Resistance: Confronting Violence, Power, and Abuse within Peace Churches

If it’s not safe in the church, where is it safe? Are churches complicit in supporting racism, colonialism, and heterosexism? How do churches excuse sexual violence? How are abuses of power justified to protect church institutions?

Book cover, spine and back for Resistance

In Resistance, storytellers, academics, poets, administrators, students, activists, and pastors bring these questions to life through stories of personal and systemic violence and betrayals when theology is weaponized. Each story is connected to the Anabaptist religious context, but the harms suffered and responses to those harms are universally applicable. This collection directly confronts violence within historic peace churches, providing strategies for using power to resist violence and promote transformation.

“This anthology asks us to join in the work of reconciliation—not simply the ‘restoration of friendly relations’ but rather the wrenching, cruciform work of holding together our lives and experience with the largely dehumanizing systems that churn all around us while we summon God to end the oppression of avoidance and fear. It also reintroduces us to the meaning of regeneration—not merely a ‘radically renewed creation’ but rather our God-given ability to self-heal, grow, and recover after violence.” —Malinda Elizabeth Berry, PhD, associate professor of theology and ethics, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Resistance is a magnificently woven book with stories of courage, love, pain and suffering that lifted me up and took me down. If you care about Church and healing the broken places especially caused by clericalism, patriarchy, power, sexual abuse, and exclusion, read Resistance. It won’t disappoint; it will take your breath away.” —Mary Dispenza, international speaker, national representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and author of SPLIT: A Child, A Priest, and the Catholic Church

“This collection of varied voices is an important resource for understanding the nature of power and how to apply Anabaptist peace theology to more effectively confront abusive power and resist evil. Those interested in learning how to stand in solidarity and mutuality with people who experience violence, injustice, abuse, and oppression will be grateful for this significant work.” —Carolyn Holderread Heggen, PhD, author of Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches and co-leader of Sister Care International

“Sexual abuse casts a long shadow. Victims struggle with the lasting effects of trauma, often only coming forward to confront their abusers after many years have passed. Where do they find the courage? It may be the wrong question. When the burden of suffering in silence outweighs the risk of confrontation, there is often no other choice. In this groundbreaking book, Cameron Altaras and Carol Penner have assembled a plurality of voices to speak truth about one of the most pernicious and intractable forms of sexual violence—abuse by clergy within sacred settings, where victims don’t just find themselves in conflict with their abusers but may also have to confront institutions that have no interest in justice but wish only to protect their own.” —Clark Strand, co-author of The Way of the Rose and author of Waking Up to the Dark

About the editors

Cameron Altaras, PhD (University of Toronto), is retired, remarried, and living in Washington State. Cameron was born into a Canadian Amish Mennonite community and raised in the Mennonite church. Her doctoral work focused on the Frankfurt School’s critical theory of the ideological manipulation of power, in particular as manifested in the manipulation of art by religious institutions. She spent her career in the corporate world in business ethics, leadership development, and coaching. With the unraveling of the marriage to the father of her children, she began to come to terms with how the course of her life had been shaped by her religious upbringing, gender oppression, abuse of power, clergy sexual misconduct, and moral injury. Part of her healing journey included choosing to legally change her name (previously, Cheryl Nafziger-Leis). In her retirement, she and her husband create audio recordings of her poetry, available on her website, Vocem Redisuum

Carol Penner, PhD (University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto), teaches practical theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. She has been a pastor for thirteen years in three different congregations. She was raised in the Mennonite church and has been active in it her whole life. She authors a worship resource blog (leadinginworship.com). Her doctoral work was in the area of Mennonite peace theology and violence against women, and she has written extensively about abuse issues. She has two adult children, and she lives with her partner in Vineland, Ontario, in a house surrounded by apricot trees on the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg, Ojibway/Chippewa, and Haudenosaunee peoples.  

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