Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Educating youth about sex: check out this local conference

I will be speaking at a local day-long seminar geared to educate youth, youth workers, and parents on the topic of sex, sexual health, and relationships. It is sponsored by Eastern University. You can check out this page for more information. While my talk is geared to help adults create environments free of sexual abuse, most of the other presentations are dealing with issues around teen sexuality, relationships in an age appropriate manner. If you are a youth worker or have teens or middle schoolers, you might want to come and bring your kids as well.

On July 26-27, the Center for Urban Youth Development at Eastern University will host a conference called O, YES! (Our Youth Enlightened about Sex). This Christian conference is designed to enlighten middle school and high school students from Philadelphia and vicinity about topics related to sex, relationships and sexual health. It will be held at the Eastern University Academy Charter School at 3300 Henry Avenue in Philadelphia.

The Friday night Kick-off at 7 PM will feature entertainment, games, prizes, snacks and an introduction of the theme, Be Transformed. Saturday (9 AM to 4:30 PM) will include interactive seminars, skits, entertainment and food. Facilitators will present the real deal on teens and sex.  Their expertise, experience and Christian worldview will be incorporated into dynamic workshops.

To register for O, YES! or to make a donation, go to www.eastern.edu/oyes. Please direct inquires to oyes@eastern.edu or call 215-769-3105. Follow us on Twitter: @OYESConference. The cost for those who register before June 19 is $25/person. After June 19, add $5/person. For groups who bring 14 people, the 15th person will attend at no cost. Scholarships are available. Donations to make this event possible are appreciated.



Filed under Abuse, Christianity, counseling, parenting, Relationships, Sex

Thinking about justice: Starting from the wronged

At the Justice2013 conference here in Philadelphia. Yesterday’s pre-conference sessions included one by Nicholas Wolterstorff (professor at Yale) entitled, “My Story: Starting From the Wronged in Thinking About Justice”. He told of 2 experiences where he heard the stories of injustice (one in South Africa, the other from Palestinian Christians) and how these stories shaped his thinking about justice. He argues that starting from the position of the wronged changes how we think about justice. Here’s a few of his points:

  • We have reactive (retributive) rights and primary rights. Reactive rights are those that we have once we are wronged. Primary rights are those we always have (e.g., dignity). Most people think only about reactive rights or about justice in light of injustice.
  • In thinking about primary rights/justice, there are two common models: right order model (view that there is an external standard for order and rights (e.g., the bible); inherent rights (what one is due (equity, dignity) from merely being human).
  • Rights and fairness are connected but fairness or treating people equally is not necessarily justice. Some need more than others.
  • Justice and freedom are connected but autonomy as an absolute right is “justice for eagles and lions”, meaning only justice for the powerful. What about justice for those who have dementia, who are born without capacity to act? What if dignity is the foundation for justice?
  • Punishment as payback violates the biblical concept of “do not return evil for evil.” Thus, we must view punishment as connected to love (e.g., as a parent punishes a child to teach but not to pay them back for their evil action).


Filed under Abuse, Justice

Trauma and Trafficking DVDs on Amazon

Nearly 2 years ago (March 2011), Biblical Seminary put on a conference about the problem of sexual trauma and trafficking. Our speakers included Dr. Diane Langberg (a noted psychologist), Bethany Hoang (IJM), Robert Morrison (a grassroots organizer), and Pearl Kim (now ADA for 2 Philadelphia counties). The sessions covered domestic and international sex trTrauma and Traffickingafficking, abuse and violence against women worldwide, the problem of sexual abuse in christian organizations, and how to mobilize community action without expending energy on non-profit status.

It was a powerful conference…and you can own it for a mere $19.99. Here’s the link to Amazon. Or, you can find it here at Vision Video (along with MP4 options as well) for 20% off.

This DVD set (3 DVDs) are an excellent starting point if you or your church group want to think more deeply about the biblical call to justice in the area of trafficking, trauma, and violence against women, whether “out there” or in the church.

Look for information on purchasing our most recent DVD series, Abuse in the Church, in the next week.


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Filed under Abuse, biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, christian counseling, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, Diane Langberg, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, trauma

Abuse Reporting: What you DON’T do can get you into trouble

As I write this Monsignor William Lynn has just been convicted of child endangerment for not adequately protecting children by removing priests he had evidence had abused children. No one accused Lynn of perpetrating abuse by his own actions. But now he stands convicted for what he failed to do and is looking at some years behind bars.

Bottom line: if church leaders knowingly cover up sexual abuse allegations or allow other leaders to remain in ministry when they have abused children, there is now a track record of prosecuting those who didn’t take action to protect children–either those who have been abused or those who could be abused.

Frankly, it shouldn’t take the threat of prosecution to get us to do the right thing. For the sake of the purity of the Church and the care for the least of these, we should always protect children over the organizational reputation. If you or someone you know wants to know more about how to deal with abuse allegations in the church, join us on July 20-21 for our seminar on the topic. For only $50 dollars for 9 hours of training, you can walk away with some great ways to protect your church and care for victims and offenders. (FYI, the $50 rate is for anyone not wanting graduate credit…you don’t need to be a church official to get that rate!)


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, church and culture, News and politics, pastors and pastoring

Failures to act: Why we don’t always blow the whistle on abuse

Outrage. Befuddlement. Demands for the heads of leaders who probably knew something but didn’t appear to act. Righteous indignation against those who merely met legal obligations to report abuse but failed moral obligations to stop abuse.

Right now, in most of the country but especially in Philadelphia, you cannot turn on the television or listen to the radio without encountering such comments about the Sandusky/Penn State sexual abuse scandal. In my county, democrats control the county leadership for the first time in 140 years but no one seems to give that much time because of the outrage about this case. What people are talking about is, (a) why didn’t those who knew something was amiss do more to investigate abuse, and (b) what should happen to those people who failed to stop the abuse.

What would you have done?

If you are like me, you imagine that you would have acted to stop the abuse. You would have grabbed the boy out of the shower. You would have screamed bloody murder until someone took notice. You feel righteous indignation that no one seems to have had the moral fortitude to deal with this issue head on.

And you would be right to feel this way. But while we are holding leaders accountable for their failure to act and to protect (as well we should!) let us take a moment and address some of the reasons why we might not be quite as action oriented as we imagine ourselves. By doing so, we may make it more likely that we will respond correctly should we face the unfortunate situation of reporting someone we know to the authorities.

Here are some of the reasons we fail to intervene when intervention is needed:

Self protection

Worry about personal consequences can hinder our taking action. Thinking about how we will be treated, viewed, responded to can cause us to pause and not act. What if I get fired? What if this abusive person targets me? What if someone were to make an allegation about me? I wouldn’t like that so I don’t want to stir up trouble for this person.

Have you ever wondered why so many drivers flee the scene of a pedestrian/car accident–even when they were not at fault? We want to avoid facing the possibility that we might have done something wrong.

System protection

We sometimes worry about how the organization will be treated or viewed if abuse comes to light. Far too frequently individuals have covered up the sins of church leaders for fear of ruining the reputation of the congregation. This reason is also seen in the next two reasons. We don’t want people to turn away from God so we cover up what happened.


We’d like to think that with a larger group of individuals, sensibility will prevail. But my experience with institutions dealing with a sensitive issue suggests that once a group is deciding how to respond to abuse, it devolves into who has the loudest voice in what should be done next. Unfortunately, the loudest voice may be about liability (vs. morality) or outer reputation (vs. protection of victims). Also, groups often fail to address pertinent issues and alternative responses due to groupthink. Some of the reasons why this is the case can be found in Wikipedia’s definition.  One other thing about groups. We have ample evidence that individuals in a group setting are less likely to intervene when they witness violence happening to someone else. We’re more likely to act if we witness this when alone. Why is this? We may feel less responsibility when others are around.


We like to keep the good people good and the bad people bad. When those who are considered good do bad things, we can fall prey to denial. It is not possible. I know him. He couldn’t possibly do that. Thus, we deny what we have seen and that leads to the next reason.

Self doubt

Have you ever witnessed something troubling but then wondered if you really saw what you thought you saw? Maybe you catch a glimpse of an adult smacking a child in a parking lot as you drive by. Do you stop and confront? Well, maybe you didn’t really see that. Maybe there is some other explanation that might make this acceptable. When the abuse is done by someone we respect, it is easy to think we must have misconstrued it. And once we hesitate, it is that much harder to activate to do the right thing.

Winsomeness of the abusive person

It is important to remember that the most dangerous abuser is the person who is inter-personally winsome. The reason why a person can have access to others and can get away with abuse is often due to their capacity to put others at ease. Most abuse is not done by those who are revolting to others just because they don’t get opportunity. I know of individuals who were caught in acts of child abuse, questioned by authorities, and so winsome that the investigation was dropped before completed. They provide plausible even highly believable explanations that help the questioner feel at ease. They appear to be open and concerned. They are so good they convince most that such abuse could never happen by their hand. It takes a very expert examiner to catch them in the subtle lies they tell to themselves and to others. Check out Anna Salter’s book on predators if you want to see what she has learned from decades of interviewing known, convicted sex offenders.

It is easy for us to sit in the chair of judgment when we hear of cover-ups and failures to act. These failures to protect children do need to be judged and we ought not shrink back from administering restorative justice for abuse and for the inaction of others. However, let us remember that the work of being light in the midst of darkness has many enemies. Our own weaknesses plus the pressures of our community and the manipulative actions of offenders conspire to make inaction the easier choice.

May we take the high road as we encounter abuse in any form.


Filed under Abuse, Christianity, church and culture, Cognitive biases, Cultural Anthropology, deception

Wildlife in suburbia

On Halloween I took the family to the suburban cemetery woods to look for deer. Spotted 7 or so, including a 4 pt. buck. The youngest was afraid of being head-butted by a deer. I told him none would get that close to us.

Well, I was wrong about how close. After going down one trail, we decided to turn around. 30 seconds after turning around I spot a deer trailing us. We froze and the deer kept coming, eating yellow leaves as she picked her way closer. She clearly saw us but was intrigued. My 10 year old held up a yellow leaf to see if she’d come all the way. She got within 8 feet and then sauntered off in another direction. Later when we were returning to the car, we ran into her again (her face had a pretty unique marking near the mouth). Again, she wasn’t particularly concerned about our presence. Maybe others nearby feed her?

On Sunday, I returned to the trails to take my eldest and his friend. They got to see several deer but also as we were driving away, we saw a statuesque red fox observing us and the deer nearby.

For the suburbs, the kids see way more wildlife here than I did growing up in Vermont. There are some benefits to suburban sprawl (at least to us humans interested in seeing the wildlife). In the last week they have seen wild rabbits, ground hogs, fox, deer, and an opossum.


Filed under Uncategorized

What is God doing in Philadelphia?

Being an academic has certain perks. I got to participate in one of them today. A DMin cohort is in session this week and part of their class was a tour of Philadelphia to see what God is doing in and through the church. We left early this am on a Hagey bus (donated I hear, thank you Hagey!) and traveled to an African American church on Cheltenham ave. This church started very small in the 80s, meeting in a motel suite. Slowly, they were able to rent more and finally buy the property and several more. I’ll write more soon about this church and how it handled the congregation in some uncomfortable building situations. I was convicted at how comfort (me) focused I am. The church has a tremendous evangelism program. Next we travelled through a good chunk of North Philadelphia (West of Broad) to see Eric Mason at 16th and Diamond (Epiphany Fellowship). This pastor and his congregation are seeking to reach and redeem the hip hop culture and be a presence in N. Philadelphia. We then traveled through a lot of N. Philadelphia: Feltonville, Kensington, and through the Latino populated parts. We ate at a muslim owned business (kabobs) and heard from Rev. Luis Centano (Wyoming Baptist) about his many ministries that are an asset to the community and to the Philadelphia police force. The biggest presence in this area is the Jehovah’s Witnesses and then the Mosque. We saw lots of poverty and lots of people making a way despite being abandoned by everyone, including the police and city.

We then traveled back in time to Bridesburg. This is a very white section of the city cut off (by I95) from most of the city. Very Irish Catholic. We visited a young man who has opened a coffee shop and church (real life cafe) that meets in the shop. His story is quite an interesting one. I dropped off the tour at this point and took the train home but the rest of them continued on to Tenth Presbyterian Church to hear about their center city ministry.

The best part of this tour? Hearing Bill Krispin narrate our trip and share his 42 years experience with the entire city. This man has walked the streets and knows what is happening. His call to us is to do what business does: read the environment and learn what God is doing in the city instead of being 5 years behind.  If you ever get a chance to do something like this with a person who knows your area, be sure to do it. You get to see what God is up to and not just the problems.

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Filed under church and culture, Cultural Anthropology