Patriarchal-Complementarian Movement, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit, Women and the Church

Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit, Patriarchy, and Spanking of Adult Children

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:

Responses to Lawsuit Filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries


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. 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

More related articles here:  Abusive pastors that beat people with sticks

111 thoughts on “Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit, Patriarchy, and Spanking of Adult Children”

  1. What amazes me is the discrepancy between imaginaries and the real world here. Our experience of the divine is by its very nature one of our imagination; God has not chosen to speak to anyone out of a burning bush for a good 3000 years and the last time He was incarnate was at least 2000 ago. We may have a vivid imagination about Him and in my view that is thanks to grace providing that the imagining is not simply heresy, like that gone-viral comic book depiction of Christ spanking a child. as what is “really” happening when your kid gets into a hornet’s next by mistake.

    The children we bear and foster, on the other hand, are very real indeed — embodied creatures in a material universe. To subordinate their instantiated realness to any abstract imaginaries, however coherent a belief system that imagination can conjure up, seems to me an abuse of the capacity for reasoning that is God’s most precious gift in making us “a little lower than the angels.”

    By contrast, any form of punitive orthodoxy should be viewed with the greatest skepticism. Merely because a book was written down by fallible human scribes does not guarantee that its contents are an accurate transcription of divine speech (the same thing Salman Rushdie pointed out in his book The Satanic Verses that got him in so much trouble with punitive-orthodox Islamicists). For what it’s worth, my own church is wont to maintain that it is founded on four pillars: reason, revelation, tradition, and experience. This gives Scripture its due but no more, and demands discernment on our parts as Christians if we find that our experience and Holy Writ are at odds (e.g. certain assertions about cosmology that have been definitively disproved since the ancient Hebrews described a geocentric universe).

    We know that there are many people who were not beaten as children and grew up to be decent and loving all the same. Christianity has a good model in Christ, who told His disciples to let the children come to Him “for of such is the kingdom of God.” It doesn’t mean that they don’t misbehave, either out of ignorance (which can be cured by gentle teaching that appeals to their rudimentary ability to use the brains God gave ’em, as my father would have said) or simply because they don’t see that acting like horrid little piggies is not the way grownups are supposed to behave. It has been said that to raise a child requires something like 12,000 to 15,000 corrective adjustments between infancy and the age of 15. But there is absolutely no proof that in any of these disciplinary moments nothing but a beating will do the job.

    A further complication: Some kids who are spanked develop a fetish for it. While not spanking your kid isn’t an absolute guarantee that he or she won’t grow up to be into BDSM play, at least you can be content that if it happens, it’s not because you listened to some moral imbecile with a Bible in one hand and a stick in the other.


  2. Prof.

    Whilst it took me about half an hour to read and re-read your comment, I appreciate your comment on the Scriptures.

    I am one of those with a wild imagination who believe God ‘speaks’ to me via His Holy Spirit.

    If God didn’t speak to us today than the Scriptures lie when they tell us to ‘hear’ what He is saying.

    The Spirit cannot guide us via any other means.

    This makes me completely nuts, or extremely fortunate to have such a relationship with the Creator.

    When I look at my Bible, which is open as I type this, I can only take one of three views:

    The Scriptures are trustworthy
    The Scriptures are kinda trustworthy
    The Scriptures are not trustworthy

    I don’t know which of the above 3 is correct.

    I am told by religious men who make profit from selling their opinions based from the Scriptures that I can trust them.

    Then there are men like you who have titles like Doctor or Professor. They tell us numbers 2 and 3.

    Knowing I should not place my trust in men, I run to my imagination which tells me that God who spoke in times past through bushes and donkeys is probably able to guide me by His Spirit.

    In the event that God does not speak to me by His Spirit…

    I will have a good laugh when all is revealed at the end of all things.

    From experience… Believing as I do makes a practical difference in my life.

    I am less of an as*hole by believing as I do than if I chose to reject God and not continue trying to learn from the Book which could be wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really don’t see the problem, my Mom and Aunt both spanked me until I turned 18 and always bare bottom and I’m a guy!


  4. BTDT, I do consider it sexual assault. And people wonder why BDSM is disproportionately prevalent in this branch of Christianity!


  5. not one for acronyms or bee dee ess emm whatever that stands for.

    Please don’t tell me.

    My marital bed is fine without it.

    I have a baby anyway.

    She’s the only person getting anything anyway.


    Little midnight milk thief she is. Haha

    Trust a Christian to try sanctify filth.

    “Reclaiming sexuality for Jesus”.



    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was spanked growing up and it seemed to be the only way to get things through to me. sometimes I think it may still be useful. I just don’t know who would do that lol.


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