Though the #MeToo movement has brought greater media attention to sexual assault, it is not a new phenomenon. There are countless examples of congregations and denominations acting in ways that proved harmful to victims. Even the most well-intentioned leaders can inflict pain due to a lack of information and preparation.
The Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault has put together a host of resources for congregations seeking to get ahead of the game. As any great leader will tell you, the best plans are laid well before they’re needed. If your congregation would like information on working with law enforcement and other professionals to form Sexual Assault Response Teams, check out the SART guide (https://icesaht.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/IndianaSARTsGuideE2018.pdf). There are also other workshops and trainings (https://icesaht.org/icesa-programs-training/events/) offered through ICESA that congregations can take advantage of. Finally, to gain a better perspective on the ways sexual assault impacts victims, watch the Breaking The Silence video (https://www.sane-sart.com/breakthesilence/)
A critical presidential election looms before us. Christians want to play a constructive role and make a positive difference, but often are unsure how to get involved and what issues to address. Letters to the Church seeks to help the church:
- to think again about God’s presence and purposes in our lives and in the world
- to shine the light and language of our faith on issues and situations that diminish individuals and threaten our common life
- and to prompt us all to think about what it means to be the church in the face of these particular challenges and opportunities.
Designed for individuals and church study groups, the book begins with a letter to pastors and a letter to congregations. Pastors and congregations share a mutual vulnerability these days that is hampered by an inability or lack of interest in open, honest, faith-informed conversations.
What We Are Experiencing Now - letters in this section address the anxiety of often feeling on-edge and off-balance, the craving for certainty, the revival of deadly prejudices and unresolved grief.
What We Hope - readers can envision an inclusive American family portrait, the hope of trusting each other again, the desire to see courageous leadership exercised and the need for clarity between ethical commitments and political maneuvering.
What We Are Called To - letters encourage acts of confession and justice, careful and critical thinking, the need for allies, recognition of when to support and when to resist and a path for constructive engagement.
Each letter names a specific issue and describes the importance of that issue for our country and for this particular election season. Each letter concludes with reflections on “The Witness of the Church.”
Whatever the outcome of any heavily partisan election where money and shrill voices are likely to dominate, our first calling is to be the church, to be light to the world. Letters to the Church seeks to support the church in that vocation through re-centering ourselves, clarifying our commitments and engaging courageously.
The always present reality of racism has revealed itself again through recent, senseless deaths. Racism is abhorrent. In the United States, racism is a cruel epidemic. It steals the breath of Black People and other people of color. Center for Congregations board member Dr. Alton Pollard recently commented, "The experience of Black America extends beyond death. Social death is no less real from disparities and inequities to disease and all manner of injustice." Racism has no place in our communities of faith.
There are excellent resources for courageous conversations about race. Congregations seeking an anti-racist journey are invited to explore this collection from Center president Tim Shapiro. We want to know your experience using these resources and on each you’ll see a box to tell us what you think. Also, feel free to suggest others that you find helpful.