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Church as a Safe Place: A Handbook
Authors: Peter R. Holmes and Susan B. Williams
Authentic Publishing, 1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, PB, 331 pages, $16.99. 2008. (ISBN-13: 978-1-86024-603-6/311)
Is your church a safe place for members who are encountering abuse in their lives? Just what is abuse and how many forms can abuse come in? These questions and others are answered in the latest in a series of healing books by Peter R.. Holmes and/or Susan B. Williams. The situations described are set within the context of churches in Great Britain, where this book was first published. 
The authors take their time in setting up guidelines for distinguishing behaviors from abusive behaviors and it isn't until halfway through the text that the reader feels comfortable. As such, Church as a Safe Place, could be the first in a series of handbooks for church and lay people. Also, since the material for this book was gleaned from experience in Great Britain churches, as noted in the book, there are different power structures. Great Britain, for example, may have one clergy member doing everything for one parish, while in North America, a congregation may have two or three ministers officiating, dividing the duties of visiting the sick, sermons, and the like.
The term “abuse” is not defined here, only types of  "abuse." Beginning with Nelson Mandela’s comment on the twentieth century being remembered as a century marked by violence and abuse to putting things right if you think you have been abusive, the book is heavy on the example side and lighter on the “putting things right” side. Much time is taken to describing the five forms of abuse. They are verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual. Examples are given for each of the forms of abuse, and then telling the reader (presumably as part of a congregation) how their “place” could be a safe place for someone coming from this situation. You read what happens when a church leader assumes too much power and is it "God's way" or someone else's way.
Christ Church Deal (CCD) is the congregation used as an example and you may agree or disagree with suggestions for handling various situations. In the examples shown, you can see this happening in situations outside those of a church setting--perhaps, sexual harassment in a work place, or having an affair with another employee. There are numerous examples and what to do when meeting with someone who has experienced this, is noted.
The book is written in layman’s language and accessible. Other books on this topic by the authors are contained in the back, along with a review of the guides, extensive bibliography and Scripture references.
Reviewed by Marie Asner


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