The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have shed light on the widespread pervasiveness of sexual abuse and broken dynamics between men and women in the Church. From saddening stories of evangelical churches like the recent tragic news coming out of Willow Creek to decades-long coverups by the Catholic church, no part of the church seems to be immune.
But we believe the Holy Spirit is at work even in this darkness, calling us to stand in solidarity with our sisters, to proclaim truth about the full humanity of women as God created them, and to press on together in the hope that Jesus is making all things new.
Over the past few weeks, women from our Missio Alliance writing team and other women ministers from around the nation have been collaborating on a letter: a message of hope to all women in the Church. (Watch video and read the full version of the letter below). Because in a world where women are all too often silenced, undermined, excluded, objectified or violated, we commit ourselves anew to proclaiming a message of truth, hope, and understanding.
It is a message of hope we speak not just for women, but for all humanity. Will you join us?In a world where women are all too often silenced, undermined, excluded, objectified or violated, we commit ourselves anew to proclaiming a message of truth, hope, and understanding. Click To Tweet
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Deb Gregory of the Betwixt Podcast for creating this amazing video!
Our Open Letter to Women in the Church
Our Dearest Sisters in Christ,
It’s troubling that we have to speak to each other about such things as #MeToo and #ChurchToo.
As women who have experienced sexual harassment or abuse – at times, even by those we have called pastors, leaders, friends, and teachers – as women who have experienced the exclusion of being told to keep silent, as women who have at times been denied the opportunities to exercise our gifts of leadership within the church, we understand it is disheartening to be confronted with so much failure and brokenness in the body of Christ.
But we are not without hope. We continue to find transforming life in Jesus Christ, and we are flourishing as we join the Spirit on God’s mission. So we want to speak a few words of encouragement to you, our sisters.
First, it’s okay to feel angry. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that anger.
Anger against the injustice of sexual abuse is fitting. Rape and sexual harassment are abhorrent to God. They are spoken against in Scripture with the greatest seriousness as an equivalent to murder (Dt. 22:26). They are a threat to the social and spiritual welfare of not just a person but of entire communities (Ex. 22:16–17; II Sam. 13:19–20). It is for our own sake and also for the sake of our brothers that we say: This behavior is not okay. This is not the way to life, and this is not who we are as God’s people.
Let’s acknowledge our pain together. The pain is real; it is not invisible to Jesus, nor is it ours to carry alone. Let’s lament the abuse and grieve together as we share our stories. If you’re not already part of supportive community, seek out others who will grieve with you, others who will aid you in your healing, and celebrate the work God is doing in you.
Next, hear the truth of God’s Word, loud and clear: the first thing the Word of God proclaims about a woman is that she is made in the image of God (Gen 1:27). As a woman, you bear forth a picture of God to this world, and you are designed for the Creator’s good purposes.The first thing the Word of God proclaims about a woman is that she is made in the image of God. Click To Tweet
You bear the image of God within yourself, and that is not determined by what you do (your work, job, or career), who you are attached to (whether you are single, married, a parent or not), or even who validates it. The fact that you are made in God’s image is an unshakeable truth—a gift already given. It is a beauty you have the opportunity to explore and grow into your whole life. Christ gave his life to redeem you, and he is still working to renew you and make God’s image and light shine brighter through you. The Holy Spirit authorizes you to join God’s mission, empowering you to bring healing and restoration to this world. So give yourself the freedom to explore this truth. Rejoice that there is a unique and beautiful way the world sees the glory of God through you.
If others have told you—or if you are telling yourself—that some part of your story limits your ability to participate fully in the mission of God, that is a lie from the enemy. The gospel of Jesus is so powerful that God is at work through you even in, and perhaps especially in, your brokenness. We can attest that in God’s unimaginable goodness, our woundedness helps us see the wounds of others, to draw near with compassion to those who suffer, are abused, overlooked, or labeled “less than,” and to love them in Christ’s name.
One more thing: don’t give up! We know it’s painful. We know that there are moments when hope feels dim. Take courage, sister. Like us, you won’t always feel confident, you might not always feel like you fit in, and you may feel like giving up many times. But keep pressing on! Let the Spirit fill you with the courage and the hope you’ll need.
The world needs you.
The Church needs you.
We need you.
Know that we are cheering you on to live fully and freely as beloved daughters, full citizens and co-conspirators for the Kingdom of God.Women, we are cheering you on to live fully and freely as beloved daughters, full citizens and co-conspirators for the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
- Dr. Ruth Haley Barton, Founder of The Transforming Center and Author of Sacred Rhythms
- Amena Brown, Poet and Author, Sol Graffiti, Inc.
- Rev. Kris Beckert of Vine Church Graham Road, Missio Alliance Writing Team
- Dr. Ruth Padilla Deborst, Comunidad de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios, Missio Alliance Leading Voice
- Deb Gregory, Spiritual Director, Host and Producer of Betwixt Podcast
- Deb Hirsch, Missional Leader, Speaker, and Author of Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Spirituality and Sexuality
- Amy Jackson, Director of The Perch: A Resting Place
- Rev. Dr. Karina Kreminski, Speaker and Author of Urban Spirituality: Embodying God’s Mission in the Neighborhood, Missio Alliance Writing Team
- Rev. Tara Beth Leach, Senior Pastor of PazNaz, Author of Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry, Missio Alliance Writing Team
- Pastor Juliet Liu of Life on the Vine Church, Editorial Director of Missio Alliance
- Kathy Khang, Speaker and Author of Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
- Reverend Delrece Moore, International Anglican Church of Colorado Springs
- LaTasha Morrison, President and Founder of Be the Bridge
- Dr. MaryKate Morse, George Fox University, Author of Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, and Influence, Missio Alliance Leading Voice
- Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling, Northern Seminary
- Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Speaker and Author of Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship, Missio Alliance Writing Team
- Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork
- Jo Saxton, Speaker, Director of 3DM, and Author of More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World
- Pastor Mandy Smith, University Christian Church, Author of The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry, Missio Alliance Writing Team
- Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Executive Director of Evangelicals for Social Action, Missio Alliance Leading Voice
- Pastor Sandra Maria Van Opstal of Grace and Peace Church, Author of The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World
- Sierra White, Founder of Ezer Rising
- Dr. Karen Wilk, Forge Missional Training Network, Missio Alliance Writing Team
If conversations like this matter to you, join us November 10 for Church Together, a SheLeads Summit by Missio Alliance, where we’ll be exploring what it will take for women and men to experience healing and reconciliation in the Church.
Missio Alliance Comment Policy
The Missio Alliance Writing Collectives exist as a ministry of writing to resource theological practitioners for mission. From our Leading Voices to our regular Writing Team and those invited to publish with us as Community Voices, we are creating a space for thoughtful engagement of critical issues and questions facing the North American Church in God’s mission. This sort of thoughtful engagement is something that we seek to engender not only in our publishing, but in conversations that unfold as a result in the comment section of our articles.
Unfortunately, because of the relational distance introduced by online communication, “thoughtful engagement” and “comment sections” seldom go hand in hand. At the same time, censorship of comments by those who disagree with points made by authors, whose anger or limited perspective taints their words, or who simply feel the need to express their own opinion on a topic without any meaningful engagement with the article or comment in question can mask an important window into the true state of Christian discourse. As such, Missio Alliance sets forth the following suggestions for those who wish to engage in conversation around our writing:
1. Seek to understand the author’s intent.
If you disagree with something the an author said, consider framing your response as, “I hear you as saying _________. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, here’s why I disagree. _____________.
2. Seek to make your own voice heard.
We deeply desire and value the voice and perspective of our readers. However you may react to an article we publish or a fellow commenter, we encourage you to set forth that reaction is the most constructive way possible. Use your voice and perspective to move conversation forward rather than shut it down.
3. Share your story.
One of our favorite tenants is that “an enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.” Very often disagreements and rants are the result of people talking past rather than to one another. Everyone’s perspective is intimately bound up with their own stories – their contexts and experiences. We encourage you to couch your comments in whatever aspect of your own story might help others understand where you are coming from.
In view of those suggestions for shaping conversation on our site and in an effort to curate a hospitable space of open conversation, Missio Alliance may delete comments and/or ban users who show no regard for constructive engagement, especially those whose comments are easily construed as trolling, threatening, or abusive.