The Anglican Church of Australia has issued a “heartfelt apology” to victims of domestic violence for failures in teaching and pastoral care to support victims and hold perpetrators to account. The province’s General Synod last week approved a motion that committed the church to study the prevalence of domestic violence inside the church. The synod also agreed to look at professionally designed and independent research into the nature and extent of domestic violence amongst Anglicans.
“No victim of domestic abuse should ever be pressured to forgive, submit to or restore a relationship with an offender,” the resolution approved by the synod said. “We confess with deep shame that domestic abuse has occurred among those who attend our churches, and even among some in leadership.”
The resolution said abuse of power was at the heart of many relationship problems in the church and community.
In its motion, the synod said “we grieve with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and pray for their healing and recovery. We give thanks for those women and men, clergy and lay people, who have faithfully supported, cared for and protected such victims in our churches and communities.
“However, we also confess with deep shame that domestic abuse has occurred among those who attend our churches, and even among some in leadership.”
Speaking to ABC News after the vote, the rector of Glenquarie Anglican Church, the Revd David Ould, said that it was “incredibly heartening” to see the church commit to addressing domestic abuse: “We've made it absolutely clear to everyone where we stand on family violence, how we’ve failed in the past and what we hope for the future,” he said. “We’ve committed ourselves to doing better in every area and level of the church so that we can look after some of the most vulnerable and wounded amongst us.”
Earlier, speaking on the ABC News programme The Drum, the Primate of Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, quoted the “powerful” words of a blog post by the Revd Daryl McCullough, an Anglican priest in the country: “As a priest in the Church of God I am truly and deeply sorry if you or anyone you love has been the victim of abuse and found the church complicit in making that abuse worse. If you are one of my parishioners, know that I will listen, I will believe you, I will not dismiss you and I will do everything that I can to support you, and I will never tell you just to go home and put up with it.”
Archbishop Freier said that he didn’t want to “steal his words” but said that he wanted to “join my intentions to his” in making his own apology.