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Female evangelical leaders call on the church to speak out on violence against women

#SilenceIsNotSpiritual logo courtesy of SilenceIsNotSpiritual.com

#SilenceIsNotSpiritual logo courtesy of SilenceIsNotSpiritual.com

(RNS) — More than 140 evangelical Christian women from across the political and theological spectrums have signed onto a statement calling churches to end the silence around violence against women and the church’s participation in it.

The statement, released Wednesday (Dec. 20), is accompanied by the hashtag #SilenceIsNotSpiritual and is part of a campaign that will run through Easter on April 1, 2018.


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As for the church:

“There is no institution with greater capacity to create protected spaces for healing and restoration for survivors, as well as confession, repentance and rehabilitation for perpetrators,” the statement reads.

Signers include pastors, professors, heads of parachurch organizations and popular authors and speakers such as Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Ann Voskamp, Amena Brown and Helen Lee.

Belinda Bauman of One Million Thumbprints, who came up with the idea for #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. Photo courtesy of Belinda Bauman

The idea for the campaign calling evangelical churches to respond to physical, sexual and psychological violence against women came from Belinda Bauman of One Million Thumbprints, according to Lisa Sharon Harper of Freedom Road, who helped launch the #SilenceIsNotSpiritual campaign.

It follows the #ChurchToo movement — which, its creators are careful to note — grew out of #MeToo, a Twitter hashtag women have used to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. #MeToo was started by social activist Tarana Burke and went viral this fall, as women in great numbers began to use the hashtag. By the thousands, they accused ordinary people — mostly men —  but also famous people in politics, entertainment, journalism and other fields.

Burke recently appeared in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue as one of 2017’s “silence breakers.”

“This ‘now’ is not a new ‘now.’ There have been generations of women in the church that have been saying exactly what we’re saying for years,” Bauman told RNS. “It just happens to be a moment of decision where the structures that be can listen or not.”

In this moment, the statement proclaims, there is “a window of opportunity to bring healing in the world and in the church.”

It calls for local churches to do two things. One is to “stand with women who experience violence” by creating opportunities for survivors of violence to share their stories and receive empathy and care. It also calls for churches to “stand up for women who experience violence” by advocating for them and examining — and repenting for — the church’s role in perpetuating and covering up sexual abuse. 

Emily Joy, who co-created the #ChurchToo movement with fellow artist Hannah Paasch. Photo by Jenny Blake of Love Local Nashville

It’s important for the church to get involved, it says, because Christians believe all people are created in the image of God, meaning violence against women is violence against God.

Emily Joy, who created #ChurchToo with fellow artist Hannah Paasch, said sexual abuse is an “epidemic” in all spheres of life, but there’s an “added level of trauma” when it occurs within a religious environment.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m abusing you,’ and it’s another to say, ‘I’m abusing you, and this is how God wants it,’” Joy said.

Joy and Paasch also signed the statement.

Lisa Sharon Harper. Photo courtesy of Lisa Sharon Harper

Bauman and Harper first took the statement to women such as Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church who they considered “elder stateswomen” — those who have navigated evangelicalism’s attitudes toward women for decades. From Saturday to Monday, the signatures came in from female evangelical leaders around the world.

“We’re really looking at the full spectrum of evangelical thought out there. We have pretty conservative seminaries and denominations that are represented, along with some pretty egalitarian and progressive evangelicals, as well,” Harper said.

“But with this, we decided to join hands under the banner of #SilenceIsNotSpiritual because we all are women. We’ve all experienced the pain of patriarchy, and some of us have experienced it more than others, having been ourselves survivors of gender-based abuse and gender-based violence.”

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

7 Comments

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  • Just because some twit, while abusing you is telling you that it’s the church’s fault, to take the blame from him/herself, doesn’t make it true. There is no scripture advocating the abuse of women.

  • OK, now will these women take a stand in favor of women’s rights of conscience, religious liberty, and health with regard to abortion, contraception, and appropriate sex education in our schools? — Edd Doerr

  • Which is exactly the point, Sandi. The church should stand prophetically against the abuse, naming it, advocating for true relationships of loving kindness, and abrogate any semblance of its acceptance as a viable part of the Christian living, teaching men how to be gentle servants for their families, especially their wives. For too long many churches simply turn a deaf ear to the cry of the women and children who suffer at the hand of men who think their own authority is equal to God’s.

  • That’s BULLDUNG, sandindetroitwannabeland. The bible is LOADED chock full of advocation of abuse of women. Just a short snippet from almost any chapter gets you that, like this,
    Genesis

    Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy
    conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire
    shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. — 3:16

    Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known
    man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, an do ye to them as is
    good in your eyes. — 19:8

    Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father — 19:32

    And they made their father drink wine that night: and
    the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not
    when she lay down, nor when she arose — 19:33

    Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make
    him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that
    we may preserve seed of our father — 19:34

    And they made their father drink wine that night also:
    and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she
    lay down, nor when she arose — 19:35

    Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. — 19:36

    And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes. — 30:15

    Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. — 30:16

    Exodus

    Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.–22:18

  • The church is part of the problem. Better to depart from it and never go back to Christianity. It’s an abusive cult.

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