Resource, Conference or Event

This one-day conference provides a wonderful opportunity to increase our understanding about abuse issues and to become better equipped for ministry.

April 20, 2017 1 0 comments
Blog

A truly safe church environment is one where the congregation is aware of the many ways in which abuse is normalized in both secular and Christian cultures and is prepared to help survivors.  

February 21, 2017 4 0 comments
Blog

How many lives could be changed if the church talked as openly about abuse as any other chronic and life-threatening issues their congregants faced?

December 6, 2016 1 4 comments
Blog

In her recent book Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, Ruth Tucker offers a compelling and harrowing account of the ways in which unchallenged assumptions about gender hierarchy can create a climate of enabling abuse within the church.

March 15, 2016 4 2 comments
Blog

Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. These women are our best friends, co-workers, and the lady in front of you at the checkout line at Target. How could I not speak up? 

December 15, 2015 2 0 comments
Blog

Statistics have shown that people, even once they are out of abusive situations, often return to the abusive relationship. How are congregations equipped for the task of building up and walking alongside others?

March 21, 2015 2 1 comments
Resource, Image

The 'Power and Control Wheel' has been used for many years to describe the central power and control dynamic that operates in many kinds of abusive relationships. 

February 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Are we able to see the evidence of abuse? Are those who suffer abuse in a relationship able to share what is happening without being blamed or judged?

December 2, 2014 1 0 comments
Blog

Most people think only of physical abuse when they consider domestic violence, yet financial abuse happens in 98% of all cases of domestic violence.

November 24, 2014 2 9 comments
Resource, Article

Find helpful resources related to domestic abuse. 

November 17, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

One Sunday each year (the fourth Sunday in September) has been designated Abuse Awareness Sunday. The annual email goes out, “Tell us what you did for Abuse Awareness Sunday”. Here are some responses from 2014.

October 27, 2014 0 3 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar is designed to help us understand the problem of domestic violence, so that we can recognize it and respond in practical and effective ways.

October 1, 2014 0 2 comments
Blog

While questions remain about the NFL’s handling of domestic violence among players, further questions arise regarding how our culture, our church, views domestic abuse.

September 30, 2014 1 1 comments
Resource, Article

Are there warning signs in a relationship?

July 8, 2014 1 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Domestic violence or relationship abuse refers to a pattern of behavior, not a one-time event, not anger out of control. It is intentional behavior used to establish control through coercion, fear, intimidation, isolation, or other methods. It often (not always) includes the use of, or the...

February 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

RAVE stands for Religion and Violence E-learning. It provides excellent online resources including survivor stories and online training for pastors. The RAVE initiative seeks to assist families of faith impacted by abuse.

July 8, 2011 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This handbook is for pastors and other church leaders to help them respond to and prevent domestic violence. It includes resources for premarital counseling, addressing legal issues, and more. It provides information about the dynamics of domestic violence, characteristics and behaviors of...

January 21, 2010 0 0 comments
RSS

Thanks for posting this. We need to hear and understand these words so that we, as the church, can respond appropriately to those who have experienced abuse and to those who perpetrate it. 

posted in: Abusers Among Us

I only know what we do in our church. The Insurance Co. requires background check every 5 yrs. We are in year 7 or 8 with approx 215 approved volunteers. We renew 30-40 per year which is not difficult or very expensive. All the best to you ...

Hello Victoria, 

We were able to find a new link for this resource. You can find it here! I hope this is helpful. We have also updated the previous comment. 

 

Hi Eric...I am having trouble with the link you have provided.  Could you check it for me?

Thanks, Victoria

Some churches in Michigan use a free state-wide criminal background check provided by ICHAT (Internet Criminal History Access Tool). It's free for non-profits, including churches, that are registered with the state. Once a church registers, they can do their own state-wide background checks for free. Cost can vary depending on the type of check; if it's a nominal fee, it may be OK to expect volunteers cover it themselves (although a process should allow for those to whom this would cause financial hardship). Some would say that if the church requires it, then the church should pay for it. One way churches can show that they value volunteers is to offer to pay for the background checks for those who are already giving time, energy and other resources in their service to the church. Some, perhaps most, people will also be happy to pay for their own background check, seeing it as a part of their contribution to the church.

Thank you, Fred and Bonnie!

One more question- Fred mentioned that his church can pay for each application. 

If you have background checks in your church ministry, do you pay for them, or do your volunteers pay a percentage? What is typical for churches?

Thanks!

We have resources about background checks posted on our website with other policy information. Safe church recommends a criminal background check for anyone working with children, youth or vulnerable populations. There are many options for background checks as well as different kinds of checks. An interview and reference checks are also part of a full screening process. The people that are entrusted to our care, especially the small and vulnerable, are precious and valuable to our Lord. It's our responsibility to do what we can to protect them and offer a safe and nurturing environment for faith to grow. 

Our church has been using Sterling Backcheck. Combined with an application form called a 'volunteer profile' and a sign off on our abuse prevention policy. Each ministry leader is still responsible for documenting the reference checks. 

Sterling is very simple and can be easily set up so the church can pay for each application. In Canada, any church that is a member of Plan to Protect, receives a discount from Sterling as well. 

Hope this helps ...

In addition to our current pornography resources, Safe Church recognizes that pornography fuels a HUGE sex industry that enslaves people and destroys lives. It's the theme for Abuse Awareness Sunday 2017 (always the fourth Sunday in September). A flyer (bulletin insert) entitled 'The Sex Industry and the Church' can be ordered free of charge to help increase awareness in CRC congregations, which hopefully will lead us to take action.

Thanks all, your reflections are super helpful to us!  

 

I think Bonnie's voiced all of the suggestions that come to mind for me too - I really like the idea of cameras if it is important for the internship to take place in the church building. If it still feels uncomfortable/unhealthy or potentially unsafe for a small number of people to be working together in the church building, which can be heightened if they're of the opposite gender, offsite meetings nearby feel like a good solution. Your questions highlight how important it is for all churches to spend some time brainstorming and strategizing to have workable solutions like these in place allowing equal opportunities for all people regardless of gender. We might not be able to eliminate all risk, but I honestly believe with some planning it is possible to open up many more opportunities for both men and women to work collaboratively in a healthy environment than we might've assumed. 

I'm wondering if there was any conversation with the intern, and with others about this issue. I can think of various options off the top of my head, and in good conversation with others I'm sure there would be a lot more. What about flexible work hours, working offsite, or alone in the building when you were not there? Or, what about an office with a lock on the door? Same sex relationships must also be considered in safety planning. Has this been an issue with male interns or only female interns? If it's only seen as an issue with female interns, then that's a problem in my mind. There might be other ways to work around the concerns of having two people alone working together in a church building - a video camera in the office space? A quick-dial emergency phone number? And the trust level in the relationship must also be considered. I don't believe that completely risk-free ministry is possible - it is our responsibility to minimize risks as much as we are able. And I often say that risks must always be weighed against benefits in determining the best course of action; and if you're going to error (it's human after all) error on the side of safety. 

BTW: Safe Church Ministry has a webinar, Healthy Boundaries in Ministry Relationships, which includes handouts, that could be a helpful tool to begin discussion for church council and/or staff members and other ministry leaders. Transparent discussion might lead to greater understanding of some of the underlying issues involved, and/or be helpful in creating policies to help meet the various needs that are expressed. Regular ongoing Boundary and/or Ethics training is required by pastors in many denominations - a good idea I think.

Thanks, Mike, for relating the experience that exactly describes the dilemma we all face. We men either treat women as full equals without any boundaries and thereby provide the context needed for full implementation of their gifts; or, we place limits on interaction to prevent misinterpretation or even exploitation by less charitable persons. In well-populated, professional settings the first is easier to implement but in informal contexts with fewer people interaction between genders always seems to have traps that we need to avoid to maintain integrity in ministry. It's not just a matter of male hormones or propensities but includes that of community realities.

One of my concerns in my first response was to the sensitivity to such limitations being perceived as offenses. I really don't know how to deal with that. Somebody may be able to develop a way to accommodate every need.

Thanks very much for this excellent piece of work Monika!  

As it happens this issue is not at all academic or hypothetical in my little corner of the world:  I work (mostly) alone in the upstairs of a church building that is regularly empty between 1/2 and 1/3rd of the work week.  In the past with 'safe-church principles' in mind, I worked with a fabulous female intern, and had to restrict her schedule to times in which we knew that Church staff would be in the building (office with an open door).  It was probably the strongest internship we've ever had, but there were very clear limitations due to the scheduling.  At the end of the internship the young woman was deeply complimentary about the experience but recommended that women not  serve in our office unless something could be done about the schedule restrictions.  That has, since then, restricted our intern pool significantly - this is deeply unfortunate.

So, Monika, given this article, and the deeply significant need we have for the full participation of women and men in our work, is there anything creative that we can do to make our place more Gender inclusive and fully appropriate from a safe-church perspective?  

Mike Hogeterp

Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, 

Algonquine Terrritory, Ottawa Ontario

 

That's a helpful, comment, Eric - exactly. The goal is creating healthy spaces and boundaries that work equally well with both genders. 

Thanks for this comment, Bonnie. You worded so beautifully exactly what I was trying to say. 

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on this article! It is an important topic. It's more complicated than it seems on the surface, which the article itself and the comments clearly show. 

I know many women who feel that their leadership potential is stunted by the fact that they are treated differently than their male counterparts. There may be fewer mentoring relationships and opportunities available to them, especially in male dominated positions such as pastors. In our culture, networking with others is an important part of job advancement. So, women can feel at a disadvantage if they are not allowed the same opportunities for networking and building relationships. This is a real issue, more than just a perception. And it may play a part in the economic disparity found between women and men doing similar work. We must be aware of these cultural biases, and work toward equal dignity and opportunity for all people.

At the same time, I applaud men for considering the issue carefully and taking steps to protect themselves from false allegations of inappropriate behavior, which is also a valid concern. It's a valid concern for women leaders as well. Anyone in a leadership position needs to consider how their actions are perceived and how they might be understood by others. Leaders should be an example to others, and in Christian ministry are called to be above reproach. It seems also important to note that Jesus was as concerned about our thoughts and motivations as he was about our behaviors (See Matthew 5). And so, it seems that knowing yourself is also important in making these kinds of decisions. If being alone with a woman, or a man, causes one to lust, than for sure, avoiding that situation all together is wise and good. Better yet, is being able to treat all people with equal dignity and respect - may we come to that place in our leadership. And I believe that an important part of that is maintaining a safe environment, which may mean meeting in public (you can have private conversations in public places), having windows in the doors, etc. And every leader should have those who can hold him or her accountable - so that when temptations present themselves, he or she has a place to go with that struggle. We need to hold our leaders accountable, in a gentle and restoring way - because our enemy is working overtime in this area. Our hope rests in our God, who is stronger, and is also always working on behalf of his people, his bride, the Church.

Honest conversation about this issue is a good step in the right direction. So, thanks again Monica for the article, and also to all those who weighed in with comments.

Thanks, Mark - I actually agree with you that Mike Pence was treated unfairly in the coverage of his adherence to this rule. I too applaud his desire to protect his marriage honorably, and think we have a big problem with lack of boundaries to where following something like this rule is often better than the alternative. I did reflect on how potentially the rule itself could feed into implicit sexism, but was not at that point speculating on Pence's motives, more on how other women have experienced the rule when it was directed at them. My purpose in the piece was to point out that following the follow legalistically could cause problems and potentially raise the issue of discrimination (especially in work or education settings). It's helpful for Christian ministries and organizations to recognize that it could be illegal to require female coworkers, etc to be held to different guidlines than male coworkers.  It'd be better, like Eric pointed out, to have a principle in the workplace that applies equally to both men and women (only meeting in open spaces, etc). I think the Billy Graham rule arose from honorable intentions and points to the need for wise boundaries, but wanted to point out the potential downsides and highlight Safe Church's resources for thinking through more flexible guidelines. 

Thanks for your comment - as I mentioned in the article, I think the intentions behind following something similar to the Billy Graham rule are honorable and good, and far better than a lack of clear boundaries. The question of discrimination comes up primarily when it involves coworkers, students, or mentees, of the opposite sex -- for example, if in a work, education, or ministry setting women have to follow different rules than their male coworkers. There are many contexts in education and the workforce where following such a rule legalistically would be very difficult, even impossible, without it raising at least the question of discrimination towards female coworkers. It's good to keep this in mind, because in such settings, it could be illegal for women to be treated differently than males, which makes a leader vulnerable to lawsuit. But as Eric pointed out, there are many easy way to follow the common sense principle behind the rule's motivations of wise boundaries - not meeting alone with alone in an enclosed space, having a workplace that has windows and open doors, for more serious one-on-one conversations meeting in public, etc. The goal of this piece was to point out the limitations of a one-size-fits-all rule, and help us think about wise guidelines such as those offered by Safe Church to think through our own personal guidelines with discernment. 

Maybe Mike Pence has serious struggles with a temptation towards infidelity and this is what he has to do to remain "pure and blameless." I applaud his actions to do this in the face of mockery from non-believers (SNL and Bill Maher have had their fun with it). This article speculates about his motives by accusing him of holding to a caricatured Augustinianism instead of showing the charity that a brother in Christ deserves.

"If a man with significant political power can only freely meet with other men alone, but not women, that raises questions about gender discrimination."  Gender discrimination?  Really?  Give me a break.  A woman meeting alone with a male pastor has more power than you think.  If she doesn't like the pastor, all she has to do is make an appointment with him and then say he was sexually inappropriate.  The accusation alone would destroy him.  The article above also points out that "it’s also true that in ministry a vulnerable or codependent [female] person might want a relationship with a [male] leader that crosses emotional boundaries, if not physical."  If the male leader sets firm bounderies, he also sets himself to be accused by the female person who feels rejected and wants to get even.  No thanks.  The Billy Graham rule is there for my protection and I'm going to use it.

Thanks posting Monica! I appreciate your nuanced thought. 

Personally, I do not like to be in an enclosed space (like an office without a window) with anyone, men or women. Fortunately, most office spaces have windows in doors and are often places where others may walk by, which give it public visibility. Moreover, I cannot recall the last time I ate alone at a restaurant. Normally there are people around, this is not “eating alone” - it is eating in public, with a private conversation. There are many ways to work without gender discrimination in our communities, while maintaining healthy boundaries.

Thanks, Henry. Your comments point to how important it is for churches to have a clear policy in place for handling allegations of harassment or abuse, to avoid conclusions being drawn based only on secondhand information instead of a thorough and careful process for assessing each situation. Bonnie Nicholas and Safe Church are always available to help churches both in creating a policy and helping churches take any allegations through a rigorous and careful process before any definitive conclusions or further steps are taken. 

Great article discussing a necessary issue. But what about the power of gossip and innuendo that leads to the maligning of a person's reputation? I've seen a few cases of this where a pastor lost their reputation, position and even calling. This applies to any person in positions of authority sometimes for as little as an off-handed comment. The sensitivity to offenses, whether real or perceived, leads to muzzling and inability to communicate. 

The Billy Graham rule was set up to avoid any possible maligning when their team realized how prominent Billy could become and thereby a target for malice.

Click here for the link to order your free flyers/bulletin inserts for your church!

Great article and resources - THANKS for posting this Monica. Anger towards the one that perpetrated the abuse and cause the damage is appropriate; it reflects God's anger at sin and is an important, critical part of the process. With our God, there is hope for much healing for all parties who have been impacted, I've seen that transformational healing, and it motivates me to continue in this work. 

Good article Monica.  I wholeheartedly agree that anger can be good, even necessary.  Its a bit like a sharp knife.  Dangerous if not handled properly, but sometimes much preferred to (even required instead of) a dull one.

I also appreciated this author's straight out assertion that abused children aren't irreparably broken.  They and others need to know that, be persuaded of it -- cuz its true.  Insisting otherwise tends to make the sense of broken-ness extend longer, or even permanently.

Thanks for sharing this helpful article. The CareLeader newsletters often have useful information for those interested in ministry with others. Safe Church Ministry so-sponsored Trauma Healing training with World Renew last February, and we will co-sponsor another event in Canada in November. Churches can become places of healing when church members are equipped to deal with trauma that people are facing. Often we think we need to be a therapist or a professional, and sometimes that help is needed. Yet tremendously valuable to someone who is hurting is the ministry of presence, just being there with them. And a listening ear, truly listening without judgment, and without trying to "fix" someone, just listening, is a very valuable gift, that most of us are already equipped to give. May our congregations become safer places as we learn to listen to one another.

Hello Linda,

Great question! Decreasing the risks involved in a public display of aggression and violence is important for everyone in your church community. The office of Safe Church Ministry is primarily a resource for responding to the occurrence of abuse & prevention of abuse - so security and risk of public violence is not necessarily in our area of expertise. We however want to point you towards some excellent resources for security training. One of those resources is from Brotherhood Mutual, a leader in insurance coverage for churches. They have a free download called Big Book Checklist that offers several risk management checklists for ministries. If you look at page 51 there is a page titled "Violence in the Church." As you look through this checklist there may be several things that you could integrate into your policy for training your elders and deacons - specifically a regular training that a percentage of the church's leadership could go through so that your community is prepared for a variety of scenarios that could possibly come up.

I hope this helps!

Blessings,

Eric Kas - Safe Church Associate

Thanks for this thoughtful reply! I agree that leaders set the tone, and their willingness to be vulnerable and open seems to be a key ingredient. I appreciate this verse, 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins". I think genuine love and care for someone will show through, even when we make mistakes, or don't say exactly the right thing. Listening is often far more important than speaking. Rather than "fixing" we need to be present, reflecting the love of Jesus. Thanks again for your comment.

MJill H,

 

I found this comment helpful.  Thanks.

What does our congregation do to create safe spaces for people to share the hard stories?

Well our leadership does not really do anything. Individual pastors, including our current interim pastor, have sat and listened to some of us who ask them to listen/help/pray with us.
It not a practice of our leadership to encourage us to share the hard stuff.  Generally our leaders do not admit their own struggles, at least not publicly. There were 2 elders years ago who tried to be supportive. One came back a few times and gave me a good book to read. The other started a small group for those who struggle. One of these men moved away. The other left our denomination.
Some did begin a support group for people with depression which lasted a year or so. It was a good try.
One of the issues with it was that people with depression and their families were in the same group. Separate groups at least some for the time would have been better. So would trained leadership. But it was a good try.
There are individuals in our congregation who reach out to those who struggle with abuse issues and untold stories. I am thankful for some long term friends who have listened and loved me and stuck with me. I too, reach out to others and we are mutually caring and supportive.
If our leaders never admit they struggle about anything then why would anyone confide in them. If everyone has to look nice on Sundays and seem to have it all together then there is no place for messy lives. If we are not a safe place to admit we struggle with spending too much money, or playing computer games, or getting angry or being lazy or frustration with our children, or even that we are physically ill or in debt,  then how can we ever admit to addictions or mental illness of being a survivor of sexual abuse?

If we have not really understood how much God loves us and longs for deeper relationship with us,
if we have not learned how to accept our own struggles,

 if we have not learned it is ok to make mistakes,

if we have not learned how to ask and accept help from those who would understand,

 if we have not learned to do the work of prayer and repentance and learning a new way to be with God’s help; then how can we support others?

In general, many people care –but they don’t know how to help. It is scary for them, they want to just say the right thing and fix us. We all need to be taught how to care for ourselves and others.

So my suggestion is that anyone who gets to lead needs to truly seek God about how to lead. One thing they will learn is how to be humble and honest and repentant and transparent without shame, about their own life and then learn to do that with others.
For the rest of us who are not permitted to lead, we do the same.
For the survivors and those with untold stories we do the same as above  and we keep  loving and praying and listening as we are walking/screaming/suffering/crying out and receiving the joy of our own healing journey with those we have who do care.

If you haven't yet seen our Safe Church Video, take a look - and check out the new look to our website too!

I appreciated the article regarding inviting a representative  of Safe Church to Classis meetings.  I am the coordinator for Safe Church for Classis East Grand Rapids.  Classis East has been very enfolding of Safe Church within that body.  I am grateful for their support and the importance that Safe Church has within this body of believers.  If only more Classes would become involved with Safe Church and make it an important ministry we could begin to see a reduction of abuse within our Christian community. Thank you for this fine article and reminding people of the role of Safe Church within our denomination.  Judy Jongsma

Amen sister!

And the truth is this:  every man is born of a woman.  Any man who degrades women, degrades himself.   Without a man, no woman could be born.  Any woman who degrades men, also degrades herself.  

There is no sanctity of life for anyone beyond the womb, who does not survive the womb.  

We don't really know why Hillary stayed with Bill.  There is a lot of political opportunism involved, and her whole life has been almost nothing but politics.  We assume she was faithful to Bill, like we assumed he was faithful to her.  And maybe he was;  they just had a more materialistic view of sex.  Maybe.  The real issues are how these things impact the policies of the country.  And certainly there is a trade-off between the immorality of divorce, unfaithfulness, and random sex, and the loss of lives of the unborn, of the military, of terrorism victims.    While the immorality of some marriages is certainly an issue, also at issue is the immorality of condoning homosex, and destroying the real meaning of marriage through legislation.  Also at issue is the persecution of Christians for their beliefs that same sex marriage is wrong.  This too is serious immorality.  I would argue it is of more significance.  If these issues are not addressed, then divorce becomes almost insignificant in comparison. 

Safe Church would like to post this update from Futures without Violence about teens taking the lead! 

Young survivors of sexual assault and harassment, as well as their parents, are not backing down. They are taking on Congress and their local school districts - and winning. Take for instance this week’s news article about a group of teenagers in Oregon who forced their school district to change how it handles sexual violence.

Anyone can be an activist for change, and this week is a perfect time to join in the fight. Through the end of this week, Congress is in recess, which means your Congressional Representatives and Senators are back in their home offices. Let’s make sure our Members of Congress know how critical it is to fund and enforce programs and services that address sexual assault and harassment in K-12 schools across the country.

We encourage you to call or visit to express your support for items such as: Continued funding and support for the federal Office of Civil Rights and Title IX enforcement; Funding for consent education and prevention programs in middle and high schools; and Support services for victims and survivors of sexual assault and cyber harassment.

Let's follow the lead of these teens. I'm praying for the day when the Church will take the lead in the fight to end abuse.

Thanks for sharing Monica. :)

So good to hear about ways others, like Lantern Coffee Bar, are creating safe, encouraging and meaningful spaces. This is definitely something that we as the church body can learn from both in other third spaces we are a part of - as well as in our spaces of dedicated worship. 

posted in: You Are Safe Here

This is a great article - thanks Monica. Simple things can mean so much. I love the idea of partnering with a local ribbon campaign, what a simple way to raise awareness and show support! 

posted in: You Are Safe Here

Hello Dirk,

In addition to the wise and helpful words that Bonnie and Eric shared - I also feel some of your pain that you share as we continue to struggle in this fallen world, which still belongs to God.

One thing that has helped give me some perspective is a simple saying by Rev. Ron Nydam - former professor of Pastoral Care at Calvin Seminary: "You can't give what you never got." We as people are dependent on the common & special grace that God gives to people - and people receive this - sometimes supernaturally, but more often through a remnant (often called His church) that God is preserving through which he continues to give people his grace. Unfortunately, there are many people who have gone through a wide range of circumstances in life that inhibit their capacity to love and be loved. In this case, often people cannot love others because they have not been given a rooted and persistent love. However, God often intervenes and breaks the chains and cycles - and I think your questioning is one means of breaking these chains. 

As Bonnie and Eric mentioned - I too encourage you to do this kind of self-reflection that is present in your post. In addition, finding some key people who you can trust and will continue to give you the things you need to be a person of peace and grace - so that you continue to "get what you want to give."

Keep on keeping on brother!

Eric Kas

posted in: Prayer for Wisdom

Hi Dirk,

Clearly you have a lot of pain and a lot of complex matters that you are grappling with.  I am sympathetic to your pain and struggle.  Particularly in light of the complexities of your concerns and uncertainty, I would urge you to take these matters up with your pastor and a trusted elder or two.  If you are not currently attending a Bible-believing, gospel preaching church, make that a priority so that you can be ministered to by God's Spirit through the preaching of the word in the fellowship of believers.  It is in the context of this fellowship that you will be able to receive much more specific and  personal attention to your concerns and struggles than anyone in this forum will be able to provide.  

A couple words of encouragement along the way: God's grace is sufficient for you, both unto salvation, and to bring you through life's (often cruel) challenges.  At times this may feel like a distant reality or hard to actually take hold of, but I encourage you to place your trust wholly in Jesus Christ, and he will indeed faithfully shepherd you.   May God bless you and encourage you, even as he uses His Word, His Spirit, and His Body (the church) to heal you.

posted in: Prayer for Wisdom

Dirk, I'm so sorry to hear about the abuse that you've experienced, it's not the way life is supposed to be, certainly not what we were designed for as people created in God's very image. We are constantly reminded that we live in a very broken world; and there are not easy answers to the questions that you ask - theologians have been debating them for generations. It is important to take "not sinning" seriously - and yet realize that none of us are able to do that. We are completely dependent on God's grace not only for our salvation, but for our life every day as we fulfill our desire to honor God in all that we do. And we are called to extend grace to others as well. In love, we understand that no one is able to live a life holy and pleasing to God, therefore we extend to others the grace that we also have received. All that said, the question of how to navigate through this broken world, which includes abusive relationships, still remains. I believe that God calls us to personal self-reflection. We can't change other people, only God can do that. What we can change is ourselves, with God's help, and also our response to others. Where to draw the line in a relationship that is abusive can be a painful and difficult process of discovery and discernment. We are called to speak the truth in love - Jesus was filled with both grace and truth - we struggle in between justice and mercy - there is a tension that must be maintained, or we don't have the whole picture. I think it's a mistake to resolve that tension in search of a quick fix - better to embrace it and live into it. A Christian in an abusive relationship is not called to maintain that relationship at all costs. The costs may simply become to high. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to leave the relationship, creating safer separation; this can be what's most loving to self and others, and can be most honoring to God's created purposes. We are created to be loved and to thrive in a safe environment. Creating a safer separation can be live-giving to the person who has been experiencing abuse. And it can also be life-giving to the one who must now face up to the truth of the abusive behavior and the truth about the damage that has been caused.

It's sad when congregations, and other Christian communities sometimes support those who perpetrate abuse, rather than those who are being hurt by it. This can often happen unintentionally, due to a lack of understanding about the dynamics and impacts of abuse. It can also happen because there is often great pressure to maintain the status quo than to enter into the hard work of bringing these hidden issues out into the open and dealing with them honestly. Safe Church Ministry seeks to help congregations respond more effectively by offering resources that can help. Spiritual abuse, or any abuse within a Christian context is especially damaging, because ideas about God are impacted. My prayer is that you will find others who can understand and support you in your journey with God toward healing and wholeness. The important thing is to be on the right path, going the right direction - we'll all get there in the end. Until then, it's good to have those who can walk with us on this journey as we navigate through this broken world.

posted in: Prayer for Wisdom

That would be wonderful to get some of these resources posted. Most of the resources that Safe Church offers have been gathered and/or created by way of congregations facing these issues. Safe Church is happy to be a part of gathering and sharing information that can help all of us in our various ministries.

This sounds great! I'd love to hear more about what you learned so that we can share it with other churches. Maybe some of this could end up as a resource on the Safe Church Ministry site so that other ministries and churches can share it? 

Pages

Members

this section to get email notifications of new posts
Carol Vander Ark Champion
Bonnie Nicholas
Elizabeth Schultz
Steven Bowman