Rev. Christi Dye led a discussion on the issue of sexual harassment in the Church. In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. While we would hope and pray that our churches are always places of peace and safety, sexual assault and harassment are unfortunately all too common in our places of worship.
As we reflect on how we can be our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers, we are reminded of our United Methodist Social Principles which state, “Unwanted sexual attention is wrong and discriminatory. Sexual harassment interferes with the moral mission of the Church.” As such, it is our moral obligation as Christians and United Methodists to prevent sexual assault, and to remain committed to supporting and protecting victims in our churches.
We had the privilege of hearing Charnessa Ridley of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault present on the nature and extent of sexual violence, and how clergy and laity can support survivors of sexual assault. Ridley shared the story of the #metoo movement, a message of solidarity and support in the face of the widespread problem of sexual assault in our country. She reminded us that while we cannot control what others do, we can control our response to witnessing harassment and misconduct in our churches. She encouraged us to be good, active bystanders by believing and supporting victims, and being committed to accountability, justice, and integrity.
District Superintendent Rev. Carol Goehring and Rev. Kevin Baker shared thoughts and fielded questions on how clergy and people in positions of power in the church can help prevent sexual misconduct and protect church members. Rev. Goehring encouraged us first and foremost to be rooted in Christ’s teachings that elevate the personhood of all people—both men and women—made in God’s image. As local churches, we are to strike a delicate balance of praying for redemption while maintaining real accountability.
As we navigate these difficult waters, we are reminded of John Wesley’s General Rules: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.