The holiday began as Lupercalia, a spring festival which included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery. The pope eventually replaced it with Valentine’s Day, which gradually matured into today’s romantic holiday of hearts, flowers, and boxes of chocolates.
We might think our romanticized version of the holiday more refined than the more sexualized pagan origins, but romance is really the bedfellow of sexuality (Yeah, pun intended.) Think of it this way: Romance is dopamine, sex is hormones, and the two of them dance very well together. Sometimes romance goes spinning off while sex does a solo, but romance doesn’t really do any solos because romance needs sex to dance. Romance is the more refined, ennobled, psychological outgrowth of the human sex drive.
Which brings me to my point. I have a strange little Valentine’s Day message for you. Sexuality and its partner, romance, are sacred gifts of God—so sacred that Paul uses marriage, the context in which God designs they dance—as a metaphor for Jesus’ love for the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Because this beautiful system of love, sex, and marriage hold such profound potential for revealing the love of Jesus, the enemy steals, kills, and destroys them any way he can. And one of the ways in which he accomplishes his nefarious mission is sexual abuse. Sadly, sexual abuse occurs in the Church. I myself am a survivor of church ministry-related sexual harassment and assault.
Over the years I’ve tried to offer help to people who have been similarly victimized. I learned of and assisted The Hope of Survivors, an excellent cross-denominational ministry. Then I got to know Nicole Parker and we began talking about creating a reporting system for within the Adventist Church. Sarah McDugal joined the effort and we developed an abuse response training. Then the Lake Union of Seventh-day Adventists joined in and supported us in developing and implementing a sexual abuse reporting and response system.
The system is called Project Safe Church, and you should love it.
Because of Project Safe Church, there is a website where anyone in the Lake Union can report sexual abuse by an LU employee or volunteer. That report will go to a trained care provider, who will help the victim develop a statement. That statement will be turned over to a trained sexual ethics committee, who will gather more evidence and eventually adjudicate the case, passing their recommendations on to the conference administrators. In other words, because of this system, a sexual abuse allegation in the Lake Union has a far less chance of being swept under the rug, forgotten, or mishandled. Perpetrators, be warned; saints, rejoice! “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 126).
I would like to ask that you 1) pray for Project Safe Church; 2) spread the word to your conference or union leaders that such a system exists; 3) share this message on your social media or forward it to your contacts; 4) donate to the cause as God leads through www.jenniferjill.org, earmarking it “Project Safe Church.” Let’s keep God’s sacred gift of sexuality, sacred.