100 signatures reached
To: ARC Churches (https://www.arcchurches.com/)
End Church Abuse
For the purpose of ensuring the churches you help plant, the churches already planted, and the churches you’ve partnered with are safe spaces for people, we believe ARC needs to be committed to:
•Hire an outside consultant to offer awareness training and help you set up abuse prevention systems that you can share with all pastors and churches during your yearly conference and at your many pastor training events and meet-ups.
•Racial awareness, anti-bias, diversity and inclusion training should be mandatory for all pastors who desire to partner with ARC, and ARC should highly encourage it for all churches.
•Set up a protocol for victims of abuse to safely report abuse directly to you, not having to go through the pastor first.
•Document all incidents and follow up on them. Victims should let you know when they are satisfied with your involvement. Hold abusers accountable.
•Commit to ending nepotism and favoritism, and hold churches accountable when nepotism and favoritism is displayed.
•If the victim is comfortable with it, make all incidents and follow up on them public.
•Challenge the very patriarchal set up of your organization. More diversity in your leadership team.
•Challenge yourselves to reflect the communities you serve; your leadership team should reflect real diversity and inclusion.
•Offer appropriate support and care for victims of abuse (this is not the same as pastoral counseling, it should be professional care done by someone who understands religious abuse and is not employed by ARC).
•Listen to victims and survivors and believe what we are telling you.
•Allow LGBTQ+ people to lead in all capacities. If this is a non-negotiable for you please state clearly on your website and everywhere else what your stances are on LGBTQ+ leadership (as well as whether they can be married by your ministers). Ask churches to do the same. Full clarity.
•Ask churches with physical buildings to hire a disabled accessibility consultant to assess their buildings. For those without a physical building, ask them to state clearly they are not able to provide safety for disabled members of the community.
•Change your training manual to include ways in which pastors and churches can be safe for the community at large (how to be an anti-racist church, how to be allies to different marginalized communities, how to support low income families and individuals, etc).
•Publicly remove support for churches that refuse to hold abusers accountable. Ask churches to terminate employment, or remove from leadership, those who’ve been accused of criminal abuse, and those who refuse to address non-criminal abuse.
•Address the exploitative environments of internships, schools of ministry and leadership colleges.
•Pay all your employees a livable wage, and ask churches to do the same.
•Ensure your full time employees have appropriate health insurance, and ask churches to do the same.
•Offer an open and public apology letter to all the victims and survivors of abuse inside of churches. And an invitation for pastors and churches to do exactly the same thing.
We believe you have the influence and power to effect real change across thousands of churches
Why is this important?
We are survivors of abuse inside of ARC churches (arcchurches.com), and it is time we have an important conversation. For the last few decades the churches you’ve helped plant have had victims and survivors of abuse, ranging from emotional abuse to physical and sexual abuse; reporting what was happening to them. These have been treated as isolated instances at best, or absolutely ignored as the victims are silenced and ostracized, at worst. But as more stories surface, and more of us find each other, it’s well past time you face that what you have in your hands is a systemic problem. A problem fueled by some of the doctrine you teach, and the systems you’ve set up for churches to emulate. We are asking you to address this, admit you’ve been complicit, and recognize that you have the influence and power to effect change, and protect future victims.
The abuse we will describe below is all from stories of people who have worked or attended ARC churches across North America, they have been from people who worked as full time staff, both paid and unpaid, and full time and part time volunteers, as well as from members and visitors. They are not from 1 or 2 churches but at this point a few dozen churches, and we are receiving more reports daily.
We define abuse as a pattern of behavior used by one person/organization to gain and maintain power over another person. It’s not just a one-time thing, but instead a pattern of behavior. None of these have happened to people only once.
Verbal and emotional abuse
Deeming rebellious anybody who raises questions against leadership.
Demanding blind loyalty to pastors and leaders as a way to “honor God.”
Calling those who speak of abusive practices “people working for the devil.”
Telling people who have been abused they need to forgive as a way to demand they don’t push the matter any further (protecting the abuser).
Asking people to submit to abusive leaders.
Gossiping about victims, lying about their character to minimize their story.
Telling those abused they have a spirit of division, a spirit of jezebel, a spirit of fear.
Telling those abused they are bitter and need to let go of their bitterness.
Claiming the abused have a “heart issue”, or “hidden sin”, which caused the abuse.
Asking victims to extend grace when abusers continue abusing. Which is re-traumatizing the victims.
Passive aggressive sermons about victims of abuse, or people who choose to leave the church.
Shaming volunteers both publicly and privately for taking time off, taking holidays off, and not being at church or small groups every week.
Demanding blind loyalty from staff and volunteers.
Demanding people remove personal statements from their own social media accounts.
Asking people not to report abuse to authorities.
Psychological and mental abuse
Telling people the voice of God is often the same as the voice of the pastor.
Telling people their feelings are not valid, to get over them.
Believing pastors and leaders over victims of abuse.
Protecting pastors and leaders over victims of abuse.
Calling victims of abuse immature, or weak for not allowing the abuse.
No respect for people’s boundaries.
Asserting problems inside the church are because of one particular person, and not systemic issues.
Demanding victims apologize to pastors and leaders.
Creating a church hierarchy where people cannot bring concerns to the pastor, all concerns go to untrained leaders.
Promoting untrained leaders due to nepotism and/or personal favoritism.
Sending people to untrained pastors and counselors to deal with serious personal issues.
Identity and cultural abuse
Overt and covert racism.
Overt and covert sexism.
Overt and covert xenophobia.
Overt and covert ableism.
No clarity in regards to LGBTQ+ policies and stances.
Overt and covert homophobia and transphobia.
Demonizing other cultures and cultural practices.
Conversion therapy practices.
Short terms mission trips.
Demanding tithes to be able to serve in the church.
Teaching tithes are a way to get God’s blessing.
Demanding a lot of unpaid volunteer work from people by holding opportunities only for those who are able to work for free for a long time.
Coercing people to give more through emotional manipulative messages.
Teaching the most important thing people will do for the kingdom of God is the free labor they do at the church.
Asking people who receive some sort of aid from the church to sign a commitment to serve and tithe for a period of time.
Not paying employees a livable wage.
Asking students/interns to do a lot of unpaid work unrelated to ministry. Including personal work for pastors.
Not giving employees health insurance.
Screaming at staff and volunteers for simple mistakes, or misunderstandings.
Telling people being overweight is an indictment on their relationship with God.
Promoting corporal punishment as adequate parenting.
Teaching that the notion of breaking a child’s will is appropriate.
Asking women to stay in abusive marriages to honor God.
Not allowing people to serve on stage due to their appearance.
Not reporting incidents of physical violence.
Asking interns/students to babysit for free, clean the homes of pastors/leaders, clean the church, do a lot of physical work.
Sexist dress codes.
Racist dress codes.
Sexual abuse of adults and minors.
Telling married people they can’t deny their spouse sex.
Covering up for pastors/leaders accused of sexual abuse.
Not reporting abuse, including abuse of minors.
Allowing and funding pastors with a history of sexual abuse to keep their jobs.
Blaming victims for pastor and leader’s sexual advances.
Hiring a pastor at another ARC church after they’ve been accused of sexual abuse without ever addressing the abuse or protecting the victim, or future victims.
Demonizing of divorce.
How it will be delivered
We will email, and physically mail them.