A few admin notes first:
When I first was served the subpoena, I reached out to people on the internet who had dealt with spiritual abuse for help. One person was Barb Orlowski who reads and comments here. Barb put me in contact with a group of people, some who have gone through tragic stories of abuse themselves, and others who have become experts in the field of spiritual abuse and are writing books, counseling, maintaining spiritual websites offering resources, etc. I am so grateful that these people have reached out to me in my darkest days. Lois found me when someone posted our story on her Facebook wall and then contacted me. It’s great to be a part of this wonderful caring and supportive network of friends who are trying to help people recover from the insanity that is going on in some churches.
I’ve read a lot of personal e-mails – some only a paragraph or two, others pages long. I feel so honored that some of you have trusted me with your story – perhaps the story that you may not have told anyone before. That is so powerful. I make it my top priority to respond to each e-mail, but because of time constraints, I may not be the best support person for you.
Please utilize this site in the comments section as well. This really can be a virtual support group. When you see someone reaching out and posting their painful story, be sure to respond and give encouragement. Others will do the same for you. I’ve said it before and now have witnessed it in my e-mail box – the most powerful thing someone who has gone through spiritual abuse is to tell their story. It’s interesting how someone will send me their story, intending it to be only a couple paragraphs, but then apologize at the end of the e-mail by saying they didn’t mean for it to be so long and they haven’t ever told anyone this before. That’s powerful – all of those emotions and stories had been penned up and now they are free. Beautiful! Keep talking, friends.
Oh, that brings me to another thing. So many of you are using the Anonymous option when commenting. That’s fine. I want you to feel completely safe without having to disclose your identity here. But I want to let you know of another option. You can remain anonymous in your comments by creating a pseudonym. This way, we can attribute your story to you without you giving away your true identity, but you and your story won’t be lost in the pool of “Anonymous” posters. I’d greatly appreciate it if you could do this. I don’t care what you call yourself: Fred Flinstone works 🙂 Here is what the comment screen looks like. Just click on Name/URL.
Just type your new name: ie, “Fred Flinstone” and then leave the URL field blank. Ta-da! You now have an identity. I have no way of knowing who you are. Blogger does not disclose ISP or any kind of personal identifiers to me.
Ok, this is what I really want to discuss. I read this comment from RB earlier this week and it’s a comment that tugged at my heart:
Julie Anne: I have meditated on this post and the responses, as well as studying the Book of James as sets forth many benchmarks in this area.
The retaliatory actions by Beaverton Grace Bible Church against you and your family, and to significant numbers of members of other Christian churches who have been arbitrarily and harshly “disfellowshipped”, “excommunicated”, “shunned”, sued for alleged defamation, and mentally abused by totalitarian-focused church leaders, have deeply troubled me.
I will not deny that your story, compounded by dozens of other stories of church abuse that I have begun learning about, has left me very worried about the possibility that my own church – which at this time seems to have a relatively “sane” approach to member relations – could at an unknown point in the future be “taken over” by devotees of ecclesiastical totalitarianism (which would be my polite characterization of the governance practiced at BGBC).
I have actually started losing sleep at night lately worrying about the proliferation of extremely radical, dogmatic, in-your-face theology in American churches that underscores the notion that the decisions and teachings of a pastor and church elders cannot under any circumstances be questioned or challenged.
Frankly, the whole topic of “abusive churches” is starting to raise some painfully difficult questions for myself, as to whether any Christian faith community is a “safe place” for learning and practicing basic discipleship skills as taught in the Bible.
Maybe I’m over-reacting, but just had to get this off of my chest. -RB
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
RB, I think you are raising valid questions and thank you for sharing what you’ve been thinking about and losing sleep over. I get it and I know my friend Michelle does as well. We’ve been talking a lot behind the scenes with others and we are wondering the same thing. How can people find a good church? It used to be that we primarily focused on doctrinal statement (true story, I did not read the doctrinal statement of my former church, but left that to my husband). Having been a military wife with a lot of moves, we know that time is precious and always tried to settle in a new church quickly, so there were things I would look for. Now, thinking back on that list, they were superficial issues – my I’ve learned much along the way. I think we can all agree that there are no perfect churches. But . . .
Are there any safe churches? How can we find them?
What do we look for when trying to find a good church?
How can you determine if the pastor is a godly shepherd?
How do we know if our pastors are even aware of the problem of spiritual abuse?
Are they concerned about it?
Is there something we can do to help our current church be aware of this growing problem?
Are their safeguards in place to keep pastors/elders accountable?
Are you feeling the same way as RB? How are you working this out in your life?
If you have more questions to add, please post a comment and I’ll keep adding to this list of questions, but most importantly, let’s talk.
For the record, I currently have a church home. My pastor is keenly aware of spiritual abuse (and told me some of his background and connections with a legalistic church) and my case. I’m sure I will have more discussions with him. I was dropping my kids off for their standardized testing this week and he came up to me and asked how things were going. I’m liking him more each time we meet. He has jokingly said that he is going to keep an eye on his church’s Google reviews and I jokingly asked him if he had a hidden recording device in his plant on the bookshelf. I didn’t see any 🙂
* * * * *Last-Minute Update!!!!
It looks like my former church has done more changes on the church website – this time on the press release. I didn’t notice this change, but another blogger did. Read about it at the FBC Jax Watchdog site. Good detective work, Watchdog!