Rainbow Mennonite Church is one example of a congregation that has suffered needless trauma due to its leaders’ refusal to take responsibility for immoral and harmful decisions. When congregants make allegations of abuse and harm, many churches take actions based in fear of legal exposure and reputational damage. Such actions almost invariably amplify the abuse that has already occurred, causing lasting spiritual harm and moral injury to faith communities, and traumatic repercussions in individual lives. This is institutional betrayal, and it is pervasive in our churches and church organizations.
The Center for Institutional Courage describes the long-term impacts of institutional betrayal:
Institutional betrayal is toxic. Sometimes we experience the pain with eyes wide open. Other times…we simply don’t see it, or refuse to see it, because the institution is that important to us. Whether we see it or not, it hurts us—it can even kill us. Institutions, too, can be ruined by betrayal. People disengage and defect from institutions they cannot trust. Over time, we lose faith in the social compact, and in each other.
From “A Call to Courage,” by The Center for Institutional Courage*
We do not need to do this to each other. There is a healthier way forward for churches, and it begins with a commitment to the principles of institutional courage.
Into Account is working with organizational partners to create a call to institutional courage for churches and church organizations. We aspire to create a call that churches will commit to publicly, with the understanding that their congregants can then hold them accountable to commitments such as these:
Commit to taking responsibility for mistakes.
Commit to prioritizing human beings over institutional reputations.
Commit to never silencing anyone through legal means. No more NDAs.
Commit to using professional credentials of congregants responsibly.
Commit to moral integrity over liability fears, even when risk is involved.
Commit to preventing and repairing institutional betrayal.
Commit to accountability structures that attend to abuses of power.
Commit to telling the whole truth.
If you’d like your church or church-based employer to make such commitments, join us.