Listening to and supporting survivors of domestic and family violence
The recent Diocesan Synod achieved a significant piece of work in passing a resolution in response to the National Anglican Family Violence Project reports that were released earlier this year. 2021 Diocesan Synod’s Resolution 7 acknowledged the pain and grief experienced by all Anglicans whose lives are affected by domestic violence and abuse, and also committed itself to responding to the Project actively and broadly.
Synod committed to working through the Ten Commitments for Prevention and Response to Domestic and Family Violence in the Anglican Church of Australia (listed below), and has asked for Diocesan Council to report on progress with these Commitments at future Synods.
The Ten Commitments also invite the ACSQ to review our progress regularly as part of the national church’s review process. This will ensure that our work reflects the most recent thinking and practice in the sector.
In recent meetings with the General Synod Family Violence Working Group and other Dioceses, representatives from ACSQ explored the concept of a national Family Violence Network to facilitate the sharing of resources and ideas across the Anglican Church of Australia.
Most importantly, the Ten Commitments challenge us to engage with our own Church culture. We need to interrogate those parts of our common life, our traditions and sometimes even our beliefs, which have contributed to a lack of gender equity in the Church. Which of our teachings might have prioritised the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage, at the expense of the safety of women and children? Do our traditions encourage models of male headship, where the male spouse is the head of the household and the female spouse is subservient? Might our ingrained socialised tendencies to politeness and civility or to putting our head in the sand mean that we are inadvertently enabling the abuse of women and children in their homes?
Acknowledging the seriousness and extent of the work required by the Ten Commitments, Synod also resolved to encourage Diocesan Council to find ways to finance a full-time Domestic Violence Prevention Officer who will oversee this work within the ACSQ. Presently, the work of training, education and engaging with the DVA sector is undertaken solely by the ACSQ Domestic and Family Violence Working Group, whose members work on a voluntary basis. Financing a full-time staff member to coordinate the work of volunteers demonstrates the commitment of the ACSQ to addressing this issue. Finding the money to fund such a position will be challenging. Budgets are tight and many causes are worthy.
However, making the necessary changes within our Church’s culture will be even harder, as we may be asked to let go of ideas and traditions that have been dear to us. In the words of the Ordinal, “May God who has given [us] the will to do these things give [us] the grace and power to perform them. Amen.”
The Ten Commitments for Prevention and Response to Domestic and Family Violence in the Anglican Church of Australia are:
- Our Church acknowledges and laments the violence which has been suffered by some of our members and repents of the part we have played in allowing an environment where violence went unaddressed.
- Our Church leaders commit to ensure conditions that support the prevention of violence, a church culture that promotes equality, and support for those who experience violence.
- Our Church consistently teaches about equality, freedom from violence, respectful relationships and the honour/value of every person.
- Our Church affirms that human relationships are to be based on respect and mutuality.
- Our Church acknowledges the different experiences of all people and that these have played a part in whether they have been treated with respect and equality.
- Our Church actions are directed by the gospel of love, peace and justice, and are informed and engaged with local, state and national government initiatives as appropriate.
- Our church supports cultural change in our communities by communicating effectively to our members.
- Our Church trains our leaders, pastoral staff and parish councils to understand and be equipped to respond in ways that prevent and address domestic and family violence.
- Our leaders and pastoral staff hold themselves to account and are guided by the Anglican Church’s Code of Conduct: Faithfulness in Service.
- These commitments are regularly reviewed and improved.
Author’s note: The Anglican Church Southern Queensland (ACSQ) is committed to promoting and supporting a safe environment for all. Domestic and family violence is unacceptable. We offer pastoral care to victims of domestic and family abuse. The ACSQ is part of the Queensland Churches Together Joint Churches Domestic Violence Prevention Project (JCDVPP), which publishes resources for clergy and lay people.
If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for police or ambulance help. For a list of helplines and websites available to women, children and men, visit this page on the Queensland Government website.Jump to next article