This year's enditnow® Emphasis Day theme was captioned: 'Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: Unmasking Abuse and Fostering Safer Spaces'.
It focused on the sensitive topic of sexual abuse by individuals professing to follow Christ. A few case studies were outlined within the context of spiritual authority and influence, highlighting the behaviours of the perpetrators and the subsequent repercussions on those they abused.
In an interview with General Conference (GC) Associate Women's Ministries Director – Nilde Itin, she states: "Often we think that abuse involves violence. However, there are some cases when 'victims' may not resist abuse because they do not recognise that they are a victim of abuse. Sadly, within our church, among our members are those who will use subtle and more insidious forms of abuse to hurt other church members, whether adults, youth or children."
enditnow Emphasis Day programme
Attending the Luton Central Seventh-day Adventist church on Sabbath, 26 August, I was encouraged by the excellent use of the entire day, honouring the General Conference enditnow Emphasis Day 2023 materials prepared for our global Church.
Delivering the sermon was British Union Conference (BUC) Communication and Media Director – Pastor Sam Davies, who was asked by his local church Women's Ministries department to present on the emphasis day theme. I took the opportunity to engage him in a brief interview:
SPM – This year's enditnow theme highlights sexual abuse by individuals in positions of leadership and authority. What thoughts came to your mind as you read through the materials?
SD – I felt this is a topic that many would find uncomfortable sharing during a prime time of our worship service. At the same time, I felt that because of its importance, it deserves prominence. I thought about the statistics of the many wronged by sexual abuse by persons who should have been protective of the flock and yet wronged them with sexual abuse, devastatingly impacting their lives. That gave me the extra motivation to share this message by narrating various examples of the abuse of individuals within the Seventh-day Adventist Church to alert our members to recognise abuses perpetrated among the body of believers.
SPM – How can you convey that enditnow is not just a Women's Ministries initiative but a whole church intervention?
SD – I was pleasantly surprised to be asked by my local church's Women's Ministries leader to present this year's enditnow message. I believe it is essential for all, especially our male population, to know that any form of abuse perpetrated on the female members of our population impacts not only females but everyone because females are our mothers, siblings, and daughters. We must all do everything we can to stop and prevent sexual abuse. We must all be vigilant in preventing it and protect vulnerable individuals prone to abuse.
SPM – What final message would you like to leave with our churches in the BUC regarding this form of abuse?
SD – I would strongly suggest that the abuse prevention Emphasis Day becomes mandatory for each church's calendar every year within the British Union Conference.
We must constantly remind ourselves of our God-given mandate to be our brothers and sisters' keepers. I believe this mandate translates into actively doing all we can to free our spiritual experiences from sexual abuses that distort the image of God in those who become victims of sexual abuse. We must also follow the protocols of the Church for dealing with any incidence of sexual abuse and follow all guidelines for preventing abuse in our churches.
Explaining the impact of abuse, the General Conference Women's Ministries website states: "Although it is an uncomfortable subject for many people, it has become more and more obvious that abuse is a serious problem for Christians, for Seventh-day Adventists. Abuse in any form deforms the body of Christ—for the victim, the perpetrator, and the church that is left with the hurting members." *1
Resources and 2023 theme materials
Dr Ann Hamel and Cheri Corder wrote the 2023 enditnow® Emphasis Day Resource Packet. You can download the materials from the link here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3ea26w7k6lzw6uw/AABJjybVsew0RkAK_Z36ywIBa?dl=0
This year's package came with the following resources:
- resource kit
- Word packet containing a sermon
- children's story
- workshop script
- PowerPoint for the sermon
- sermon video
- promotional video
- workshop titled 'Sarah's Diary' comes with a handout, discussion notes, and video.
The above are materials that can be used to continue building awareness and dialogue on this crucial topic.
Support and signposting
For individuals, family and friends impacted by this aspect of abuse, help is available as follows:
- Dr Leslie Ackie, BUC Family Ministries Director, has expertise in abuse awareness, training, protection and support and has provided extensive information on this subject, which can be accessed as follows: https://adventist.uk/departments/safeguarding/domestic-abuse/. This includes the BUC Policy on this area of ministry. You can also ring the BUC to speak with him on 01923 672251.
- Dr Augustus Lawrence, who leads Family Ministries for the South England Conference (SEC), also has expertise in abuse awareness, training, protection and support and has provided the SEC Policy regarding this subject area at: https://sec.adventist.uk/departments/secretariat/child-safety/. You can access him at the SEC office on 01923 232728.
- The North England Conference (NEC) Family Ministries Director, Pastor John Francis, can also assist and be accessed at the NEC on 0115 960 6312.
- The SEC Counselling Service Cornerstone Counselling Service, under the leadership of Thembie Mapingire and her team, can provide advice and support and can be accessed at: https://www.ccscounselling.org.uk/about. The Advent Centre, 39 Brendon St, London W1H 5HD. Phone: 02077 238050. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The GC Women's Ministries Department provides extensive and updated information on the enditnow initiative on their website: https://www.enditnow.org/
Please join me in praying that individuals and their families impacted by abuse will receive timely and relevant help, enabling healing, restoration and strength to thrive in Christ.