Task force to address domestic violence, abuse

By Sarah Schafer

LCMS World Relief and Human Care gathered together church workers and lay professionals March 13-14 in St. Louis for the first meeting of the LCMS Task Force on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.

The 14-member task force — formed in response to Resolution 6-06 of the 2007 LCMS convention — is charged with identifying and creating resources and training opportunities to help the church address domestic violence, child abuse, and clergy sexual misconduct.

“If we are to believe the national statistics, half of our [LCMS] members are impacted in some way by abuse,” said Deaconess Kristin Wassilak of Forest Park, Ill., who chairs the task force.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by intimate partners each year. The CDC also reported 905,000 substantiated cases of child maltreatment in the United States in 2006, and 6 million reported cases.

“Silence and inactivity condone abuse,” said Wassilak, “but often church workers and members are afraid to say something wrong.”

Task force members pledged to identify resources on these issues, including out-of-print and outdated publications, and will obtain reprint permissions or update those that will help church workers and members provide spiritual care to survivors and offenders.

“We want devotional materials that are a professional response and also address the spiritual component of domestic violence and child abuse in a way that is consistent with the confessions of our church,” said Rev. John Fale, associate director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, who is its liaison with the task force.

The task force also decided to develop and maintain an online  “Web presence” to make the resources available.  “Due to the sensitivity and volatility of these issues, we want people to be able to access resources readily and privately,” said Wassilak.

The task force also is studying models to provide training throughout various levels of the church’s structure.

“We do not want to replace what is happening at the grassroots level … that must continue,” said Wassilak. “We are looking at how we can use the church structure and education system to address these issues.”

Wassilak noted that task force members bring various perspectives to the table.

For example, she pointed out that Lutheran Services of Georgia CEO Gary Danielsen’s experience with military personnel returning from extended service will be helpful when looking at their increased risk for abuse.

The group also consists of seminary and Concordia University System representatives, marriage and family counselors, leaders of LCMS social service agencies, and a parish nurse.

LCMS members who know about or are using resources or training materials on these issues are encouraged to notify Judy Ladage of WR-HC at 800-248-1930, ext. 1388, or judy.ladage@lcms.org.

A sizable portion of the task force’s work will be funded by a grant from the Lutheran Community Foundation, but additional funding is needed. To support the LCMS Task Force on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse, send donations to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861, or call 888-930-4438.

The task force will next meet May 29-30 in St. Louis.

Sarah Schafer is senior writer for LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Posted April 6, 2009

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