The Destructive Wildfire We Must Fight!

“So devastating I don’t really have the words to describe it. It looks like a war zone, and it is.” —California Governor Jerry Brown

For over seven years off-and-on, I lived in Southern California. I remember earthquakes and the warm Santa Anna winds. There were wildfires too. But nothing remotely close to the apocalyptic wildfire season Californians now are suffering year after year.

My niece’s husband is a Los Angeles firefighter. Rick and his fellow firefighters know combatting these blazes takes all they have to offer. It’s not good enough simply to learn about what causes these fires or what forces propel them out of control, although all of that is important. Nor is it enough to discuss and educate themselves on the latest firefighting tactics and equipment, although that is essential too. These fires require fierce determined action. The moment a blaze is spotted, firefighters engage in an all-out war. They battle long days on the ground and from the air, in oppressive heat and often risking their lives. They work themselves into complete exhaustion. Again and again we hear progress reports of the percentage of containment they’ve achieved against another named fire. It’s good to know our firefighters won’t quit until the last flame is extinguished.

As the Director of North California’s Fire Council put it,

“These fires are tragic and they’re telling us this is urgent. We can’t sit on our hands.”

The Church’s Fire Fight

The American church and wider culture are engulfed in another destructive wildfire that is blazing out of control. We’d probably be blissfully ignorant of the epidemic ravaging lives around us if not for the courageous #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements on Twitter.

To put this crisis in perspective, in 2019 the American Cancer Society reported that on average 1 in 8 women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer and 1 in 8 men with prostate cancer. 1 in 17 women and 1 in 18 men are diagnosed with lung cancer—the #1 cancer killer. The threat of cancer has mobilized millions of dollars, countless researchers, and highly trained teams of oncologists and surgeons to fight this battle until a cure is found and the last cancer cell is obliterated.

Cancer statistics alarm us. Yet in disturbing contrast, 1 in 4 women and girls and 1 in 6 men and boys have been sexually abused by the age of 18. That doesn’t include unreported incidents of abuse. This life-shattering epidemic is festering among us, and we have yet to engage in all-out-war against it. This means, of course, that sexual abuse survivors are with us everywhere—even inside churches.  

The church and many members of the clergy are deeply mired in sexual abuse incidents. Daily we’re hearing new allegations or reports of convicted or confessed abusers who are recycled back into ministry leadership and often repeating their crimes.

Victims are often not taken seriously and, in fact, many are subjected to spiritual and emotional abuse by church leaders who believe they’re equipped to handle the situation themselves without law enforcement and outside professional help. Survivors frequently hear teaching from church leaders that trigger flashbacks and nightmares or simply intensify their trauma. Instead of being on the frontlines en masse in addressing this epidemic and making sure the church is the safest place of all, we are part of the problem.

May we never forget Rachael Denhollander’s stinging indictment.

“Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is more often than not damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. . . . There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.”

“Confronting the #MeToo/#ChurchToo Crisis”

On Saturday, November 9, in an all-day seminar at Missio Seminary, a team of experts joined me to take a big step forward in confronting this crisis. We wanted to raise awareness with pastors, ministry leaders, and seminarians of the severity of the crisis and to provide insight into the complexities of this crisis by involving experts on sexual abuse, the resulting trauma, dealing with pedophiles, and preventative steps for churches and Christian organizations to take. We also wanted to engage a candid conversation regarding the biblical/theological roots that contribute to the crisis and those that subvert the problem and promote human flourishing for all.

Now Missio Seminary is taking things a step further. They recorded the whole day and are making it available online for churches and individuals who want to benefit from this powerful and productive presentationand to join the effort to confront this destructive wildfire we must fight. 

For more information, go here and scroll down to order:

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Confronting the #MeToo/#ChurchToo Crisis

Saturday, November 9, 2019, I will be teaching a 1-day seminar at Missio Seminary in Philadelphia titled: “Confronting the #MeToo/#ChurchToo Crisis”.

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 (, 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 pedophiles.

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!

Confronting the #MeToo/#ChurchToo Crisis

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Missio Seminary
421 North 7th Street, 6th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Go here for more information & to register

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The Power of Fightin’ Love

At a time when divisiveness is often the word of choice to describe dynamics in our country, our politics, families, and even, sad to say, inside the church, a book about love is a welcome respite.

The book I have in mind is not about just any old brand of love either. In her new book, When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness, Judy Douglass writes about the never-give-up fightin’ kind of love.

This devotional/memoir takes the reader behind the scenes of the years-long saga of Judy’s relentless love for her son Josh. With Josh’s full permission, Judy chronicles the ups and downs of their story together. She is forthcoming about the parental agonies she suffered, the helplessness she experienced, and her spiritual battle to trust God with the son she desperately loves when things weren’t going well.

Without concealing how hard it was for both of them, Judy describes how God used their journey to grow and teach her and to deepen her faith. 

It should come as no surprise to any of us that one of the most beloved stories Jesus told was about the prodigal son and his love-driven father. All of us need frequent reminding that we are objects of our heavenly Father’s fightin’ love for us too—that he never gives up on any of us. Nor should we on the kids and grandkids whose mere existence has ignited in us that fierce “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.[i]

Parents in all stages of parenting will find a friend in Judy. She has traveled this long road and is fearless in looking back to offer wise words of encouragement and hope to others. 

Who doesn’t need that!?

[i] Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 173.

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ARDEN UPDATE #20: On Her Feet Again!

Finally, Arden is back on her feet. She can stand by herself and take steps with help. She only wears her brace at night. So the healing and the hard work of learning to walk again continue. But she is up and on her way.

This week she started kindergarten and loves it. A special bus picks her up each day with her wheel chair. The driver reported, “Arden is hilarious!”

She has miraculously maintained her chipper spirit throughout this ordeal, and we will always be thankful for friends and family who have prayed and supported her from the start, and for Dr. Blumberg and Seattle Children’s Hospital. We are blessed to have so much help for our little one. Please do keep Arden in your prayers as she continues the fight to get moving again.

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Something to ponder . . .

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New Releases for Summer Reading!

If you’re looking for some compelling summer reading, here are three great options to consider.

In the Lingering Light, Cynthia Fantasia takes readers into the world of Alzheimer’s from the caregiver perspective. The long journey that began with the shattering diagnosis of her husband of over forty years brought a litany of losses, isolation, and grief. Cynthia bares her heart to share the realities—the good, bad, and ugly—of this shadowy world where there is no cure and where, as caregiver, her faith was fiercely tested, yet was also what kept her going. No one should minimize what it cost her to look back and relive those painful years for the sake of others. Other caregivers will find here a wealth of helpful information and a wise friend with them on the journey. It will be eye-opening for pastors and friends who want to understand and help in ways that matter. 

The assumption within Christian circles is that for women and girls silence is golden, deference and submission are supreme virtues, and less is more. The compulsion to hold back—fortified by church and cultural messages for women—means offering less to Jesus. It vastly underestimates and hampers the mission he entrusted to his followers and deprives our brothers of the strengths and wisdom they need from us. We end up living with one foot on the brake. We owe Jesus more! In No More Holding Back, Kat draws from her own struggles with these confining, cautionary messages to summon her sisters in Christ to stop holding back. Her passionate call to shed these hindrances and press on to love God freely with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength is crucial reading for the whole church!

Jenny Rae Armstrong’s bold new book, From Risk to Resilience: How Empowering Young Women can Change Everything, is a bracing exposé of the current global human rights crisis that is destroying and diminishing the lives of millions of girls. This crisis occupies a wide spectrum of expression—from the deadly sinister acts such as child marriages, honor killings, and sexual violence to benign forms involving limiting a girl’s horizons simply because she was born female.

This is urgent reading for pastors and ministry leaders, parents and teachers, and anyone who longs to see God’s daughters flourish!

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ARDEN UPDATE #19: Good News from Seattle!

Well, the Spica came off today, and the brace went on. After 8 long weeks of cheerful endurance, Arden’s Spica cast days are over! We are thrilled and relieved for her finally to reach this milestone. I love the look on Dr. Blumberg’s face reflected in the mirror. This is a big moment for him too.

Arden, her mommy, and Tata (her other grandmother, a.k.a. Hilda Rodriguez) celebrated by going to the Seattle Aquarium. They’ll head home (Anchorage and Orlando respectively) this evening.

Now begins the hard work for Arden to learn to walk again. A while back, my close friend Lori Lambelet faced a similar road to recovery from a broken femur. Lori wrote,

“It is crazy how much she will have to concentrate to walk. But the pictures you share display a very spirited young lady, who is very strong and excited to be free!”

Yes she is! This little ezer has a lot of fight in her. Based on Arden’s determination so far and the prayers of family and friends, I’m betting on her to succeed. After all, “Arden is one tough little kid!”

Please keep her in your prayers.

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