In mid-November, the Sexual Misconduct Response and Intervention Team held its semi-annual member training and invited the chair of the newly formed Anti-Sexism Team to participate.
Rev. Dr. Sara Garrard chairs the Anti-Sexism Team (short for the Sex/Gender-Based Crisis Response Team), which was created in June when the 2022 Annual Conference approved RS-22-231
. This team is the first point of contact for clergy or laity who have experienced sexism and gender discrimination in the NEAC.
We spoke to Dr. Garrard and Rev. Heather Bailes Baker, who chairs the Response and Intervention Team, about this most recent training and the efforts of the two teams to work together and to raise awareness among clergy and laity in the New England Conference about these resources.
What do the teams do
The Response and Intervention Team responds to cases of sexual misconduct in the church.
“I think the primary thing I want people to know about our team is that our job is to accompany people through the challenges of boundary violations,” said Rev. Bailes Baker. “We are not investigative. We are not punitive.”
The response team works with pastors, SPRCs, respondents, and survivors/thrivers.
“We're available to everyone who has been affected [by sexual misconduct],” she said. “We are here so they're not alone in the midst of this hard stuff of life and ministry.”
“We sit with you, we listen to you — we're a hand to hold in prayer,” she said.
The Anti-Sexism Team is under the auspices of the Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW). The team is the “response” component, and through COSROW there's also an education/prevention component, “knowing that we have to come at [sexism and gender discrimination] from two angles,” she said.
“What we've set up is a guide system; we're calling them shepherds,” Dr. Garrard said. “And so every person who comes to us will be partnered with a shepherd who will journey with them throughout the whole way, and the shepherd is going to help that individual find a tailored plan.”
That plan might include counseling, mediation, or even legal action – either within the church’s system or through the courts.
“And so [the shepherd] will walk them through this plan to address it, and then ideally pairing that with the educational aspect. We'll hopefully negate sexism,” Dr. Garrard said.
Development of anti-sexism training is in the works, Dr. Garrard said, and the Cabinet has agreed to be the first group to participate. The training is also expected to become part of the Provisional Leadership Academy.
So how do you know if something you’ve experienced rises to a level that would be addressed by the Anti-Sexism Team?
“We want them to reach out to us,” Dr. Garrard said, “because I think this is where, especially for marginalized groups — queer people, BIPOC persons, persons with disabilities — it's death by thousand cuts and they start to add up.”
“Sometimes it doesn't feel like a big deal, because we're so accustomed to, ‘Hey, little lady, doesn't that skirt look nice with your legs,’” she said, but people should not hesitate to contact the team about anything that makes them uncomfortable.
At the request of Response Team members, the November team training, focused on how race impacts sexual violence and other boundary violations, Rev. Bailes Baker said.
Rev. Traci Jackson, chair of the Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership
Against Domestic Violence’s Community Partners Advisory Board, and Rev. Dr. Darryl A. Elow, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan, MA.
Together they led a day-long training session speaking to the intersection of race and sexual/domestic violence and of race and clergy ethics. The training was held at Rolling Ridge in North Andover, MA.
“To me, this is where we're seeing this work of intersectional justice,” Dr. Garrard said. “Really, our trainings need to be intersectional.”
And joint trainings, she said, allow these groups to learn how to better engage with each other and “make us feel like we're doing a work in the connection.”
These two teams certainly have some overlap in their work, they said, and being able to work closely together ultimately makes them more effective.
The two teams are in conversation, Rev. Bailes Baker said, and refer people to each other as appropriate. “When it's not our work, we know who to call,” she said.
“There needs to be conversation and a trust built between these two groups; that's pretty critical,” Dr. Garrard said.
Find the teams on our website
The Sexual Ethics and Misconduct Policies webpage
is under the Resources tab on the Conference website. Contact info for the teams can be found here as well as below:
Sexual Misconduct Response and Intervention Team
The Response and Intervention Team responds to cases of sexual misconduct.
Contact Rev. Heather Bailes Baker, Team Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find a list of Response and Intervention Team members
The Conference Anti-Sexism Team provides support, training, and resources to address/prevent sexism and gender-based discrimination. This is a first point of contact for clergy and laity seeking support.
Find a list of team members
Contact the team at email@example.com
Sexual Misconduct in the Church flyer
This printable PDF on Sexual Misconduct in the Church was produced by the Response and Intervention Team. The 8.5” by 11” flyer can be printed in color or b/w. It is available in Korean, Portuguese and Spanish as well as English. We encourage churches to post the flyer to help share this resource with our congregations.
View/download the flyer