November 7, 2017

Attention: CRCNA Elders

Christian Reformed Church

1700 28th Street SE

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49508-1407

Subject: Sexual Harassment

To whom it may concern,

Firstly, I would like to inform you that this letter is not for legal reasons. It is written with the purpose of alerting you to one church and it’s leadership who claim to be under the guidance of the CRC. I write this in the hope that no one else will be adversely affected by people claiming to teach about God and Christ.

Are you familiar with a CRC named New England  Chapel in Franklin Massachusetts? If you have ever attended or become familiar with this particular CRC establishment, you should be aware that they offer a men’s ministry to provide companionship and guidance to the male members of the congregation.

For your benefit I will tell you a tiny part of my story. After attending New England Chapel for several years and becoming a member of the congregation, I was treated with sexual harassment. Many of the men, women and leaders participated in detrimental gossip affecting both my mental health and my marriage.

In February of 2016, I sought spiritual guidance from two of the male pastors during a difficult time in my life. A few months later, I was confronted in a local restaurant by two men, one of these men I knew to be a member of NEC.

During this encounter, I was asked to join them. Knowing one of the men from NEC, I sat down and we started to converse. Then these men proceeded to tell me how many people view the relationship between the church and it’s body as that of a husband and wife. These men stated that it is the male who plants the seed and the female who receives the seed. One man, who I had never met before or since,  proceeded to draw a sketch of a husband and wife in bed. Then this stranger drew a sketch of a preacher spreading his seed and the bride of the church receiving his seed. I sat in shock. Dumbfounded and speechless. Then this same stranger, took my hand while leaning across the table and whispered in my ear: ‘no one hugs a pastor. Not for one minute or one second’.

As I had no idea why they would accost me, draw disturbing pictures or even broach the topic, I sat there confused and intimidated. Had I been able to respond, I would have informed these men of my schooling and my knowledge regarding Christ and His Church here on earth.

At the time, the only pastors I recall hugging are those who have either preached at or are employed by NEC. Do I hug pastors? Yes. Should I be ashamed? No. What would Jesus do? He would greet you with a holy kiss.

Having suffered sever abuse by church officials in the past, this incident affected my life to the point of suffering a mental breakdown. In April of 2017,  once I felt strong enough to address the incident, I wrote a letter to the pastor I had sought help from back in February of 2016. When we met and I explained my experience, he informed there are certain channels I must go through in order for my complaint to be addressed. Following that conversation, I wrote a request for a meeting with a current pastor, a representative from the men’s ministry and a church elder. I was contacted by the church administration and told that I must first register my complaint with two women representing the church elders.

During my meeting with these two women, I was questioned about very specific details including asking how I knew these men and if I had kept the sketch. I was questioned as to why these men would feel comfortable approaching me. I was questioned about details of the sketch. Yet neither woman asked if I felt harassed in any way. When I informed them that I believe I was sexually harassed based on what was said and sketched by those two men, I was dismissed.

A week later I was informed that no one in the men’s ministry was aware of such an incident. Not a single person from the men’s ministry ever addressed my complaint nor did they seek clarification. I still have no idea why these men would approach me.

After putting myself through the ordeal again, providing complete strangers with details, I was left feeling used, abused and mistreated. Yet, to this day, some NEC church members continue to harass me in subtle ways.

For instance, in May 2017, I started a volunteer job working at a local gift shop. Several members from NEC came to the shop and informed me that a former pastor had taken another position. Having never inquired about the church or its pastors, I felt intruded upon. This happened on several occasions. I have since had to quit my volunteering position at the gift shop.

Be aware that a church which is part of the CRC organization is very sick and needs to be held accountable. This church affected me adversely in so many ways.  All the while claiming to teach about Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a church who marginalizes women, feeds on gossip, and mistreats it’s female members, then this is the church for you. If you are unaware of this church then you have failed to lead!

Beware of false preachers who manipulate trusting souls and marginalize their vessels. Sick churches make people sick. It infuriates me. Why? Because they marginalize God’s messengers.

After a lifetime of forgiving past violations from church officials in positions of authority, I’m left feeling harassed and violated by yet another church and its ministers. It infuriates me. Men marginalizing women infuriates me. Women supporting such thinking infuriates me.

Marginalized simply for being who God created me to be. Objectified for being a woman. Dismissed and marginalized. Should I be ashamed for hugging a pastor? Never. Did I expect to be accosted for it? Never. I am precious to God and accept nothing less from those claiming to teach love.

I had hoped for a better day. I had hoped for a church that doesn’t objectify women. I had hoped for women who support the marginalized and don’t feed on gossip. I had hoped New England Chapel was that church. God showed me otherwise.

I hope every church that marginalizes any part of a person knows the error of its way. I can accept ignorance. People in leadership positions need checks and balances, otherwise they go astray.

I can also forgive ignorance. I know that God will hold these people accountable and I hope your leadership does as well.  These leaders need to be held accountable. Let us all try to ensure no one else will be destroyed or harassed by people claiming to teach about God and Christ.

As the head church I believe it is your responsibility to hold your ministers accountable. I pray you do. I pray those who are spiritually sick stop spreading their illness. I pray Christ will live in the hearts of each and every soul involved. I pray God will heal all those made ill by false preachers. I pray you will hold these leaders accountable in loving kindness. I ask this in the name of Your Son, my friend and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Fervently,

Mary McWilliams

Cc NEC elders, NEC Prayer Team

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