On August 3, Nelson Bay Baptist Church (NBBC) held a community seminar on domestic violence in response to the ABC article, “‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God”. The event was held in partnership with counsellors from the Yacaaba Centre, a local domestic violence service. The counsellors supported the seminar and made themselves available if people had questions or concerns. The seminar was well-received with a good cross-section of churches in the area and community members attending.
After the ABC article was released, Pastor Wayne Forward made comments about domestic violence in the church arguing that there is no Scriptural basis for abuse and that any use of Scripture by perpetrators is a perversion of interpretation. Following the comments and in discussion with Gill Fletcher, a congregation member and clinical counsellor who works in the area of domestic violence, it was decided to hold a community forum. The purpose of the forum was to raise awareness of domestic violence more broadly and to discuss in more detail the message that Pastor Wayne Forward gave about Scripture and its use by perpetrators to condone violence.
The program included time to look generally domestic violence and time to look at the manipulation and misuse of Scripture. Pastor Wayne Forward addressed four common topics and verses that are often misinterpreted by abusers. He also issued an apology to victims who have been hurt by the inadequate response of churches. Attendees then heard from a survivor of abuse, who read a poem she had written that had previously been published by the ABC.
Presenters also discussed what the community could do to keep people safe and recognised the impact that gender inequality has in allowing for a culture and environment that supports domestic violence.
It was an important and well-received community event. Counsellors who attended the seminar felt equipped to call out perpetrators who tried to use Scripture to defend their behaviour. NBBC will continue its ongoing relationship with the Yacaaba Centre, collecting food for hampers and providing a maintenance service for clients. Discussion has also begun with a local domestic violence community group to reproduce the seminar during White Ribbon Week.
Pastor Wayne Forward says, “We hope that other churches know that they can be part of the solution and that their communities want to hear from them and partner with them in the journey to end domestic and family violence.”
Nelson Bay Baptist Church: http://www.nelsonbaybaptist.org
ABC Article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-18/domestic-violence-church-submit-to-husbands/8652028
Yacaaba Centre: https://www.yacaabacentre.com.au/