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Peace & Global Witness

Presbyterians Seek to End Gender-Based Violence

October 3, 2019 by Scott O'Neill

Down the street and around the globe, Presbyterians are committed to addressing the scourge of gender-based violence.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that “violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world.” Noting that an estimated 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime, UNFPA observes that gender-based violence “knows no social, economic or national boundaries.” For this reason, every year the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations facilitates the involvement of a PC(USA) delegation at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. This group shapes global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women and is supported in part by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.

At all levels of the church, the Peace & Global Witness Offering supports Presbyterians’ involvement in ministries that deal with the trauma inflicted by gender-based violence. Many of these ministries also seek to address the root causes of inequality and violence and to advance policies and perspectives that will result in greater expressions of equality for women and girls.

At the congregational level, one of the top causes supported by the retained portion of the Offering are shelters that serve domestic violence survivors. Thanks to congregations like First Presbyterian Church of Dimondale, Michigan, gifts from the Offering have become reliable resources for these shelters.

First Presbyterian supports the SIREN/Eaton Shelter in nearby Charlotte, Michigan. “They provide emergency shelter, transitional housing, case management and resource referrals, life skills instruction and a basic needs bank,” said Jill Brown, an elder at the congregation. “We have sent our portion of the offering to this organization for many years.”

Peace & Global Witness Offering gifts also help congregations deal with domestic violence that directly impacts their memberships. The Offering enabled the PC(USA) to publish “Striking Terror No More: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence,” which includes background articles on the issue, material for group study and worship resources. “Anguished Hearts” focuses on healing domestic violence through a study guide that accompanies a General Assembly policy statement titled “Turn Mourning into Dancing.” This policy encourages Presbyterians to participate in the church’s mission of healing and preventing sexual violence.

Lessons and experiences from women around the world are also shared with the PC(USA) because of the Offering. During September and October, the Rev. Moon-Sook Lee, a minister from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, will speak with Presbyterians across the country about her work on the eradication of sexual violence and sex trafficking, the full participation of women in the church and other issues related to peacemaking. She is visiting the U.S. as part of International Peacemakers, a ministry of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in partnership with World Mission. She is among 14 International Peacemakers visiting congregations, mid councils and Presbyterian schools this fall.

Around the world, Presbyterians are sharing wisdom across cultural and political boundaries aimed at raising the status of women. In Guatemala, the Rev. Mateo González, a pastor in the National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, is facilitating men’s groups in various congregations using a resource titled "Men in the Mirror: Orienting Our Lives Toward a Christ-Centered Masculinity.” It encourages men to challenge the patriarchal systems and perspectives that make women vulnerable. The publication was written in 2012 by the Rev. Dr. Kevin Frederick, pastor of Waldensian Presbyterian Church in Valdese, North Carolina, and was recently updated by Frederick and González. Presbyterian mission co-workers have provided translation and other assistance to help further develop these trainings.

González said that men in the groups are “challenged to look at themselves, analyzing their relationships with their wives, daughters and sons, work colleagues (both male and female), and their relationships with other men and women in their community, in such a way that they can make significant changes or improvements in those relationships.” The study relies on biblical passages, mostly from the Gospels, to help men learn to challenge their understanding of gender norms.

Through ministries of peacemaking and reconciliation at every level of the church, Presbyterians are seeking to live out Christ’s call. Addressing violence, exclusion or disadvantage based on gender is just one way that Presbyterians are working for “peace at all times in all ways” (2 Thess. 3:16).

Gifts from the Peace & Global Witness Offering support many of these efforts. Most congregations receive the Offering on World Communion Sunday, which is Oct. 6 this year.

This was originally published for Presbyterian News Service on October 2, 2019.

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The Peace & Global Witness Offering draws Presbyterians together and provides exposure to active peacemakers as well as education and resources to empower congregations and individuals to become peacemakers, themselves.  These collective efforts support resources in dealing with conflict, provide nurturing reconciliation, and stand in support of our global siblings, because the peace of Christ belongs to people everywhere.

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