Statement on Sexual Abuse in Churches

The #MeToo movement that raised widespread awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence empowered women to break their silence about the abuse they have suffered in churches. #ChurchToo stories are a powerful reminder that sexual abuse isn’t limited to Hollywood. In light of the pervasive and persistent sexual abuse, violence, and harassment that exist within faith communities, the board members of Equity for Women in the Church wrote and adopted the following statement on sexual abuse in churches:

Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Our mission is not only to advocate and network for clergywomen to facilitate access and congregational receptivity, but also to dismantle patriarchal and white supremacist church practices and structures so clergywomen can thrive in pastoral positions.

Through educational programs and publications, Equity for Women in the Church teaches gender and racial equality based on the foundational belief that all persons are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). Equity for Women in the Church also seeks to model an egalitarian leadership structure with co-chairs and board members, diverse in gender and race, who share decision-making power.

Sexual abuse in churches violates the divine image in each person. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual discrimination, and all forms of sexual abuse create deep wounds, trauma, confusion, fear, guilt, and chaos in the lives of survivors and perpetrators. Sexual abuse damages entire faith communities where people worship, minister, work, and learn. Equity for Women in the Church names the sin of sexual abuse against clergywomen and any persons and works to change unjust patterns which enable the perpetuation of sexual violence. We help create faith communities where clergywomen, lay leaders, and members can worship, learn, and work together in a safe atmosphere free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, exploitation, and intimidation.

Equity for Women in the Church stands against any abuse of power by church leaders who use their positions to gratify their own needs. Through our programs, publications, conferences, and organizational structure, we contribute to the prevention of such abuse of power by promoting shared power and responsibility and by modeling self-care and boundary-setting. We advocate for inclusive, egalitarian leadership and inclusive language for humanity and divinity to affirm the sacredness of all persons and the equal value of everyone’s gifts. We help eliminate sexist and racist practices and language in congregations, and celebrate the equal dignity of all people.

Equity for Women in the Church is committed to changing the patriarchal culture and hierarchical structures in the church that contribute to gender-based harassment, exploitation, and violence. Through teaching and modeling inclusive, egalitarian leadership and language we contribute to changing patriarchal culture that forms the foundation for sexual abuse. We help create a culture of gender and racial equality so that clergywomen and laypeople can become all we are created to be in the divine image.