Even before the #MeToo crisis exploded on Twitter, Missio Seminary was engaging this issue through the Graduate School of Counseling (GSOC) and the Global Trauma Recovery Institute by training counselors to help those who have suffered sexual abuse and trauma both stateside and internationally.
But more—much more—is needed to address this terrible crisis. This is my first opportunity to weigh in at Missio.
The ongoing #ChurchToo Twitter storm blindsided many Protestant leaders who “thought this was a Roman Catholic problem.” They simply did not realize the full scope of the problem. Because Protestants are splintered into so many different denominations, it’s hard to comprehend the big picture. Now there is no escaping the fact that the cumulative problem is as massive inside Protestant churches and ministries as anywhere else, maybe even worse. Survivors in staggering numbers are already among us: 1 in 4 women and girls; 1 in 6 men and boys. Secular media has exposed an epidemic of sexual abuse, mishandled allegations, and cover-ups happening inside the church to the point that many now believe the Protestant church is not a safe place and are leaving us.
This should trouble us all.
This seminar weaves together biblical, theological, sociological, counseling, legal, and pastoral threads to raise awareness and to help equip church leaders confront this crisis and prevent further abuse. Of course, there is no way I could do this by myself. So I am beyond excited that a strong team of professional experts and activists are joining me.
I’ll be addressing the biblical and theological roots that contribute to the abuse that’s happening. How does church teaching about women and men create an environment that is conducive to sexual abuse and to the protection of perpetrators? How do #MeToo narratives in the Bible provide a vital pastoral resource for raising awareness and creating safety for victims to find help, safety, and the care they need?
Heather Evans, LCSW, DSW, is partnering with me as guest instructor. She brings vital training and expertise as a Clinical Social Work/Therapist and has worked with me in planning. I’ve also received important support and input from Missio’s GSOC program co-directors, Hannah Wildasin and Nicole Hall.
Dr. Heather Evans, has invested countless hours with sexual abuse victims/survivors and understands the deep trauma involved. She runs her own clinic and counseling practice and travels frequently to Rwanda with the Global Trauma Recovery team. The goal is to learn from and train Rwandan’s in their post-genocide recovery efforts to address the pervasive trauma. We need her professional guidance to help us respond to abuse survivors and anyone raising allegations in ways that help and support them without hurting.
Three pastors will also be joining us. After getting Heather to sign on, I contacted Boz Tchividian of GRACE (www.netgrace.org), who immediately recommended two men on his team. Both of them agreed to participate via ZOOM.
Pastor Jimmy Hinton didn’t choose to enter the battle against sexual abuse. The battle chose him when as a young pastor he learned his childhood hero—his own father—had been abusing children. Jimmy will recount his shattering “lived experience” and the insights he gained from his own heartache and subsequent advocacy helping other churches deal with pedofiles.
Mike Sloan directs GRACE’s Safeguarding Certification Program—meaning he trains churches, schools, and other Christian ministries across the U.S. and abroad in child abuse prevention and response best practices. He co-authored (and piloted at Missio in 2017) the GRACE Seminary Curriculum. He will join us long distance—briefly stepping away from an active training session—to present best practices for responding to abuse allegations.
Rasool Berry, Teaching Pastor at The Bridge Church, Brooklyn, NY, and I met for the first time when he was in a worship band at a Synergy Women’s Network conference. Afterwards Rasool hung out to discuss what he’d learned about his sisters at the conference. Ever since, our paths kept crossing and the conversation continued. When #MeToo exploded, our conversation intensified. He was the first pastor I knew to voice alarm and take steps to make his church a safe place for women and girls. He’ll tell us what he’s doing.
This seminar is for seminarians, pastors, church and ministry leaders, and anyone who wants to learn more about this crisis and become part of the solution. Help me get the word out!