What has the Recovery + Transition team learned from the work we have done?

  • We learned to listen and we learned that listening is healing. The Recovery and Transition Team came together with a diversity of perspectives but with a unified goal: to help Truro become a more godly, healthier congregation. As we met, we learned to listen to one another, trusting God to make things clearer as we listened. Every person’s contribution was welcomed and valued. As we listened, we came to better decisions about helping Truro than we would have without hearing from everyone.

    We also learned to listen with open hearts to those who chose to tell us their experiences. Sometimes this was excruciatingly difficult. Many people had experienced significant pain, and most of them had not fully been listened to. This was true regardless of the speaker’s point of view.

    We learned that it was important to initiate and encourage healthy conversations, even when those conversations were painful or hard. When we reached out to those who were aggrieved, both listener and the one listened to were blessed and Truro was strengthened as a result.

  • We learned that Matthew 18 was important, and that it could be misused. (You will remember that Matthew 18 spells out a process for dealing with someone who has sinned against you. First, you talk to the person alone. If that doesn’t work, you take a few godly and trusted companions. If the sinner still refuses to repent, you make the sinner and sin public.) We discovered that a number of people said that Matthew 18 had not been followed. They often spoke of particular individuals who had not done so. Our investigations, however, found that Matthew 18 had been attempted in multiple ways. We also found that those who raised concerns about Matthew 18 themselves did not always follow their own counsel. Public accusations were made by these same people about others without talking privately to them first.
  • We learned the difference between forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. Many of us long for reconciliation with those who have harmed us, but true reconciliation requires more than our forgiveness of another. Reconciliation also requires true repentance by the person who has harmed us. Restoration requires a level of trust which may not be possible this side of eternity. We were especially helped by the Rev. David Hanke’s explanation of these three terms. (We’ve included that explanation at the end of this article.)
  • We learned that a church needs appropriate structures for accountability and for reporting grievances. Staff, vestry, and parishioners need to have some choice in whom they report to. A clear grievance process protects everyone—rector, staff, vestry, and parishioners. We are grateful that the vestry personnel committee is addressing this issue.
  • We learned that communication is extremely important for a church, especially for a church experiencing a crisis. We tried to communicate well, but it would have helped if we had communicated more and through a variety of vehicles. An experienced consultant told us: “Churches rarely overcommunicate.”
  • We learned that churches are complex, and Truro is no exception. Unlike other organizations, a church is not only an organization (like a “business”), it is also a spiritual entity and a “family.” These multiple roles make relationships and expectations (of others and of the institution itself) more complicated than in other contexts. We found that people often had different (and mixed) expectations of the church and of its leaders without recognizing the other demands which these leaders faced.
  • We learned not to assume the intent of the actions or words of others. Because another person says or does something does not mean that we know why those words were spoken or that action taken. We found that others sometimes made assumptions about the intent behind our actions or words that were wrong. We worked hard to ask about someone’s intentions rather than assuming we knew it.
  • We learned that we do not know enough about both personal and corporate repentance, and how to do this as a congregation. 
  • We learned that we are all broken, even as we were reminded over and over again that we serve a God who is abundant in graceOur brokenness means that we need to extend grace to one another and to recognize that our brokenness often makes the task of extending grace quite difficult.
  • We learned that godly people sometimes do not communicate or process information in strictly biblical ways, according to a biblical worldview. Our thinking and communicating are subject to the patterns of the culture, many of which are unhelpful for godly decision-making. Many of us are unconscious of the extent to which we do this. Truro (and most churches) would benefit with help in thinking and acting in more biblical ways.
  • We believe that God is leading Truro to move on in our journey with Him.  Moving on does not imply that we forget the lessons God has taught Truro through this journey of recovery and transition. Nor does it imply that every individual or family at Truro sees the events or the recovery process the same way. However, the Recovery and Transition Team has completed its work and fulfilled the purposes for which it was created:
  1. To plan a parish-wide process to address the issues that surfaced in the wake of Tory’s departure.
  2. To listen prayerfully to those who had been hurt and respond to concerns about the ways things happened.
  3. To report back to the vestry and staff about changes that would be recommended for a healthier Truro.

Through the cottage meetings and other interactions, Truro parishioners shared both their griefs and their hope-filled perspectives about how they understood God to be leading us. God has set before us a bright future and invites us to join in what He is doing among us and through us. Trusting in His presence with us and His promises to guide us, we invite you to join in the next stages of our lifelong journey together, following Him in joyful obedience.

From our conversations with many of you, we have heard concerns about forgiveness and reconciliation. We invited one of our Truro Recovery Team members (the Rev. David Hanke, rector of Restoration, Arlington) to offer definitions of these key terms so that our parish can have common language for our conversations about these important steps.

A.  Acknowledgement and forgiveness:  When we experience harm, the primary step for us is to acknowledge that it happened. That can be very difficult. The pain of betrayal, of feeling powerless, and being deceived is so acute. Admitting and accepting that it happened, is the critical step towards healing.

If we have acknowledged that we have been harmed, there is an opportunity to forgive. The one who harmed us does not have to be present or acknowledge that they did the harm. Forgiveness is something we offer as a gracious gift so that we can be free. Forgiveness releases me from resentment and anger.

Acknowledgment and forgiveness are steps we can take whenever we are ready.

B.  Reconciliation requires the one who harmed to be truthful, remorseful, and repentant. Reconciliation can’t happen unless the one who harmed acknowledges the harmful behavior. Thus, we can have relationships in which we have been harmed and we have forgiven, but they remain unreconciled because the one who harmed is unwilling to own what they did.

Reconciliation requires truth and Godly repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

C.  Restoration is the choice to put the person who harmed others back in the place that they previously occupied in our life. Sometimes this happens. But many times it is not possible or even wise.

Restoration of position or place requires profound healing and life change on the part of the one who harmed.

Restoration requires trust. Reconciliation requires truth. Forgiveness requires courage for the benefit of release.