Domestic violence was part of the recent election campaign. Some time ago, the NSW Baptists' Director of Ministries Steve Bartlett circulated a letter to ministers and churches on the ABC article and 7.30 Report story highlighting the issue of domestic violence in Christian churches in Australia.
He went on to explain that the article and 7.30 Report episode raise questions as to whether in Australia our church cultures and pastoral responses may be concealing or even enabling domestic violence. They also make links between the prevalence of abuse and the misuse by perpetrators of some church teaching on marriage to exert a controlling influence over their partners.
While we may wish to question some aspects of the reporting, Steve noted (and it was specifically relating to men who occasionally attend 'evangelical' churches), he continues - “I believe the call to respond pro-actively to the issue of domestic and family violence both within and outside of the church is something we need to continue to take very seriously.
“Our churches need to be places of protection and safety for those at risk. Let me reaffirm what will be clear to us all – that the Bible in no way condones abuse of any kind. It also affirms the fundamental equality of all people regardless of race, gender or station in life.
We need to recognise that domestic violence is not only physical. It may take multiple forms including economic, emotional, sexual, verbal, social and spiritual - all of which are antithetical to the way of Jesus, Christian teaching, and our values as an Association.
Meanwhile the Salvation Army's Peter Walker in a Facebook blog wrote:
“I am very disappointed today in the misleading and exaggerated claims by the ABC on the domestic abuse of women by evangelical Christians. The claims are certainly not my experience after 35 years of Christian ministry. Most incidents of domestic abuse that I have encountered occurred outside of the church family, contrary to what the ABC argue. There are many groups within Australian society that experience far higher levels of abuse that those attending Christian churches. Not that any level of abuse is acceptable, and I strongly support any move to reduce violence against women.”
The study the ABC relied upon for their story was specifically relating to men who occasionally attend 'evangelical' churches. Peter Walker is right to be alarmed when it is moved across to imply the entire male population attending evangelical churches.
Steve Bartlett suggests some responses we can make in the light of the growing awareness of this issue in our society.
Firstly, to take a posture of humility and acknowledge where we as the church may have been naïve or unhelpful in our responses in the past, or have created environments where women in particular have not felt supported as they have struggled to deal with domestic violence perpetrated against them.
Secondly, to redouble our efforts to be part of the solution. To commit ourselves to the ongoing upskilling of our knowledge of this issue, even as we continue to take steps as a movement to improve our processes and standards to help make our churches safe spaces for survivors of domestic violence.
“Our Baptist Association’s Public Engagement Group already has resources available to assist churches and church leaders to respond to domestic violence. A guide for churches is available here (https://nswactbaptists.org.au/public-engagement/domestic-violence/), and training is available online here (https://nswactbaptists.org.au/product/domestic-violence-workshop-video/). Included in these resources are some helpful guidelines for pastors and leaders with regard to detection and response.
“We are also blessed to have the expertise of BaptistCare available to the NSW & ACT community. BaptistCare has been working in this area for many years, both with those experiencing domestic violence and those who perpetrate it. Their website outlines the support they offer to the community at https://baptistcare.org.au/our-services/community-services/domestic-and-family-violence/.
Steve Bartlett goes on to encourage Baptists to consider how we can contribute to overcoming this problem in your local community and in our wider culture. There are already some wonderful examples in our Association of churches and leaders taking meaningful action.
“I know of one of our churches who is part of a local community taskforce to reduce family violence, and another who has run fundraisers for their local women’s shelter. You can see stories on our website of churches who have run training - https://nswactbaptists.org.au/mate-empowering-communities-preventing-violence/ or leaders who have been advocating for more action from government - https://nswactbaptists.org.au/baptist-leaders-call-greater-action-violence-women/. I hope these give you some inspiration for ways that you can take action.
I’m also pleased to let you know that the National Council of Australian Baptist Ministries (the federated body of all our state Unions/Associations) recently approved the development of a National Awareness Campaign on domestic violence that will be launched later this year and will run throughout the course of 2018. He urges Baptists to keep an eye out for more resources as they become available in the months ahead.
Steve Bartlett concludes - Please join me as we seek to pro-actively make our churches places where survivors of domestic violence and those at risk can find safety, comfort and support as they seek to remove themselves from situations of oppression and violence.
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 45 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 45 years with 4 children and 6 grand children