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PC(USA) churches invited to become ‘Courageous Congregations’

Speak up about sexual violence during October

by Stephanie Caudill | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Courageous Convo cat-lion-1024LOUISVILLE – With approval from newly appointed Stated Clerk the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Presbyterian World Mission and Presbyterian Women are working together to provide resources to churches that want to act as “Courageous Congregations” in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Congregations are asked to speak about issues related to gender-based and sexual violence by preaching, teaching or holding a service of healing for survivors.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S. One in three women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. Even more concerning is that one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. These victims may seek support from their church, even if the violence against them is kept hidden.

“For congregations to take a leap of faith and participate in the Courageous Conversations initiative begins the call each of us have to stop sexual violence,” said Carol Winkler, moderator of Presbyterian Women. “It provides opportunity for faithful people in the pews to have a serious, safe discussion about the topic of violence against women. The conversations give us information that might bring us closer to understanding and responding to people who experience this horrific disrespect. If we open ourselves to listen and share in the conversations, we become informed and challenged to make a difference.”

Congregations choosing to participate in “Courageous Conversations” are asked to sign the pledge at wewillspeakout.us/take-action/ and complete one other action:

Preach, about sexual or gender-based violence.

Teach a class or workshop about sexual or gender-based violence.

Hold a service of healing for victims/survivors of sexual or gender-based violence.

Support a PC(USA) mission co-worker and/or a global church partner engaged in work addressing gender-based violence. Contact Nicole Gerkins (502-569-5611; nicole.gerkins@pcusa.org) for suggestions.

“In a society and world torn by violence, it’s deeply encouraging to see a growing number of congregations speaking out against sexual violence,” said Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission. “Courageous Conversations allows congregations to talk about an issue that was and is very close to the heart of Jesus Christ— respect and protection of women and children and all persons who live on the margins of a violent society.”

Downloadable resources and additional information are available at pcusa.org/courageouscongregations.

In order to be recognized as a “Courageous Congregation” and receive a certificate, churches must report back to World Mission and Presbyterian Women explaining how they participated. Congregations can sign-up by visiting surveymonkey.com/r/CourageousCongregations.

“Courageous Conversations” is part of the critical global initiative to work for reconciliation in cultures of violence, including our own. For more information about the initiative, contact Stephanie Caudill at 502-569-5279 or stephanie.caudill@pcusa.org.


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