"His big hands twisted into my arm tightly. The church hall was empty. I had not realized no one else was around. Why should I? It was my church. My church where I was due to preach the next week. He was someone I recognized as a congregant. I did not know him personally. We had never talked before. And suddenly he was not just in my space but pinning me against the wall. He was taller and twice my weight. “You need to let your husband do the preaching next week, since preaching is only for men." His voice was pleasant, like he would deny it as a joke. His body language and eye contact said dominance, contempt. It was clear he thought I had no business doing the Lord’s business.
"I love teaching and learning with my students. I love being challenged by them and having deep discussions about Scripture. While studying and sharing, I love building relationships with other human beings, I get to hear them and their stories and I get to do life with them. And my students soon know that I care for their development. Sure, sometimes I have students that think women can’t lead over a man. I don’t address it straight on.
"In my mind all leadership starts with relationships and time investment. Everyone needs to be heard. Building trusted relationships with others is enriching, enlightening and leads to a greater bonding as a group and as a result better leadership. In even the most resistant students there is eventually respect. I am never completely sure if their respect for me as their teacher will be applied to other women pastors but after 20 years of teaching, I have seen enough minds change that I trust that meeting in the word is a powerful experience. It changes our view of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit really moves hearts.
"My passion for studying the Word does not stop on the academic level. I love preaching about what I learn at other venues, such as church, youth meetings, women's retreats and professional conferences. I think teachers are just like that. Something about the message compels us to share what we have found and experience, to create relationships.
"It does feel heavy sometimes, always being the person breaking stereotypes. Sometimes being greeted with silence is the hardest part. It doesn’t allow a relationship to start.
"When the church board was told anonymously what happened in the hallway, they said they wanted to keep things quiet so as not to ruin his reputation. When my husband and a group of pastors confronted him, he said it was a personal matter between him and me. This left me frustrated. I didn’t do anything wrong. Why did everyone work so hard to keep it quiet? I approached a psychologist colleague and together we persuaded my church to form a committee of trauma and abuse educated professionals to evaluate cases like this in the future.
"I think it is important for the church to have the vocabulary of what abuse can look like. That is why I am telling my story.
· Jesus was a servant leader, not a harsh tyrant. He does not want us to rule over our children, or spouses or other church members as a dictator. He said our true character is revealed in how we treat the people we think are the least powerful.
· Healthy churches work to EndItNow by teaching and modeling that controlling behaviors are the opposite of healthy family relationships.
· We need to be very clear that abusive relationships need to be severed and victims protected, not forced to confront, forgive or remain in a relationship with their abuser.
· One of the hardest things I have learned in life is that people can have healthy relationships in one setting and be controlling or abusive in another. Doing good or being loved should never be allowed to hide abuse. Threats or coercion must never be minimized to protect someone’s reputation.
"Healthy churches must minimize abuse in all settings including the hallways of our church."