Listening to Women: A Letter from Bishop Lee

Bishop LeeDear Friends,

In the last several weeks, I have watched and listened as women from all walks of life, both in and out of the church, have demonstrated courage and conviction by sharing their stories of being sexually abused and harassed by men. These women, many of them inspired by the brave and quiet dignity of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, have left me with a profound sense of the brokenness of our current politics and culture in which the damage done by men who abuse women is compounded by dismissal, derision, and sometimes even with mockery.

Through this difficult time, I have been especially grateful for the leaders of our diocese, both clergy and lay, who have listened to women’s stories and offered compassion, pastoral support, and the assurance that here in the Episcopal Church, we believe women and are committed to ending abuse and harassment in all its forms.

If you are struggling with memories or experiences of abuse or harassment and would find pastoral support helpful, please know that our diocese is home to clergy and lay leaders who will listen without judgment, who will believe you, and who will grieve with you. Please call Anna Stefaniak, associate for human resources, at 312-751-4202, and we will be sure you receive the support and care you need.

For some, the church is a safe and healing place. But I am painfully aware that other women, men and children are survivors of abuse at the hands of the church and its leaders. If you need to make a confidential report about abuse or harassment that has happened within the church, please email Dr. Melissa Perrin, the intake officer for disciplinary matters, or call her at 847-864-8874.

If, like me, these recent events have made you even more mindful of the need to listen to women, I commend to you these recent sermons (below) by several priests of our diocese who have reflected on the news of the day in light of the Gospel. For, although political events may divide us, we are united by our commitment to follow Jesus, who stood against injustice and discrimination, who showed mercy to sinners, and who counted on a woman—Mary Magdalene—to spread the good news that he had risen. Especially in the midst of these divisive times, let us strive to do likewise.


The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago

What if we carry in our own hearts an openness and a deep care for the whole person of everyone we encounter? … Sadly, we know from Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in Washington the kind of pain someone who has experienced sexual assault carries within them. We know it from her story. We know it from the voices of demonstrations and marches, from stories we have heard and, perhaps ones we have lived, that such experiences are widespread. People carry all kinds of pain. We need to always be aware of that and care for them, however we can. –the Rev. Deacon Sue Nebel, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Wilmette

“the human behavior that we continue to witness, not just over this past week but for a number of years, is weakening, perhaps even destroying, the common good; it’s uncommonly tragic and poisonous. … And the gospel is clear: when Jesus saw such things happening in his own time and place – in government, in society, and especially in religion – he called out those who were responsible, and called on them to repent and change.”—the Rev. Cynthia Hallas, St. Giles Episcopal Church, Northbrook

Have you noticed the emotional and powerful responses to Dr. Ford’s testimony in the supreme court justice hearing? It is because she has become something more than her individual experience. She is pointing to a societal illness that needs healing and attention. People are reactive and emotional because they want to be known, seen, heard, they want justice and a better, more safe world. Whatever your politics…this is an issue to activate Christian compassion. —the Rev. Lisa Senuta, St. James the Less Episcopal Church, Northfield (excerpt reprinted with permission)

If you have recently preached or written on gender-based or sexual abuse or harassment and would like to share your thoughts with the people of the diocese, please email Jen Boyle-Tucker in the bishop’s office.