The Sydney Morning Herald reports…
“The Centre for Public Christianity is calling for churches to take a lead role in understanding domestic violence issues within their congregations.
Church groups should fund a study into the prevalence of domestic violence within their ranks and clerical responses to it, according to a proposal by the country’s leading independent Christian research and media organisation.
The Centre for Public Christianity has called on conservative evangelical institutions to support the research, following public concern over the doctrine of male headship being used as an excuse for domestic violence.
Director of the Centre for Public Christianity Simon Smart said such a review would help churches address instances of domestic violence within their congregations.
“We know that there are examples of domestic violence and abuse which are occurring in the churches,” he said.
“It’s important to find out to what degree this is going on and to take appropriate action.”
He said that the response of religious groups to findings from the child abuse royal commission suggests that churches are willing to react to public concern.
“They have learned that when criticised, rather than have a reflex action of defensiveness and defending the institution, it’s really important to face the criticism and take whatever action might be needed,” he said.
“Research like this might reveal that the problem of domestic violence is not as bad as we feared. Or it might reveal it to be worse than we feared. Either way the church will be in a better position to deal with it.”
Church groups are in a good position to address domestic violence, along with other community groups, Mr Smart said. There is an onus on religious organisations to ensure that scripture which states men should lead and women should submit is not used to condone abuse.
“Properly understood, there is no way the bible could legitimately be used to justify domestic violence; it would be horrifying to think that biblical teaching could in any way be used to contribute to abuse and violence,” he said.
“Conservative churches that emphasise the doctrine of submission and headship have an extra responsibility to ensure that teaching is not misapplied, distorted and used as a weapon by abusers.”
Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies agreed the bible should not be misinterpreted to excuse abuse.
“There is no biblical justification, in any circumstance, for domestic violence,” he said. “The classic Christian understanding of a husband’s loving, sacrificial, servant-like leadership leaves absolutely no room for violence or fear.”
Archbishop Davies supports the Centre for Public Christianity’s research proposal in principle.
“We would be very open to participating in a cross-denominational survey of domestic violence issues, benchmarked with society in general,” he said.
“Whether or not such a survey is conducted, we will continue to speak out against domestic violence through education, training and advocacy.
“I also encourage our ministers to explore this issue further with their congregations, making them more aware of the problem and the necessity of properly dealing with specific cases wherever they may be found.”