We Are Speaking

A call to the church to end harassment, abuse, and sexual violence against women and girls

For far too long, stories of harassment, abuse, and sexual violence against women and girls have been marginalized, silenced, mocked, and ridiculed. And this has been no different in the church. The #metoo and #churchtoo movements have given voice to these stories of pain and made clear their pervasiveness. The culture is finally shifting and in this powerful moment, silence is not an option for the church.

In 2018, the Reformed Church in America put forward a statement, We Are Speaking, calling the church to end harassment, abuse, and sexual violence against women and girls. It is a call to listen, to speak, and to take action. Upon release of the statement and in the following year, more than 800 people added their names in support. 

Read the full statement

From the earliest story of our faith, God has painted a picture of a reality in which women and men together reflect the image of God. In Genesis 1:26-27, God establishes a vision—a vision God calls very good—of a world where men and women alike are treated with dignity, respect, and love as people created in God’s image.

And yet, not long after that vision was cast, an insidious narrative took its place. For far too long, women and girls have been victims of harassment, abuse, and sexual violence rather than being treated with the dignity God intended for them. Women have shared their stories of pain, only to have those stories fall on ears that did not wish to hear. Many women who dared to speak have been mocked and vilified.

A culture of shame and secrecy has stifled the voices of countless others (men and boys included). These people have not felt safe to share their stories because of the very real fear that their lives would be destroyed by those in positions of power. This culture has begun to shift in recent days and weeks, and we in the church are obligated to listen and respond.

We find ourselves in a pivotal moment. Social movements like the women’s march or the hashtags #timesup and #metoo show that people are grappling with how to respond to these stories of pain. Each story of #metoo has reverberated in hearts, in lives, in communities, and throughout the world. These stories have even come from within the church, which we see with the hashtag #churchtoo.

We believe the church must find its voice and speak.

As RCA interim general secretary Don Poest lamented last fall, “Too often, by our attitudes and actions or inactions, we have tolerated or encouraged or participated in ways that have devalued the women and girls in our midst, rather than honoring them as God’s beloved daughters.” This should not be. The church must speak out at just such a time as this.

If we keep silent, we are complicit in the continued dehumanization of women and girls.

If we keep silent, we fail to be coworkers with Christ in the renewal of the world and of the relationships between men and women.

If we keep silent, we ignore God’s call to be agents of change committed to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity.

We are speaking because we are committed to standing with and for women and girls who have experienced harassment, abuse, and sexual violence.

We are speaking because we are committed to seeking healthy ways for men and women to live and work together.

We are speaking, even if words fail us and our anxieties leave us uncertain about what we can do.

We are speaking because of our Christian convictions and because of the kind of world in which we want to live. When one part of the body is mistreated, the whole body is mistreated. When one person suffers, we all suffer.

We, as women and men, as children of God, as a church, courageously stand together against any word, deed, or policy that diminishes the dignity of women and girls in our communities. And we are compelled by God’s original vision for humanity to live into this statement by taking action. We are investing ourselves in the Holy Spirit’s movement to bring about healing and restoration until every person is valued as one who is made in the image of God.

We Are Speaking resources for churches

Putting an end to abuse, violence, and harassment is going to take more than just endorsing a statement. If you and your church are committed to putting the words of the We Are Speaking statement into action in tangible ways, consider the following action steps and resources for ending harassment, abuse, and sexual violence.

We Are Speaking Worship Resources

Supporting Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence Guidelines

Safe Church Resources (from the CRCNA)

Why our voices matter

We in the Reformed Church in America have the opportunity to shatter the culture of silence. The Holy Spirit has been on the move ahead of us, equipping Women’s Transformation and Leadership and Local Missional Engagement leaders to help the church speak into this pivotal societal moment with a gracious, godly response that honors women’s stories and offers concrete action steps.

We pray that doing so will shine light* out into a world that keeps crying, “Where is the church?” We pray that this response will bring with it the hope, healing, and transformation that we know comes with following Jesus.

We are here. We are speaking. And we are taking action to end harassment, abuse, and sexual violence against women and girls.

*“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

We are Speaking was envisioned by Liz Testa and Eliza Cortés Bast as they dreamed together of how their ministry initiatives—Women’s Transformation and Leadership (WTL) and Local Missional Engagement (LME), respectively—could support ministry leaders and faith communities as they engage this pressing topic in proactive, relevant ways. This statement was created and launched by God’s grace and the partnership of lead writer April Fiet, Lesley Mazzotta, WTL’s guiding coalition and review team, senior GSC staff leaders (Don Poest, Jill Ver Steeg, and Paul Boice), and the RCA communication and production team.

See the full list of signatories
This initiative is part of Transformed & Transforming, the RCA's 15-year vision for ministry.
Your gifts make this mission possible.