The Baptist Church in Australia's national body has formally apologized to victims of domestic violence who it says have been let down by churches' "ignorance" and "failure" to care for abused congregants.
Women have been publicly telling their stories of domestic abuse for the first time and Baptist leaders have called for recognition "that we have a serious problem with domestic and sexual violence in churches," ABC online reported Nov. 27.
The Australian national broadcaster reported that momentum is growing for significant cultural change across Australian denominations.
The Baptist church is the fourth Australian church to apologize to victims of domestic violence in the past four months, behind the General Anglican Synod of Australia, the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and the Sydney Anglican Synod.
Common Grace, a group of 35,000 Australian Christians from different denominations, published an educational resource, called Safer, calling on the church to "collectively and loudly cry 'no more.'"
They wrote in it, "In recent years, the Australian media has shone a spotlight on violence within the home. Communities have rallied to the cause.
"But many church members have not yet been able to wrestle with the idea that they are likely to have victims - and abusers - sitting next to them in Sunday services."
The ABC said the apology was made in a week where women around the world have been sharing personal stories of harassment and abuse in Christian communities.
RESPONSES TO FAMILY VIOLENCE
They have been using the hashtag #ChurchToo, marking the launch of the Baptist-led 'No Place for Violence Here' campaign to improve churches' awareness of and responses to family violence.
The report said that women married to abusive priests have revealed experiences of sexual assault, control and fear.
An ABC News investigation had revealed that some Australian women have suffered domestic abuse by their clergy husbands, and that churches of all denominations have too often ignored their reports, hidden the abuse, and failed to provide adequate care.
"Some Baptist churches and agencies have been working to support family abuse survivors for some time," the Australian Baptist Ministries National Council said in a statement on Nov. 26.
"Despite these efforts, it is with sadness of heart that we acknowledge that in our history we have often failed people living in abusive relationships.
"We failed to recognize the existence of violence and abuse in our homes, and when we did recognize it, all too often we didn't do what was necessary to protect those who were being abused.
"To those people we failed, we are sorry. Sorry for letting you down when you sought our help; sorry for ignoring your pain and suffering; sorry for failing to make your safety and wellbeing our priority."