I left the previous post with the thought that in cases of intimate partner violence, there is not an automatic move to divorce, but rather a separation. I would like to thank Pastor Jon Gleason for his comments about involving the state authorities in such cases, and I think that it will frequently be wise to do so. I must stress as much as I can that I do not want to see either party living in fear of the other. Intimate partner violence has been shown in many studies to be gender-symmetrical and we have a male survivor of such a situation in the church where I worship.
What I would like us to think about is the role and the duty of the church where there is any intimate partner violence. I believe that good psychometric evaluation of a couple prior to marriage could highlight such latent traits as may lead to intimate partner violence. So the counselors need to be skilled to interpret the information before them, and to have the parties to the intended marriage discuss the matter in a manner that is neither unnecessarily scaring nor dismissive. This will require a significant investment in time for the counselor, and for this reason I
I believe that a husband should be the head for the wife, as I previously quoted from Ephesians 5, and that the wife should follow his lead. But just as with the state authorities, there is a limit beyond which one need not follow. I the husband tries to lead the wife into sin or danger, of any sort, and she is aware, then her first duty to to be obedient to God and to refuse to obey her husband. You may wonder how I come to say be obedient to God, but god, in Jesus told us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. This requires us to love ourselves and if we do this than we are obeying God’s instruction. I do not mean to become narcissistic, but rather to respect and look after ourselves keeping body, mind and spirit in good condition to do the will of Him who calls us to march to the beat of His drum.
For one thing, I believe that a church which did a serious pre-marital inventory for all couples intending marriage would almost certainly uncover latent tendencies to resort to violence and could advise against marriage until such times as the partner in question had resolved those issues. The church should also have a system of pastoral care such that each member of the church was encouraged to be part of a small group where he or she felt comfortable and where he or she knew that there was a contact of the same sex available who would talk over any issues with them either as a marriage mentor or as a group leader. And that person needs to have knowledge that there is available a refuge for either men or women where a victim of intimate partner violence can go for safety. They may well not know the address, and that is fine, but in most denominational settings there is a network of churches and it could be that there is a woman’s refuge in the next town west while a men’s refuge is in the next town south, and there is one church officer in each town that has a telephone contact number for each to give to refugees.
Interestingly, Gabriella and I go to different fellowship groups in the church we attend. So we each have our own support group were the other to be causing problems. People may find it interesting to consider how Mars Hill in Seattle do their small groups, which they call community groups. I can recommend Brad House’s book on that subject, although I think that that church majors too much on possible sexual sin in the life of community group leaders.
But I would hope that most of those married in church would actually never need to consider moving to a refuge for protection from intimate partner violence. But for the few who do, I would hope that it would be a means of getting to a place of safety and security so that the violent partner can work on his or her issues without distraction and to be part of the process of church discipline which always aims to restore people to the sort of fellowship they ought to have been able to enjoy at all times in the church.