For many, one of the things that is attractive about The Episcopal Church is its commitment to inclusion and social justice. But when that commitment is betrayed, all involved suffer, for the Body of Christ is one. Our choices affect us all.
The Episcopal Survivors Network is a nonprofit network of survivors of abuse and their allies. We are dedicated to:
- Speaking out on behalf of those hurt by the church.
- Advocating for healing.
- Whenever possible, fostering positive relationships.
- Seeking justice.
We also speak out on seven points vital to a healthy understanding of abuse in The Episcopal Church:
- Abuse is not just about sex. Abuse exists along a continuum that ranges from micro-aggressions, to bullying, to turning a blind eye, to financial abuse, to spiritual abuse and beyond. Many of these overlap.
- Abusive environments may lead to more severe abuse. In churches and groups where spiritual abuse is okay, the door is open to other forms of abuse, sexual, physical and other.
- All abuse hurts. The trauma that results from non-sexual abuse can be every bit as devastating as sexual misconduct.
- The Episcopal Church is falling behind the times when it comes to abuse. Efforts in the 1970’s and 1980’s to address sexual abuse were appropriate and much-needed. But far too often we ignore bullying, spiritual and other non-sexual abuse, or believe it can’t happen here. And we refuse to adopt measures that other faith communities have implemented, like a national database of credibly accused abusers.
- Far too often, clergy, bishops and judicatories, and other leaders don’t actually listen to survivors, or make resolution a priority. In many cases, they become defensive, tell the victim they are out of line, or shun and demonize the victim, often due to a misplaced desire to protect the organization. When this happens, the victim must deal with an added layer of trauma.
- Mishandled complaints of abuse often result in profound and irreparable damage to the reputations of all involved, including the victim, local and diocesan church officials, and the national church. Victims and their families often leave the church altogether, and reconciliation becomes impossible. Thus, the church has an obligation to handle complaints in a way that results in health and wholeness.
- Far too often, church officials ignore the express provisions of church clergy disciplinary canons. When this happens, it undercuts church governance at every level and reduces organizational trust.
We welcome all persons, whether current or former members of The Episcopal Church, or a member of no church or faith community at all. Participants need not be victims of abuse. Our open door policy comes with no exceptions, just as God’s love knows no exceptions.
We also welcome differences of opinion. Navigating the trauma of abuse is tricky business, and not all of our members agree all of the time about specific approaches to abuse or advocacy strategies. But like The Episcopal Church at its finest, we embrace varying perspectives.
God’s love is broad enough to include all of us.