Seriously? We’re asking how a church can model love, trust and respect?

Thank-you. For the heartfelt support that poured through social media and across email in response to the blog about my experience of family abuse as a child. I heard from old school friends who were horrified they did not know. Teachers who wanted to know what signs they had missed. Other victimssurvivors, valiant warriors.  And Christians, so many, who urged me to keep going. To push strongly the importance of safe ministry, domestic violence and educating the clergy.images-1

I don’t know. I hit publish then crept away and vomited. I wasn’t strong. I’m wobbling along on Christian training-wheels here, let alone some domestic abuse specialist with insight into ministry.

The irony, only 48 hours ago, after battling with a sermon on using our spiritual gifts, I typed one of my usual, polite, requests for Christian guidance to the smart-alec pastor: ‘I honestly just bash my head on the keyboard and say to GJ&HS, much as I did at 3am that Easter Monday, “WHAT? What on earth did you chase me down for?’

I then (foolishly) added: ‘Will ask God to let me know clearly. And maybe to use some really distinct voice/accent.’

Well, less than 24 hours later, I heard lots of voices. Strongly. From all of you. How can I ignore voices such as these?

I’ve been involved in a fairly intense debate with a bunch of Sydney Anglican ministers (all men) on this very topic for the last few weeks. I’ve seen some commentary over the last few days acknowledging the issue and saying they need to do something about this, and that a woman should never stay in this kind of situation. They are a very influential voice in the life of this city and getting them on board is a worthwhile exercise, even though I’m sure there’s many who’ll choke on their coffee right now while reading your blog.”

From others, who acknowledged it was their pastor and their faith that got them out their situation, and gave them the strength to rebuild.

And others who had lost faith in the world and were desperately seek a rebuilding: “Phil, go tell those ministers this… God is love, forgiveness and peace. A true man loves his wife, children and life through and with God. Any man that abuses or violates another human being is lost from God and needs help. Women and mums stay hoping it will change or waiting for the best moment to get out. When we do get out, with our children with us, it takes a lot to rebuild faith and trust in humanity. Fixing this starts with listening, acknowledging and working with everyone…. We all suffer from the destruction of it and it needs to stop. As men leading churches… teach men what it takes to lead a family through leadership, personal responsibility, love, forgiveness and peace. Teach the women how to value themselves as the goddesses and glory that they are. We need honour back in common conversation, behaviour and action. Teach honour and model honour, love and respect in the churches and community at large and then we have a great place to start.”

Finally, sadly and scarily:

“I used to work for a church based counselling service and I ran groups for male perpetrators of domestic violence, kids who witnessed DV and I had behind the scenes involvement with groups for women who had experienced DV. Many counsellors can tell you stories their clients have shared with them of the subtle and overt pressure to endure whatever crap they were experiencing for the glory of Jesus. I’ve had clients who have made themselves very very sexually available to their husbands despite their own wishes because it was their ‘Christian duty’. Most counsellors who deal with Christians can name you men in leadership who are engaging in some form of abusive behaviour but the system is so supportive of them no one will speak up.”

I love my church. Its community has offered me renewal in times of trial. But the overall system of the ‘Bride of Christ’? I dare say it’s as packed full of politics as parliament. The response over the years to dealing with abuse has not been the bastion of truth, justice and mercy one would hope. So the light needs to shine. Light disinfects.

As a new Christian, I don’t want to have to defend my faith. I want to smile and uphold it for the source of joy it is. To say, “How awesome is it that faith and church helped a woman leave an abusive marriage?” rather than be caught in a war of doctrine around ‘submission’ ‘headship’ etc. I don’t want to watch a wave of stories come out about Christian leaders engaged in abusive behaviour that has been been covered up.

Clean out the dark corners. Be less parliament (pharasees anybody?) and more Jesus.

As the comments came in, I kept going back to one in particular: We need honour back in common conversation, behaviour and action. It was a familiar echo of something I had read before, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

Ah, yes, that big book called The Bible.

  • Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
  • Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)
  • They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. (Daniel 6:4)
  • In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Can someone in church hierarchy please stop for a moment and think: “Hang on, people are asking us to teach honour, and model honour, love and respect in our churches? Shouldn’t we be horrified that so many people believe that’s not actually the case?”

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