Archbishop Rowan Williams

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is backing a Church of England report that claims viewing God in masculine terms can validate “overbearing and ultimately violent patterns of behavior” in intimate relationships and “contributes to domestic abuse,” the London Daily Mail reports.

The document, entitled “Responding to Domestic Abuse, Guidelines for Pastoral Responsibility,” is a response to a motion passed by the church’s General Synod in July 2004 for guidelines to assist dioceses in working with other agencies and “speak[ing] out against the evil of domestic violence.”

The report encourages churches to provide pastoral counsel to victims of domestic abuse and to provide information about relevant agencies and support services to those in need.

“Domestic abuse in all its forms is contrary to the will of God and an affront to human dignity,” reads the forward co-signed by Williams. “All need to play their part in preventing or halting it.”

But it is not the church’s focus on the problem of domestic abuse that is drawing attention – it’s the report’s assertion that traditional church teaching reinforces abuse – intentionally or unintentionally.

“Deficient” and “perverse,” the document charges, is the belief in “self-denial,” which can be used to urge a victim to forgive without taking action to end the abuse.

“I think of the experience, not least of some victims themselves who can be locked into a belief that they deserve the punishment that they receive and they link that with the theology that they hear in church where Christ is victim,” said the Rt. Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. “… maybe even that they think their suffering has redemptive quality to it which justifies it in some way.”

The document points to “misguided” or distorted conceptions of God derived from the Bible and the Christian tradition that portrays divine power in “unhealthy and oppressive” ways. Among them are attributing violent actions and attitudes to God, primarily from the Old Testament – scripture that requires “careful” interpretation, the report warns.

Viewing man’s relationship with God in terms of domination and submission and “uncritical use of masculine imagery,” the report says, can validate “overbearing and ultimately violent patterns of behavior” responsible for domestic abuse.

This is not the first time the archbishop of Canterbury has raised eyebrows. In 2004, Williams publicly backed a new version of the Bible that promotes fornication and flatly contradicts traditional core Christian beliefs on sex and morality.

Special offers:

What does God expect of us? Today’s churches pervert grace and faith at the expense of obedience

How the Bible came to be: Documentary traces history from most banned book to most popular

Related stories:

New top Episcopal bishop challenged on her resume

Episcopal-bishop vote skirts gay-clergy fight

Theologian makes case for legal mercy killing

‘UK church faces life underground’

Anglican Church head: Don’t criticize ‘gays’

New Bible translation promotes fornication

Related commentary:

The Church of Total Inclusion

Abusive priest leaves pulpit – finally

The coming Episcopalian crackup?

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.