Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Has 11 Men and 0 Women on Their Pulpit Search Committee to Find a New Pastor

Pastor Search Committees, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Women in Church, Pulpit Committee


 

 

In June of 2015, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian resigned as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church after publicly acknowledging that he had an affair. A pastoral search committe was formed:

In September 2015, the congregation elected a Pastor Search Committee consisting of the 13 Ruling Elders of the Session. (Source)

Rod Hayes, Chairman of the The Pastor Search Committee reported that the average church attendance from January to June 2015 was 923, with 1,796 listed as active members.

This is a sizable church.

Here is the list of the people in the search committee as listed at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) website:

  • Rod Hayes (Committee Chairman)
  • Arturo Perez
  • Clark Cochran
  • Jeff Masters
  • Rich Blatz
  • George Barbar
  • Jim Airdo
  • Joey Spinks
  • Jorge Cedeno
  • Mike Pritchard
  • Bill Jennings

I looked up CRPC and found them listed in the PCA directory. I found the following information about how search committees are selected from the Presbyterian Church in America Administrative Committee site:

The BCO in 20-2 provides that the pulpit committee “may be composed of members from the congregation at large or the Session, as designated by the congregation (see Chapter 25)”.

And then there is this:

From the Book of Acts we learn that the Apostles themselves did not appoint officers, but asked the congregation to elect them (see Acts 6). The Presbyterian Church in America seeks to maintain as an absolute principle the right of the congregations to elect those who shall serve as officers over them. The Session, therefore, should not try to select the pulpit committee prior to the congregational meeting, but rather should call the meeting with the stated purpose given at least one week ahead and allow the congregation full freedom to decide whether they want to name the Session or a select group from their number at large. For the Session to nominate persons for the committee or to suggest that they themselves should serve as the committee could be viewed as an infringement of the rights of the congregation to exercise their freedom in the calling of the minister they desire to have.

So, evidently the congregation decided that they wanted to name the Session as the pulpit committee. The Session consists of eleven men.

So then I searched to see how other churches selected a pastoral search committee. Here is excerpt from a document entitled, More Than a Search Committee: Exploring Opportunities in Times of Transition:

Considerations in choosing members of the search committee should include diversity of ages and gender, diversity of long-time church members and newer members, diversity of spiritual gifts and perspectives. Include, if possible, some who have had prior pastor search team experience. (Source)

Here is one more sampling from the Tennessee Baptist Convention:

A word of caution is in order at this point. It is hoped that the persons selected to serve on the committee will be characterized by emotional and spiritual maturity. Nothing impedes the work of a committee more than the presence of a member who has a personal agenda. The committee should be as far as possible a microcosm of the congregation. All members in the church need to feel they have someone on the committee who will represent their interests.  . . It is very important that the members of the committee be representative of the entire congregation. Therefore, the committee should be balanced in gender and age. (Source)

Ok, here is the link which shows the pictures of the CRPC  Pastor Search Committee.  Click on the link and tell me what you see. Do you see these group of men as a microcosm of the congregation who will represent their interests?  Do you see men, women, various races, and diverse age groups represented?

While I am concerned about the lack of diversity in race and age, I am more concerned about the 50% of the church who are not represented in CRPC’s Pastor Search Committee:  women/girls. Those who have followed SSB for a while have surely seen my growing concern about women in the church. How can a 100% all-male Session adequately reflect the hearts of women?  Let’s say that a man on the Session does share concerns about the needs/desires of women in the church. Where will it be on his priority list of requirements?

Is having an all-male Session the most accurate and appropriate way of representing the church? I wonder if the women at CRPC are so used to men taking the lead on areas such as this, that they may not question their role in the process of finding and hiring a new pastor. If that is true, then what a shame. In the process of voting for the Session to represent the congregation, I’m afraid that women’s voices will be put on the back burner.

What other implications do you see in having an all-male pastoral search committee?

Domestic Violence is NOT a Marriage Issue, but an Abuse Issue

Domestic Violence, Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini, Divorce, Marriage, Abuse, Church Response to Abuse


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Earlier today, I participated in a discussion at  SharperIron.org. The discussion is about Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini and domestic violence. A commenter, dmyers, is having trouble with Naghmeh’s earlier statements, challenging her claims of abuse, etc.

I have an assignment due in one hour, so I will have to wait to respond to dmyers tomorrow, but I thought I’d let you all in on some of the discussion because I believe dymers represents many others in church leadership who truly do not get domestic violence.

I’ve posted a few comments below so you can get the gist of the conversation. I am very concerned that dmyers does not understand abuse:

dmyers:

So the conclusion is, cry abuse and throw out everything the Bible says about marriage and dispute resolution, make no attempt to involve the church but just assume they’ll mess it up, and take it to the media while you’re husband is in a foreign prison because he won’t recant his Christianity.  OK.  Got it.  Apparently feminism is very strong in fundamentalism.


GregH:

You need to do some research on abuse… If there is real abuse in marriage, it is not a real marriage. It is an abuser/victim relationship. No, ideas like “wives, submit to husbands” do not apply anymore. The victim needs to leave.

Yes, I am a proud feminist. Thank good for feminists who fought for some semblance of gender equality over the past century. I am not a fan of the Good Old Days of 100 years ago where women were property in every sense of the word.


Julie Anne:

My ears were itching.  Bert, thank you for linking to my blog. I don’t expect even my regular readers to agree with me. I do enjoy healthy dialog.

Mark, what claims are you rejecting?  I spent a considerable amount of time researching and formed my opinions based on the many primary source documents that were readily available online (and linked to them).

Greg is right. When there is abuse, there is no marriage. We hear people talking about reconciliation, but that is the wrong focus. Usually the abuser is in denial that he has a problem and has no desire whatsoever to get help. I have asked a handful of pastors who deal with domestic violence as a primary part of their ministry and 100% of them said they have never seen an abuser come to full repentance. Knowing this, the wife must get away and protect herself and their children.

I have a lot of respect fo Naghmeh NOT going to Graham’s compound for “counseling.”  Abuse is not a marital issue. The abuser is the issue, not the victim. Anyone who understands abuse dynamics would NEVER counsel a husband/wife together in which there is abuse. For Graham to recommend they seek counseling and work on their relationship shows that he has no clue how abuse situations should be handled.  He could have been putting her in harm’s way.  Also, legally, if she were to take the children out of state it could have affected custody arrangements.  She was right in remaining at home and seeking legal protection.

dmyers, are you a pastor?  What would you do if a wife came to you and told you she was being abused?  How would you respond to that? I’m troubled that it seems your default mode seems to be to not believe Naghmeh.


dmyers:

GregH and Julei Anne:  It appears that you’ve allowed the zeitgeist to take precedence over scripture.  Yes, sometimes real domestic abuse exists, including in some Christian marriages.  And in those situations, I have no sympathy for the unrepentant abuser.  Are you two objective enough, however, to acknowledge the legitimate studies showing that domestic violence against husbands occurs at least as frequently as the other way around? Are you objective enough to grant that a wife’s verbal abuse of her husband, including screaming, hurling insults, and so forth — particularly in front of the children — is just as wrong as the same behavior from the husband?  Do you acknowledge that divorce courts frequently see false allegations of abuse as a child custody ploy?  Are you interested in truth enough to assess the Abedinis’ situation on its own, rather than colored and likely distorted by your previous bad experience with a particular church or society’s and law enforcement’s entrenched assumption that domestic violence/abuse goes only one way? Your previous comments indicate that you’re not, which calls into question the reliability of your arguments and your criticisms.

The scriptural passages on marriage, the spouses’ joint and separate responsibilities in marriage, separation, and divorce are clear.  Likewise, the scriptural passages on dispute resolution (in Matt. 18 and 1 Cor. 6) are also clear.  Nothing in any of those passages makes an allegation of abuse an exception to the rules.  Nothing in any of those passages supports the radical idea that “there is no marriage” where there has been (or allegedly has been) abuse.  I note that neither of you made any effort to support your position from scripture.  I think there’s an obvious reason for that.  The scripture is also clear that men and women both are depraved and perfectly capable of manipulation, deceit, and seriously bad behavior in and out of marriage.  So it is unbiblical to buy into the current culture’s message that a woman’s allegation of abuse should always and automatically be believed and her husband’s denial of her allegation should always and automatically be disbelieved.

Julie Anne, I am not a pastor (you can breathe a sigh of relief).  But I have been a deacon attempting to deal with some very troubled marriages, I have dealt with my own very troubled marriage, and I am a trial attorney with 30+ years of experience sorting through competing versions of the same event to attempt to arrive at what really happened.  I also take the Bible seriously on marriage, divorce, and dispute resolution.  If you were to take a more objective look at Naghmeh’s historical behavior and public statements, you would realize that there are major inconsistencies there.  If you were at all interested in an unbiased assessment of what we know so far, you wouldn’t dismiss Saeed’s (and others’) denials, nor his imprisonment and testimony through his imprisonment.  You would also acknowledge Mark Smith’s point above that even the one-sided record of the 2007 incident reflects a minor case, especially if it was not repeated (and we have no indication from anyone that it ever was).  You would also acknowledge that Naghmeh’s admitted role in that incident was itself abusive. If your response is that there is no such thing as a minor case, then you demonstrate that it’s not possible to have a rational discussion with you on this topic.

Also, both of you have missed my primary point:  there is no excuse for how Naghmeh has behaved in this matter, regardless of the truth of her vague accusations and especially if she is in any way overstating (or lying about) her grievances.  She has clearly relied on the expectation that people like you would believe her entirely and unhesitatingly and that you would rush to judgment and excommunication of Saeed without ever having heard anything from him in defense.  You have even approved of her unscriptural divorce filings (you can’t respond that she has “only” sought separation because, according to you, the alleged abuse means automatically that there is “no marriage” any more).  If she had grievances before Saeed was imprisoned in Iran, she should have taken them to her church and submitted to their discipline process (short of actual physical abuse, which there is no indication was occurring, and which she should have dealt with through law enforcement if it was).

If she felt she had grounds for divorce, she should have taken that issue to her church, again submitting to their discipline/dispute resolution process.  If she truly wants reconciliation, which she has said she does, she should never have impugned her husband publicly and made the likelihood of reconciliation much more remote.  If he was somehow abusing her from prison and enjoying a cushy imprisonment complete with 24/7 access to a phone, the internet, pornography, etc. — allegations that have yet to be explained in any sensible way — she should not have told everyone in this country that he was isolated from all but the most infrequent contact with the outside world and otherwise mistreated in his imprisonment.  However you want to couch her actions while he has been half way around the world and in no position to defend himself and now that he is home and she has refused to communicate with him other than through public court filings, her behavior has been shameful.

I urge you to drop the filter of feminism and apply the filters of scripture and reality.


 

It is because of comments by people like dmyers that I fear for women who are in harmful abuse situations. For a woman to finally get to the point that she acknowledges that she is really being abused is a huge step. To then share about this abuse to a person of trust, someone she hopes will protect and defend her, is another huge step.  But to have enough strength to tell her story again to people like dmyers who will not take her at her word – – – I can’t even fathom.  Oh my word, I just don’t have the words to describe the anger I have thinking about how damned women and their children are in this situation. Aren’t we supposed to be defending the oppressed and defenseless?  This is freakin’ messed up!

 

 

 

SSB Gathering – February 7, 2016

Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

 by Kathi

alpaca peru

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Luke 5: 17-38

One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them; in those days they will fast..”

He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.'”

Isaiah 1: 17

Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

***


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May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you from the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

***
Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

***

photo credit: Kathi – Alpaca in Peru at 16,000 ft. elevation

Troubling Tweet: The Gospel Coalition Promotes Unbiblical “Gender Role” Teachings

The Gospel Coalition (TGC), Kathy Keller, Domestic Violence, Complementarian, Marriage, Headship


 

purple ribbons

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.  Ephesians 5:28-30

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Today, I want to open up the discussion on the following tweet which was sent out by The Gospel Coalition (TGC).  I believe the author of the quote is Pastor Tim Keller’s wife, Kathy Keller.

TGC has made complementarian marriage to be a primary doctrinal issue so much that if you disagree with complementarianism, some will even go as far to suggest that you might not understand the real Gospel (another way of questioning your salvation without being blunt).

 

The Wartburg Watch recently posted an article, Do the Complementarian Mandates of Submission and Male Leadership Attract Domestic Abusers? I believe that the complementarian mandates do lay the groundwork for abusers. And then abusers also use their interpretation of the Bible to continue their domineering, abusive authority posture in the home. This sometimes can lead to violence, both physically, emotionally, verbally, and spiritually.

I cannot help but notice that out of all of the women who have contacted me about their destroyed marriages due to domestic violence, 100% of them were part of churches which taught complementarianism. I do not believe this is a coincidence.

 

 

At the bottom of this tweet, you can see my response:

 

 

 

 

These comments came from the SSB Facebook page and I thought they were really good.

When someone points out problems with the gender roles (aka. rules) it’s turned around to say that we “just don’t don’t trust enough.” But for survivors of abuse in complementarian marriages, that trust has been used against us. We trusted God, we trusted our spouses, we trusted the “rules”–all to our detriment. “Just submit” is an evil command if she is being hurt. “Love your wife” is a meaningless command if the abuser is allowed to define their own feelings. “Don’t be a gossip” is an isolating command because it silences a victim from talking out their situation (most cannot put the word “abuse” to their situation for quite a while). “Just trust” guilts a victim into remaining in a dangerous situation. If safeguards are not built into a system, then it is just a setup for abuse.

And the “character of God” allowed the crusades, the inquisition, the holocaust, and a host of wars, famines, plagues, and ethnic “cleansings.” How narcissistic to think that the God who allows such suffering throughout all of human history MUST spare you specifically, even if you follow teachings that leave you vulnerable. (Source)

 

TGC facilitates abuse because they are comp. Their name is also a total misnomer as they add to the gospel so it is not the gospel they preach and they are not a coalition as they exclude some believers. If they cannot even speak in a clear and straightforward way about their name, why should I trust them in anything?  ~Donald Johnson

 

Vetting, Accountability, Licensing, and Promoting for Pastor Saeed Abedini: Exploring What Went Wrong and How

The Qualifications Case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and the Roles of Pastor Bob Caldwell, Franklin Graham, Jay Sekulow, and the American Evangelistic Association


 

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,  for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

1 Timothy 3:3-7 (ESV/English Standard Version, via Bible Gateway)

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Regardless of which New Testament translation we use, we can’t get away from the essential mandate in 1 Timothy 3:3-7 — that those who want to be in public roles for the Church automatically subject themselves to ongoing “background checks” about their character and actions. ~ brad/futuristguy

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The Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini story is complicated. That doesn’t mean it is unfathomable, but it has many layers and interconnections involving these two individuals with other people and organizations. This post explores some of those key connections to see how they influenced the unfolding storylines, and to see what we can learn about how to do things better in the future.

The world watched as Pastor Saeed Abedini was elevated to hero status. Our hearts collectively ached for Naghmeh and her young children as we heard of his mistreatment in Iranian prison. After 3-1/2 yrs in prison, Saeed was released, and instead of joyous reunions, we heard of troubling details that were not part of Naghmeh’s original storyline.

Most readers have probably heard by now about Pastor Saeed Abedini’s 2007 domestic assault conviction. Where has this news been all of this time? Would Saeed had been the face of American prisoners in Iran if we had known this? Saeed represented religious freedom, the cause of Christ, and the persecuted Church. I suspect his image would not have looked too good with a previous domestic assault conviction.

The Pastor Saeed Abedini Story: I believe influential leaders failed to take responsibility for those entrusted in their care, and thus, Christ’s name has become a mockery to the world. I find many aspects of this story troubling, but two in particular are disturbing:

  • Leaders failed to do due diligence with the Abedini family regarding Saeed’s long-time pornography and abuse issues. Saeed Abedini was unfit to be pastor according to biblical requirements. What was done in this situation? Why was he allowed to continue ministry work? Why was he allowed to obtain and retain the pastor title?
  • The Abedini family was used by opportunistic individuals and organizations as a pawn to promote political agendas or personal gain.

 

saeed

 

Let’s take a look at key people involved in this story.  There are four key people/groups involved, as I see it, and I believe these four are responsible for not doing due diligence with this family, or for using them for their personal gain and promoting personal or political agendas:

  1. Pastor Bob Caldwell, Calvary Chapel Boise  – This is the home church of the Abedinis in Boise, Idaho.
  2. Franklin Graham.
  3. Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
  4. American Evangelistic Association (AEA) – This is the organization from which Saeed Abedini obtained his pastoral license.

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Pastor Bob Caldwell

Pastor Bob Caldwell has known Naghmeh since before she married Saeed. He visited Iran when they were married in June of 2004:

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a young woman named Naghmeh from that same country had accepted Christ and was attending Calvary Chapel Boise, ID. Feeling prompted to return to her homeland to share the Gospel with her family, she was sent out as a missionary by CC Boise in 2001. After sharing the Gospel with her family there for two years, she met Saeed. They immediately recognized God’s hand in bringing them together and their mutual calling to share the Gospel with Muslims. During a visit from Pastor Bob Caldwell of CC Boise, Saeed and Naghmeh were married in June of 2004; the couple continued to share Christ in the Islam-governed country. (Source)

Pastor Caldwell and his church were very involved in supporting the Abedini family before, during, and now, after Saeed’s release. In a different article about Saeed’s release from prison, Pastor Caldwell shares more about their relationship and acknowledges the political work Naghmeh has done to help free her husband:

“It’s beyond description really,” said Calwell. “I’ve known him pretty well and have been with him in Iran when he was doing stuff there, starting churches. So I love him a lot and to have him come back is just amazing.”

Caldwell said he’s proud of Naghmeh Abedini’s efforts to free her husband. During Abedini’s husband’s captivity she testified at the United Nations and before Congress. She also met with President Obama last year.

In the same article, Caldwell discusses Naghmeh’s disclosure of abuse by Saeed:

Caldwell said this public revelation – which Naghmeh says she regrets and blames on emotional distress – was a shock to some people in his church who supported Saeed through the years.

“It’s hard for a lot of people because you can turn a person into a hero you know, like a superhero,” said Caldwell. “And that’s kind of dangerous because people don’t want their heroes to be normal.” (Source)

Caldwell, unfortunately minimizes the abuse when he uses the word normal. Why was the word abusive not used? Is it because it is difficult to identify someone you have mentored and supported as an abuser?  Most victims understand the importance of correct terminology. To minimize is to dismiss.

Blogger Michael Newnham addresses what Pastor Caldwell knew in his recent article:

We know that as far back as 2007, his spousal abuse and addiction to pornography was known to the pastor he worked under, Bob Caldwell of Calvary Chapel Boise.

We know from sources that Caldwell briefly put Abedini under discipline for this, a time our sources put at 3-1/2 to 4 months.

In the comments section, Michael continues:

I do know that Bob Caldwell exercised authority over him in the matter of his pornography issues.

We read nothing but respect and admiration of Pastor Caldwell from the Abedinis. However, outsiders want answers because they feel they were deceived. Did Caldwell believe Saeed was fit for ministry, knowing his abuse/pornography issues?  And did he do anything to prevent him from going overseas and doing ministry work?

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Franklin Graham

So – what about Franklin Graham?  What role did he play in this?  Franklin took Saeed and Naghmeh on as his project. The Abedini family was the perfect poster family for religious freedom, and he put his money and his name with both Naghmeh and Saeed over the last 3-1/2 yrs.

You can see how political this situation became and how Naghmeh was used in the process:

 In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was “deeply concerned” about Saeed Abedini’s fate in Iran. “The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released,” Kerry said.

“It is not enough,” Naghmeh Abedini said today. “We need to see action to back our rhetoric, in the living, breathing form of Saeed Abedini… having been released.”

“Even if our president can’t see the reality, the rest of the world can,” she said. “I hope and I pray our government… will realize how far we’ve fallen.” (Source)

In the screenshot below, Graham speaks out politically, even naming imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini as his friend. The other prisoners are not named. Did you know the other prisoners’ names?  I sure didn’t. Someone sure did a good PR job, huh?

 

 

A side note about the PR job I mentioned earlier. The DeMoss public relations firm coincidentally represents Franklin Graham, American Evangelistic Association, and Jay Sekulow. Maybe it is not coincidental after all when you look at their political leanings.

Back to Franklin Graham. Graham seemed to be spreading the bulk of news upon Saeed’s release: photos, videos, and statements. We were told that Naghmeh would join Franklin and they would fly together by private plane to Germany to meet Saeed. Naghmeh didn’t go to Germany. Instead, Saeed landed on US soil near Franklin Graham’s place.

These were the first pictures that came out after Saeed returned to the US – pictures with Franklin Graham and his private plane behind them:

 

 

We were told Saeed was to rest at Graham’s facility, and Naghmeh and their kids would join him. That, too, did not happen. Instead, Saeed flew to Boise to see his kids. (I read no reports of Saeed seeing Naghmeh – I could have missed something.)  Did Naghmeh have a voice in these plans?

What prompted Franklin Graham to be so actively involved in this case? What did he know and when? Did Graham have knowledge of Saeed’s conviction in 2007?  Per Naghmeh, he did know about the abuse a few months ago. Naghmeh posted this comment on her Facebook page: “Franklin was giving [sic] letters by religious leaders months ago confirming my allegations of abuse. He knows.”

saeed1

 

Franklin Graham frequently mentioned Saeed’s name as he made political speeches about terrorists and the US. Saeed’s name was so well known by now, people didn’t have to know his last name. #FreeSaeed was displayed on social media. People knew who he was, and that he had a beautiful family waiting for him at home. This was great marketing.

After Saeed’s release, Franklin Graham published a statement, which was discussed at The Wartburg Watch blog. A whole post could be made dissecting Franklin’s words, but it’s important to note: Franklin Graham put himself in the place of spokesman for the Abedini family. He told the world where Saeed would be going, when Naghmeh and his family would join him, etc. The last we heard from Franklin Graham was this public statement. In it, he referred to himself as “a minister of the Gospel.” As a minister of the Gospel, he had responsibility. Did he do due diligence to protect this family? Or did he use them as a picture of religious persecution, compromised religious freedoms, etc., to further his own political agenda?
After Saeed left Graham territory and flew to Boise, Franklin Graham seems to have dropped the Abedinis like a hot potato.

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Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice

Here is Mr. Sekulow’s bio:

“Jay Sekulow is an attorney with a passion for protecting religious liberty – freedom – democracy. For nearly a quarter of a century, he’s been on the front lines – working to protect religious and constitutional freedoms in the courts, in Congress, and in the public arena.” (Source)

I’m not going to get into much from Sekulow except to say that Saeed was once again the poster boy for the kind of causes that Jay Sekulow fights for. Saeed and Naghmeh were used to further his own political agenda.

Check out this article and very short video. The video is basically an infomercial for ACLJ. Take note of the music in the background.

Jay Sekulow: ACLJ leader Jay Sekulow says the fight against Christian persecution is not over just because Saeed was released. Sekulow echoes what each individual involved has stated publicly: Christians must continue to pray and fight for an end to persecution. (Source)   http://aclj.org/

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American Evangelistic Association (AEA)

Saeed Abedini received his pastor’s license through this organization. A summary of the historical background of AEA:

To compensate for the highly political hierarchy in a major denomination and the limitations of their overseer systems for organizing and controlling grass roots pastors, in 1954, Dr. [John] Douglas led a group of several dozen pastors in becoming become independent pastors and formed the American Evangelistic Association (“AEA).  (Source)

Did you interpret that the same way I did? I read this as an ideal place to get a pastor’s license if you don’t want to be under someone’s authority. Boom!

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Source

 

American Evangelistic Association recognizes credentials for Pastoral Ordination, Pastoral Licensing, Elder recognition, Deacon/ Deaconess recognition, Church Planting leadership, and missionary. AEA believes the Scripture teaches that both male and female are eligible to serve in all capacities of ministry leadership. (Source)

OK, here’s the important part (bolded by moi):

Background checks are made on all candidates therefore thumb prints are required on the application. (Source)

So  – inquiring minds want to know – did they do a background check on Saeed before administering a pastor’s license to him?  Here is where it gets confusing. On January 16, 2016, president of AEA, Kerry Fink, sent out two nearly identical statements announcing Saeed’s release from prison. In those statements, there are two different dates indicating when Saeed joined AEA:

This one states early 2010:

 

And this statement lists June 18, 2008 as the date Saeed joined up with AEA.

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Source

 

Here is the AEA application section where Saeed should have filled out his criminal record:

 

As we have come to find out from the official Idaho court record on Saeed’s domestic assault guilty plea, the violation date on the case is July 1, 2007, it was filed the next day, and the disposition was on January 25, 2008.

2007 Saeed Abedinigalangashi Case History 2

If AEA did their background check as they said they do, and if Saeed was forthcoming with information on his application that he was indicted and convicted of domestic assault, and AEA did invite Saeed into their fold in 2008, then why was he issued a pastor’s license? This blogger wants to know.

In case any of you wanted to become a pastor (male or female, btw), here is what it will cost you, and a brief explanation about the required “contributions.”  I never knew that contributions were a requirement!

Since the association is totally dependent on contributions we require all of our members to make a monthly financial commitment to their association. (Source)

 

 

*     *     *     *     *

It is my opinion that Saeed Abedini should never have been licensed as a pastor or serving in that role, based on the 2007 case and conviction, and ongoing pornography and abuse issues. Church leaders and the AEA could have done a better job of preventing him from getting into ministries and alerting others to his ongoing problems if he sought out ministry anyway.

It is my opinion that Naghmeh has been a victim of her husband’s abuse, and she was used as a puppet to further the political agendas of Jay Sekulow and Franklin Graham. These two men saw an opportunity for funds, prestige, and power right in front of them and they seized it. However, once the abuse allegations became public, they wiped their hands clean of the mess and I have yet to see anything from them showing real support for Naghmeh now.

Is it any wonder why the world laughs at Christians?

 

SSB Gathering – January 31, 2016

Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

 by Kathi

poppies on palatine

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Luke 5: 1-15

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Psalm 106: 3

Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.

***


***

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you from the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

***
Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

***

photo credit: Kathi – Poppies on Palatine Hill, Rome, Italy

Pastor Saeed Abedini Releases a Public Statement Denying Abuse Allegations Against His Wife

Pastor Saeed Abedini,Nagmeh, Domestic Violence, Public Statement


 
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Idaho Statesman has issued a public statement by Saeed Abedini as follows:

 

Two weeks ago today I was released from an Iranian prison after being held captive for three-and-a-half years. My crime? Being a Christian and refusing to renounce my faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout my imprisonment my wife Naghmeh drew national attention to my case and encouraged millions of people to pray for my release. God answered those prayers and brought me safely home. Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf. I will always love her for her sacrifice.

Last November, Naghmeh began to write about our marriage on her Facebook page and suspended her public advocacy for me. Her Facebook reports have been widely reported in other media outlets, raising questions about me, and the state of our marriage. As a prisoner in Iran I was not able to respond to her comments and accusations. I have chosen not to respond in the two weeks I have been back in America because I believe personal issues are best dealt with personally.

When I arrived in America I went to the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina with my parents and my sister, fully expecting Naghmeh and our children to join me there. She chose instead to remain at home in Idaho, and when I arrived there this week I was met with news that she had filed a domestic relations case, apparently in order to ensure our children could remain in the state. Of course, I had no intention of taking our children away from our home or our state.

This latest development, which Naghmeh first made public, leads me to offer this brief statement.

  1. Our marriage is under great stress and I am hoping and praying for healing and restoration.
  2. I love my wife and want God’s will for both of our lives.
  3. I am a sinner, saved only by the wonderful grace of God. While I am far from perfect—as a man or as a husband, I am seeking every day to submit to God as He molds me into what He wants me to be.
  4. Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s posts and subsequent media reports is not true. But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media. Naghmeh wrote this week, “We are taking personal time to work on very serious personal issues.” I intend to do this hard work in private.
  5. The God I serve today is the same God I served while being interrogated and beaten in some of the harshest prison conditions in the world and He is capable of restoring a marriage that has withstood unbelievable pressure. I ask for prayer for another victory.

It is not my intention to speak further publicly—through social media or any other channels—at least until I believe we have made significant progress in private. I thank you for your understanding and support.


Please stay tuned for follow up articles on this troubling situation. -Julie Anne

 

 

 

Attorney Plans to File Another Sex Abuse Lawsuit against CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries

C.J. Mahaney, Sex Abuse, Failure to Report, Statute of Limitations, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Lawsuit, Pedophiles, T4G


 

 

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CJ Mahaney on YouTube Teaching about Humility (he’s not so humble, fyi)

 

The Washingtonian released a new article after spending many months investigating Sovereign Grace Ministries, CJ Mahaney, and the many cases of alleged sex abuse named in the lawsuit brought on by victims (named and anonymous). The Washingtonian article is fee-based, but Bob Allen from Baptist News Global reported on the story in his article, Tale of evangelical sex scandal hits Washington newsstands. Here is an excerpt from Allen’s article:

A class action lawsuit accusing Mahaney and other Sovereign Grace leaders of covering up sexual abuse of children was dismissed by a trial court because Maryland law requires sex abuse victims to file lawsuits within three years of turning 18.

The Washingtonian quoted Susan Burke, the lawyer who represented the alleged victims in Maryland, saying she still plans to file another lawsuit on behalf of clients making similar allegations in Virginia.

Mahaney denied claims against him in the lawsuit in 2014 but said he couldn’t speak specifically because of the pending lawsuit. “I look forward to the day when I can speak freely,” Mahaney said in a statement released May 22, 2014.

 

 

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C.J. Mahaney has been going on with life as normal, and his speaking engagements have been building up lately, with full approval of his celebrity Christian leader friends who have supported him all these years.

Previously, he was laying low while the scandal was in the spotlight. He is currently slated to speak with his BFFs at the upcoming Together for the Gospel 2016 conference (along with plenary speakers: Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Thabiti Anyabwile, John MacArthur, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and R.C. Sproul).

Sorry, C.J., the spotlight may have been dimmed for a while, but those of us who have been following this case will not stop putting you and your failure to protect those in your care in the cyber spotlight.

Speaking of spotlight – I wonder if C.J. Mahaney has seen the movie, Spotlight?

 

 

 

 

C.J. Mahaney could have written the script from a Protestant perspective. I believe he knows it well.

Update:  For those on Twitter, the hashtag for the upcoming T4G conference is #T4G16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fallout of Spiritual Abuse on Our Children

Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse

 

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Yesterday, I was talking with my programming language tutor and mentioned that I had a blog. He asked what my blog was about and I told him the long story. He was absolutely dumbfounded by what he was hearing and kept shaking his head, not wanting to believe it, even asking me repeatedly, “really . . . . really?” Yes, really. As we spoke, he searched the name of my blog on his cell phone, half listening, half reading, and shook his head some more.

I told him a few personal experiences we had at BGBC. We continued more of the conversation today. He told me he was so disturbed by the story, that he told two of his friends last night. I was struck by this young man and his image of Christ and Christianity. He’s probably around 20 years old, yet he had such a great understanding of what Christianity is, what church is, what the role of a pastor is. He has such a healthy understanding of good churches vs bad churches.

I thought about my kids – how they might not be able to see so clearly and discern. I thought about how spiritual abuse has affected my kids, how their spiritual walk has been tainted. One adult child has abandoned her faith because she was so profoundly spiritually abused. She was not only spiritually abused at church, but also at home as we instilled some of the pastor’s teachings in our home and in the raising of our children. We had no idea what we were doing. We thought we were doing the best for our children. We just wanted our children to have the best spiritual foundation. We didn’t want to make the same mistakes our parents had made. Instead, we did far worse, we brought our family to a cult.

Some of my kids have had distorted images of God. Some have seen Him as an angry God, a God of rules – it’s all about sin and if you can make it to heaven. Others have challenges with male/female gender roles, and are trying to navigate what they have previously been taught, and now what their parents are telling them.

In our spiritually abusive church, we were told what to believe and to not question the pastor’s authority. Now I share what I believe with my children, but I also tell them that it’s important for them to read Scripture for themselves, and ask others and God to reveal truth to them. I’ve told them that they have to come to their own conclusions and that while I can share what I believe, it’s important that they own their beliefs.

Essentially, what I am doing is giving them permission to have different beliefs than me. Whoa! That never would have happened BC (before cult). There was no other option for them, but to believe like we believed. Can you say mini-cult?

Their “child-like faith” has been robbed by a domineering Pharisaical abusive pastor and also their parents to some degree. There is still some spiritual confusion that comes to surface some 8 years after we left the cult church. It’s difficult to erase the old teachings we heard over and over again. Every once in a while, I will hear one of the kids say something and will say to myself, “that sounds just like Chuck.” I then try to discuss the topic.

Even our youngest children, who were too young to understand what happened, feel the residual effects. They see and hear the confusion. There is not unity in the family about certain spiritual matters. In fact, to talk of anything spiritual at all is difficult. Family prayer is awkward. Where spiritually once was a glue that I thought held our family together, it no longer is. But because there are known differences of opinion, for the most part, we agree to disagree and simply don’t discuss those sensitive topics.

This is something that breaks my heart. I would never have envisioned my family to be like this. So, it’s been a grieving process for me.

Discussion: for those of you who have left a spiritually abusive church, how were your children affected? Have you had challenges like our family? What has helped? What has not helped?

 

 

 

 

Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini — Two Kinds of Violence, Both Still a Prison

Pastor Saeed Abedini, #FreeSaeed, Released from Prison, Domestic Violence, Naghmeh


 

#freesaeed Naghmeh Abedini, domestic violence

It has been reported by the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini and in many news sources that Pastor Saeed has been released from Iranian prison. Many Christians have been faithfully praying for Pastor Saeed’s release, some even changing their Facebook profile pictures on Wednesdays to bring awareness to the plight of this pastor, and to solicit prayer and support for Saeed and his family.

Pastor Saeed had visited Iran in 2012 to visit his family and work on an orphanage, but was arrested for compromising national security. He is serving an 8-yr sentence which could extend to a life sentence if more charges are brought forward. (Source)

A couple of months ago, Christianity Today published an article, “Pastor Saeed Abedini’s Wife Halts Public Advocacy, Citing Marital Woes and Abuse.” From the article:

In two emails to supporters, Abedini revealed details of her troubled marriage to Saeed Abedini, an American citizen and pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012.

Those troubles include “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),” she wrote. The abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during Saeed’s imprisonment, she said. The two are able to speak by phone and Skype.

This sent shock waves in Christendom. Pastor Saeed, who represented true Christian persecution, a hero, was now being publicly charged with domestic violence by his wife, Naghmeh? How could that be?

It’s important to note that the e-mails that were publicized were meant to remain private. Naghmeh Abedini sent the e-mail to a select group of supporters – ones she trusted could keep her confidence and pray for her. Sadly, one person betrayed that confidence and the rest is history.

Yet, also sadly, some people came out loudly against Naghmeh for publicizing this negative information. But keep in mind that she didn’t publicize it; it was released without her permission. Some questioned the timing of it, many doubted her story and said she was looking for attention. Even some people I network with on abuse issues were stumped by this disclosure and had similar thoughts: “We need more information before we can believe her.”

I sighed heavily each time I read such a response. I know what that feels like to be heard and not believed. For a victim, it is like a stab in the chest. People who study patterns of behavior of domestic violence victims know that it takes a survivor a L.O.N.G. time before they can get the courage to reveal they are being abused. One out of four women are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. The Iranian culture is one of inequality for women. Yet the common question was, “Could her words be true?”

 

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It’s very conflicting to see “persecuted for Christ” and “abused his wife” in the same sentence, isn’t it?  

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Just because one is a Christian pastor and held prisoner in Iran does not remove the possibility that one can also be an abuser. Yet the thought of that scenario is too messy. The story of Saeed is like a modern-day “Voice of the Martyrs” story. The suffering Saeed has faced has been real and horrific. But for some reason, we elevate these martyrs to hero status and don’t want to think about or discuss the possibility that this seemingly godly man could also have done harm to his beautiful wife.

***

Perhaps the real Saeed story is that Saeed represents many in Christendom who claim Christ, who witness and evangelize, yet privately, also abuse their spouse.

***

 

I believe this is why domestic violence remains an overlooked sin in the church, and women remain in harm’s way. When women eventually speak up and use their voices, they are saying all is not well in their “godly” marriage. They are saying that their marriage doesn’t represent Christ and His church. They are perhaps saying their marriage is a fraud. Oh boy, I am really painting an ugly picture, aren’t I?

Sadly, while only some speak out and use their voices, many others remain silent in their domestic violence prisons. They continue to put on a good face when they go to church, when they evangelize, mingle with Christians. Husbands are still respected among the church leaders and men, and no one knows a thing or would dare to think of such a thing.

 

naghmeh abedini, saeed, domestic violence

 

 

Naghmeh posted on her Facebook page that she would step away from social media for a time:

 

 

Although Naghmeh never intended for her story to go public, I’m glad that it did. It means that the church will have to wrestle with this important issue. Hopefully it means that Saeed will get the support he needs to confront his sin, and Naghmeh will get the support she needs, separately.

Some people have dismissed Naghmeh’s  words angrily by demanding, “why now?” Some have said if she has been suffering for all of these years, why didn’t she come forward earlier?  Here’s one such comment:

 

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When you are in an abusive situation, you are struggling to stay alive physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You don’t have much spare time to think because you are recovering from the last episode and spending time/energy in trying to create normalcy for your family. Remember, a domestic violence survivor has to try to stay somewhat sane to protect her children. Think of the amount of mental and physical energy required to do this.

When a survivor is physically away from the abuser, she finally has time to breathe, relax, and perhaps see what normal is. This is often when many survivors come to the reality of what they have been living. They now see the contrast between life with abuser and life separate from the abuser. It can be a shocking revelation.

One observation I’ve noted is Naghmeh’s consistent response of love and grace towards her husband. While she has been honest about the abuse issues, she also has been consistent in the efforts for his release, her love and care for him personally. She has shown the love of Christ towards Saeed publicly in her responses about him.

Naghmeh posted another note on her Facebook page in December. You tell me if this is a vindictive woman, trying to ruin the reputation of her husband and draw attention to herself.



To my dearest friends,

After a month of resting and healing and sitting at the feet of Jesus, today I felt led to share.

Three years ago, when Saeed was put in the Iranian prison for his faith, the Lord called me to get up and not only advocate for Saeed, but also to share the Gospel message and to advocate for the persecuted church. I was freed from so much fear and it was a step of faith for me to get up and move. When I did obey, I could see that I could DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME (Philippians 4:13) That by Grace of God I could get on airplanes. That by God’s Grace I could speak in front of heads of governments, parliaments, the congress, thousands of people and our own president and I was able to open my mouth through the Grace of God and represent Christ and to share Christ with so many. It was overwhelming seeing how Jesus had become my STRENGTH through my utter WEAKNESS.

A month ago, the Lord asked me to stop and sit. It took another step of faith to stop everything and just sit at the feet of Jesus and to hear from Him. It was freeing to see that by Grace of God none of the fame and attention or praises of men had gotten to me and that I could drop everything the moment my Savior told me to drop it and to go back to being a single mom in Boise, Idaho. It was freeing to let go of the FALSE SENSE of SECURITY that money was bringing into my life (through speaking engagements) and to know that the only thing that all I desperately needed was Jesus. That my true security rests in Jesus. That Jesus is my day to day provider.

I had to turn off every voice including my own and only care about what Jesus was saying to me. It was hard. With the news that came out recently (an email I had sent to prayer partners was leaked to media), stones were being thrown at me left and right and many religious leaders who saw me wounded and bleeding passed on by afraid to touch me or this whole mess/situation. It was hard, but Jesus kept telling me to be silent and to look to Him.

The truth is that I still love my husband more than ever and my advocacy for him has taken a new form of interceding on my knees. The truth is I can not deny Saeed’s love and passion for Jesus and that he continues to suffer in the Iranian prison because of his genuine love for Jesus and his refusal to deny Him. I can not deny the amazing dad he has been to our kids and the spiritual truths he poured into their life until the moment he was arrested. But at the same time I can not deny the very dark parts of our marriage and serious issues Saeed continues to struggle with.

So I open myself up once again and become real and raw in asking you to join me in praying for Saeed. This time not only for his physical chains, but the spiritual chains that have bound him for so many years. Those chains that have stuck to him from the culture he was raised in (Middle East) and from his former religion (Islam). I believe that God will use Saeed’s imprisonment to break Saeed of these chains and to refine him and use him as a vessel for the work that He has prepared for him.

I am not sure how often I will be providing updates, but I will share as the Lord leads. Starting January 5, I am going to start another 21 days of prayer and fasting. It will be a time of drawing closer to the Lord and sharing what He lays on my heart. I hope they will be a source of blessing and encouragement to you as well.

I praise God for all of the ups and downs, excitements and disappointments, and for the many pains and tears. They have been good for me. They are a great tool to refine us and keep our eyes on Jesus.

With much Love in Jesus
Naghmeh Abedini


In the comments, another domestic abuse survivor, Diane, asked her a difficult question. I think what we read in Naghmeh’s response is a woman who has had time to come to grips with the reality of the state of her relationship with Saeed, and what must change. I’m grateful that Naghmeh has had the time to process what has occurred and make reasonable and appropriate boundaries:

Naghmeh, I’m an ex wife of an abusive ‘Christian’ man. I loved him 30 years. It was a fail. Are you positive God wants this?  (December 7, 2015 at 12:06pm)

Thanks Diane. I am not sure what the future holds. I just know I have to pray on my knees. At the same time, when Saeed comes back, I am not going to break the boundries that I have set for my protection. If Saeed is changed, it will have to be seen by me and my pastor and others before any steps are taken or boundaries are changed. Thank you for your message and concern.

 

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Friends, this is going to be a very challenging time for the Abedini family as Saeed recovers from his time in Iranian prison, meets his family after being gone for years, and for Naghmeh as she makes and maintains safe boundaries for her protection. Let’s pray for this family as they navigate these difficult waters, that Christ will indeed be close to the broken-hearted and will be their strength.

Let us also pray that the church will take a close look at abuse in their ranks and give real help to those in harm’s way.

 


 

Update:  A reader sent me this video Skype interview with Naghmeh in which she discusses what lies ahead.

Update #2:   Previous version incorrectly stated that after abuse became public, Naghmeh stepped away from social media. This has been corrected 1/29/16.

Related links:

Pastor Doug Wilson on Rape, Submission, Feminists, and Boobs

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Bill Gothard Added to Lawsuit; Victims Alleging Sex Abuse and Rape

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While the Board of Bill Gothard’s Former Ministry, IBLP, Claims Judge Dismissed Lawsuit, Attorney for Plaintiffs Says Four New Plaintiffs Have Come Forward

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Four Primary Conditions that Result in People Leaving Abusive Churches and Cults

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