“Failure to report” was the charge against two Tulsa, Oklahoma youth ministers upheld by a judge last November (Christianity Today, Jan/Feb 2013). The attorney for John and Charica Daugherty had filed a motion to dismiss the charges with the reasoning, as reported by Tulsa World News, “the definition of abuse in the failure to report child abuse statute applies only to people who are responsible for the well-being of the child – which [the attorney] argues that John and Charica Daugherty were not.”
A former church employee had pleaded guilty to six felony sex crimes against children. The charge brought against the minister couple, who are also the son and daughter-in-law of the senior pastor, is because a 13 year-old girl had informed them about the abuse and they waited two weeks to report it.
I am in favor of this kind of law. We need to protect our children because they can’t protect themselves, and if prompt reporting is a beneficial tool to curb these acts then the law should be enforced. Besides, it’s not like they are mechanics or accountants. They are YOUTH PASTORS.
But then there’s their defense against the charge that reveals a major flaw in how some churches function. They argue that they were not responsible for the child. Okay, so maybe their thinking was that they didn’t report the incident because they had no legal obligation to do so. What about their obligation as Christians? Our country didn’t come up with the concept of justice, after all. God did. Even if their argument would have stood up in our court, it wouldn’t have stood up in his.
Church is supposed to be a community of believers who, as the book of Acts lays out, live out life together and who are concerned about the welfare of everyone in the group. Using the analogy of the body of Christ (the church) as a human body, the Apostle Paul says: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1st Corinthians 12:26, NIV)”
The point isn’t just empathy, it’s about carrying each other’s burdens. And then there’s the whole WWJD question. Would Jesus have waited to act on such an issue? My guess is no, ““If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42, NIV)”
These two young ministers may have worded the motion to dismiss the charges at the advice of their counsel, so the wording isn’t necessarily from their perspective as Christians in authority over little ones. Or, maybe having the word “community” in so many of our church names has desensitized us to the true meaning of the word.
Like the judge in this case, the Ultimate Judge holds you accountable for the level of concern you show for fellow citizens in your church. It’s the same concern he shows for you every day.