Assault needs to be addressed in church

Accusation after accusation keeps making its way into the headlines and tweets. One man after another is being called out for sexual harassment charges and abuse of power. #MeToo exploded over the Internet a few months ago and people shared how they had been sexually assaulted or abused.

This deeply rooted problem has affected our country for years and people are finally being held accountable and the church has not escaped this spotlight being shone on the institutions around America.

Not long after #MeToo found its way onto all of our timelines, #ChurchToo began trending. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds began to call out abuse and harassment that had happened to them at church or by church leaders.

Even more recently, a woman named Jules Woodson admitted on a public blog post that Tennessee pastor Andy Savage had sexually assaulted her 20 years ago when he was a youth pastor and she was 17 years old.

Two days later, Savage spoke in his church about the incident and said he had worked through what happened and had searched for forgiveness from his family and the church.

I grew up in church. My father has worked at a church my entire life and I was constantly there as a participant, church member and, occasionally, a Sunday school teacher. I love the church and all it has taught me over the years. My church offered me a safe space to explore my faith, ask questions and be encouraged in pursuing God further. However, I can also be the first to admit there are many problems within the church. Although it can often be held to a higher standard, the church is just as broken as any other institution.

As much as we would like to pretend the church is the embodiment of the perfect and sinless God it follows, it’s not. The church is led by and full of people, so problems are inevitable. The sooner we allow the church to be imperfect and the sooner pride is replaced with humility, the sooner these ever prevalent issues can start to be reconciled.

Anyone will tell you that the initial step to growth is to find and admit the problem. After thousands of people told their stories of abuse and harassment through #ChurchToo, it is safe to say the church has some major patriarchal issues that have been swept under the rug and ignored for years. This is not how the church will heal and move on.

In the case of  Savage, passing off statutory rape of a minor as a “sexual incident” rather than an illegal act does not allow the church to admit its mistakes and grow from them.

The church should be a refuge and sanctuary for victims and not muffle or silence their voices.

Masking deeply rooted problems will only allow it to continue. Let’s call out the problems we see in the church so it will grow and better itself.

About Alexandra Applegate


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