A Resolution against Interpersonal Abuse (General Conference Mennonite Church, 1992)
Resolution against Interpersonal Abuse, A (GCMC, 1992)
We believe that life is a gift from God and that women and men are created equally in God's image with inherent worth and dignity and entitled to the same respect. The fall into sin has shattered God's intended mutuality of women and men, distorting personal relationships and resulting in relationships based on dominance and violence. We believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has saved and transformed us from these broken relationships and that Jesus calls us to live in love and harmony with all (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:20-24; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:21-33).
However, we live in a patriarchal society whose structures imply power and superiority of some (overwhelmingly men) over others (usually women and children). Within that system, many Mennonite family members, employers and even church leaders have used their power in oppressive and violent ways. We have systematically excluded some groups from opportunities, silenced their ideas and protests, sexually harassed them and violently abused them.
We confess that we, women and men, have by our silence consented to this system of male dominance and to individual acts of abuse. As churches we have contributed to these same attitudes by our teaching on the relation of men and women in marriage and in the church. Therefore, we resolve as congregations and individuals:
1. to break the silence and admit that there are Mennonite men who sexually harass women, who batter their wives or children or who commit incest or rape; we admit that there are Mennonite women who abuse their husbands, children or others;
2. to listen to, believe and feel the pain of those who have been violently abused or sexually harassed;
3. to declare that abuse is a violation of the marriage covenant and that individuals so victimized in marriage are not bound in the eyes of God or the church to submit themselves to further acts of abuse;
4. to hold abusers accountable for their actions and to provide safety for the abused;
5. to hold church agencies accountable for dealing appropriately with abuse that occurs within their organizations;
6. to find ways to restore and to bring healing both to those who abuse and to those who have been abused;
7. to encourage study in our congregations, colleges and seminaries of issues of interpersonal abuse and of healthy relationships between men and women.
(Suggested resources include materials prepared by Mennonite Central Committee: The purple packet: wife abuse; Broken boundaries: child sexual abuse; and Crossing the boundary: sexual abuse by professionals. Lessons 9 and 10 of "Widening the circle through care of victims and survivors" are in the Women in Mission resource packet, 1991-92.)
Adopted by the General Conference Mennonite Church, July 25, 1992.
Context of the Resolution
The statement arose during a time of heightened cultural awareness of sexual abuse by men against women in North American culture. The early 1990s were also a time when several highly-publicized cases of sexual misconduct and abuse by North American Mennonite church leaders were in the church news.
A consultation in early 1992 included 40 male Mennonite leaders from the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church for a retreat entitled "Men working to end violence against women." It was sponsored by the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries (Mennonite Church) and the Commission on Education of the General Conference Mennonite Church. The consultation was facilitated by a group from the organization Men Stopping Violence based in Atlanta, Georgia and seven Mennonite women consultants. The initial statement emerged from the group of forty men.
In 1993 the Mennonite Church General Assembly approved a similar, but not identical, resolution.