I am not the exception: Abusive behavior in the church

Laurie Brock, who blogs at Dirty Sexy Ministry, has written a heartfelt essay that was occasioned by the current controversy at General Seminary, but that speaks to the wider issue of why abuse is so widely tolerated in our church.

In “I am not the exception”, she writes:

I am not the exception to being offended when a male superior discussed my breasts or my vagina and, when expressing my offense, being told I was “too sensitive.”

I am not the exception to being encapsulated in an atmosphere where sexual orientation, ethnicity, income level, or any other differentiating facet was fodder for jokes, and any conversation as to why those words or phrases may be offensive was disregarded.

I am not the exception for expressing my discomfort and distress to those in authority, only to have my concerns be ignored, dismissed, excused, or turned back on me.


I am tired of seeing those in power at best ignore and at worst sanction behavior that would be grounds for immediate termination or at least administrative leave in most secular companies. I am tired of hearing accounts of quality clergy leaving ordained ministry and laity leaving their ministries and churches because they have been bruised and battered by this behavior. ….

We are not a safe place because those in authority, those in power, those who are charged with the well-being, safety, and pastoral care of the Church, often do nothing. Those with the responsibility to care for that particular part of the Body of Christ, whether it be a seminary, a parish, a diocese, or whatever form of community in which we’ve gathered, are either are too scared, too unaware of the message their inaction sends, or even maybe too much in the power club to take seriously allegations and to hold accountable those whose words and actions have deeply wounded others.

We are not a safe place because the line between an effective leader who inspires and a person who demeans and threatens those who disagree with him/her seems invisible to many in the Church.

This eloquent cry from the heart is well worth reading in its entirety. Do you think the church is more tolerant of abusive behavior than other institutions? If so, why?

My own sense is that the church is more tolerant and the reason is because we are conflict avoidant and tend to defer to authority. What do you think?

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