In the wake of the disclosures about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein last fall, women across the United States were responding to the call of the #MeToo Movement to speak up. Secular society – from Hollywood to the halls of Congress – rushed to correct their mistakes in silencing women while many communities of faith remained on the sidelines. For many weeks there was virtually no talk of how a church, mosque or synagogue should or could deal with these incidents or the emotional consequences experienced by the woman involved.
Our congregation is not among those who have avoided directly addressing the myriad of issues raised by the #MeToo Movement. Last November Rev. Morehouse called together a Task Force to help craft a response to the resounding echoes of the emerging #MeToo Movement within the walls of our congregation. A recent commentary in Religion News Service, Where is the Church on #MeToo? put out this challenge: If pastors across the nation don’t take immediate steps to advocate for the women in their congregations by speaking out against domestic violence and sexual misconduct, we are abdicating our role as the moral compass of our nation. We cannot expect America to look to us for guidance when we are disregarding the care of half the population. If we give up our responsibility on this issue, we give it up on every issue, from race relations to marriage.
And now more denominations are coming out and making addressing #MeToo an important part of their ministries.
18 ways churches can fight sexual assault in 2018
December 4, 2017 Christian Century
- Maintain and update safe church child protection policies.
- Require all leaders to take boundary training, even non-ordained leaders.
- Post domestic violence and sexual violence hotline numbers in church restrooms.
- Teach the warning signs of domestic abuse and abuse of children in the church newsletter or bulletin.
- Intentionally use the words sexual violence in the liturgy—for example, in a prayer of confession.
- Use the hashtag #MeToo on the church’s outdoor sign.
- Take a special offering for a local domestic violence shelter.
- Hang posters in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
- Plan education classes on these issues during April and October.
- Educate the congregation about the grooming behaviors of predators.
- Invite a victims’ advocate to lead an adult education class or series.
- Focus education about sexual violence on justice, rather than healing.
- Have various groups sponsor a #MeToo night.
- Preach a sermon or series on biblical texts of terror, such as Tamar’s story.
- Put women in high-level positions in leadership.
- Speak about sex from the pulpit in a frank and forthright manner without using code words or making inappropriate jokes.
- Have the leaders create a no-tolerance statement and post it beside the church’s mission statement: If any abuse occurs within the fellowship of this church, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law no matter who the offender might be.
- Pull the skeletons out of the church closet and prosecute the offenders.