A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
#ChurchToo Conference to delve into abuse, both blatant or subtle
Denton Wesley Foundation to host sessions on abuse in all its forms and the blurred lines of theology and justice.
Sometimes, abuse is so subtle. The situation feels wrong, but are you just imagining it? How best should you react?
The #ChurchToo Conference will deal with those and more blatant cases, whether “abuse of power, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse — any form that abuse can take in our communities of faith,” said Haley Feuerbacher, campus minister of the Denton Wesley Foundation. “Our intention is to speak openly and honestly about the problem.”
The conference workshops, scheduled for April 14 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Flinn Hall at First UMC Denton, will focus on practical ways to recognize, address and prevent abuse. The Wesley Foundation and Open Worship, an inclusive worship group within First UMC Denton, are putting on the event, with help from several partners. Counselors from Southern Methodist University also will be available.
Sessions include “Navigating the Shades of Gray: Power and Coercion in Relationships,” “How to Identify Sexual Abuse: Sensitive Questions to Ask” and “Turning Victims into Survivors and Survivors into Advocates,” as well as others.
Feuerbacher said the lines between Christian theology and justice sometimes blur. She recently worked with a mother caught in a dilemma of faith after her daughter had been sexually abused.
“The perpetrator apologized and severed ties with the child,” Feuerbacher said, but the mother, as a Christian, questioned whether she should offer grace and move on or should press charges against the teen.
The conference is “survivor-centered,” Feuerbacher said, but it also deals with situations church leaders might encounter. Some examples: A repentant abuser seeking reinstatement to a church position or a staffer who resigned over an incident in one place and is showing up at another, hoping for a second chance.
“That’s the big question for a lot of us in leadership,” she said. “What is the relationship between justice and grace?”
#ChurchToo started as a campaign by two friends of Denton Wesley Foundation member Lindsay Holifield in another state. She and Ash Milam, also a Denton Wesley Foundation member, took it up by “creating an event where we can gather to speak out and begin to do the transformative work of making church a safe space for survivors and the vulnerable,” Feuerbacher said.