Kitchener-Waterloo

Church leaders from 10 denominations to receive training on sexual misconduct in Kitchener

The Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada (MCEC) is hosting a workshop in Kitchener next week. The initiative stems from #ChurchToo, a movement that followed on the heels of #MeToo, to bring attention to sexual harassment, abuse and assault in faith communities.

#ChurchToo movement prompting conversations about preventing, responding to abuse and harassment

While Canadians' church-going habits may have changed dramatically, some people who look closely at such things don't see faith, or a belief in God or a universal spirit, disappearing completely. (Canadian Press)

Church leaders from ten denominations across southern Ontario will be getting lessons on how to prevent sexual misconduct.

The Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada (MCEC) is hosting a workshop in Kitchener next week.

The initiative stems from #ChurchToo, a movement that followed on the heels of #MeToo, to bring attention to sexual harassment, abuse and assault in faith communities.

Reverend Dr. Marie Fortune says a lot has changed since the "culture of denial" that existed more than thirty years ago, when she first started working on the issue of sexual violence in the church.

Fortune, who is leading the workshop in Kitchener, is the founder of FaithTrust Institute, an organization that offers multifaith training on recognizing and preventing abuse and misconduct.

"I think the kind of prevention work that's going on now around healthy boundaries and really trying to help our leadership understand from the beginning why it's important to have healthy boundaries and why we as clergy in particular are responsible for those — I think that's already made a huge difference in this generation of our leadership," Fortune said.

Creating 'safe places'

Marilyn Rudy-Froese, a leadership minister with MCEC, says the #ChurchToo movement has helped draw attention to the unique challenges of dealing with abuse and misconduct as church leaders.

Dr. Marie Fortune is a minister in the United Church of Christ and the founder of FaithTrust Institute. (Supplied)

"Because in many ways we stand in, we embody the holy, the divine, we embody God, and so there's a spiritual harm that happens for people when that boundary is crossed," Rudy-Frose said.

She adds that it's important to involve different denominations in discussions and training opportunities, because all faith groups are facing the same issues.

"Our church structures, how we govern ourselves, looks different but the realities of faith and ministry are the same across denominations. And so how can we best support each other as denominational leaders and create the same kinds of safe places in our churches?"

Rudy-Frose says she hopes the workshop will help church leaders develop good practices around preventing and responding to sexual misconduct, and establish closer relationships among different denominations.