A Cry For Justice

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

Thomas Cranmer on divorce for abuse

Several theologians in the 16th & 17th centuries said abuse is grounds for divorce. It is a tragedy that their arguments have been passed over and ignored by so many today.

The Roman church only countenanced “separation from bed and board” in cases of abuse or other marital mistreatment. When the protestant reformation began, quite a few protestant leaders argued that abuse is grounds for divorce. For example, this was spelled out in the Hungarian Confession of Faith 1562.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Many evangelicals today lack awareness of history, and they’re repeating the spiritual abuse of Rome by reluctantly tolerating separation for abuse while condemning those who divorce for abuse.

This post focuses on Thomas Cranmer. It is the first of a 4-Part series. Parts 1 & 2 are about men from the reformation and puritan eras who believed that abuse is grounds for divorce. Parts 3 & 4 are about more recent theologians (Professor David Clyde Jones and Liam Goligher, from the Presbyterian Church in America) who have said that abuse is grounds for divorce.

Who was Thomas Cranmer?

Thomas Cranmer was one of the men who awakened King Henry VIII to the need for English scriptures. Henry made him Archbishop of Canterbury. When the Matthew Bible arrived in England in 1537, Archbishop Cranmer was one of the men who influenced King Henry to grant his license so that it might go forth. We have a lot to thank him for!

Cranmer was born of modest parents in 1489. He studied at Cambridge, where he was among the students who met at the White Horse Inn to discuss the “new learning.” He initially came to King Henry’s attention as someone who might assist with the difficult questions around his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon, and whether that marriage could or should be annulled. Against his will, Cranmer became involved. In the end, in 1533, the marriage was annulled, Henry tied the knot with Anne Boleyn, and – again against his will, and initially even without his knowledge, Cranmer was made Archbishop of Canterbury. Reluctantly, he assumed the ecclesiastical post that Henry had thrust on him.
The Story of the Matthew Bible [*Affiliate link], Ruth Magnusson Davis, 193-4

As you can see, one of the precipitants for the English Reformation was a dispute over canon law. The question was: Did the Rome’s canon law allow Henry VIII to annul his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon?

After King Henry broke with Rome and the Pope, the English reformers wanted to clear out bad laws which centuries of being under Rome’s canon law had bequeathed to England. They wanted to bring in laws that were more consistent with biblical principles.

Archbishop Cranmer drafted reformed ecclesiastical laws for the new English Protestant church. His Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum was designed to provide a system of order and discipline for the Church of England in place of the medieval canon law which the papacy had enforced for centuries. The Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum was presented to the English Parliament in March 1553, but the death of Edward VI prevented further progress (link). Although Cranmer’s proposed reforms never became law, they were highly esteemed by later canon lawyers and enjoyed an unofficial authority in ecclesiastical courts. ¹

Cranmer proposed church laws on adultery and divorce in chapter 10 of the Reformio Legum Ecclesiaticarum. You can find chapter 10 on pp 264-279 of this Googlebooks link.

Here are some points Cranmer made about divorce for abuse

Deadly hostility is a ground for divorce

If deadly hostility should arise between husband and wife, and become so inflamed that one attacks the other, either by treacherous means or by poison, and wants to take the other’s life in some way, either by open violence or by hidden malice, it is our will that as soon as so horrible a crime is proved in court, such persons shall be separated by divorce. For a person who attacks health and life does greater injury to his marriage partner than one who separates himself from the other’s company, or commits adultery with someone else. For there cannot be any sort of fellowship between those who have begun to plot or to fear mortal harm. Therefore, since they can[not] live together, it is right for [the marriage] to be dissolved, according to the teaching of Paul.

The crime of ill-treatment is also a ground for divorce

If a man is cruel to his wife and displays excessive harshness of word and deed towards her, as long as there is any hope of improvement, the ecclesiastical judge is to reason with him, rebuking his excessive violence, and if he cannot prevail by admonitions and exhortations, he is to compel him not to inflict any violent injury on his wife, and to treat her as the intimate union of marriage requires, by making him pledge bail, or by taking guarantees. But if the husband cannot be coerced either by bail or by guarantees, and if he refuses to abandon his cruelty by these means, then he must be considered his wife’s mortal enemy and a threat to her life. Therefore in her peril recourse must be made to the remedy of divorce, no less than if her life had been openly attacked. But on the other side, the power given by the law to coerce wives, by whatever ways are necessary, if they are rebellious, obstinate, petulant, scolds and of evil behaviour, is not abrogated, as long as the husband does not exceed the limits of moderation and fairness. Both in this and in the above-mentioned offences, it is our will that parties set free in this way may contract a new marriage (if they wish), while those convicted of the said crimes shall be punished either by perpetual exile or by imprisonment for life.

Minor disagreements, unless they be permanent, are no ground for divorce.

If minor disagreements or grounds for offence creep into a marriage, the words of Paul should act as a check upon them (1 Cor 7:11) namely, that either the wife should be reconciled to her husband, a result which ought to be sought after by all ordinary and extraordinary methods of penalties and exhortations, or she is to remain single, a penalty which we decree shall be equally binding on the man.

Incurable disease does not annul a marriage 

If by chance either of the parties has contracted an incurable disease for which no remedy can be found, the marriage will nevertheless continue in spite of all difficulties of this kind. For this ought to be the one principal and distinguishing advantage of  matrimony, that [mutual many’ troubles may be soothed and alleviated by the mutual support of the spouses.

How the accused party is to be maintained during the lawsuit

Since cases involving charges of adultery, poisoning, mortal treachery and ill-treatment frequently entail serious controversy and are of very great length, a man is to maintain his wife for the duration on an honourable and sufficient allowance, account being taken of her rank and social standing.


¹ Some of my phrases have been taken from the back cover of Tudor Church Reform: The Henrician Canons of 1535 and the Reformio Legum Ecclesiaticarum.

Part 2 of this series will feature three more men from the 16th & 17th centuries who believed that abuse is grounds for divorce. Their names are Theodore Beza, William Perkins and William Ames. It will reproduce Appendix 2 of my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion.

Here are my screen shots from Chapter 10 of the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum

– source: Tudor Church Reform: The Henrician Canons of 1535 and the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum


Posts in this series

Part 1: Is this post.

Part 2: Puritans who said abuse was grounds for divorce

Part 3: David Clyde Jones – a contemporary PCA theologian who said abuse is grounds for divorce

Part 4: Liam Goligher – a PCA theologian who says abuse is grounds for divorce


*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.


  1. Finding Answers

    Thank you, Barb, for writing this post and including the links to the various sources. I had not realized that – somewhere along the way – Thomas Cranmer was twisted in my mind in the same way as some areas of Scripture.

  2. Ruth Magnusson Davis

    Very interesting and helpful Barb. So much food for thought. Thank you.

    • Thanks Ruth. If you have time, I’d love you share it on your social media sites. 🙂

  3. 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 Protestant Reformation had a different colour in England than countries in northern Europe. This was largely due to to King Henry’s motive in breaking with Rome: his motive was personal and self-serving; he wanted to divorce his first wife. When he broke with Rome he declared himself the head of the Church of England. Ever since then the head of the Anglican church has been the reigning monarch of England. This linkage between church and state was not as clear or lasting in other Protestant states in Europe.

    Cranmer’s proposed laws for divorce were written in the context where (a) the head of state was the head of the church, and (b) for many centuries previously the church had been setting and enforcing laws about divorce. So for Cranmer and other people in England at that time, it was not thought a strange thing that the church would write and be able to enforce laws for divorce.

    Cranmer was no doubt doing his best, in the political and cultural climate, to reform the laws about divorce to make them more consistent with the Bible.

    The belief that church leaders have authority to determine (lay down the law) about whether or not a church member may divorce was repeated in the Westminster Confession of Faith which is adhered to by the Presbyterian Church of America, the Presbyterian Church of Australia and several other Presbyterian / Reformed denominations to this day.

    But people like me argue that the church has no right to control whether a victim of abuse may divorce his or her abuser. See A disagreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith by Jeff Crippen; and Church discipline and church permission for divorce by Barbara Roberts.

    I believe that many church leaders today are clinging to the idea (inherited via Rome to the Church of England and the Presbyterian / Calvinist churches) that they have ecclesiastical authority to control divorce. It is a tragedy that some / many of these modern day church leaders condemn victims of abuse who embark on the divorce route.

    • Finding Answers


      Adding your comment, and including the links to the two ACFJ posts, provided additional background information.

      The last few sermon series I listened to – and not specifically about the topic of abuse – I felt like I was listening through two sets of ears. The first set of ears was the “average” church attendee. The second set of ears was the victim / survivor of abuse.

      In hindsight, I realize I used to hear sermons through the first set of ears, when my reality was the second set of ears.

      • I think the vast majority of pastors never go to the trouble of imagining what it’s like to hear their sermons through that other set of ears, the ears of a victim / survivor of abuse.

        Whenever I have tried to give them feedback about how their words could sound to a victim of abuse, they do a double take, they seem shocked and affronted. And they usually try to push back and defend themselves. Very seldom do they thank me and take my feedback on board.

  4. Kind of Anonymous

    Before I ever thought specifically about how abused people hear the average sermon, I thought of it even just from the point of view of someone who is NOT from a Christian background. It always seemed to me that most of the sermons had an attitude somewhat that OF COURSE everyone here has grown up in Christian homes and had Dr. Dobson for their father, or came from a long line of pastors.

    It was like a denial that any other sort of person existed in the church or if they did, they were certainly odd man out. Which makes no sense because there is really no warrant in scripture to assume that the world is populated by all godly Christian people from Christian backgrounds who come ready-made with the same spiritual and biblical lexicon. Certainly I can understand that we don’t want to “short order preach” and that what is taught must remain true to what scripture says but there is nothing wrong with correctly teaching what something does or does not mean.

    I too spoke to a pastor about the assumption that everyone understood certain things and that perhaps he ought to explain some things more and his attitude or response seemed to suggest that he regarded that as beneath him, as in “why should I bend my preaching to accommodate a small minority of people?”, and as if I were being arrogant and demandingly ignorant to even suggest it. To me this attitude is kind of elitist, and creates a Christian country club out of what ought to be the church. I’ve even seen, in a number of churches a kind of two-tier sort of standing where folks who have come from Christian backgrounds, esp. if they come from a long line of pastors, occupy one class and those who have come to Christ out of non-Christian backgrounds occupy another. It’s a pretty awful thing to create class distinctions in the body of Christ, as if it somehow adds to one’s standing with God by having come from a certain background.

  5. Clockwork Angel

    Alas, the keyword is “excessive” when talking of cruelty. Back in Cranmer’s day, and since pretty much the earliest recorded practices of the church, men as pater familias thought they had the right to beat their wives if they felt they had a just cause to do so. As Cranmer’s comments point out, the law gave them that power, as though they were the police force of their homes, or even as though their wives were perpetual children. So even if you had, say, Puritan laws allowing divorce for abuse, the courts would often determine that the violence wasn’t excessive, or would find some fault with the woman. She was a scold and deserved it. She burnt his food. Etc. It was incredibly hard to get a divorce. And in Catholic circles (for separation)? Well, they call it being “St. Monica’ed” for a reason. Thanks for nothing, Augustine! Why do we care what any of these men say about the Bible again? Who cares about Calvin or Augustine or Cranmer or any of the lot. They’re heartless. All of them. What makes them so great?

    The lack of discussion on this point in Christian circles is why I’m sick of the complementarian reasoning that the husband is the head and makes the decisions. They appeal to traditional interpretations even as they ignore the logical conclusion of them. In the past, Christians thought that the husband could beat his wife and still be considered a godly Christian man, so long as he didn’t have a habit of maiming her. When I studied up on the actual historic practice [of] how the Protestant and Catholic churches handled abuse, I nearly became agnostic. It broke something in my brain. Every great Christian “hero” is okay with this. Except maybe John Chrysostom, and he is very, very rare, and still is condescending to women.

    One verse in the Bible about not beating one’s wife ever, or screaming at her, or degrading her, etc., would have saved Christian women centuries of hell on earth with their Christian husbands. God chose not to spare us from this hell. Why? Surely God knew that men would continue to treat women like rebellious brain-damaged children that they can physically punish? Why didn’t He say something to stop that attitude? I’m still struggling with these questions. Why didn’t God bother? Just one verse to make sure Christian men didn’t make excuses? Why?

    • Hi Clockwork Angel, sorry for taking a little while to publish your comment. I wanted to consider it carefully and write a reply to it straight after publishing it. So I waited ’til I felt I had the mental space to do that.

      As I said in one of my comments on this thread:

      Cranmer was no doubt doing his best, in the political and cultural climate, to reform the laws about divorce to make them more consistent with the Bible.

      You said:

      Who cares about Calvin or Augustine or Cranmer or any of the lot. They’re heartless. All of them. What makes them so great?

      My motive in publishing this post and the subsequent posts in this series is not to give the idea Cranmer or any of those men were great men. They all had serious flaws in my view. But I don’t think Cranmer was ‘heartless’. I do believe that Augustine and Calvin were heartless when it came to their attitude towards abused wives. Augustine showed this in the way he wrote about the relationship between his father and his mother, Monica. Calvin showed it in the letter he wrote in reply to a French noblewoman who was appealing to Calvin to give her safe refuge in Geneva from her murderous husband. Those things are documented, and irrefutable. But I know of no documentary evidence showing that Cranmer was heartless towards abused women. If you have any such evidence, please let me know.

      Just because Cranmer drafted laws for responding to domestic abuse, does not mean he approved of the English law which allowed a husband to beat his wife so long as he did not use a stick thicker than his thumb (that’s where the expression ‘rule of thumb’ comes from). [May 13, 2022: While commonly believed, this explanation for “rule of thumb” is incorrect. We added links to the bottom of Barb’s comment for anyone who might be interested in a more detailed explanation of the expression “rule of thumb”. Editors.] Is it very likely that Cranmer wanted that law to be changed. But so far as I know that law was part of ‘common law’ in England, it did not come from canon law (ecclesiastical law). And Cranmer was drafting a reform of canon law (ecclesiastical law). He had no power to reform common law. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury so he did not have a lot of power over common law in England, that was the realm of the King and Parliament.

      I agree with you that the vast majority of leaders in the visible church for centuries all took for granted the belief that man was superior to woman and husbands had the right to discipline their wives as if they were children. I agree with you that this caused untold suffering for many women. This view only began to be challenged in the later nineteenth century, in what people now call ‘first wave feminism’ which was more often than not led by evangelical Christians, including the founders of the Salvation Army. It has been much more seriously challenged since the 1960s / 70s, when many evangelical Christians became aware, thanks to what is known as ‘second wave feminism’, that the assumption that women are inferior to men could and should be challenged.

      Likewise, in the latter 19th century, many evangelicals challenged the assumption that slavery was okay and they fought against the slave trade. Professing Christians who believed in keeping black slaves – and those who believed in apartheid – have FINALLY renounced their beliefs as heresy.

      In contrast to the slavery / apartheid issue, professing Christians who believe that men are superior to women are still holding out and refusing to give up their beliefs. They have dug down and changed their arguments, making them more subtle so that people will not object to them so much. E.g. “We affirm that men and women are equal before God, they just have different roles and those roles mean that women ought to submit to male church leaders and their own husbands (unless there is extreme abuse – the meaning of which they always leave conveniently vague). And in digging down even more, the dogged complementarians (Patriarchalists) have also propound the heretical doctrine The Eternal Subordination of the Son, to supposedly ‘prove’ that their view on gender roles is correct. They appear to be losing the battle but they have not admitted defeat. They just keep shutting their ears.

      I want to reassure you that there IS a verse in the Bible which tells husbands not to mistreat their wives. “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be grievous to them.” (Colossians 3:19 NMB). In many other versions it is translated “do not be harsh with them” (see Bible Hub Col 3:19)

      It is not that there is a lack of verses in the Bible which tell husbands to be kind and loving to their wives. The problem is, abusive men and prideful male leaders have downplayed these verses for centuries while UP-playing the verses that tell wives to submit to husbands. And abusive men just ignore the verses they don’t like. Whatever arguments you put to abusive men to convict them of their need to repent and reform, they typically will continue making excuses for their wickedness.

      [May 13, 2022: Editor’s note: We added the following links for anyone who might be interested in a more detailed explanation of the phrase “rule of thumb”. rule of thumb [Internet Archive link], rule of thumb [Internet Archive link]]

      • Finding Answers


      • Clockwork Angel

        When I said that Cranmer is heartless, I was referring to the quote you gave from him, where he uses the phrase “excessive harshness”. In other words, some harshness is okay, as long as it’s not “excessive”. I can say that Cranmer means exactly this with confidence because it’s the language of many a church canon law, and ecclesial court cases that I’ve read. They simply had no objective standards for cruelty back then. And yet, in many ways, the medieval and Reformation churches were progressive compared to their forebears in late antiquity. The medieval church actually had a concept of separation from bed and board (however flimsy), while late antiquity had canon law forbidding even that much regardless of how violent the husband was. (Thanks for nothing, Basil of Caesarea!)

        So here’s the big question. When various proponents of subordinating women prove themselves heartless on DV, we suspect them here at ACFJ of being unregenerate (which is totally fair to do). But when it’s Calvin or Augustine or Basil of Caesarea or whoever, they’re considered regenerate. Why? It’s the exact same heart issue. It’s not like women never plead for mercy from them to stir the consciences. Why do we rely on the heartless to establish our doctrinal positions? I’m glad you call out wrong regardless of who it is, but this is something I wrestle with. Because if we apply this unregenerate rule evenly, then pretty much the entire historical church is apostate and the whole Christian faith appears to be a joke. Where does one even draw the line?

        As for Col 3:19, “harshness” is historically a relative word. A man in ye olde days could beat his wife and think he’s not being harsh because he’s not maiming her. Because the Bible fails to give examples of “harsh”, we have no minimum Biblical standard (at least from the New Testament) of what constitutes domestic violence. On the one hand, I agree with you that so many men have ignored the husband’s part in favor of emphasizing the wife’s part. On the other hand, since the Bible fails to define harshness or to more directly correct men’s traditional views of women as perpetual children needing to be controlled, [and] being loving towards one’s wife is a relative concept. A man can see himself as loving while disciplining his wife like she’s a child. As long as he sees it as being for her own good, he checks off “the loving husband” box.

        And that’s why I feel so betrayed and failed. How do I see God differently? He could have done just a bit more. One verse. Is it so much to ask? The same God who spent pages specifying exact dimensions and rituals for a temple in Ezekiel that never got built didn’t bother. That’s what hurts so much. Does He really love us women as much as men? I’m struggling with this so badly.

        I’m sorry if I sound abrasive. That’s not my intent. I just….don’t know what to do with such horrifying information. I feel so lost. How do I trust God again?

      • Hi Clockwork Angel, I will respond in more depth to your comment later. And I don’t think you are sounding abrasive, I think you are expressing anguish.

      • Replying to Clockwork Angel and Kind of Anonymous:

        You have persuaded me that Cranmer’s phrase “excessive harshness” implies that some harshness is okay, as long as it’s not “excessive”. You’ve made the case that even just that phrase shows that he had presumptions about male privilege and he didn’t understand domestic abuse well enough.

        What we know for sure is that the Bible NEVER says a man can be harsh with his wife so long as he is not ‘excessively’ harsh. Cranmer was going beyond scripture to say that, and he was going along with the presumptions of worldly culture of that time.

        When I call men ’eminent theologians’ I am talking about how those men have been deemed by other professing Christians to be eminent theologians. I am not saying I know for sure that those men are regenerate. They may have undergone some kind of spiritual experience that seemed like regeneration but it was a false spirit. (Ruth Magnusson Davis is writing about this very thing at the moment, so stay tuned for her upcoming book The Story of the Matthew Bible Part 2 .)

        In response to what you said here Clockwork Angel —

        the Bible fails to define harshness or to more directly correct men’s traditional views of women as perpetual children needing to be controlled, [and] being loving towards one’s wife is a relative concept. A man can see himself as loving while disciplining his wife like she’s a child. As long as he sees it as being for her own good, he checks off the loving husband box.

        And that’s why I feel so betrayed and failed. How do I see God differently? He could have done just a bit more. One verse. Is it so much to ask?

        I don’t know if this will help you, but here are my thoughts. In the case law (Mosaic Law) of the Old Testament and the teachings about family relationships in the New Testament, the Bible is often non-specific. It gives precepts and principles, but it does not spell out how those principles are to be applied in every particular situation. And human relationships are not architectural objects like the temple in the latter chapters of Ezekiel. We don’t yet know why that temple’s dimensions are so precisely described! As far as I’m concerned, that’s one of the mysteries yet to be revealed.

        Let’s for a moment imagine that God HAD put some verses in the Bible which more precisely delineated between a husband showing love for his wife and a husband being harsh to his wife. What if the Bible spelled out exactly what constituted harshness and when the line had been crossed into harshness? The Male Privilege Mindset would still be able to devise work-arounds and loopholes to get out of that, just like Jewish men in Jesus’ day had devised a workaround to ‘justify’ themselves when they wanted to treacherously divorce their wives.

        Jewish men had concocted a fancy-footwork twisted interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 while ignoring the reason why verse one had been written. Verse one was written as part of the case-study narrative that led up the the precept in verse 4. I laid this out in detail in my book.

      • Clockwork Angel

        Thanks, Barb!

        Yes, we humans do tend to find loopholes. I suppose it’s all in the end a test of how much we were willing to love, and how far we creatively go to do so and to treat others with dignity.

        I also suppose, for the past theologians especially, there has to be some forgiveness. Not in the sense of not opposing their teachings when they’re wrong, but realizing they’re influenced by their surrounding culture and sometimes have blinders on, and not holding it against them when we can’t exactly go back in a TARDIS [time machine] and try to reason with them. I just wish I could’ve found more proponents against all forms of abuse other than John Chrysostom. If he can “get it”, in spite of his obvious patriarchal bias, that it’s not okay to ever verbally insult or physically harm one’s wife, then so could his contemporaries and future theologians.

        Do you know of past theologians other than John Chrysostom who ever even made it that far to denounce ALL physical or verbal correction of one’s wife? It was what I was originally looking for in my church history quest, and I came up dry and only got retraumatized. Ugh. I figure there have to be some people in the past who have half a heart in spite of their cultures, but it’s so hard to find and wade through. I guess I was looking for this stuff so I could see the goodness of God working through His church in the past. But maybe a history written by humans just won’t record that sort of thing.

        Thank you again! You are so sweet to respond to and help everybody! And, especially when my abuser father died and you listened to me here on this blog and reached out with comfort. I don’t know how you do it day in and day out. God bless you!

      • Clockwork Angel, your research of past theologians led you to the same conclusions as me. In appendix 10 of my book I gave a brief history of doctrines of marriage and divorce. Here are three paragraphs from that appendix:

        The only record we have of a church father explicitly recognizing constructive desertion in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is Chrysostom who gave two examples: a violent and combative husband, and a husband who compelled his wife to participate in pagan sacrifices. “For it is the other party who furnished the ground of separation, even as he did who committed uncleanness [fornication].” However, this was not recognition of full divorce, for, according to Chrysostom, if a man dismissed his wife, or if a wife wished to leave her husband, the separated wife could not marry another since she was bound by the law of marriage just as an escaped slave still carries his chain. If a wife separated from her husband but was unwilling to master her sexual desires, her only recourse was to return to the husband or wait till he died.

        Origen held adultery to be the only scriptural ground for divorce but he wondered why the Bible did not allow a man to divorce his wife for crimes like poisoning, murder, pillaging the house, or killing the couple’s newborn baby while the husband was absent. He believed remarriage during the lifetime of a spouse equaled adultery, yet he observed that some church rulers had allowed the innocent wife of an adulterous husband to remarry during the lifetime of the ex-husband. He surmised that they made this concession as the lesser of two evils. Epiphanius said remarriage of the innocent spouse during the lifetime of the guilty spouse was tolerated by the church on account of human weakness.

        Justin Martyr described the case of a Roman woman who had converted, but her husband would not abandon the immoral life they had previously enjoyed together. She stayed with him against her feelings, because some friends encouraged her to hope for his conversion. Eventually, when he was away in Alexandria, having heard that his behavior was worse than ever, and not wanting to be a partaker of his wickedness, she sent him a divorce certificate. In response the husband got the local official to persecute Christians, and her Christian teacher was executed. Justin did not mention what happened to the woman.

        Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion [*Affiliate link] p 138

        *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
      • Clockwork Angel

        Hi, Barb,

        I want to post a retraction regarding my statement that Thomas Cranmer seemed to be okay with some physical chastisement of wives. As it turns out, it looks like the Homily on Marriage in the Church of England’s Second Book of Homilies was written by Thomas Cranmer. (Well, I’m pretty sure it is. Hard to find out who wrote what parts. It was a collaborative effort.) In it, the homily decries wife beating of any kind. However, it exhibits the usual “stay and pray” mantra. It appears he only wanted divorce when the abuse became “extreme”. This appears to have been a common position of that day. No Reformers or Puritans granted divorces for “light” beatings. Only “life-endangering” beatings. Basically, the only difference between them and the medieval church was separation vs. divorce over the matter. Plus at least they more and more preached against all wife-beating, even if they only at best did extreme marital counseling over it (or in Geneva, some punishment of the husband in addition to the extreme marital counseling).

        Not very impressive, but a start in changing attitudes, I suppose. Of course, some Reformers were still debating this in the 17th century. Ick. Anyway, I thought I’d post my retraction for posterity’s sake. I now find it hard to really know what any of these people think, since they don’t always spell out their assumptions when they write.

      • Thanks, Clockwork Angel! 🙂 🙂 🙂 I really appreciate you saying this. And I agree, it is often hard to figure out who wrote what in the days of the early Reformation when a book might have had several contributors.

    • where2or3r

      Yes, very pointed and painful observations, Clockwork Angel, and one that pointed me again and again to how Christ, who is the model for how husbands are called to treat their wives, NEVER beat or railed against the women He spoke with in Scriptural accounts. He ALWAYS spoke with understanding, even when He had hard things to say. The voice that we hear in our heads when reading those passages, if that voice is harsh, is not how I believe the words were truly spoken. So to me, Christ Himself is the Word spoken about how men are to treat women in general with a kind, invested, tender understanding, and husbands their wives in particular. Blessings.

  6. Kind of Anonymous

    I felt the same frustration and despair reading Cranmer; I was glad that he was doing something to establish that mistreatment of one’s spouse is wrong and grounds for divorce, but once again, felt an Argggggh! kind of moment because they all seem to fail to define just what constitutes harshness and cruelty and how much is too much.

  7. Auriel

    I write this slightly embarrassed because I sent Barbara an email this morning with the picture message on this post. I sent it because I had saved the picture message some time ago and need to take refuge in it from time to time, especially when my abusive husband is meeting up with my sons. I’m always unsettled, as they are, when the meetings take place, mainly due to his lies and portrayal of himself as the victim.

    I’m embarrassed because it was through Barbara’s blog that I found it in the first place! Anyway, I’m sufficiently healed after decades of abuse, to go gently with myself and to just be grateful that I have found this blog and how important a source of healing it has become.

    My freedom from abuse came through my faith in God. I have absolutely no doubt that His strength and courage were the factors that finally enabled me to exile my husband from my life. I am grateful for legislation that criminalises coercive control, however, the evidence required for conviction is difficult to generate. The freedom factor for me came when I realised I was strong enough to withstand his punishment when I told him to leave. His punishment was terrible, as I expected, but I was strong enough, thanks to God.

    How insightful Thomas Cranmer was. How right that he should see cruelty as a threat to life. I believe we know that today, but somehow we are frozen and unable to exile or to imprison those who attempt murder in their own homes.

    It takes my sons and I a few days to settle after these meetings. My need to write this today is my soul trying to express the pain that any contact with an abuser brings.

    I thank God for Barbara and her work.

    • Hi, Auriel, thanks very much for your comment. I don’t think you need to feel embarrassed! I don’t remember many things — for example, there have been many commenters on this blog over the years and I do not recall all the details of their situations which they have shared in comments. I sometimes mix them up in my head. I sometimes mix up other items and people that I’ve seen on the web. I try to archive many things on my computer (you should see my complex folder trees!) so when I want to recall who said what, or what a certain person said, I can look in my archives. But it’s by no means a perfect system.

      I no longer have to interact with my ex-husbands, so my stress level is far less than it is for people like you who are compelled by the courts to let their ex have regular access to the kids. When I was in that situation years ago, life was very hard. My daughter would be traumatized and re-brainwashed every time she saw her dad. She would come home full of venom towards me. Or she would come home and tell me something he forced her to undergo which had frightened her. E.g., he would drive far to fast, much faster than she felt comfortable with. Or he would make her watch a scary movie that was not at all designed for kids. It could take me days to help her recover from the last access visit. She and I did not truly recover between access visits; true recovery began only when access visits ceased.

      • Oops! I meant to write: “… I do not recall all the details of their situations which they have shared in comments.” I’ll edit my comment.

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