Reclaiming the Bible to protect women against domestic violence

A series of 16 daily reflections from Common Grace on domestic and family violence (DFV) aims to reclaim the Bible as a resource that has positive things to say about upholding women’s safety and healing.

If you’re interested, you can sign up here to receive daily emails for the campaign 16 Days of Prayer Against DFV, which begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Erica Hamence, who set up Common Grace’s DFV Justice Team almost five years ago, says it can be hard to keep people engaged with this painful issue.

“The easiest thing, if you have the luxury of it, is to not engage because you don’t want to grapple with the sorts of things people experience in our homes in our churches,” she tells Eternity.

Rather than just pointing out how things have gone wrong, we want to point out how the Bible actually helps survivors or helps us to move forward to do differently

In past years, Common Grace has used its 16 Days of Prayer campaign to sketch out the basics of DFV awareness – sharing statistics about the prevalence of abuse, characteristics of DFV, who is affected and how.

This year, it is changing focus to raise questions and offer answers on how cultures of violence are formed in our society and even our churches.

“So we’re trying to come at it from an angle that enables ongoing engagement in a way that’s sustainable and constructive. So rather than just pointing out how things have gone wrong, we want to point out how the Bible actually helps survivors or helps us to move forward to do differently.”

Hamence characterised this as a reclaiming of the Bible from the hands of abusers who had taken passages of Scripture as an endorsement of husbands demanding submission from their wives.

Each of the 11 writers who have penned the 16 days of reflections were asked to consider the intersection between their area of expertise and DFV.

“In particular, we’ve asked every person when they’ve done this to reflect on what the Bible says about domestic and family violence. So we’re trying to demonstrate that the Bible is a resource for us to be using and it actually has helpful and powerful things to say in this area,” she says.

For example, Tamie Davies, a missionary in Tanzania, is writing on the image of God and how Jesus healed the woman who was bent low, “who was brought low and how Jesus raised people up.”

Anglican minister Geoff Broughton will write about restorative justice, while Ray Bull will write about a pilot program he has developed in Queensland to equip ministers to change creatively.

Josh Dowton, Amy Watkins and Graeme Anderson from Northside Baptist Church in Sydney will write about teaching forgiveness in a way that doesn’t further harm survivors. Contributions also include an anonymous author and survivor of DFV, writing about how she received both harm and healing through the church.

As well as being prayed over, the material is geared to form “part of people’s reflection on their own contribution to their churches and whatever their workplace or sphere of influence is,” says Hamence.

“The first third of it is going to be about how does this happen as a broad society. How did we develop cultures that have led to this?

“The middle section is going to be about how the church has dealt with this, and the last section is about personal experiences of it or our personal responses. So we’re hoping that it will help inform people about each of those things, looking with fresh eyes on our broader culture, being insightful about how this is operating in church. And if you are a victim or a survivor, we hope it will bring comfort to you when you get to the personal section.

“But regardless, we’re hoping it will be helpful in forming a more solid foundation about how we got to a place where DFV happens in our churches. And, of course, we hope it will prompt people to pray and put it on people’s agenda in a way that isn’t exhausting or overwhelming.”