Thursdays in Black Devotion- May 28th, 2020

by Sarah Cissy Namukose, East Africa Episcopal Area, Intern, GCSRW

“May your heart heal.  May the past no longer block your view of the present.  May you breathe again, rest again, laugh again, live again.  May it be so.”  -Dr. Thema Bryant, Thriving in the Wake of Trauma

A woman, the mother of creation, elegant in complexion, adorned with the beauty of heart, spirit, and soul, is wounded and hurt. Violence and anguish is her daily ritual: beaten in her home, violated. She is ill-treated by strangers, dehumanized, rejected, and abandoned by her own people. She is homeless and languishing in poverty. She is denied a quality education, faced with joblessness and inequality, as patriarchy diminishes her to nothingness.

A noble woman—full of wisdom, lover of all, cares for all, and embraces all—who can find. She is everywhere on the streets, lying in shackles, putting on black, in agony, in travail on the streets, crying, looking for the one her heart loves. Woman, woman, woman; mother of all creation; she is abandoned. Who can love her? Who can welcome her in? Who can wipe away her tears? She is hungry; she is thirsty; she longs for a hug, a kiss, a job to work, a shelter to lay her head. She tears her clothes and roams the streets. She cries out loud, “Who can help me? Who can rescue me? Who can save me?” Ah, but she is subjected to inhumane treatment, is silenced, and condemned.

A woman, a mother under lockdown in her home due to COVID-19, battered and bruised in violence by her husband: whipped and reduced to bone and skin, cursing the day she was conceived in the mother’s womb; left to loud cries of suffering day in and day out. Who can rescue her? Who can intervene? Who can give her aid? She is abandoned to suffering with her children.

Love cries out. I hear the cry of our Lord and Savior Jesus in the agony of the cross, heavily exhausted and languishing while carrying the cares and burdens of all humanity: a burden too heavy to carry. He was thirsty and hungry, yet he was committed and determined to carry this burden all the way. Abandoned by his Father, harassed by many, yet Jesus still carries the burdens of all even at the expense of their sins.

Jesus, the excellent mother figure, in agony and anguish of heart, spirit, and body, laments, seeking the ones he loves, humankind. Jesus is like a mother in the labor ward, very much in pain and agonized by the sins of humanity. Jesus is determined not to give up for a stillborn baby but ready to suffer, in order to redeem, to restore, and to revivify humankind to her rightful place of dominion, abundance, and communion with the Father. Jesus cries out: where is the one my heart loves? Jesus feels abandoned by his Father, yes, rejected, mocked, and insulted by the Roman leaders. Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus gave birth to the church and made a new covenant by water and blood.

Prayer:

Gracious God,

Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all you have created.

Hear the cries of every woman: she is hungry; she is thirsty; she is homeless; she is helpless; she is beaten; deformed; rejected, and abandoned by her people. Ill-treated, dehumanized by patriarchy, and roams the streets in rags. God, lover of all you have made, you do not show favoritism; redeem your creation, redeem her beauty, redeem her glory. Vindicate and save her by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Lift her up from the mud of self-pity, violence, and agony to a place of honor, satisfaction, prosperity, and abundance, where her beauty, glory, and wisdom can flourish, valued, and appreciated by all. Bless the fruits of her womb all the days of her life.  Let me be an instrument of your grace and love toward everyone, especially those who have needlessly suffered at the hands of another.  Enable me to do my part to share in the burden of others for your glory, honor, power, and praise, are yours now and forever. Amen.


If you need help, please contact RAINN, a resource for persons who are confronting sexual violence: https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline

“Response Team Ministry Is Still Needed as Long as There Is Harm Being Done”

by Katrena Porter King

As the daughter of a Methodist minister, I am no stranger to witnessing harm in the world. In fact, because of the many people my father has served, I seem to have a keen eye for spotting it. One thing I have learned is that when you experience or perceive harm, it can be a very uncomfortable ordeal for all involved. Many times, we can become overwhelmed by the lengths that this harm extends to. As the world is so vast, this also means that it is easy for us to normalize harm since the issue seems too large or impossible to tackle.

katrena king

Katrena Porter King

Sometimes, harm even occurs in our churches and other ministry settings. In those types of instances, the harm can feel compounded because the parties involved are more than likely people that you know; maybe these people are even your friends. Once you have correlated a face with the harm, it becomes more difficult to accept that we cannot do anything about it. In the alternative, we have the unique opportunity to pursue a means of healing.

2 Corinthians 13:11 states:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

When I was a student in law school, we talked a lot about what the purpose of the law was. My favorite concepts were rehabilitation and restoration. In essence, the purpose was “to make one whole again.” GCSRW has submitted legislation to amend Resolution #2043 regarding Response Team Ministry for Sexual Misconduct; I believe that this work will promote restoration in order to work towards making congregations and people whole again.

The majority of the amendments to the legislation are to streamline language, to remove and update old information, and to highlight positive steps toward addressing the issue of sexual misconduct. For example, the joint statement by the Council of Bishops regarding the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements was cited. However, one of the most important parts of updating this legislation is to affirm the continuing need for Response Team Ministry.

The bishop and cabinet are mandated to “provide a process for healing within the congregation” or other ministry context as part of the supervisory response and judicial process. This process of healing begins with the Response Team Ministry which is composed of “persons with qualifications and experience in assessment, intervention, or healing.” Oftentimes, when something goes wrong, chaos is either immediate or imminent. Having a Response Team Ministry in place can help to curtail the chaos and seek to ensure that there are fewer long-term emotional and spiritual effects as a result.

Harm in general, and specifically sexual misconduct, is not going to disappear overnight. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to be ill-equipped for situations when it does arise. By amending and updating this legislation, we are affirming that Response Team Ministry is still needed as long as there is harm being done. When reviewing the overwhelming amounts of legislation for GC 2020, remember that we have a role to play in the healing of our church when it is broken. Help us to retain a mechanism that allows us to preserve wholeness.


Katrena Porter King is a Methodist minister’s daughter who recently affirmed her calling to pursue the path of Deacon in the UMC. She is part of the Louisiana Annual Conference and has served on the Board of GCSRW for the 2016-2020 quadrennium. Katrena also co-chairs the Legislative Task Force with Bob Zilhaver.

“When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.”

by Becky Posey Williams

I grew up understanding the importance of saying “I am sorry,” when I behaved in a way that could have contributed to someone feeling hurt. I even learned the importance of expressing it when I was not in the wrong but simply present to hear someone express a hurt or pain experienced in life. I have never questioned the rightness of an authentic apology.   One that names the offense, accepts responsibility, speaks from the heart, and offers hope to the injured.

I recently read an article entitled “Exiled from Faith” by Diana Butler Bass.  She said, “Just this week, Catholic bishops were discussing why millions of people have left their church. At the same time, the Southern Baptists were meeting and part of their concern is stemming the loss of young adult members. In both cases – as is often the case when talking about the rise of the “nones” and the decline of Christianity – blame was placed squarely on those who have left and neither the Catholics nor the Baptists offered much in the way of honest institutional self-reflection on the churches’ responsibility in causing these trends. Apologies are the first step toward justice – the making right of a wrong. Perhaps a public apology would [be] the first step in a journey of reconciliation and restitution. Perhaps history would [be] different in ways unimaginable, like a double rainbow breaking through a bleeding sky. If nothing else, listen to the exiles. They aren’t to blame for leaving. They are probably just holding up a moral mirror to the church.”

For years, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has been listening to persons who are survivors of sexual misconduct in The United Methodist Church. We hear the stories of people who have felt unheard, invited to stay quiet, blamed, and experience additional trauma when the process of filing a formal complaint does not work at its best. Through this privilege of getting to listen, GCSRW is in a position to speak the truth even when it is not what some want to hear. We have a responsibility and a commitment to help the Church get this process right, every time. It is time to wake up, lead fearlessly, and name the harm that has and continues to happen in our United Methodist Church. It is time to listen to the voices of the silenced.

In January 2018, GCSRW and the Council of Bishops released a joint statement naming the sin of sexual misconduct.  Here is an excerpt from the letter:

“The sin of sexual misconduct must be named by the Church at every level of ministry. Further, we must confront the environment of courser public dialog and discourse that provides license and cover for sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. We acknowledge that the Church is also a place where sexual misconduct happens when persons in power positions choose to abuse their power. The stories are all too similar. Alleged victims are often reluctant to come forward fearing they will not be believed or they will experience retaliation and the decision to report will be held against them. Sexual misconduct is a symptom of a systemic problem within our Church and society where patriarchy flourishes.”

Read the full COB/GCSRW statement here.

To build upon the message of the joint letter, the legislative task force of GCSRW’s board of directors submitted a legislative petition to General Conference 2020 which makes an apology to survivors of sexual misconduct perpetrated by leadership within The United Methodist Church. We believe this is a step in the right direction and reflects, in part, what Dr. Jennifer Freyd describes as “institutional courage,” the antidote to institutional betrayal.  This courage includes institutional accountability and transparency.  We believe the statement made in this apology is one more way the Church can be transparent and work toward holding one another accountable in our behaviors.

We come now asking you to do your part in seeing this legislation adopted and its content clearly shared within your annual conference. Lives have been changed forever as a result of experiencing sexual misconduct within The United Methodist Church. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Please join us in speaking this truth and support this piece of legislation.


Find all GCSRW legislation and talking points at https://www.gcsrw.org/GeneralConference/Legislation.aspx. 

The Importance of Boundaries Training in the African United Methodist Churches

by Rev. Kalamba Kilumba and Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” as they say.

The 2016 Book of Resolutions ¶2044 states that, “Harassment is still a significant problem: well over three-fourths of the clergy (men and women) and half of the laywomen had experienced sexual harassment in the church (about one-third of laymen).”photo 1

Sexual harassment and assault cross every boundary. United Methodist Churches in Africa are not immune from incidents of sexual harassment. Recent surveys, conversations with clergywomen and laywomen reveal patterns of serious sexual abuse and harassment within the boundaries of African United Methodist Churches. Most troubling is how these boundaries violations and sexual misconducts have been bubbling under the surface for years without being addressed at all.

While in the United States, all clergy men and women are receiving mandatory, up-to-date, boundaries training at least once every quadrennium, as required by The Book of Discipline; clergy men and women in Africa are not being offered the same opportunity to fulfill that disciplinary requirement.

Time is of the essence, African United Methodist Churches can no longer remain silent, continuing to sweep sexual harassment issues under the rug to protect the reputation of the church and clergymen, while sacrificing the spiritual wellbeing of clergywomen and laywomen in general.

Therefore, time has come for African United Methodist Churches to address the issues of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct head-on by providing mandatory training around boundaries, to set the standard for the ethical best practices and the overall integrity in ministry, while providing to African clergy men and women the opportunity to fulfill the mandatory disciplinary requirement.

Trainings

In recent years, boundaries trainings have been offered to several African Episcopal Areas, such as Mozambique/South Africa, North Katanga/Tanzania and South Congo/Zambia, by Becky Posey Williams (GCSRW Senior Director for Sexual Ethics and Advocacy), Rev. Kalamba Kilumba (GCSRW Member of the Interagency Sexual Ethics Task Force), and Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko (Senior Pastor of Forest Chapel United Methodist Church).photo 2

The primary goals of the trainings were to initiate a conversation about the “taboo” subject of sexual harassment and misconduct, to raise awareness of certain cultural behaviors that lead to sexual misconduct, and to encourage church leaders – clergy and lay – to protect vulnerable church members, especially children, and women.

The trainings are designed to create awareness of what constitutes misconduct and how issues of misconduct typically arise; the observation of boundaries, power, and vulnerabilities that can lead to misconduct; and steps that can be taken to prevent misconduct.

Among the topics are: what is sexual harassment, how common is it, boundaries, power, vulnerability, hugging, touch, self-care, pornography, and the importance of a sexual harassment policy.

Results of Trainings

The trainings have brought a new awareness to the insidiousness of sexual harassment, encouraging women to reveal indignities suffered, often from clergymen in powerful positions.

photo 3

These are the observed results of sexual ethics trainings:

  • Annual conference trainers are in place and are discussing various options for preventing, identifying, mitigating, and responding to harassments and misconducts.
  • Clergywomen and laywomen are empowered to address the issues of harassment. They are now fully aware that they have the right to report harassment issues, and are exploring how they might handle similar circumstances. They know the options available to effectively deal with the issue of sexual harassment provided by GCSRW.photo 4

Sexual harassment is an important issue; our collective actions will have a far-reaching effect in several African Annual Conferences. Let’s continue training and change the culture of violence against women and children.

A Year Later

by Becky Posey Williams

In January 2018, I wrote an article for our newsletter which began with the following question: How will 2018 be remembered regarding our work in The United Methodist Church in the midst of the #MeToo movement? I concluded the article expressing my enthusiasm about what I would write to you in January 2019.

becky f img_1395 hr

Becky Posey Williams

The #MeToo movement has made a difference around issues of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, within our society today. It has broken through layers of silence and years of denial. It continues to provide a platform and give permission for people to clearly name the problem, give voice to their story, and call out the role of power, reflecting on the inequality and abuse of power in each case brought to the forefront. I do not hesitate to say this is a moral issue which affects all of us!

Without a doubt, this public acknowledgment of sexual misconduct in different sectors of the business world impacted the work of our services in the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct within The United Methodist Church. #MeToo encouraged us to examine our place in the movement.  We began to hear more stories from across the denomination.  These stories ranged from persons deciding to come forward and disclose their experiences of sexual misconduct to people wanting to provide a space, within their ministry setting, for intentional dialogue about the issues. People were adamant in their statement, “We must begin this conversation.” The surge in request for services and resources resulted in our six-person staff scurrying to provide immediate help.

On January 23, 2018, the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church released a joint letter with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in response to #MeToo and #ChurchToo.  It served as a foundational piece of deep concern, reflecting our Social Principles, our commitment to responding with accountability and healing, and acknowledgment that sexual misconduct is a symptom of a systemic problem within our Church and society where patriarchy flourishes. You can find the statement here. It provided our denomination the solid leadership and a united front to speak up about this moral issue. We have heard stories of the letter being shared from the pulpit, used in training sessions, and being the catalyst for persons coming forward to share their experiences of sexual misconduct.

With the help of our intern from Garrett Evangelical Seminary, Alexa Eisenbarth, the “#MeToo Toolkit: Resources for a faithful response” was developed. It includes materials and suggestions for participatory conversations designed to encourage dialogue and a deeper understanding of the problem of sexual misconduct. Download it for free here or contact us for hard copies. Through stories shared, we know the resource has been used in small groups, in educational/awareness events, and as part of a citywide candlelight vigil remembering survivors of sexual misconduct.

The final quarter of 2018 included Do No Harm, a UMC sexual ethics conference, hosted by GCSRW and the Interagency Sexual Ethics Task Force. In addition to providing an intensive train-the-trainer event, two additional resources were released to the attendees.  Each received a printed copy of the participant and leader’s guide of “The Way of Integrity.” This four-session curriculum for laity focuses on living in right relationship resulting in a life-giving relationship with one another. This resource was a response to stories heard throughout the denomination from clergy and laity sharing experiences within ministry settings of being spoken to and treated with disrespect, demeaning, and belittling interactions. Lastly, “Whispers with Stones,” an animation developed with Chocolate Moose Media, aims to inflict social and behavioral change around sexual harassment in the church and society. The five-minute video can be shown to churches, small groups, and Sunday schools to address the sexual misconduct that happens in our congregations and world. Along with each video is an accompanying guide to be used to facilitate conversation after viewing the animation. This resource has been translated into ten total languages and will be uploaded to the website throughout 2019.

Stories are important.  Not only do they inform us, but they also inspire us. The stories shared with us invite us to continue our move forward in this work.  They ask us to join together in strength and courage.  As Dr. Brene Brown, researcher, best-selling author, and speaker, often says, “Maybe stories are data with a soul.” I have never thought numbers alone gave the best picture of how services were impacting the recipients.

You are invited to share your stories. We want to hear from you. Have you used any of these resources?  If so, will you tell us about how you used them and any information which may be helpful?  Do you have suggestions, ideas, and/or strategies for additional ways The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women can be proactive in our work related to ethics and sexual misconduct within the Church? Your voice can make a difference. Please consider contacting me at bwilliams@gcsrw.org. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you!


Becky Posey Williams joined the staff of The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in January 2014 as Senior Director for Sexual Ethics and Advocacy for the worldwide United Methodist Church. In this position, she provides consultation to bishops and judicatory leaders and offers training throughout the denomination on the topics of sexual ethics and integrity in ministry, including the importance of self-care. Becky is also a trainer for the development and use of Response Teams for congregational and staff healing following an incident of sexual misconduct in a local ministry setting.  

Prior to coming to GCSRW, she worked for 25 years as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Therapist in private practice.  For 10 years, she served as a trainer/consultant with annual conferences of The United Methodist Church in the areas of response to sexual misconduct and healthy boundaries.  She developed and lead “Beginning Well”, an eleven-session small group for first-year Residents in Ministry (RIM) focusing on understanding oneself in the multiple roles of ministry. In 2007, she completed a two-year training and certification for Spiritual Direction through the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

A lifelong United Methodist, she has served in various lay leadership positions including, chairperson of Staff Parish Relations Committee, Lay Leader, and on the District Board of Ordained Ministry.

She is the mother of one daughter who lives in Oakland California. Becky enjoys being in nature kayaking or biking.