A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Time To Listen: How the visible church can address domestic abuse. An event held in Sydney.

Time to Listen was an evening event held in North Sydney on Sept 6, 2017. Videos of it are now available. Hooray!

Part 1  [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] – Julia Baird, ABC journalist, and Graeme Anderson, Senior Ps of Northside Baptist Church, Crows Nest NSW, talk about the public attention given to domestic abuse in the church in the last few years in Australia.
Part 2 – [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] Julia Baird leads a panel discussion of what is being done and what people can do next. Panel: Erica Hamence, Bruce Chan, Michael Jensen and Liz Mackinlay.

Eternity News did a writeup of the Time To Listen event: Churches ‘should unite’ to fight domestic abuse. The rest of this post is excerpts from the Eternity article, with links added by me. (However, I encourage you to also read the whole Eternity article.)

_ _ _ _

Domestic violence specialist with BaptistCare, Bruce Chan, has called on churches to band together to fight the scourge of domestic and family violence.

Chan [said] the Baptist church in NSW was developing a pilot programme on domestic violence, More than Skin Deep, that would be trialled in  churches this year, and rolled out to 1000 churches next year. It’s not restricted to Baptist churches, so any other church can contact BaptistCare who are interested to find out. …

Common Grace, a movement of Christians passionate about Jesus and justice, will launch a package of resources, called Safer, in November. …

Pastor Graham Hill … said he was stunned by the storm of reaction to a recent article by Julia Baird that quoted US research on the high levels of abuse by men who attend evangelical churches sporadically. [He said: ]

I was quite stunned personally when your [Julia’s] article came out and people tried to push back on that with excuses and denials and justifications and so on. That stunned me, the extent of abuse that happens in many families and certainly in the life of the church.

I have no idea personally of what it’s like to suffer, of course, like many of the women are suffering, but when I listen to them I hear stories of shame and fear and secrecy and being silenced. And then when I see Christian leaders trying to silence this conversation, it feels to me that we’re exaggerating those feelings, and so we’re causing more pain, more grief, more suffering, more silence, more loss, and I think we need to begin to address that honestly.

Some people say ‘wouldn’t it be nice if instead of justifying and excusing and denying, we just said sorry.

I’m sorry that we haven’t listened. I’m sorry that our systems and our cultures and our language and our theology has silenced you. I’m sorry that when you come to ask for help that we’ve told you that you need to practise more forgiveness or you need to be more submissive. I’m sorry that when it’s come to our attention that there are men behaving badly, that we’ve exonerated or we’ve colluded with those men in some way or we’ve allowed them to charm us. I’m sorry that instead of actually seeing a moment when we can make a difference we’ve resorted to excuses and denials rather than actually embracing the moment and choosing to change and make a difference. [bold added by Barb Roberts, because I know Graeme’s apology will be a balm to many victims who are reading this. It certainly was for me.]

Donna Crouch, a pastor from Hillsong Church who has worked in the domestic violence area for a long time, gave some practical tips for churches trying to work out how to respond.

“I think to start with we’ve got to change our language in church, that domestic violence is ‘out there.’ It’s not ‘out there;’ it’s in here, it’s everywhere – and not be ashamed about that … how to own that without being embarrassed. Of course it’s going to be in our church because our churches are a reflection of the community we’re in – so let’s get on with it!”

Crouch said her team focused particularly on how to intervene during the critical period when a woman is about to leave an abusive husband.

“The break-up is most critical period for a woman to be killed; that means our response before, during or after is also critical,” she said.

She said in NSW there had been cases where the first instance of physical violence was murder.

“That only heightens our responsibility for all this intervention with all these other symptoms of family violence.”

She said her team had been working on developing relationships with the local police domestic violence liaison officer, and finding out who the professionals and counsellors were in the community.

“We’re not going to do a Christian version of the professionals; we can use the trust that people put in us to refer them and do the journey with them. If that means sitting with them, calling the DV hotline, if it means going to the police, we do that.”

Pastor Michael Jensen said it was really important for pastors to have the knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence to be able to see through deception on the part of the perpetrator.

“To see where I’m being buttered up is really important, just to even see that as a possibility that by his charm he’s actually trying to win me to his side is extraordinary,” he said.

He also said churches had an important role to play in speaking differently about masculinity.

“Jesus is an interesting guy, you know – humility … not exercising his muscle to assert his masculinity, that kind of taking the anxiety out of being seen to be a man, I think, would be something that in church communities could be revolutionary, could be a real change in the balance.”


Related reading

Church Controversy with Domestic Abuse: an annotated bibliography  This bibliography is continually updated, so if you want to suggest items that we could add to it, please email  twbtc.acfj@gmail.com .


  1. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  2. May the Lord bring justice

    It shame something like this is not happening in the USA where the church realizes and wants to change the way they put women at risk. It would be wonderful if churches would be open to learning and making the church a place that helps victims of domestic violence

    • There are a number of reasons why Australia is more awake to domestic abuse than the USA is. And I’m not claiming that Australia is the most awake country. I get the impression that Scotland is even more awake that Australia, at least as regards the laws and the responses of the police force and secular domestic abuse agencies. And New Zealand also seems to be ahead of Australia in the way its secular specialists are dealing with domestic abuse.

      But in Australia, Rosie Batty has made an enormous impact on the general public. And my home state, Victoria, is at the vanguard in many ways in how it is working on Primary Prevention: changing the presumptions of male privilege, and dispelling the myths about domestic abuse that are circulated by abusive men.

    • One of the reasons why Scotland, Australia and New Zealand are more advanced than the USA is that the USA is so big. It has so many states, so many different police forces, so many layers of law (county, state, federal). In Australia we have only state and federal law. In New Zealand they have only national law (they don’t have states). And I’m not sure about Scotland’s legal and justice system but it is much less complex than the USA’s.

      Lobbying for change in smaller countries is easier than lobbying for change in a gigantic country such as the US.

      And the professionals who work in the DV sector are more closely networked in smaller countries than they are in a vast country like the USA. A closer network means people know each other more personally, learn to trust each other as appropriate, are are more able to work together for the safety of victims. So the wrap-around and integrated community response to domestic abuse is more effective in protecting victims.

    • But I need to say too that Julia Baird has been a FANTASTIC at bringing the issue of domestic abuse and the church to the mainstream public. Riding on the wave of awareness which Rosie Batty generated, Julia who is a journalist with our national ABC news (the most respected news service in Australia) has been able to get this topic up on the mainstream news. I take my hat off to her for writing and broadcasting so many stories about the church and domestic abuse.

      And another story by Julia Baird and her colleague Hayley Gleeson from the ABC will be coming out shortly. I will have many stories about clergymen who were abusive to their wives. The stories are written by the women themselves.

  3. NG

    Kudos Australia! I am hoping that the topic of DV inside the church walls (especially pastors’ families) will be more openly discussed here in Europe too.

    • bless you NG! And nice to know you hail from Europe 🙂

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