When women and children experience sexual victimization the after effects are often long-lasting and traumatic. When the perpetrator is a religious leader those effects are magnified. When the culprit is their religious leader the effects are catastrophic.
For over 400 years, white supremacy’s exploitation of black women’s bodies can be seen within our churches. Particularly those churches guided by leaders who have not challenged but rather reinforced misogynistic racial stereotypes and derogatory misrepresentations of Black women’s humanity and personhood. While American society unabashedly disrespects and rejects Black women’s full embodiment the Black church has been far too slow in coming to terms with its own complicity in Black women’s subjugation and oppression threatening the very foundation of who we claim to be.
Black women have historically and consistently sought sanctuary in the church, specifically the Black church, hoping to shield themselves from the evils of racism, sexism, and classism. It is these Black women, whom Malcolm X rightly identified as the most disrespected, unprotected, and neglected persons in America, that somehow muster the courage to commit themselves and their families to religious teaching and spiritual nurture in what they understand as a safe space—the house of God. Bringing their full selves to the table it is our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and nieces who sacrifice their time, talents and treasures for what they, and many of us, understand to be the building of God’s kingdom and the uplifting of our communities.
The Dallas Black Clergy for Safety Equity and Justice is here to say “enough has been enough!” The latest revelations of spiritual and sexual abuse in our city should rock each of us to our core. No longer can we allow our colleagues to operate unchecked and unaccountable. We stand firmly with all those survivors who have been forced to walk the dark path of victimhood. The responsibility falls to us to not only speak in this moment, but to continue to speak; declaring a new day in Dallas. Gone are the days where religious leaders wink at our own sin and cover our mouths when the heat gets too close to home. We will always be on the side of the oppressed. We stand ready to offer comfort and care to all survivors as best we know how. We also stand ready to provide accountability and restoration to the perpetrators of these acts.
Pastoral leaders who maintain and promote a culture and theology that adheres to the ideals of American capitalist patriarchy will not be safe spaces for Black women and girls as sexual victimization and exploitation are just some of the likely outcomes. These spaces have no place in our community. We believe these sort of religious spaces are not safe for anyone seeking to live into the abundant and liberating power of the Most High.
Our churches and religious leaders must repent for our silence and complicity. And we must reaffirm our commitment to the consistent journey of becoming the spiritual leaders that God’s people need and deserve.
The Dallas Black Clergy for Safety Equity and Justice
Rev. Dr. Michael Greene - Economist, Dallas Black Clergy for Safety, Equity and Justice
Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp - Co-Pastor, The Gathering
Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III, Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Kwesi Kamau - Lead Pastor, Impact Church
Rev. Phea Kennedy - Senior Pastor, Wesley Chapel AME
Rev. Dr. Marcus King - Senior Pastor, Disciple Central Community Church
Rev. Dr. Jaime Kowlessar - Senior Pastor, City Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church
Rev. Edwin Robinson - Organizer, Dallas Black Clergy for Safety, Equity and Justice
Rev. Dr. Irie Session - Co-Pastor, The Gathering
Rev. Dr. Michael Waters - Senior Pastor, Abundant Life AME