My Monday morning reads brought me to this article about the tenacious women blogging about sexual abuse in SBC and other conservative Evangelical churches. It is a must read.
I have many thoughts, but I’ll boil it down to just these at the moment:
Women (and children) (and anyone marginalized) are in danger anywhere women are shut out of the power structures in an organization.
I have a post halfway written about the problem Evangelicalism faces from institutionalized, theologically-justified patriarchy. Despite OT and NT examples of women in leadership positions, conservative theology does not make room for women to hold power and exercise authority outside of very narrow realms. As a result, leadership within conservative churches are blind to how abuse happens (and many women are themselves complicit in protecting abusers and shaming victims).
I applaud the brave women who have stepped up to review, investigate, and record stories of (mostly) women who were raped or abused by pastors (usually as children, but not always) and have lived traumatized lives while the pastors moved on to greater glory and continued employment in the ministry. The loose denominational structures of many Evangelical groups allows predators to flourish, but they run unchecked because they are protected and apologized for by leadership in those churches. In fact, it’s far more likely for the women telling the stories (or recording them, as these bloggers do) to get shoved out than for their abusers to be brought to justice.
Both men and women of the Church need to arise and say No to sexual abuse in churches. That the SBC refuses to even allow supporters of victims to rally at their convention this month shows how far leadership within the conservative church will go to refuse acknowledgement of the problem.
You can’t impose enough church policies to prevent sexual predation. In fact, without opening the power structure to women as equals, I don’t think the conservative church will be able to eradicate this problem from its institutions.
In addition to leadership failure and lack of oversight and accountability, Evangelicalism perpetuates a victim-blaming tendency baked into its theology about sex. This article is a great overview of the destructive impact of purity theology on young women: Naked and Ashamed: Women and Evangelical Purity Culture – The Other Journal
But leaders could at least choose to listen, acknowledge, repent for harboring abuse, and change policies to support victims.
We’ve got a long way to go on this one, folks.