A Lenten Invitation from President Rev. Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley
Some years ago my ministry included AIDS prevention, care, and support. Through that work I learned more about the scale and scope of sexual violence committed primarily, though not exclusively, against women and children. In homes, through relationships, by way of human trafficking and more, rape and sexual violence harm millions of people around the world daily.
Engaging in global ministry that sought to respond to the devastation of sexual violence on campuses and in communities introduced me to a movement called Thursdays in Black. This is a campaign for a world without rape and sexual violence. My wife and I wear black clothing on Thursdays with Christians across continents to raise awareness, promote action, and engage in advocacy. We seek to advance efforts that can lead to protection, prevention, care, and accountability. This is a spiritual discipline we have practiced for years. It keeps before us the innumerable people victimized by sexual violence. We plea to God for mercy that can bring relief, release, and recovery.
During this year’s season of Lent, I invite you to wear black with me⸺not as a sign of mourning, but as a sign of resistance. As you wear black, remember to pray for people vulnerable to and victimized by sexual violence. Also pray for perpetrators to be stopped, held accountable, and turned from their wickedness. When people ask about why you are wearing black on Thursdays, you can tell them that you pray for and long for and work for a world without rape and sexual violence. You can also invite others to join local, national, and global efforts of awareness, action, and advocacy. If this act of spiritual discipline does not speak to you, I invite you to engage symbolically and substantially with appropriate partners to end sexual violence.
Rape and sexual violence is not a problem “out there in the world” alone. It is a crisis in the church and among Christians as well. Untold numbers of women and children, especially, have been subjected to manipulation and exploitation by people of power and position in churches and church-related institutions. The sin of excusing and defending perpetrators must be confessed, and we must repent. Maintaining silence and feigning ignorance exacerbates the terror and cannot be tolerated. Otherwise, we are untrue to Jesus Christ.
May the Spirit lead us to righteousness and justice.
David Emmanuel Goatley
President, Fuller Seminary
Clifford L. Penner Presidential Chair
Professor of Theology and Ministry