Christian Gender Resources

Christian Resources on HIV and gender can be found below and on our related website that deals specifically with geder and genderbased violence -

You can read more about advocacy and gender, including gender based violence, here.

News and resources that focus on gender but not specifically from  a Christian perspective can be found here.

This includes:

  • Gender Issues in the News
  • HIV and Gender-based Violence.
  • Gender Resources
  • Gender Mainstreaming and Programming Tools

Information about many more resources that deal with gender are available in the resource database

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Call to Action: Act Now for Children and Adolescents Living with HIV. 15/6/2017

Published by OIKOUMENE

To sign this Call to Action as a religious leader, please contact

About 1.8 million children under the age of 15 years are living with HIV. Every day, 400 children are newly infected, and 300 die. Fewer than half of the children needing treatment are receiving it. HIV is the second largest cause of adolescent deaths globally. In 2015 alone, 670,000 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 were newly infected with HIV. To make matters worse, children living with HIV are at serious risk of tuberculosis (TB). In 2015, 210,000 children died from TB. We must act now to ensure access to appropriate testing and treatment for children living with HIV.

As religious leaders and leaders of faith-based organizations, we remind governments of their commitments agreed in the June 2016 United Nations’ Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS that there should be “special emphasis on providing 1.6 million children (0-14 years of age) with antiretroviral therapy by 2018.”

We call on governments and the international community to take action in six key areas:

1.    Funded national plans: Ministries of Health and Finance must review their national and local plans and allocate sufficient funding to ensure that all children and adolescents living with HIV will have access to testing and treatment by 2018 and that by 2020 these children remain on treatment and are virally suppressed.

2.    Early diagnosis: Ministries of Health and Finance must prioritize HIV testing as soon after birth as possible for infants of women living with HIV, as peak mortality for babies living with HIV occurs within the first six weeks. Point-of-care pediatric diagnostics must be included in national scale-up plans and introduced as soon as possible.

3.    Appropriate medicines: Pharmaceutical and generic drug companies must develop formulations of their drugs that children can swallow, and are palatable, affordable and store well. For their part, Ministries of Health and regulatory bodies must ensure the speedy registration of WHO prequalified medications for children. Donors must support the Global Accelerator for Pediatric formulations (GAPf) which mitigates the risks faced by drug companies in producing medicines for such a relatively small market.

4.    Access to TB drugs: Ministries of Health and Finance must prioritize the national roll-out of quality-assured, affordable, child-friendly TB medicines in the correct internationally-recommended dosages that are now available. Pharmaceutical and generic drug companies must urgently develop paediatric formulations of selected drugs to treat multi-drug resistant TB.

5.    Eliminate stigma: Ministries of Education and Health must commit to ensuring that all children living with and affected by HIV are free from stigma and discrimination, paying particular attention to ensuring that schools are HIV stigma-free environments.

6.    Address food insecurity: Ministries of Health and Finance must commit to ensuring food and nutrition support to enhance treatment adherence and retention in care for children and adolescents living with HIV and TB.

We commit to:

1.    Speak out and engage with key stakeholders in support of the rights of children and adolescents living with HIV.

2.    Utilize congregational platforms for outreach to encourage community members to make full use of services for children living with HIV.

To sign this Call to Action as a religious leader, please contact

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Children, Adolescents and HIV. 18/5/2017

Published by OIKOUMENE

Globally about 1,800,000 children aged 0-14 are living with HIV, and only half of them are receiving the treatment they need to live a healthy and long life. Without treatment, about one third of children with HIV will die by their first birthday and half will die by their second.

One of the main reasons for the low treatment coverage is poor testing services for children. In 2015 less than half of HIV-exposed infants globally received early infant diagnostic services within the first two months of life as recommended. There is also an urgent need to develop fixed-dose-combinations (FDC) of pediatric antiretroviral formulations that are palatable and affordable. Finally, huge efforts are needed to retain children in treatment.

In addition, in 2015, there were also 1.8 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years were living with HIV. Adolescents represent a growing share of people living with HIV; in 2015, 250,000 adolescents between the age of 15 and 19 were newly infected with HIV. Only 13 per cent of adolescent girls and 9 per cent of adolescent boys aged 15 -19 in sub-Saharan Africa have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months and received the result of the last test.

If current trends continue, hundreds of thousands more will become HIV-positive in the coming years. Additionally, AIDS-related deaths among adolescents have increased over the past decade while decreasing among all other age groups. It is shocking that more adolescents die every year from AIDS-related illnesses than from any other cause except road accidents.

Political commitment and faith-based action

The June 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS describes treatment levels for children and adolescents “unacceptably low” and in response Member State governments agreed that there should be, “special emphasis on providing 1.6 million children (0-14 years of age) with antiretroviral therapy by 2018 and that children, adolescents and adults living with HIV know their status and are immediately offered and sustained on affordable and accessible quality treatment to ensure viral load suppression and underscore in this regard the urgency of closing the testing gap”.

These ambitious targets were achieved in large part by advocacy undertaken by civil society and faith based organizations (FBOs) working together with key UN partners and Member State governments. This includes the World Council of Churches - Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (WCC-EAA) which has been actively advocating for HIV treatment for children since 2006, raising awareness on the urgent need for HIV child-friendly and age appropriate medicines and by mobilizing faith-based advocacy on pediatric AIDS.

The WCC-EAA continues its effective advocacy for children and adolescents living with HIV at both global and national levels to ensure that the ambitious pediatric treatment and adolescents’ targets are to be achieved by 2018. This work is supported in part by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

The WCC-EAA is raising awareness among influential faith leaders and leaders of faith-run health and HIV services about the global 2018 HIV treatment targets for children and adolescents. With a focus on Kenya, the WCC-EAA will help partners identify and remove barriers to achieving the country pediatric testing and treatment targets.

FBOs play a very significant role in Kenya’s health service delivery, with faith-based health facilities comprising 11.3 per cent of all health care delivery and 70 per cent of the non-governmental facilities in the not-for-profit sector. The WCC-EAA has had a specific initiative in Kenya for several years called the Framework for Dialogue that provides practical steps to help faith communities and people living with HIV effectively address key issues of concern to those most affected at national levels. CIFF has also been working in Kenya for several years.

Together, WCC-EAA and CIFF bring partners and expertise that can ensure the youngest in our societies receive life-giving HIV treatment.

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HIV Education for Church and Community. 20/2/2017

Published by CCIHAIDS

The world is recognizing that without the involvement of the faith sector, it will not be able to achieve its goal of eliminating AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

The faith sector has many strengths and advantages to bring to the global effort.

Now the question is, how will people of faith respond “in such a time as this”?

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Khutbah and Sermon Guides on Children and HIV for Religious Leaders. 2017

Published by USAID

These khutbah and sermon guides were developed to empower religious leaders with the tools and skills to reach their congregations with key messages on pediatric HIV transmission and prevention; stigma and discrimination; and treatment, care, and support; as well as male involvement in the HIV prevention and response continuum. Both guides were developed in collaboration with religious leaders.

You can access the resource here

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Educating Religious Leaders to Promote Uptake of Male Circumcision in Tanzania: A Cluster Randomised Trial. 14/2/2017

Published by THELANCET

Male circumcision is being widely deployed as an HIV prevention strategy in countries with high HIV incidence, but its uptake in sub-Saharan Africa has been below targets. The authors did a study to establish whether educating religious leaders about male circumcision would increase uptake in their village. They conclude that education of religious leaders had a substantial effect on uptake of male circumcision, and should be considered as part of male circumcision programmes in other sub-Saharan African countries. They think that the process of working through religious leaders can serve as an innovative model to promote healthy behaviour, leading to HIV prevention and other clinically relevant outcomes, in a variety of settings. 

You can access this resource here

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Engaging Religion and Faith – Based Actors in 2016. 12/2016

Published by UNFPA

This report provides an overview of the engagement with faith based actors and faith-related activities by the members of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Engaging Faith-Based Actors for Sustainable Development (short: UN Task Force on Religion and Development or IATF-FBOs). Covering the year of 2016, it continues to present the annual highlights of this work as it was done for the first time in 2015 through the first UN IATF report covering the period from 2013 – 2015 

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Tearfund Bridging the Gap Report. 2016


Tearfund’s Bridging the Gap: The Role of Local Churches in Fostering Local-Level Social Accountability and Governance forms part of a suite of resources that Tearfund produced to help demonstrate the impact of their Church and Community Mobilisation (CCM) advocacy work. Additional information on this work can be found on Tearfund’s International Learning Zone (TILZ) page.

Additional resources include:

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Affirming Persons, Saving Lives Learning Series. 2011

Affirming Persons, Saving Lives is the comprehensive HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention education curriculum published by the United Church of Christ.

The Introduction (PDF, 1.57 MB, 51pg)

The Intergenerational Learning Series (PDF, 1.52 MB, 34pg)

This series is designed for all generations in the church family. It gives children, youth and adults an opportunity to learn from each other and to share activities that build an awareness in the congregation that all ages can benefit from HIV and AIDS education.

The Adult Learning Series (PDF, 2.04 MB, 84pg)

This series helps adults assess their own degree of risk for HIV infection, strengthens personal understanding of the Christian community as a place where serious issues can be discussed, uses the knowledge of adults whose lives are affected by HIV or AIDS, and challenges adults to commit themselves to HIV and AIDS ministry.

The Parents Learning Series (PDF, 2.09 MB, 45pg)

This series encourages parents to talk with their children about HIV transmission, teaches practical communication skills to help parents discuss HIV and AIDS with their families, and helps parents see themselves as partners in the experience of teaching and learning about HIV and AIDS in the setting of the church.

The Youth Learning Series (PDF, 1.98 MB, 128pg)

This series for teenagers provides complete and factual information about HIV infection, transmission and infection, supports youth in making and keeping decisions informed by Christian values, and motivates youth to act with compassion and understanding towards persons living with HIV or AIDS. The series promotes healthy self-esteem, affirms abstinence, and underscores the value of intimacy and commitment in human relationships. Students learn how to say "no" to behaviors that transmit HIV, including unprotected sex and drug use.

The Grades 5 and 6 Learning Series includes necessary information on human sexuality, teaches effective ways to say "no" to unsafe or risky behavior, ensures a basic understanding of sexual intercourse and other forms of HIV transmission, stresses the importance of sexual abstinence, promotes the idea that sexual inte rcourse is an adult activity not appropriate for children, affirms that human beings have the freedom to make choices and teaches skills for making healthy decisions.

The Grades 3 and 4 Learning Series (PDF, 1.75 MB, 50pg)

This series nurtures children's self-esteem within a context of Christian values rooted in faithful discipleship, teaches important facts about HIV and AIDS, strengthens their ability to think about the consequences of their choices and teaches how to refuse pressure to engage in behavior that may be harmful to them.

The Grades 1 and 2 Learning Series (PDF, 2.46 MB, 45pg)

This series nurtures children's self-esteem within the context of Christian values and provides age-appropriate information about HIV and AIDS. The series helps children understand that their bodies are a wonderful gift from God and should be treated with care and respect, that Jesus teaches them to be kind and loving to all people, and that they can make kind, safe and healthy choices in their own lives.

The Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Series (PDF, 1.84MB, 41pg)

This series nurtures children's self-esteem within the context of Christian values, provides basic hygiene information and offers a simple, age-appropriate introduction to the subject of HIV and AIDS. Children learn that God loves everyone, including healthy and sick people, and that illness is not a divine punishment.

The curriculum includes handouts for students and a comprehensive package of Teacher Support Resources. The teacher's resources include a history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a guide to public speaking about AIDS education, a summary of the latest scientific research, a description of the pathology of HIV in the immune system, information about HIV antibody testing and statistics about sexual behavior among high school students.


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Clapping with Both Hands: 15 Studies of Good Practice in Promoting Gender Equality. 8/3/2012

Press release: A big hand for equality

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Gender equality is central to meeting the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people – men and women alike – concludes a new ACT Alliance report launched to mark International Women’s Day on
March 8.

“Clapping with Both Hands: 15 Studies of Good Practice in Promoting Gender Equality” celebrates innovative ACT programmes championed by brave women and men in 13 countries – from Guatemala to Indonesia, Mozambique to Nepal – that have enhanced the voice of women in workplaces, government and society at large.

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are at the heart of ACT Alliance’s vision for a better and more just world,” said general secretary John Nduna. “While there has been progress on gender equality in some countries, women in many parts of the world suffer from violence, discrimination and under-representation in decision-making processes.

He said that when a humanitarian crisis occurred, gender inequalities were thrown into relief even more acutely.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a case in point. An estimated 1000 women a day are raped in the DRC, earning it the epithet of “rape capital of the world.”  Soldiers are some of the main perpetrators of the crime, instilling fear and mistrust in communities across the country.

The case study “Loving your enemies: working with soldiers to reform the army” describes how ACT member Christian Aid and the Central African Baptist Community trained the army, judicial system and communities on civilian rights and on ending sexual violence in order to put an end to impunity.

“I feel proud of myself for speaking out about what he did to me, and I feel much more at ease, to know he is being punished,” said one woman who was supported by ACT to press charges against her rapist.

By training soldiers, police officers, courts and community leaders, providing support to rape survivors and hosting symbolic reconciliation events, the innovative programme has started to build new, more accountable, relationships between soldiers and civilians. The result has been a dramatic decrease in the sexual harassment of women by soldiers.

Clapping with Both Hands highlights 14 other projects describing a range of programmes from peace-building to women’s political participation, sexual health campaigns to female-run micro-enterprises. In Senegal, young women who are taught safe sex and how to form healthy relationships are becoming mentors to girls in their neighbourhoods.

In Mali, campaigns to get more women on the election trail have resulted in the number of women candidates jumping by 42% in some regions. The report demonstrates how all aspects of life and all members of the community must have the will to change in order for real transformation to occur.

ACT hopes that the case studies will inspire development practitioners around the world and spark new energy for gender equality in different contexts. The report’s title, Clapping with both hands, signifies the need for women and men to work together on strategies promoting gender equality and gender justice: that’s when the applause can really begin.

About ACT Alliance

ACT Alliance is a global network of more than 125 member organisations working in long-term development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy. Its members work in 140 countries and employ around 30,000 staff and volunteers. Alliance members strive for positive and sustainable change in the lives of people affected by poverty and injustice.

Read the full gender equality report here:

For more information, please contact:
Jan Disselkoen
ph: +1 905-336-2920 ext 284

High resolution photos available from:
Sandra Cox
Communications Officer
ACT Alliance
ph: +41 (0)79 681 1868

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Created in God's Image - A gender transformation toolkit for women and men in churches. Sept 2014


Developed by PACSA, NCA and ACTAlliance

This is a revised edition of the booklet “Created in God’s Image: A tool for women and men in churches” produced in 2008. The structure of the tool has been changed to take the form of a toolkit.

Downlad the PDF Toolkit here 5,124KB / 5.00 MB

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Gender Justice, Ministry and Healing. A Christian Response to the HIV Pandemic. 12/2009

Published by Progressio December 2009

ISBN: 978-1-85287-332-5
Author: Nyambura Njoroge

In this Comment, theologian and ecumenist Nyambura Njoroge describes the experience of African Christian women in promoting gender justice, in the context of HIV, through a 'ministry of Bible reading'. It highlights the potential of Christian communities to tackle the gender discrimination and disempowerment of women that has been a key driver of the HIV pandemic.

-Introduction: fundamental problems of patriarchy and
-Healing, justice and life-giving reading ministry
-Let’s not reinvent the wheel

Download this document here (PDF, 124.22KB, 16pg)

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HIV, Women and Motherhood.

The Strategies for Hope Trust would like to inform you about a new initiative in the world of audio communication. 

'HIV, Women and Motherhood' is a collection of 14 interviews which explore the many and complex issues in relation to motherhood facing women living with HIV.  All these interviews are now accessible - in audio form only - via the Strategies for Hope website .

Twelve of the interviews are with women from many different parts of the world who are either mothers or want to become mothers.  Each woman describes how she learned of her HIV-positive diagnosis and what she has done with her life since then.  Some of the experiences of these women were deeply traumatic and many have faced prejudice and stigma.  But each displays great courage, resilience and a desire to change the world. 

The other two interviewees are leading international advocates for women's rights: Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland) and Dr Musimbi Kanyoro (Director of the Packard Foundation's Population Programme). 

The 14 interviews were carried out by Alice Welbourn, author of 'Stepping Stones' and herself a mother living with HIV, together with radio producer Rosemary Hill.  They contain many important lessons for law makers and law enforcers, government policy makers, health practitioners, faith-based organisations, advocacy groups and service providers.  

The interviews are designed as a means of raising public and official awareness of the hugely important issues of HIV and motherhood.  When played to a group, time should be allowed to discuss the policy recommendations which they make, rather than limiting the discussion to personal details. 

Broadcast-quality recordings are available, on request, to radio stations.  Please contact the Series Editor, Strategies for Hope.  Comments on these recordings would be greatly appreciated.

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In the Image of God: Sex, Power, and ‘Masculine Christianity’ 17/05/2013

Most of us are too familiar with this story: an Upper Midwestern Baptist minister claims that “God made Christianity to have a masculine feel [and] ordained for the church a masculine ministry.” Or a Reformed Christian pastor mocks the appointment of the first female head of the Episcopal Church, comparing her to a “fluffy baby bunny rabbit.” Or a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor in California says physical abuse by one’s spouse is not a reason for divorce. Or numerous young evangelical ministers brag about their hot wives in tight leather pants.

by Catherine Woodiwiss 05-15-2013


A woman stands alone on the stairs. Photo courtesy Kati Neudert/

Fewer of us are familiar with this story: Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon. Tamar protests her brother’s advances, citing the social code of Israel, his reputation, and her shame, to no avail. Their brother Absalom commands her to keep quiet, and their father, the great King David, turns a blind eye.

What do these contemporary statements above, delivered into cultural megaphones with conviction and certainty, have to do with the Old Testament rape and silencing of Tamar? The difficult answer is, quite a lot. The narrative dominance of these stories rests on power and control, which — whether intentional or not — speaks volumes about whom the church serves and what the church values.

In short, the stories that fail to treat women seriously are the kinds of narratives that lead to manipulation, devaluation, and sexual abuse of these very women.

There is too often a shameful culture of silence around rape and abuse in the church. But equally pressing is the confusion or silence in many evangelical communities around the pattern-forming behaviors that lead to it. For men and women alike, this brand of silence has roots in a sexualized view of women, and is given context in a power narrative that is built to protect and perpetuate male dominance in the church.

This kind of silence is incompatible with valuing women as made in the image of God.

In the American church today, men hold a significant proportion of narrative power. Though twice as many women as men join discipleship activities and greatly outnumber men in church attendance, a significant majority of men still hold the highest positions of leadership across denominations. Of course, if not from the pulpit, women may speak out in other forums (increasingly, for example, through publishing or online platforms, as notable evangelical women are doing). But it does not require rejecting a complementarian view of gender to recognize that the predominance of men in church leadership makes power a gendered issue for the church.

And the church’s unsettled relationship with gender and sex in the context of power does contribute to an ugly storyline that too often crops up in this framework: that a woman’s value is inextricably tied up in her sexuality.

The consequences of this view was starkly articulated last week by Elizabeth Smart, a Mormon from Utah who was kidnapped at age 14 and sexually assaulted during her 9-month captivity. She spoke of her hesitancy to flee her captors in damning terms for our faith communities’ discussions of purity.

"I was raised in a very religious household — one that taught that sex was something special that only happened between a husband and wife who love each other,” Smart said.

She continued: 

“So for that first rape, I felt crushed. Who could want me now? I felt so dirty and so filthy. If you can imagine the most special thing being taken away from you and feeling that — not that that was your only value in life, but something that devalued you — can you imagine turning around and going back into a society where you're no longer of value, where you're no longer as good as everybody else?"

The church's emphasis on young women, but not necessarily young men, remaining “pure” for their future spouse creates a double bind, Victoria Ferguson, founder of Kindred Moxie, a faith-based domestic violence advocacy network in Atlanta, Ga., said — one where women carry the burden of responsibility for sexual purity but have no power over the consequence.

“We are told every day, ‘boys will be boys. Your obligation is to not be raped.’ As if this is what just men do,’” she said.

This approach, Ferguson said, uncomfortably mirrors the broader cultural approach to rape and victim-blame.

“You don’t see the media discussing the impact or magnitude of intimate partner violence,” Ferguson said. “We are giving the perpetrators attention without accountability. We ask, ‘Why is she still with him? Not: ‘Why did he do that to her?’”

In the realm of sexuality and sexual violence, the media and the church share at least one frustrating commonality: the dominant voices are male, and their prominent focus and value judgments are directed at females.

“It’s the hyper-masculine kinds of comments that get the most publicity,” said Rev. Sharyl Marshall Dixon, associate pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Deep Run in Perkasie, Pa. “They’re louder and meaner, and make better stories. But they’re not making my job any easier.”

Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City, agreed.

“Nuns and Protestant women are also very much faith leaders. But the megaphone is captured by white Protestant men,” she said. “We need to say out loud whose voices are not being heard — and give women hope that they might be heard.”

Overt or systematic sexism and abuse is easy enough to name and denounce. What is more troubling is when sexism is perpetuated in the same breath as healing and empowerment. It is important to note, for example, that controversial megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has in fact spoken out repeatedly on the specter of sexual abuse in church. On an issue shrouded in such silence, his outspokenness is commendable.

Unfortunately, Driscoll’s consistently demeaning language towards women makes his narrative on sexual abuse precarious. If anything, it makes his sentiments all the more harmful and open to misappropriation. How can a young man learn to properly respect a woman when his pastor insists that women are unfit for leading the church “because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men?” How can young women learn true, self-respecting empowerment when their teacher compares an enslaved child-bride, Esther, to a sexy contender on The Bachelor (one who “allows men to cater to her needs, lands a really rich guy…and wows with an amazing night in bed”) — and calls her “simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line?"

And what does it mean when otherwise-thoughtful and respected church leaders like John Piper and Rick Warren’s Saddleback co-pastor Tom Holladay insist that women have no right to leave their abusive marriages?

How can young men learn to not abuse women when they are simultaneously being modeled the behaviors that lead to it?

For those trying to foster a culture of respectful men, the trend among such male leaders toward masculine swagger and gender prescriptiveness is worrisome, and too closely mirrors the crisis of power at play in abuse.

“[Rape] is not about short skirts,” Schaper said. “It’s about fear of powerlessness. It’s a crisis of masculinity and social control.”

“Where I hear people crying out from abuse — it’s just so sad,” Marshall Dixon added. “That’s not the Jesus I find in scripture or preach on Sunday morning. Where are you finding that?”

In reality, “we, men included, are confronting a terrible despair,” Schaper concluded. “[Outbursts of violence] would not happen if boys and men could feel effective. We need to help men find a healthy power.”

How can we create better narratives in our faith communities?

Jackson Katz, Founder and Director of MVP Strategies, echoed Ferguson’s calls to shift the focus on sexual abuse back to those in power.

“We have to ask a different set of questions,” Katz said, adding:

“Not about women, but men. Include things like: Why do so many adult men sexually abuse little girls and little boys? Why do we hear over and over again about scandals erupting in major institutions like the church? And what is the role of the various institutions in our society that are helping produce abusive men at pandemic rates? Once we start asking those questions, then we can talk about how we can be transformative.”

And indeed, the ongoing media coverage of clerical abuse of children helps shift the narrative to the perpetrators, and, equally critically, to sexual abuse as a power act.

As people of faith, the stories we tell have spiritual and physical consequences. In order to salvage the good messages of church leaders like Driscoll, Piper, and Holladay from the ugly, marginalizing power dynamics, a richer vision of women as made in the image of God is desperately needed.

In looking at progress made for women’s voices in the church, “We’re maybe 25 miles down a 100-mile road,” Schaper said. “The change ahead may be slow, or it may be radically transformative. I’m just not sure yet.”

This is the second in a Sojourners series on sexual violence in Christian communities. 

Catherine Woodiwiss is Associate Web Editor at Sojourners. Find her on Twitter @chwoodiwiss.

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Love, Children and Family Planning: Seven Discussion Guides for Christian Small Groups, 2013


Publication Date: January 1, 2013

This resource contains a series of Bible discussion guides and information on family planning and related topics to be used with Christian audiences to inspire discussion on family planning. It is "meant to be used by small groups – in churches, in neighborhoods and in Christian nursing schools and health centers."

As stated in the guide, "churches can help their members, both older and younger, to understand why couples should make good plans for having children, and why spacing children is best for the health of the mother, baby, and the family."

The book is divided into two sections: The first contains the seven discussion guides, which are based on Bible passages, as well as suggestions for discussing them in small groups. The second section gives information about the many different family planning methods available from health providers.

"This book was a cooperative effort of Christian health workers, pastors, church leaders, youth, and members of churches. Contributions and comments came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the United States."

"This guide was published under the project, Mobilizing Faith-based Organizations to Expand Access to and Choice in Family Planning, supported by the World Bank under the 2011 Population and Reproductive Health Capacity Building Grant Program."


This version of the guide is best for electronic viewing and single page (8.5″ x 11″) printing. 

File Size: 3 MB


This version of the guide is formatted to be printed as a booklet with two pages per 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. To assemble as a booklet, fold the sheets in half and bind in the middle. 

File Size: 959 KB

Free to download
Languages: English
Number of Pages: 68


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Men, Women and Biblical Equality. 1989

Published by CBE International 1989

CBE's statement, "Men, Women, and Biblical Equality,” lays out the biblical rationale for equality, as well as its practical applications in the family and community of believers. The statement is available in 30 languages! Select a different language below to view the statement.

Download this document here (PDF, 47.85KB, 2pg)

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The Faithful House

The Faithful House is a unique curriculum centered on the couple and focused on fidelity within the relationship or marriage.

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The Faithful House Couple Handbook. Affirming Life, Avoiding Risk. 2010

Published by the CRS - Catholic Relief Services 2010

The Faithful House Couple Handbook is a picture based summary of The Faithful House couple training and formation. It is intended to be used after a couple has had the Faithful House Training. The pictures and accompanying text serve as a refresher course to supplement what the couple learned and experienced in their training.

Download this document here (PDF, 9.91 MB, 11pg)

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The Faithful House Operations Research Study on Attitudes and Reported Practices in North Cameroon. 10/2010

Published by the Catholic Relief Services October 2010

Subtitle: "Can a Couples-Centered, Faithfulness-Focused Curriculum Strengthen the Family Unit and Change Attitudes and Behaviors Related to HIV Risk and Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships?." The Faithful House is a unique curriculum centered on the couple and focused on fidelity within the relationship or marriage. Operations research was conducted to evaluate the impact of a 3-day version of the workshop. This study conducted in Kumbo and Bamenda, Cameroon, is the first phase of multi-country operations research study.

-Executive Summary
-Project Background
-Project Study Description

Download this document here (PDF, 767.37KB, 42pg)

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The Faithful House Couple Handbook. Couples Affirming Life and Love. 2011

Published by CRS - Catholic Relief Services 2011

This handbook is a picture-based summary of The Faithful House couple training and formation. By reviewing the pictures and the accompanying text, a couple can be refreshed as to what they learned and experienced in their training. If a couple is having troubles in their marriage, they may “sort through” the house and see where the problem lies. A couple can also use the handbook to share the Faithful House message with others.

Download this document here (PDF, 9.68 MB, 13pg)

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The Faithful House. A Couple’s Guide to PMTCT. 2011

Catholic Relief Services in Collaboration with Maternal Life International Maternal Life Uganda CRS Uganda 2011

This document has been developed as an educational and support resource for PMTCT teams. The program provides a framework for encouraging and supporting the couple during pregnancy.

-Note for Facilitators of the Faithful House PMTCT Workshop
-The Faithful House: a Couple’s Guide to PMTCT
-Welcome and Introduction
-Module one: The journey of pregnancy
-Module two: Building the faithful house
-Module three: Completing the faithful house
-Module four: Living in a faithful house
-Module five: Challenges to the faithful house

Download this document here (PDF, 4.92MB, 168pg)

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The Faithful House. Building Strong Families to Affirm Life and Avoid Risk. 4/10

Published by Catholic Relief Services in Collaboration with Maternal Life Uganda and Maternal Life International April 2010

2nd Edition. Subtitle: Core Manual Module.This manual contains five modules with eight sessions for use in training couples how to strengthen their marriage. The Faithful House underscores the importance of abstinence and faithfulness in building strong and committed marriages and healthy families. In turn, these marriages and families become foundational in creating “civilizations of love” which define authentic human progress. The Faithful House program is intended for young people and married couples

-Foreword to the First Edition
-1. Introduction to The Faithful House
-2. Module One: The Frame of The Faithful House
-3. Module Two: Completing The Faithful House
-4. Module Three: Living within a Faithful House
-5. Module 4: Challenges within the Faithful House
-6. Appendices

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The Faithful House. Training of Facilitators Manual. 1st Edition 2010

Published by Catholic Relief Services in Collaboration with Maternal Life International Maternal Life Uganda CRS Uganda 2011

The Faithful House Trainer of Facilitators secular manual is a curriculum for training master couples as facilitators for Faithful House workshops outside of the church context.

-Module 1: Three snapshots of Uganda
-Module 2: A future snapshot of Uganda
-Module 3: The example of faithful couples
-Module 4: Our roles in sharing the faithful house program
-Module 6: The center of the star
-Point 1 of the star: Preparation
-Point 3 of the star: Humility
-Point 4 of the star: Confidence
-Point 5 of the star: Participatory
-Learn, do, facilitate: Practicing facilitation
-Ready, set, go
-The Center of the Star Revisited

Download the first edtion here (PDF, 2.07 MB, 41pg)

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The Faithful House. Training of Facilitators Manual. 2nd Edition 2011

Published by Catholic Relief Services in Collaboration with Maternal Life International Maternal Life Uganda CRS Uganda 2011

This manual is written to provide training for couples who will be training facilitators for the Faithful House program. The manual you will be using in the Training of Facilitators workshop is designed to guide you on a “journey of discovery.” There are two parts to the manual: The first part, which we refer to as Exercises/Questions, contains exercises and questions that will guide you on this journey of exploration. The second part of the manual contains responses, answers and supplementary information about the topics presented in Exercises/Questions and is referred to as Answers/Responses. In order to challenge your powers of discovery, the answers and responses are given to you after the exercises and questions part of your “journey” is completed. In this second edition of the manual, we have added two appendices.


-Introductions and expectations
-Module 1A: Three snapshots of Africa
-Module 2A: Developing Faithful House personnel
-Module 3A: The example of faithful couples
-Module 4A: Qualities of a good facilitator
-Module 5A: Principles of adult learning
-Module 6A: Training methods for The Faithful House
-Module 7A: Practicing facilitation
-Facilitator feedback form
-Module 8A: Monitoring and evaluation
-Module 9A: The center of the star
-Module 1B: Three snapshots
-Module 2B: Developing Faithful House personnel
-Module 3B: The example of faithful couples
-Module 4B: Qualities of a good facilitator
-Module 5B: Principles of adult learning
-Module 6B: Training methods for The Faithful House
-Module 7B: Practicing facilitation
-Module 8B: Monitoring and evaluation
-Module 9B: The center of the star
-Appendix one: More faitful houses, improves faithful houses
-Appendix two: Our inner house
-Appendix two, part two: Temperament and mood
-Appendix three: Monitoring and evaluation forms
-The Faithful House 6-month post-test questionnaire
-Faithful House activity-tracking form

 Download the second edtion here (PDF, 948.78KB, 112pg)

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The Faithful House: Affirming Life, Avoiding Risk. 2009

Published by Catholic Relief Services in collaboration with Maternal Life Uganda and Maternal Life International 2009

Subtitle: "PMTCT supplement." The Faithful House PMTCT Supplement builds upon the information presented in The Faithful House program. Information for facilitators and counselors supporting pregnant women who are HIV positive are included in this supplement.

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The Faithful House: Challenging Gender Norms to Reduce Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships. 2010

Published by the Catholic Relief Services 2010

Written by Dr. Dorothy Brewster-Lee, Adele Clark, Mitiku Telilla

This paper describes results from pre- and postworkshop evaluations that explored what attitude and behavior differences occurred from participation in the Faithful House program and how men and women differed in reported changes. Background: The Faithful House (TFH) is a curriculum that encourages couples to “Be Faithful” by challenging social and cultural gender norms and building skills in interpersonal communication. From 2007 to 2009, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)-Ethiopia trained 1,618 people using TFH; in turn, they reached 8,542 other couples with the curriculum. Conclusions: Though these differences of age and education remain static in the marriage, the training was nevertheless able to positively influence other culturally determined values such as finances, childcare responsibilities, and communication.

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The Faithful House: Challenging Gender Norms to Reduce Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships. Poster 2010

Published by Catholic Relief Services-Ethiopia 2010

Written by Dr. Dorothy Brewster-Lee, Adele Clark, Mitiku Tellila

Gender differences in age and education are a common marital dynamic in Ethiopia and contribute to the gender inequity experienced in many of these relationships. This evaluation aimed to explore what attitude and behavior differences related to these gender roles were changed following participation in TFH, and how men and women differed in reported changes


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The Faithful House: Confronting Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships in the Church. 2010

Published by CRS - Catholic Relief Services 2010

Written by Dr. Dorothy Brewster-Lee, Adele Clark

Background: Reducing the number of multiple concurrent partnerships (MCP) is key to interrupting HIV transmission. The Faithful House (TFH) is a curricula uniquely focusing on fidelity. Facilitator trainees underwent a week of training in TFH in Rwanda (RW), Central Uganda (CU) and North Uganda (NU). Conclusions: The greatest changes resulting from TFH training are where the person exercises the most control; e.g., HIV testing, talking to kids about sex, and communicating with spouse about finance and sex. Parishioners seem willing to seek out church leaders to discuss infidelity, so leaders should be adequately trained to address these issues. These findings should be applied to the development of an HIV prevention strategy that addresses MCP practices in the faith setting through couples’ peer educators.

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The Faithful House: Couples Affirming Life and Love Program Manual. 2011

Catholic Relief Services in collaboration with Maternal life Uganda CRS Ethiopia Maternal Life International


The Couples Affirming Life and Love manual builds upon the success of the original Faithful House program. Like the original program, it uses the metaphor of building a house as a means of helping couples build a better marriage. It also specifically addresses challenges unique to couples who are discordant or who are both HIV-positive, such as adherence, stigma and discrimination, sex in marriage, planning for children and preparing one’s family for death and bereavement

-Module one: The frame of the house
-Module two: Completing the faithful house
-Module three: Living in a faithful house
-Module four: Challenges to the faithful house
-Closing of the faithful house program

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Audit of Gender Related Policies in Southern African Churches. 2008

Published by Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness 2008

The purpose of this research was to serve as a model reflective tool/device for churches when engaging with gender discourse and not to be an exhaustive academic analysis. By examining the relevant policies, doctrines and to some extent practices of each selected church, this report seeks to serve as a model that can be reproduced in other churches. 3 church and gender audits were undertaken in 2006-7 in three southern African countries - Zambia, Malawi and South Africa. The purpose of the audits was to assess the levels of gender consciousness in churches as well as how these are lived out in the work and teachings of these churches.

- Preface
- Summary of the reports of the Churches and Gender Audits Conducted in Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa
- Gender Audits in Churches in Zambia: An Assessments of church law, doctrines and policies as they affect women's righ
- Gender audit of the church in Malawi Phase Two: Gender and grounded realities in five churches in Malawi Audits of Gender Related policies and their implementation among selected South Africa Churches

Download this document from PACSA (PDF, 1.06 MB, 36pg)

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Gender HIV and the Church (2009) Tearfund.

  • A case study on Gender, HIV and the Church written by Mandy Marshall, Idrissa Ouedraogo & Maggie Sandilands and Edited by Maggie Sandilands. Tearfund, March 2009. The case study outlines the programme in Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe over the last 3 years in working through the local church to challenge and change culturally and Biblically based attitudes on gender and sexual rights in the context of HIV and AIDS. The local organisations took a relationship based approach to gender in engaging the local church communities. The case study gives stories of transformation along with Bible studies to engage the church. The programme has seen some amazing success and outlines key aspects of the programme for replication, challenges faced and future issues to consider. Download PDF (12p.; 305.42KB).

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Losing My Religion For Equality 24/01/2013

By: Jimmy Carter

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.


Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

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Religion and Masculinities in Africa: Its Impact on HIV and Gender Based Violence. 2012

Published by Stellenbosch University 2012

By Ezra Chitando

This chapter utilises the emerging field of religion and masculinities to explore the opportunities for Africanization. The main argument is that African material will necessarily colour and influence the study of religion in Africa. This is rightly so: being located in Africa means that the study of religion should not be the same as it is elsewhere in the world. The chapter argues that the discourse on religion and masculinities in Africa provides a valuable opportunity for African scholars to be creative and illustrate the possibility of doing religious studies with an African flavour.

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Staan Saam Op Teen Verkragting En Geweld. 20/02/2013

Die onlangse brutale verkragting en moord van Anene Booysen het skokgolwe dwarsdeur die Suid-Afrikaanse gemeenskap gestuur wat wêreldwyd op internasionale nuuskanale weerklink het.

Geen mens, of te wel medemens, kan anders as om in jou wese geruk te wees deur hierdie gru-daad nie. “Hoe kan een mens so iets aan ’n ander mens doen?” wil ’n mens dit uitskreeu.

Maar terselfdertyd word ons met die realiteit gekonfronteer dat verkragting en geweld teen vroue ’n byna alledaagse verskynsel in ons land geword het. Anene se tragiese sterwe kom gooi die vergrootglas op Suid-Afrika se skokkende verkragtingsyfers.

Volgens amptelike statistiek was daar in 2012 na raming 65 000 seksuele oortredings in Suid-Afrika. Maar volgens die polisie word net een uit ongeveer elke 36 verkragtings aangemeld. (Outrage over teen’s gruseome rape, News24 2013-02-07)

In hierdie tyd waarin soveel stemme in protes weerklink het, kan en mag ons as Christene nie stilbly of wegkyk nie. Ons het ’n verantwoordelikheid teenoor mekaar en tot ons gemeenskap om ons stemme dik te maak... Om mekaar en ook ons kinders daaraan te herinner dat God ons almal net ’n klein bietjie minder as die hemelse wesens gemaak het. Dat Hy man en vrou na Sy beeld geskep het . Dat Jesus Christus duur betaal het vir ELKEEN van ons... Dat verkragting en alle vorme van seksuele geweld direk indruis teen ons God se hart van liefde. Mag ons onomwonde sê dat verkragting ONAANVAARBAAR is en ons dit nie langer wil duld nie.

Een manier om uiting aan ons protes te gee, is om saam met ander gelowiges die Thursdays in Black inisiatief van die Diakonia Raad van Kerke te ondersteun. In die Boland word die projek deur CABSA en Helderberg Uitreik se MIV projek ondersteun en in Gauteng deur die CARIS Kantoor. Ons wil jou aanmoedig – word deel van die “Thursdays in Black” inisiatief. Kom ons droom oor en werk na ’n wêreld sonder verkragting en geweld. Kom ons staan fisies op, stap na ons klerekas en kies elke Donderdag om swart aan te trek. Kom ons word ’n simbool van bewusmaking, solidariteit en protes. Maar terselfdertyd ook ’n simbool van wedersydse liefde en respek in ons verhoudings met mekaar.

Kontak CABSA of Diakonia as jy in speldjies belangstel.
Aneleh Fourie-Le Roux
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The Role of Religious Communities in Addressing Gender-based Violence and HIV. 8/2009

Published by USAID August 2009

This report summarizes the USAID | Health Policy Initiative, Task Order 1 project titled The Role of Religious Communities in Addressing Gender-based Violence and HIV, which was designed and implemented by Futures Group International and Religions for Peace. Recognizing the importance of collaborating to prevent and reduce gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV among women and girls, the Initiative partners formulated the project to improve the capacity of religious leaders and faith-based organizations (FBOs) to respond to GBV and its links to HIV. FBOs, religious communities and, in particular, religious leaders, are often key catalysts for positive social change. Religious leaders are key stakeholders in responding to health and social issues and can play an influential role in validating and promoting best practices for preventing and reducing GBV and related vulnerability to HIV in their communities

-Executive Summary
-Gender-based Violence and HIV
-Project Activities

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Three Models of Manhood: In Search of Real Men. 2009

Written by Prof TS Maluleke 2009

This Bible study proposes a medley of three Biblical passages as sites in which we may explore constructive models of manhood. But the Bible seldom provide us with ready made models, complete maps written to scale and answers invoking no further questions. Indeed, Biblical models of anything, can only emerge in dialogue, contestation, prayer and grappling. Simplistic, hasty and slavish adoption of stories about apparently successful men in the Bible as examples of model manhood may prove to be dangerous and counter-productive. As the medley of passages chosen for this study will show, there are some male examples not meant for imitation - even in the Bible. Some of the stories of apparently successful or unsuccessful men in the Bible are complex - yielding no easy answers - and therefore needing to be read both prayerfully and critically. Three models of manhood, derived from our readings are proposed below, namely, a) man of tombs, b) man but not main, and c) real man.

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‘How Far Is Too Far?:’ Sexuality and Sexual Violence on Christian Campuses. 8/7/2013

Last week, four football players at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., were suspended and banned from campus pending an investigation into possible on-campus sex crimes allegedly perpetrated by the players.

A young couple holds hands. Photo courtesy Peter Bernik/

The action on the case has been swift from both law enforcement and university officials, if tight-lipped. To date, police have not elaborated on the nature of the investigation, and the player’s coaches have refused requests for comment.

“Much like many sexual violence cases, [these] investigations are taboo and not openly acknowledged,” Nancy Hawthorne, interim director of Vanderbilt University’s United Methodist campus ministry, told Sojourners. “As more unfolds about this case I hope that both the victims of violence as well as those being investigated can get the help they need.”

Unfortunately, sexual violence on college campuses is a widespread reality. As many as 20-25 percent of women will face attempted or completed assault over the course of their college tenure. Contrary to popular myths about “stranger-danger,” 9-in-10 of those victims will know their attacker. 

For Christian college administrators, who take seriously the formation not just of mind but of spirit, the reality of campus-based sexual violence is challenging for many to admit. Yet it has serious implications for how students learn, understand, and develop self-respect and love for their neighbor.

In speaking with students, former students, and staff at Christian schools across the country, what’s revealed is that education about the realities and effects of sexual violence among college students remains anemic at best. There’s much to suggest that students are finding their way, but many — particularly at more sexually orthodox campuses — face frightening barriers to knowledge. When it comes to educating mind and spirit on sexual violence, Christian institutes of higher education still have far to go.

Abuse Happens

Maggie Gilman, Prevention Education Specialist at Clackamas Women’s Services in Portland, Ore., tells of an assault case at her alma mater, Goshen College in Goshen, Ind. Compounding the pain of the incident was the treatment of the case by administrators and students alike. Like many Christian schools, Goshen has sexual assault policies, and after the incident Goshen “revamped them to be more accessible,” Gilman said. Nevertheless, she was “taken aback” by the questions — from skeptical to naive and accusatory — asked about the case. 

“I didn’t feel like everyone had been well-educated about sexual violence — it was really hard to watch,” she said.

Indeed, the first step for many institutions is recognizing — publically and in private — that abuse happens.  

“Many Christian campuses pretend stats don’t apply to them,” Kate Davelaar, chaplain at Hope College in Holland, Mich., said. “It’s simply not believed.”

Deb Danielson, a counselor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Penn., agreed.

“We know so much more abuse happens than we ever hear about,” she said.

The National Justice Institute reports that across college campuses, fewer than 5 percent of sexual assault incidents go reported to law enforcement or school officials. The reasons for this are varied, but disbelief and confusion about the nature of sexual violence play large roles in Christian communities. 

“Simple awareness of sexual violence is the biggest shock,” Jeff Brown, a rising senior and member of the Sexual Assault Prevention Team at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., said. For the many educations programs SAPT organizes, “we’re really mostly telling folks that sexual assault happens at Calvin.”

Boundaries Crossed

The reality of campus assault was a surprise for Brown. As a freshman, “sexual abuse wasn’t on my radar,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it.” But after hearing leaders at Calvin speak on how sexualized language can accelerate violence, “I wanted to sign up and find out more,” he said.

Brown is not alone in his experience. Counselors and chaplains, as well as former and current students, note the lack of awareness about sexual abuse among incoming college students. Equally troubling, they note, is the prevalence of personal confusion over healthy boundaries and what constitutes violence. 

“Young adults come in, few are exposed to partying, they have no framework for a responsible way to deal with sex and alcohol other than ‘don’t do it,” Gilman said. “It’s really dangerous.”

Davelaar suggested uneasiness with sexuality can reduce students' language around purity and dating to a formula.

"Students are willing to talk about sex, but the predominant question is 'how far is too far?'" she said, noting that fitting traditional notions of male and female roles to a campus setting can add to the confusion.

“The idea of having boundaries is clear. What that means is confusing,” she said. “Sex is often seen [by female students] as just stuff that happens to them. Or them trying to please their partner.”

As part of his work on abuse awareness and prevention, Brown helps host chapel presentations, monthly sessions, and regular dorm programming to instruct students in notions of healthy personal boundaries.

“We focus on: what is sexual assault? What is consent? Some students have come here with built up pain, and after hearing these definitions recognized for the first time that they’ve suffered assault,” he said.

Purity and Shame

Confusion about personal boundaries arises in part from confusion among Christian young adults about sex. And for more sexually conservative campuses, the inclination to relegate sexual violence under a broader taboo on sexuality can leave students ill-equipped, naive, or downright misinformed about healthy sexual interaction.  

And while a positive ethic of holistic purity does not itself equate to silence and blame, the rigidly simplified yet obtuse connotations that the term "purity" too often compounds the issue.

Davelaar pointed to one such brand of “purity culture” — one “that tells women they are ‘damaged goods’ for having sex” but “tells men they ‘made a mistake, and just do better next time’” — as a main culprit in distorted notions of sexual health and identity among Christian young adults.

“Most students who wear purity rings have sex,” she said. “But they still wear them. It’s hard to ‘fess up’ even to each other that they’re having sex. If they can’t talk about that, they definitely can’t talk about sexual violence.”

Danielson agreed. 

“Thoughtful sexuality is hard. I see students saying, ‘we want to have sex honorably and we don’t know what that looks like,’” she said.

When idealized notions of purity interact with gendered ideas of shame, the result for Christian couples can be grave. Amy Mashburn, a recent graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., noted a sobering trend among her engaged and married friends at Wheaton: the “vast majority” of women “could not label their own anatomy, much less did they understand the basics of sex”, she said; and she was “shocked” by the “total ubiquity of porn addiction” among men.

Mashburn added that a counselor had told her boyfriend “he was [literally] the only male student he had counseled in his five years at Wheaton who did not have that problem.”

“Needless to say, this causes a ton of problems in the marriage bed,” she said. “[Most] porn is seriously degrading to women. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a sexually repressed wife plus a husband who is addicted to sexually deviant porn has to be an underlying cause in the sexual abuse we see in churches today.”

Gender, Power and Respect

For young adults grappling with sex, purity, and shame, gendered power also contributes to silence on sexual violence.

“The hard part about this stuff is it challenges a lot of what we treat as norms — about gender, sexuality, even the problem of sexual violence itself [being ‘man vs woman’],” Gilman said. “Every person has the right to say no to a date, to end a relationship without fear of retaliation. In religious communities with stricter ideas about what men and women are supposed to be, this is much harder to do.”

Davelaar agreed.

“We’re very male-dominated when it comes to gender and power in play,” she said. “Until we change that in the institution, we will continue to be a place where victims would rather take the road to silence.”

Indeed, Andrew Haas, a current student at Wheaton, observed a negative tendency of complementarian ideas playing out in overdrawn gender roles. While not objecting to the theology, the cultural expression of it “leads to a view that women are not as intelligent as men,” Haas said.

“There’s an assumption, ‘If they’re not teaching from the pulpit, they’re not capable in leadership.’ Men at Wheaton respect women — but the danger comes when they’re not seen as equals.”

As the only male member of the sexual assault prevention group at Calvin, Brown took on the role of talking with men about “rape culture”, and “what aspects of culture makes sexual assault more horrific for victims and more prevalent than it has to be,” he said. According to Brown, casual but intentional conversation has been highly effective in changing language among his peers.

“By the end of my sophomore year, no one on my floor was using ‘rape’ casually or as a joke because they knew I wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “Even if they didn’t get why, they stopped saying it.”

Engagement and Healing

While in the intellectual incubator that is the college experience, Christian students are also cultivating their understandings of a faithful identity. Although many Christian schools are vibrant scenes of social justice and engaged activism, underlying subtexts of sexual confusion, disbelief, and shame contribute to a reluctance to discuss sexual violence. 

This is unfortunate, said Danielson, emphasizing that Christian campuses “are obviously the place to have these conversations.”

“The college age is just pivotal. It’s the transition period between states,” she said. “It’s really vital to provide a space to work through these issues in a healthy way. The way these experiences affect self, identity, self-esteem, relationship with God — we have to give students a chance to sort through that.” 

What can be done? Many who spoke with Sojourners stressed peer-to-peer engagement and bystander training, highlighting programs like those at Calvin, which bring together students, faculty, admissions, and staff for story sharing and building awareness. Peer-based programs like these encourage students to invest and participate in building a community of trust, understanding, and forgiveness.

Some, like Gilman, focused first on faculty and staff training.

“Regardless of department, I’d love to see the staff trained and aware of issues that go along with sexual violence,” Gilman said.  “A business major should be able to chat about these concerns with their business professor, and not have to search out the women’s studies department.” 

Others, like Davelaar, saw a critical need for chaplains and counselors to take a more active role in campus narratives about sex, power, and gender. 

“When I was a student in ‘96, chaplains were in the forefront on LGBT questions. Chaplains had a big pulpit, big platform. We need to re-insert ourselves into the conversation,” she said.

For most, it comes down to campuses stressing safety and belonging.

“One of the best things that could possibly happen would be for the environment to feel safe,” Haas said. “That we don’t blame victims of assault for not talking about it.”

All stressed that their institutions were trying to address the problem, even while saying they should be doing much more.

“How it’s handled at Calvin reflects how it’s handled around the country — the victim is just not given enough support. SAPT exists because Calvin still has to grow,” Brown said. “But we are having conversations a lot of others aren’t having. This is a function of our general attitude towards injustice and wrong in the world. Harm should not be buried, but should be brought to light.”

For Christian college students around the country, the campus serves as a critical, and critically vulnerable, space to develop one’s understandings of faith, sexuality, boundaries, and empowerment. 

“Faithful or secular, being able to have students thoughtfully sift through commitment and spirituality is a game changer” for ending sexual violence, Hawthorne, interim pastor at Vanderbilt University, said.

Catherine Woodiwiss is Associate Web Editor at Sojourners. Find her on Twitter @chwoodiwiss.

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Created in God’s Image. From Hegemony to Partnership

A Church Manual on Men as Partners: Promoting Positive Masculinities

Jointly issued by World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches

Edited by Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth and Philip Vinod Peacock
ISBN 978-2-9700686-7-9
Published November 2010

This manual provides tools for workshops with men at the community level. “The idea is for men to recognize that patterns of male violence against women result from negative images of masculinity - images of men as warriors and gods,” Peacock says. “We want them to see that there are other images for men that see strength in partnership with women rather than dominance over them. We need to look to biblical teachings which present those alternate images of partnership between men and women,” says Peacock. The manual aims to strengthen men’s role in ending gender violence. It provides an inclusive approach for men to participate in transforming gender relations which produces male violence.

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Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India. 8/12/09

Published by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India Commission for Women

Publishing date: 8 December 2009
ISBN 978-81-907529-3-0

The Gender Policy took shape from the earnest desire of the women and men of the country to bring equality and harmony to all. It is based on the mutual understanding that both male and female are created in the image and likeness of the divine. It rejects all types of discrimination against women as being contrary to God’s intent and purpose. The Gender Policy underlines that equality and dignity of all human persons form the basis of a just and humane society. The Policy maintains that Women’s empowerment is central to achieving gender equality. The Gender Policy aims to address the concerns of women, who are doubly marginalized and oppressed. As followers of Christ, we are challenged to create conditions for marginalized voices to be heard, to defend the defenceless, and to assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on women

-Part I
1. Gender equality
2. Situation of women in India
3. Biblical and theological foundation of gender equality
4. Vision of Christ
5. Teaching of the church
6. Empowering catholic women
-Part II
7. Vision
8. Mission
9. Objectives
10. Guiding principles
-Part III
11. Areas of implementation: policies and strategies
12. Implementation mechanisms
13. Conclusion

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It will not be so among you! A Faith Reflection on Gender and Power. 2009

Published by the Lutheran World Federation 2009

This resource of biblical and theological reflections highlights global experiences within the framework of the Gender and Power program coordinated by the Women in Church and Society (WICAS) desk in the Department for Mission and Development. It is intended as a discussion starter and a catalyst for concrete action and the development of meaningful gender justice processes in the Lutheran communion.

-Introduction Gender Justice: A Communion Commitment
-Chapter I Rationale for a Gender Approach
-Chapter II Theological Reflection on Gender
-Chapter III Re-Visioning Power: A Biblical Perspective
-Chapter IV Implications of Being an Inclusive Communion

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