Protector: Make the Choice!!

7 days until court date!

Yeah, we’ve gone viral.

Average amount of blog hits before news media attention:  250-400 hits.    Today, I have over 18,000 hits.  (Did you just hear that loud thump as Julie Anne fell off the couch?)

Evidently, people have been trying to leave comments, but have been unable to.  Sorry, please keep trying!  Maybe too much traffic?!  Oh, and also people have informed me that Beaverton Grace Bible Church voice mail is full and their e-mail is full!

If my original Google review had remained unchallenged on the Google review site (it has been removed – and not by me), maybe 50 people would have seen it.  This is a church that had close to 100 people when we were there.

The original review was removed, but I found this draft copy in my computer:

Although this church touts to be “Beaverton Grace Bible”, the “grace” word is lacking. This is more of a legalistic church where if you don’t do things their way (which is the “only” way), you will have challenges. Beaverton Grace is famous for shunning former members/attendees without giving an explanation or following Biblical principles on disagreements. You will be fine in this church if you never question the elders or pastor. Their emphasis is heavy on evangelism to the extent that you get the feeling if you do not regularly evangelize “their way”, you are not a true Christian. Be wary of churches that broadcast that they are one of the only few remaining churches that preach the Word. There are true Bible-believing churches who preach the Word, don’t mince the hard teachings, yet also have a balance of truth and grace and humble leaders. Do not be deceived.

But I think God had other purposes regarding the Google reviews.

Someone posted this in a comment.  I love it.  If you know the source, please let me know:  “And then I looked around and said “somebody needs to do something about this”. At which time I realized…. I AM somebody.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We no longer live in the same area, but were visiting Portland/Beaverton over the weekend.  We attended our former church (not that church, but the one after that church – a wonderful church).  There was a Mother’s Day message and part of the topic was how mothers protect their children.  He specifically mentioned a family in the church who had sons who were wrestlers and the different ways the mom and dad responded to their sons as they watched their sons’ wrestling matches.  It was quite funny – dad said to the kid to, “man up”, while mom dug her nails in her seat as she watched her sons’ matches – she instinctively wanted to protect her babies.   I know that feeling well.

As I was sitting there, thinking back on my times of mothering (been doing this gig for 25+ yrs now), I thought of times I had protected my children and times I had not protected and actually harmed them (thinking of Hannah here).  But then my mind shifted to this legal case.  I started thinking about the many personal stories people have shared with me and how they weren’t protected.  How some people went to their pastor for help, but were abandoned, either emotionally, physically, or spiritually.  Their pastor, who was supposed to protect his flock, failed.

This kind of thing is not only a church problem.  It’s a problem in society.  We are now reading a lot in the news about bullying in schools, some leading to suicide.  There is discrimination in the work environment where people from other countries are treated as second-class citizens.  Elderly are neglected in nursing/retirement homes.  Disabled don’t always get treated respectfully.  We’ve even read stories of people watching violent crimes against someone from the sidelines and not get involved at all.  How can this be?

I was abused as a child.  I remember reaching out to adults who “dissed” my story.  They either didn’t believe me or did not want to get involved.

I get very angry when people sit by idly and allow abuse to continue.  I remember so many times in my childhood asking God, “why is this happening to me?”  Could God be using my childhood story for a higher purpose?  I don’t know.  All I know is that somehow this story has taken off.  I did not plan this.  When I posted the review, it was to give my story, share my church experience so that people could come to their own conclusions.  I did it because I wanted to protect others from what we had gone through.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Years ago, I went through counseling and one of the most difficult concepts for me to fathom was that adults heard my story and did nothing.  Let me repeat, they heard the story and made the choice to do nothing.  There were things they could have done with that information.  But they didn’t want to get involved.

That is what ate at me after the year we left the church.  Nobody was doing anything.  There was no one to turn to.  They elders noticed no problems – we had already asked them.  There was no one above the pastor to call – he was at the top of the chain.

Google was the only thing I could do – I felt if the information in my review could help just one family, just one person, then it was worth it.  Little did I know what would happen.

I’m getting literally barraged with comments, private e-mails, reporters calling for interviews, radio show interviews, people sharing their stories of abuse and lots and lots of encouragement.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this much publicity.

I want to tell you that my life is overflowing with richness right now.  I am physically exhausted, but oh, so happy  –  yes, even with a $500,000 lawsuit hanging over my head.  The connections that have been made, the people who are saying,  “YES!!!  That is my story!!”  others are saying, “pastor cannot do that”, and “this must be stopped!”.

What has gone in my former church is just a small experience that is happening all around us in churches, schools, homes, and businesses.   When you looked up my blog or clicked on that link to come to my blog, I have a hunch that you already you a problem with bullies.  I’ve got my Mama Bear on.  Will you please put your Mama Bear or Papa Bear on and join me in this fight against abuse  – not only spiritual abuse, but all abuse around you – especially against those who are weak and need our help.  We cannot sit by and make the choice to do nothing.

I now see God’s purpose in my life as this is unfolding before my eyes.   What a gift and privilege to bring this subject in the limelight.  That abuse was not in vain.  Lord, let me be your ears and eyes and your heart as I come into contact with those who are hurting!

Psalm 82:3
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

39 comments on “Protector: Make the Choice!!

  1. Way to go Julie Anne! Just saw this story some FB friends linked. Stand up to the spiritual bullies and stay strong. You have no idea how many people are in or have lived through exactly the same situation in what they thought was the body of Christ.I am no lawyer…but I don't think you have a thing to worry about.

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  2. Hi Julie Anne: Regular reader at The Wartburg Watch, here. Just checking in to say that I will be among those praying for the next 7 days and for as long as it takes. I was very touched by the post you wrote about your daughter. Stay strong; many thousands are holding you up in prayer. SMG

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  3. Stand strong, Julie. All it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing! Sending out prayers of strength and encouragement to you and to your family!

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  4. Spiritual Abuse by legalistic churches is rampant. You are doing the right thing speaking out this way. There are quite a number of books on the subject: Toxic Faith, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse; Churches That Abuse, etc. I have been through that mill and my story is on the web as well at http://www.abchistory.com I wish you well in your pursuits. Speaking out against unjust hatred by those who profess peace and love is not slander and the lawsuit is frivolous. There is plenty of evidence that there are abusive churches that harm people. Even to the point of pushing them toward suicide. I have seen it happen. Jeff VanVonderen of the National Association of Christian Recovery equates abusive churches to an incestuous relationship where the one who dominates has undue power over another. Keep talking. It is the only way to stop their further abuse of others.

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  5. Julie Anne, you've been an inspiration and are being a role model. I especially appreciate your discernment and diligence in wrangling the many demands brought on by interviews, comments, emails, etc. You're handling a tough situation with grace, compassion, and kindness.Thanks for sharing your story and documentation. Every account like this makes a difference for those of us who've survived spiritually abusive situations. And, hopefully, in the long run courageous people like yourself and others who choose to do something will help turn the tide. We've got to get from intervention when people are already being hurt by malignant ministries, to prevention so they don't happen as much anymore.Thanks again for the important part you're playing … and thanks for inviting us into the situation to pray. Seven days and counting down … Brad/futuristguy

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  6. The "Evangelical" churches all too often vest way too much authority in a man, and there are few men who won't let that kind of authority go to their heads. Any religion that isn't based on the free thinking of the congregant is suspect from the start. You did the public a service, and now your service has exploded into international awareness. Good for you.

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  7. Julie Anne: I've been following your blog for awhile, and I applaud you. While Chuck O'Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church face The Streisand Effect, you are also being avalanched. As a former broadcast journalist, I know the attention can get overwhelming when media comes calling.Take care of yourself as this unfolds, (as a musician, aren't you glad you know the value of pacing?:^). Thank you for your voice, your heart, your grace under pressure and your meticulous documentation.You've set an example for others, you will be in my prayers as this journey continues.Bene D

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  8. Your post today is very important indeed~your story of abuse as a child, and adults knowing and chosing to do nothing to help you I believe gives you a compassion for those who are being mistreated. Not only to have compassion, but to not be silenced about the abuse you see. If one person is able to escape being bullied, find strength to take back their rights, all this is worth it. Christ doesn't tell us to be doormats or victims. I love the verses you chose for today's post. I know another blessing I have because your family came into that church, a true life long friend who has helped me go through the backlash of being manipulated by "leadership" that puts itself beyond question. Being able to stand up for those who don't have a voice takes a very fearless and courageous person~thank you momma bear, from another momma bear who won't be silenced! Count down is on, praying for us all~grace, mercy and love as we walk humbly before our God. Examples to our children as to how a loving mother speaks the truth in love. "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." James 2:26

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  9. As an atheist I'm amazed this has not become an issue before. But as an empathetic human I am saddened that you have to go through not only the bullying, but now this kind of indiscretion! I hope your faith can pull you through. If there is a collection for your legal fees, I will happily donate! Please keep us posted! You should not have to put up with this kind of hatred & bullying. You are an incredibly courageous woman and many are behind you regardless of religious affiliations, regardless of geography, regardless of personal politics because one thing is paramount: This kind of abuse is inappropriate & does not belong in a civilized society. THANK YOU for taking a stand! You are a hero!

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  10. I have to add something here…my daughter was a freshman at BJU this year. She KNOWS the REAL story about this young man. You have NOT heard the entire story. BJU is NOT at ALL like the church you were in…I KNOW THAT because my husband and I graduated from there. This kid was kicked out, in the end, because of too many demerits…that he had EARNED. Trust me…I went to BJU looking for hypocrisy and legalism…it. simply. is. not. there. You have missed the point here. This school builds the WHOLE person (mental, spiritual, physical, emotional) and TRUST ME this boy had loving counseling and concern the entire way. Pretty much the entire student body was elated when this rebellious young man was expelled. I couldn't read all of the comments…but it saddens me that you would jump on BJU when obviously you don't know enough about it to make a judgement call. BJU used to have a motto: BJ Cares. They do. They really do. Another motto: World's most unusual university. Boy Howdy! They are unusual because they care about the whole person. They helped me turn my life around and I am thankful for their loving, caring faculty and staff. Of course, unlike this young man, I had a desire to be growing in Christ. You can contact me at any time to discuss this…btw we used to go to Pastor Jaquith's church: Westgate Baptist Church in Beaverton. You will find peace and healing there.

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  11. We lived through similar spiritual abuse at an independent Baptist church in Austin, Texas. Adults and children are being bullied instead of being protected in too many churches.

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  12. Dear Mrs. Smith and fellow defendants (defendants, wow that seems weird), I'm wondering if you are currently represented by counsel and if a legal defense fund has been established yet. I'm guessing that any competent attorney will get this dismissed pretty quick but in the event that further legal services are required a legal defense fund is in order. I would like to contribute in the name of a girlfriend that committed suicide 25 years ago after being targeted by "church people" very similar to the plaintiff in your case. Another thing to consider is counter claiming for damages and cost of suit and asking the court for sanctions. The "rev" Earl Polk sued a bunch of ex-members about 10 years ago for very similar reasons. He ended up paying them to end the case. You are fighting for all of us that have been wounded by men like Chucky O'neal. The guy must be a real tool, he has succeeded in getting more very negative google reviews then ever, made the national news (and not for being pastor of the year)and made a laughing stock of his church world wide. You would think that he would have considered the internet factor but I guess bullies like him have been getting away with so much for so long. Note to Chucky: that day is over pal, the internet will hold you accountable if your sissy/pansy elders don't.

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  13. Being that Bob Jones university was founded partially with money from the KKK, named a building after a former imperial grand wizard of the KKK, and went all the way to the supreme court to defend their ban on interracial dating/ marriage (they lost) I find it hard see them as credible. They have a long track record and much of it is not Godly & pure regardless of their damage control. Bob Jones the 2ND in a fit of anger went on 20/20 and called the US Supreme court "a bunch of bastards dammed to hell". Not exactly in keeping with the scriptural standards for elders, slow to anger for example. So far I believe the kid.

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  14. I wish nothing but the best for you in this journey and I hope that you win spiritually and legally in this matter. I am not christian but everyone has the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. I respect every positive spiritual and religious path. Its a shame that so many churches are doing this in today's world. I read your story in the news this morning and my heart fell out of my chest. It reminded me of a story my mom told me when she was a teenager. She was going to a Southern Baptist Church in Southern IL that her and her mom had been going to for several years they were very happy with the church they loved the church. My grandma was a widow and worked hard to support my mom and her. In 1972 when they found out that my mom was pregnant and not married they shunned her and turned their backs on her and my grandma. I'm the product of a teenage pregnancy in the 70's. In that era they should have helped my mom and I instead of turning their backs on us. And of course the Catholic Church my father attended wasn't that receptive either. Again I wish you many well wishes in your journey with this spiritually and legally. God will be on your side. He does seek out those that misinterpret his word.

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  15. You are going to lose because you made statements of FACT that the church is "FAMOUS for shunning…" you didn't say "I was shunned…." or give an "opinion. Opinions are not defamation but your statement is.The judge will give you the option of removing your statements or continuing to defend yourself, and he will tell you right away that you will lose if you chose to continue. Free speech is protected for opinions not false statements presented as "fact". This is the BOTTOM LINE and I suggest you save yourself a year of aggravation thinking it will be fun. It will never get to a jury and you will spend thousands of dollars OR your lawyer will drop you because he cannot defend you with no proof in discovery of what you claimed is true, if it isn't.

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  16. All we have is the truth to fight with. These churches that abuse fight with worldly weapons (threats and other punitive controlling behavior) violating the admonition in I Corinthians 6 and Jesus' own words in Mark 10:42-45, Matt 20:25-28, and Luke 22:25-27. But whenever you get away from grace and the gospel (odd that they have 'grace' in their name when they seem to know nothing of the concept) you end up twisting Scripture and going to legalism/moralism in one form or another, whether it's conservative legalism or liberal legalism.May God give you strength. There are many people speaking out against abuses in the church and this is always a fear. The way our legal system is set up people are free to bring frivolous lawsuits in order to just shut up the critics. In the UK the loser must pay everyone's legal fees, so they would never dare bring a case that didn't have a nearly perfect chance of winning.

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  17. And yes PLEASE let us know where we can donate to help you. "Cult Like" is the kindest words I can come up with for this guy. I thought Mark Driscoll was bad…

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  18. Julie Ann, thank you for taking the stand that you are taking. Please continue to walk in love, and remember to put your FULL trust in God. You can't win this battle in your own strength. The victory is the Lord's. Keep your eyes focused on him, and not the enemy. That enemy, btw, is not the pastor and the people of that "church". The enemy is satan, whose purpose is to divide the body of Christ, accuse the bretheren, and deceive even the elect. Trust in the Lord, and you will not be defeated.

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  19. LOL! This is SO similar to a well-known BAPTIST church here in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have a story whereby the associate pastor did some digging (like the Devil's Advocate does in the RC Church) and discovered a clandestine activity of mine, used it as evidence against me (as organist for that church), told all the elders and the church secretary (and probably all the other musicians too), used blackmail against me that if I did not submit to their "Redemptive Process" they would inform the entire church of my activities, and violated all my Constitutional Rights under the South African Bill of Rights which is punishable by LAW. They destroyed my spirituality, my desire to continue as a Christian, and definitely destroyed my music and thereby worship! I feel for all of you in a similar boat.

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  20. It is 6 AM here on the West coast. Praying for you, your family, this situation Julie Anne. May the peace of Christ, and grace, and perseverance be yours in abundance this day. Six days of prayer …

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  21. This is exactly why I will never set foot in a church again. I find that I can have a conversation with God and never have some self righteous, egotistical person (usually male), tell me if I don't do it "his way" then I cannot worship at his church.Keep your head up and stay strong. This pastor is an insecure, fear filled man who has yet to hear the words of the Lord.

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  22. You are the King of Wishful Thinking and this is where US Continental Law differs from European and you have the two confused. Julie Anne doesn't have to prove squat. The Beaverton Church and its Pastor will have to do the "proving". *If* this case isn't dismissed – and its likely it will be, *they* will have to demonstrate defamation. They will have to prove that what Julie Anne has said is untrue. That's how US continental law works under defamation and slander – for better or worse, both charges are incredibly difficult to prove in the US.I know you were doing your best to be all intimidating and scary. Thanks for playing….NEXT?Julie Anne: I'd leave his comment there for all to see. I don't think he'll be back – at least not spouting this nonsense. You're well-protected, dear – go get 'em!

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  23. Julie Anne – obviously this Anon doesn't have a clue about what is defamation and what is not. I've read the long legal arguments put forth by your attorney in your defense, and you could not have a better attorney, and the legal arguments given are rock solid. You will prevail, and unless Chuck withdraws his complaint prior to the first hearing, he will be incredibly embarrassed by the judge's ruling in your favor. IMHO, of course.

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  24. I am praising God that despite this ugliness you are walking through, you seem to be acting from a place of rightness–not self-righteousness–and trust in the Lord. That you maintained your faith is incredible, but that is because you look to the Lord and not to yourself. Continue to keep your eyes on Him and be pleasing in His sight. Romans 3:4

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  25. Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit, the pastor of the church in question has proven his unworthiness to lead a congregation by the very fact that he has brought such a suit.1st Corinthians 6: "I Corinthians 6: 1-6 says: If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters."

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  26. Once again…get the facts straight. None of that is true. I will not argue with folks who are determined to destroy something they know nothing of.

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  27. "And then I looked around and said "somebody needs to do something about this". At which time I realized…. I AM somebody."Well James Sundquist has used Martin Niemoller's poem to describe somewhat what happens in these churches where people are ousted for questioning the pastor and trying to remain Biblical in the face of an unbiblical pastor or elder board:http://rock-to-salt.cephasministry.com/spiritual_euthanasia.html(sorry he hasn't got it formatted very well there…)

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  28. Well the church was famous (or rather, infamous) for shunning and/or excommunicating among we who had attended prior to all this publicity. Just because a million people did not know the church existed doesn't mean that the cruel treatment visited upon those unfortunate attenders who didn't fit the church's cookie cutter ideal wasn't much discussed. You newcomers have only heard the tip of the iceberg. The leaders of this "church" have so much more to answer to God for than this lawsuit.

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