This weekend, the GC and North American Division are sponsoring a summit on abuse, as part of the enditnow campaign. We asked Carla Baker to tell us what is happening with the campaign against abuse, and what we can expect at the summit. Baker has been director of the North American Division Women’s Ministries department since 2006. She was involved in planning the enditnow campaign from its inception, working with ADRA and GC Women’s Ministries.
Question: Your office is spearheading the North American Division's enditnow campaign. Can you tell us about that campaign, and what you are seeking to accomplish? How does it differ from the General Conference's enditnow campaign?
Answer: The purpose of the enditnow campaign is to shine a light on the abuse that is taking place in Adventist ranks—our homes, schools, and churches—and to send the message that all abuse is evil and must be stopped. Besides the informational aspect of the enditnow campaign, we also seek to give a voice to victims by giving them a safe forum to talk about their abuse and point them to hope and healing.
The North American Division has expanded the emphasis of the enditnow campaign in our territory. The General Conference’s campaign is called enditnow: Adventists Say NO to Violence Against Women. Because in so many parts of the world women and girl children are terribly downtrodden, misused, and abused, the GC campaign has the understandable need to target females with the campaign. Naturally, many women and girls have the same plights in NAD, but we have opened our campaign to include all abuse — whether perpetrated against women, children, or men. Our campaign is called enditnow: Break the Silence About Abuse. We feel we can’t ignore children or men (violence against men us greatly underreported).
Question: Are you also seeking to collect a million signatures to present to the UN from people around the world who want to see an end to violence against women and girls as part of the GC's enditnow campaign? Do you know how many signatures have been obtained so far?
Answer: My understanding is that the world church is a little more than halfway toward having the one million signatures. For several years we could not get accurate figures, but in the last year we have learned that the official number of signatures in hand was 500,000. Since then, GC Women’s Ministries has encouraged every division to start the signature campaign again to get the remaining 500,000. I know that several divisions have been quite active in collecting signatures since then, which is why I feel comfortable saying we have over half a million signatures, but I don’t know how many.
In the first phase of the signature campaign in 2009-2011, most of the signatures came from NAD, so we have not pushed it in the last few months; however, many of our churches love to be involved in getting signatures. They go out into their communities on Sabbath afternoon and ask people to say No to abuse by signing the petition.
The interesting thing to me is that whether at church or in the community people respond well to the signature campaign because almost everyone knows someone who has been abused, or they have been abused themselves. Signing the petition is somehow an act of empowerment to many women and men.
Question: This weekend the GC and NAD Women's Ministries Departments have organized a summit to train church employees and laypeople. Can you tell us a little more about what will happen at the summit and who will be there? Is this the first such summit?
Answer: In NAD we have had two summits on abuse; the first was in 2011 on the campus of Loma Linda University. It was co-sponsored by the LLU Children’s Hospital Division of Forensic Pediatrics, which deals exclusively with abused children.
This weekend, May 1-4, we are having our second summit on abuse; this one is being held at the General Conference Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and is co-sponsored by the GC Women’s Ministries Department.
The purpose of the first summit was to raise awareness about the prevalence of abuse in the church and to sensitize church employees and laypersons to the issues and repercussions of abuse.
This year’s summit is a training event. We are training church employees and laypersons how to be empathic first responders to abuse victims (or those who allege abuse) in our churches, schools, and institutions as well as in the community.
All our seminars from the first summit on abuse are posted on the NAD women’s ministries website: www.nadwm.org. They are excellent resources for individuals and churches. We will do the same for the seminars from the second summit. I want to emphasize that our presenters at both summits are well-qualified persons who give accurate and balanced information.
Question: The initial enditnow campaign started under the auspices of ADRA in 2009 and was then put under the umbrella of the GC's Women's Ministries Department. Then each division was made responsible for its own campaign planning. You broadened the scope of the campaign in the NAD. What can you point to that the overall campaign has accomplished in its five years so far? And what has the NAD's campaign achieved? Are there measurable results? How much longer do you believe the campaign will run? What do you see as the future of enditnow?
Answer: The summits on abuse have been a very concrete accomplishment.
In addition to the summits, we have developed several pamphlets that are free from my office. I find that some of our women don’t even recognize that they are being abused, so we are trying to educate them, and we always include on our pamphlets the National Domestic Violence Hotline number when they can receive excellent, compassionate help in several languages and are referred to services in their own communities.
We have been blessed recently that AdventSource, the NAD church resource center located in Lincoln, Nebraska, has partnered with us to develop enditnow resources. With their help we have established our own NAD website for the enditnow campaign, EndItNowNorthAmerica.org, where all our resources will be posted, including the summit seminars. The website will be up and running by the end of May.
In 2001 the General Conference, in recognition of the worldwide ongoing issue of abuse in the church, voted to designate one day a year — the fourth Sabbath in August — as Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day. The name has now been changed to Enditnow Emphasis Day, but the purpose is the same: to educate the world church about abuse and to send a resounding message that it’s not okay.
Both GC and NAD Women’s Ministries Departments are dedicated to keeping the enditnow campaign active and on the front burner indefinitely.
Question: Why do you believe the enditnow campaign is important?
Answer: It’s important because we live in a sinful world, and the church is not a perfect place. Jesus tells us that the wheat and tares will grow together until the Lord comes. Therefore, we should not be surprised that there is abuse in the church, as well as in society in general. The importance of the enditnow campaign is to make members aware that we do have a problem and that it must be addressed. How we treat people matters to God.
Question: Former US President Jimmy Carter recently published a book called A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. Carter claims that religion is one of the foundational reasons behind violence and discrimination against women. Do you believe this is true? Do you believe the Adventist church, as a religion, has contributed to violence and/or discrimination against women in any way? Is the fact that women's ordination is not condoned by the General Conference discrimination? Do you believe the Adventist Church has a special responsibility, as a church, to combat violence and discrimination against women?
Answer: Jimmy Carter’s statement is undoubtedly true, but keep in mind that he was referring to all religions, not just Christianity—Islam, Buddhism, and all the others. Certainly the Adventist Church has a responsibility to combat violence against women, which is why we are involved in the enditnow campaign.
Question: How do you feel we are doing as a church to combat violence and discrimination against women? What score would you give us out of 10? What are we doing well, and what could we do better? How about abuse overall? Are we making an impact and changing attitudes and actions?
Answer: I do feel that we are making an impact. The fact that over half a million people have signed the petition is evidence that they agree that violence against women — and everyone — must be stopped.
I’ve been most encouraged by the large numbers of individuals who have asked us how they can become involved in the enditnow campaign. Many women have told me how happy they are that the church is addressing the issue of abuse.
And men are becoming involved too. Some men tell me their mothers or sisters were abused, and they want to help put a stop to it. We’ve had several young adult groups in the USA and other divisions sponsoring enditnow marches. The winning film at the recent SONscreen film festival, The Hideout, is about abuse and was written and produced by three young men at Southern Adventist University who have friends who have been abused. They are using their influence to help stop abuse. I am gratified to see that there is beginning to be a groundswell in church ranks to do something about violence and abuse against women.
Question: What is your experience of violence or discrimination against women, or abuse?
Answer: As a new college graduate I began working for the denomination at the time of the Merikay McLoud lawsuit against Pacific Press. I was directly affected and blessed by her courageous action and am grateful to her to this day.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5975