Duke Divinity student wants focus on pastoral care of abuse survivors

Feb. 26, 2014 @ 09:31 AM

Adam Baker is a third year Duke Divinity School student preparing to graduate in May with a master of divinity. He is also a former child and adolescent therapist, and saw an area of pastoral care not addressed during his classes. So Baker organized a conference, “Sanctuary for the Sexually Abused: An Introduction to Pastoral Care,” which will be held this weekend at Duke Divinity.
When planning began, he was hoping that 35 to 50 people would register.
“Within 10 days, we had 200-plus register,” Baker said, and they closed registration. The majority of conference attendees will be Duke Divinity students, but there are also clergy and other caregivers, he said.
Baker said in his previous work as a therapist, he met many clients dealing with issues related to being sexual abuse survivors. He thinks it is important for future pastors to be aware of it. It’s not a question of if, but when pastors will encounter it in their ministry, Baker said.
The conference will “introduce current and future clergy, pastors, ministers, and spiritual care providers to the reality and prevalence of sexual abuse (SA), practical pastoral approaches to caring, supporting, and advocating for SA survivors, the impact of SA upon one’s relationships with God, others, and one’s self, and the effect of SA and sexual trauma upon the body and the mind.” Presenters include Warren Kinghorn, Duke Divinity assistant professor of psychiatry and pastoral and moral theology, and other experts whose work relates to sexual abuse issues.
“My interest in doing this is not so much theory or idea, but practical,” Baker said. “How do we minister and care for survivors of sexual abuse?” Survivors can be in the pews or pulpit, he said.
Baker said the conference isn’t intended to be comprehensive, but just the start of what should be an ongoing discussion for future pastors.
“We’re graduating in May and need to address this now,” he said. Baker said that Duke Divinity has been encouraging and supportive of the conference, and recognizes that it’s important and something that needs to be talked about.
After Baker receives his M.Div., he plans to pastor a church in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Within his own denomination, he said he’ll always say that “we’re going to do more – be proactive to the people already hurting in our congregations. How do we advocate for them? If they come to us, what do we do?”
Baker said that for those who aren’t attending the conference, audio and visual video will be recorded. To find out where to watch or listen, email Baker at adam.baker@duke.edu.