Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women and Girls

We are experiencing a kairos moment—a window of opportunity to bring healing in the world and in the church. The rise of the recent #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have compelled us to examine our own beliefs and actions concerning the state of women.

Fundamentally, we understand violence against any individual, regardless of their ethnicity, creed or gender, to be a matter of our Christian faith. Genesis 1: 26 declares that all people are made in the image of God, both men and women. Women are equally called and created with the full potential and capacity to steward the world. All abuse disfigures human dignity and distorts the image of God.

Therefore, violence against her is violence against God.

Violence against women is happening at record numbers

Evidence of physical, sexual and psychological harm—ranging from sexual harassment and assault to trafficking and rape as a weapon of war—is on the rise. Globally, 1 out of every 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence and 200 million girls are missing. According to a 2016 Center for Disease Control report, 1 out of every 5 women in the U.S. have experienced rape or attempted rape. Forty-four percent have experienced some other form of sexual violence, including: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences. Among women who have experienced rape more than 28 percent report it happened between 11 and 17 years old. Twenty-five to 85 percent of women in the workforce report that they have experienced sexual harassment. Yet, 75 percent of harassment victims experience retaliation when they speak up while 95 percent of reported incidents go unpunished.

75 percent of harassment victims experience retaliation when they speak up while 95 percent of reported incidents go unpunished.
At the intersection of racial and gender violence women of color bear the disproportionate burden. 43.7 percent of African American/black women, 37.1 percent of Hispanic/Latina women, and 19.6 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander women have experienced rape, physical, violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. Native American women are most likely of all women to experience violence in their lifetime (84 percent) and on some reservations they are murdered at 10x the national average. Finally, when disability, gender identification and social stigma is considered, rates of violence increase dramatically for all people.

For too long the voices of women and girls who suffer violence have been marginalized, ignored or silenced. When women anywhere are harassed or assaulted, we are all violated. When girls anywhere are forced into servitude and slavery, we are all enslaved with them. When women anywhere become weapons of war, we too become weapons.

Violence against her is violence against us.

How Can The Church Take Action

We face an urgent and defining moment in history. As Christian women leaders, we recognize those in the churches who stand with and support survivors of violence. We are thankful for their example of holy and just relationships. Following their and others’ faithful witness, we choose to rise and speak up. We will not retreat from the pain in our midst. Women of all faiths, races, cultures and backgrounds are bravely breaking their silence, yet many in communities of faith do not match their bravery with action. Instead, feeling the problem is too pervasive, they have acquiesced, leaving whole churches and communities paralyzed.

But doing nothing is not acceptable. Silence is not spiritual. And action is not optional.

This moment in history is ours to steward. We are calling churches, particularly those in our stream of the Christian faith—Evangelical churches, to end the silence and stop all participation in violence against women. We call our pastors, our elders, and our parishioners who have been silent to speak up and stand up for all who experience abuse. There is no institution with greater capacity to create protected spaces for healing and restoration for survivors, as well as confession, repentance and rehabilitation for perpetrators.

To this end, we, as women elders and leaders, issue a call of action to end violence against women. Throughout the Christmas season—symbolic of God’s incarnation among the suffering—and culminating on Easter Sunday—symbolic of God’s victory over sin and oppression—we call Evangelical churches into two streams of action:

How Can You Take Action

1. To stand with women who experience violence. A call to solidarity by making space for women to break their silence in our congregations and communities. Recognizing each woman’s inherent dignity, we call on churches to create protected spaces where survivors of violence can offer their stories, as they choose, and where the body can receive these stories with empathy, love and care.

2. To stand up for women who experience violence. A call to advocacy, repenting of our silent ascent to systems, structures, and practices that harm our sisters. We desire to spark action at all levels affecting the lives of women. We call the leaders and influencers within the greater faith community to action. We invite the Body of Christ to adopt a genuine willingness to repent where we have failed and to fight both systemic and individual injustices in our midst.

Called by faith, compelled by love, and committed to the promise that women will live free from the terror of violence, we, the undersigned, invite you to join this historic moment, an awakening of repentance and reconciliation, sparking genuine change in the very place we call our home—the local church.

Read & Sign Statement

Initial Signatories

Note: Signatories with a #MeToo or #ChurchToo next to their name have chosen to indicate that they are survivors of gender-based violence inside the church (#ChurchToo) and/or in society (#MeToo).

Rev. Khristi Adams
Speaker, Minister, Advocate
First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, Somerset, NJ

Lisa Abdishoo, MD
President and CEO

Becky Allender
Co Founder
The Allender Center

Emily Joy Allison-Hearn #ChurchToo
Artist, Co-Creator of #ChurchToo
St. Ann’s Episcopal Church

Onleilove Chika Alston
Executive Director
Faith in New York

Olive Aneno #MeToo #ChurchToo
Speaker/Advocate for Healthcare and Mental Health
Founder of Love Empower Mentor, LLC

Yeva Avakyan
Head of Gender and Social Inclusion
World Vision US

Cintia Meirelles Azevedo
International Business Leader and Entrepreneur
Communication Specialist, World Relief
Director, Chasing Justice Movement

Lisa-Jo Baker
Author and Speaker

Helen Bako
Nigerian Women Against Violence

Janet Luhrs Balajthy
Senior Advisor and Consultant

Donna Barber
The Voices Project

Suzanne R. Bates, MA, LPC
Associate Dean of Students and Adjunct Faculty
Covenant Theological Seminary

Belinda Bauman #MeToo
Founder, Executive Director
One Million Thumbprints

Lexi Baysinger
Graduate Assistant
Greenville University

Ruth Bell Olssen
Global Activist, writer, speaker

Dr. Beth Birmingham
Senior Director for Leadership and Staff Development
Compassion International

Dr. Rev. Janet Bregar

Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns
Robert E. Fisher Professor of Spiritual Renewal & Christian Formation
Pentecostal Theologcial Seminary

Rev. Cynthia Brix, PhD (hon)
Co-Founder and Co-Director
Gender Equity and Reconciliation International

Tisha Brooks, PhD
Assistant Professor
Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Amena Brown Owen
Spoken Word Poet and Author
Sol Graffiti

Beth Bruno
Author, Speaker, Founder and Executive Director
A Face to Reframe

Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis
Associate Professor
Pepperdine University

Amy Buckely
Vice President
Life Together International

Rev. Jennifer Butler #MeToo #ChurchToo
Faith in Public Life

Kara Cadwell
Director of After-School Programming
New City East Lake

Rev. Adele Calhoun
Author, Pastor of Spiritual Formation
High Rock Church Network

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Executive Director
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

Rev. Alexis Nicole Carter #MeToo
Pastor of Discipleship
Metropolitan Baptist Church

Sarah Carter
Artist and Advocate for Local and Global Justice
Willow Creek Community Church

Tiffanie S. Chan
Worship Arts Director
West End Presbyterian Church

Joanna Kretzer Chun
Program Advisor Youth & Child Development
World Relief

Diana Collymore #MeToo
Global Missions Strategy and Programming Manager

Kathryn Compton
National Director Strong Women Strong World
World Vision

Peggy L. Crane
Board Secretary

Carolyn Custis James
Author, Speaker, Activist

Alyce Dailey
Advocate, Speaker, Co-Founder, Keller Williams Gateway

Rev. Angela Denker
Author, Speaker, Pastor
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Cathleen Deppe
Lay Leader, Justice & Mercy Commission
Holy Faith Episcopal Church

Shannon Dingle #MeToo #ChurchToo
Survivor, Writer and Speaker

Judy Douglass
Writer, Speaker, Encourager, Advocate
Director, Women’s Resources, Cru
Office of the President

Jennifer Dukes Lee
Author of The Happiness Dare and Love Idol Speaker

Ashley Easter
Writer, Speaker, Victim Advocate
The Courage Conference

Christina Barland Edmondson, Ph.D
Dean of Multi-Cultural Student Development
Calvin College

Ashlee Eiland #MeToo
Willow Creek Community Church

Kathy Escobar, M.A. #MeToo
The Refuge

Rachel Held Evans

Christiana Fitzpatrick
Director of Global Education
Covenant College

Kathryn Freeman
Director of Public Policy
Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission

Joanna Giddens
Community Life Coordinator
Grace DC – Meridian Hill

Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt
Professor of Theology and Social Ethics
Northeastern Seminary

Krista Gilbert
Author and Co-Founder of The Open Door Sisterhood

Chris Gillam
Board of Directors

Rachel Goble
The Freedom Story

Dr. Stephanie Goins
Director of Program Development and Africa

Marlena Graves #MeToo
Author, Speaker, Director of Discipleship
Maumee United Methodist Church

Dr. Mimi Haddad
CBE International

Kellie Haddock
The Thank You Project

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale
Ray of Hope Church

Tracy Hanson
LPGA Tour Professional
Founder, The Tracy Hanson Initiative

Jill Harding
Saint Louis Counseling Collective

Lisa Sharon Harper #MeToo
Author, Speaker and Activist
Founder and President
Freedom Road, LLC

Jen Hatmaker
Author & Public Speaker

Rozella Haydée White #MeToo
Owner, RHW Consulting
Houston City Director, Mission Year

Rebecca Hernandez, PhD
Associate Provost, Local and Global Engagement
Chief Diversity Officer
George Fox University, Newberg Oregon

Michelle Higgins
Director of Faith for Justice
Co-Chair, Saint Louis Action Council

Angie Hong
Creative Director
Willow Creek – Chicago

Kristen Howerton
Author, Rage Against the Minivan

Hellen LaKelly Hunt
President, The Sister Fund
Board Co-Chair – Relationships First

Lynne Hybels
Co-Founder and Advocate for Global Engagement
Willow Creek Community Church

Hyepin Im
President and CEO
Faith and Community Empowerment (formerly KCCD)

Dr. Kimberlee A. Johnson
Fellowship of Women Clergy

Leia M. Johnson #MeToo
Somebody’s Mama

Tracy Johnson #MeToo #ChurchToo
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Red Tent Living

Cynthia Johnson Breilh
Director of Advancement
Medical Teams International

Barbara Jones
Mission to The World

Emily Nielsen Jones
Founding Partner and Trustee
Imago Dei Fund

Musimbi Kanyoro
President and CEO
Global Fund for Women

Dina Katanacho
Arab Israeli Bible Society
Nazareth, Israel

Kathy Khang #MeToo

Silvia Regina Jorge Kivitz
Director, Rede Ibab Solidária
White Water Baptist Church, Brazil

Linda Kay Klein

Kristyn Komarnicki
Director of Dialogue and Convening
Director of Oriented to Love
Evangelicals for Social Action / The Sider Center

Alexandra Kuykendall
Co-Founder, The Open Door Sisterhood

Bethany Lane
East Lake Montessori

Helen Lee
Author and Speaker

Dr. Sharoni Denise Little
Scholar, Advocate, Activist

Lisa Loden
Author, Speaker, Reconciliation Practioner

Rev. Una F. Lucey-Lee
Evangelical Covenant Church

Janet Luhrs Balajthy
Senior Advisor and Consultant

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Ambassador
General Superintendent Emerita
The Wesleyan Church

Mayra Macedo-Nolan #MeToo #ChurchToo
Board Chair, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)
Pastor of Community Outreach, Lake Avenue Church

Commissioner Christine MacMillan
Associate Secretary General – Public Engagement
World Evangelical Alliance

Diana Mao
President/Co-founder, Nomi Network
Presidential Leadership Scholar

Rev. Dr. Grace May
WOW! (Women of Wonder)

D.L. Mayfield
Author and Activist

Melissa McCreery
Executive Vice President
Kilns College

Kim McManus
Mosaic Director
Mosaic Global

Idalette McVicker
Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Cara Meredith
Author and Speaker
Associate, Freedom Road, LLC

Dr. Sandra Morgan, PhD, RN
Director, Vanguard University
Global Center for Women & Justice

Beth Moore
Author and Speaker
Founder of Living Proof Ministires

Shayne Moore #MeToo
Author, Activist
Founder, Redbud Writers Guild

Chikondi Mpokosa
Programme Director, Women and Girls
Opportunity International Global

Shauna Niequist

Kelley Nikondeha
Author & Community Development Practitioner
Communities of Hope (Burundi)

Dr. Esperance Ngondo
Sexual Gender-Based Violence Program Officer
Word Relief Congo

Lindsey Nobles
Author, Consultant

Nichole Nordeman
Recording Artist, Songwriter, Author

Diana Oestreich #MeToo
Key Relationships Officer
Preemptive Love Coalition

Doretha O’Quinn
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vanguard University

Hannah Paasch #MeToo #ChurchToo
Artist, Co-Creator of #ChurchToo

Suzii Paynter
Executive Coordinator
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Min. Lyvonne “Proverbs” Picou #MeToo #ChurchToo
Founder and CEO
Beautiful Scars

Teresa Pasquale Mateus #MeToo #ChurchToo
Executive Director and Co-Founder
The Mystic Soul Project

Joy E.A. Qualls
Associate Professor and Chair Dept of Communication Studies
Biola University

Sara Reamy
Assistant Director
Portland Seminary

Vickie Reddy
Executive Producer
The Justice Conference

Dr. Amy Reynolds
Associate Professor of Sociology
Wheaton College

Rev. Sandie Richards
First United Methodist Church of San Fernando

Mazare’ Rogers
Community Life Coordinator
Grace Presbyterian Church, Washington DC

Julie Roys
Author and Radio Host

Rev. Jeanette Salguero
Senior Vice President
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Eeva Sallinen-Simard
Chief of Staff
World Relief

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra Madrina
Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork

Donna Schuller
The Strategist Company, LLC

Dr. Shonnie Scott
CBE International

Micky ScottBey Jones
Racial Justice Institute Fellow
Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA)

Marina Silva
Human Rights and Environmental Activist
President, Rede Sustentabilidade Party, Brazil

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson
Author, Speaker, Advocate

LeLe Skinner
Campus Minister

Christina Smerick #MeToo
Chair, Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy and Ministry

Dean of Instruction
Greenville University

Dr. Andrea Smith
North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies

Charity Smith
Ministry Staff
Northside Church of Richmond

Joy Beth Smith #MeToo
Author, Speaker
Christianity Today

Melanie Smith
Associate Pastor
Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church

Lisa St. Pierre
Executive Assistant
New City Fellowship, St. Louis

Rev. Margot Starbuck
Author, Speaker, Advocate

Meighan Stone #MeToo
Advocate, speaker and Executive Chairwoman, Pencils of Promise
Faith and Politics Institute
Propel Women

Rev. Andrea Summers
Director, Sacred Alliance
Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University

Rev. Laura Sumner Truax
Senior Pastor
LaSalle Street Church

Rev Dr. Carla Sunberg
General Superintendent
Church of the Nazarene

Rev. Oghene’tega V. Swann
Pastor and Teaching Elder
Refreshing Springs Ministry, PCUSA

Jacinta Tegman
World Concern

Nikki Toyama-Szeto
Executive Director
Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA)

Ekemini Uwan #MeToo #ChurchToo
Public Theologian
Truth’s Table LLC

Rev. Sandra Maria Van Opstal
Executive Pastor, Grace and Peace Church (CRCNA)
Author, The Next Worship

AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez
Organizing and Programs Director
The Reformation Project

Ann Voskamp
Author, Speaker
Co-Founder, We Welcome Refugees

Amber Walker
Urban K-Life

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith
Senior Associate, Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement
Bread for the World

Michelle Warren
Advocacy & Strategic Engagement Director
Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

Dr. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt
Assistant Professor of Art History
Covenant College

Nish Weiseth #MeToo
Author and Activist

Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond, MD #MeToo
Bethel A.M.E. Church

Sarah Withrow King
Deputy Director
Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA)

Pastor Brenda Wong
Specialist in Spiritual Formation and Prayer

Jenny Yang
Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy
World Relief

Kimberly Mcowen Yim
Author and Executive DIrector, The SOCO Institute

#SilenceIsNotSpiritual is a call to action to the Church to stop standing by and start standing up for women and girls who experience violence.

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