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Safe Church Ministry held its third biennial and bi-national conference November 4-5, 2016. Over 50 people gathered in Grand Rapids (a lower number than in previous years, with only 8 Canadians who in the past have outnumbered U.S. participants). The Safe Church conference offers the opportunity to hear from accomplished workshop presenters, participate in plenary sessions together, learn a lot, network with others, and be encouraged and inspired. What a blessing it was to read through the evaluations, which were overwhelmingly positive. And what a joy it’s been to follow up with attendees who want more and are wondering how to bring this back to their own congregation and classis.

We are happy to have new resources for education and training as a result of our conference. Two special plenary sessions were open to the public, and were also recorded live. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend these special events, you can watch the live-stream version on YouTube:

Nov. 4 – A Conversation: A Church Response to Interpersonal Violence featuring authors Ruth Tucker, and Ruth Everhart who have both written memoirs about their experience.

Nov. 5 – Building a Movement to End Child Sexual Abuse with Linda Crockett, founder of Samaritan SafeChurch, which represents a growing, vibrant, ecumenical stream of Christians who are stepping up to protect children from sexual harm. (The first part of this program had to be re-recorded; only the last part is live-streamed from our conference).

Our prayer is that these resources will help us understand these issues more deeply, so that our congregations can recognize and acknowledge them, and also respond in helpful and healing ways.

Below are a few quotes shared by conference participants:

From conference attendees:

  • “The presenters were so knowledgeable and helpful and compassionate. I had never been to a conference like this before, never even knew anything about safe church. So, it was an eye-opener for me!”
  • “I liked meeting people who were all passionate about keeping our youth and churches safe. It was so interesting to learn more and made me want more training.”
  • “I really learned a lot from the conference and it made me very fired up to learn as much as I can!”

From a gathering of Classis Team Chairpersons/Liaisons:

  • I’m finally feeling like I have some people onboard that I can depend on, no more revolving door.
  • As the classis safe church team chairperson, I now sit on the Classis Executive Committee as a non-voting member to add safe church expertise to situations that arise in the classis.
  • In our classis we are beginning a new procedure; each church must have a safe church policy and a safe church representative as a requirement to be seated at the classis meeting.
  • Our classis has recently established a safe church coordinator position, which includes a small honorarium to encourage and promote safe church within each congregation.
  • We are working on a discussion guide to go along with the movie “Spotlight” which can be used in congregations to increase understanding about child sexual abuse by church leaders.

From one of our presenters:

  • “I was delighted to be a part of the event. Thank you all for doing such important work!”

And the work continues. Future articles, additional resources new opportunities will be posted as a result of this conference…stay tuned!


I watched the conference video online, and appreciated the openness and frankness in the discussion.  Thanks much for posting it.  Interpersonal violence exists within the church and outside of the church, and is a social problem.  So much of the dialogue addressed questions that I'd also had.  I could relate to their process.   I also loved that it addressed the culture of silence that has existed for so long (in all it's forms).  I love that it is acceptable for survivors to speak out in this way within the CRC.  there is more work to be done, but the work already done is huge. 

DIM is good!  I thought perhaps that a B could be added (blame). 

I love the reference to the "unspeakable".  There are many levels in this.  The internal code of silence (internalized teachings that are shame based - self blame) and the external code of silence (DIMB) increase the level of trauma experienced beyond the actual events.  How it is dealt with has an impact on the scope of what one needs to heal from.  the depth of the trauma is increased when in a culture of silence that victim shames and blames. 

Shifting the shame away from the survivor is critical and validating when the unspeakable is spoken is so important.  Addressing the attitudes and beliefs that make DIM so prevalent (within the church and society at large) is huge.  It takes so much time for that kind of change to occur  because the beliefs are sometimes core social and individual beliefs, and reinforced in society.  Shifting that can mean shifting peoples' whole perception of the world and how they fit into it (eg. patriarchy and shifting thinking that marginalizes women).  For some people, they learned that this way of being was okay. 

I remember the headship issue and women's role within the crc (discussion topic when I was at college),  Headship was almost perceived as a God mandated edict tied into their identity and role in life.  Yikes!  Shifting that kind of stuff is huge, and takes a long time. Headship may have been a piece in that patriarchal ideology.  Addressing interpersonal violence to me seems even bigger than that.     . 

Thank you for your courage in tackling this stuff.  It is truly important work. 

I am a survivor who left the CRC, and you are receiving my thanks.  The work being done in addressing interpersonal violence is critical and watching this video left me feeling hope. Listening to the women speak was like hearing some of my own healing process relayed.  Somehow, it undid a piece of disconnection that I felt.  I could relate to their experience, talk, and awareness about the power dynamics built into our culture and how their healing journey reflected processing all that.  I would have loved to sit down and talk with them.  Hearing them speak gave me a feeling of hope and connection.   

Thanks you for posting the video online.  Thanks again for posting it online.  Even though, I am not a CRC member, I would have loved to attend your conference.  Thank you for honoring these women, and for the work being done to support and protect others from experiencing this.    


Thank you for your thoughtful words and for your encouraging affirmation Jennifer. It's not easy to go against the grain, to break the culture of silence and speak up. Yet I believe, as it seems you also do, that there is great value in the telling of these stories, and much to be learned in the hearing. So, thank YOU so much  for listening and responding to the recording.

I appreciated what you said that, "Shifting the shame away from the survivor is critical and validating when the unspeakable is spoken is so important." Yes, I agree. May our congregations, not only the CRC but all who claim the name of our Lord, Jesus, acknowledge the unspeakable that happens among us, and validate the stories of those who have experienced it. It's time to end the silence. Blessings to you in your own journey; may you have good companionship along the way.

thanks again.  . 
your words in 2013 meant a lot. they were honouring to me as a survivor.  those words did change something for me then - I didn't anticpate that.  so thank you.

this work being done does change the world for others, not only the children of today and tomorrow, but other survivors who today can feel like it's okay to speak up, and find support when they do (within their church family).  May the shame be eradicated through love. I believe in the power of love (agape).  

I don't think I've ever sat in a circle with Christian survivors and engaged in that kind of frank and open discussion about the healing journey and what that was like (with the added feminist understandings dialogue.piece).  That piece in it was kind of cool for me. Empowering.   I understood the kinds of questions that came up for them and reflected on my similar questions (with the feminist awareness) that I worked through.  So much resliency came through in their telling of their journey. It was good to listen to. 

all of this matters- it makes for a better world.  (thumbs up for all this work being done and your response)

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