The Walrus has a new article about the Meeting House, a Canadian mega church. Personally I find even the name triggering, as that’s what the Plymouth Brethren call their churches. So it’s kind of ironic that this one was meant to rise above the scandals of conventional churches.
The article starts by recounting a classic piece of dispensationalist BS, which is basically dog whistle antisemitism: the founder had a line of scripture forbidding tattoos from the Hebrew Bible tattooed on his arm, to show that “Jesus came to Earth to make the old rules obsolete, that Jesus came to save humanity not only from sin but from religion itself”. Ugh. The mitzvot in the Hebrew Bible exist to remind Jewish people of their relationship with God. Not for sneering Christians to take out of context.
Anyway the church — perhaps purely because of its size, perhaps because evangelical Christianity has a huge problem with suppressing sexuality, its shadow side, and anything else that it doesn’t like — has been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal.
What a surprise — not.
By promising to bring the faith into the modern age, megachurches were meant to be an antidote to the scandals of traditional Christian churches. Instead, underneath that promise, megachurches have repeatedly revealed just how similar they are to the religious institutions they sought to rise above. According to Peter Schuurman, a Christian academic who spent years researching the Meeting House, “The power and politics and organizational liabilities that are part of such a large organization that create success are themselves the seeds of their unravelling.”The Meeting House: Inside a Megachurch Scandal, by Rachel Browne in The Walrus.
The rest of the article recounts a sorry catalogue of sexual abuse by senior figures in this and several other mega churches. The problem, it seems, is that too much power is given to one person in an informal structure with too little accountability and oversight. They don’t seem to have even the simplest safeguarding procedures, such as never letting a clergy person be alone with a congregant or a group of children. These procedures also protect clergy from accusations, be it noted.
If you’re shopping around for a religion to join, check its public statements for evidence of safeguarding procedures. Reputable and responsible organizations make their safeguarding practices publicly available.
Check the model policies page on the Pagan Consent Culture website for examples of safeguarding and consent policies.