#ChurchToo conference addresses sexual misconduct

David Martin, executive minister of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, speaks about confronting ministerial sexual misconduct. (Photo courtesy of Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

In the midst of the #MeToo movement, in which those in positions of power are being called to account for sexual abuse, a conference hosted by four Manitoba Mennonite organizations acknowledged that it happens in the church, too.

‘This is about us’

Emily Cohen, left, a workshop leader, chats with Matthew Bailey-Dick, coordinator of the Anabaptist Learning Workshop, at a ‘Caregiving in a #ChurchToo world’ seminar on Jan. 19, 2018, at Steinmann Mennonite Church in Baden, Ont. Behind them on the wall, coloured heads represent people's stories and experiences of sexual abuse that are known to workshop participants. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

How do churches prevent sexual harassment and abuse in their midst? How do they respond when abuse happens? How do they shift the culture in their ranks so that victims feel safer to share their stories?

‘This is a holy and good thing’

A scene from #ChurchToo. (Photo by Saul Tahuite)

The cast and crew of #ChurchToo, from left to right: Johnny Wideman, dramaturg; Chad Dembski, stage manager; Robert Murphy, Meghan Fowler, Lindsey Middleton and Brendan Kinnon, actors; and Matt White, director. (Theatre of the Beat photo)

(Theatre of the Beat photo)

What does “turn the other cheek” mean when you’re abused by your pastor? What does “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” mean when you’re dealing with gendered power imbalances within your group of friends? What does “made in the image of God” mean when you’re an LGBTQ member of a church experiencing alienation?

#ChurchToo conference tackles painful subject

A broken cup symbolizing a life shattered by professional sexual misconduct surrounds a whole cup, symbolizing survival from traumatic experience. #ChurchToo resource person David Martin, who has dealt with several cases of clergy sexual abuse as executive minister of MC Eastern Canada, said he has been ‘deeply pained but still profoundly hopeful’ in the process. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Many troubling issues and questions arise when a Christian leader engages in professional sexual misconduct.

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