We are called as a family of God, a redemptive and redeemed community, to be a place of safety and safe haven for all persons.
When we as clergywomen became aware of the accusation and guilty plea of former United Methodist pastor John McFarland for sexual abuse, we experienced a varity of emotions including anger, grief, and disgust. We lament that in the official statement, pastoral care was not offered for the survivors of his crime. This omission causes further harm to any who have experienced similar violations. The actions that McFarland pled guilty to are transgressions of our ethics and beliefs as a church.
A word of hope for survivors: no amount of abuse can take away the worth of a person or the love of God. No one deserves to suffer sexual harassment or abuse. You bear the Imago Dei, the image of God.
A word of accountability and reflection for our churches: Because abuse doesn’t match how we as a church see ourselves, to protect our reputation we tend to silence survivors. We act like the violence is raising the complaint rather than the raising of the abuse. And we act like the survivor is less important than the abuser or the church.
This painful moment returns our attention to how we care for one another and ourselves. It is an opportunity for awareness, confession, healing and building up the community. This is not a call to shame, but a call to transformation. We diminish the humanity of survivors when we do not take their stories seriously. This is a sin.
We therefore affirm that the voices of those who have been harmed should be valued and believed as God’s children. We acknowledge that this has not been the case, particularly for women of color and women of the disability community, who have been silenced or not believed. We believe this can and should change. We honor the courage of survivors who have broken the silence.
We are a witness of the redemptive love of Jesus Christ to those who are perpetrators, who may themselves be victims. We believe that our interventions can break cycles of violence by the power of Christ’s grace.
We hope for reconciliation and to be the Body of Christ we are called to be. First we must address the soul damage caused by abuse. This work is essential. We claim this moment as an opportunity for formal and informal conversations around sexual violence, physical violation, and observing healthy physical, spiritual and emotional boundaries.
In Christ’s Service,
Clergywomen of the California-Pacific Conference