8 Oct 2008

In a Violent and Abusive World, Do Churches Offer Real Safety?

Christian News Wire - October 7, 2008

DALLAS -- While stories of sexual abuse by priests or others in authority make headlines, many instances of abusive behavior in the church occur unnoticed, and the abused rarely feel free to speak out about their suffering. In their new book, Church as a Safe Place (Authentic), authors Peter R. Holmes and Susan B. Williams expose the truth about abuse in the church, challenging churches to be the safe places God has created them to be. People come to church looking for a haven from this abuse. Unfortunately, they often discover that the church isn't so different from the rest of the world, after all.

"Most abuse is not as brazen as sexual assault. It is much more subtle, hidden, and subversive. Often it cloaks itself in the ordinary," Holmes states. "Unless we proactively choose to find ways of making churches safer places, they will naturally take on the character of the surrounding environment, in which abuse is just a part of life," adds Williams.

What does abuse in the church look like? Holmes and Williams contend that "abuse" includes the many different ways people mistreat each other and create an environment that makes people feel unsafe and uncomfortable. The authors identify harm and abuse in the church in five major areas: verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual. It can happen when church leaders become "Messiah figures" and misuse their power or when a church member lashes out at someone else in anger—even when portions of Scripture or the use of the phrase "It's God's will" are used to inflict additional pain on someone who is already suffering.

Church as a Safe Place takes a comprehensive approach to confronting, resolving, and minimizing abuse in the church. Drawing from both Scripture and their many years in therapeutic church ministry, the authors have set up a framework for dealing with complaints of abuse in the church and taking steps to prevent abuse from occurring in the first place. The handbook includes many specific suggestions for handling difficult situations and covers topics ranging from the proper protocol for individual counseling sessions to the correct use of confidentiality. The authors also devote a chapter to resisting the blame culture, a natural response many feel when they begin to recognize that they have been mistreated.


Contact: Audra Jennings, The B&B Media Group, 800-927-0517 x104, ajennings@tbbmedia.com

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