[Editor’s note: This post has been updated with comments from afternoon speakers, including Max Lucado, Nancy Beach, Ed Stetzer, Jeanette Salguero, and Laurel Bunker.]
“I am a survivor. My home was my unsafe place. My church was my harbor.”
Growing up as a victim of abuse, Bible teacher Beth Moore was grateful that she could escape to her church. But in retrospect, she wished it could have done more.
“I have often wondered what a difference it would have made if that same harbor had not only been a place to hide, but a place to heal,” Moore said during a summit held Thursday at Wheaton College to address the evangelical church’s response to abuse in the wake of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.
The Southern Baptist ministry leader has repeatedly spoken out on the issue over the past year, joining a wave of evangelicals calling on churches to more explicitly condemn, prevent, and help the victims of sexism, harassment, and abuse.
“What if I had heard my pastor or my teachers express what I was going through? Call it what it was? Tell me that I wasn’t to blame and not be ashamed? What if they shared a safe place I could go and tell what I endured? What if I had known I wasn’t alone? What if I had known that there was help? What if tens of thousands of us had?”
Today, Moore joined major evangelical leaders—including Australian evangelist Christine Caine, bestselling author and San Antonio pastor Max Lucado, and Seattle pastor Eugene Cho—for a Billy Graham Center event called Reflections: A GC2 Summit on Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence.
The event represents the largest inter-denominational response to sex abuse since #MeToo took off last fall.
More than 500 people registered to attend the event, with 40 sites live-streaming online. Organizers set out to “bring together Christian leaders today to address what the Bible says about this tragedy, the destruction of silence, how to protect those who are vulnerable and victimized, the role of accountability in leadership, and much more,” the website stated.
This is the third event organized by GC2, which stands for Great Commission/Great Commandment. Previous summits have explored the topics of refugees and mass incarceration.
Moore, who has long alluded to her own experiences with abuse in her Bible study materials, penned an open letter this spring decrying the sexism she experienced in her denomination, and spoke to SBC leaders in June (following Paige Patterson’s ousting) about pastoral responses to abuse.
At Thursday’s summit, she raised similar concerns: “For mind-numbing numbers of women and girls, men and boys, the church has been an unsafe place. Should that not change with all we know? With all that has been revealed? With all we’ve seen and heard? God help us, for judgement begins with his house.”
Moore noted that everywhere from Time magazine to the Academy Award-winning Spotlight had brought attention to the reality and prevalence of sexual abuse. She read the recent acceptance statement from 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, the Christian doctor who treats victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Through this prize, the world is listening to you and refusing to remain indifferent. The world refuses to sit idly in the face of your suffering.
“But shall the church stand idly?” she asked.
Moore emphasized Jesus’ admonition to be the light of the world. “What better news is there to the abused than the fact that Scripture is adamant [that] Jesus has no dark side?” she said.
And for those who harmed others, she said, “no transgression exceeds the power of Christ. In him is repentance, the forgiveness of sins. In him, there is transformation. In him, there is restoration.”
Caine, founder of the anti-human trafficking ministry A21 and the Christian women’s leadership program Propel, also addressed the difficulty of bringing abuse cases to light in the church.
“If we keep one thing in the dark, we are better at keeping lots of things in the dark,” said the Australian preacher, who survived sexual abuse at the hands of family members.
“The challenge is that when you know something, you can no longer unknow it and you must choose what you’re going to do with with what you know,” she said. “In those early years [of A21], I found that people did not want to have their lives disrupted by knowing what was really happening, nor did they want to be personally inconvenienced by having to do something with what they knew.”
The founder of the anti-poverty organization One Day’s Wages, Cho repeatedly urged leaders to partner with women in ministry, saying that during his time as lead pastor at Quest Church, the women around him shaped his own teaching on these issues.
“As we’re speaking about this, it’s really important that we’re not abdicating our responsibility to women,” said Cho. “I would not have known this had it not been for the female pastors on staff who lovingly challenged me, ‘Why aren’t you speaking about this more?’”
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christianity Today, Morgan Lee