AsI have watched the events surrounding ministers Juanita Bynum andThomas Weeks, whom I have known for many years, I, like most, amconcerned and saddened.
My wife, Serita, and I, as well as the entire Potter's House family,are deeply concerned and have expressed that concern through personalcontact the moment we were made aware. Those most familiar with ourministry know that I have been a longtime advocate and tireless fighteragainst domestic violence.
However pained we all may be, perhaps this is a teaching opportunityto awaken us to the fact that thousands of women are beaten and manykilled by someone who says they love them. I have personally lost manywomen in my city, some in my church and several in my family to thisheinous problem.
The statistics for women who are abused in this country today by"intimates" —- a husband, boyfriend or someone they are intimatelyclose to —- are staggering. The National Organization for Womensubmitted the following details:
> Every day, four women die in this country as a result ofdomestic violence, the euphemism for murders and assaults by husbandsand boyfriends. That's approximately 1,400 women a year, according tothe FBI.
> Although only 572,000 reports of assault by intimates areofficially reported to federal officials each year, the mostconservative estimates indicate two to four million women of all racesand classes are battered each year.
As difficult and as painful as it is to realize, both the victim andthe perpetrator are souls that God loves. We must realize that thechurch's job is not a judicial one. The courts will do that. The churchis the place where people can find redemption even when they have madebad choices or been victims of those who did. We have to stop standingon the road and watching the accident, pointing and staring while thepeople who are injured in both cars hemorrhage without solution.Churches must be prepared to respond to the needs of all involvedincluding the many children who are often left traumatized andendangered in this toxic environment.
Churches can do something to support families through this difficulttime by giving them a safe and discreet place to come for counseling.We must be prepared to get the victim out of harm's way even while weare working for a solution. However, what the church cannot do is tosay to the victim, "Go home and believe that God will make thingsbetter." Or lead them in prayer and leave them in danger.
Here are some guidelines that we use at The Potter's House that may be helpful to pastors and church leaders:
> If pastors or service providers counsel the victim orperpetrator, it is important that they do not allow privilegedinformation to go public. Avoid making a public statement or sharingpersonal details across the pulpit beyond general concern andcompassion without the expressed permission of the family.
People do not confide in leaders who talk.
> Churches can also make referrals to social service agenciesthat can provide deep counseling to victims and perpetrators as well.
> Either refer men and women to anger management classes orprovide them if you have trained people to help in understanding whattriggers outrage and how to develop family skills.
Churches can acknowledge domestic violence by doing plays, holdingcandlelight services, developing support groups, etc. Secrets thrive insilence, and isolation causes many to remain silently and secretlyabused.
Realize that while some women have the resources to leave, manyothers stay simply because they feel they have nowhere else to go. Areport released in 1990 stated that there were 1,500 shelters forbattered women in the United States. Yet there were 3,800 animalshelters, almost double the number for women and their children.
This must be fixed, as some women go home or become homeless as theyfeel that they have nowhere to go but back into harm's way with theirchildren in tow.
The faith community has to come out of shock and realize thatknowing the Bible may make you a strong Christian or a great speakerbut that doesn't necessarily mean that it is the only resource we candraw from or work with to help those in our pews who suffer in silence.Many of our parishioners and even our clergy may not have good familyskills, coping mechanisms or conflict resolution training. We mustrealize that none of us are experts and excellent at everything. Andencouraging people to change their lives and provide them with goodinformation is vitally important.
Because so many of us look to our churches for guidance anddirection for everything, churches must acquaint themselves with wayswe can assist or refer them to help. Prayer is a good starting point,but this is a problem where wise and fair actions are needed.