#MeToo – This is the one thing I think is the most relevant and impactful to come out of 2017. For maybe the first time in our nation’s history and in the history of human culture the issue of power and sex has come to the fore.
For me personally, as a middle-class white male, it has forced me to realize how I have treated women in the past and how I have taken for granted my privilege and my perceived right to behave in certain ways. I have had to evaluate how I speak, sit, stand, listen, react, assume, engage, etc. not only with women but with all people. I find I have a lot to regret in how I have functioned in the past and know that those tapes will replay again and again, necessitating deeper reflection and confession and intentional work on doing things differently.
I know my confession – my repentance -- needs to be more than words and outer changes. It has to be at the very core of my being and for this to happen I need to listen, learn, practice, and confess again and again, and try harder every time I fall short of being the best person I can be. God desires for me, for us all, to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and compassion. I must remind myself that the privilege – the power and authority – I have isn’t mine by right; it is granted to me by a culture and society that is less than what God dreams it could be.
In my estimation the church and communities of faith are the best places for people to begin to form new understandings and to gain clarity about what the new way of living together will be and should be. I am not at all sure why the General Church has not spoken out more about this whole topic, but we must start talking and acting now. This moment in history is too critical to our social and cultural evolution to miss or take on in a less than fully engaged way.
So to help us all begin to formulate a new way of living, here are “18 Ways Churches Can Change Their Culture in 2018” from a Christian Century article, "A Pastor's #MeToo Story," written by Ruth Everhart on December 4, 2017.
- Maintain and update safe church child protection policies.
- Require all leaders to take boundary training, even non-ordained leaders.
- Post domestic violence and sexual violence hotline numbers in church restrooms.
- Teach the warning signs of domestic abuse and abuse of children in the church newsletter or bulletin.
- Intentionally use the words sexual violence in the liturgy—for example, in a prayer of confession.
- Use the hashtag #MeToo on the church’s outdoor sign.
- Take a special offering for a local domestic violence shelter.
- Hang posters in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
- Plan education classes on these issues during April and October.
- Educate the congregation about the grooming behaviors of predators.
- Invite a victims’ advocate to lead an adult education class or series.
- Focus education about sexual violence on justice, rather than healing.
- Have various groups sponsor a #MeToo night.
- Preach a sermon or series on biblical texts of terror, such as Tamar’s story.
- Put women in high-level positions in leadership.
- Speak about sex from the pulpit in a frank and forthright manner without using code words or making inappropriate jokes.
- Have the leaders create a no-tolerance statement and post it beside the church’s mission statement: If any abuse occurs within the fellowship of this church, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law no matter who the offender might be.
- Pull the skeletons out of the church closet and prosecute the offenders.
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other.” (John 13:34 CEB) And again, throughout our Bible and almost universally in faith traditions past, present, and over the entire globe we are told: “Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31 CEB) As people of faith and as Christians we cannot pretend this doesn’t apply or isn’t relevant. We MUST begin to speak and act differently so that the world can see how life relationships can be transformed into what God desires them to be.
I hope as the year goes on I will be able to share with you events, resources, and ideas for how to make this change happen in your church and in your life. Pray that we will learn how to treat one another with the respect and dignity everyone deserves.