The list comes from a website called, A Cry for Justice: Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst.
Overall, it’s a good website, filled with lots of good information about domestic violence and abuse. It helps increase awareness and understanding, which is so very much needed. Then there is the “list.” The CRCNA was nominated by people in the CRCNA who were not helped, but were in fact further hurt, by the response of the church in their experience of domestic abuse. And though no identifying information was given, in my conversations with the list creators, I was told that the harmful responses were real and came from various levels in the denomination. And I don’t doubt that it’s true. We don’t always respond well to abuse situations.
However, after several conversations with the site managers, changes were made to the list. Now variations within denominations are acknowledged, and now rather than standing alone with its number, the CRCNA is placed together along with others.
My first response upon hearing we were on the list was to defend the CRCNA. We have great resources on our Safe Church Ministry website, and we have Safe Church teams who are doing excellent work to increase awareness. Then I realized that what bothered me most was the strategy of the list and how the list alienates the very people who need to understand the message. This strategy closes off dialogue, prevents people from listening, and may harden current positions. I’d recommend instead a much more difficult and much more effective strategy, one of building allies who can work together toward real change.
Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Holy Longing says, “Our best actions are those which admit our complicity and are marked by a spirit of genuine repentance and humility. Our worst actions are those that seek to demonstrate our own righteousness, our purity, and our moral distance from the violence we are protesting.”
The problem with having “good guys” and “bad guys” is that it is too simple. And in reality only One is good. The rest of us are together in the other group. So instead of spending energy creating a list, judging and dividing, let’s work together, loving something bigger than ourselves, seeking justice, righteousness and peace.