June 8, 2017
Nearly 50 Methodist ministers and church leaders are better equipped to serve domestic violence victims in their congregations after participating in recent trainings to help them understand the complexities of the crime.
“Oftentimes, victims of domestic violence will reach out to their faith leaders before they talk to anyone else because they trust them,” said Annetta Nunn, community outreach coordinator for YWCA Central Alabama. “It’s important for clergy to know about the resources that are available and how to best help victims in their congregations.”
Nunn and Allison Dearing, executive director at One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center, have led four domestic violence awareness workshops over the past three months for clergy and leaders of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. The most recent workshop was during the group’s annual conference on June 5.
“Whether you know it or not, there is likely someone in your church who is suffering from this abuse,” Rev. John Hill, pastor of Flint Hill United Methodist Church, said in a video produced by Birmingham First United Methodist Church to promote the trainings.
Three of Birmingham First Methodist’s pastors – Rev. Keith Thompson, Rev. Stephanie Arnold and Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons – helped organize the workshops after a young mother in their congregation was killed and four of the victim’s children were shot last May in a heinous domestic violence incident. The goal was to encourage churches to play a role in raising awareness and being advocates for victims.
“The morning of the crime, many of us watched the news recognizing that another family in Birmingham had been touched by tragedy and pain, but we did not yet know that it was our family,” Arnold said. “On that day, domestic violence became personal for us.”
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and other conference leaders were among the training participants, and Nunn said that helped illustrate the importance. “When people see the church leadership support the notion that domestic violence is wrong, it sends a strong message to victims that they will be believed and that help is available,” she said.
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