10 Books for Churches Committed to Fighting Abuse | CBE International

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10 Books for Churches Committed to Fighting Abuse

On April 19, 2018

The church has been increasingly criticized, especially in the last couple of years, for responding poorly to or remaining silent about sexual, physical, and spiritual abuse. Survivors and allies are calling the church out for enabling and overlooking abuse, and urging Christians to educate themselves on the issue. 

Many churches have a tendency to keep abuse in-house, prioritizing the reputation of the church over the trauma needs of abuse survivors. Worse, they sometimes even defend perpetrators and deliberately silence victims. Why have we sometimes struggled to do justice and not harm?

Sometimes, churches respond unjustly to abuse because they elevate the word of powerful men above the word of women. Other times, churches fail survivors because their theology doesn’t easily challenge perpetrators' instinct for control. And some churches fall short because they have a shallow understanding of forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and unity. They’re eager to force a redemption narrative—even if they must re-traumatize and endanger survivors in the process. This push for redemption and reconciliation often comes without the consent of victims and before evidence of real repentance and change over time by perpetrators.

And sometimes, churches respond poorly to abuse because they honestly lack knowledge about what abuse is, and how to best address it and serve survivors. For churches who are committed to admitting where they've failed and learning how to do better, here’s a list of ten books on understanding and fighting abuse; the link between theology and abuse; and properly ministering to and caring for survivors.

1. God in Her Midst: Preaching Healing to Wounded Women by Elaine Flake

“In God in Her Midst, Elaine Flake crafts a womanist theology… and offers a theological paradigm to help preachers understand their responsibility to preach liberation and empowerment to the marginalized. Flake offers examples from her own ministry, provides strategies for redeeming Scripture from traditional insensitivity, and direction on how to bring good news that brings healing instead of hurt.”

2. The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused Edited by Andrew J. Schmutzer

“Designed as a resource for Christian educators, therapists, pastors, social workers, group leaders, and survivors, The Long Journey Home combines current research in mental health with rich theological reflection, global concern with fervent pastoral wisdom for the local faith community. This is a fresh resource of information and advocacy for those suffering from the devastating effects of sexual abuse and rape.” 

3. We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse Elaine E. Heath

“Much of what is written about abuse and the Bible focuses on the ways Scripture is used to hurt rather than heal. This accessibly written book provides a much-needed perspective, illuminating the good news of healing and liberation that the Bible offers survivors of sexual abuse.”

4. No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark

“Numerous studies suggest that incident rates among active churchgoers are nearly the same as those among the general populace. Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark share with readers their years of experience listening to the voices of women from around the world and especially to those within the church. They help us hear their cries and find concrete ways to respond so that no home will be a place of abuse.”

5. Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse by Mary DeMuth

For those suffering the effects of sexual abuse, Mary DeMuth has a message: there is a way out. In Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse, Mary DeMuth illuminates the way to go from shame-filled to joy-filled, from traumatized to finding enduring peace. This isn't theory. Mary has lived it. She's traveled this path and offers a uniquely qualified, insider's view of the healing process.

6. The Courage Coach: A Practical, Friendly Guide on How to Heal from Abuse by Ashley Easter

“As someone who has followed her North Star out of abuse and toward health and healing, Ashley Easter invites anyone who has lived through damaging relationships into a safe space. This book is a space where victims and survivors can be heard, affirmed, and equipped.”

7. Understanding Sexual Abuse: A Guide for Ministry Leaders and Survivors by Tim Hein

“Drawing on both his own experience and his wife's experience as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, minister and lecturer Tim Hein offers his expertise, practical guidance, and empathy both for ministry leaders and for survivors themselves. How can we best respond when a survivor shares their secret with us? Where can survivors turn for encouragement when the road to recovery seems so long and lonely?”

8. Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth Tucker

“In Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife Ruth Tucker recounts her harrowing story of abuse at the hands of her husband, a well-educated, charming preacher. Weaving together her story and the stories of other women with reflection on biblical, theological, historical, and contemporary issues surrounding domestic violence, she helps women and men become more aware of potential dangers in a doctrine of male headship.”

9. Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse by Steven R. Tracy

“Abuse is far more rampant than many Christians realize—and the long-term damage to a victim's soul is profound. But healing is possible with God. In this well-researched, biblically and scientifically based resource, Dr. Tracy surveys the nature and effects of physical, verbal, sexual, and spiritual abuse—as well as strategies for prevention and recovery.”

10. Scars across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence against Women by Elaine Storkey

“Elaine Storkey offers a rigorously researched overview of this global pandemic, from female infanticide and child brides to domestic abuse, prostitution, rape, and honor killings. This sobering study explores how violence is structured into the very fabric of societies around the world, providing a window into the real issues that we are up against as we try to find appropriate responses to the continual violence.”

In the US, 1 in 3 women are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, and studies show abuse is as common in the church as anywhere else. CBE is developing a Bible-based resource to help church leaders and educators create communities that promote the flourishing of women as equals beside men and prevent abuse. Help church leaders learn how to create safe communities that practice biblical gender equality visibly and intentionally.

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