Church of England Backs Fight Against Gender-Based Violence in Church, Society

Bishop of Durham Justin Welby.
Bishop of Durham Justin Welby.

The Church of England, which earlier this year approved women bishops in a historic vote, has signaled its strong commitment to tackling gender-based violence both in the church and across all levels of society.

"Gender-based violence is one of the greatest injustices in our world today. Every time an act of violence is committed, the inherent dignity of the women or girl affected is degraded. Having seen the after-effects of this violence during a recent visit to the DRC, I know all too well just how destructive it can be. The Church is already supporting and caring for those affected; it must continue in that work and must condemn the notion that such violence is ever acceptable," the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in a statement.

He added that the Church "cannot pretend that we are not aware of the reality of gender-based violence."

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Welby declared his support for Restored, an international Christian alliance looking to end violence against women.

Mandy Marshall, co-director of Restored, said in another statement:

"Violence against women doesn't just happen 'out there,' it is happening in our churches too. Domestic abuse must no longer be a taboo subject that the church is reluctant to talk about.

"The church is well placed to serve the community at so many levels but domestic abuse has somehow slipped off its radar and our aim is to help churches put it firmly on their agenda."

Welby noted that he was grateful for Marshall's work in exposing "the stark reality of gender-based violence in our own churches and what must be done to eliminate it."

Marshall spoke to Welby and the General Synod earlier this year about cases of gender-based violence, including one instance of a young Christian woman who struggled to find help from within her own church after escaping an abusive partner.

The woman, who wasn't named, told Marshall: "I really felt that nobody would understand, or they would think that I was exaggerating."

The Synod voted in favor of approving women bishops for the first time in its history in July, finally receiving the required two-thirds majority after several unsuccessful previous votes.

Welby praised the vote at the time, but warned that there are those within the Church who will not approve of such a change.

"The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living out more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote, I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow," Welby said.

Now the CoE is hoping to help the many Christian women who find themselves in a cycle of abuse, but receive no help from their churches.

Marshall said that she is raising money to fund research into levels of domestic abuse within the church.

"Anecdotal evidence clearly shows that in many churches there are women who are victims of domestic abuse. If we can get some solid, academic research funded we will be able to establish patterns that will help us advise the church on where best to focus its efforts in countering and preventing violence against women," Marshall continued.

U.N. statistics have shown that one in three women globally will be a victim of abuse in her lifetime, while domestic violence remains the largest form of abuse of women irrespective of religion, culture, ethnicity, education and class.

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