★ Publishers Weekly starred review.
Pulling back the curtain on the mishandling of sexual abuse within Protestant churches, this incisive work from Presbyterian pastor Everhart (Ruined) boldly calls for communal repentance and change. Each chapter focuses on a particular issue (patriarchy, purity culture, and clericalism among them) that leads to complicity with institutional sexual abuse, and features relevant contemporary and biblical stories. Everhart tells her own story of grooming and assault by a senior pastor in the early 1990s and her frustrated attempts to seek justice from church leadership. She also follows several other cases in which church leaders mishandled allegations of sexual abuse, often with tragic consequences (such as silence regarding abuse at Penfield Presbyterian Church that allowed further abuse to continue unchecked). These case studies are painful but particularly instructive, and Everhart argues "we must examine the system that allowed a predator to thrive and hide," specifically patriarchal church structures that concentrate more on "healing" than on justice. She calls for churches to make the decisions required for them to become safe places, such as developing a formal system for victims or witnesses of abuse to come forward. Everhart's unsparing analysis will be helpful for both ministers and lay readers who are concerned about sexual abuse.