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Women, men’s groups confront violence


6:00 A.M. EST Apr. 19, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)

A UMNS photo 
illustration by Ronny Perry.
A UMNS photo illustration by Ronny Perry.
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United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women have agreed to a first-of-its kind joint effort to stand with women against domestic violence.

The organizations agreed to collaborate on domestic violence programs, training and resources that can be used in churches across the country.

Last fall, directors of United Methodist Women encouraged local units to partner with United Methodist Men groups to sponsor domestic violence awareness events in their churches and communities.

During its April 12 meeting, the Women’s Division board learned that the Commission on United Methodist Men had agreed to “combine our efforts against domestic violence.”

Epidemic of violence

Harriett Jane Olson, top staff executive of the Women’s Division, commented on the importance of the historic partnership.

“From the silence on this topic in our congregations, it appears as if churches assume that this epidemic of violence does not affect their members. However, experts warn pastors and congregational leaders that they should be prepared to respond to an outpouring of stories and needs if they begin open discussion of domestic abuse in a way that makes victims and families feel supported,” she said.

“Though national mission institutions, women’s shelters and community centers have worked to address those affected by domestic violence for many years, United Methodist Women decided last year that a more proactive approach was needed. We felt that it was important for us to find ways to help churches address this matter for the benefit of the members of congregations and in the communities they serve.”

Create safe environment

Gilbert C. Hanke, top staff executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men, said domestic violence is “a subject that we either ignore, or convince ourselves it only happens outside the church.” While he noted that some victims are male, “that represents a very small percentage (16 percent) and diverts our attention from the overall problem. I hope we can address the overt abuse that takes place in all our communities, as well as create a safe, welcoming environment within men's and women's ministry for everyone that is damaged by domestic violence.” 

Women’s Division’s initial recommendation cited the “National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women,” signed in 2006 by the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, which states:

“We proclaim that violence against women exists in all communities, including our own, and is morally, spiritually and universally intolerable. We commit ourselves to working toward the day when all women will be safe and abuse will be no more.”

United Methodist Women is an organization of approximately 800,000 members whose purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members raise nearly $20 million each year for programs and projects serving women, children and youth in the United States and in more than 100 countries around the world. The Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries is the organization’s national policymaking body.

The Commission on United Methodist Men charters organizations across the United States, with 231,000 men giving $14.3 million to mission projects.

*Moore is the editor of United Methodist Women News.

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