What does being a pastor have to do with preventing sexual and domestic violence?
More than you might think.
Faith leaders are often the first person that a woman or man facing sexual or domestic violence will turn to for help. As in any life-threatening situation, it’s critical that these “first responders” know what to do.
Currently, many pastors say they aren’t equipped to adequately respond to these crises. But most say they would be willing to do so if they had the right training – this is a gap that we can bridge.
If more faith leaders knew how to respond appropriately, many more of our sisters and brothers would be able to successfully escape dangerous situations. That’s why Sojourners is calling on seminaries and theological schools to take the lead on training those in ministry to respond to sexual and domestic violence.
With the help of Lady Gaga and Vice President Joe Biden, colleges and universities across the nation are committing to end violence and abuse. It will take all of us, including theological schools, to make an impact.
If you’re a faith leader, read our open letter below and add your name. With your support, we’ll send a strong message to every president at each seminary and divinity school in the country that theological education must — and can — do more to help end violence and abuse.
As Christian leaders from churches, denominations, and faith-based organizations across the country, we call on you as leaders of our nation’s finest seminaries and divinity schools to use all of the wisdom, knowledge, and resources at your disposal to help stem the tide of sexual and domestic violence in this country.
Sexual and gender-based violence silently affects communities across the economic, racial, and religious spectrum. 1-in-3 women and 1-in-4 men in the U.S. will experience interpersonal or intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
Women and men made in the image of God are suffering and often look to faith communities for help. Unfortunately, many faith leaders are poorly equipped to respond.
According to the Broken Silence survey (commissioned by Sojourners and IMA World Health), faith leaders play a key role in preventing and responding to such violence. Though a majority of respondents reported feeling ill-equipped to deal with issues of sexual and domestic violence in their congregations and communities, an overwhelming majority of faith leaders (81 percent) indicated that they would take appropriate action to reduce such violence if they had the training and resources to do so.
This gap is precisely why seminaries and divinity schools are essential to addressing domestic abuse and sexual assault. Your theological schools can and must take the lead on educating more faith leaders about sexual and gender-based violence.
Domestic and sexual violence training is vital to the formation of any person who works within faith communities. Pastoral care, theology, ethics, and preaching courses must include proper sensitivity in dealing with these issues.
We encourage you to provide the best preparation possible for our future faith leaders. We ask you to consider how your respective schools are currently addressing this issue and what steps your schools can take to integrate more violence-prevention training and resources into curricula.
Our prayers are with you as you discern this vital request.
Director, The Sider Center
Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Eastern University
Lisa Sharon Harper
Chief Church Engagement Officer, Sojourners
Jo Anne Lyon
General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
Ronald J. Sider
Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy, Palmer Theological Seminary
Rev. Jim Wallis
Founder and President