Blog

When is it the right decision to leave an abusive marriage? This anonymous author shares her painful journey of wrestling with the decision to leave an emotionally abusive marriage.

February 23, 2016 0 8 comments
Blog

The “Cosby effect” is a sober reminder to churches to do whatever possible in their power to make it very clear to their congregations that they desire abuse to be reported.

February 10, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Fully confronting abuse by spiritual leaders in the CRC  is a necessary first step to a safe church: if we cannot hold accountable even those entrusted with the souls of the church, called to be “blameless” how can we effectively address other forms of abuse?

January 28, 2016 0 4 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

This booklet answers your questions about emotional abuse, including what the Bible says about it and how a church can respond. 

January 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource

Find resources related to elder abuse. 

January 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

The film Spotlight reminds the church it will take the committed effort and support of an entire community to both support abuse survivors and prevent abuse. 

January 12, 2016 0 15 comments
Resource, Curriculum

We can begin to prevent abuse by starting at an early age to teach our children respect for themselves and for one another; and by helping them learn what to do in situations that feel unsafe. 

January 8, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

These educational resources will help you begin talking with young adults about healthy sexuality. 

January 6, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

As Christians, waiting is our posture before God. God uses our waiting to transform us into his likeness. How do we persevere in hope as we wait?

January 5, 2016 0 3 comments
Blog

Too often we talk about Christmas with the assumptions of privilege, leaving people who are not in an emotionally or financially stable situation feeling ashamed and isolated. 

December 22, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. These women are our best friends, co-workers, and the lady in front of you at the checkout line at Target. How could I not speak up? 

December 15, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Sermon or Message

An examination of Psalm 10 from the context of Safe Church Ministry by Rev. Colin Vander Ploeg.

December 3, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

What does Christmas mean to abuse survivors? And how can we celebrate the joy of Christmas as a community in light of the suffering of our world?

December 1, 2015 0 3 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Safe Church Bulletin Inserts / Flyers on various topics can be found here at Faith Alive Resources.

November 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In both secular and Christian cultures, the basic right to say no at any time confuses people. A recent video comparing consent to offering someone a cup of tea shows it's not that complicated.

November 17, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar examines how sexual abuse happens, what some of the impacts are, and then explores how churches can play a key role in ending this epidemic in our culture. 

November 11, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

One of the most pressing issues today for the churches credibility is its naivete when it comes to abusers. But what strengths does the church have to fight such naivete? 

October 27, 2015 0 4 comments
Blog

Safe Church says a fond farewell, with prayers and best wishes, to Robin. And we say a warm welcome to Monica, our new Safe Church Network Guide.

October 22, 2015 0 2 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

A bulletin insert that reveals the dangers and destruction of pornography. 

October 17, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

“Having legal possession over a child doesn’t mean they’re your property. It means they’re your responsibility." 

October 5, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

The word “forgiveness” sent my mind in a thousand directions. Those who have survived abuse are all in different stages of healing. Will my prayer help survivors forgive or set them back?

September 28, 2015 0 8 comments
Blog

What stuck in my head were the words, “No one in the family knew...”. I immediately said aloud to the other people in the room who were watching this with me: “That’s a lie, someone did know.”

September 19, 2015 0 2 comments
Blog

I once spent 18 months working at an emergency children’s shelter. These children came with many stories and traumas. Yet I saw firsthand the transformative power of love and care... 

September 8, 2015 0 5 comments
Blog

I can still remember the hurt and anger in her words as she explained why the abuse she endured from her father as a child has made returning to the church impossible for her.

August 29, 2015 0 2 comments
Blog

SafeChurch raises up the dry bones and calls churches to turn from lifeless policies that require “compliance” to a fully awake process where people of faith become leaders in their churches AND communities. 

August 26, 2015 0 0 comments

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Thanks for your thoughts, Ken! I agree that we need to be sober, fair, and consistent in our evaluation of candidates. 

There has been some history of occupants of the White House disrespecting women. Pres. Clinton claimed, "I did not have sex with that woman!", but most of us would consider what he did with Ms. Lewinsky to be "having sex", and it certainly was an example of using one's position of power to take advantage of a subordinate. He ruined Ms. Lewinsky's life and there is evidence beyond mere gossip that he has a history of sexual predation, and it is puzzling that Mrs. Clinton is so selective regarding which abused women she stands with.

I find it astonishing, also, that the Obamas are selective with respect to whose language they object to. The language in the Trump video was mild compared to the language used by rappers and hip-hop artists who have been guest entertainers in the White House and thus have been given the presidential seal of approval. Mrs. Obama reportedly even cited Beyonce as a suitable role model for their daughters.

Bad behavior is bad behavior regardless of who engages in it and equally deplorable whether it involves one's friends or enemies. In an election year, it would behoove us to look hard at all candidates with the same criteria. I suggest that we judge our favorite candidates with the same standard with which we judge their opponents. There is reason to be embarrassed and ashamed about both major candidates for president this year, and I'm not sure whether some of us are actually blind to the disgusting and disturbing history of our favorite candidate or if we are just trying to divert attention away from our favorite candidate by pointing out how bad the opponent is.

Some believe that whichever candidate wins the country loses. They hope that,  whichever it is, Congress will be in control of the other party so that there will be four years of gridlock and not too much damage will be done before a more honest and sensible president will be elected in four years. God help us!

Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy! I certainly think it is an ethical choice to abstain from voting due to pro-life positions, and this isn't a post promoting Hillary's candidacy. Whether a Trump ticket would actually solve the problem of abortion is debatable, but "ends justify the means" logic inherent in supporting someone who demeans so many people groups and is likely to oppress them as president I don't find compelling. I am simply asking for Christians to abstain from publicly endorsing this particular candidate or at the very minimum being stronger in their condemnation of his consistent behavior and attitudes about women. You may find Prof. Tuininga's article (linked in the article) helpful as a perspective on why being pro-life isn't a good enough reason to support Trump. Even if at the end of the day we disagree about the ethics of a Trump vote, I hope our Christians leaders can be more honest in their assessment of the moral character Trump's words and actions demonstrate. 

I agree that we stand up for women.  But in my opinion, this should be done by voting for the platform that will agree to fight abortion.  If we are truly interested in protecting women, it should start with the unborn and the mothers that feel they have no other choice.  I cannot vote for a platform that encourages abortion through the entire length of the pregnancy.

 

Nancy

 

Well put, Bonnie! Thank you. 

Yes! Let's stand together against the degradation of women, who are created in the image of God. I agree that when evangelicals are silent about this issue, we lose credibility and don't rightly reflect our Lord, who honored women during his life on earth. We are called to look like Jesus, to be his body in the world. No candidate will ever embody Christ, none of us can. However, we must not give up kingdom values to pursue political power. Jesus never sought political power, that is not his way. The Gospel of Christianity suffers as it becomes tied to political power (from Constantine to the present). The Christian right has led us down this path of pursuing power for far too long, and our faith and witness has suffered for it. Now may be a good opportunity to break away from the unholy tie to political power, for the sake of the honor of our Lord and Savior. Hallowed be his name.

Thanks Monica for a very thoughtful article about a very important topic!

Thank you for your comment Joy. This is the piece that is so often misunderstood or neglected. We have just added resources to our website around church leader abuse - and we hope to be able to offer a "study guide" for church councils that will go along with the report and the changes to Church Order. Not sure when that will happen yet; patience is a virtue :)

Thanks again.

Bonnie,

I am grateful for the role you and your staff played in spotlighting "power" as the key component of abuse.  

This proposed change to article 83 (see below) should have a significant impact on how we all identify abuse in our churches and relationships. Through this work, you will continue to have a significant impact on shifting the culture of the CRCNA if churches have the courage to address the imbalances of power that lead to abuse. 

"One of the key dynamics in considering abuse of office is the imbalance and misuse of power.  The power inherent in the role of officebearers represents a sacred trust and must not be misused."  

 

Thank you so much Geri, you just made my day.

And we couldn't do our training in the local churches with out YOU! Thank you for your webinars and posts about Safe Church! I recently used some of your resources for an on-line training form for our volunteers. I'll send it to you to check out. If you have any suggestions to make it better, I welcome your thoughts!

Thank you for your question - so glad you are being proactive in asking it and in creating a safe place where faith and worship can flourish and grow. An environment where everyone feels valued and safe provides the best context for faith formation. 

Safe Church Ministry offers many resources on its website for equipping congregations in abuse awareness, prevention, and response. If you click on the left hand side bar where it says 'Creating a Safe Church Policy' you will find resources specifically related to that. In addition, you may contact the Safe Church Ministry Office, we may be able to connect you with a local safe church team member who can help. Please don't hesitate to call or send us an email. And your church insurance provider may also be a good source of information regarding policy.

Thanks for asking! Blessings to you.

Thanks Bonnie! 

The letter from Steve Timmermans to councils and classes can now be found on the Safe Church website along with lots of other resources. Please feel free to contact your local safe church team member or the Safe Church Ministry office for more information.

Thanks for this excellent article Monica, and also for the wise words from Dr. Gibson! May we, as the church, heed these words as we increasingly learn to walk alongside those who have experienced trauma. 

Thanks for the link to information for new laws in Ontario that apply to churches. We need everyone's help to get the word out. Sexual harassment has serious impacts and needs to be taken seriously. As difficult as it might be to address, we cannot be the kind of community that God is calling us to be as long as such behavior is allowed to continue. Thanks for this excellent post and for bringing this important issue to light.

Thank you so much - both for your support in sharing regarding your ordeal and providing that important information.

Thank you for posting this reflection Monica. My heart goes out to the writer and for the courage it took to share her story. I was subject to similar harassment when I first started working full time in my early 20's - by other employees. I never did anything about it, as I was young and didn't know how to address it. In Ontario the government has addressed this issue this year and is now legislating employers (including churches) to investigate incidents or complaints of harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers will need to build on their written harassment program (Safe Church) and instruct workers (including volunteers) on the program. Employers need to comply with these new requirements as of September 8, 2016 and Christian Reformed Churches in Ontario are being encouraged to include this legislation in their Safe Church policies. For those living in Ontario, here is a link to that information.

Dear Anonymous Child of God: You are courageous for taking the steps you did to survive your horrible experience. You are also courageous for telling your story.Your advice to others experiencing sexual harassment is important to share. And thank you for encouraging churches and ministries to be proactive. Grace and peace to you.

Bonnie, God's sustaining blessing and care to you and those around you who continue to lead us in this vital ministry of being Safe Churches. 

Thanks. This truly is on all of us. We must no longer deny this issue that affects so many among us. May more people have the courage to share their stories, to help those who have not experienced it to understand. And may this lead to a better response and more healing, both in and outside the church.

Hi Jill,

Thanks for your comments. Regarding spiritual abuse - yes, that's worth adding, and I will go ahead and make that edit - I think I pictured spiritual abuse as a related to emotional abuse, but it's also a distinct category. I'm sure there are other forms of abuse I could've mentioned as well.

 I absolutely agree sexism is a huge element of why women are more likely to be victims of abuse, and the church hierarchy does contribute to not equally valuing women's perspectives. For example, if it is natural and biblical for a man's perspective to subsume (be the head over) women's perspective, it becomes quite difficult to untangle when "headship" becomes emotional/spiritual abuse. You might be interested in the review I wrote recently of Ruth Tucker's new book which explores that. The difficult place we're in where the CRC presently recognizes both views as biblically sound shouldn't prevent us from emphasizing the serious dangers involved with a hierarchal view of gender in relation to abuse and the difficulty of fully respecting women while also disbelieving their calling to church office.

Thank-you for writing this Monica.
In your first sentence you talk about a
"culture accustomed to constantly rationalize and justify abuse of power, be it physical, emotional, or sexual". 
maybe you should add spiritual abuse to this list?

Is it a stretch I wonder to say that if a congregation does not permit women  in office, this contributes to continued tolerance of sexism or normalizing of inappropriate behavior?

I am told by some men that I contribute greatly to the congregation. They have respect for me, but no, women cannot be in office. There are other men who do not appear to value me at all, though they are patronizingly kind.

Both of the above lead to me feeling 'less than'.
If we, as women, have less value then does that make it seem to us  to be okay to be abused?
If woman have less value than men then does that give men 'a right' to abuse us. Or to belittle us when we report, or ignore it as not important?

 

 "We all must acknowledge that we were all made in God's image and are loved by Him, and therefore must relate to each other as we would our God" - really well said. Thanks, Elly. 

Rationalization of abuse is one of the most difficult situations to deal with.  "He/she has their own problems that led to it", "He/she didn't know any better", "The victim sort of asked for it/invited it", "If such-and-such hadn't happened the abuse wouldn't have happened".  The excuses (another word for rationalizations) go on and on.  However, we must all take responsibility for the decisions we make and our actions.  Bullying would stop if we taught our children to treat all others with kindness and respect (like they would want to be treated), so they can make the right decisions as well.  We all must acknowledge that we were all made in God's image and are loved by Him, and therefore must relate to each other as we would our God.

As members of a Christian church we have a huge role to play.  First of all, we need to set the example of how to relate to each other with kindness, respect and dignity.  Secondly, we need to educate on what constitutes abuse, how to recognize it, and more importantly, how to prevent it from occurring in the first place.  Thirdly, we need to address it head on if it occurs in our communities.  Finally, we need to be there to assist victims to heal from the trauma and pain of abuse.  Can we be that for each other?  That's the challenge.

We can never know the transforming, healing power of our Lord, if we will not acknowledge our own deep woundedness. 

 

Thank you, Monica, for another really thoughtful piece on cultivating a church culture of grace. We can be so dismissive of each other's pain at times, that we fail to reflect the fact that we are part of God's Kingdom. So often people walk away from the Church because of what we didn't do, namely, having the courage to stand up for and protect each other, but that is where we find the abundant life in Christ that you write about--when we are Christ to each other. Well said.

Thanks Monica for this very thoughtful post! Forgiveness is so difficult. I like the idea that both forgiveness and repentance are a journey and must not be taken lightly.  Serious sin has serious impacts, and it then makes sense that there would be serious consequences. I resonate deeply with your call for increased accountability. For the sake  of Christ and his Church, may we move in the direction of taking the sin of abuse seriously enough to hold those who abuse accountable. 

Thank you for your response and for connecting with Safe Church Ministry on The Network. I appreciate your comments,  and share your wish that more people would read and respond to the often excellent articles that are posted on The Network.  Thanks again.

I appreciate you writing about Ruth Tuckers  book.
In my congregation women are not permitted to be in 'office'.
I have had 2 conversations about this with elders recently. One elder had been in council in another church where women were equal members and he much prefers that.
The second elder is adamant about women not being in office but he still has a high respect for me and encouraged me to speak out to council on issues that I know about. He says that he pushes other elders and deacons to value the women in our church community. This man has asked me for help in the past...
I told him that I know which men  value me and which ones do not. The second group there is no point in talking to.

What bothers me about this article is that it has been here for 10 days and I am the first one to comment.
There is a very small group that comment on any issue under 'safe church'
So not matter how good the writing most of the CRC never reads it.
As I have said before, I am banging my head on a brick wall     -and it hurts.
 

Faith Trust Institute has recently come out with a multi-faith discussion guide related to the movie Spotlight. You can find it here. A free webinar on the movie, also hosted by Faith Trust will take place in April "Join us for a roundtable conversation about the movie and how it illustrates the issues of institutional and personal responsibility for preventing and responding to child abuse." Presenters: Mary Dispenza, SNAP and Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune - See more at: http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/training/upcoming-webinars#sthash.Hr2...

 You're right. It is a complex issue,and I didn't mean to blame her for being abused.  Dr.Phil often says that abusers are predators who intuitively know how to spot a potential victim rather than the victim unconsciously attracting their abuser, and they latch onto the hapless woman--since most of the time the victim is a woman--and makes it very hard if not almost impossible for her to get out alive.  When I lived in Sherbrooke, Québec, I got to know a former victim of domestic violence, and she did not dare to appear on photos that could be published outside the province since her ex-husband had threatened to kill her if he found out where she lived.  She got out alive, but her safety depended on his ignorance of her whereabouts.

Thanks for your insightful comments.

Ms. Gyselinck: Thank you for your insightful comments. The bravery of Anonymous to "chose the lesser of the two evils" and break free of an abusive relationship is awe-inspiring. The support of her father is compassionate and Christ-like and an example to be followed.

While I agree that there may have been warning signs during the dating period, pointing out that the victim did not see or should have seen those signs is non-productive and may be inaccurate. It is very important that all of us trying to support victims of domestic violence avoid a very common pitfall that is blaming the victim. Elaine Weiss, Ed.D in her powerful book Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence makes this enlightening observation: she often hears the question "why don’t these women just leave?" when she feels the more pertinent question is "why don’t these abusers just stop?" The first question is yet another example of blaming the victim.

While each victim's story is unique, all victims need to know:

1. the violence is not her fault;

2. she deserves to be safe, loved, respected and cared for;

3. she is made in the image of God and belong to Him alone;

4. she has rights too.

Domestic violence is intensely complex, and ending domestic violence is an ongoing movement that must involve the support of family, friends, the church, and the entire community.

Book citation: Weiss, Ed.D, Elaine. Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk, and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused. N.p.: Volcano Press, 2003. Print.

Thanks, Shannon - "pulling out the knife" - that's a painful but accurate image of the kind of healing required here. I really appreciate your compassionate perspective.

This is really beautiful, and bravely written. Thank you for sharing. When I was in Seminary, we were taught that divorce is "the murder of a marriage". I believe that when one spouse abuses the other, they have already "murdered the marriage" by failing to fulfill their vows. In cases of emotional and physical abuse, where the one who abuses will not change the that way God (and the Church) asks, filing for divorce is more about "pulling out the knife" so that the wounds can begin to heal. 

It's true that abuse in a relationship does tend to escalate rather than diminish; and that is also something that needs to be considered in a decision about leaving. And it's true that there may be warning signs, recognizing those is important - Safe Church Ministry has resources that can help here. When I worked leading support groups in a local domestic violence shelter I learned a lot about how this story plays out. Though each woman's story is unique, there are some themes that emerge in story after story. One theme is how wonderful the man was when they first met, he did beautiful things, swept her off her feet, and treated her very well. There are real and strong feelings of love there. The abuse begins and escalates very, very gradually only after the "hook" is in deep. And as humans, we are always hopeful. When someone says he's sorry and it won't happen again, everything inside us wants to believe that it's true. I remember one woman's words very distinctly, she finally came to the point where she said, "I know I have to find a way to leave someone that I love more than my very self". It's difficult and it's complicated. And I've seen strong, intelligent and beautiful women get hooked into an abusive relationship; and then come alive and build a new life again once the abuse ends.

 I'm glad this woman left before things got even worse.  This kind of abuser often ends up killing his wife because she left him, or was on the verge of doing so.  I hope that one day she can come out of the closet and no longer have to fear that people will condemn her for choosing life over hell.  It's unfortunate that she didn't see the warning signs before she married the guy because for one, I find it difficult to believe there were none.  But often the victims are in denial and figure the guy will change once they're married.  On the contrary, you often get more of the same.  In an issue of Scientific American Mind some years ago there was a story about a woman who was murdered by her husband when she broke up with him under the title "Love and Death," and in that story of spousal abuse the abuse had begun before the couple got married.  I don't remember when that article was published, but with the title of the magazine and the article people should be able to find it.

Thanks so much to the one who has courageously shared her story.

I have walked this road with many women. And I've seen the amazing positive changes that can happen when the abuse ends. We don't often realize the HUGE damage caused by constant emotional, psychological, and even spiritual abuse. Until we've walked in another's shoes; we need to be very careful not to judge. Instead, as the Church we are called to love. It is not loving to encourage someone to stay in an abusive relationship. It is not loving to allow someone to persist in their sin of abuse. Of course we want to uphold the permanence of marriage. But at what cost? Don't we also need to also uphold up the sanctity and purity of the marriage relationship? That doesn't happen when abuse is allowed to continue.

Thank you for your comments Bev. My ongoing, fervent prayer is that the CRC will do the right thing in responding to abuse, especially abuse that involves church leaders. In addition to our work to prevent abuse and create safe environments, we must also respond appropriately when abuse occurs - that's part of what it means to be a safe church. Our vision states, "...and where abuse has occurred, the response is compassion and justice that foster healing." We are called to be light and salt in a world that needs Jesus. Emotional and spiritual abuse must be addressed and challenged if our congregations hope to reflect rightly our Lord and Savior.

We need to get a better understanding of all forms of abuse... not just when there is a tangible, physical/sexual abuse/adultery that can be "proven".  Spiritual/emotional abuse is a much more subtle, but also very damaging type of abuse, and is often abuse of power.  these all can trigger PTSD symptoms.

I have mentioned in a christian group, something about spiritual abuse, and one of the responses was "well what is spiritual abuse?"  or "is that really abuse"?   I think all of my research has been from sources outside the CRC (but am aware of a number of situations in it)... it seems we don't like to discuss spiritual abuse much, if at all...  and it seems we are on the high risk end...  quote from article BOQ Today, many American churches and denominations are susceptible to it (spiritual abuse), particularly “reformed” Calvinistic churches or those with a highly disciplined authority structure. EOQ 

http://deepthoughtpub.blogspot.com/2013/02/is-your-church-guilty-of-spir...

it seems abuse has far too often been minimized and dismissed in the Church... exposing this is a threat to leaders.   I'm thankful these patterns of control, intimidation, manipulation and other "subtle" forms of silencing a person are coming into the light.

Recently, the practice of a technique that was called a "softer discipline" came to my attention in the CRC... this is a misnomer, because it is a manipulative passive aggressive practice of leadership to shut certain people from being in leadership positions, instead of talking to the person directly if there is an issue, and it is so stinking subtle, so very difficult to prove...  it includes not being recommended for positions or committees.  Not getting this job or nomination.  Being overlooked and ignored.  its subtle and quiet.  How often is this practiced on someone who is a threat to the leader, because the person would not be loyal to protect the leader from being exposed for the leader's manipulative/abusive practices, and would instead call the leader out on that sort of behavior.  So, the leader surrounds themself with "yes" people who are loyal to the leader and will not challenge the leader on the manipulative behavior, because the "yes" people possibly benefited from the manipulation at some point, in some way.  ie. favoritism, flattery, cronyism/good old boys club, etc. 

I hope and pray safe church and synod addresses the different ways there is abuse of power.  Keeping the process secret (lack of transparency) is one of them.  The executive session has been far over-used to protect those who abused at the expense of those harmed, because God's way is to bring things into the light, and it is generally those who fear their abusive behavior being exposed that resist that light!  Non-disclosure agreements are another one that I think have been far over used in the CRC to silence people.  forcing/intimidating/manipulating the person who was hurt to forgive and move on, when there has been far less than honest repentance, very little justice, and/or for leadership to avoid dealing with the abusive person, yet calling the person who was hurt unforgiving and telling them their soul is in danger if they don't forgive and let it go, is spiritually abusive.  finding a technicality to dismiss the appeal instead of addressing it, is abuse of power.  Using (intentionally) misleading language at council, classis and synod levels to manipulate the outcome of a decision is abuse of power.

Come on Church, come on CRC!  It's time to do the right thing!  expose and address the many ways abuse is happening in the Church, validate the hurt of those harmed, so they can heal, and discipline those who caused the harm with their abusive/controlling behavior, this is what we, the Church are called to do...  and no longer allow further harm to be brought to the one abused, and no longer protect the one who abused from consequences, because far too often, what the Church has allowed when it comes to abuse is the exact opposite of what His Church is called to do...

this is justice...

this is the right thing to do!

I believe the Hosts of Heaven rejoice and celebrate, when His Church does the right thing!

Thanks for that important correction, Karen! I mistakenly assumed Safe Church posted the articles the same year they were published! I have corrected that data, and a corrected version should post soon.

Monica, thanks for keeping this topic in view. One correction: the articles were written in 2001 -- 15 years ago already, though I'm glad to see Synod is now taking some important steps. 

Hi Kelly - my email is mrb020@calvinseminary.edu. Looking forward to seeing what resources you have!

I often recommend The Hope of Survivors - www.thehopeofsurvivors.com - It's a wonderful resource for those who have been sexually abused by clergy or ministry leaders; also a good resource for anyone wanting to know more about this issue.

posted in: Counting Voices

totally agree Bonnie... and in the secular world I feel this happens more often than not, that the one harmed is given the choice... in the Church, not so much... and I think because the response of the Church is often so hurtful (the one harmed gets blamed, discredited, shunned, the abuse is minimized, dismissed, get over it, move on, let it go, forgive, what's the big deal, nobody's perfect, etc. the abuse is invalidated in so many ways), even if someone is given a choice, that is a significant reason someone would choose to keep it silent if they are given the choice... they are already so vulnerable and unfortunately going public would open them up to more hurt and pain, etc. from the Church instead of the justice and healing that the Church is called to on their behalf...   but usually if it's kept silent in the church the purpose is more in the interest of protecting the reputation of the person who did the abuse (especially if it's a well-liked leader).

and then I came across this statement a few days ago, that made me think about this discussion on confidentiality... from Unholy Charade (p 114, 2015, Justice Keepers Publishing, Jeff Crippen, Rebecca Davis)

God does not want us to keep evil in the Church a secret. EOQ

and that lines up with John 3, where it's the enemy who wants to keep evil things in the dark.  So the point is, that confidentiality isn't a cover for the enemy.

I'm wondering if we need an advocacy ministry that is somehow separate from any particular denomination or congregation.  When the church pays a person's salary...  there is too much potential for the employer to exert control/influence over that person and can make it really, really hard for the person to do the right thing, when there job/pay is threatened...  however, even if a ministry is independent, church leaders can subtly sabotage that ministry if they feel threatened.    the impartiality/avoiding conflict of interest seems to be very difficult in Church leadership in abuse situations... it's one of my concerns...  maybe i'm wrong, but I'm really wrestling with that aspect.

 

 

 

 

 

posted in: Counting Voices

In situations of abuse between adults, the purpose of confidentiality must be to guard the one who has been victimized. He or she has experienced the traumatic powerlessness of abuse, and now must be empowered again. One way to do that is give choices to the one who has suffered abuse. He or she must be the one to make the choice about whether or not the abuse becomes public - no one else has the right to make that choice for him or her. I know people who have been victimized, but are not at all willing to make their experience public. It's their choice, and that choice must be honored. However, there may come a time in the process of healing,  when someone may choose to make their experience of abuse public, to increase awareness, to protect others who may be in harm's way, or for many other reasons. It's sad to me that our churches are not always safe places to disclose abuse. These stories of abuse must be met with understanding and compassion. 

We must be careful in using an argument of confidentiality to protect the one who chooses to abuse: What is the potential for future harm, are we putting others at increased risk? Are we complicit in minimizing the issue? (Minimizing prevents the person who has perpetrated abuse from fully acknowledging the sin, which is the first step toward repentance and change.) What is the message being sent about the value of the one who has abused compared to the one who has been victimized - whose reputation is more important in God's sight? (Note: Jesus is almost always seen in the Gospels standing on the side of the powerless rather than the powerful; we are called to follow his way.) How will this action help or hinder genuine fellowship and unity in the community?  It's truth that sets us free. Abuse must be acknowledged before any healing is possible. 

 

posted in: Counting Voices

I know this is months after the original post...  I struggle with how the Church has expanded and elevated confidentiality to conform to the patterns of the world instead of to scripture...  ie.. attorney client privilege, pastor-penitent privilege, the confidentiality of the "confessional", robert's rules of executive and strict executive session, non-disclosure agreements...  as one pastor shared with me... confidentiality is killing us...  there is something very unhealthy with the way we, the Church, practice confidentiality...  God's way is to bring things into the light so that it may be clearly seen that is was His way... the enemy's ways is to keep things hidden in darkness out of fear...

I Timothy 5 says to publicly rebuke a leader who is sinning, in the presence of ALL, without partiality, that the rest may fear and as a warning.  and of course the 3 steps of Matthew 18... with the 2nd and 3rd expanding it beyond 2 people.  Of course we do this with wisdom and discernment (see Bonnie's comment), but somehow we have sacrificed justice on behalf of those harmed on the altar of confidentiality. A significant reason is protecting reputations, especially if we like the person who did the wrong and so are not impartial and want to defend our friend, our colleague... so we protect the reputation of the one who did the harm, instead of protecting the dignity of those harmed (although leaders will say that they are protecting the reputation of the one bringing the charges, but they are empty words because in reality it is damage control and cover-up because this secrecy actually does more harm, and instead of validating, this response ends up being as harmful if not more so than the original situation and traumatizes further instead of being part of the healing process - there is a reason that many who have been harmed by the Church struggle with post traumatic stress).

I'm pretty sure that is not what God intended in Proverbs about keeping people's secrets.

 

 

posted in: Counting Voices

Thanks so much Kelly for your response. This issue must not be swept under the rug, but must be faced. I'm currently on a committee that is addressing CRCNA Church Order Articles 83-84 regarding sexual misconduct by church leaders. The power inherent in the church leader position and the use/misuse of that power is a key dynamic that will be addressed. And children are not the only ones who suffer from misuse of that power. A study by Pamela Cooper-White from Columbia Theological Seminary reveals that 90-95% of victims of clergy sexual misconduct are female congregants. She goes on to say that once having disclosed their situation, survivors depend on the response of the institution or faith group for their healing. Often our response has instead created additional harm for many who have survived abuse at the hands of a church leader. We simply must do better. A book that I often recommend is:

When Pastor's Prey  edited by Valli Boobal Batchelor and also

It has several authors, reviews various studies as well as includes stories from survivors. One of the primary prevention strategies noted in the book is to educate about clergy sexual misconduct as abuse of power, not a consensual affair between persons of equal power; and also to provide biblical education about the role of power and its use and abuse. Baylor School of Social Work has done many studies and also has resources regarding the use of power by church leaders; these can be found here. (http://www.baylor.edu/clergysexualmisconduct/index.php?id=67437)

Thanks again for all the great comments on Monica's good article.

Excellent point, Jill - I was disappointed in that some reviews of the movie seemed to see it as primarily about a historical period in the Catholic Church; I tried to emphasize that abuse of power within the church is an epidemic problem across denominations, but I think we need to continue to do work to expose the reality to people's minds on a regular basis.

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