A pastoral statement offered to the Newlife Church community at gatherings on Sunday February 23, 2020.
This week we were shaken by the horrendous news of a mother and her three children brutally murdered by her estranged husband and the children’s father. It was and is an unimaginable horror. Except it wasn’t. Tragically, what happened on Wednesday is an all too common occurrence.
Women and children far and away suffer the most through domestic and family violence.
The statistics paint a blunt picture:
Of the 77 reporting countries listed by the UN, Australia has one of the highest rates of domestic and family violence in the world.
According to the Australian Institute of Health, 1 in 6 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former partner.
1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.
Intimate partner violence causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25-44 years of age.
Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children.
On average, at least one woman is killed every week by a partner or former partner.
95% of violent perpetrators are men.
The Domestic Violence Prevention Centre (DVPC) is one of the agencies who serves and advocates for domestic and family violence survivors here in our city. Through January, one calendar month, here on the Gold Coast:
- 703 women sought help from the DVPC
- There were 285 police Referrals
- 254 women were supported for their Southport Court Appearance.
I could go on. Domestic and Family Violence is a scourge that reaches across, and impacts all sectors of our community, including the church. Rates of Domestic and Family Violence are just as high in the church as outside. It causes extraordinary pain and suffering that has generational impacts. Domestic and Family Violence is expressed and experienced in a variety of forms, including verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. All are completely and utterly unacceptable and inexcusable.
In light of this, and in light of what has happened this week, I want to do six things.
First, and perhaps most importantly, I want to express a heartfelt and repentant apology, both personally and on behalf of our church, Newlife, to domestic and family violence survivors here today, or reading or watching this statement later.
I am sorry that we have been complicit in perpetuating a culture of silence about domestic and family violence, as well as its causes. We have not spoken up, educated or advocated near enough about these matters. In my fourteen years here I have mentioned, in passing, domestic and family violence a few times. No longer.
I am sorry some of you have not felt able, or been or confident you could confide in your church family and leaders what you are experiencing – or even known who you could talk with.
I am sorry for where I and we have let you down, and repent and ask for your forgiveness. I am, and we are committed to change, with God’s help.
Second, I want to say that if you are right now, or have suffered domestic and family violence and confide this fact in one of the leaders of our church – we will believe you. Further, you will be cared for and offered support every way we can, both through the resources we have to offer as a church, and through the wonderful agencies here on the Gold Coast who are ready to assist. If this is you, at the end of the service today I invite you to share with one of the pastors or leaders of our church, or with someone in our community you trust. Help is available. You will be believed.
Alternatively, at the end of the service there will be a slide on the screen with some numbers of agencies in our city who would be only too happy to help.
Third, I want to say thank you to those of you who offer care for survivors of domestic and family violence, whether it’s through one of the ministries of our church or Newlife Care, as a professional working in the field, a health professional, counsellor or through your own personal commitment and engagement. There are so many of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you – for taking up the gospel cause of working for justice and caring for those who suffer. You have my commitment we will do all we can as a church to support you in your vital ministry.
Fourth, I want to share with you that together with many other churches on the Gold Coast, Newlife is committed to the long term goal of playing our part in seeing the incidence of domestic and family violence significantly reduced across our city. Such a goal is almost overwhelming, so horrifyingly numbing are the statistics. But work, pray, advocate and educate for change we must. The gospel asks nothing less than this. It starts with us.
It is my privilege to be a member of our city’s pastor’s roundtable. For around a year now we have been learning together through workshops and immersion experiences about the root causes, and experience of domestic and family violence through partners like the Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Centre and Griffith University. This listening and learning phase is part of a long term commitment Gold Coast churches have made to make a difference, both inside our churches, and in the broader community. We have a long way to go and a lot to learn. But we are committed to the journey.
Fifth, I commit our church to be a place where violence, in any form, will not be tolerated. I and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that Newlife, in all its expressions, is a safe place marked by the peace of God, where people can encounter and experience the love of God free from fear.
Finally, I want to pray. To lament, to confess, to offer intercessions and to look to God for hope, wisdom and strength. Will you join me.
Rev Stu Cameron – Lead Minister
Domestic Violence Prevention Centre (Gold Coast)
Email: info@ domesticviolence.com.au
DV Connect Womensline:
Phone: 1800 811 811
DV Connect Mensline:
Phone: 1800 600 636
Phone: 13 11 14