Our Churches Clergy Directory Districts Staff

October 08, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.C. — October is Domestic Violence month. A new, downloadable resource, “Breaking the Silence,” can equip United Methodists to speak up and speak out about domestic violence.

The 23-page study is for use in local congregations. It focuses on the need for communities of faith to address systems that perpetuate domestic violence: causing victims to remain silent and enabling perpetrators to continue.

The new resource is available through the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) Web site at: “Breaking the Silence.”

This resource provides an opportunity for church members, either as individuals or in small groups, to study domestic violence through the lens of the Wesleyan quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, reason and experience. It uses Psalm 139 as its biblical text.

Author of the resource is Meredith Hoxie, a theology student at Boston School of Theology. Hoxie worked as a social justice intern with GBCS this summer.

“This resource is to help clergy and laity understand the complexities of these violent relationships,” Hoxie said, “to examine their theological understanding of this violence, to challenge the way leaders of The United Methodist Church teach and preach troubling texts of violence, and to know how to advocate for victims of such violence in their churches and in the world.”

Intimate partners abuse

Studies show that intimate partners abuse between one quarter and one half of all women in the world. Worldwide, an intimate partner kills 40-70% of all female murder victims.

Too many times both laity and clergy in local churches are unprepared to deal with incidences of domestic violence, according to Linda Bales Todd, director of GBCS’s Louise & Hugh Moore Population Project, which oversaw development of “Breaking the Silence.”

“Rarely is a sermon preached about domestic violence,” Todd pointed out. “And, when a pastor neglects to address this issue openly in the pulpit, victims of violence may perceive the congregation as one that may not be a safe space for relating her/his situation of violence.”

Extensive research

Relying on extensive research, the first three lessons of “Breaking the Silence” examine the importance of scriptural inheritance and historical church teachings. The final piece focuses on individual and communal experiences of people of faith as the Holy Spirit continues to work in their lives today.

The resource contains statistics and stories from around the globe to educate about the pervasive nature of domestic violence. It considers church teachings condemning divorce, and its stance on silence. It also looks at both the General Rules of John Wesley and the theology of hymns by his brother Charles

In moving from knowledge to action, the study urges participants to embrace their theological task. It provides a reflection on advocacy through the quadrilateral.

The resource contains activities and encourages reflection through journaling.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education and Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the local churches of the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations.

Other resources

Other resources related to Domestic Violence are available on GBCS’s Web site:

• Five downloadable brochures address specific types of domestic violence. They provide guidance for Bible study and discussion groups to explore the signs, causes and effect of domestic violence on individuals, relationships and our communities. These brochures’ topics include “Elderly Abuse,” “Child Abuse,” “Adolescent Bullying,” “Partner Abuse” and the “Community” impact of domestic violence.

• GBCS similarly has developed a “Sample One-Day Seminar on Domestic Violence.” It includes schedule, tips for creating presentations, choosing speakers, and building awareness and advocacy opportunities.