Werntz: “Harm Will Happen in the Best of Churches”

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Because the church is a body of persons undergoing their healing in Christ, harm will still happen in the best of churches: it makes no sense to talk about sanctification or healing within the body unless there is something to be healed from.

[. . .]

But ordinary harms are not abuses, and the treatment of the sinfulness of the church-as-such as a potential trauma factory is unhelpful: the harm we experience from others do damage us and others, but it is a harm which we should understand as facets of an ordinary world suffering the pervasive conditions of sin.

And as such, it calls forth a different, ongoing culture of repair and repentance.

Myles Werntz, “Of Course Church Will Hurt Us: How Could it Not? – Part I

These are two quotations from Werntz’s first installment in a series, all addressing “Traumatic Church Discourse.” You may have heard someone describe “church hurt,” and it does exist. Werntz helpfully distinguishes between trauma, abuse, and harm, and how these terms can help us distinguish between encounters with evil that may occur within Christian fellowship. He also adds a lot of theological nuance.

I’m making my way through the series. I suspect there are ideas here that will help me clarify what is a very difficult truth: until the return of Jesus, we will sin against one another. We will cause harm. The truth about these harms should be named and confessed. Repentance should follow. Justice should be sought. And, by God’s grace, we pray healing, mending, and repair will take hold.

The church isn’t the only institutional source of harm in our world. It isn’t the only institution with resources for addressing harms. But it is an institution with biblical resources, theological convictions, and practices to identify and acknowledge harms, and then, as Werntz says, to undertake the work of repair and repentance.