church abuse Polina Sirotina

Update 1: An Open Letter to the OPC Regarding Abuse Prevention

Thank you so much for your kind emails, loving concern, and faithful prayers since the publication of my Open Letter to the OPC: Regarding Church Abuse.  I’m happy to report that I’ve been working with three OPC ministers to address issues described in my letter. Several investigations are underway. In addition, we’re collaborating to address abuse prevention, and how pastors and church leaders can better respond to situations of sexual abuse and domestic violence. I’ve also been working with many survivors in the OPC to help them report their abuse to law enforcement, as well as connect them with church leaders who can help them heal and find support in their respective presbyteries and communities.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue to make progress, but many things are in development, so please bear with me. Please pray that my efforts continue to produce Godly fruit, that the Spirit would sustain and equip me, and that we can effectively empower Christ’s church to minister well to the brokenhearted. And, yes, I do remain a member of the OPC!

Here are a few encouraging things I can share to date:

  1. Pastor Andrew Moody has spearheaded making the MinistrySafe abuse prevention system and training program available to all churches in the Presbytery of the Southwest. While not a silver bullet, programs like this are foundational to protecting our kids and equipping our churches.
  2. Multiple pastors and elders from across the nation (not just OPC) have reached out to tell me that my Letter has inspired them to take additional measures to train their staff, equip their teams, and protect children in their congregations. I know many survivors are reading this right now, so hear me: your story matters and sharing it can make a difference.
  3. I’m working with several pastors and seminaries in the OPC, URC, and SBC to develop a curriculum that will help church leaders shepherd and care for abuse victims better. Not Forsaken: A Shepherd’s Guide will be available free of charge through my website. Lord willing, I’m aiming for an August release. If you’d like to be notified when it’s available, please subscribe to my email list. I only send out emails every month or so, so you won’t get a deluge, but I will keep you posted.

I hope this letter encourages you. I’ll post more as God faithfully carries his work to fruition.

Thank you and God bless!


Comments 7

  1. Hi Jennifer
    i am glad to hear that you are at this stage and getting these pastors involved yet what about those of us who have been hurt by former churches we have left who have shut us out and shamed us further, those who should be repenting and say “you have left, we are so sorry for the pain we caused, let’s “fix this””? what about abuse victims in that church we left who were abused as children and now are afraid to speak up because of what we went through, because i struggled with my faith, was put under church discipline and are scared to even speak about what happened to them as children? what about those churches, how do we inform them, how are they to be held accountable. I find the URC (each individual church) is accountable to no one for bad choices, for shutting the hurting out. those church leaders that lord things above others and expect respect though they don’t deserve that respect. What happens to those churches who just don’t want to deal with the hurt they caused because they say “we did every thing in good faith’? i am at a loss to get this information to them with out being put on the cutting block, we have been hurt so much and though we are healing through God’s grace and mercy we are still hurting and grieving for these men who lead with an iron fist and who are over everyone else. i don’t want to be a trouble maker yet is there a way to open their eyes.
    Any thoughts (you can find me on face book too and message me, that is my preference.
    Jeanette Veld

    1. Post

      Hi Jeanette! I just found you on Facebook. Sorry I missed your friend request somehow! Yes, let’s talk, because this is exactly the issue I want to address and help prevent. No one should have to go through what we’ve gone through.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    Love your work. Thanks for all you do for survivors!

    My brother and two good friends of his are looking into attending seminary this coming fall. Could you please tell us which seminaries you are currently working with? It’s super important to all three of them that they attend a school which is sensitive to the needs of survivors. They are not limiting themselves to any particular denomination, so any seminaries you are developing curriculum for is fine, be it OPC, URC or SBC.

    Thanks in advance for your help on this.

    1. Post

      Thanks Bethany! That’s a really tough question. The seminaries I’m working with are ones I connected with because I have friends who are professors or administrators there. I’d recommend selecting a handful of seminaries that meet their ministry goals, and then evaluating each seminary’s counseling department (if they have one), and maybe ask some basic questions like, “When was the last time you reported a crime to police?” or “What is your policy when someone reports a sexual assault?” If their answer is anything less than “Contact law enforcement,” that’s likely a red flag … or an opportunity to educate, depending on how plucky your brothers are feeling 🙂

  3. I have just found your blog and have read your story in your original open letter. As a lifelong member of the OPC, I can’t say I’m surprised by it, though I am sickened and disheartened. I am so thankful for those pastors and elders and seminary leaders who are taking this seriously and who are doing something in answer to it. This has been too long in coming. I pray that my own congregation would wake up and do the same thing. About 18 months ago, I held my dear friend and fellow member of my church as she shook uncontrollably and sobbed as she told me her story about how a church member had abused her. This is a strong woman who had survived childhood abuse. I’d never seen her in such a state. I told her she needed to go to the pastor about this. Six months later, she did, only to be told that it’s a he said/she said situation and there was no evidence to back her up claims, so nothing could be done. As the daughter of a pastor emeritus in the OPC, I naively believed that all OPC pastors were men like my father who would never tolerate such behavior. I have seen the light. Thank you for your courage. Our denomination needs more women like you.

  4. Hi Jennifer, thank you for your unending work in trying to protect abused women in the OPC. I am a member of the PCA, although currently attending a non-denominational church because of issues with other members regarding my separation/upcoming divorce from my abusive husband of 30+ years. The session and pastor in my PCA church did an overall very good job once they realized the abuse that was happening. They had my husband removed from our home in April, 2018. Unfortunately, my husband then ran to the OPC church, who stood behind him and told him he had grounds to divorce me because I was not meeting his physical/sexual needs and gave him the go ahead to fight for custody of our kids in court. They had originally agreed they would work with the PCA session in dealing with church discipline issues regarding my husband, but that was very short lived. He now continues to abuse and destroy his family with the support of his OPC session while couching it in religious dialogue.
    Anyway, I read an article regarding how the OPC is helping women in the church through abuse sometime during the summer of 2018. It was written, I believe, by a prominent man in the OPC. He basically said he was writing the article in response to the June, 2018 OPC General Assembly’s decision to focus on protecting women who are victims of domestic abuse in the home. The article was pretty good as I remember it, until the end, where it basically said that at the end of the day, women did not have the right to protect themselves and their children by leaving the home, but that they were expected to continue to serve their husband in full capacity as husband/wife while the church leadership counsels the husband on the abuse. And in the even that the husband does not repent and stop abusing his family, it is still the responsibility of the wife to wholeheartedly serve her husband because she is “doing the right thing” in spite of her husband’s choices.
    My lawyer is now asking for a copy of that article, and I cannot find it anywhere. I was wondering if you are familiar with it and have any idea where I could find it.

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