Anglican Church of Australia apologizes for letting down domestic violence victims

The Anglican Church of Australia has issued an apology to victims of domestic violence during its triennial General Synod meeting last week in Maroochydore, Queensland, and has vowed to launch an independent probe into the family violence occurring among Anglicans.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Cfitzart)St Johns Church, the oldest church in Canberra. 23 September 2005.

This was the first time that the Anglican Church of Australia had apologized to domestic violence victims in its community. During the General Synod meeting, the church also heard that many of the relationship issues of its members stemmed from an abuse of power, ABC detailed.

"We grieve with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and pray for their healing and recovery," the General Synod said. "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," the Church added. "We apologise for those times our teaching and pastoral care has failed adequately to support victims and call perpetrators to account," the Church added.

In addition, the Church said victims of domestic abuse should not be forced to forgive or reconcile with the offender. It also called on other Anglican dioceses in the country to implement guidelines to help them respond properly to issues involving domestic violence in their communities.

In October last year, Eternity News ran a report saying there were at least 333 incidents of domestic abuse reported to Anglican ministers in Sydney in the past five years. A survey revealed that "pastoral response" was only present in 223 of those reported cases.

Domestic Violence Task Force chair and Anglican minister Sandy Grant told Eternity that assistant ministers were not required to report incidents of domestic abuse that they encountered. Therefore, the recorded number does not include the times when a victim has told another church staff about an abuse.

All except one of the ministers who participated in the survey said they believed that domestic abuse could count as legal grounds for separation. Most of them said it could also be a factor for divorce.

The poll revealed that more than half of the churches in the diocese thought that their church effectively dealt with issues of domestic violence. However, Grant said the Anglican church still has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to dealing with the issue.