Wesleyans believe the family is a divinely ordained institution. Yet, we need to face the reality that across our world and within our churches violence casts its long shadow across many homes. Domestic violence is a sin committed in the sacred sanctuary of family relationships. Whatever form it takes—physical abuse (involving intentional exposure to danger or the infliction of actual physical harm or cruelty); sexual abuse (including exploitative, coerced or violent sexual contact); or psychological abuse (crushing verbal attacks, belittlement or non-physical harm through domination, humiliation, manipulation or intimidation)—domestic violence damages lives, destroys relationships, devastates society, defiles integrity and devours faith. It is time for us to hear the prophetic call ―”to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1). Domestic violence is pervasive—it exists in every country of the world, among all people groups, within all socioeconomic classes and within every faith community. In No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence (2001), Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark document the prevalence and severity of abuse in families across the globe. As a church family, we deplore facts such as the following:
- According to the World Health Organization, one in five women around the globe is physically or sexually abused during her lifetime.
- Gender violence causes more death and disability among women aged 15-44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war.
- Women worldwide tell governments that family violence is one of their biggest concerns.
- Canadian women with a violent father-in-law are at three times the risk for spouse abuse as women with a non-violent father-in-law (pointing to the generational transference of violent behavior patterns).
- In the United States, there are three times as many animal shelters as there are shelters for battered women and their children.
- About one-third of female victims of homicide are killed by a male intimate partner or relative.
World governments are beginning to respond to the tragic consequences of violence committed by intimate partners, spouses, or other family members against one another. Large sums of public money are gradually being directed toward a greater understanding of the dynamics of the problem, reforming the judicial system to respond more quickly, and providing health and other social services in an effective, coordinated community response to the needs of violated men, women and children. Abuse prevention and response are not simply criminal, therapeutic or public policy issues, however. Abuse is never part of God‘s design for healthy family living. It distorts relationships and shatters dreams. It creates pain and despair that can last a lifetime. Often, it is transferred from one generation to the next as learned behavior. Many people look first to their faith community for help in the aftermath of domestic violence. Will they find their pastor willing and able to help them? What advice will be given? How will the services offered by their faith community coordinate with assistance offered by community-based professionals and services? Unfortunately, most denominations and most local congregations have remained silent through willful or unintentional neglect of victims, perpetrators and their families during their period of crisis. The Church must exercise its prophetic voice and speak out against the ugly reality of domestic violence that has penetrated every corner of our world, including our churches. The time has come to shatter the silence and offer practical and spiritual support to survivors and their families and to call to accountability, repentance, and change those who act abusively.
What does God say about violence?
God’s Word to those who have been violated:
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent . . . Those who love me, I will deliver: I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. Psalm 91:9-10, 14-15
God’s Word to those who have acted abusively:
Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9
Do not envy the wicked, nor desire to be with them: for their minds devise violence and their lips talk of mischief. Proverbs 24:1
They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. Proverbs 4:17
“I hate a man‘s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. “So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” Malachi 2:16
The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. Psalm 11:15
Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. Proverbs 3:31
God’s Word to the Church and its leaders:
A bishop, as God‘s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. Titus 1:7
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Isaiah 1:17
Thus says the Lord: Execute justice in the morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed, or else my wrath will go forth like fire and burn, with no one to quench it, because of your evil doings. Jeremiah 21:12
Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. 1Timothy 3:2
THE WESLEYAN CHURCH
POSITION STATEMENT ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The Wesleyan Church is committed to its mission of fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. The Great Commandment calls us to minister to the needs of society with the love and spirit of Christ. We cannot ignore, minimize or deny the abuse that occurs in the families of our congregations and of our communities. Without intervention and help, the abuse frequently grows more severe. We must provide resources and refuge for its victims. We must call those who act abusively to accountability, repentance and change. We must engage ourselves in the response of our communities to this issue by cooperating and collaborating with community-based resources, such as shelters, therapists, police and legal aid. When we apply the “healing balm of Gilead,” we do what Jesus would do. We feed, clothe and weep with those who are suffering. We speak out against evil. We serve our communities like our mission statements promise. We obey God and the Scriptures and love our neighbor—both within and beyond the household of faith.
The Wesleyan Church is committed to alleviating domestic violence and to providing refuge and care to those who have become its victims. We recognize and accept our biblical responsibility to offer the redemptive transformation of Jesus Christ to perpetrators of violence, as well as hope and healing to its victims. We will demonstrate our concern by:
1. Offering training opportunities through print, web-based resources, and in-person conferences for pastors and other religious leaders on strategies and resources to raise awareness on abuse within their congregations and to meet the needs of those who suffer;
2. Designating one week per calendar year as Domestic Violence Awareness Sunday and offering ideas and resources to help congregations highlight the issue;
3. Encouraging our educational institutions to offer awareness training for students about violence in their personal and dating relationships; support services for students who are experiencing or have experienced (or witnessed) violence in their homes; and training for those preparing for full-time ministry to ensure that they are equipped with resources to respond to this social issue;
4. Supporting community-based policies, programs and services that protect abuse victims and hold offenders accountable;
5. Encouraging pastors to discuss domestic violence and prevention in their premarital counseling and preaching; to refrain from counseling married couples together when one is the perpetrator and one is the victim; to employ best practices in their response to victims and perpetrators; to provide referral suggestions for victims to faith-based and community-based resources for emergency services, shelter and counseling; and to call perpetrators to embrace the transforming grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ that leads to righteousness and holiness.
Whereas, The Wesleyan Church recognizes the evil of domestic violence and the responsibility of the Church to the victims and perpetrators of violence;
Resolved, That the position statement on domestic violence be adopted by the North American General Conference and be recommended for implementation in each of our local congregations.
- – Adopted by the North American General Conference of The Wesleyan Church, June 2008