Returning to our commitments: MC USA leaders speak out against sexual violence

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by Mennonite Church USA staff

In 2015, the Delegate Assembly of MC USA passed the Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse. It says:

“We lament that sexual abuse exists not only in our society but also within our own homes, congregations and institutions …

“When people violate others sexually, the church is called to be a place of healing. Yet we confess that we have often responded with denial, fear and self-preservation. We have tended to listen to voices who have positional power, rather than to those who have been violated and those who are most vulnerable. In this way, we have enabled sexual abuse to continue while silencing and disregarding the testimony of victims. We lament that our inaction permits abuse to continue and the ways we obstruct God’s healing …

“We resolve to tell the truth about sexual abuse; hold abusers accountable; acknowledge the seriousness of their sin; listen with care to those who have been wounded; protect vulnerable persons from injury; work restoratively for justice; and hold out hope that wounds will be healed, forgiveness offered, and relationships established or reestablished in healthy ways.”

In the years since this resolution passed, women across the country (many within our own congregations) have courageously spoken out about their experiences with sexual violence.[1] As we are confronted with the reality of sexual violence and the lived experience of women across the U.S., may we remember the commitments we made in 2015. May our hearts and collective will be convicted once again to work together towards justice and peace for women, for victims and survivors of sexual violence, for the health and wholeness of all people. As followers of Jesus and co-laborers for justice and peace on this earth, what will our response be?

Will we choose to believe women when they speak their truth?

Will we treat women with respect — created in the image of God?

Will we stand with victims and survivors of sexual violence?

Will we listen and create safer spaces in our communities and churches where stories of trauma can be told?

Will we accompany victims and survivors in our collective journey toward healing?

Will we preach sermons on sexual violence and the patriarchy at its root?

Will we seek to learn more about trauma-informed worship and begin to practice it?

Will we question what we’ve been taught about what it means to be a man or a woman and let go of ways of being that we recognize as unhealthy?

Will we be change agents in our families, congregations and communities — empowering girls to be all they were created to be and teaching boys about healthy masculinity?

Will we do the work to make our communities and congregations safer — setting guidelines, policies and expectations and following through when those expectations aren’t met?

The commitments we’ve made in the Churchwide Statement are powerful. But words aren’t enough as we seek to undo the oppressive systems we live within and recognize our role in maintaining those systems. As Christians, may we sow seeds of justice, peace and healing for all people.

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Why is it important to return to our commitments in the 2015 Churchwide Statement?

“Women are crying out for God’s healing — how will we respond as a church? Will we participate with Christ who invites us to live into the Kingdom reality of breaking down the wall of hostility? Will we invest in building up a church where truth of sexual violence can be told and believed? Will we center the voices and needs of victims and survivors on the path toward justice? Will we do the hard work of building peace so that mutuality and respect can be shared?”

 — Sue Park-Hur, denomination minister for Leadership Development, MC USA

“We must redefine healthy masculinity in our society. Men must take responsibility and do our part in changing the toxic culture of male violence that destroys families and marginalizes women. We need to teach our sons and daughters what healthy masculinity looks like. As men we need to model behavior that demonstrates a respect for women, honors that we are created in God’s image, and creates space for men to express emotions in a healthy way.”

— Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA

“We have inherited social and religious systems that have robbed women of voice, that have devalued, objectified and not trusted us. But we do not have to continue living within those systems. We can choose a different way.”

— Jenny Castro, coordinator of Women in Leadership for MC USA

“Demeaning women hurts not only women, but men too are diminished. When we say, ‘boys will be boys,’ our society and our churches communicate that men and boys can’t control themselves and therefore are not responsible for their actions. This thinking is harmful. As a church, we must see each person created in God’s image. We must walk with victims and believe that restoration is possible for both men and women.”

— Iris de León-Hartshorn, associate executive director for Operations, MC USA

Resources:

Created Equal by Linda Gehman Peachey

Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches by Carolyn Holderread Heggen,

Do you see this woman?, a worship resource about patriarchy produced by Women in Leadership

MC USA resources on sexual abuse prevention and response

Women in Leadership

Sojourners 100 Sermons on Sexual Violence

Dove’s Nest

Contact your area conference minister for training on Healthy Boundaries

Webinar hosted by MCC on Healthy Masculinity with Executive Director Glen Guyton

Victimization via Ritualization: Christian Communion and Sexual Abuse by Hilary Jerome Scarsella, a chapter in Trauma and Lived Religion

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[1] According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) one in six women has experienced sexual violence.

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One thought on “Returning to our commitments: MC USA leaders speak out against sexual violence

  1. Thank you MCUSA staff for this statement calling us back to the commitments we have made and reminding us that these commitments were the result of corporate discernment within the church, the guidance of God’s Spirit, and the courage of survivors to speak.

    We must not be derailed from these commitments by the way that political climate in the US has made confronting sexual violence and listening to the experience of those who have been violated secondary to the pursuit and concentration of power.

    The list of questions you have listed map out the work of transformation that is before us. May it be so!

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