On August 26, 2020 Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) joined us for our Safe Church 2020 Webinar Series. Boz has many years of experience empowering Christian communities to recognize,respond and work to prevent abuse within the church.
View the webinar on YouTube here, or watch below!
How it all began
After years of working in private practice, Boz founded GRACE. His reason for creating this organization speaks directly to the brokenness within our churches. He stated: “I was struck by how many of the abuse cases included faith communities … and I was so devastated by the response of the church….This was not only the place they were victimized, but re-victimized and wanted nothing to do with God or church.” Rather than sit in this frustration, he established an organization intent on breaking down the power structures that existed within churches and gave space for victims to be supported properly. He reminds all of us who are doing this work why we continue to do the hard work: “Maybe one day, maybe, the church will be a place the wounded and hurting flee towards and not from." We all cling to this hope as we work together in the area of abuse prevention.
The work of abuse prevention
As Boz started to share about his years working in abuse prevention, he was very succinct noting: “This is not for the faint of heart!” But his passion for the work God has led him to champion was clear throughout his entire conversation. In one simple statement he summed up the reason he is so driven in what he does, saying - “the wounded who are laying inside of our churches are too scared to speak because of the response they may get from those around them...In our churches, the most wounded should feel the most safe to step forward. That’s not what we find in our churches today.”
He spoke with great conviction about the abuse of power that we are seeing so often in our churches, noting the big disconnect between organized religion and the life of Christ, stating: We have created these worlds in Christendom and oftentimes in the evangelical world that I just don’t recognize as a Christian, as the character of Jesus. Jesus walked into the margins, He did not support those that called for power within society at His time.
So what can we do to be more like Jesus, reaching out to support the most vulnerable and the downtrodden in our society? We can create churches that are safe havens. We can start asking questions, research, and work to build safe churches. We can turn to the support of organizations such as GRACE. We can connect with our Safe Church teams to educate and train our congregations in the area of abuse prevention. We can speak to the issues of power within the church. We can step into a brave space, realizing that challenging systems of power is hard work, but so important to the health of our faith communities.
Resources mentioned in the webinar by Boz
Safeguarding initiative - create protocols ahead of time so you are prepared to deal with issues
GRACE Assessments: Be proactive - GRACE will do a cultural assessment of your church environment. This assessment encourages people in the church to speak safely and freely through a level of anonymity that is present with the assessment.. This helps to break down power structures that can and do exist in the church.
Independent Investigations: GRACE will offer their services to support churches that are looking for outside support investigating allegations of abuse.
GRACE Resources page offers additional information including articles and videos. Within the discussion in this webinar the question
About Boz Tchividijan (https://www.netgrace.org/our-team)
Boz Tchividjian founded GRACE in 2004. A former prosecutor, Boz created the first “Sexual Crimes” division at the Office of the State Attorney in the 7th Judicial Circuit of Florida. Later as the division chief, Boz was personally responsible for prosecuting hundreds of sexual victimization related cases and supervising thousands of such cases. A world-renowned expert on issues related to sexual violence perpetrated against children and adults, Boz has spent over twenty years utilizing what he learned as a prosecutor to train and equip prosecutors, investigators, social workers, and medical personnel in handling various aspects of child sexual abuse prosecutions. Boz has also represented sexual assault plaintiffs in civil cases against perpetrators and institutions.
He is a former columnist for Religion News Service who wrote a weekly column that focused on the intersection of abuse and faith communities. His columns can now be found at www.netgrace.org/resources.
Boz is a published author and recently co-authored The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries with psychologist and attorney, Shira Berkovits. His scholarship focuses on issues related to sexual victimization. His most recent article entitled, Catching American Sex Offenders Overseas: A Proposal for a Federal Mandated Reporting Law, was published in the UMKC Law Review and is the basis for recently drafted federal legislation.
In addition to his duties with GRACE, Boz currently serves as a professor at Liberty University School of law where he teaches Child Abuse and the Law, a course which he developed and is designed to prepare students to become child advocates inside and outside of the courtroom.