Does it seem like I’m picking on Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)? Is Sovereign Grace Ministries the problem? It’s just a problem with those particular leaders in SGM, right? They are mostly located on the East Coast, so they have no effect on me and my church, right? This is where I say a resounding: NO!
These abuse patterns are in many churches. We need to identify these patterns so that we will protect ourselves and others. I am posting this video so you get the idea of the size/age of an adult. Sometimes a visual helps. (FYI – The mom in the video and the dating story would not apply to the rest of my post here.)
I want to break down one of the survivor’s accounts as described in the amended lawsuit. This is very disturbing:
FACTS REGARDING CARLA COE
43. Carla Coe was repeatedly assaulted by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirators during a 25-year period spaning her childhood and young adulthood. Defendant Tomczak assaulted Carla Coe with his hands, as well as with various instruments, including but not limited to, plastic and wooden sticks.
44. On multiple occasions, including occasions after Carla Coe reached the age of majority, Defendant Tomczak forced Carla Doe to strip out of her clothing against her will, and be beaten on her bare buttocks. Defendant Tomczak continued to engage in this forced undressing and beating of Carla Coe until she fled and escaped from the abuse.
45. On several occasions, Defendant Tomczak imprisoned Carla Coe and denied her food for extended periods of time.
46. Defendant Tomczak verbally admitted on one or more occasions to the individual Defendants and to the Church that he abused Carla Coe. No one reported the beatings to the secular authority.
47. The assaults by Defendant Tomczak and his co-conspirator’s assault primarily occurred in Maryland and Virginia.
First, let’s take a look at this “age of majority” definition:
The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized (and recognized or declared) in law. It is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them. Most countries set majority at 18. (Source - bolded by moi)
Some people not familiar with SGM and its culture may be wondering about this: why would a 25-year old legal adult allow an adult male to treat her this way? Why would she allow an adult male to force her to undress down to bare bottom for spankings? Do you see that bolded phrase in the definition above? This is unheard of in Patriarchal circles. In the Patriarchy system, children are the property of parents, which sometimes can be extended to “men” in the system. The daughter essentially remains the property of her father until she is allowed to get married (husband is selected or approved by father), at which time the headship of authority is passed to her new husband.
Please note: the lawsuit does not clearly identify Defendant Tomczak as Carla Coe’s father and because of this, I have not identified him as such.) But . . . . I want to extrapolate more on the Patriarchy system. Take a look at this article which explains the Patrarchy system quite well:
Under Christian Patriarchy, all children are expected to offer their parents absolute obedience while they are minors. No disobedience is accepted, and children are taught that obeying their parents is obeying God, because God has placed them under their parents’ authority.
Daughters remain under their father’s authority until married to a man he approves of, generally through a parent-guided courtship. While under her father’s authority, it is the daughter’s duty to obey him and accept his will for her as God’s will. Many in the Christian Patriarchy movement reject college for girls, and the Stay At Home Daughter movement is growing.
Sons are under their father’s authority until they become men. The point at which this occurs isn’t so clear, but it definitely occurs sometime between when they turn eighteen and when they marry. Once he becomes a man, a son no longer need to be under male authority, and he becomes the male authority for his wife and children.
Some families in Christian Patriarchy have trouble completely letting go of their sons, however, and there is in some circles the idea that even an adult son should be obedient to, or at least highly respective of, his father’s desire. This is where you get Geoff Botkin’s 200 Year Plan (also known as Multigenerational Faithfulness). by Libby Anne (Source)
Larry Tomczak led the way in SGM in teaching parenting, even authoring a book on parenting.
Evidently, the “rod” in this book also meant other instruments: “Defendant Tomczak assaulted Carla Coe with his hands, as well as with various instruments, including but not limited to, plastic and wooden sticks.” I’m unclear if he mentioned those other instruments in this book. If someone would like to check for me, I have found this book price comparison website listing available sources for the book. Abe.com has a copy for $6.81 + $3.99 s/h – hurry, supplies are limited.
The important thing we need to understand is that while in the outside world, Carla probably would have graduated from college, might be living on her own, perhaps married, or living with friends, but most likely Carla was living at home with her parents. She most likely did not have the freedoms that so many normal 25-yr olds have. The life in a Patriarchal home is often sheltered from the outside world. Most likely Carla’s circle of friends were from church where this teaching was normal. She would have no need to question it as all of her friends were most likely in the same boat.
Former SGM member who writes at ChristianAgnostic blog said this about the how spanking was viewed at SGM:
Some folks have reacted with disbelief that a young woman in her twenties would submit to this type of treatment. I can tell you from my own experience in SGM, that many a leader in the movement spoke about spanking children that were of age. I remember one conversation with Mark Prater, then a care group leader at Covenant Fellowship Church, in which he praised a teaching tape that spoke about a Father spanking his son who was in his late teens. This idea that children could be spanked at just about any age, was certainly discussed by different leaders in SGM at the time that many of the alleged abuses occurred.
The other thing to understand, is that SGM preached that to obey God, one had to unquestioningly follow those put in authority above you. For church members, it meant obeying your pastors, even when they were wrong (no kidding-I was told this by a pastor at Covenant Fellowship in my exit interview), for wives it meant their husbands, and for children it meant their parents. Simply questioning or disagreeing with any of these “God-given” authorities was tantamount to being in full-blown rebellion to God. This atmosphere of unquestioning obedience is a perfect breeding ground for abuse. (Be sure to read the whole excellent article here.)
I have listened to pastors teach about spanking children, including adult children. Their justification is that the Bible does not say when a child becomes an adult. They assert the Bible says that adult children remain the responsibility of fathers until adult children marry. My heart goes out to Carla. Carla somehow got the courage to come forward and tell her story. Her story represents many others who have experienced the abuse that continues in the Patriarchy movement. It’s time to call it out for what it is. The Patriarchy movement encourages abuse of children AND adults. This is wrong.
I have been collecting more on this topic of spanking adult children. If you have something you would like to share, I consider this place to be YOUR sounding board to sound off. These stories must be told. Please comment or send me your story. ~ja