Domestic abuse affects large numbers of people both inside and outside the church, and children as well as adults. The Methodist church has worked with partner churches and agencies to bring about the second of two reports for Conference.
- What is the history behind the report?
Women's Network and Family and Personal Relationships commissioned research into Domestic Violence and the Methodist church in 1999. Work was done by Dr. Loraine Radford and Cecilia Cappell of University of Surrey, Roehampton, Southlands College and funded by Southlands College Methodist Centre. Their findings were published in the report," Domestic Violence and the Methodist Church, The Way Forward ?" which was taken to the Methodist Conference in 2002.
The resolutions from that report ensured that further work would be done, based on these findings, which would look at theology, training, monitoring and good practice.
- Why has the title changed?
As more was learnt about the nature of Domestic violence so it became apparent that the word 'violence' did not include all the aspects of victimisation that were being reported. By using the word abuse it was felt a more accurate picture was given of just what the issue is about.
- What is the second report saying?
The writers of the second report believe that any behaviours that contravene the intention of God's creation should be considered sinful. That where power is used to control and manipulate it is not being used for the right purposes that God intended, of enabling and empowering people to be all that God desired for them. That the church must become open and transparent so that the hidden evil of abuse can be brought out and dealt with and victims, survivors and perpetrators can be nurtured back to full life with sympathy and with justice.
- How do we know that Domestic abuse is happening within our own church?
We don't know, or sometimes if we do we pretend that it isn't happening. "The Way Forward" report showed that as many women were abused in the Methodist church as in society. Abuse of any kind is very difficult to deal with so mediation or help should never be undertaken without professional advice or by an individual on their own. However, should anyone disclose such allegations they must always be believed and supported.
- What can I do?
Have a look at the Guidelines for good practice and implement some of the ideas.
(See the 2005 Conference Report Domestic Abuse sections 4.6 - 4.8.) Then report back, with anything you feel should be addressed to the relevant person.
Make sure that there are lists of suitable agencies with their telephone numbers prominently displayed in your church. (Lists of agencies can be found in the second conference report.) Encourage local preachers, deacons and ministers to mention it in their preaching and teaching. Use the theology section of the report as study material. Be a good listener! Tell a responsible person what you have heard especially if there are children involved.
But above all……..
Pray that those who are suffering will be believed and helped, those who are perpetrators will be supported in their journey back to wholeness. Pray also that we will all be forgiven for remaining silent when we should have spoken out and that those who are involved will be able one day, to move to a place where they can forgive and be forgiven. Also pray for those who assist in the running of the church that they will work towards making it a place of sanctuary and hope in which truths will be honoured and falsehood will be revealed and shown for what it is.
Guidelines for Good Practice when working within the issue of Domestic Abuse
Church of England report 2006: Responding to Domestic Abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibility
The Methodist Church Equality, Diversity and Inclusion ToolkitInformation, case studies and materials for further study and personal reflection