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Online Training Question #2: The Role of Faith Communities

Linking to the Literature Series

Question #2 - What role can faith communities play in assisting abused Christian women?

Nason-Clark 1996
A study of the role of Canadian evangelical churches in assisting battered women & their children notes the inaction of both secular & religious agencies in the protection of battered women. Drawing on quantitative & qualitative interview data with clergy, women’s shelter personnel, & women working in the church (N = 500+), it is found that the church is gradually becoming aware of the extent of victims’ suffering. Major obstacles to a positive working relationship between secular & religious support groups include the problem of violence per se; the role of reconciliation; the clerical approach to problems of violence in the church-going family; the lack of coordination between staff in both groups; & the reluctance of ministers to publicly condemn domestic violence from the pulpit. While publicizing & responding to the issue of domestic violence may be furthered immensely by coordinated strategies between the various lay & religious agencies, many difficulties must be overcome

Kroeger and Nason-Clark 2001
Our purpose in writing this book is to challenge the evangelical Christian community to listen to the voices of women from around the world-including their own backyard-talk about the violence they have suffered. We want to address the problem straightforwardly: to offer information so that church people and pastors will be ignorant no longer, to offer advice on effective biblical ways to respond to victims and their families, and then to offer a challenge that congregations and their leaders take up positions among community and national groups committed to eliminating violence in our midst, encouraging violence-free family living, and responding with the mind and heart of Christ to those who suffer violence.

Ware, Levitt and Bayer 2003
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with religious leaders from Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths on the relationship between religion and intimate partner violence (IPV). They were analyzed using grounded theory, producing a model of this interaction. This paper describes the leaders’ perceived relevance of IPV for their congregation and the interventions that leaders used to address this issue. Most of the leaders estimated very low occurrence of IPV within their congregations and, accordingly, rarely discussed this topic in sermons. They identified preventative aspects of their faiths that might reduce marital conflict and violence, however, and described the methods they use to help congregants who do experience intimate partner violence. This article examines these prevention and intervention methods in light of current IPV research and makes available a broad variety of strategies for leaders to consider.

Time to reflect:

Religion can and does offer women hope and comfort when faced with adversity, but it may also increase their risk of harm from an abusive spouse. Researchers suggest that abused Christian women are strongly influenced by their beliefs and value systems and these values may be a powerful force in their decision to remain in an abusive marriage where their safety and that of their children may be at risk.

  • In her article entitled Religion and violence against women, Nancy Nason-Clark explores various obstacles that hinder the ability of faith communities to render assistance to women experiencing abuse. Contemplate how obstacles like these might be overcome within your faith community.
  • Based on the work of Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark, consider ways you might take up the challenge they extend to encourage violence-free family living and respond with the mind and heart of Christ to those who suffer violence.
  • Ware et al. identify strategies used by faith leaders to deal with issues of interpersonal violence. Would these strategies prove useful in your faith community? If so, how would you put them into use? If not, why not?


Kroeger, C. C. and N. Nason-Clark (2001). No Place for Abuse. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Nason-Clark, N. (1996). Religion and violence against women: Exploring the rhetoric and the response of Evangelical churches in Canada. Social Compass 43(4): 515-536.

Ware, K. N., H. N. Levitt and G. Bayer (2003). May God help you: Faith leaders’ perspectives of intimate partner violence within their communities. Journal of Religion and Abuse 5(2): 55-82.