How Churches Can Respond to #MeToo

How Churches Can Respond to #MeToo

October 23, 2017 by

If you’ve been online in the past week or so, you may have seen the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. Women—and some men—are using social media to raise awareness about sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. While the movement began over 10 years ago with Tarana Burke, it has gained new prominence with the accusations leveled against Harvey Weinstein.

Personally, I haven’t participated in the online conversation. I may know what it’s like to be dismissed or viewed as “less than” simply because I’m female, but I’ve yet to encounter out-and-out abuse or harassment. Because of that, I haven’t known if or how I should get involved.

I think churches may feel the same way. Maybe they forego the conversation because of a lack of personal experience. Then again, maybe men in leadership worry about saying the wrong thing or coming across as trite.

If you relate to either thought, continue reading. I’ll attempt to work my way through and toward a response to “me too.” Perhaps it will help your church reflect and find words to say or actions to complete too.

Church should be a place for survivors, a place where we say, ‘me too,’ and find people who at least stand with us.

People Are Hurting

Burke tells CNN “me too” started in the “deepest, darkest place in my soul.” On that level, almost anybody in the church can relate. Most, if not all, of us possess a “me too” that begins in hurt and heartache. We may not share those stories—The Washington Post offers some insight into that choice—but they exist.

And even if we lack a “me too” experience, I don’t believe that means we can or should avoid people’s wounds. Far from it. Jesus gives us the story of the Good Samaritan to show us how to act toward the world. We are not to see hurt and dash across the street to escape it. Rather, Jesus calls us to head into the hurt and bear the burden so that people know how loved and precious they are.

Admitting Hurts Produces Community

In welcoming those hurts, community and healing begin to occur. Burke speaks to this when she tells CNN,

“On one side, ‘me too’ is a bold, declarative statement that ‘I’m not ashamed’ and ‘I’m not alone.’ On the other side, it’s a statement from survivor to survivor that says ‘I see you, I hear you, I understand you, and I’m here for you, or I get it.’”

Admission doesn’t negate or weaken a person; instead, it empowers, frees, and creates relationships.

And isn’t that what the church is for? It should be a place for survivors, a place where we say, “Me too,” and find people who see, hear, and, if not understand, at least stand with us.

I experience this reality every time my church practices a “me too” communion. We form small circles, and each person within it shares a struggle. Everyone affirms it by saying, “me too,” before partaking of the bread and wine (or grape juice). We confess our hurts, sins, struggles, and fears. In declaring them, we realize we are not alone, cast off, or shut out. We belong; we are loved.

Churches Should Respond With Empathy and Grace

Does that scenario mean churches should get on social media and participate in #MeToo? Not necessarily. First, I’m not sure people would respond well to a church-branded #MeToo message. Second, we may do more good by holding offline conversations.

Some of those dialogues could occur with the church, and I hope that they do. The church should be a safe space where we talk about difficult subjects. I expect, though, that most exchanges will occur person-to-person.

Prepare Church Members

Keeping that in mind, churches should equip church members for one-on-one discussions. We should disclose resources, such as Celebrate Recovery programs or partnerships with a local counseling center. We could also consider hosting informal chats and round tables at the church. Doing so helps church members better understand issues and prepare thoughtful, grace-filled responses.

Visit With Local Community Organizations

Another idea is visiting with local organizations dedicated to people recovering from abuse, assault, or harassment. These places know what hurting people need. We should visit with them before deciding on some grand plan. It saves us from saying or doing something stupid, thereby making a difficult situation worse.

Encourage Congregants to Volunteer

We could even ask church members to volunteer their time with a hotline or local organization, the same as we do when a natural disaster strikes. My church traveled to Houston to help with Harvey cleanup. Why can’t we do the same when the wreckage and debris is more emotional and mental rather than physical?

Jesus calls us to head into the hurt and bear the burden so that people know how loved and precious they are.

Get to Work

Yes, the work’s harder, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse. Jesus sure didn’t—and thank goodness for that. Where would we be if our Savior hadn’t come to heal the sick and bind up the brokenhearted? And, if he’s the example we’re to follow, what are we waiting for? We should get to work.

How is your church responding to #MeToo? Let us know in the comments.

Note: The #MeToo hashtag can be a sad reminder that abuse, assault, and harassment can also happen in the church. That’s a painful reality, but it can serve as a reminder to review your safe church policies. Make sure you’re taking the appropriate actions to protect the people you serve—especially children.

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash.
Post By:

Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is a resident with The Austin Stone Institute at The Austin Stone Community Church. Her role as a resident is varied but includes writing, editing, illustration and design, and event planning. In the next few months, Erin will grow toward more vocal leadership roles, such as teaching and coaching writers, and will begin to work on her first novel. She volunteered with Creative Missions in 2016 and 2017 and serves as an assistant editor for Church Marketing Sucks.
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