#ChurchToo and Sexual Harassment Training

 

Photo Credits:Signs of the Times

The #MeToo movements around the world are now impacting the Christian church more broadly with the hashtag #ChurchToo.

A training event for the prevention of sexual misconduct was scheduled to educate church staff about healthy boundaries. This event was arranged by the Mennonite Churches of Eastern Canada (MCEC) and  conducted in Kitchener, Ontario by Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune where representatives of 10 denominations of Christianity attended the training in order to begin dealing with the sexual harassment happening within their own ranks. This endeavor is linked to the #ChurchToo movement — which branches off of the #MeToo era which began by exposing predatory male behavior and sexual harrassment in enclaves like Hollywood and the mainstream media — and is now spreading throughout the rest of society.

Church Leadership Minister for the MCEC, Marilyn Rudy-Froese, stated, “It’s all over in our society. It’s not just happening in the movie industry, and it’s not just happening in the Catholic Church… It’s the work we all need to be doing: we need to be shifting our culture to be attentive to the voices and stories of victims.”

 

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Fortune founded the FaithTrust Institute in the Seattle area where she was a young United Church minister circa 1979. She wants survivors of sexual misconduct to come forward with their narratives of abuse.

“It’s harder — it’s not impossible but it’s harder — for institutions to ignore anymore,” she said. “That’s always been a challenge in addressing this issue, is they really don’t want to know and their knee-jerk reaction tends to be wrong in terms of institutional self-interest,” Fortune stated.

Rather than be one of the ones who have been ignoring the problem either passively or systematically, Fortune wants to help these Christian organizations move head first into dealing with the problem. She advises them not to fear looking bad to the community.

Fortune emphasizes the need to prevent sexual misconduct within the church in the first place by developing healthy boundaries — especially for sexual predators who “don’t care about education”— to put policies in place so that abusers can be identified, investigated and appropriately punished. The training will focus on both preventing sexual misconduct and also to deal with predators who somehow slip through the cracks.

It’s not about the fear of looking bad, but about the social, and the church’s need to deal swiftly with criminals. Fortune noted the importance of those investigating to be transparent with congregants so the victims feel free to come forward.

Rev. Darren Roorda, Canadian Ministries Director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, stated, “People in various levels of the church — women especially — are much more comfortable to say, ‘I have an issue with fill-in-the-blank,’ or ‘my history includes some difficulty or challenge or persecution’… People are much more apt to identify themselves. That comfort level is really, really healthy and good. We’re glad about that.”

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