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