Statement Condemning Sexual Harassment, Coercion and Assault

Council of Churches of the City of New York
December 2017

Shame our wanton selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul*

A disturbing pattern of behavior has resurfaced in our public consciousness recently. Our awareness of the misuse of power and authority to demand or force unwanted sexual favors from women, youth and men, some of whom are seeking mentoring, places to live out their talents and or vocational aspirations, has become rampant and alarming. Sexual, emotional and physical abuse strips away dignity, agency and confidence from targeted women, youth and men, and implants within them fear, and concerns about retaliation if they don’t submit to or confront unwanted advances. Experiences of abuse stunts the hopes, gifts, ambitions as well as the spirits of persons who possess great promise. We have heard far too many accounts of men (usually) using coercion, intimidation, through verbal and physical threats and the systemic use of the resources at their disposal to force nonconsensual sexual contact. The accounts of this abuse of power is ubiquitous, and virtually manifest in every human institution, even the church, and has exposed predators who have repeatedly assaulted numerous persons. Social and other media have amplified the voices of those subject to abuse in the #MeToo campaign as well as other public venues, prompting more individuals to also admit that they have been subject to unwanted sexual harassment, sexual abuse or sexual assault, and their consequent efforts to survive and thrive despite these experiences. The numbers of those who have come forward reveal a pattern and a scourge that has happened far too long, far too often, and must be stopped.

Save us from weak resignation, to the evils we deplore*

As bishops, judicatory heads, leaders in ecumenical movements, and leaders of various communions or denominations within the New York metropolitan area, we serve together as male and female colleagues of Christian bodies, and feel pressed to speak together at this time. We are very aware that silence suggests the complicity of the faith community, and supports those who in their actions and words have condoned a tolerance of or are turning a blind eye to the internal and cultural destruction that sexual coercion creates. We believe a signal of tolerance is unacceptable. With the strength of our collective moral authority and our belief that sexual harassment, coercion, abuse and assault of all forms is intolerable and must be strongly confronted, with the conviction of the faith that we hold dear, we lend our hearts and voices here to express our spiritual and moral support for those who have been harmed. Furthermore, we call on all persons and leaders of faith in this city to use the strength of their good character to permanently interrupt and eradicate sexual coercion, and to work for the restitution of those who have been subject to this abuse.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days*


*Words from hymn God of Grace and God of Glory, by Harry Emerson Fosdick


Bringing together the New York City leadership of Christian Denominations and Borough Councils of Churches, including:
Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Disciples, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, and
Independent Churches


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