Launching in 2017: SAFER, a Common Grace resource equipping Australian Christians to address Domestic and Family Violence.
Content warning: discussion of family violence
Tomorrow, we’ll hear about and celebrate the great things that are happening within churches in response to domestic and family violence, but today we acknowledge that the church has not always handled the issue of domestic and family violence well.
“Sure, it’s human nature to want to avoid a potentially explosive situation. But we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus never backed down from them. He didn’t back down from uncomfortable conversations or violent people and always offered strong protection to women being mistreated or needing refuge (John 8:1-11). Think about his confrontation with the demon-possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes who were “so violent that no one could go through that area” (Matt 9:28).” – Dawn Walker (Founder and Director, Single Parent Missions).
"But that our churches are not as bad as others is no excuse … in fact, it’s an opportunity for the church to lead the way; to say it loud and say it often: the church won’t tolerate abuse, and women and children should never submit to violent men. Never ever." – Shane Clifton (Dean of Theology, Alphacrucis College)
Mark Conner, Senior Minister, CityLife Church in Melbourne, details what he says are the six failings of the church:
- We have not done a good job of helping to prevent domestic violence, of confronting it when it does occur, nor of helping those involved - both the perpetrator and victim.
- There has been too much ignorance about the prevalence of domestic violence. Many church leaders have failed to believe that it can happen, even in Christian homes.
- There has been much erroneous teaching about ‘submission’, ‘authority’, and ‘obedience’ in the home. This has led to a culture of silence and acceptance.
- Preachers have not taught on this subject nor referred to it enough in their messages.
- Pastors and church leaders have not been equipped to address this matter nor have they equipped their congregation members with proper responses should domestic violence occur.
- Pastors have often emphasised forgiveness and repentance at the expense of a person’s welfare and safety.
Across Australian faith communities, there is now a growing awareness of the reality of violence that occurs within our own churches. However, churches must do more to prevent domestic violence, confronting it when it does occur, and offering help to those involved – both the victim and the perpetrator.
It's frustrating and disheartening - and very dangerous - that many victims are being encouraged towards 'reconciliation' and 'forgiveness' on the basis of the minister's naive belief that the perpetrator is sincerely repentant, when in fact this sham-repentance is a recognised stage in the abuse cycle, designed to reel the victim back in for more abuse.
"I don't believe our churches will be safe places for victims until all church leaders come to terms with the seriousness of abuse within marriage, understand the patterns and the forms that the abuse takes, and are unequivocal in prioritising the safety of women over the 'sanctity of marriage'. Part of this must involve a clearer stance from the church on divorce in cases of abuse." - Helen (survivor of abuse in marriage).
PRAY ABOUT IT
Father, please give us grace and insight to face uncomfortable truths about how the gospel has been misused and our church communities have been complicit in the abuse of women and children. Please help us not to downplay or deny our involvement, but help us to see our own individual and collective responsibilities.
For the times where we have sheltered and supported abusers in place of the abused, we are sorry, and we repent.
For the times where we have spoken, counselled or taught thoughtlessly or insensitively, or wrongly, we are sorry.
For the hurt that we have caused or perpetuated or excused, we are sorry.
We thank you that you are merciful and you take our wrongs so seriously that Jesus died for them. We ask that you would enable true and full repentance within us and our churches that healing and transformation would abound.
- Sermon: The Church and Family and Domestic Violence - Rev. Michael Paget St. Barnabas Anglican Church Broadway.
- ‘Worship to end Domestic Violence’ - a short liturgy created by the World Council of Churches, a great resource for personal devotion, bible studies or church services.
- The stories of Survivors within the church
- A clever campaign idea to increase awareness of domestic violence in your faith community