“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Today, Novermber 25, was the day designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women:
“Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. […] We must fundamentally challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence to continue. On this International Day, I call on all governments to make good on their pledges to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, and I urge all people to support this important goal.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
A number of leaders who promote complementarian teachings spoke out against the violence against women. I am glad to see church leaders acknowledging the abuse of women and girls, especially among leaders who promote complementarianism from their pulpits or teachings. If you are unfamiliar with the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and what complementarianism is, as I was a few months ago, here is a statement from their website defining their purpose:
In opposition to the growing movement of feminist egalitarianism, they articulated what is now known as the complementarian position which affirms that men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function. In the home, men lovingly are to lead their wives and family as women intelligently are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. In the church, while men and women share equally in the blessings of salvation, some governing and teaching roles are restricted to men.
Some of these people are connected with The Gospel Coalition, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and seeing them speak out against these abuses gives me hope that they take abuse of women seriously. A few of the articles even mentioned that sometimes it is necessary to involve civil authority. This seems to be a contrast to the way in which Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders/pastors handled many of the alleged abuse cases we read about in their recent lawsuit. This illustrates quite profoundly that C. J. Mahaney and his pastors/leaders did not respond in a way that many of his peers would respond to alleged abuse. You may recall, in most of the abuse stories we have read about online on survivor blogs, personal stories, and in the Sovereign Grace Ministries lawsuit, civil authorities were not notified. The crime was labeled as “sin” and dealt with in a so-called “biblical” fashion within the church.
I would like to highlight a few of the articles posted on 11/25. The first article is by Mary Kassian.
Mary is a distinguished professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the author of several books including The Feminist Mistake and In My Father’s House.
And here are key snippets of Mary’s article:
Complementarians believe that God created male and female as complementary expressions of His image. We believe that men bear a distinct responsibility to be protectors. When a husband abuses his wife, it’s a heinous betrayal of his responsibility and a grievous sin in the eyes of God.
Statement on Abuse
Adopted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at its meeting in Lisle, Illinois in November, 1994.
- We understand abuse to mean the cruel use of power or authority to harm another person emotionally, physically, or sexually.
- We are against all forms of physical, sexual and /or verbal abuse.
- We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).
- We believe that abuse is sin. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is the hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purpose of God. Abuse ought not to be tolerated in the Christian community.
- We believe that the Christian community is responsible for the well-being of its members. It has a responsibility to lovingly confront abusers and to protect the abused.
- We believe that both abusers and the abused are in need of emotional and spiritual healing.
- We believe that God extends healing to those who earnestly seek him.
- We are confident of the power of God’s healing love to restore relationships fractured by abuse, but we realize that repentance, forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation is a process. Both abusers and abused are in need of on-going counseling, support and accountability.
- In instances where abusers are unrepentant and/or unwilling to make significant steps toward change, we believe that the Christian community must respond with firm discipline of the abuser and advocacy, support and protection of the abused.
- We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian community can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.
Julie Anne’s note: Do you notice something missing in the above? The above statement which is the most current statement from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) very clearly acknowledges abuse. That is good. But they failed to acknowledge that violence against women is a CRIME. There is also no mention of involving authorities when there is abuse. That omission is wrong.
Mary’s article continues:
I emailed Wayne Grudem earlier this week to ask what he would like to communicate to complementarian pastors on this Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This is what he said:
I strongly deplore any abuse of wives by their husbands and I believe the Bible teaches clearly against it. When pastors learn about abuse occurring in a home in their congregation, they have an obligation before God to seek to bring an immediate end to it, through direct personal conversation with the abuser, support of the abused, professional counselling, through means such as church discipline, protective personal intervention in dangerous situations, using law enforcement and other legal pressures, extensive prayer, and, if necessary, legal separation. Pastors also need to encourage their church members and attenders to tell someone in church leadership if abuse is occurring, so that appropriate means can be brought to bring an immediate end to it. Nobody in a leadership role in CBMW thinks that abuse within a marriage is justified by the biblical teachings about husbands and wives.Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor, Phoenix Seminary, and co-founder and past president of CBMW
I’m very pleased to read Wayne Grudem’s response above. Notice he does discuss using law enforcement and also mentions legal separation. Finally! Someone needs to change CBMW’s statement on abuse to incorporate utilizing legal separation and notifying law enforcement when suspected illegal activity has taken place.
Dr. Russell Moore also left a public response on his blog. He is the Chairman of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Here is his bio:
Russell D. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics.
I was very pleased with Russell’s strong words against spousal abuse. He does mention getting the law involved, if necessary. The whole article is very good, please take the time to read it. I underlined the references of reporting to legal authorities.
Male violence against women is a real problem in our culture, one the church must address. Our responsibility here is not simply at the level of social justice but at the level of ecclesical justice as well.
“A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.”
“In the public arena, Christians as citizens should be the most insistent on legal protections for women. We should oppose a therapeutic redefinition of wife abuse as merely a psychological condition. And we should call on the powers-that-be to prosecute abusers of women and children in ways that will deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse. “
“Whatever our views on specific economic policies, we must recognize that much economic hardship of women in our age is the result of men who abandon their commitments. We should eschew obnoxious “welfare queen” rhetoric and work with others of goodwill to seek economic and social measures to provide a safety net for single mothers and abused women in jeopardy. We should join with others, including secular feminists, in seeking legal protections against such manifestations of a rape culture as sexual harassment, prostitution, and sex slavery.”
Owen Strachan is one more public leader who responded to the occasion. Owen is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky and also teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Additionally, he is a writer for the Gospel Coalition.
In Owen Strachan’s article, he very succinctly identifies himself as a complementarian, describing what he perceives as his role as husband and how he would handle a situation of spousal abuse. He writes a hypothetical letter to Bob, an abusive husband. I will highlight a few paragraphs, but please read the article. You can see that he, even as a complementarian, has very high regard for the protection and care of wives. I enjoyed his Dear Bob letter very much.
It has come to my attention that you are abusing your wife verbally and physically. Knowing this, I am trying not to tremble as I write. There is nothing worse than the strong mistreating the weak.
Please know this: your abuse of your wife in the name of Christian leadership is a direct repudiation of true manhood. You think that the expulsive exercise of your strength is warranted by Scripture. You think that it shows that you are a man. Actually, it shows your depravity.
Owen then discusses the complementarian view using scripture in Ephesians to support his views. We then read his views of Bob’s behaviors in light of his interpretation of scripture. These are strong words showing he understands abuse as abuse, not as accepted behavior for a “man of God”.
Your present pattern, Bob, looks like Satanic headship. You are attacking and tearing down. The biblical pattern is Christic headship, sacrificial, others-centered, offered in order that others might flourish and thrive. If you do not cease your ways, the elders of your church will “deliver [you] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5:6). If you are bent on destroying your loved ones, you will face the prospect of a life outside the church, which places the soul in danger of eternal destruction if gospel repentance does not happen.
And like Wayne Grudem, and Russell Moore, Alex also mentions bringing civil authorities into the picture in this paragraph (my underlines):
Repent of your sin. It is a stench in God’s nostrils. Were it not for your worth as an image-bearer, I would find it difficult not to threaten harm to you myself, and to bring many men with me. As things stand, if you continue your pattern of abuse, I will indeed bring men with me, and we will rescue your wife and family, and we will not allow you to harm them. We will bring the full force of the law crashing down upon you. We are men of God; we are not weak; we are leaders and protectors of wives and children. The Lord has saved us from our own wickedness and transformed us to be good to those he has given us. As men of God, we are not scared of you. We will surely stand up to you. We urge you to stop your abuse, repent of your sin, and leave the pattern of destruction you have begun.
Can you imagine if this would have been the action taken in response to alleged abuse stories we have heard from Sovereign Grace Ministires? Whoa Nellie!
These public posts encourage me to some extent because they are identifying real abuse issues, instead of ignoring them. Yet I remain puzzled. And I think a lot of that puzzlement is due to what I see behind the scenes. It makes me curious to know if these leaders are just using the right words on this special day to highlight abuse or if they will really put their money where their mouth is and bring harsh action upon abusers?
And then my mind drifts to stories we’ve read of church leaders who have covered up alleged abuse (such as Sovereign Grace Ministries, Calvary Chapel, etc). What if your close friend was a leader of a church who covered up abuse and failed to report alleged abuse to authorities? How would you handle that situation? Do you have an obligation to say something – – – even if your friend’s church was out of your “jurisdiction”? I think you do. If you don’t say anything, how many more victims will there be?
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Addendum: Pastor Jeff Crippen’s blog post today caught something that I missed in Wayne Grudem’s comment above. Here are a couple key thoughts:
Notice once again the glaring absence of any affirmation that divorce is a biblical means of dealing with abuse. Abuse victims/survivors will quickly understand that this statement dooms victims to a lifetime of working to “restore relationships”, to “involvement in a process of reconciliation,” of “ongoing counsel and support,” but divorce? Forget it. Remarriage? Forget it. Abusers love this sort of talk. If the victim will just believe God and trust Him and keep doing all she can, God can bring her abuser to repentance and they can live happily ever after. That is a fairy tale. [Also notice that they tell the victims that they need counseling too. For what? PTSD? That would be fine. But I suspect this “counseling” is going to me more of the ilk of “you aren’t perfect either, you know.”]
As long as any theologian, author, or organization refuses to tell victims that they can divorce their abuser because the abuser has already treacherously divorced them by ongoing, hard-hearted violation of the marriage covenant, then my ears are deaf to everything else they have to say. That is too bad, because I do think that Grudem and CBMW have done some good and have published some excellent books. I just cannot hear them though as long as they continue to sentence abuse victims to ongoing bondage. [I refuse to use the ESV Study Bible for this reason. Grudem’s notes in the back forbid divorce for abuse].
Reader “Sad” notified me in the comments of another article from Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks: Violence against Women and Church Discipline:
As in other cases of clear and unrepentant sin, abuse can and often should be grounds for excommunication from the church. Rather than simply explain this, I thought it might be helpful to offer a sample of the kind of church discipline letter our church will send. (This particular letter does not refer to an actual situation.) No doubt, a letter like the following presumes that the elders have already been working with the individual, and for one reason or another they determine that the man’s profession of faith is no longer credible by virtue of his actions.
Following up on Jeff Crippen’s thoughts above, I wonder if Jonathan Leeman’s church (or any of the other blog authors for that matter) would consider “divorce” as an option? If the husband fails to repent and change his ways, is the wife to remain legally separated for the rest of her days?