Church Positions on Domestic Abuse

This page gives links to a number of denominational position statements, booklets or webpages on how to deal with domestic abuse. Bear in mind that even if a denomination has a stated policy or position statement, that does not necessarily ensure that every church and every pastor in that denomination will know and adhere to that policy. In addition, many of the denominational statements listed below are non-binding on individual churches; they are guidelines provided by the denomination but they are not compulsory.

We are not aware of any other denominations that have stated positions on domestic abuse, so an abuse victim is in uncharted waters if they try them out. If you know of any denominational statements other than those listed here, please advise Barbara.

Some of the items in this list are not denominational statements but we have included them because they could be useful for a denomination which is seeking to develop its own policies and / or programs on domestic abuse.

Anglican Church – Promoting a safer church

This is a PDF titled Promoting a safer church: Safeguarding policy statement for children, young people and adults.  House of Bishops

Australian Christian Churches (formerly the AOG) 2007 policy on divorce

Allows divorce for proven physical abuse.

Broken Silence:  A Call for Churches to Speak Out

A survey by Sojourners and IMA World Health (on behalf of We WillSpeakOut.US) that asked 1000 Protestant pastors their views on sexual and domestic violence.  Survey taken June 2014.

Congregational awareness raising [Internet Archive link]

Excerpt from the article by Barbara Roberts, with the following Promoting Peace in Families link corrected: Promoting Peace in Families was a Australian award winning program for preventing family violence.

It began with a pastors’ network in the municipality of Casey, an outer suburb of Melbourne. Together with their local council and community health centre, they obtained a federal grant for a multi-congregation family violence education and prevention project. The pilot project then expanded to 16 congregations. This shows what churches can achieve when they join forces with secular agencies.

Has God Abandoned Me?  For Women Facing Domestic Violence

Produced by Lutheran Hour Ministries, this booklet is an excellent resource that accurately reflects the position of the Lutheran Church MO Synod.

Mennonite Central Committee

The MCC site is in both English and Spanish and covers the following topics: Am I being abused?, Plan for safety, Covering your internet tracks, How to find a good therapist, Being an advocate, Faith teachings and abuse, Educational resources. The educational resources section includes a good booklet about pornography that can be downloaded for free.

Ps Crippen Open Letter from a Pastor to Pastors

This letter is a PDF.  Readers are granted permission to reproduce this letter and use it to good ends.  Please do not alter or change the wording.

Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Position Paper on Divorce and Remarriage

We have serious concerns about this PCA Position Paper and will soon be publishing a post explaining our concerns. In a nutshell, the Paper suggests that only physical violence is grounds for divorce. And it assumes that marriage problems are mutually caused so both parties are partly at fault if the marriage is in difficulties.

What’s more, although the Position Paper says an abused spouse can divorce for physical abuse, the Paper’s guidance is not binding on PCA churches in America. Any PCA church can refuse to allow a physically abused victim to divorce her abuser and can even excommunicate her for divorcing her abuser … and no one in the PCA has the power hold that church accountable for its ‘lording it over’ cruelty to the victim.

Roman Catholic Church

When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women

Canon Law: separation of the spouses

Canon Law: separation while the bond remains

Council of Trent 1563: teaching on marriage


UPDATE  Sept 2021:  I, Barbara Roberts, 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.

29 thoughts on “Church Positions on Domestic Abuse”

  1. I attend a Missionary Alliance church…unfortunately, I was totally unaware of their stances on marriage: Divorce and Remarriage [Internet Archive link].When I went to church leaders about abuse in my marriage, they supported my husband, while removing me from my leadership role in children’s ministry. They haven’t emailed or talked to me, making me feel like I’m an outcast. Have you written about them on your site, or similar ministries like Family Life: [This link is now broken. An internet Archive link to the article (Does a Good God Want Me in a Bad Marriage?) can be found here. Editors.]

    1. NT Wife,

      Family Life is a marriage permanancy organization, so you won’t find any sympathy from them towards victims of domestic abuse. Their recent video series produced for like-minded churches, The Art of Marriage, has a collection of “experts” that we have discussed here at the blog. They include Voddie Baucham, (who previously worked with Vision Forum), Wayne Grudem, (former president of Piper’s pet, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), Nouthetic counselor, Paul David Tripp and others. You can type their names or affiliations into our search for the articles we have about them here. We cannot recommend anything that is produced or written by Family Life.

      Concerning the Alliance churches, I am not aware of their positions and thank you for informing us. Their response to you speaks volumes.

      Glad to have you here and I hope that you will find a church that is a source of comfort to you. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of comfort towards God’s people, not guilt. Peace to you.

      1. Dear persistantwidow..I wondered about that…thank you for the help!! Time will tell how my church leaders handle my situation – and still praying if I should change churches. I had a dream the other night where (I feel) God warned me that I will be judged, even though I was telling the truth. I can’t grow in that kind of oppression, so if I keep getting the silent treatment, I can either confront them or leave. I’m not sure what God wants me to do yet..

      2. Dear NT Wife, I had a similar situation with the PCA church that I was in and I did try to work through their church process. After over 1 and a half years, I finally had to leave the church altogether due to the physical toll the stress was taking on my health and because the church intervention was doing nothing more than giving my husband validation for his abusive actions. With them validating him, my husband became angrier with me and threatened to “see me dead”. Had I known that would happen, I would have left at the onset.

        Since then I have found a good situation in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. They have a kind heart towards victims of domestic abuse because they focus on the Good News of the Gospel for Christ’s people-not more laws and judgement.

        If your church continues to give you the silent treatment, it is obvious that they are not open to communication. The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse, not comfort, and not what you should expect from God’s people. I hope that you won’t be disappointed with the results if you try to confront them, because it seems likely the outcome may not be good.

        I know this is hard. I’ll be praying for you.

    2. I’ve just listened to an interview on the FamilyLife site: Dan Allender interviews Nancy Murphy (a survivor of domestic violence) and it is quite good. Here is the link
      The Root of Domestic Violence [Internet Archive link] [Click MP3 on the linked page to listen to the Audio, and click on Transcript to read the transcript. Editors.]

      However, I am not endorsing all of what is on the Family Life Site — certainly the article you linked to, NT Wife, “Does a good God want me in a bad marriage?” is very bad and dangerous teaching. The fact that Family LIfe put it on their site shows how undiscerning they are.

      1. Thanks Barbara, I will listen to that – if it’s the same person as the author, Dan Allender, I have read a couple of his books (I believe Bold Love, in particular) writes about what makes a “fool”. You’re right – it does seem overwhelming. I do remember hearing one minister, John Paul Jackson speaking about his beliefs about domestic abuse. He said that the church should do whatever the victim needs to get out of the volatile situation. I think he also said that abuse breaks covenant, which is what God showed me personally. Please put him in the “good” category! 🙂 That helped me a lot, because I was reading Kay Arthur’s marriage book and I think she might be more along the “marriage permanency” type that persistantwidow mentioned. Blessings ❤

      2. While you listen to that Dan Allender interview, NT Wife, bear in mind that I am not necessarily endorsing every word and every piece of advice in the interview. OVerall I thought it was pretty good, but I did not listen with full attention to every bit of it, and I did notice at some point they talked to a man from Mars Hill church who claimed that Mars Hill was wanting to train lots of people to address the domestic abuse issue. We do NOT endorse Mars Hill church: we know it to be run by a very foolish pastor (Mark Driscoll) who is not to be trusted.

    3. Hi NT wife, thanks for your comment.
      We shall consider putting both those sites you linked to on our Hall of Blind Guides page. The links you gave are very helpful.

      We have so many organizations we could critique, it is overwhelming. We have not yet written reviews or assessments of the two organizations you mentioned. And because of how much other work we have, we cannot promise to do full articles on them. But thanks for giving the heads up with those links you gave in your comment, as it may help others.

      I am so sorry you have been dealt such horrible injustice by your church. The injustice hurts so much, doesn’t it, especially when it comes from the church — the very place we should be getting justice and support from!

  2. Hi PW, wow..I agree, validating his behavior is not good because it makes you feel like you are the one at fault…I actually became a Christian in an LCMS church!! So that’s why I had no idea about Missionary Alliance. I didn’t even know LCMS had the safe house program (that’s probably more recent?) but I will definitely check out your blog. I went to one of the Concordia’s for my undergrad & graduate programs. 🙂 I’m so glad you found a home church that makes you feel safe!!!

  3. Hi ! I’m glad I found this site! I’m not married, but I come from a family where I have good reason to believe that members of my family are ASD- there are aspects of neglect / abuse I have suffered in a child/parent relationship because of it. It took me years to define our relationship as “abuse”, but until I did, I couldn’t find the resources to address the resulting issues.
    It has given me a lot to consider concerning marriage, definitions of abuse, and divorce in relation to my Christian faith. I’m glad to see that there are those who recognise and are responding to the complexity- especially in relation to ASD.
    Strangely I’ve recently moved from a Baptist church (where I felt their was a limited attitude to accountability), to a Presbyterian church, I’ve yet to speak to the leadership about their views/ understanding of abuse. It’s early days at this point.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that most churches (& leadership) have a very limited understanding of how ASD characteristics are experienced as abuse, and the more structured the Church the more likely there is to be ASD members and leaders. My youngest brother attends a Missionary Alliance Church & I can see the toll he is having on my sister-in-law… thankfully my other brother & his wife can see it also (they attend a Churches of Christ, where my brother has a pastoral role, so we have some interesting conversations on this subject!). We intervene when we can, but at this point in time I don’t think she recognises the impact he is having on her. The article posted “Does a good God want me in a bad marriage?” is one I came across also. Made me so mad!

    I have a basic checking policy with Christian literature – Background check – church affiliation? Connections to specific Church doctrines/ organisations? Other religious influences? Personal experience- background of abuse, neglect, poverty, mental illness? etc Credentials- theological college? Training in Psychology? Mental Health? etc… It helps me get some perspective on what is being taught. Unfortunately much of what is written for women is just bad theology, and a specific psychological theory sugar-coated with Bible verses.
    Validation is the corner stone. Without it there is no “truth”, and no way to be set free…

    The books I found helpful were by Sandra D. Wilson (she has a few!), David Stoop (his explanations of family systems was invaluable) & Jeff Van Vonderen’s book on spiritual abuse The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse [Affiliate link]

    Also one book called “Nobody Told Me! Shame. The Impact of Same in Multi-generational Family Systems & Parenting Practices” By Denise Hayes. I had to purchase it through the Australian Publisher (her husband) as I couldn’t find it anywhere else. It’s a easy to read resource. Pacific Downunder [Internet Archive link]

    Thanks for standing in the gap! & Ch 22 (esp vs 29 & 30)!
    29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.
    30 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

    Ezekiel ch13 (esp vs 10-13) 10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”

  4. Just on another thing I’ve noticed. Most things I’ve read have marriage as a covenant relationship, a reflection on God’s covenant with us, with that being used as a reason not to leave a “bad/ unhappy/ difficult” marriage- but what is often left out is that when Israel didn’t live up to the covenant God warned them over & over, before holding them accountable, including sever punishment… I rarely see anything that actually clarifies that part of the relationship, where abusers are held to account or punished by the church. Maybe if they did, there would be hope for some marriages…

    1. Wow, Lyn, I totally get what you’re saying. My husband is ASD (confirmed). It took me a lot of counselling with Leslie Vernick (she has her own books/blog) to understand that the abuse I am experiencing is NO different from other abusive men. However, when I tried to explain AS to my church leaders, they basically slapped me on the wrist and kept trying to make our marriage issues a 50/50 problem..which I don’t believe at all. I asked God specifically one night if my marriage covenant was broken, and the same night I had a dream that I was standing under a glass canopy that shattered right in front of my eyes. The Ezekiel verses are very applicable to what is happening today in the church. Thanks for sharing the resources you found! ❤

  5. I appreciate the openness and frankness shared on this page of this site. It is also so disturbing to hear of churches that are cavalier and dismissive of serious marital problems. Too often churches adopt an overly simplistic view of people and problems that hurts people and solves little.

    I followed that link to the Family Life web site and the article about staying in a bad marriage. May I make two observations about your comments?

    First, I think it is important to realize that to dismiss the article as bad teaching or destructive may minimize or flatten the issues it meant to address. Even more so to say, “We cannot recommend anything that is produced or written by Family Life.” Isn’t it inappropriate to flatly reject everything that organization has done since its founding in 1976? Over and over on this page, writers tell of how their complaints against spouses were minimized or dismissed by church leaders. To call an article like what’s found on the Family Life site bad teaching or destructive is likewise to minimize and dismiss it (indeed, to dismiss the whole organization). Do you see that to do so is to commit the same type of injustice that the church leaders mentioned above had done? Instead, out of charity for the sister in Christ who wrote the article and the kernels of truth found there, perhaps one could simply point differences and disagreements to it?

    Second, since that Family Life article does speak truth about the fact that sometimes God has us in very difficult times for His (good but unknown) reasons, how would you and where would you draw the line between what should be endured and what should not be?

    I know these observations aren’t as sympathetic as other comments above, but my interest in your answers is genuine.

    1. BGS, The reason that we cannot endorse Family life is clear when you read our post, Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry: Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry

      Family Life does not share our beliefs. They embrace the same philosophy as Nouthetic/biblical counseling which we do not endorse. We have articles you can find in the counseling tab explaining our position and we also have a series of upcoming articles exposing the dangers of Nouthetic counseling. There is nothing for us to commend them for. As we see it, they are another tentacle of the beast we battle.

      1. Dear PW, thank you so much for that link..I haven’t seen it before. That would be a good one to send to my pastor. I love the term Jeff used below – Exodus opportunity! I’m in the middle of that now. Unfortunately, I don’t think my church is following all of those non-negotiables. I am being encouraged to wait two more years (even though I have no proof of repentance) least I am supported in separating. I hope you are doing well, too. ❤

    2. BGS – The Apostle Paul chastised both Peter and the Galatians for a rather “small” detour from the gospel. He called their new product, anathema. The Bible is filled with warnings to us about not being deceived and testing the spirits (1 John 4:1). It is not Christian charity to let a professing Christian present “kernels of truth” mixed into a bag of error. Nor is it Christian charity to permit such teaching to continue unopposed, and opposing it as false is not ungracious.

      I will assume that you have good intentions and motives here, and that you think that you are doing good in telling us, and our readers, these things. But what you don’t realize is that your words here are extremely triggering and harmful to abuse victims. I don’t say that to blast you, but to inform you. Christian abuse victims do not need to be told that “sometimes God has us in very difficult times for His good reasons.” You don’t understand. These people HAVE been told that already a million times for decades in most cases, and that is what has kept them in bondage. What they need to hear is the truth – that God does not want His children to be under the hand of a wicked oppressor. He wants them free, and when an exodus opportunity arises (which we should be helping them find) God blesses them when they take it. You see, charity is to tell this, as you say, sister in Christ [the one who wrote that article at Family Life], that she is wrong. Very, very wrong. And that she is hurting the oppressed, and she needs to stop it and learn and get it right. By doing so we are being gracious and charitable to the victims, and to her.

      If you will search our blog articles with the search engine, you will find posts that address the question you ask. Please keep reading and learn.

  6. Thank you, Mr. Crippen and TPW for these answers. My questions are earnest and not meant to be inflammatory. I have been reading in many places on your website so that I can come to understand your perspective and approach to these issues.

    I am surprised at the vehemence of your answer, Mr. Crippen. I want to believe that it is due to your zeal for justice. I am also surprised to see you write that God has no inclination to allow His children to suffer for a time since that is clearly in the Bible. He did send His Son to suffer death – the infinite and ultimate injustice. No?

    Please understand, I am not suggesting that it is adequate or responsible or loving to simply and plainly say that due to the fact that God’s children suffer that we just have to put up with all manners of it. God is the original seeker of justice and He clearly condemns all injustice and commends us to seek justice. I’m not trying to advocate for anything like a mindless application of Scripture.

    I think these issues are complicated and so am averse to oversimplification in any way.

    1. BGS, firstly I’ll confirm that the reason Jeff is vehement is because he has a zeal for justice.

      God’s Word teaches quite a lot about suffering, and we need to be very careful in how we apply that teaching to victims of domestic abuse. We need to be concordant with Scripture, but we also need to recognise what God’s word teaches about the afflicted, helping the afflicted, the widows and fatherless children, (and victims of DA and their kids come into that category).

      And we need to acknowledge the plain fact that victims of abuse have already suffered for a long long time before they (a) disclose to others the tip of the iceberg of what they are suffering and (b) start to realise that the name for what they are suffering is Domestic Abuse. Would you think it is wise, biblical or compassionate to remind such victims that “God sometimes has us in very difficult times for His (good but unknown) reasons” ? The Christian victim has been telling herself this very aphorism for probably YEARS if not DECADES already, so when a would-be-helper reminds her of it, it is (1) patronizing, and (2) highly insensitive to the victim’s situation. It is I would say cruel. Many people who say that kind of stuff don’t mean to be cruel, but we all know that people can do great harm with the best intentions of being benign and helpful. When the blind lead the blind, they all fall into a ditch. When the blind pastoral carer leads the just-coming-out-of-the-fog victim, the pastoral carer lead the victim back into the fog and the ditches. To languish there for who knows how many more years.

      Yes, we have a zeal to prevent this unnecessary suffering, and so should you! I do not ‘should’ on victims, but I DO ‘should’ on those who don’t get it and who are contributing to the suffering and bondage of Christian victims.

      Isn’t it inappropriate to flatly reject everything that organization has done since its founding in 1976? Over and over on this page, writers tell of how their complaints against spouses were minimized or dismissed by church leaders. To call an article like what’s found on the Family Life site bad teaching or destructive is likewise to minimize and dismiss it (indeed, to dismiss the whole organization).

      Yep. We are not ashamed of doing that. Our model is Jesus who told his disciples: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees!”

      Do you see that to do so is to commit the same type of injustice that the church leaders mentioned above had done? Instead, out of charity for the sister in Christ who wrote the article and the kernels of truth found there, perhaps one could simply point differences and disagreements to it?

      When there are teachings which are so very hurtful and dangerous to victims, would you say we should ‘be nice’? Did Jesus just ‘be nice’ all the time?
      I put to you that you have either made an idol of decorum (‘being nice’) and need to rethink a lot of your approach to Christianity, or you are defending Family Life because you have some hidden agenda.

      Second, since that Family Life article does speak truth about the fact that sometimes God has us in very difficult times for His (good but unknown) reasons, how would you and where would you draw the line between what should be endured and what should not be?

      Read all the posts tagged Suffering, to exlpore our answer to this question.

      And please chew over what Jeff said here. Meditate on it, remember it, believe it.

      Christian abuse victims do not need to be told that “sometimes God has us in very difficult times for His good reasons.” You don’t understand. These people HAVE been told that already a million times for decades in most cases, and that is what has kept them in bondage.

    2. Also, BGS, we simply do not have time to write articles that carefully critique and painstakingly explain the errors of each and every ministry that promotes itself as ‘helping solve marriage problems.’ There are too many of them. If we did a detailed critique of every such article and book and syllabus, we would never have time to minister to the victims who keep coming to our blog in ever increasing numbers.

      It’s easy for you to be an armchair critic of our methods isn’t it? However, you need to know that when victims of abuse (and victim advocates) complain about the injustice and wrong teachings that are out there, the way that abusers and abusers’ allies tend to react is to accuse them of using a wrong tone or method of complaint.

      Which seems to be what you are doing. . .

  7. I did not have the time to read all the information but I will. Just from the amount I read, it appears that the Australian Church is the only one changing or trying to change the policy. Why do so many religions require therapy etc. before divorce is approved? Do the victims have to fear, or possibly be killed before truly safe in a limited way -as the abuser can follow them where they try to leave? This being brought to my attention as I was reading something.

    1. Hi Patty,
      We believe that a victim of abuse has the right to make up her own mind about whether and when to divorce the abuser. (Most victims are female, which is why we tend to use the female pronoun for victims; see our sidebar for more on that.)

      The Bible indicates that a Christian is allowed freedom of conscience on matters like divorce, and other Christians must not restrain that liberty. But yes, it is true that many churches pressure the victims to accept counseling, usually couple-counseling – which is dangerous in domestic abuse. Many churches, but not all, are terribly ignorant about how to respond to domestic abuse. And many people in the visible church are not real Christians, they have not received the new birth.

      Jesus said you must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. See the gospel of John, chapter 3. I believe that many clergy are not born again. So they are not real Christians.

  8. My first time here. Interesting conversations. Thank you for your good work. Too bad it took me forty years to find it. … The divorce left me in poverty so I don’t have a lot of choices, but I can study and read and will continue to do so. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi dear sister,
      You will notice I changed your screen name to something less identifying, as you had given your real name.

      Welcome to the blog. 🙂
      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.

  9. Is there any further development on the PCA’s policy on this issue? I have been researching on their website and have not found any updates. I am very determined to follow through with this matter as I belong to a PCA church who has no idea what they are doing with DV.

    1. Hi Barb L, I am not aware of any futher development from the PCA on this. And if the PCA had done something new I’m pretty sure I would be told about it as we have some readers who are pretty ‘in the know’ about PCA matters and they would tell us about it.

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