Faith, Domestic Violence, and Highland Park United Methodist Church
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Domestic Violence and the response of the Church has recently been under scrutiny across the nation. Women who experience the terror and violence of domestic abuse often go to their faith community for help. But all too often these same women experience the heartbreak of being blamed, turned away, or told to return to dangerously abusive environments. This trend is beginning to change, but progress has been slow.
That is why Highland Park United Methodist Church’s stance against abuse and domestic violence is so powerful.
HPUMC founded Restoration Ministries to promote prevention, intervention, and recovery in the areas of domestic abuse and sexual assault. The team offers faith-based resources and free counseling for women who have experienced or are experiencing, domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Restoration Ministries is also committed to continually training HPUMC’s staff on how to respond to and report potential cases of domestic abuse.
When church leaders condemn domestic violence from the pulpit and in public spaces, they bring light to this dark problem and hope to women who have suffered. Women who are experiencing domestic violence need to hear that abuse is always wrong and never a part of God’s plan for a relationship or a family.
Marie Fortune wrote a powerful book for women of faith who are experiencing domestic violence entitled, Keeping The Faith: Guidance for Women Facing Abuse. She writes,
To turn the other cheek means that we do not return a blow for a blow. But we can walk away from it. He (Jesus) does not mean that we should lie down and allow someone to walk over us many times. There is nothing loving about allowing an abusive person to continue to destroy his family. Violence in the family is evil.
The teachings of Jesus on forgiveness do not prohibit asking for help, protecting children, calling the police for protection, or even moving on for safety. Forgiveness can be given from a safe place. The cycle of violence in abusive relationships includes a phase of apologies and flowers, only to cycle back to abuse once again.
The first priority in any abusive situation is safety.
This often means a period of separation to determine if apologies can move towards true repentance and behavior change. Blame and accountability need to be shifted, in both faith communities and the larger culture, from the person being hurt to the person inflicting hurt on the people they have been given to love and protect.
Men, women and the faith community can play a critical role in taking a stand against domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is not a women’s issue. It is the issue of any person who wants to protect their sisters, mothers, and daughters. As the HPUMC community takes this stand, ripples will spread to other faith communities and to countless families who need the peace and healing love of Christ.