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Sexual misconduct in church won't disappear

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Probably when anyone thinks about clergy sexual misconduct, what first (and maybe only) comes to mind is the priest abuse scandal in the Catholic church.

And, for sure, it has deserved the attention it has received, given the appalling behavior of some members of the clergy and given that most victims have been children, the most vulnerable members of the family of faith.

But the result of this misguided myopia is that faith communities have not paid nearly enough attention to the wider issue of clergy sexual abuse happening with disgusting regularity in Protestant churches and other traditions.

A new book has helped me understand the widespread nature of the problem. And it has offered some ideas for how to deal with it when it happens and, beyond that, how to prevent it.

A bottom-up approach to Bishop Finn's indictment

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The recent charges against Kansas City's bishop and his diocese for failing to report suspected child abuse have been analyzed six ways from Sunday, including by me on my "Faith Matters" blog.

And they have deserved all the commentary, given the shocking nature of the failure alleged in the indictments.

But I want to look at this distressing case from the perspective of a Protestant whose form of church governance is not hierarchical but, rather, republican, in the lower-case-r sense. And I want to suggest that the two approaches to polity yield different results, though each has its strengths and weaknesses.

It may be too simplistic to put it this way, but the system of governance used by the Presbyterian Church (USA), to which my congregation belongs, is essentially bottom-up. The congregation elects its ruling elders. In turn, some elders, based on the size of the congregation, become voting commissioners at meetings of the presbytery, which is our regional governing body. Clergy also are voting commissioners of the presbytery.

How will they remember in 100 years?

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The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks brings even those of us who are members of 9/11 families (my nephew perished on American Flight 11) closer to acknowledging a hard truth.

Some day -- in 90-plus years or so -- no one will be around who lived through that malevolent day.

And: One day the story of 9/11 will dissolve into the maelstrom of history's long, sad parade of violence. For several decades (or even centuries) history books will refer to it, but unless the world ends first, some distant day almost no one will speak of, read about or commemorate this faith-based catastrophe any more. (Ask the average American to recount the early 20th century genocide of the Armenians.)

Author David Rieff, in a recent essay in Harper's Magazine, puts it this way: "What history shows is that even the most monumental achievements and martial accomplishments of human beings are ephemeral."

Monk's story gives new reason for death penalty opposition

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Arguments against capital punishment come in many forms.

When I was a columnist and editorial writer for The Kansas City Star I would take almost any opportunity to express our editorial board’s long-held opposition to the death penalty by writing impassioned editorials urging citizens not to let their government sink to the moral level of common criminals by killing people to keep them from killing people.

Sorting through kid's technology use tough for grandparents

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The oldest of my six grandchildren just turned 9. What a stunning child: Smart, curious, beautiful, creative, obedient, compassionate.

Which is why I worry about her and my five other grandkids, my descriptions of whom would include many of the same words that describe Olivia. But my worry is not overwhelming, partly because she’s surrounded by people who are models for her and who can teach her right from wrong.

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July 18-31, 2014

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