Dear members and leaders of Covenant Presbyterian:
We mourn with you. This week’s horrific killing of innocent children is almost more than we can bear. The pain is deep, searing, and dark. No words are adequate to describe what you are experiencing.
We encourage you to take steps towards health. That includes:
- Counseling for all harmed by this senseless loss.
- A renewed commitment to community and shared love.
- Professional help in mapping out holistic strategies for health and wholeness.
Healing takes time, and often requires a very focused, deliberate process.
As part of this process, we recognize that health requires attention to every area of life.
In that regard, we urge Covenant to take steps towards becoming a healthier family system. These steps include:
- Recognizing that, as Christians, we are called to bring light to the darkness.
- Promoting transparency in all aspects of church governance.
- Adhering strictly to denominational policies and governance documents.
That brings us to an uncomfortable and painful issue. Specifically, you need to bring light to the darkness over past misconduct at the church.
We’re thinking specifically of issues with John Perry, the confessed child molester:
- Did he have any contact with the shooter? While this would not, and cannot, ever be an excuse for violence, you need to understand what happened. We need to understand.
- Was the shooter ever in Perry’s so-called safe house?
- What steps have you taken to keep children and adults safe? Not just from physical violence, but emotional violence, relational violence, and legal system abuse.
Relatedly, we implore you to admit publicly your past misconduct towards Austin Davis and his family.
His efforts to expose the threat to children in the church from John Perry were heroic. Yet Covenant, acting together with the Nashville police, fabricated the idea that Austin was a threat and used that lie to ruin his life.
Austin never was a threat. We know it. You know it.
And while Covenant prevailed in court, that was a given in light of the differentials in power. So, your victory proves nothing except that your church bullies whistleblowers.
Austin Davis today is an outcast, thanks to you. Jesus welcomed the poor, the lonely, the excluded. You created an outcast.
And your sin continues, for every day you fail to fix the hurt and pain you caused is itself a sin.
As Christians, we must bring light to the darkness. We also must repent and make restitution when we do wrong. Brushing these issues off as water over the dam won’t work.
Austin Davis and his family deserve acclaim, not ostracism. Whether they are interested in ever being part of your community again is beside the point. You still need to do what’s right.
Doing what’s right includes an independent, third-party investigation of your past handling of John Perry’s child sex abuse, and your retaliation against whistleblowers. There should be a written report and the report needs to be made public. And you need to do everything necessary to make reparation for your sins against Austin Davis and his family.
In short, we hope that this searlingly painful moment ultimately leads to a healthier, safer church. But getting to that point will require lots of work, soul-searching, and a willingness to make peace with a painful history