Safe Church Ministry is excited to welcome our newly appointed Director! Dr. Amanda Benckhuysen will begin her new position at the end of January 2021.
In addition to the news article posted below, Dr Benckhuysen also shares this note: "I’m humbled and honored to be appointed to this important ministry and look forward to working with Eric Kas and Becky Jones and Safe Church teams across the denomination to foster communities of justice and compassion where the value of each person is honored.”
On Dec. 7, the executive committee of the Council of Delegates voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Amanda Benckhuysen to the position of director of Safe Church Ministry for the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
Before coming to this role, Benckhuysen served as professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Mich.). She also taught at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary and was a campus minister at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“While I love teaching, for a number of years now I have felt a desire to explore other gifts and take on new challenges,” Benckhuysen explained in her application letter.
The position of director of Safe Church Ministry drew her attention because of the opportunity to use so much of her experience in creating, teaching, writing, mentoring, and consulting for a cause that is near to her heart.
Safe Church began in 1994 after a 1989 synodical study committee on abuse found that 28 percent of adults in the CRC had experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and that 15 percent of adults in the CRC had abused another person physically, sexually, or emotionally. The Office of Abuse Prevention (later renamed Safe Church Ministry) was tasked with equipping congregations in abuse awareness, prevention, and response.
“My own deep appreciation for Safe Church Ministry comes from witnessing a church flounder in its ability to confront, address, and minister effectively to friends of mine who were being abused,” she explained.
Ill-equipped and unsure of what to do, the church leadership simply closed their eyes and hoped the situation would disappear.
“Abuse is ugly. But allowing abuse in the church to go unchecked or leaving those who are abused without resources and care compromises the church’s witness to the gospel,” said Benckhuysen.
But the flip side is also true. When a church is equipped to prevent and respond to abuse, and to assist survivors, it can be a source of strength to people who are hurting.
“I have witnessed the healing that can happen when a church is well resourced to deal with evidence and claims of abuse with care, justice, and compassion,” she said.
“Nothing can undo the devastating effects of abuse. However, acknowledging the abuse, and the brokenness that has resulted, breaks the code of silence that leaves the abused alone in their shame and hurt and creates opportunities for support, professional help, and possibilities for healing.”
In other words, she explained, the ministry of Safe Church is crucial to the integrity of the church’s ministry and witness.
“We are so pleased to welcome Amanda into this role,” said Colin Watson, executive director of the CRCNA. “She is a teacher, mentor, vision-caster, ministry developer, researcher, writer, and leader. All of these skills will serve her well in this role and help her lead the denomination in this important area.”
Benckhuysen replaces Bonnie Nicholas, who retired from the post in November 2020 after serving for nine years. This transition is one of several currently under way in senior leadership within the denomination.
Originally published at the crcna.org/news-and-events, authored by Kristen deRoo Vanderberg, CRC Communications