SMACKING children is
"legalised violence", and engenders a "cult of brutality", the Dean
of Brecon, the Very Revd Geoffrey Marshall, said last Friday.
Dean Marshall was speaking
at a vigil at the cathedral to conclude a two-day roadshow run by
the Churches' Network for Non-violence and Children Are Unbeatable!
Cymru, an alliance of Welsh organisations, including the NSPCC and
Barnardo's. It was attended by the MP and Mayor of Brecon.
Dean Marshall washed the
feet of several children, while adults lit candles; there were an
act of penitence and prayers of intercession.
"For some reason it is
illegal for me to hit my 37-year-old daughter when she does
something to upset me, but it is perfectly legal for her to hit her
two-year-old son," Dean Marshall said in his sermon. "There are -
shamefully, I say - theological roots to legalised violence against
children. . .
"When God is thus
understood, as within the logic of retribution, in terms of
impersonal holiness, legalism, and strict vengeful justice, then
the biblical picture I see of God as relational, compassionate, and
merciful is terribly distorted." He concluded: "If we think of
children as made in the image of God, then I can't imagine that
hitting them is part of God's plan."
The Dean said that he had
received "a number of critical messages" about hosting the vigil.
He had been "amazed by how nasty some fellow Christians can be in
how they express their disagreement".
A week before the vigil, the
campaign group Christian Voice issued a press release urging people
to "pray for leaders in the Church, that they would turn from
fashionable doctrines of men and seek the face of the Lord in his
On Tuesday, Stephen Green,
the national director of Christian Voice, said: "It is a shame that
the cathedral is taking a particular stance about a contentious
political issue, and one on which there is clearly division within
the Church of England."
The sermon should have
included recommendations about alternative forms of punishment, he
said, and the Dean could have been "a lot more intellectually
honest" by confronting "those scriptures which would appear to show
that to discipline children is an act of love".
Last year, the Archbishop of
Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, Dean Marshall, and other Christian leaders
joined all the main parenting organisations in Wales in calling for
In a signed statement, they stated: "We believe that legislation
to remove the defence of reasonable punishment is crucial, because
it reflects the compassionate, non-violent society we want for all
our children" (News,