Kelly Ladd Bishop

Exploring issues of faith, culture, and spirituality with a focus on women in the church and world

After Willow Creek: How Can Churches Make Women Feel Safe Again?

After Willow Creek: How Can Churches Make Women Feel Safe Again?

The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote that appeared in the Christians for Biblical Equality publication, Arise. You can click HERE to read the entire post on the CBE International website.

The news coming out of Willow Creek Community Church recently has been nothing short of tragic. It has been painful to hear the stories of the women who were victimized, and heartbreaking to know that their church and their pastors betrayed them, neglected to help them, and called them liars.

Sadly, the mishandling of abuse allegations is not unique to Willow Creek. We have seen and read story after story of women reporting abuse to a pastor or church leader, only to be told that they were somehow responsible, or to have their stories ignored. We have seen pastors stand up and “confess” their sins only after they have been exposed and backed into a corner, while congregations give standing ovations. We have seen churches protect leaders over victims, and keep abusers in their leadership roles even after their abuse has been made public.

This type of leadership has to become history. Self-preservation can never be the main goal of the church. The gospel calls for the protection of the powerless, and that must take precedence over the reputation of the powerful. The image of a church can’t be more important than ministering to the people in the church. And ultimately, the mishandling of abuse allegations will damage a church in a deep and profound way.

After a sin like the mishandling of abuse allegations is made public, can a church heal? What is next for this church? After a betrayal on this level, how can women in the congregation feel safe? What steps must the church take towards healing?

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