Institutional Betrayal, Institutional Courage, and the Church – Baptist News Global

Betrayal by trusted people, such as pastors, teachers, supervisors, and coaches can inflict devastating consequences on victims. According to psychologists who study trauma, betrayal trauma affects the brain differently than any other trauma, especially when the victim is dependent on the abuser. The trauma of betrayal threatens the very sense of self of the victim, who often cannot easily escape due to physical, psychological, or spiritual addiction.

Institutional betrayal

Susan Shaw

When institutions do not reach out to abusers but instead encounter survivors with denial, harassment and attack, they engage in institutional betrayal. Institutional betrayal occurs “when an institution causes harm to those who depend on it”.

betrayal blindness describes ignoring, neglecting, “not knowing” and forgetting betrayal. People, including the victims themselves as well as perpetrators and witnesses, show blindness in the face of betrayal to “preserve the relationships, institutions and social systems on which they depend”.

We don’t need to think very long to cite a depressing list of examples of institutional betrayal by the church: segregation, clergy sexual abuse, conversion therapy, exclusion of women from church leadership and ministry. ordered, culture of purity, Magdalen laundries, witch hunts, Indian schools, so on.

Institutional betrayal occurs “when an institution causes harm to those who depend on it”.

In recent days we have seen institutional betrayal at work in mega-churches like Hillsong and high point, where popular pastors engaged in abusive conduct and their churches allowed them. The clergy abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are classic examples of institutional betrayal – institutions that chose to protect themselves rather than address harm to members.

Rather than challenging itself to create welcome, right wrongs, and bring justice, the church has often chosen to preserve itself, ignore harmful behavior from leaders, and demonize and ostracize those who speak out. abuse.

Findley Edge, who taught religious education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote about the process of institutionalization. Edge explained that people come up with great and exciting ideas, and those ideas lead to innovation and movement. Over time, these innovations and movements are structured to continue to facilitate their growth. Eventually, the first generation that formed the brilliant and exciting idea died out, and soon people only knew about the institution and not the idea that sparked it. Their goal then becomes the preservation of the institution and not of the idea.

Uncritical devotion to the preservation of an institution can easily lead to institutional betrayal, especially when people depend on organizations such as church, work, or family.

Jennifer Freyd, the psychologist who coined ‘institutional betrayal’, says people protect institutions by participating in what she calls DARVO — Denying, attacking and reversing the victim and the aggressor.

We certainly see DARVO at work in the current Southern Baptist clergy abuse scandal. You just have to ask Christa Brown and Dee Miller who have spent decades trying to get the convention to recognize their abuses. We have also seen the predictable line of attack, calling whistleblowers “adulterous women” and “sluts”. We also see survivors portrayed as wrongdoers and offenders as victims of awakening or even of Satan himself.

The clergy abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are classic examples of institutional betrayal – institutions that chose to protect themselves rather than address harm to members.

The Guidepost Solutions report, which documents the clergy sex abuse scandal among Southern Baptists, is a virtual compendium of institutional betrayal. While the convention takes minor steps to address the issues identified in the report, it barely paves the way for institutional transformation with gender justice at the center.

Churches betray people when they hurt them, especially when the hurt goes unaddressed or is magnified by a church’s response. Previously, I wrote about ha, the deep suffering that results from unresolved injustice. In psychological terms, institutional betrayal can cause trauma; in theological terms, this causes ha.

Institutional Courage

Unlike institutional betrayal, Freyd suggests that institutions can exhibit “institutional courage.” Institutional Courage “is an institution’s commitment to seek truth and engage in moral action, despite short-term inconvenience, risk, and cost. It is a commitment to protect and care for those who depend on the institution. He understands “institutional accountability, transparency, reparations where necessary and commitment to respond to its members.”

What would institutional courage look like for the church?

Freyd Deals 11 steps promote institutional courage:

  1. Respect civil rights laws and go beyond simple compliance; attention to risk management
  2. Educate the institutional community, especially the leadership
  3. Add checks and balances to the power structure and diffuse highly dependent relationships
  4. Respond well to victim disclosures and create a trauma-informed reporting policy
  5. Testify, Account, Apologize
  6. Cherish whistleblowers; cherish the truth tellers
  7. Conduct science-based anonymous surveys
  8. Practice self-training regularly
  9. Be transparent about data and policy
  10. Using organization to solve the societal problem
  11. Assign continuous resources to 1-10

By demonstrating institutional courage, the church fulfills its mission to be a redemptive, loving, justice-seeking community. Rather than protecting institutional structures, the institutionally courageous church recognizes wrongdoing and harm, seeks the truth and listens to those who tell the truth, responds redemptively to harm, and proactively seeks to prevent harm by creating just structures.

This means that the institutionally courageous church or denomination will have clear policies and procedures to deal with sexual abuse. They will act quickly and decisively to combat abuse. They will listen to survivors and provide resources for support and healing. They will tell the truth about what happened. They will prophetically denounce sexism, misogyny and abuse.

Likewise, the institutionally courageous church will examine beliefs that harm people. It will eliminate structures that exclude and marginalize. It will call its leaders to account to prevent harm and repair harm to individuals and groups when harm is done. He will tell the truth. He will take public stands against oppression, discrimination and hatred, even if it is expensive.

Of all social institutions, the church—the very body that claims to be called by God to be a redeeming force in the world—should show institutional courage. The church must lead the way in truth, accountability, reparation and transformation. Only when institutionally courageous is the church in some way the body of Christ. Institutional courage is not an option for the church; it must be one of its defining characteristics.

Susan M. Shaw is a professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. She is also an ordained Baptist minister and holds an MA and Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His most recent book is intersectional theology: an introductory guideco-written with Grace Ji-Sun Kim.

Related Articles:

In our dystopian world, I look at the Korean concept of ha

Guidepost report documents tendency to ignore, deny and deflect sexual abuse allegations in SBC

What Southern Baptists Need to Do Now to Address Clergy Sex Abuse

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