• How could the British Methodist Church preach more effectively on domestic abuse as part of its prophetic witness?

      Graham, Elaine; Morris, Wayne; Conradie, Lynita (University of Chester, 2019-08)
      In 2005 the British Methodist Conference adopted a comprehensive report dealing with domestic abuse, acknowledging it as a worldwide phenomenon. The Report contains general information on domestic abuse, as well as a theological reflection and recommendations as to how the Church might respond to this pandemic. A recurring phrase in the Report is that the Church’s “prophetic voice” must be heard, that the Church must speak out against domestic abuse. However, the meaning and scope of such “prophetic voice” is not explained nor adequately clarified. This Report forms the policy framework within which this thesis is situated, with specific reference to the Church’s ‘prophetic voice’, or ‘prophetic witness’. Even though the church has been by and large silent on domestic abuse, there are ways in which this silence can be broken; and the Church needs to respond to the challenge in a practical way. This thesis argues that one of the ways in which this ‘prophetic voice’ might be heard is by preaching to congregations on domestic abuse in the context of worship. One such source of prophetic preaching is biblical prophecy, derived from both the Hebrew prophets and Jesus of Nazareth. These prophets created what Walter Brueggemann terms the ‘prophetic imagination’, which serves as counter-voice to the dominant voices of power, exploitation and injustice. This thesis contends that contemporary preachers should exercise a prophetic witness by speaking out against domestic abuse, although, as the data collected from the preachers interviewed demonstrate, there is a hesitation and, to some extent, a reluctance to preach on domestic abuse. One way in which preaching can harness the prophetic imagination is by viewing preaching as a theological practice characterised by “lament, truth-telling and resistance”, terminology adapted from Christine Smith’s triad of “weeping, confession and resistance” (1992). The role of preaching as lament is to weep in solidarity with those who suffer, but also to listen to the unheard voices of those who are the victims of domestic abuse. Truth-telling exposes the reality of 8 domestic abuse and names it as a sin, as well as telling the truth about patriarchy, which is one of the root causes of domestic abuse. Preaching as resistance entails the rejection of patriarchy and violence. A transformation comes about when scripture is read, using a feminist hermeneutic, which exposes the patriarchal nature of the Bible and how this has been used to justify the subordination of women. Ultimately, the aim of preaching is both to persuade and transform listeners, through the exercise of a practical theological prophetic imagination that envisions a world in which there is no violence.