It’s “us too” for Christian women, even in the Church

A couple of years ago a friend of mine and I went to the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing.

There, we met another Canadian writer, an older Christian man whom I had met before. I introduced him to my friend and told him some of her impressive writing credentials. I should note, my friend is also a very attractive woman. Our fellow writer clearly noticed that too. Instead of asking about her many professional accomplishments I had just listed off,  he puzzled out loud about what TV star she looked like, even inviting other men sitting nearby to join in the guessing.

Ridiculous. Was this sexual harassment? Probably not. But it was demeaning and stupid.

I know women — friends of mine who live and move and have their being in church world — who  who have had their behinds touched by Bishops, had faith leaders kiss them on the mouth uninvited, been told how beautiful they were in a weird way by their brothers in the faith, and had their personal space invaded by hugging that felt inappropriate and was uninvited.

I just took a stroll through the EFC Ottawa office to conduct an informal survey about the “me too” phenomenon. You won’t be surprised to hear my small sampling resulted in a 100% yes.

In our next issue of Faith Today, we have a very interesting story that looks at the safety of young women on Christian campuses. I will give you a sneak peek and assure you that studies show those Christian spaces are generally safer and have less incidence of sexual assault.

That’s as it should be.

It would be profoundly disturbing to think that a strong Christian faith and organizational culture does not make any kind of difference when it comes to sexual assault and unwanted attention paid to either gender. But it would be naive to think it always guarantees a harassment-free zone.

The experiences of countless Christian women I know, and the stories that come pouring out when the door to conversation is opened on this topic, provide a sobering testimony to the presence of this kind of sexual sin/bad behaviour in the Church.

Of all people, we can do better.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today

 

Give thanks continually … to the people you work with

by Rick Franklin

When was the last time someone went out of their way to thank you? Do you remember what they did? What they said? How you felt?

Check out the current issue of Faith Today for this story by Rick Franklin and more.

Last week I was in the Netherlands training ministry leaders. After the training finished, I caught up with some friends my wife and I have known for years. It was a wonderful reunion of deep friendship spent swapping stories of life and faith, growing older and seeing God’s faithfulness. A highlight of our visit was witnessing the 73rd commemoration of the Airborne landings on Ginkel Heath in Ede.

I doubt you’ve heard of it, but here we were with thousands of people young and old gathered in the Dutch countryside to commemorate and thank the hundreds of paratroopers, soldiers and resistance fighters from England, the United States, Poland and the Netherlands who fought and lost the Battle of Arnhem.

Yes, you read that correctly—the commemoration celebrated a lost battle, a military failure. But for the Dutch under German occupation, it signaled an important turning point and actually provided a reason for hope at a time when hope was in short supply. It indicated help was coming even if the first wave was unsuccessful. So the Dutch continue to celebrate and thank the soldiers today, 73 years after the doomed battle.

There’s an important leadership lesson for us here. In my article from the current edition of Faith Today, I highlight 5 critical skills church leaders should nurture—leading from a strong spiritual foundation, knowing where you’re headed, serving sacrificially, communicating clearly and thanking continually.

I’d like to expand on the point of thanking continually. First, we have a biblical example and mandate to thank. For example, Paul tells us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18; see also Eph. 5:20) and he expresses thanks to God often for his co-workers in ministry. In Philippians 1:3, Colossians 1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2 and other passages, Paul models explicitly and specifically thanking fellow believers for their part in ministry.

Second, on a practical level, expressing gratitude and thankfulness is powerful. We see this in the Dutch celebration of the Battle of Arnhem, as it continues to impact people today, 73 years later.

Showing appreciation motivates and enlivens. Thanking people empowers them and provides encouragement, which is often in short supply.

Think about when someone went out of their way to thank you for something you did. Maybe it was a kind word or leaving a note of thanks on your desk or giving you a small gift for going above and beyond what was expected. How’d you feel? In a word, it feels good.

But I bet it did more. My guess is it helped provide additional motivation to lean in, to step up, to go the extra mile.

That’s what gratitude does in the people we have the privilege of leading and serving. It breathes life into people to know they matter, hearing that their efforts and contributions are valued and appreciated.

So as a leader—an influencer—in your church (or in your home, workplace, neighbourhood, etc.), let me encourage you to frequently express gratitude by incorporating these few simple ideas to show your appreciation and thankfulness.

Simply say “thank you.” I’ve heard from many church volunteers, who shared they’ve never been thanked for serving. Thanks goes a long way especially for those who donate their time and talent at church. So say thanks often and see what happens!

Write a note to express appreciation. It can be a sticky note or in a beautiful card. What matters are the words of appreciation you choose and taking the time to personally express your gratitude.

Give a small gift. Often times it’s appropriate to give a gift to share appreciation and thanks. Think creatively and have fun. You can give flowers, food, something from your local Christian bookstore or anything that conveys gratitude.

Thank publicly. Take opportunities to recognize people’s efforts and contributions publicly. Even though some may shy away from the attention, folks deeply value being honoured and valued in a public way. It says, “I noticed what you did and greatly value you and what you’ve done.”

Thank in the midst of failure. One of the most powerful ways to express gratitude is in the midst of failure, as the Dutch did. It’s easy to recognize success. It’s more meaningful to find the good when someone fails.

In a word, be creative! There are thousands of different ways to say “thank you.” Just try to find ways of expressing your gratitude that are meaningful to the person you’re thanking. Not everyone is like you or likes to be thanked the same way you do. If you need some help, take a look at Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book, The Five Languages of Appreciation.

Thank often and you’ll breath life, encouragement and motivation into the people you lead and serve. Frequently express gratitude and appreciation and then watch the impact unfold! Who knows, maybe your influence will be far greater than you could imagine… influencing people 73 years later.

Dr. Rick Franklin is vice president, Arrow Leadership Ministries. For over 25 years, Arrow Leadership has developed thousands of Christian leaders around the world to be led more by Jesus, lead more Like Jesus and lead more people to Jesus. You can read the current issue of Faith Today online, but even better than that subscribe today to access one of our most popular subscription deals.

The awful legacy of Hugh Hefner

by Sheila Wray-Gregoire

Yesterday I was Skyping with Ashley Easter, who is doing great work helping survivors of abuse within the church, and promoting healing. And we were talking about how being married to someone with a porn addiction can give a wife PTSD, and can be abusive, in and of itself, especially if he’s dehumanizing her and asking her to act out things that he sees. He’s not treating her like a person; he’s treating her like an object. That’s what abuse does, too. They have that in common. They say: You are a body to use.

So I’d just like to write today about some of the thoughts that have been running through my head about the recently deceased Hugh Hefner’s influence on our society.

Sheila Wray-Gregoire is an author and speaker. In this blog she considers the awful legacy left by Hugh Hefner, and the impact of pornography use.

When I was about 8, my best friend Christine showed me a stack of Playboys in her shed that her dad had stashed there. I’m thankful that we didn’t look too hard at them, but I know she and her older brother looked at them a bunch.
Continue reading The awful legacy of Hugh Hefner

Every hour counts: a call to create beauty and other great things well

Prof. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. delivered the following message in the academic chapel of Crandall University this September. We thought Faith Today readers, who know Stackhouse from his books and our pages, would appreciate this encouragement to use our time right to create lasting beauty and recognize the “daily-ness” of life.

“The lif so short, the craft so long to lerne.” In his famous poem “The Parliament of Fowls,” Geoffrey Chaucer quotes the ancient Greek sage Hippocrates to tell us something not only about literature, but about life. Life is indeed short when one considers how long it takes to learn how to—

How to what?

Prof. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., a columnist in Faith Today, shares a vision for using our time very well.

How to do anything truly important and worthwhile. To compose a poem, yes, which is what Chaucer initially means. But also to do anything else in life that is of lasting significance.

To build a bridge that will stand strong and look beautiful for generations. To run a business—a business that provides useful and dignified work as it contributes something beneficial to the world. To form and maintain a marriage—a relationship of mutual care and perpetual stability within which children can grow up secure, confident, and wholesome.

Ryan Holiday in a recent book (Perennial Seller) provides some examples of what it takes to produce something special:

  • The Sistine Chapel took four years to paint. Four years. The planning and the building took even longer.

To be sure, that was back in the Renaissance. We move much faster nowadays, right?

Continue reading Every hour counts: a call to create beauty and other great things well

Be kind to those in your church living with mental illness and mental health challenges

by Chris Summerville

I write as a person with lived experience, as a former pastor who has struggled with dark periods of depression, suicidal ideation and the misuse of alcohol. Mental health problems are generational in the Summerville family. I grew up in rural Alabama with a father who also struggled with all three and more, before he took his life by suicide, even after he experienced a genuine and authentic spiritual salvation.

While accepting the forgiveness of God and his family, he could not forgive himself for the horrors he had created for his wife and seven children.

Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and a national leader across Canada within the mental health recovery movement.

As an evangelical pastor I addressed issues of social justice, environmental (creation) care, and mental health problems even back in the 80s and 90s. So after working the last 22 years in the mental health recovery movement, what wisdom would I share with pastors?

1) Christians, just as they are not immune to physical health problems, are not immune to mental illness and mental health problems in this fallen world. One in five Canadians presently live with a mental illness. Obviously, many of these Canadians are followers of Christ. Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Mental health problems can also be caused by adverse childhood experiences (trauma) which I experienced. All Christians have mental health concerns from time to time. Mental illnesses generally create a disorder in your life, and for that reason are called mental disorders by psychiatry. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They can be temporary, intermittent, or enduring. But they are treatable.
Continue reading Be kind to those in your church living with mental illness and mental health challenges

Is your daughter safer at a Christian college?

Here’s a sneak peek (with permission) at an article that will be published in our upcoming Nov/Dec issue. Subscribe now and you’ll still be in time to get the full issue.

Study finds difference in sexual assault statistics

By James R. Vanderwoerd

The back to school season often brings yet another disturbing story about a student sexually victimized on campus. Colleges and universities continue to struggle against violent hazing rituals, misogynist frosh chants, crude Facebook posts and drunken sexual assaults.

These are fearful news reports to read for any parent sending a child, especially a daughter, off to university. Or at least a public university.

New research on campus sexual violence suggests independent Christian colleges may provide greater safety, according to an academic article I just published with Harvard scholar Albert Cheng. Continue reading Is your daughter safer at a Christian college?

Ten things about sexual assault students should know

Here’s a sneak peek (with permission) at an article that will be published in our upcoming Nov/Dec issue. Subscribe now and you’ll still be in time to get the full issue.

By Vanessa Eisses

  1. Most sexual assaults are done by someone the survivor knows. They occur at any time of day, in any place.
  2. You didn’t cause it, so you can’t protect against it. This is scary, but it does mean no one can be blamed for being sexually assaulted (there’s no statistical evidence that anything a person does can cause them to be assaulted). It may be encouraging to note that women who go to university are less likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime than women who don’t. However, sexual assaults do occur more often in three situations – a female alone with a man or men, first two months of university/college, and situations involving alcohol.
  3. It’s a lie that we won’t get assaulted because we’re Christian/modest/studious. We tell ourselves such lies to distance ourselves from the reality that one in four women and one in six men in North America are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Continue reading Ten things about sexual assault students should know

Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

Alex Newman, the writer of the Sep/Oct Faith Today’s story on helping children after a divorce, takes us behind the scenes of her own story and her research.

by Alex Newman

I’m an eternal optimist. After the initial alarm over the bad stats on kids of divorce, I decided to look at the percentage of kids who did well. What happened to make them thrive and overcome the odds? It’s something I’ve discussed with my friend Esme Fuller Thompson, a social work professor whose research is precisely in this area. Although I’d done a ton of reading already, she was especially helpful in directing me to studies I would never have come across, like the Israeli one that shows when a mom and the paternal grandparents stay close, the kids do better.

Read “Stability is the Key” in the latest Faith Today.

It’s all that research that is so challenging in writing a story like this, because it becomes almost impossible to condense it all into one article. I did my best but I’m afraid it only scratched the surface. Below all those studies are real people and real people can react in different ways and require different handling. So while there are some fundamental and foundational guidelines for helping your kids, there’s a lot of latitude depending on the child, the parents, the siblings, and so on.
Continue reading Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

That beautiful debate

It is a beautiful thing to have a debate about God and faith, right in the heart of the University of Toronto campus. That’s what happened just this past Friday night.

The topic of the debate was “Is God a figment of our imagination?” and the guests were Dr. Alister McGrath (the renowned Christian and prolific author) and Dr. Michael Shermer (the renowned atheist/skeptic and very popular author).

Dr. Alister McGrath and Dr. Michael Shermer at the “Is God a figment of our imagination?” debate, moderated by Faith Today’s Karen Stiller.

Faith Today was one of the sponsors of the debate, and I was the moderator, although I preferred the word “host,” and made sure I used it in the introduction. Words matter, after all. So, when I use the word “beautiful,”  here, I don’t mean what was actually said, but the fact that it was said at all. The dialogue was at times challenging, sometimes funny, at other moments frustrating. The guests were sometimes locked into each other’s points, sharing their insights, a smooth back and forth contrasting of ideas as befits two authors of their stature. At other moments, they talked past each other, which happens.

If you came into the debate a Christian, or even just a theist, I’d guess you left the same. If you entered Convocation Hall or tuned into the livestream as an atheist, you likely still think that way. Such is the nature of debates.

So, how was it beautiful?

In church yesterday, in that sacred space, with crying babies and communion, preaching and prayers, faith is nourished and nourishing. That matters. But in the debate arena, faith is stretched and challenged and survives. Yes, faith is strong enough to be debated. It is intellectual and rigorous. It is not a crutch. It has legs. And our atheist friends want to talk. They have good questions. There are good answers. They make good points and we should be bold enough to youtube and livestream how we respond to them for all the world to hear.

I like that Faith Today is a sponsor of the Religion and Society Series. I applaud Wycliffe College, the evangelical Anglican seminary on campus who started the whole thing and does the majority of the heavy lifting. I feel a solidarity with the other sponsors of the event, both Christian and non-Christian. These are people who aren’t afraid to talk, with no guarantee how it will all turn out. I really like that.

This is what Wycliffe says about the series: “The Religion and Society Series seeks to generate critical conversations on matters of faith, society and public interest. The purpose of the series is to play a catalytic role in helping shape discourse around topics that deeply matter to individuals and society.”

And that kind of talking really is beautiful.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. You can watch Religion and Society Series events online

Is God a Figment of our Imagination? The debate is coming…

So far, it is Alister McGrath: 2, Michael Shermer: 1. That’s not actually a score, it’s my book tally as I prepare to moderate a September 15th “Is God a Figment of our Imagination?”debate at the University of Toronto.

In the last month, I’ve read McGrath’s Inventing the Universe and The Passionate Intellect, and I  finished The Believing Brain by Shermer. Now I’m reading Shermer’s The Moral Arc. And it’s a very big book.

Join us in person if you are in Toronto, or live stream anywhere around the world.

What have I learned so far? That my book tally will be the only real score kept surrounding this event. Both of these authors and thinkers are leaders in their field. And they are both very respectful of those with whom they disagree. I think this will be less of a debate and more of a deep dialogue.

As I picture Convocation Hall filling up on that night, and groups around the world live-streaming the evening and then launching into discussions, I think that everyone – whether Christian, a person of another faith, or a person with no faith at all – will be challenged. I know we will all learn something new and have to rethink something old. I have already just through my reading.

It is such a privilege we have in our society to disagree openly, to debate loudly, to interact and exchange ideas with those with whom we share the most important and fundamental beliefs about ourselves and the universe, and with those with whom we do not. So, come to this event if you live in the area. Or live-stream it with a rowdy group of friends. Engage in this conversation.
Continue reading Is God a Figment of our Imagination? The debate is coming…

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