The Harvey Weinstein sex harassment scandals have been in the news, seemly, every day for more than a month.
Just in case you’ve been living on another planet this past month and don’t know who Harvey Weinstein is, let me catch you up. Weinstein is the co-founder of Miramax Entertainment and is a famous American film producer who has won both Academy and Tony awards and was a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. More than 50 women have come forward and accused him of numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. The story has gone viral and he lost his job and kicked out of the Academy. Incidentally, the same thing happened this summer with Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, both of Fox news.
So, what do sensational sex harassment stories have to do with Middle District?
I want to encourage, no, I want to challenge our church leaders to discuss how they can develop safe, legal and sensitive methods that would encourage individuals who have sexual harassment claims against fellow church members or staff to come forward. These discussions can begin in staff meetings and go on to include other groups of decision makers such as deacons, church council, personnel committees, and ultimately be appropriately communicated with the church at large. I also suggest that women and men be equally included in the leadership of these discussions and formation of procedures.
With the recent shootings in the Baptist church in Texas, churches were again reminded to think through their security procedures. And many did. However, our churches not only need to consider security against shootings, we also need to think about security against sexual harassment. These precautions go beyond the minimal standards about background checks on youth and children workers. The issue is protecting all our people against all forms of sexual harassment.
Some may protest, “We do not need to talk about these kinds of things. After all, that is not happening in our church.” I strongly disagree. It may not be happening now, but it will, sooner or later. Here’s why I know it will.
A number of years ago, I was Christmas shopping and heard a voice from behind say, “Hello, Dr. Hamacher.” I turned and there was a man in his early sixties who attended a church which I was helping work through some difficult issues. We exchanged pleasantries about the season and then, out of the middle of nowhere, he sheepishly asked, “Can I talk to you about a problem I’m having with one of our members?” Embarrassingly, he went on to ask how he should deal with a lady who was, in his words, “hitting on me in church by rubbing up against me in crowded situations, touching me in overly friendly ways and saying inappropriate things that had sexual overtones. I’ve told her to stop, but she keeps on doing it.” We talked about some solutions and he said he would follow through.
Jesus got furious and drove the money changers out of the temple because they were taking advantage of the poor. He told them “My house shall be a house of prayer.” Maybe in today’s culture He would also make sure that no one takes advantage of the opposite sex and He would proclaim, “My house shall be a house of safety for all sexually harassed people.”