Australia’s ABC TV reports on the church’s response to domestic abuse & interviews Barbara Roberts

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


The evil of domestic abuse hiding in churches and the oppression of victims by churches is slowly coming into the light. The Australian TV program The 7.30 Report has broadcast a story about how churches are mistreating victims of domestic abuse. It would be encouraging if a national news agency in the USA would do what Julia Baird (the ABC investigative reporter) has done in Australia.

Barbara Roberts, the co-leader of A Cry For Justice, is one of the people interviewed in The 7:30 Report story. You can watch the program here [The video cannot be watched as it has expired, but the transcript is still available. Editors.] but you  won’t be able to comment at that link. However, you will be able to comment on it at the 7:30 Report Facebook page.

We are continually updating this post as more items come out

Additional ABC stories surrounding and following the 7:30 report include:

‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God  — Julia Baird’s article on ABC News.

Church enabling and concealing domestic violence  – discussion on ABC Radio between Kylie Pidgeon, a psychologist who works with Christian survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence, and Julia Baird.

Evangelical Christians the most and least likely to abuse partners  – in this video, Anglican Priest Michael Jensen discusses the story with Julia Baird.

Australian church leaders call for urgent response to domestic violence – ABC News, Julia Baird & Hayley Gleeson

The Drum [Internet Archive link]  – The panel:  Julia Baird ABC reporter, Anglican Ps David Ould, Anglican Archbishop Phillip Frier, Josie McSkimming psychologist, Georgina Dent ABC reporter

I was raped and controlled by my husband for decades. He was a priest –  ABC News, Anonymous

How to navigate the research on domestic violence and Christian churches: A few frequently asked questions – ABC News, Julia Baird & Hayley Gleeson

Asking Christians to do better by domestic violence victims is not an attack on Christianity – by Steven Tracy, Professor, Theology and Ethics, Phoenix Seminary, Arizona. Steven Tracy’s research was quoted in the ABC 7:30 Report and in Julia Baird’s initial essay on this topic at ABC News.

Items not from the ABC which have been published in Australia since we published this post

This is not a full list of items that have been published since the ABC broke the story; it is items Barbara Roberts has found which we believe will helpfully advance the discussion.

What victims of domestic abuse really need to hear – Eternity News, Barbara Roberts, Melbourne.

Domestic Abuse and the Church – Daryl McCullough, Anglican Priest. He apologizes to victims: “As a priest in the Church of God, I am truly and deeply sorry if you or anyone you love has been the victim of abuse and found the church complicit in making that abuse worse.”

A properly Christian response to Julia Baird’s article on domestic violence – by Tamie Davis

Once more on the domestic violence in church thing: answering some common objections to the ABC’s coverage  – Nathan Campbell, Presbyterian pastor, Queensland.

Part 1: We all unwittingly partner in the violence – Erica Hamence, Common Grace, Sydney.

Part 2: The characteristics of spiritual abuse – Erica Hamence, Common Grace, Sydney.

An apology to victims of domestic violence in the church – Graham Hill, Baptist minister and Provost of Morling College Sydney.

Sins of the father Part 1 &  Sins of the Father Part 2 – 60 Minutes, Chanel 9 television, Australia. Trigger warning for women who have suffered marital rape and other forms of domestic abuse. Joy Harris was married to a ‘c’hristian pastor (Larry Harris) who repeatedly raped and abused her. Larry is now serving time in jail for raping Joy. Joy bravely tells her story. Kevin Harris, one of Joy’s adult sons, is also a pastor and he is siding with his father the rapist. Top marks to the superb interviewer from 60 Minutes who holds the feet of Kevin Harris to the fire. And top marks to the police who dealt with Larry Harris. This program shows how much better the police are at addressing domestic violence than many so-called Christians are.

Women are secondary citizens in the Independent Baptist movement – 60 Minutes Extra speaks to Mel Thornton

How the domestic violence research can help the church: Lets get beyond the culture war – John Sandeman, Editor in Chief, Eternity News.

Christianity and the Credibility of Women’s Testimony –  Geoff Broughton, Anglican minister in the Sydney Diocese; research scholar for the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre; lecturer in Practical Theology at St Mark’s National Theological Centre.

Church & Domestic Violence. Love your statistics, sorry, neighbour as yourself  – Philippa Lowe

Does Christianity cause domestic violence? – Akos Balogh

Light, Darkness & Domestic Violence  – Bronwen Speedie

Protesting too much: Christian Leaders on “alleged” abuse – Luke Arms

Sermon on Domestic Violence – Liam Miller, Uniting Church Chaplain at Macquarie University

Domestic violence in the name of God [Internet Archive link] – Rt Rev Dr Matt Brain, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn

Pastoral Issues and Responses to Domestic Violence within the Church – Tim Harris, Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide. Tim quotes many things from this blog A Cry For Justice. 

A tale of two tables: Public Christianity, common conversations, and our place at the table – Ps Nathan Campbell

So, what does the Australian Christian Lobby say about domestic violence?  – Lyle Shelton

Is it anti-Christian to admit the church sometimes fails abuse victims? Is it anti-Christian to admit that abusers often misuse the Bible? – Steven R. Tracy, PhD,  co-founder of Mending The Soul

Domestic violence in the Australian church – Persis Lorenti, an American woman who blogs at TriedByFire

Archbishop Geoff’s Response to ABC Report on Domestic Violence [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] – Geoffrey Smith
Anglican Archbishop, Adelaide Diocese

Things I Wish You Understood: An Open Letter to Ministers From a Family Violence Survivor – written an anonymous woman. Published by The Gospel Coalition Australia

Pastoral Statement on Domestic Violence [This link is broken. The most likely replacement link can be found here. Editors.] – David Burke, Moderator of the General Assembly of New South Wales, Presbyterian Church of Australia, July 2017.

Domestic and Family Violence – A Statement from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in New South Wales July 2015. A quote from this statement: “When a minister, elder or church leader is aware of domestic and family violence within a church family they should follow the guidelines in Section 11 & 12 of Breaking the Silence. The Conduct Protocol Unit is able to be contacted for advice and support.”
When I (Barbara Roberts) tried to find Section 11 & 12 of Breaking the Silence, it was very difficult. I eventually found this [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] and from there downloaded this PDF — but there is no Section 11 or 12 in that PDF!   The PDF says “Each pastoral charge has a copy of the document or you can obtain one from the Conduct Protocol Unit.” So it appears that the Breaking The Silence document which includes Section 11 & 12 is not online. In my view, that is not helpful for victims of abuse and their advocates who might not trust their local church or the Conduct Protocol Unit. And in my experience of dealing with Presbyterian churches, this is TYPICAL of the rabbit warren that Presbyterians send victims down. Why don’t they make it easier for victims and their advocates?

Faith, family, violence and the ABC’s smears – Mark Powell, Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield, NSW, Australia. NOTE: I have asked Mark Powell to please not use the “Red Pill, Blue Pill” metaphor because it is used in evil ways on the Manosphere — the many sites on internet where abusive men urge each other on in their hyper-misogynist ideologies.

Chinese whispers at the ABC –  Dr Mark Durie, Anglican pastor, academic, human rights activist,  a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Adjunct Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

Items of note published in Australia before the ABC broke the story in July 2017

Reflecting on complementarianism and domestic violence – Erica Hamence, Common Grace

A MUST WATCH SERMON which Anglican pastor Mike Paget gave in 2016:

The Church and Family and Domestic Violence – St Barnabas Anglican Church, Sydney, Oct 30, 2016


If you want to follow the discussion on social media, here are ways to do so:

Julia Baird’s Facebook page
Twitter @bairdjulia

The 7:30 Report’s Facebook page (you will be able to comment on the TV story there).
Twitter @abc730

Barbara Roberts on Twitter @NotUnderBondage

And of course, you can also follow the conversation here at A Cry For Justice.
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28 thoughts on “Australia’s ABC TV reports on the church’s response to domestic abuse & interviews Barbara Roberts”

  1. I read the article you shared at FB. I thought it was VERY good at describing the difficulties encountered by victims in the church. However, I did wonder about the statistic stated in the article that “Christian” men who abused were most likely to be infrequent church-goers. If infrequent church-goers are most likely to abuse, why are so many people in the church experiencing spiritual abuse? And not just by members but also by those in leadership? The statistics also seem to contradict a later portion that said that many men who abuse attend patriarchal churches that believe in the submission of women. Could you explain this to me? I might just be not understanding their point.

    This concerned me because it seemed to me that clueless Christians who think abuse doesn’t happen in the church could grab hold of this and declare that–see!–only infrequent church attendees are abusive, never pastors or other leaders.

    1. TJ- You make a very good observation. I agree. Many, many of the abusers we have dealt with through their victims and directly have been “pillars” of their local church, the kind that are there every time the church doors are open.

    2. Hi TJ, good question!

      The statistics cited in the ABC TV report and the ABC News article come from the ONLY population-based study of this. That study was done in the USA. W Bradford Wilcox, a Christian academic, examined and dug into the details of two US studies. Those studies were random samples of the whole population of the USA. Wilcox dug in the the detail of the data that had been gathered and found what the ABC stories have reported.

      Because there are NO other randomly-sampled population based studies available, Wilcox’s findings are the only ones we have. Wilcox’s book is “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands”.

      You said:

      it seemed to me that clueless Christians who think abuse doesn’t happen in the church could grab hold of this and declare that–see!–only infrequent church attendees are abusive, never pastors or other leaders.

      You are right. Many Christians especially those in church leadership in Australia have been grabbing hold of that statistic and using it to evade the call to humble themselves, listen to and believe the victims and put in the effort to LEARN how better to respond to domestic abuse.

      A Presbyterian pastor in Queensland, Ps Nathan Campbell, is denouncing this attitude as sheer defensiveness. I believe he is right. Here is Nathan Campbell’s article:

      Domestic Violence, the ABC, and the spirit of the Reformation [Internet Archive link] (19 July 2017)

      Wilcox’s findings were that men who attend conservative Protestant churches irregularly commit domestic violence at slightly higher rates compared to
      —all other men
      —men who attend conservative Protestant churches regularly
      —men who attend ‘mainline’ Protestant churches whether regularly or irregularly

      When Wilcox dug into the data he separated churches into two types: conservative and mainline. The mainline would be denominations like the PCUSA and the United Methodists in America (which are akin to the Uniting Church in Australia). He further divided the data into what he called “Active Protestants” who attend church regularly, and ‘Nominal Protestants” who attend church irregularly.

      At A Cry For Justice, we have heard from many Christian survivors of domestic abuse. Unlike the studies Wilcox was mining for data, we do not define domestic abuse as ‘only physical violence’.

      The survivors who tell us their stories often given us an indication of whether and to what extent their abuser regularly attends church, or irregularly attends, or is not a professing Christian at all. Many survivors tell us that their abuser attends church very regularly, is quite often in a leadership position of some sort — anything from home group leader, Bible study leader, missionary, on the worship team, a deacon, board member, Elder, pastor or priest. We can’t quantify the proportion of our readers whose abusers attend church regularly or hold leadership positions in the church. And even if we could estimate such proportions, our sample is not population based — it is only the people who come to our site: a self-selected sample, not a random sample from the whole population.

      My message to Christians who are grabbing hold of the statistic that men who attend church irregularly are the worst offenders when it comes to domestic violence, is this: Don’t focus on that statistic to avoid looking at how churches are contributing to the plight of the victims.

      1. Just because you have a stat that says one group has a higher percentage of offenders of a certain type, doesn’t mean they don’t exist in all groups.

        There is no reason to take this stat to say that regular attenders are not also often abusers.

  2. I’m so happy the momentum is building towards greater understanding and justice, with the issue of domestic abuse and spiritual abuse within traditional, but not necessarily biblical views of marriage and divorce within churches.

    1. Hi, I changed your screen name to GoingSlowly (again). I think you may be submitting commments from your device which is inputting your real name into the “NAME” field of the comments box. It’s important for you to change that manually to GoingSlowly (or some other pseudonym) before you submit the comment. Please read or re-read our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  3. Exposure of this epidemic is encouraging.
    Would love to see [this] type of documentary this come to America and other nations.

  4. This is excellent, and it’s gratifying to see Barbara being interviewed and speaking for DV victims. I applaud Julia Baird for making the effort on this unpopular subject and the others who contributed … the report was edited very effectively with a thoughtful, solemn and dignified treatment.

    1. You summed the problem of DV in the church very well: the church is complacent, arrogant, and ignorant. Christians think DV is not a problem, they think they can handle it, and they think they can recognize perpetrators of abuse. All three have been shown to be false.

      I just hope that church leaders will not see this as an attack, but as a plea to take a serious look at where they are missing it. More than that, may they change how they care for victims and their families. Otherwise, it will fall, yet again, on secular organizations and governments to expose and “clean up” abuse in the church.

      1. Thanks Not Too Late. There has been heaps of online discussion about DV and the church since the ABC stories came out. Some of it is really encouraging. At least some people in the church are now feeling provoked to look at the issue more and start dealing with it better.

  5. In the light of this sermon by Mike Paget, all those pastors who fall over themselves to endorse abusers just look like thugs.

  6. Mike Paget’s 2016 sermon is spot on regarding patriarchy, male privilege and abuse hiding in the church.

    He said “the Church SHOULD be safe for woman -But should offer NO safe place for abuse”.
    This pastor also has a proper concept of how abuse works and has no tolerance for it.

    Any one that goes to church wondering if they will be dealt another “male privilege message” -will see things much clearer after listening to this message.

  7. MUST WATCH: Sins of the Father Part 1
    and Sins of the father Part 2 – 60 Minutes, Channel 9 television, Australia. Trigger warning for women who have suffered marital rape and other forms of domestic abuse.

    Joy Harris was married to a ‘C’hristian pastor (Larry Harris) who repeatedly raped and abused her. Larry is now serving time in jail for raping Joy. Joy bravely tells her story.

    Kevin Harris, one of Joy’s adult sons, is also a pastor and he is siding with his father the rapist. Top marks to the superb interviewer from 60 Minutes who holds the feet of Kevin Harris to the fire. And top marks to the police who dealt with Larry Harris.

    This programs shows how much better the police are at addressing domestic violence than many so-called Christians are. 

  8. Here in Australia, one of those trying his best to discredit and dismiss Julia Baird’s report is the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton. According to one article, “he was “perplexed” by the ABC News report which found some church ministers are encouraging victims of domestic violence to remain in violent relationships and “submit” to abuse.”

    Apparently he wants people to believe it is unlikely that a church minister would ever tell a woman to submit to her abusive husband. And yet Mr Shelton (as a member of my ex-church’s board of reference) was perfectly happy to tell me (a female church leader) to submit to the “Godly authority” of my male peer, even after I had raised concerns about the bullying and abusive behaviour of this fellow leader. If I couldn’t submit, I should resign from leadership myself.

    Something doesn’t add up there…

    1. Thanks Livingliminal! I’ve seen those comments by Lyle Shelton and his article on the Australian Christian Lobby’s website. I am as disgusted as you are about his response.

      He obviously doesn’t want to grapple with the reality that many Christian women in Australia have been and still are being abused by their husbands. The lobby group he leads, the ACL, is in my opinion highly stacked with abusive men and those who have been snowed by abusive men.

      The ACL is the biggest Christian lobby group in Australia. It takes a strong stance against gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia. But it has been useless on the issue of domestic abuse. Like the ‘family values’ groups in the USA, it takes the view that divorce is bad and children growing up without fathers is one of the big causes of social problems. But it willfully refuses to see that in many if not most cases of children who growing up without much contact with their fathers, it is because the father is a scumbag, an abuser, a selfish, self-centred, irresponsible man. And many of those men have abused the mothers of those children.

      I personally know of several men who abuse their wives (or abused their wife in the past, till she escaped) who are ACTIVE in Christian politics in Australia. Some of them are in the Family First party (a political party). Some of them have even stood for election as candidates for Family First. Some of them are very active on Christian radio stations. I also know of men who are in senior leadership positions in Christian political groups in Australia who are buddies with these abusive men and effectively enabling the abusers to pass themselves off as ‘godly Christian men’.

      Men like this feed misinformation about family breakdown and divorce to the Christian political parties and lobby groups. I am guessing that Lyle Shelton has been bewitched by these men.

      And of course, I can’t name names because it would put at risk the women who have been abused by these men. But I know these women personally.

      1. I only wish I could say that I am surprised by this. Instead, I’ll say how much I appreciate the work you do in exposing this crap, and supporting those who have been decimated by it.

      2. Just when I think my eyes have been fully opened to evil in and around the church, THIS. Yesterday I read for the 1st time about Lynn Messer’s disappearance and death, and her ‘C’hristian, pro-family lobbyist husband NOT being cleared in the investigation. The response by the top leaders of the state homeschool group continue to retain him AND defend his character was sickening. (Yuck, a flashback to our very conservative, family-integrated church and homeschool days!)

        Thank you for exposing and explaining the above. It makes a LOT of the puzzle pieces fit.

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