Our first Diversity Dialogue online!
A reason to celebrate – on Saturday 22 August we facilitated our first online Diversity Dialogue! We appreciate everyone who brought their time and energy into that space, especially those who felt some trepidation at doing something new technologically! Our topic was “Sensitizing the Church to Gender Based Violence”. We would like to share some highlights…
It was apparent during the dialogue, that there are many churches where the teaching seems to be more about rules and gender roles than about Jesus’ love for sinners. In many churches, women do not feel they are seen for who they are because they feel they have to fit into a small and rigid role and cannot be authentically themselves. There was a sense of mourning and lament for the loss of their potential skills and talents that could have contributed to life together but were not enjoyed by the community.
In both community life and Bible teaching, we need to develop an equal focus on the perpetrator and the victim. Bible teaching should be about the real people described in the Bible, with their faults and sins. The heroes of the faith should not be “sugar-coated”. In our practical lives, we can accept all broken people including those who are aggressive or alcoholics, and deal with their hurt. We can work with men who are in pain, allowing them space to heal before their pain leads to violence.
Those who took on the voice of fear observed that both males and females are afraid of being judged and as a result are not willing to be vulnerable or transparent about who they really are and what they are struggling with. We suspect that being like Christ is to be perfect like him and because we are not perfect, we are scared of judgement of who we are, so we feel fear of exposing ourselves to criticism. This means we wear masks of pretence that hide our hurt. As a result, people are unaware of our pain and other parts of the body of Christ do not have the opportunity to love those who are hurting. We feel the issues are bigger than us. This means the response needs to be bigger than us. We have a tendency to expect the people with more authority to solve the problem and are often blind to our role in perpetuating the problem. So often we over-think and interpret our way in closing spirals back into fear – fear that our response will fall short of boundaries or law, fear that we will say or do wrong. But the voice of love reminded us that we can’t go wrong if we love. It starts with each individual making a change. We can each take a step towards greater vulnerability that will invite others to join us in a new reality. Healing love needs vulnerable transparency.
The conversation around condoning versus condemning sin felt important. People in church are so afraid of condoning the sin that they condemn the sinner. We forget that judgement is God’s role, not ours. The Church should be the sacred space in which we are all not ok, a messy place where hurt sinners are at home, where we are vulnerable, where sin cannot hide and we are helped to deal with our sinful nature. This needs vulnerability and transparency but it’s not going to happen if there is judgement. If we want to be like Jesus we will seek those who are sick, hurt, suffering sinners just like us. “What has Christ called me to and how am I loving those around me?” was an important question to take home. Because “we are the church!”
During the dialogue I was reminded of a sermon series on the life of David that I have been listening to – this was definitely a look at David, warts and all, and God was the hero of the story, not David. I am including the link to the first sermon here in case you are interested.
I am also including some links to articles I have found in the past few weeks about the church and GBV. Maybe one of them gives you some new ideas to suggest in your church setting?
This panel discussion on GBV happened as part of the church service at FJ in Johannesburg a few weeks ago: (panel discussion begins at about 30 minutes)