was done to me. Not until a few years ago did I understand the impact of the spiritual abuse that I underwent. I was abused for years under the guise that this is what God wanted for me and that I was bad & wrong for not immediately forgiving what was done to me. There was a minister who counseled me and kept me in what he knew to be an abusive situation for 2 years. He counseled my abuser too all the while telling me that they were working on making it better. Yet I was still being abused and told that I should pray for my abuser and learn forgiveness because that is what God would want from me. Needless to say, I lost all faith in God back then. Fortunately, I have been able to sort all of it out for myself.
No one has all the answers. We are all on a journey to find answers and I have no right to point fingers at anyone’s journey. I do have the right to point fingers at those that caused me harm to protect and heal myself, not to prove myself right. One thing that the church teaches us is that only perfection will be rewarded. I have learned that people make mistakes. Those people made huge mistakes and harmed me greatly. I have no ill will towards anyone anymore. I guess I learned how to really forgive (not the BS forgiveness that was fed to me by that minister) and that has set me free. Thank you for giving a voice to those who are trying to sort this whole mess out.