By Annette Brill Bergstresser and Karl Stutzman
ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary— How is the Bible’s story our story after we experience trauma? Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, has written a new book to help individuals and congregations explore and understand stories of sexualized violence in the Bible from a survivor-centered approach.
The AMBS campus community celebrated the release of Larry’s book — Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021) — on Aug. 19, 2021, at an event co-hosted by the Academic Dean’s Office and the AMBS Library and Bookstore.
During the event, Larry shared that when she began her seminary studies, she was shocked to find numerous stories of sexualized violence in the Bible. Her encounter with these stories that are not often discussed in church led her “into a deep curiosity about what it would mean to link the stories of survivors today with the stories of survivors in the Bible” — and ultimately led to her writing the book.
“The Bible is a profound source of hope for me because it deals with the hard stuff,” she said. “For many of us, we never got a choice about whether we were going to walk through the tumultuous waters of sexualized violence. We don’t get to look away from this question of what we do with sexualized violence, and the Bible does not look away from it, either. We are heard, we are seen and we are known.”
Larry sees Leaving Silence as “an accounting of the hope that is in her” and hopes the book will be a resource for church leaders and members seeking to understand the Bible and stand with survivors of sexualized violence.
“I have been formed and shaped and affirmed by the church in so many ways; I wanted to give this gift back to the church,” she said. “But primarily, I wrote this book for the people who have honored me by sharing their stories of sexualized violence with me.”
Larry tapped Laura Rhoades, an AMBS Master of Divinity Connect student from Wichita, Kansas, to write an accompanying study guide for use by congregations and small groups (free on the Herald Press website). Rhoades also spoke at the celebration, sharing her strong interest in asking deep questions about faith and the church, and gratitude for the wonderful challenge to craft “questions that survivors may have wanted or tried to ask in Christian communities but may have not felt permitted or safe to do so.”
Following the event, Larry signed books for many of the attendees, including a number of incoming students enrolled in AMBS’s Leadership Education in Anabaptist Perspective (LEAP) orientation course.
In the U.S., Leaving Silence is available from the AMBS Bookstore for $17, including tax. It can either be picked up in person or shipped at an extra cost. Bulk purchase discounts may be arranged by contacting [email protected]. In Canada, the book is available from CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre. The book is also available from Herald Press and many other online booksellers.
Image: Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at AMBS, with her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021). (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)
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