I began this blog in Feb. 2012 after noticing that the Google reviews I had posted of my former church were being removed. Days after the commencement of this blog, I received a legal summons suing me and three others for defamation to the tune of $500,000. The story of spiritual abuse needs to be told. People are being hurt emotionally and spiritually by abusive pastors who use bully tactics; we need a place to learn, to talk freely, and to heal. I will not be silenced.
On May 21, 2012, we had our first court hearing. Two of the original 4 defendants were voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit, leaving Hannah and me. Later, Meaghan was added to the lawsuit, plaintiffs claiming her comments on my blog were defamatory.
I believe the lawsuit is an extension of the spiritual abuse we incurred. A key part of spiritual abuse is control and especially controlling what people can and cannot say, in this case, months and years after leaving a church. When Chuck O’Neal and BGBC decided to sue us in the legal court system, they challenged the rights of free speech for everyone who shares their stories and opinions online. This story should be of grave concern to all in the United States, especially bloggers, opinion and review sites, political sites, etc. July 13, 2012 is the court hearing at the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon. The time is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. The judge’s decision could have a profound effect on those who use the internet to express their thoughts and opinions.
UPDATE: On July 28, 2012, Judge Fun dismissed the entire case. We won! Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church had to pay all court costs and attorney fees for the prevailing defendants – approximately $60,000.
Legal online sites are acknowledging the threat. Here is one from Citizen Media Law Project, including court documents.
Here is my court declaration.
A few people have asked for a condensed version of “my story”. My story is not written out like that, but in bits and pieces as posts for the blog. So, in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to have one post which includes links to the key posts to my story so readers do not have to wade through all of them. ~ja
How Dare You Leave Our Church In this article, I describe the atmosphere presented at the church that our pastor proclaimed our church to be the best. This was an unhealthy elitism. I also describe a pattern that I noticed of families staying for 4-6 months and then vanishing without ever mentioning them again. This was one of the first clear signs of something amiss.
False Teachers Who Mark and Avoid Church Members – Pastors who twist scripture are doing so for their own personal gain. This shocking article is about how some pastors twist scripture and Mark and Avoid church members/former members by the very painful and destructive practice of shunning. This method is used by cults.
You Won’t Find a Better Church – This article discusses more of the elitism we were taught. No church could ever measure up to our church. What are the implications of that kind of thinking?
The Lawsuit – – These are my thoughts after I received the subpoena (Mar. 2012)
Disobedient Children and Meetings with the Pastor – -The pattern we observed was that all children/teens would be brought to the pastor’s office for discipline issues at one time or another. These intense meetings represented the underlying tone we experienced.
Children’s Church – In the 2 yrs 2 mos we attended the church, the children only covered Ephesians 1:1-17. Weeks and weeks were spent on one verse at a time. How much of the Bible would have been covered by the time they became an adult at this rate?
Youth Groups? Not at Our Church! – In the pastor’s attempt to have an elite church, he expressed great disdain for modern youth groups. While our former church had no official youth group, the youth most certainly did meet and the “fruit” of the “unofficial youth groups” was far worse than I’ve seen in conventional supervised youth groups.
The Bully Pulpit We found the pastor frequently used the “bully pulpit” to preach to the congregation when someone was caught in sin. It’s not a pleasant environment when you have been caught in sin and the pastor uses the teaching time to address your sin from the pulpit. You know he is talking about you the whole time. This sometimes happened for several weeks in a row – and many times was on the topic of sexual immorality.
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here? Part 1… – We discovered a pattern of scriptures used in reference to people who he felt was being divisive and labeling them as “Korah”. This is an example of hyper-authoritarian behavior which created a very uncomfortable church atmosphere.
Baptism: Was It Genuine or for Show? – We saw evidence of baptism being more of a show, rather than a genuine act of obedience in faith. This was very disturbing. Some were not even convinced of their salvation after being baptised – they did it because of feeling pressure.
Evangelize When it Looks Good – There was a strong emphasis on evangelism at this church, but why was there no willingness to go after my “wayward” daughter or other “tough cases”? Evangelizing only when it’s easy or looks good? Maybe.
Damage Control – How Do I Look? After the lawsuit, we saw the church go into “damage control” mode on their church website, making it a softer, gentler, family friendly site. Again, it’s all about the image.
Lawsuit Update: New Information!! – Meaghan V. was added to the lawsuit after posting a comment using her real name (most other members feel the need to post anonymously because they don’t want to be sued). I reference 3 of the pastor’s sermons on submitting to State authority.
Dare to Leave: One Family’s Tragic Account – Very few people want to publicize their story. They are afraid of repercussions. This person dared to share.
Legalism: Do Not Expose Your Thighs! – What is it like living in a church with legalistic rules about where the hem of shorts should land on your legs and you have a son who is 6’8”?
In Honor of Hannah – This post is one the most popular posts on the blog. So much of we experienced is difficult to describe in clear facts. This describes the emotional part of what I dealt with in a very real way – when our adult daughter abruptly moved out of the home because of the intense emotional/physical pressures she was facing by the demands of the church in addition to her busy life as a student/nanny. This was very difficult to write.
Walk the Talk! This post discusses the hypocrisy (and once again image) I saw at the Steps for Life walk in Portland year after year (a pro-life walkathon). Publicly showing/walking/praying that you respect life, even the life of the unborn, yet failing to get in the trenches with people in real need at your own church seems hypocritical.
Hyper-Modesty in the Church, Part 1 This is the beginning of a 3-part series on hyper-modesty which I believe led to a preoccupation with body parts and sexualizing. Sexual immorality was a big problem here, much more in any other church I attended and I would attribute it to the legalistic/high authoritarian teachings.
It’s the Same Message No Matter How you Mix it! This is a 3-part series on repetitive sermons. I started timing the sermons after comparing my notes and realizing that the pastor was using the basically the same sermons and mixing the order up with only 10-15 minutes of new material (in a 60-min. sermon). In our 2-years there, he covered only Romans 12 to Romans 13:7. In this series you will get to “experience” what it felt like for many of us 🙂 Be sure to read all three parts. You may go crazy. I did when writing it 🙂
20 thoughts on “My Story – Key Blog Posts”
Today's meditation~God is so good, timely on issues that prick my heart~"I had nearly lost my confidence; my faith was almost gone because I was jealous of the proud when I saw that things go well for the wicked."Psalm 73:2-3"In heaven I only have YOU, and on this earth You are all I want. My body and mind may fail, but You are my strength and my choice forever."Psalm 73:25-26I love you Julie Anne and Hannah…may the Spirit of God continue to lead us unto Him
expect to go viral again!
Psalm 73 is one of my favorite Psalms. Thanks Meaghan. Julie Anne, your former pastor may find this ridiculous lawsuit to be much like Haman's gallows.
Came here to check on you all. Praying for you this week. sjengelhardt
Excellent. I have a feeling, Julie Anne, that this index of articles will be very helpful to a certain aspiring podcaster who wants to interview you for the pilot episode of a certain "Banned Bloggers" podcast. SMGBTW, I am not writing from jail. 😉
Good, I'm glad someone might find it helpful :)Jail? Did someone hand over that get-out-of-jail free card? 🙂
Thank you, sjengelhardt!
Craig Vick,Thoroughly enjoyed your parable! (Hmm… wasn't there someone else who taught like that? And I think the "Rules Committee" back then went after him if I remember correctly. But don't quote me on that, because I'm only a woman..:) I'm also perplexed about this- someone told me Jesus was nice to ladies?This was so much more edifying than reading perpetually adolescent male bloggers named "TheO" who have all the "rules of Theology", Facebook, Twitter and all the latest "tech" to count ever decreasing blog stats! Jesus and the Apostles didn't have all that – a real MIRACLE that we got the Bible with the dearth of technology in the 1st century.I also want to commend you for honoring your wife by including her in your blogger photo. A photo is worth 10,000 words. I noticed the background in the photo. You take her on vacations too? Thanks for being here "for such a time as this". I was thinking about the book of Esther and the Mordecai and Haman "boomerang" just the other day. Those things do happen sometimes. Ya never know what God is thinking, but He knows everything and every thought and intention of hearts, so I trust His Justice will prevail.Thank your wife for giving up time with you so you can do some writing here. I've seen your posts in other places too – very well-reasoned and well-written. It's nice to meet a man of your caliber, we need more gentleman like you in the ministry.Thank you for your godly example. 1 Peter 5:1 -4 "Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."
NAR, I just can't stop laughing at, "You take her on vacations too?" lol
Julie Anne: I will be keeping you in prayer during the next 24 hrs. Thanks for recapping your story here. I think it really helps people to see that this IS an extension of spiritual abuse. Thank you for standing up for spiritual abuse victims everywhere.
Julie Anne,Well, I hate to tell you, but some church planter guys spend serious big money to attend a lot of conferences every year. I read about all of those on Wartburg Watch. So not all pastor's wives are smiling like Craig's. Because I think that kind of drains the family vacation budget, big-time. But I'm not judging them. I've never actually been to one, and I don't personally know any church planter guys.You can read in many places other than the Bible that most people who write comedy have been through depression and sadness. Maybe they write comedy to relieve their pain.But I couldn't resist a little LOL because I have a picture with a very similar background from a vacation I enjoyed! Proverbs 17:22 "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." For a long time I couldn't do much LOL, and last Sunday was an emotional storm with many tears cascading. I was also sick with a virus and couldn't go to church. When the crying finally ended I felt peaceful. The Lord had many things that helped me, lined up one after the other. Someone named Jess gave me encouragement on your blog here. A missionary who lost his wife emails out encouraging Bible verses every week and the one that came that night said: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" Deuteronomy 33:27I slept better that night and the next morning my first thoughts were about Jesus in the Garden. The disciples couldn't stay awake to be with Him. He was alone. Suffering. He understands.That day I found old emails from my best friend with verses and encouragement that we had emailed back and forth to support each other. I found just the encouragement I needed that I'd already read before,but it meant just as much last Monday. It was the email version of Proverbs 17:17 I guess-Timeless advice from a friend never has an expiration date.All week memories of many trials and losses I had forgotten, some for many years, have come back to my mind and I've written some things down in an informal journal. And today I finally have come to the point where I can begin to see some answers on why and how this can happen and I typed those in my journal and shared them with my husband and my friend. You'd love my friend, she is a very intelligent woman and she gave me a sentence in one of those previous emails that got me thinking. A friend that makes you think is priceless. I know this has affected your family and friends too and I am praying especially for Hannah and want to respond what she posted on another thread because I totally "get" exactly what she is writing about. She is a very perceptive and intelligent young woman and I'm proud of her and love her just the way she is. Because she is honest and transparent.I asked my friend how she was doing and she said "Like you, up and down" Yes, that can happen. You can sometimes feel like an IED has gone off right next to you and shattered everything into a million pieces. Then you feel a little better and meet people who tell you you're wrong, they love you, but no church is perfect. And they see NO problem. This can leave you feeling very disordered emotionally. You can go from a joyful heart to a crushed spirit and Proverbs 17:22 covers the whole spectrum in one verse:Proverbs 17:22 "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Here's a worship music video to balance out the LOL with praise and thanks to Jesus for all he's seen me through:I Will Glory In My Redeemer by Enfield
Thank you Not a RebelKelly and I have had some great vacations, but that was one of the best. That's an Alaskan glacier in the background.Thanks so much for your encouragement.
Julie Anne, Thinking of you prayerfully tonight and tomorrow. Travel safely and may God be glorified and may you be conformed evermore to the image of Christ through this journey.“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” Rom 8:28-29”And here is a treat for your musician's soul:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEnws5brUcILove,OM
Thank you, OM. Yes, I am reminded this is a journey!Lovely classical piece. My 22-yr old son and I enjoy singing through all the choruses of The Messiah (he sings bass, me alto) during the Christmas season. I crank the volume up loudly and my younger boys roll their eyes at their mother and possibly think their older brother has a screw loose 🙂
*Kizito from Africa writes: " Chuck O'Neal is a hypocrite… Julie was merely expressing her views of Chuck and Beaverton Grace Bible Church; she is doing what she as a Christian is supposed to do. She is calling out what she believes to be a false teacher. In fact, Julie is just doing what Chuck himself does in his sermons. He calls out people by name who he thinks are false teachers and who are harming Christians.If you go back and listen to one of Chuck's sermons entitled "Emergent Church Apostasy – Wolves in Our Midst" – Chuck goes after emergent church leaders Doug Pagitt, Brian Mclaron, and Rob Bell for their false teachings. Chuck says that Brian Mclaron "serves the devil", he claims all three men are "wolves in sheep's clothing", he calls them "false prophets", and says Rob Bell is a "dangerous man". It is a very scathing sermon and he attacks these men's motives and their character and their ministries.
And no doubt Chuck will say that he is doing it because he is called by God to call out and expose what he perceives to be false teachers.For Chuck to file a lawsuit against Julie Anne for criticizing religious leaders, while Chuck himself uses his pulpit to criticize harshly religious leaders, makes Chuck a hypocrite. And we know what Jesus thinks about religious hypocrites. Chuck, whether you like it or not, Julie Anne Smith is just as called of God as you are to expose what she believes to be false and harmful teachers.
Finally, Julie Anne, Happy Mother's Day to you, and thank you for not caving in to the pressure and cult tactics employed by your church, and for standing strong and daring to write about your experience at the hands of your church and pastor. The best thing you can do is to not be silent, to speak of what has been done to you and your family and to speak the truth even if your former pastor and church hate you for it.You are doing God's work "http://fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com/2012/05/mother-and-daughter-being-sued-by-their.html
Every point you use to discredit the church and its leaders are typical issues which those who have a rebellious spirit decry on a regular basis. I hope the Church is victorious in its lawsuit because secular attacks against the Body of Christ increase each year. To many people want spiritual milk and can not handle the meat of the word without rebellious regurgitation. A church body is subject to its leadership and if it is not to your liking then go with God somewhere else. To castigate a church and leadership such as you have is NOT BIBLICAL and shows your disregard for biblical standards. Berean churches are strict and structurally analytical of the whole person in relation to scripture. If you didn't understand that going there then that is your fault, not the church. Becoming an agent provocateur for the rebellious shows that your use of gossip, innuendo and misapplications of scripture is designed for only one purpose….Rebellious Hypocrisy.
Bill, please read the post: Mark and Avoid and tell me how much "meat" one is going to be partaking of when verses are twisted completely out of context and used in an authoritarian and abusive way over the congregation. I've added the link above.
Oh really, Bill? So you think it's business as usual to record private conversations and play them for others? Or could that be considered gossip? Is it a typical issue to show up unexpectedly and confrontationally at the home of someone who has left your church months prior? Is it milk or meat when the same message is preached week after week no matter what the subject scripture may be? Maybe you think all church leaders should be investigating who they can sue to keep their dwindling coppers full.
Make that coffers, not coppers. Wouldn't want the grammar police getting theirs in a bunch.