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Do No Harm

The CRC has commissioned a Dignity Team to promote the value and dignity of all persons.

I recently walked into a doctor’s office where I saw a sign that read, “This is a place of healing – no forms of aggressive behavior will be tolerated.” While I grieve the fact that the sign was needed, what impressed me was the clear recognition on the part of the medical establishment of why they exist, and the commitment to protect the integrity of this mission.

The church is not a doctor’s office. It is a community made up of sinners in need of forgiveness, a place where people gather to hear the gospel preached, to grow in their life with Christ, and to join a community of faith in living out God’s mission in the world. But church is also a place where people come seeking healing and wholeness. Beaten up and battered by the sin and evils of the world, people are drawn to church with the hopes of seeing Jesus and touching his cloak (Mk. 5:28). They seek Jesus’ compassion and want to be seen, heard, loved and in some small way restored to what God created them to be.

Some people certainly experience the church this way, but too many others experience the church as a place of harm, a place where they have felt diminished, harassed, abused or invisible. According to one Barna study, nearly four out of ten non-churchgoing adults in America said they avoid churches because of past negative experiences. That number increases among populations who are not well represented in a congregation or church leadership – people of different ethnicities, races, abilities, sexual orientations and genders. These populations tend to be more vulnerable to harm because they are often not seen, heard, or understood. Too often their love for the community of faith and their desire to worship God is compromised by the harm they experience from racism, sexism and ableism in the church.

We all know that this is not the way it is supposed to be. One of the most fundamental testimonies in Scripture is that we are all created in the image of God and as such, endowed with dignity and worth. When we treat others badly, or when we allow misconduct to go unchecked, we scorn the image of God, which some theologians have noted is akin to scorning God himself.
It is precisely for this reason that the Christian Reformed Church has commissioned a Dignity Team to promote the value and dignity of all persons throughout the various assemblies of the denomination (local congregations, classes and Synod). The Dignity Team does this work primarily by addressing situations where a person or group of people, in their participation in the church, has experienced harm. The team then works to promote reconciliation, healing and restoration.

As a denomination, we want to do better. We want our churches to be places where people can worship God, grow in faith, and actively participate without experiencing aggressive behavior, discrimination or prejudice. We want our churches to be places where all people encounter the love, welcome and grace that God extends to us in Christ Jesus. May this be our prayer and our commitment for the year to come!

If you have experienced harm in the church, reach out to Safe Church at gro.ancrc@yrtsinimhcruhcefas or the Dignity Team at gro.ancrc@maetytingid.

This page is made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.


  • Amanda Benckhuysen

    Benckhuysen is the director of Safe Church Ministry for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She served as professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and taught at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and was a campus minister at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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