SBC Survivors Retreat “Rising to Walk”
to the RETREAT PAGE for Female Survivors
of Sexual &Spiritual Violence
perpetrated by so-called "Men of God"
After all, who could possibly be laughing when faced with such a serious topic as sexual violence? Yes, you heard me right. I did say "violence," not "abuse" because I've always insisted that the violation of a soul by sexual means needs to be called "violence". To me, abuse is a minimizing word that I don't ever like to use in these cases.
Of course, there's nothing funny at all about violence.
I do prefer to laugh at a lot of the nonsensical thinking and self-incriminating action, though. Same as I do when there's an occasional victory over nonsense, which is exactly why I was laughing last fall when Shirley Fessel, a domestic violence-in-a-Baptist- parsonage victim, captured the above image during a Zoom call shortly after I received news that the Executive Committee of the SBC had been forced, by 1000+ courageous SBC pastors, to waive attorney-client privilege.
Laughing at the poetic justice, as well, now that the Dept. of Justice has chosen to get involved, thanks to the work of so many survivors and advocates in the SBC, as we've continued to push, each in our own way, to network and speak out until we can no longer be completely ignored.
Laughing is one thing I plan to do a lot during this fall retreat, along with singing and even a little African dancing. A dance referred to in past retreats I've led as "The Stomp Dance," with lyrics as funny and as appropriate as anything we'll be learning together.
At least one of the participants has never had opportunity to meet another survivor of abusive clergy, though she has been learning and growing for decades an amazing ways due to unique coping skills she has discovered on her own. Along with others, she will be sharing some of these.
Another survivor is my friend Olga, who will not be present except by Zoom, since she lives in England, where she has been thriving for years. What a story she has to share with us plus music and some of her poetry that she's happy to share.
These are just some of the examples of what is in store.
As the oldest survivors' advocate, extending my advocacy work through writing in 1993, only a few years after losing my missionary career alongside my husband, after discovering in 1986 that the same man who I'd reported as having sexually assaulted me two years earlier had more victims than we could ever hope to know, ranging from ages 15 to 48--including adolescents and at least two male victims, neither of whom were ever reported. Whew! That was a long sentence, but not nearly as long as the horrific story.
As with most stories, the collusion was the worst soul betrayal of all. To this day, my husband Ron and I still suffer from that. The hardest to imagine was having every single missionary-colleague either choosing to remain silent or joining the conspiracy to outright protect the predator. Eventually, we were forced to resign in order to keep our voices and assure that the late Gene Kingsley would not ever have opportunity to assault another national on the mission field, at least. With our stand, we did succeed in that.
Sound familiar? Well, rest assured you are far from alone.
What about the Retreat Program?
If you want to make a few new friends and learn to soar above the trauma, with fellowship unlike anything you are likely to ever be able to enjoy again in ordinary church life, this retreat is for you.
Not only will you be challenged to think outside the box, where you may have felt trapped for years, you will join others as we are challenged to explore new avenues of building community and enlarging our worlds in spite of the church. You will also have free time to enjoy walks or sightseeing, especially as you take in some wonderful historical museums from Topeka to Lawrence. Or visit the site of National Brown vs. Board of Education site, where you will notice parallels to overcoming oppression and disenfranchisement unlike most Americans have ever experienced.
Rest assured, you will not be pressured to share your story. Nor will you be put on the spot at anytime during the program. You will have opportunities to share, however, either in the large group or in smaller ones, with structured activities that yield such opportunities.
Neither will you have to be worried by common triggers. Strange as it may sound, this retreat will have no Bible-reading, no prayers, no traditional hymns, nor rant-and-rave tantrums. Any praise-Jesus testimonies that can make so many of us cringe will be off limits! If that's what you were hoping for, I assure you this retreat is not for you.
Before arriving all participants, will receive their own copy of Bette Rod's CD, entitled Pieces. This will allow you to be acquainted with some of her unique songs that I'll list with the CD, each one to be used during the retreat.
Cost and Registration Deadlines
Funds are being raised, with enough already acquired to pay for meals and lodging for 7 of the 20 who will be soon be registering to come. I'll be updating those numbers as time goes along.
Registration starts June 23 and must be completed by Oct. 1
EARLY BIRD Rate is $75 if received before Sept. 10. After Sept. 10, registration will be $250, which will cover materials, meals, and lodging for each person.
At the last retreat I led in Iowa, a fundamentalist survivor asked a question I had not anticipated. How can I be sure that a person from the LGBTQ population will not be at this retreat? If this is your concern, or if you happen to be a survivor who is also LGBTQ, I assure you that discrimination is something I do not tolerate. This retreat is open to those of all those of all religions, races, and sexual orientations.
What about Funding?
I began reaching out along with other advocates on May 22, asking for donations through https://gofund.me/24fcf92d Funds were specified for Southern Baptist survivors since this is where the crying need has been due to the "crisis" created by this denomination that is now being investigated by the Dept of Justice due to the horrific demonizing of this group by leaders in the SBC.
Where Will You Stay?
Entire Air B&B homes around Perry, KS have already been reserved, solely for our use, with private rooms for participants. The venue is at Spirit Lake Guest House which should be set for a colorful, fall welcome overlooking the lake that adjoins the property.
How Will You Get There?
If flying into Kansas City, you will need to arrive at the airport no later than 3 p.m. on Oct. 14. If you are not an early riser and have more than one flight coming, you may consider the option of staying overnight in KC at your own expense on Thursday, Oct. 13. The airport has a variety of reasonably-priced motels with shuttles, making it convenient for you to join others and ride together, unless you prefer to make other arrangements.
Depending on where you reside, you may be able to join someone else and carpool to and from the retreat.
I will be happy to share more details of the program, as well.
Dee Ann Miller