Today we wake up with things to celebrate, but also with much more work to do. After having conversations with Christa, Liz, and the community of women (and their families) who left the church and alliance denomination, Sunday October 20th was a bittersweet day.
First, here are some positive steps that have taken place over the last week:
1. the pastor who originally was accused in this matter has resigned.
2. A local pastor who originally followed the denomination’s guidelines, but admittedly didn’t do enough to seek justice, has publicly and privately apologized to the women involved. Not only this, but he has committed to pursuing this matter with the women to ensure justice is found and working to further protect women from this going forward. This was a huge step. (Full disclosure, I’ve been hard on this pastor in the past, but recent events has me incredibly proud of this man and the steps he is taking to try and right a wrong)
Now, when we say celebrate, it’s not in celebrating someone losing their job, or in a pastor having to publicly apologize. It’s seeing little glimpses of “right” being done that begin to tip the scales toward justice. We celebrate that, but we also know the work is not done.
If justice was only seeing those who were guilty receiving some sort of consequences, then we would be done with this whole mess. Unfortunately, we (Dallas and Blair), and the women involved believe that justice involves more than the pastors in question, and that further justice calls for systemic change.
Part of the issue, if not the major issue, is that those who were harmed, as well as numerous others who joined in solidarity with the women, brought this up numerous times to people in the Alliance who had the power to do something, and didn’t. So many women pleaded for help, and either were ignored, denied or not believed. Some literally chose to “side with ******” regardless of the cries for help and justice.
I’m further convinced that some of the people who did this, truly believed they were following C&MA policies, and their model of Matthew 18 church discipline. Either that, or they willfully chose to protect power over women asking for help.
Let’s assume that the first is true, and in that case, the system has to change. Policies need to be developed that better protect women. First place to start, is to have women in decision making processes. Real positions, making real policies. I don’t know about the C&MA as a whole nowadays, but the churches locally don’t have any women on their board of elders.
I get that this is church policy and a deeply held theological belief by many men within the C&MA, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t push back on this. If you don’t hold women in a view that sees them as equally skilled, gifted, and called, you are bound to consistently believe men (especially manipulative ones like the pastor in this situation) over women.
Perhaps this is not the time or the place for this discussion, but I’m throwing it out there. There are so many gifted women in your churches. Granted, you allowed a lot of the wisest, most courageous women I’ve ever met, to walk in this situation. By not giving women a say at the highest level, you are also discounting half of the image of Christ in decisions at the highest level of the denomination.
I also have had so many conversations with current and old alliance pastors, and I believe that many are ready and willing to see women in full leadership roles within the alliance, but understandably are afraid to make waves (historically it’s not a great place to make waves). Perhaps now is the perfect time for those men to step up and push this conversation into the larger arena? Not my place, I know, but there is more than enough biblical and anecdotal evidence to have this conversation and move beyond the stone ages in this regard. I know “both sides” can play the mental gymnastics game for years and years. The greatest sermons I’ve ever heard have been by women. Full stop. You should check out what removing fear of women in leadership does to your soul and learning ability!
Back to the task at hand…
Although there were women who knew and did nothing as well, here’s how I know that women would’ve handled this differently… most of the people reaching out of the over 5,000 downloads of this story are women. Good men are stepping up too, but an overwhelming amount of women have told us they are either reaching out to district, local pastors, or straight up leaving their communities in C&MA until real change happens.
No acknowledgement, no attempts to make amends were on our radar until very recently. This whole process isn’t easy, but these women aren’t angry, divisive humans trying to destroy the church. They are women who have been hurt by a rogue pastor, and then further hurt by those close to that pastor who helped him cover things up. Then they were hurt by those in the community who ignored and cast them out. They tried getting justice at all levels, and were ignored or discounted. Instead of pursuing legal action, or just running, these brave women chose to share their stories (at great risk to themselves) in order to help protect other women, and to see the system change to prevent this sort of injustice from happening again.
A final little note from Blair and I…
This story has never been about us, and as you know if you are a supporter of our podcast, we love to talk about controversial subjects. We can over share and be irreverent bums. When we were approached by this group of fiercely loyal and caring women to share this story publicly, we were a little scared, and apprehensive. To us though, it made sense that the small platform we had was pointless if we didn’t try to move it beyond words to action.
We’ve shared before, and will continue to share that we believe these women, and actually believe that this whole conversation can spark massive and beautiful change within the C&MA and church as a whole. It takes awkward and painful dialogue, no doubt, but here’s our chance to do better (especially us men).
Please continue to reach out. These women have been so honoured to get messages of support from people. You have helped these women get bits of healing, and we are all so grateful for that!
Please push your church leaders to have more open conversations on this. They aren’t fun conversations, but they are so important.
This is with great caution attached, as it’s a hard journey to walk, but if you don’t know how big this problem is throughout church denominations, do some research online into #churchtoo. In fact, there’s a conference in Manitoba that happens every year that deals with this. Perhaps the Alliance would do well to host some of these, or at the very least, send some of their male leadership to attend these to understand how hard it is for women in the church, especially when coming forward with stories of abuse against a clergy member.
We hope to keep everyone in the loop as much as possible, because as mentioned earlier, this story has grown and spread far wider than we ever imagined. It’s now all of us on this ride, and we are grateful to have more fierce advocates in the womens’ corner.
We also believe that the C&MA are frustrated and desire for us to cease involvement. As assurance to any of those in leadership at C&MA that may happen to read this, we aren’t out to harm or destroy you. Please don’t see us as a threat. We want to see healing, for the women and for you as a denomination. We don’t need to be involved at all, but we believe in who you can be in bringing hope to the world. We aren’t experts, nor media, nor enemies. We just want to use what little influence and platform we have (I assure you, it’s very little) to see some change. If there are those who are interested in dialogue with us, we are always open to chat and try to better learn your side of the story and reasoning for why things have played out the way they have played out.
And we aren’t done with our episodes either. We are changing gears episode wise this week, but this will always be part of our conversation and focus going forward.