The CRCNA Makes the List

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The CRCNA has received a dubious distinction. We made the list! But it’s not a good list. The list is the “Hall of Blind Guides: Resources that Will Not Help (and may harm) Abuse Victims.”

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.

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While I agree with that the list risks alienation of those need to hear, there is another side of the coin.

The list also brings attention to those who think they have it all together that they do not. Our denomination, classes, and most congregations have Safe Church teams. We think we have it all together. We have great resources on the website and we are working to increase awareness. But we don't have it all together.

The CRC, like any group of humans, struggles with pride. It manifests itself in many different ways and in many different areas, including Safe Church teams. We are proud that we have the structures and policies and so on. But the reality is that we still mess up, regularly even. And the consequences are life-changing and sometimes even catastrophic.  

The best response to an article like this is not deconstructing the article. The best response is confession. Confession (and forgiveness) is the foundation on which healing, justice, and a relationship of working together can be built on.

Participant

That website is engaging in gossip and anonymous accusations, that is, they are engaging in abusive speech in the name of countering abuse. They may have good intentions but the execution is sorely lacking in integrity and hypocritical. Clearly they are unaware of our Safe Church ministry and the safe church teams of our classes and the policies of our individual congregations. I found the site exquisitely unhelpful, indeed, unjustly harmful to our church's reputation, in the way that it bears false witness against the church, leveling vague accusations against the church, allegedly up to the synodical level. Of course, we are just as prone to abuse in our churches as any other, and prone to hide it, etc, but we have also made very intentional and proactive efforts to prevent and respond to abuse. To smear the whole CRCNA in this manner is contemptible.

@Randy Blacketer

 

Maybe it is a situation of them being aware of the Safe Church Policies and it's practices.

"Clearly they are unaware of our Safe Church ministry and the safe church teams of our classes and the policies of our individual congregations."

I agree with Brother Blacketer's comments.  This type of list does little to help--except maybe for one thing: By saying that the "CRC does not have it all together" is merely stating the obvious.  What denomination does have it all together--NONE!  I would refer interested readers to a book by Paul David Tripp with the title: "Dangerous Calling."  While it speaks of the work of pastors, it's just as true for elders, deacons and everyone.  The point of the book is that no one has it all together!  The moment we think we do, that's when we are in danger of losing the Gospel of God's grace through Christ!  So it making the list helps us to see that we don't have it all together, that's good.  But that's about all the good that will come from such a list.

I agree the article on the website sited could have done better job speaking to this issue but I also know that at every Synod churches and classis are encouraged to develop a Safe Church team. (and this has been going on for decades)

The agenda of the 2013 Synod reports that currently only 24 out of 47 classes have a Safe Church team. The CRC has a long way to go before we can pat ourselves on our backs and say we are doing all we can to ensure all our churches are safe places for everyone.

Well, this is kinda funny.  I probably made a few folks irritated yesterday because I posted a link from A Cry For Justice in another comment stream, because it had a link to a fantastic sermon that gave me some clarity on abusive men and how to deal with them in life and in the church building.  (http://network.crcna.org/qa/how-do-we-handle-domestic-violence-husband-w...

And I read what Cry For Justice says about the CRC, because I was curious about the link about making the list.  OOPS!!!  I tweaked someone's nose, I'm sure, by advocating a site that some folks here think is libelous.

But hey, after posting here for 3 or more months begging for help with dealing with an abuser, and getting opinions and book-learning, but really not getting any practical EXPERIENCED advice, I'm inclined to agree with A Cry For Justice.  It's pretty clear to me that we, the CRC, are pretty clueless about how to handle all the crud that comes with domestic abuse. 

And while we tout Safe Church as being so great, in MY understanding, Safe Church is about being Safe IN Church, not safe at home.  At least that's true at my church.  Yes, we have a Safe Church committee.  And they've made changes to nursery and Sunday School and catechism and rides home with kids in the car and such so that there is reduced risk.  But that's about being "Safe AT Church," not "Safe at Home."  I'm not on the committee, so I don't know the particulars, but what I can tell you from an outside-the-committee-person is that my impression is NOT that Safe Church is about how to deal with the abusers themselves, or how to protect or help the victims of abuse at home, who happen to be members of our churches.  And THAT is what A Cry For Justice is all about.  So yes, from their perspective, we ain't good at it at all, because Safe Church isn't about that.

Now perhaps I'm wrong.  I haven't studied Safe Church materials.  But the reason I posted in this forum in December about dealing with an abuser who wants to come back to services is because I assumed Safe Church could help in its area, or "sphere" if you prefer, of the church building.  I never expected any help or advice in dealing with him outside the church building, or in the home, because I didn't think Safe Church covers that.  Maybe it does and I'm ignorant.  But I'm no dummy, and I'm a lifelong CRC member, and if *I* don't know about any help the CRC offers in that regard, then A Cry for Justice is right in that the CRC doesn't have its act together, and they are not being libelous at all. 

It's clear from reactions I get from church members that they have no clue about the personalities of abusive men, and the manipulative ways they toy with their family's emotions, and the good-heartedness of their church members.  It's been a real learning curve for me too.  And most people aren't going to put in the time to understand the mind of an abuser, and how that wreaks havoc on his family.  And I'm not sure Safe Church is set up, at all, to educate the membership about it. 

Protecting Victims

Community Builder

I also have referred many people to "A Cry for Justice" website (both before and after the CRC "made the list") because it has many good resources that are helpful in understanding abuse, which is a necessary first step to respond appropriately. Keeping churches safer is a good place for Safe Church Ministry to start, but our mandate goes beyond that - I'd encourage you to take a look at some of the resources on our website www.crcna.org/safechurch. On the left hand sidebar click on "Additional Information" and you will find additional resources on domestic violence. In addition - a ready-made PowerPoint presentation about domestic violence is also available  - click on the left hand side bar "Resources for Safe Church Teams". That presentation, along with other domestic violence resources is a part of our Safe Church team training notebook. In addition, many workshops and educational events on the topic have been presented for Safe Church team training events, in churches, and at classis meetings. We are working to equip Safe Church team members to speak to the issue of domestic violence which affects so many people in our churches.

I'm looking forward to placing more of our Safe Church resources on the new Network - so they will be searchable and more easily accessible.

The survey presented to synod in 1992 (which led to forming the office now known as Safe Church Ministry) revealed that 85% of the abuse reported happened in the home - only 4% at church. So to ignore abuse that happens outside of church is to ignore an issue that affects a lot of people, many of whom are in our churches. There is great opportunity for ministry to those who have been impacted by this kind of abuse.

Please also feel free to contact Safe Church Ministry for additional assistance. I have been working in the field of domestic and sexual violence for many years before accepting the position as director of Safe Church Ministry. I have a passion to see churches respond in helpful ways. If you share that passion; consider joining in the work of Safe Church Ministry. As another responder pointed out - we have a long way to go. You (or others reading this post) can become part of the solution.