In response to my last post, Kirsten commented: “Thank you for sharing this powerful testimony. It is an exceptional thing. I would love to know more about the role you played in this. … I’d also love to know how the church responded (or is responding).”
So, here you go!
A couple of years ago, our replacement pastor and some of our elders renewed communication with Robin. Within the past year, Robin asked to make a public apology to Grace Church (also my church). Our pastor formed a planning committee of 3 others: a consulting pastor who often works on reconciliation, another woman in our church, and myself (because of my apology book and passion for reconciliation). When the plans for the service were announced to the congregation, the pastor and elders received a handful of protests from church members. I can’t speak of all the reasons for the resistance, but I, myself, have heard people say that it’s time to move on and leave that mess behind us. One or more people voted with their feet, leaving our church before the service was held. Our pastor and elders remained firm in their conviction that a non-Sunday service of forgiveness would be beneficial for all who might choose to attend.
The service was actually delayed by several months after Robin suffered a near-fatal heart attack and underwent heart surgery to repair a section of his heart that is dubbed “the widowmaker” because so few people with that blockage even make it into surgery. Today, Robin stands as a great example of one who made an effort to make his important apologies before it was too late!
Just before the re-scheduled service took place, I consulted with Robin (and his second wife) about his apology preparations. This was the first time I’d had an occasion to talk to Robin since his abrupt dismissal 9 years ago. As I consulted with him, I asked Robin about his goals for the forgiveness service and any concerns he might have. His greatest desire was for his family (and his church family) to gain healing. His greatest practical concern was that he might wilt with tears and be unable to speak during the event. This was fairly likely, as he said that he had cried during each 1:1 restoration meeting he’d had in the weeks leading up to that time.
During the event, Robin held up perfectly. He was moved by being back in the pulpit that he had occupied from the founding of the church until his choices forced his departure. The main floor of the sanctuary was filled nearly filled with visitors, nearly 50% of whom had left our church in distress but who had returned for the service at Robin’s invitation.
Since the service took place, life as usual has continued at the church. Our committee, Robin and his wife, and a few others recently gathered to celebrate the “fruit” of the forgiveness service. We agreed that the climax of the meeting was when our current pastor responded to Robin’s apology with a few simple sentences. He generously said that on behalf of the church, he forgave Robin and he is restored to equal standing among all those who would enter that building. We sense a continual movement of forgiveness among others in our church (with all sorts of circumstances).
In closing, I’d like to offer these ‘shout outs’ today:
- To Robin and your second wife: Thank you for your bold willingness to pursue healing of relationships and for boldly sharing your story so that it might help others.
- To Robin’s first wife: I’ve watched you take the high road while enduring what could be compared to a nuclear bomb. Your class and grace are inspiring! Thank you for graciously welcoming Robin’s restoration.
- To the elders who served during Robin’s disaster: Thank you for your long days, weeks, and years of service to our congregation.
- To our current church leaders: Your commitment to Biblical forgiveness is a healing path. Thank you.
A note from Dr. Jen: I would welcome your comments and questions on this topic. 🙂