The Baptist Church in Australia has stepped up to apologize to victims of domestic violence, saying the church has let people down and “often failed people living in abusive relationships.”
The National Council of Australian Baptist Ministries issued a statement saying there is “no place for physical violence or other controlling or abusive behavior in any relationship, particularly in Christian relationships or Baptist churches.” (Let’s hope followers get the memo.)
The Bible speaks out strongly against the misuse of power. Attempts to control others are corrosive to relationships, damaging to people’s enjoyment of life as God intended, and abusive to people God loves. Scripture should never be used to justify violence, control or manipulate others through the use of power in personal relationships.
It’s true that scripture shouldn’t be used to justify violence, but it often is, in the home and in militaries around the world.
The group went on to say that some Baptist churches “have been working to support family abuse survivors for some time.”
Despite these efforts, it is with sadness of heart that we acknowledge that in our history we have often failed people living in abusive relationships. We failed to recognise the existence of violence and abuse in our homes, and when we did recognise it, all too often we didn’t do what was necessary to protect those who were being abused.
Now we’re getting somewhere. In this part of the letter, it seems like the council is properly taking responsibility for the actions (and inactions) of Christian churches that have allowed this behavior for so long. They go further by apologizing to those they have failed.
Sorry for letting you down when you sought our help; sorry for ignoring your pain and suffering; sorry for failing to make your safety and well-being our priority. We pray for your healing and recovery, and thank God for the people who work and serve to support you and other family violence survivors.
We cannot erase the failures of the past, but we commit to do better in the future.
The council also started a “No Place for Violence” campaign, which provides data and resources related to domestic abuse. Common Grace, a group of 35,000 Australian Christians from variety of denominations, also started “Safer,” which aims to put a stop to domestic violence within Christian homes.
In it they write: “In recent years, the Australian media has shone a spotlight on violence within the home. Communities have rallied to the cause.
“But many church members have not yet been able to wrestle with the idea that they are likely to have victims — and abusers — sitting next to them in Sunday services.”
This recognition is a good start, and these apologies and resources will certainly help, but there is a lot more to be done. And while domestic violence is more prominent among certain groups of Christians than other religious groups (or even more devout believers), it is an issue that touches all faiths and non-faiths alike, as we saw just yesterday with Scott Smith of “Recovering from Religion.”
We can all do better, and we all should do better.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Gunnar for the link)