Aubrey Sampson: Next Steps for Ministry Leaders to Engage With Questions Surrounding Sexual Violence

In Between Two Worlds, John Stott charges preachers to address controversial topics: “Christian people are crying out for guidance…Shall we abandon them to swim in these deep waters alone? This is the way of the coward.”

If the recent GC2 Summit Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence said anything, it was this: Church, we will no longer walk in the way of the coward. We will not abandon our people to navigate these waters alone.

Still, the church’s question in this season of lament is the same one the prophet Jeremiah asked of God in his: How?

How, God, can we right these wrongs? How can we do better?

As a woman in church leadership and a survivor of sexual assault, I’d like to suggest six next steps for ministry leaders who desire to humbly engage with these questions. These are by no means comprehensive—others will have crucial expertise and wisdom to offer.

Nonetheless, may these steps encourage us all as we seek to answer our hows.

1 – Learn from women—purposefully.

After hearing complaints about their male-dominated structures and strategies, the elders at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City spent time meeting with groups of female church members, asking questions like: What has been hurtful? Where have we overlooked you? What do you long for?

Sarah Davidson, one of the women involved, described the experience as safe and powerful: “The elders didn’t counsel or coddle. They humbly listened, affirmed, and apologized.”

As a result, the church strategically hired more female staff, launched a women’s ministry, changed female titles from “directors” to “ministers,” and invited women to lead on stage.

To Leaders: with a posture of humility and repentance, spend 2019 listening to and learning from women. Ask them what is it like to bewomen in your ministry, and make meaningful changes.

Furthermore, evaluate your own formation. Are there diverse female leaders, theologians, and authors informing your spiritual life? If not, you are neglecting profound personal training. And let’s be honest—you are missing out on some of the best writing and thinking out there.

2 – Denounce sexual crime and sexism from the pulpit.

In the aforementioned book, Stott also wrote, “The neutrality of the pulpit is impossible.“

Leaders, be brave and loud. Denounce sexual violence and misogyny. Speak against the evils of sexual crime and sexism, unrelentingly. Preach boldly against macro and micro-aggressions. Condemn touching without consent, flippant jokes, and sexist language.

Follow Jeremiah’s example and speak up on behalf of those who suffer. Lament publicly for the victims of sexual assault. Lament communally for the global oppression and victimization of women and children.

Be forthright from the pulpit.

3 – Take a sober-minded look at the visible and invisible power structures in your organization.

Can we just show our cards for a second? The evangelical church needs to have a come-to-Jesus-moment about who is at our leadership tables, our schools, our conference stages, about our pay structures, about the titles we give women, and about the genders that make up each role on our teams.

Let’s look candidly at our leadership configurations and balance what is currently unbalanced. In fact, may we all be humble enough to invite trusted leaders from outside our organizations to confront any biased systems.

Continue to encourage leadership engagement between men and womenSkilled leaders should be able to put healthy accountability measures in place so that men and women can meet one-on-one and work together freely. When our policies leave women out of leadership conversations, decisions, and opportunities, we perpetuate vicious cycles of sexism.

Lastly, let’s not be naïve. There are principalities and powers at work trying to destroy the reconciling work of the gospel. May we never allow unchallenged, oppressive, evil power structures to thrive.

Friends, let’s open our eyes and fight the good fight of faith.

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Source: Christianity Today