By Lloyd Ashton, writing for Anglican Taonga and ACNS
Anglicans who are struggling at the front line in the battle to turn back gender-based and family violence can take comfort. As of this morning, they know they have absolute, unequivocal support from their leaders in the Anglican Communion.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has long since spoken against this abuse. So, too, have the Primates – who sent a letter to the churches following their meeting in Ireland last year.
This morning the Anglican Consultative Council threw its weight behind the cause, too – signalling that the time for words is over and that action is needed at all levels.
It’s too early to say exactly what those actions might be.
In fact, it won’t ever be easy to come up with a clearcut, top-down set of resolutions to turn back the scourge of domestic violence. The right strategies will have to be nutted out at regional and local levels.
The Rev Terrie Robinson, who is the Networks Co-ordinator for the Communion, has been working on these issues for years. And she’s elated by this morning’s developments.
“It’s never the case that one size fits all,” she says. “We’ve done all the talking, and now there’s a great energy, a great desire to move to the next level.”
The ACC has this week come at this issue of gender-based violence at two levels. Last evening, it devoted the first of its three public evening presentations to that topic.
An audience of about 250 Aucklanders heard a presentation from the three leaders of the Family Centre in Lower Hutt, which has forged an international reputation for its work in family therapy and its social policy research.
Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese, the Revs Wally Campbell and Charles Waldegrave talked about the steps they follow in helping victims and survivors of abuse and working with men who abuse.
This morning, the Communion’s Secretary-General, Rev Canon Kenneth Kearon, gathered up the strands of last evening’s presentation and asked ACC members to reflect, in regional groups, on strategies for prevention, protection and partnership.
They did so for an hour, and gave a summary of their recommendations to Terrie Robinson. Those findings, in turn, will be fed into a small working group to be set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Canon Kearon “to take this matter forward, and to report to the standing committee of ACC.”
Theology of peace
In his opening remarks last evening, Charles Waldegrave reflected on peace as a theological concept.
Peace, he said, flowed from the notion of covenant, and from right relationships. Abuse, he added, was “non-peace”, and a violent relationship with a partner or child was an assault on the fundamental covenant between people and God.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, chaired last evening’s presentation, and in his concluding remarks he reflected further on the problem, and on ways the Communion was dealing with it.
Yesterday's Safe Church resolution was part of the answer, he said. And further reflection on the nature of covenant would also be helpful.
Covenant, he said, involves “the self-restraint of power. The parties to covenant agree to be for one another, and not for themselves.
“We have to get away from the idea that the essential human action is control, rather than response.”
During the evening, the Family Centre presenters had played a number of video segments which showed a family that had come seeking help.
In the first clip, the husband was absent – because he was in prison for assault. But he was in the later videos, and he’d moved to a place where he was taking full responsibility for his actions.
He’d found ways to deal with his anger, and he was intervening in his neighbourhood to stop other men abusing their families.
“What we saw in those deeply moving scenes,” said Dr Williams, “was a movement from obsession with control to being able to choose a response.”