“In this midst the #metoo and #churchtoo movements, we need all the voices. We need to hear women’s voices. We need to listen to clergywomen and teenage girls. We also need to hear preachers and leaders speak up and stand firm in naming the sin of sexual harassment and violence. I am thankful for those who who have addressed such abuse from the pulpit, and I am grateful especially for my friend and Baptist Women in Minister Leadership Team member, Daniel Glaze. In a recent conversation with Daniel, I learned that in his November 26 sermon, he called his church, River Road Church, Baptist, in Richmond, Virginia, to think and to act as faithful members of Christ’s body in their response to stories of sexual abuse. Following is an excerpt of his sermon. We need all the voices! And we need voices of pastors like Daniel, who are unafraid to speak truth in these days.”–Pam Durso
Preparing to preach a few weeks ago, I turned to the lectionary readings for November 26 (Reign of Christ Sunday), and found that the Gospel Lesson for the day was a familiar passage from Matthew 25 (just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me). I wondered what new insight might be offered to my congregation on such a well-known text.
As many other preachers did that Sunday, I spoke of the call Jesus gives to Christians to love and serve those who are in need, those who are vulnerable, those who are broken. As we do, we realize that we ourselves are needy and broken. And we share that love out of our own brokenness.
We don’t minister to others because we’re better than they are. Ministry is not at all the fortunate serving the unfortunate, the privileged serving the underprivileged. Ministry is a sharing by grace. My favorite seminary professor used to say that his definition of ministry is one beggar telling another beggar where he found some bread. The truth is, we are all imperfect, we are all broken—and we minister from that point of shared brokenness.
Our shared brokenness, our communal brokenness has been revealed in a rather horrific way over the past few months. Who among us hasn’t been sickened by all the stories—all the stories—of sexual harassment and violence committed against women, girls, and boys? While the specific details may vary, the general situation seems to be the same. Over and over again, predators have abused their power and abused the bodies and spirits of those who were vulnerable.
These stories seem to come from everywhere—the perpetrators are prominent figures in Hollywood, politics, journalism, business, you name it—they are in every industry. The one constant seems to be that nearly every woman among us has her own story to share. While I’d love to say that the church has been a refuge for victims seeking sanctuary from such predatory behavior, we know too well that has not always been the case.
The church has received from God a very clear mandate to care for Christ by caring for those who need protection. And instead of speaking out, for the most part, we’ve remained silent.
It’s time for churches all over this beautiful world to say no more. It’s time for preachers to call out this sin for what it is—not playful language and behavior, but violence against bodies and spirits. It’s time for sanctuaries all over to become just that—sanctuaries—safe places against the predators of this world.
We are not just a group of strangers who gather in the same building for worship on Sunday mornings—we are family. These are our sisters. These are our mothers. These are our daughters.
If you have experienced such violation of your body or your personhood, as a representative of Christ, I want to say I’m so sorry. I believe you. The abuse was not your fault.
Sexual harassment and violence are not ancillary or remote issues to the church—they right to the heart of who we are. Will we take advantage of those who are vulnerable in our midst, or will we take seriously the call to care for Christ? When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was being harassed, you spoke up and it stopped.
While the world is fumbling in the darkness of these allegations of abuse, the church has an opportunity to light a candle of hope and grace. As women share their stories of pain and violation, we in the church can listen to them, and in doing so, offer compassion and love.
We in the church have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others if we would commit ourselves to it. To do so, we must remember that our call as Christ’s church is not simply to gather every Sunday in our own religious country club, but our call is to serve the poor, offer food to the hungry, visit the sick, and protect those who are being hurt. We must remember that our call as Christ’s Church is to respond to the woundedness of the world with our own woundedness. We must remember that our call as Christ’s church is to treat all persons as equals and each one as beloved of God. We must be a Church that is committed not simply to admiring Christ, but actually following him.
If we would but open our eyes, we would see opportunities at every turn to love and care for and protect the poor, the hungry, the harassed, the sick, the imprisoned—and we will see that they are just as much a part of God’s family as we are. If we would open our ears, we would hear God’s call upon us to act—to be moved—to do something.
My prayer is that at this seminal moment in our history, we would muster the courage to actually serve Christ.
“When did we see you hurting, Lord?” “When you took care of them, Jesus says, you took care of me.”
Daniel Glaze is pastor of River Road Church, Baptist, Richmond, Virginia.