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There is very little abuse in the church.

Hold on a second, I’m sure you’re all saying. Of course there is!

But, no, I would argue. There isn’t. Because the true church is the body of Christ–a place where those who follow Jesus meet together and support one another and reach out with God’s love to the world.

We tend to think of church buildings as being the church. But that’s not the church. And in church buildings, and congregations, there is far too much abuse.

That happens because many church congregations create a culture where abuse can flourish. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with Jesus or with God or with Christianity itself. I think it means that there is a lot wrong with the way that we often do “church”. And all too often many church congregations have been more interested in keeping the congregation together than in truly functioning as the body of Christ, drawing boundaries, and saying, “That will not be tolerated here.”

And when that happens, that is worse than when abuse happens in the completely secular world, because, even though I don’t believe those people are Christians, they do represent Christianity to all too many people.

So we must get real about what is happening in our church culture and do something about it.

Some may say that I’m wrong to draw attention to this. It just gives fodder to those who are out to bash Christianity! I disagree. I think those who harm Christianity are those who don’t confront this head on and stand up and say, “we will no longer tolerate abuse, and nor will we tolerate the cultures that allow it to flourish.” Until we deal with abuse, we will continue to give Jesus a bad name–because we will continue to harm those that are closest to His heart (children).

Close family members of mine go to a church where a scandal about child prostitution hit the news recently. It was loosely connected to someone on staff. And the church handled it beautifully. They were upfront. They didn’t hide anything. They took immediate action. They did press interviews. And in the end, the gospel was spread, not squelched. That was an example of a church valuing its people above its reputation–and in the end, its reputation ended up stronger for it anyway. When churches are open and take a strong stand, then abuse can’t flourish, but the gospel can.

Someone who is adamant about this and about restoring Jesus’ love to all is Ashley Easter.

She’s been vocal about her abuse in her conservative “Christian” church family, but she doesn’t want to dwell on the past. She wants to move forward, and help others find the courage to call out this behaviour and put a stop to it in the name of Jesus. I’m inviting Ashley to share about a really important conference she’s hosting next month, because I know that at least a few of my readers need to be there. Seriously, I can feel that. And God may be pointing you to join Ashley. So, please, listen to her:

Healing from Sexual Abuse in the Church: The Courage Conference

I grew up as a “good church girl”.

I went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and just about any other time the doors were open. I wore my skirts to the knee or below and covered any hint of cleavage, so as not to “tempt” men into lusting after me. I took messages about sexual purity to heart and worked hard to keep myself from immorality or even the appearance of it. I didn’t go to wild parties or take chances with strangers. The only men I spent any time around were “good church people” too.

And yet, I experienced multiple forms of abuse in my Christian circle.

And sadly, I often felt the opposite of supported by my faith community.

In my journey to healing I found the statistics that at least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience abuse in their lifetime. From 2011-2015 the number one reason churches found themselves in court was because of child sexual abuse.

But it was when I began to connect with other survivors that I realized the full impact of the abuse in our faith communities and the rampant coverups in many churches. Many of the survivors I’ve met had experienced abuse in the Church, along with insensitive or neglectful interactions with church leaders. In nearly every instance, these men and women said they still loved Jesus, but they don’t feel safe in a church setting.

Because I love the Church, and because I love fellow survivors and Church leaders, (though I’m going to be honest… church leaders still make me nervous,) I decided to host an event that I call The Courage Conference.

Healing from Sexual Abuse in the Church

The Courage Conference is a non-denominational event that will offer a judgement-free place for survivors of abuse (and those who love them) to gather and hear inspiring stories from other survivors about moving forward in boldness and healing. The event will also educate pastors and church leaders on the topic of abuse and introduce them to safe practices and resources for their faith community. The Courage Conference offers a unique opportunity to hear from advocates and trained professionals through inspiring keynotes talks, Q&A sessions and workshops in addition to connecting attendees with local and national resources, so they don’t have to do this alone.

The Courage Promo (2017 Raleigh) from Ashley Easter on Vimeo.

There will be a diverse group in attendance. Most come from a church background or have experienced or witnessed abuse in church contexts. The Courage Conference draws in conservative Christians, progressive Christians, and those who no longer feel safe in institutional church settings.

The Courage Conference is for survivors of abuse and those who love them, victim advocates, church leaders, and more. In coming to the event you don’t know who is there as a survivor and who is there as a supporter but you do know that everyone in this safe space cares about this important issue.

You can join us watching LIVE online or in Raleigh, NC on October 20-21, 2017.

Be prepared for inspiring talks by survivors, advocates, and professionals in our keynote sessions and workshops. And get ready to be equipped to further your healing journey or learn how to support your faith community as you are introduced to hand selected local and national resources! Find out exactly what to expect in this detailed overview of the event.

If you or a loved one has experienced abuse or if you want to learn better how to support victims of abuse you don’t want to miss this event!

We have kept ticket prices intentionally low and offer free scholarships to survivors who cannot afford the cost because we believe that money should not keep anyone from experiencing this healing event.

You can learn more about our speaker line up, tickets and other details by visiting: www.TheCourageConference.com

I look forward to seeing you there!

P.s. Because we give out so many scholarships we are still working to fully fund The Courage Conference. We need to raise $7,000 before October 10th. Can you help us? We really don’t know how we are going to reach our financial goal without your support. You can find secure tax deductible giving details under the donation section here.

Ashley EasterAshley Easter writes, blogs, speaks, and advocates for abuse victims. She founded The Courage Conference, an event that empowers survivors of abuse to fight for their healing while also educating church leaders on prevention and proper response to abuse. Ashley promotes truth telling, advocates for gender equality, and educates churches on abuse. You can find her at Ashley Easter or The Courage Conference.  Find her on Twitter and Facebook

I’m so glad Ashley has put this conference together. If you feel God nudging you that this is something you should attend, please listen to that nudging! I believe that God is doing a real stirring in His church right now to confront these issues head on, bring healing, and create a culture where abuse can no longer flourish in the darkness. It could be that God wants to use you in this fight! So pray about it, and then contact Ashley if you think God is pointing you in that direction!

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