#MeToo movement resonates with evangelical women

The #MeToo movement, involving women speaking out against sexual harassment, is finding expression in religious institutions, particularly evangelical churches where there is sometimes a conflict between granting offending clergy forgiveness and holding them accountable for their actions. National Public Radio (January 24) reports on how the issue of evangelical churches dealing with pastoral sexual abuse and whether evangelical women may be losing trust in their church leaders have become hot topics in evangelical circles, especially among the growing ranks of evangelical women bloggers (see June 2017 RW). “I think everyone who has offended others has to recognize that while God may forgive us, and our friends and our church may forgive us, there may be a trust gap that is going to be hard to overcome,” says Darryl Crouch, pastor of Greenhill Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn. The report focuses on the case of Pastor Andy Savage of Greenhill, who allegedly harassed a member but was defended by fellow clergy.

Some evangelical women say the strongly male culture of the pastorate because of their views of male and female leadership roles makes the issue of clergy sexual abuse more sensitive. There is the concern that church authorities will be reluctant to move decisively against pastors accused of improper behavior. Kelly Rosati of Focus on the Family said that it is important to separate the evangelical belief about distinctive gender roles in the church from the exploitation of power differentials between a pastor and his flock. “What you saw in that [Andy Savage] incident was a conflating of those two issues,” she says, “and a failure to understand that what one person might describe as a sexual incident is really about those other things, power and abuse and violation.” The reaction among evangelical women to the #MeToo movement, Rosati says, suggests it may be a watershed moment for them that will end up “shaking out the ground a little bit in the evangelical community.”

(National Public Radio, https://www.npr.org)