This is the second in a series of interviews with Thursdays in Black ambassadors who are playing a vital role in increasing the impact of our collective call for a world without rape and violence.
Rev. Chris Ferguson is the general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
Why did you decide to join Thursdays in Black?
Rev. Ferguson: The World Communion of Reformed Churches has very powerfully discerned that violence against women is something that we put at the forefront as totally against God’s will. People should not be discriminated against, much less hurt, destroyed or violated because of their gender. There is no way to follow the God of life and tolerate or in any way be complicit in violence against women through our theologies or actions. Christian theology has been used to create the conditions that have been allowed to justify and support both direct and indirect violence and discrimination against women.
Our faith community believes there is a special imperative to not allowing our theology and our practices in the church to permit any kind of violence including the violence of exclusion or supremacies that claim that men are more important than women. Our theologies are filled with biblical interpretation that I believe is against gender violence. But our history goes the other way. We, for instance, are struggling very much around issues of the full inclusion of women in the ministry, so not allowing women’s ordination for us is also a form of violence.
Another answer relates more to my ministry. Starting from my time as a youth worker, going to my time as a missionary in Central America in the context of three civil wars, and as a campus chaplain, I faced the reality of everything from rape as a weapon of war to suicide prevention. These experiences taught me that women and girls are particularly susceptible to violence.
A third answer is – I am a father of a daughter and, through her experience, I have been keenly sensitised.
So I am speaking as a parent, a minister and a leader of a worldwide Christian organisation, all of this with my own personal convictions and spirituality.
One of the major places in which our world is off track is with these supremacies and the religious justification that particularly attack women, and this is getting worse, not better in terms of how gender has been weaponised. Our imperative now is to confess the God of life in a world fallen among thieves. So we want everybody to wake up and, every day as part of their Christian spirituality, say ‘the world is not as God wants it and it can and must be changed’.
Every Thursday on social media, what does it mean to you to make a public statement that supports Thursdays in Black?
Rev. Ferguson: On Thursdays, I clothe myself, I vest myself in an attitude that throughout the week I remember that I have a responsibility, not only for how I act and exercise my prerogatives but for the social and political implications as a Christian leader. I understand that the ambassador’s role is to model and to call people to explicitly join the movement, to understand that even if you simply show up in black that’s also not enough. As an older white man I do my bit by wearing black, and I support what other people are doing. Well, that’s not enough unless men take an active leadership role. The transformation will come – and has come from the leadership of women – but we must be firm and sharp allies.
If you look at my very brief posts, they are always about what we’re for: we’re for a world where women and children will be free of violence. We’re for a violence-free world, so I find that a very energetic time every Thursday, and I’m filled again with determination that it is something that we can and should be about.
What is your first message for people not yet involved in Thursdays in Black?
Rev. Ferguson: Women are systematically abused and violated, and it is part of an evil and unjust sinful structure. There is no escape from it. There are very few that could boast any real sense of equity for women, so there’s always power and economic violence.
So the first thing I say is ‘wake up to how this world is’. God has created us all equal but there is not a spot where this is happening. I don’t know of one church that has got it right, I don’t know of one government that has got it right. I find the fundamental issue of violence against women is frankly trivialised or becomes talk show stuff. This isn’t about talk shows, this is one of the most fundamental ways in which the human family is off track and it’s shocking, it’s scandalous, it can’t be. Take this on different levels: be a parent about it, be a sister, be a brother to your sister, be a person of standing for life and justice.
To learn more about Thursdays in Black ambassadors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.