None of us like it when our family is attacked. Especially in public. We may fight amongst ourselves and criticise one another – but let an outsider attack our families and we spring to their defence. It is the same with the church. We are family. And whilst we may disagree with one another, we do not like it when outsiders attack us.
That thought crossed my mind recently when there was adverse publicity regarding the Anglican church over the issue of domestic abuse or what is now termed IPV – Intimate Partner Violence. The Anglican Church in Australia had released a report on IPV in the Anglican church which led to the alarming (and misleading) headlines ‘The church stripped bare: high rate of abuse amongst Anglicans exposed’. And ‘Anglican church must rethink doctrine that has left a trail of devastated lives’.
These kinds of headlines can be deeply upsetting. And lead to all kinds of questions. Is it really true that the Anglican church in general, and St Thomas’ in particular (by virtue of being a church that teaches these biblical doctrines) is compliant or even partially responsible for domestic abuse? What about those who read this who have been victims of IPV? Even within St Thomas’?
There are reactions that are not helpful. Anger, despair, frustration and denial do not help. When you feel you are under attack, hitting out is not helpful. Likewise, there is a temptation to accept the charges and try to say that you are not one of these bad people who teach such dreadful things. That also does not help.
Is there a better way? I think so. First of all, it’s worth going beyond the headlines, the political agendas, the virtue signalling and the ‘shock jock’ journalism and get to the truth. That’s why I read through the whole report and examined its details. I wrote about it for the Australian Presbyterian (you can read my article here). I found that the headlines were wrong.
The bottom line is that the report itself is deeply flawed, whilst the analysis and reporting of it is even worse. There is little evidence that it is true that you are more likely to be abused in an Anglican church – and to be frank, the notion that a solution to this is to stop biblical teaching, is as absurd as it is blasphemous. Sometimes it pays to examine and look at things in more depth.
None of this is to take away from the seriousness of domestic violence, nor to deny that there may be those within our own church who either have, or continue, to experience it. If that is the case then please be assured that the ministry team are here to help you, not to facilitate or excuse any kind of abuse. If there are issues you are concerned about then feel free to contact any of the ministry team who can direct you to the many resources the Anglican church in Sydney has for dealing with this kind of abuse.
The standard Christ gives us is far higher than the world’s standard. The solution to abuse is not to abandon the Word of God, but rather to believe it and practice it. May the Lord enable all of us to be faithful to Christ in this respect, as in every other,
Yours in Him,