“You must be working out,” he said. “I was watching your backside while you were walking down the aisle, and it is really looking nice.”
“Pastor, you know we are a hugging and kissing church,” he said as he grabbed her roughly and planted a loud kiss on her lips.
“Don’t you worry about making these hard decisions about the church’s future, sweetheart,” he said, “we men will handle this. You just keep on doing that ministry thing you do.”
“Can I meet you in your office later for a little counseling?” he said with a wink. “No one will ever know.”
For the past year, I have co-chaired the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force, which was jointly formed by Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The Task Force has its origin in stories, a collection of stories told by women who have been abused, attacked, and harassed by Baptist male ministers. I kept hearing those stories, and it was time for a response, time to speak out, time to draw attention to the too often occurrence of abuse in the church. Since the formation of the Task Force, my collection of stories has grown exponentially, stories told mostly by women but also by girls and boys, teenagers, and adult men.
But there are other deeply troubling stories now being added to my collection. They aren’t really new stories. Sexual harassment and sexism is as old as time, but for the last three weeks, many Baptist women ministers have shared stories about being touched inappropriately, propositioned, patronized, and harassed by church members. Church members! As the #metoo campaign exploded on social media, I watched and read with horror and sadness the postings of #metoo by far too many women ministers, Baptist women ministers. Some of those women started writing, telling their stories in blogs and in articles. Others of those women told me their stories, stories they aren’t ready to post or tweet.
It is time once again to respond, to speak out. Clergy sexual abuse is a reality in our Baptist churches, and it is ugly and needs to be confronted, but sexual harassment and blatant sexism is alive and well too–in our Baptist world. And it is time to draw attention to this too often brushed aside, dismissed, explained away, and laughed about ugliness that happens all too frequently in the lives of women ministers in our Baptist world–in conservative Baptist churches AND in moderate, progressive, and liberal Baptist churches too. It happens. All the time. It happens in most every church where women are serving as ministers. It happens to women youth ministers and women children’s ministers, women associate pastors and women pastors. It happens all the time. Most every Baptist women minister I know has a story to tell. It happens all the time.
And it is time to speak out. Perhaps we need to add a second hashtag – #metoo plus #Baptistminister.
Courageously speaking out, standing together as women ministers, and forcing the spotlight onto the sin of sexism and harassment in Baptist churches. . . it’s time.
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.