Tullian Tchividjian, Personal Survivor Story, Clergy Sex Abuse
Editors’ Note: This is Rachel’s story, and she is sharing what she recalls of her relationship with Tullian Tchividjian. She is sharing her facts, opinions, and what she believes to be true. Tullian is a public figure of interest. It is not defamatory to share opinions, beliefs, and personal stories publicly. In order to prove that she is being defamatory, it would need to be shown that she knowingly told lies, and did so with malice.
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MY STORY, PART #3
#6. My Process of Repentance and Recovery (Spring 2015 Onward) and My Message for Those Drawn Into Clergy Sexual Misconduct:
There is Help and Hope for Us!
Notes from the Editors
It has been clear to us all along that Rachel was seeking to understand her experiences of being caught up in sexual misconduct with Tullian Tchividjian, process them in a way that indicated repentance and not revenge, and find a redemptive pathway in going forward. Her earliest drafts about her experiences as a survivor and her repentance and recovery processes shared practical, pointed advice. We thought Rachel had even more worth passing on to others. So, we suggested she consider an additional section, just for what she would most want to share with others who have found themselves drawn into the seductive charm of someone – especially someone held up as a Christian leader – for what you supply in terms of money, sex, and/or power.
This is what she wrote for you to consider. It combines both those streams. Some of it comes from a comment she posted as “Anonymous” on the November 21, 2016, post, “Do Unto Others” by Nate Sparks. We have added the subheadings to make it easier to locate topics.
Also, please note that Rachel is not a trained mental health professional, but she uses mental health terms in describing some of Tullian Tchividjian’s behaviors and apparent character issues. These are her opinions based on her limited knowledge, and are not meant to be a factual diagnosis.
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MANIPULATION AND ISOLATION. My family was truly taken advantage of, lied to, and abused by Tullian Tchividjian. We didn’t know him very well at first, but felt sorry for him and tried to help him as he played the victim after finding out about Kim’s alleged affair.
I saw from the inside what happened at Coral Ridge, especially in the summer of 2015 … who Tullian used and how he manipulated people, trying to secure a large financial settlement for himself from the church, while simultaneously pursuing a relationship with me, love-bombing me with promises of marriage and other such nonsense.
There is much that I knew that Tullian would hate to see become public. So he made sure he assassinated my character locally, and to all others who might care. I ended up completely cut off, isolated, with no one to help me. The church was reeling. Former Coral Ridge “friends” feared for their jobs or believed the lies about me. Some followed and pandered after Tullian, but cut me off. And he had so efficiently gaslighted me by causing distrust and fear of opening up, that I alienated myself from even pursuing appropriate help. That process lasted more than seven months.
REACHING OUT. Finally, in March this year, I reached out to Julie Anne Smith at Spiritual Sounding Board. She was the first person to tell me I had been spiritually abused. Her heart was never to bash anyone. She has protected and encouraged me, providing me with great support and contacts such as Brad/futuristguy, and Dr. Diane Langberg at Global Trauma Recovery and her lectures … I started to understand what had happened to me. Here is some of that process, and what I came to understand about myself, how I was drawn into sin, and where I now stand through recovering who I am as a repentant daughter in Christ.
COUNSELING AND ISSUES. My first question to my doctor was, “What’s wrong with me?” After a year of counseling with a great psychologist, I now understand why I was so vulnerable to sexual predation. Some had to do with my background, being subject to jealousy, and self-doubting. But much also had to do with being played by Tullian, who knew exactly how to twist those into his tools.
I am a sinner. I have truly repented and know and love the Lord more now than I ever did. But I have not had “three previous affairs,” as was said about me, though I did have one years before my being with Tullian. He knew this. Tullian also knew/suspected that my husband was having an affair. So Tullian knew how vulnerable I was. So, in all of this, I do not consider myself a victim as much as a survivor of pastoral sexual abuse.
Like other women who have shared their stories in this situation, Tullian knew my story and had scoped me out at church and online before making his calculated, patient, and very deliberate approach. Then the double entendres, the songs, the lies … subtle befriending by a man I was not physically attracted to, though I believed him to be charming, a relaxed extrovert, and very sincere.
I saw Tullian reaching out to multiple women, mostly online. He made comments about his previous relationships, mentioning names, but fabricating and embellishing details. He commented on how easy it was for a man to take advantage of young mothers in the church.
Because Tullian was my pastor, I found it easier to trust him over myself. Tullian counseled me continually during our brief relationship. He played with my mind. I was extremely vulnerable at the time. When I stepped away, asking for space, he pursued heavily. He used theology, “the gospel,” anything he could. He lied outrageously to me about many things.
DEALING WITH BLAME AND SHAME. I was at a point where I fully and completely blamed myself for ALL that had happened in my life. So, it seemed, did everyone else – my husband, his family – but some of the worst has been from the Church.
I’m still hated and ostracized in my local Christian community with Coral Ridge women perpetuating gossip. A Bible study I attended recently was sabotaged by a woman who told the others about my history and to avoid me. Women I knew from the church avoid me in public. Former friends completely cut me off … people I had truly invested in. From a church that was famous for “hyper-grace,” I received the opposite at times.
UNDERSTANDING NARCISSISM AND CHALLENGING NARCISSISTS. Not all of the hardship I have faced in the past 18 months is a direct consequences of my sin. The Lord has me in process. My first marital infidelity was a brief and very dark fling with another pathological narcissist. Openness to abuse has been a theme in my life, and one I seek to grow in understanding of so that I can help myself and perhaps others one day.
I don’t believe that Tullian will stop preying on women or manipulating people to his own ends. I have had the sad reality of being overly familiar with pathological narcissism, as Tullian was not the first narcissist in my life. In my own journey towards healing, I have pursued knowledge and understanding of this condition. I have found the lectures of Dr. Diane Langberg at Global Trauma Recovery to be very insightful.
Many of my social media rants in past months have been angry and emotional. None have been effective! (Tullian and his associates blocked me immediately each time.) I know it’s ineffective to challenge a pathological narcissist this way and expect to be listened to.
Tullian uses his theology to deflect confrontation, too. He has a dangerous and snide theology that excuses sin and reduces God to a Santa-like figure who lets us continually use His checkbook without consequence. Tullian basks in the glory of the gospel, but displays none of the obedience it calls us to.
I confess that I sometimes just get upset that such a dangerous man still is able to capture a large and sympathetic audience of my vulnerable brothers and sisters in Christ. I was sucked in more than all of them for a time, and my heart now breaks for their deception. People need the true gospel … the true gospel message involves confession of sin and repentance that leads to faith in God and good fruit. Narrow and difficult is the road that leads to life.
PREDATORS AND PREDATION. As Christians, we are told that we are vulnerable to spiritual predation. It is widespread in our churches in these latter days. Narcissistic leaders occupy pulpits all over the world.
Tullian Tchividjian was a perfect storm to form a self-absorbed personality. He had the pressures of growing up in a “Christian Royal Family” (as he put it), his “middle child syndrome,” small stature, and years as quite an extreme prodigal … the ability to find easy promotion (beyond his qualification) in the Christian world due to his family name … genetic factors … family dysfunction. Many things contributed to Tullian evolving into who he is now. And who he is, is extremely dangerous to the body of Christ.
I do not believe Tullian can stop. He is addicted to his narcissistic supply. He pretends he is submitting to godly counselors, but he merely has “yes men” and “pocket pets”… people he can control. Once he burns bridges or gets caught in lies, he moves on to new horizons. He continually is scheming up a plan. He blocks all challenge and believes his own fantasy narrative. And he is incredibly, incredibly, charming, deceitful, and cunning. He fools even highly intelligent people and creates hierarchies of supporters, both male and female. He feeds off the attention others give him. He lies pathologically and appears totally immune to conscience.
I’ve learned that narcissists like Tullian rarely stop unless they are forced to. Tullian so far has been enabled by financial benefactors and moral supporters to find a market for his message. The bad press has not deterred the online masses who fawn over him, never having any personal dealings with him at all.
We sheep try to believe the best about others. We know we are sinners and try not to “judge” our brothers and sisters. We ponder the good, the noble, the true, the lovely, the praiseworthy; thus, we have no defense against wolves of Tullian’s kind. Furthermore, it is often the most broken of us who crave to know the Lord’s acceptance and love. Thus, Tullian, and those like him, appeal to and prey on the spiritually vulnerable.
Tullian speaks a lot about grace for the fallen. And it is true, God promises us beauty for the ashes of our broken and misspent lives. But these beautiful promises are contingent on our full repentance – and this means turning from sin, fleeing from it, and making right where possible. Tullian argues that people shouldn’t judge his repentance … how could they know his heart before the Lord? Well, Jesus says, “By their fruits you shall know them.”
“And that,” in the words of Forrest Gump, “is all I have to say about that.”
DEALING WITH DETRACTORS. When people shout about grace for the abuser, they don’t know how foolish they are. Tullian had an outpouring of love and support at every turn, regardless of his antics. I get it. I was his “Adrian” to his “Rocky Balboa” … he said he “needed a woman who would stand by him regardless” … it sounds so weak and utterly pathetic. And I was weak and utterly pathetic, for a season. But if you haven’t been there yourself, you really cannot comprehend what the darkness of sociopathic manipulation is like.
When people blame the abused, highlighting the sin of adultery, they do damage they don’t realize. They don’t understand what it is to be preened and how much self-blame the victim is already drowning in. I have been seeing a psychologist for the past year to deal with those issues. Many of Tullian’s victims I know well still have very raw wounds and ongoing issues.
FINDING DEFENDERS AND DEVELOPING NEW FRIENDSHIPS. I’m very thankful for “the Sheep Lady” …. she has helped me immensely. [“Sheep Lady” is a reference to Julie Anne Smith, whose Twitter account is @DefendTheSheep, and Tullian apparently pressured his inner circle of protectors to go after her on social media and “Go get this b****! Please.”]
Furthermore, the Lord has brought other friendships with women into my life. These women had been married at one time to men with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Their lives were utterly train-wrecked and it was no fault of their own. For the narcissist, character assassination and a profoundly illogical inability to empathize with the victim is classic behavior. The narcissist lives in his own grandiose world. His former victims are complete trash to him and he seeks to see them trampled down beyond the ability to ever recover. His words about me to Lisa exemplify this.
GOD’S PURPOSES. I want those reading to understand that, despite how it looks, I do not hate Tullian Tchividjian or wish to hurt or unnecessarily embarrass him. I’m not bitter about what happened to me. The Lord allowed all of it for some reasons He has revealed to me and probably others He has not (and that I may never understand this side of eternity). We don’t know the depth of evil in our own hearts and cannot challenge Him on His dealings with us. I trust Him with my life. He is truly good and humble and kind and beautiful. But His justice is very pure and His discipline is intense. How could we trust Him as a Father otherwise?
PURPOSES, APOLOGIES, THANKS, AND ENCOURAGEMENTS. I am genuinely concerned for Tullian Tchividjian’s soul and his well-being. I know I am very obviously a sinner. I cannot judge Tullian’s standing before God. I have been judged, painfully and horribly myself by the church. I have been chastened by the Lord, which was worse!
I’m expecting to be criticized heavily for speaking out as I have. (Tullian terrified me preemptively about ever speaking out. I promised him I wouldn’t. But the Lord has more authority in my life now.) Perhaps I will be ostracized more than I have been already. My word may be doubted by all who still love and adore Tullian
. It seems almost impossible to believe the facts I’ve stated about him, but I assure you, before God, it’s all the truth. And I strongly believe, before the Lord, that now is His time for my story to be told and I want you to know that this is the main reason why I came forward.
I also wish to apologize publicly to all those who have been affected by my sin. I have had an opportunity to talk personally with Kim Tchividjian. I contributed to her very great pain and that of her and Tullian’s children. I know my revelations are not easy for his family to hear, or for Stacie and their new family. But I believe they are important nonetheless.
I hope and trust that my testimony will accomplish its divine purposes and perhaps help some of Tullian’s other victims who have been unable to share their stories. I can confirm Kara’s testimony about her interaction with me as the truth. I thank both Kara and Lisa for being brave enough to speak up. Their stories add to my own understanding and healing.
I also would like to thank Julie Anne Smith and Brad Sargent (brad/futuristguy) of Spiritual Sounding Board for coming alongside me last March and for being there since. The first time I heard of the “Defend the Sheep” lady, I was with Tullian. I wondered who she was and commented to him that I couldn’t understand why other Christians had to be “such haters.” How ignorant I was! As time went on, I read Julie Anne’s blog and realized that she had pinned Tullian perfectly. She was asking all the right questions. I reached out to her and thus began my journey of understanding truly what had happened to me. It took me a long time to figure out the sad truth about who Tullian really is.
Julie Anne and Brad work incessantly and fight tirelessly to highlight abuse systems in the Body of Christ. I was never pressurized by them into coming forward with my story. I was protected continually (especially when I started emotionally ranting on social media using my real name!). They have become my friends, and I am truly thankful for their faithful and vital ministries to the church and to the victims of spiritual abuse. Their job is unpopular, laborious, and difficult. They are misunderstood greatly. Their reward, I believe, will be from the Lord Himself.
Lastly, if you are a woman who has been affected by Tullian or another abusive pastor, please, please reach out for help. It is important that you come to a full understanding of what happened to you so that the healing process can begin.
I know that coming forward to find help is daunting, that you would probably rather forget the details. You may fear the consequences of speaking up and seeking help. But your life is precious to the Lord and He wants you to find Him in even this.
Jesus is so lovely. He has a special place for “women like us.” He can take away our shame and commission us for His use. Our life is not on the scrap heap. Out of the ash, He brings us hope. True hope. In all the small and large details of my life the past 18 months, He has been close and has shown Himself to be my true friend and lover. I question Him often … but I know, love, and trust Him more now than I ever did. And that is my hope and prayer for you, too …