Monday, June 06, 2005

Domestic Violence hits home for Presbyterians

The title of this blog entry was not intended as a grim pun, but simply as a comment on the fact that sometimes events force us to recognize nearby realities that are far too easy to imagine as distant, as someone else's problem. I am writing in response to two recent news stories, first that a minister’s killing rocks Florida community, and second, that many pastors are in denial about domestic abuse, family violence.

I never met the Rev. Cheryl Rosenberg Malcolmson, who was was murdered in May by her husband, and discovered by her nine-year old daughter. But I cannot hear her story without recognizing the destructive reach of domestic violence into the life of someone with whom I shared a bond of calling and collegiality. Not even clergy families are exempt.

From time to time women who are staying at the Alle-Kiski Hope Center come to events at the church near Central Park. They receive our hospitality, and their presence reminds us of the importance of the occasional gift our church gives to the Hope Center because of the good work being done there. I can't speak for the members of the church, but I am aware today that each one of those appearances was a missed opportunity for me to see a deeper reality, to recognize an easily denied dimension of the problem: that it can affect people close to me.

I was present in Louisville, Kentucky in 2001 when the PCUSA General Assembly adoped its lengthy report on domestic violence, Turn Mourning into Dancing! I thought it was a great report, and significant that the church had taken steps to make this information available. And yet, when I went home from Louisville it was far too easy to fall back into thinking of domestic violence as a problem affecting other families, in some other place.

In the second news story, the Rev. Bonnie Orth, pastor of the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church in upstate New York, is quoted as saying "in every church, there is at least one victim, probably one perpetrator and at least one observer who are actively watching violence but don’t know what to say or do."

There are resources available to help each of these people, and I intend that this blog entry will be only the first step that I take to make sure that the people closest to me can know about those resources and the things they can do to be safe and to make homes safe.

UPDATE 6-07-05 I added the link to the amended and adopted version of the PCUSA report "Turn Mourning Into Dancing."

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Rob said...

I'd been thinking of blogging an article, asking what various churches do to train their people to spot and deal with domestic violence.

The PC(USA) policy is insufficient! Every elder, every deacon, and every Stephen Minister should be trained! If you lead a small group - where most actual ministry occurs - you should have some idea of what to look for and what to do.

I dealt with domestic violence as a paramedic. Husbands hurting wives, wives attacking husbands, children beaten by a parent or children assaulting parents.

I received training from the Center for Victims of Violent Crime, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, and my wife (who happened to be a psychologist). In turn, I taught other medics what to look for.

It's in our churches. We don't like to think that, but it is. In Florida, in one church, it's already too late.

Thank you for your post. I should create my post as well.

Stewart said...

You have a good idea. There is a section of the 2001 report that lists what some churches are doing.

If there is a major deficiency in the policy, it is that it is just a policy. It can call for training, but someone at the local level has to motivate the elders, deacons, and other church members to come to the training.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005 7:08:41 AM