As abuse awareness grows, pastors are searching for ways to protect the vulnerable and care for survivors.
Last summer Stephanie Lobdell, co-lead pastor at Mountain Home Church of the Nazarene in Idaho, started a sermon series on the forgotten characters of Scripture. One of the subjects she wanted to cover was Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, who was raped by a Hivite prince. Her sexual assault ultimately spurred her brothers to massacre the royal’s people (Gen. 34).
Lobdell’s co-pastor and husband, Tommy, was apprehensive about her decision to broach Dinah’s story. “He said, ‘Why are you preaching about rape? It’s such a vile topic. It’s such a sensitive area. Why are you taking that risk?’” said Lobdell. “He felt anxious, like, What’s going to happen when we open this door?”
But Lobdell was beginning to feel burdened by sermons in which women’s suffering was “a little side note to what pastors really want to talk about.”
“It was one of those subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit: ‘Here’s a story that gets skipped over. You have a gap in your schedule. What could you put there?’” said Lobdell. “I trusted the Spirit’s guidance.”
Naming Dinah’s experience from the pulpit caused an unexpected chain reaction. “After the sermon,” said Lobdell, “several people shared their own stories with me and expressed gratitude for giving voice to Dinah’s experience. This sermon allowed women to find their stories expressed in Scripture.”
Shortly after Lobdell broached that subject with her congregation, The New York Times released a report on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct. That report launched another, much larger chain reaction: the #MeToo …