Bethlehem Baptist Church, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Excommunication, Spiritual Abuse
Over a year ago (November 1, 2016), I posted the article, 1-1/2 years Later, Bethlehem Baptist Church Doesn’t Seem to get Domestic Violence: A Personal Story. I have a followup to that article.
For those who have never read the story, I will repost most of the article here, and then will catch you up on new developments.
1-1/2 years Later, Bethlehem Baptist Church Doesn’t Seem to get Domestic Violence: A Personal Story
Nov. 1, 2016
Almost 1-1/2 years ago, I wrote an article about John Piper’s former church, Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC) regarding domestic violence, Encouraging Shift from Bethlehem Baptist Church Regarding Domestic Abuse and Care for Abused Women. Around that time, BBC pastor, Jason Meyer, preached a sermon and humbly expressed how he and his church had not handled domestic violence appropriately.
You can listen to the sermon or read the transcript here: Fooled by False Leadership
The following is the opening paragraph of the Elders’ Statement which was also released at the same time:
Elders’ Statement on Domestic Abuse
We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.
I was cautiously optimistic about the steps Bethlehem Baptist seemed to be taking. They brought in professionals to help them learn and understand domestic violence signs. They professed to want a heart to empathize with women who were harmed by domestic violence.
One domestic violence case was ongoing at that time. Natalie had reached out to the Bethlehem Baptist leaders for help years earlier. But now, the church leadership was doing a complete overhaul in how they were going to counsel when there was abuse involved . . . . or so they implied.
One of the most destructive forms of abuse is emotional abuse. It’s destructive because it can go on for years. A wife (or husband) can get so beaten down by emotional abuse that she minimizes her own abuse, or blames herself for the abuse. When a woman finally understands what is happening to her and eventually reaches out for help, a lot of time has gone under the bridge. The very last thing she needs is to prove to her church leadership that she is being abused. But that is exactly what happens to so many survivors. The victim has to plead her case before her church leaders and is put on trial to see if the abuse she has claimed is in fact true.
It’s important to note that the church leaders at BBC were trained to understand about emotional abuse. Here is a quote from Pastor Meyer’s sermon from 1-1/2 years ago:
Emotional abuse is a pattern in the use of words and actions to assault, reorder, and control the emotions and affective state of the other person for the achievement of selfish ends. The more intense and longstanding the pattern, the more destructive it is to people.
So now, 1-1/2 years later, where is Natalie, and how has her case been handled?
I’ll let Natalie’s words speak for herself:
Last night the elders of Bethlehem Baptist shared a few blatant lies along with some half-truths spun in context of those lies. They planted a few false ideas that never came up in my case (infidelity?) as well as left out pertinent information in order to flavor their testimony against me to the congregation. They did this publically and shamelessly. They murdered me last night in the eyes of many people who will never have access to the truth. I’ve been scared to death for years of what they could do to me. How they could ruin my life. But I’m pretty sure lying about me and shaming me is the worst they can do. What they’ve indirectly done to my children is the thing that really breaks my heart and pisses me off.
Are you my friend? You scared to stand with me? The BIG D for Divorce will be on my chest soon, and I’m the one who initiated it! Sinner Woman. Jezebel. The unforgiveable sin. I’m a pariah now. An outcast. All because I couldn’t gut out the hell of being married to my Ex for another 25 years.
I’m sick to death of living in fear of destructive men and organizations who control other people by using THE BIBLE. By claiming they have the radar on God while others don’t. They say I was not emotionally abused by my Ex for 24 years. Like they know. They call my story a “biased narrative” so they can minimize and dismiss it. They say I have no right to divorce him. They dismiss the 23 years I worked my butt off trying to fix my marriage, cooperate with all the men-leaders, be respectful, be vulnerable, grovel in sorrow and repentance, and obey – and when I finally say I can’t do it anymore – my kids need me, I need to heal, to focus on God, to move forward, they call me “resistant.” I needed and asked for friendship and love. They betrayed me with a smile on their face and a Bible verse on their lips. They use spiritual abuse to control women and children and even other men. This is reprehensible, and I will spend the rest of my life exposing it wherever I see it.
Call me angry. Call me rebellious. Call me a lunatic. Call me a bitch. Call me whatever you want. Spew out your venomous lies to serve your misogynistic agendas. My Creator calls me Beloved. He calls me Daughter, and I choose to believe and obey Him. No more groveling. No more apologies. I wanted to keep this private and protect my Ex and my church. But Bethlehem is just chomping at the bit to excommunicate me publically [sic]. Fine. You want to bring this to the public square? (And don’t drivel about how it’s “private” within the church. That’s a silly notion rooted in unreality.)
I dare you to show support. And if you can’t – you’re no real friend of mine and no real friend of women and children, in general. You’re only a cog in the well-oiled system of abuse. Be gone from me.
Yes. There’s a big, fat, deep line in the sand, and it’s time to rock and roll.
I think BBC leadership has forgotten what they were committed to do 1-1/2 years ago:
Remember the point of these passages in 2 Corinthians and the emphasis on deceit, disguise, and cunning. Abusers are not walking around wearing wife-beater shirts any more than Satan’s servants are going to carry pitchforks or have 666 tattooed on their foreheads. Abusers can be so charming around other people—that is part of the deception. Do you think they will really show their true colors in public? Don’t judge by appearances and discount what a woman says with flippant incredulity. Think about how much she is risking by saying anything at all. Take it seriously. Tell her that you believe her, that God hates abuse, and that you are committed to help her.
New Development: November 2017
Last month, November 2017, Natalie was sent the following letter from Bethlehem Baptist Church:
November 16, 2017
This letter is to inform you that, as per your request for membership removal from Bethlehem Baptist Church, action was taken on October 29, 2017, at a regular quarterly business meeting of the members of Bethlehem Baptist Church to dismiss you from membership by reason of church discipline.
We love you Natalie and will continue to pray for you and your family.
Chuck Steddom, Lead Pastor
Bethlehem Baptist Church, south campus
You read that right. When Natalie came to the conclusion that the leadership at Bethlehem Baptist was not willing to truly support her, and instead wanted her to remain married to her emotionally abusive spouse, she left the church and requested they remove her from church membership. This letter was their response. Natalie was excommunicated from Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Wives are expected to remain married to their emotionally abusive spouses. You have to go through hoops to pass their test before they give you permission to make a decision like divorce. They did not live in her home to experience what she went through, yet sitting from their comfortable office chairs, they can make a decision to keep a family in harm’s way, in an emotional prison, or encourage them to move on and reject the evil that has perpetrated their lives.
Natalie is now in a safe place. She is divorced and is happy starting her new life.
Natalie posted these thoughts about receiving the excommunication letter:
The recent letter of excommunication from Bethlehem Baptist has me reflecting on those years of trying to get help.
When I stood up for myself, I was told I was over stepping.
When I fell apart I was told to consider whether or not I was operating out of the victim mentality or as a child of God.
I was told that my emails were too long and it took a long time to process them.
I was told to back off.
I was told I had him under a microscope.
When I forwarded educational articles on the subject of abuse, I was told to be cautious about the messages that I was getting from those articles.
I was given the message that, as a victim, I knew little. They were my “rescuers” and they knew best.
I was told what to do and when to do it, and if I didn’t do it their way, I was rebuked. Eventually they told me I was “not under their authority.”
When I finally said I appreciated their
“Help” but I was ready to move forward with some other options, I was told I made them feel bad for “firing” them.
In reality the victim knows more about her situation than anyone. Wise helpers listen and learn. They don’t control and dictate.
Despite the fact that leaders at Bethlehem Baptist Church had specialized training from domestic violence experts, I cannot encourage anyone to attend this church. The leaders at the Bethlehem Baptist Churches are ill-equipped to handle domestic violence. Their instructions can put women in harm’s way.
If you are a domestic violence survivor and currently in counseling at Bethlehem Baptist, and things have not improved on the on the home front, I encourage you to seek outside, even secular counsel. It is not God’s plan that any woman remain a prisoner in her own home with an evil tyrant.
If you need any help, Kathi and I have collected resources and are happy to help you find information in your area. Please do not hesitate to reach out. We know how difficult this is.
55 thoughts on “Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence”
That letter is a complete sham. (almost typed shame. Also true).
Polite, businesslike, at the membership meeting…church discipline. facepalm
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Incredible. It’s legalistic and navel-gazing control and legalistic interpretations of the Bible on divorce driving this church. They harm this woman in the name of being “biblical.” Sickening. May she find a real safe haven to recover. And may more people speak out that this is an abusive approach to using the Bible and teaching church life and expose it inside hundreds/maybe thousands of conservative “Bible-believing” churches.
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Huh? I thought once you requested to leave a church, they legally could not excommunicate you. It’s like firing someone who has just quit, right?
Actually by taking this action against her, the church leaders confirmed everything Natalie said about them.
Bravo Natalie for leaving your hellish marriage and even more hellish church!!
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“We love you Natalie and will continue to pray for you and your family.”
Which really means, “We’ve just betrayed you and kicked you in the teeth, but you need to understand that it was your own fault for being so rebellious and failing to submit to our god-like authority over your life. And now watch how we say the “right” words to prove that we are much more godly and righteous than you can ever hope to be.
I got the same sort of self-righteous crap from the men who drove me out of leadership in the church. Makes me want to vomit!
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I always love the wheels of justice. I’m sure they spared nothing to rush the case to the membership meeting, and then two weeks later figured they might get around to actually notifying her of the results.
To Sandra… There is a difference between what the church thinks it has the right to do and what it legally has the right to do. If I read TWW correctly, BBC has violated her constitutional right of free association, by refusing to remove her membership until the subsequently stuck their dagger in.
However, the church I was a member of still has it in their Constitution that members must “request” transfer or dismissal, and said dismissal may or may not be approved, especially if the “request” is considered to be trying to avoid discipline.
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Some of the false and harmful “beliefs” that this church and others have are:
Divorce is always a sin and anyone who pursues it is rebellious.
The church has “biblical” authority over members to shepherd (control) and exercise church discipline (so if you question us, you are outside God’s system and are considered not a true believer)
Women are to be submissive (hey, it’s in the Bible!)
Leaving church without a good reason (like, because its too controlling!) is sinful, kind of like divorce
The Bible has authority (well, at least our way of interpreting it!) over everyone who calls themselves a believer
In actuality, the following is true because it is based on the premiere principal of Love:
*Sometimes divorce is a gift from God
*Only God has real authority, not some hierarchy of church leaders
*Women are equals with men – there is neither male nor female in Christ
*Leaving institutional church is of no consequence; harming other people is.
*Jesus’ love ethic is the only authority for us to follow
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Matthew 23 restated: Then Jesus said, “The pastors today think they sit in Moses’ seat… do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on women’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: they love the place of honor in the pulpit and the most important seats at conference; they love to be greeted in the foyer and to have everyone call them “pastor.” But you are not to be called “pastor” for you have only one pastor and you are all brothers… you have one Father, and he is in heaven… you have one Teacher, the Christ. If those pastors want to be so great, they will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, pastors and elders, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in women’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those women enter who are trying to. Woe to you, pastors, you hypocrites! You devour abused women’s houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. …You blind guides! You strain out a gnat (the abused woman’s story) but swallow a camel (the lies of the abuser). You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (yes, it is wicked to excommunicate an abused woman looking to you for help). So you testify against yourselves…”
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Good for Natalie! It sounds like she’s escaped from a truly sick and twisted religion. May others like her find the fortitude to do the same. May Providence grant that the hundreds if not thousands of both men and women who languish in these spiritual prisons can escape too.
Thanks JA and Natalie for speaking out about this. 🙂
One of the people who provided Domestic Abuse training to Bethlehem Baptist was Ps Chris Moles. It appears that training was useless.
I’m working on a series of posts about Chris Moles. It will be published in about mid January at A Cry For Justice.
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And here is post in which I give evidence that the senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist, Jason Meyer, is happy for people to talk about domestic abuse in mutualising language and to airbrush the fact that perpetrators are the sole cause of abuse.
Yes. Same ole story. I went to elders and pastor/s for help. But husband had been spreading untruths behind my back for prob a decade about my anger abuse lies disrespect disregard etc. Needless to say… I was not believed. He had even taken up a ‘friendship’ with a women in the congregation. They’ve started dating. He filed for divorce. He remained active in church work. I got NO support and my ‘friends’ disappeared. However… I remember in God’s economy all things will be made right…. or not. His Will be done. 🙏🏼
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I read this letter and let out a choice word. What strikes me along with the “we love you” b.s. is the statement is , “dismiss you from membership by reason of church discipline.” They did not truly dismiss Natalie because she requested it, they dismissed her because they put her in discipline. Even with this letter they are attempting to hold power over her. This also means that if another church were to call BBC to inquire about her leaving, they would state that they have on record that she was released under church discipline.
This is shameful behavior.
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I’m so sorry this is happening to you, Natalie.
It doesn’t surprise me. Same old story. It’s a men’s club and it doesn’t give a stuff about the truth.
You know and God knows the truth.
And these guys must have little fear of the Lord.
You are better off without them.
And God doesn’t hate divorce more than he hates men who treat their wives like dirt.
There is no shame in walking away. You are not a punching bag.
We love you.
This is just so disgusting on so many levels. This church has incompetent, mean spirited and dishonest leadership.
Folks this is another case that screams out: don’t trust pastors and “church people”. Don’t join churches, sign church covenants, applications or membership contracts. Just don’t do it.
The church has become a institution that will just suck the life out of you, steal your money through clever manipulation and toss you away like garbage when it’s convenient. If you really think your church gives a dam about you, just quit for a bit and see what happens. Stop giving and they will notice immediately, but other than that, they could careless about you. The church is not about true ministry, people and spreading the gospel. All of this is just a means of sucking in tons of cash to support the institution they worship.
In my mind the church has earned a place of priority of maybe a 7/11 or Circle K convenience store. I might go to a certain store that is close to my home , has nice clerks or 2 for 99 cents hotdog days but that’s it. They screw up, l move 10 feet away or another place starts carrying Hebrew National all beef and the relationship is over because it never really was a relationship.
We must come to view a specific church the same way. Don’t commit to it, share your personal life or even give them your address. Be ready to dump it and bolt. Don’t get so plugged in that your whole world crashes when it does because it will sooner or later. Have a network of friends outside of your church. Refuse to be owned by your church or have your whole life revolve around it. Remember, it’s just one of many “convenience stores”. Sorry, but despite what you might currently think there is nothing all that special about your church. It’s disposable, view it that way and you will be fine.
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Sandra wrote, “I thought once you requested to leave a church, they legally could not excommunicate you.” Legally, they can refuse to eat bread and wine (or wafer and juice) with whoever they choose. They can “dismiss” someone who already resigned even though it’s lunacy. Where they get in legal trouble is when they “lovingly” pursue the person who left. Then they’ve gotten into the stalking/harassment business.
Bottom line— Never sign a church covenant with 9Marxist language in it.
If you already have, you should resign immediately and keep attending if you like– no lengthy explanation required. This will usually just mean you can’t vote (if the church lets you vote to begin with) or hold certain positions. If they get mad over this or refuse to accept your resignation– leave and don’t go to any other church which take them seriously.
Mark wrote, “I always love the wheels of justice. I’m sure they spared nothing to rush the case to the membership meeting, and then two weeks later figured they might get around to actually notifying her of the results.”
I thought about the wheels of justice when reading one pastor’s article extolling the virtues of “church discipline”. After talking about how “church discipline” protects the flock from bad guys, he then says that in his church it’s a process that usually takes 1-3 YEARS! So all that time they let someone they think is a wolf stay there feasting on mutton before supposedly “taking it to the church” for a dismembership vote.
Back to the specifics of this case– The Elders’ Statement on Domestic abuse is rotten in several ways, regardless of how poorly they may have implemented it.
First: Abuse is supposedly bad “because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride,” and therefore pastors “hold up high the stunning picture” of complementarianism. So abuse ruins the notion that husbands somehow depict or image Christ’s love for the church. Then the neighbors are supposed to ask what they must do to be saved, or the culture is supposed to be influenced, or the demons are supposed to tremble. They have this bass-ackwards. And unmarried people can’t participate in this wonderful ministry. No– IF you happen to be married, you can look to Christ and the Church as an example. Sorry for the hobby horse– the larger problem here is that domestic abuse is not always husband against wife. It may be one unmarried partner against another. Parent against child. Sibling against sibling. Younger against elder.
Second: “The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused…”
No– the shepherds can’t possibly do this. They should teach the flock to do so.
Third: The shepherds “discipline the unrepentant”. No– discipline of the unrepentant is God’s job. In the Bible, no brother (or sister) disciplines a brother. (Well, Cain disciplined Abel, Absalom disciplined Amnon, the patriarchs disciplined Joseph, Esau tried to discipline Jacob etc)
Finally, in the original but not in the OP, they conclude “If you are a woman experiencing domestic abuse and would like counsel from a female “first responder” who is a member at Bethlehem, please contact care@hopeinGod.org…”
Uh– some domestic abuse is DANGEROUS and CRIMINAL and you MIGHT just want to get somewhere safe and contact THE COPS.
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Mary27, thank you for Matthew 23 restated! It’s great!
Thank you Julie Anne and Natalie for keeping us up to date.
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Dave AA, yes, “church discipline” is a control mechanism. 1-3 years may mean the time they make the disciplined jump through hoops, meet with accountability group, etc., before “restored.” It becomes highly subjective and legalistic as people can be “disciplined” for the most petty things (e.g. not attending church during the summer because of job responsibilities) to behavior legalistically condemned (often sexual – e.g. sex or even heavy petting before marriage or a “rebellious spirit.”). Very cultish and control-freakish in the name of being “biblical” and “the gospel.” Then if someone does something really bad, like molest children, the “discipline” is easy on the molester (After all, we need to forgive! Can’t tell the authorities, we do things biblically, not like the world!) and hard on the victim (You can’t forgive? You can’t stand being in church with the molester there? You have a bitter streak!!).
scott, I don’t agree with everything you said about church, but this is definitely a good idea. Diversification in finance is good, it’s also good in friend groups.
And if people aren’t your friends just because you don’t go to church with them anymore, they weren’t real friends they were ‘church friends’. Similar to ‘work friends’. They’re friendly because you’re kind of in the same place at the same time. Except most work friends don’t shun you because you change jobs!
DaveAA, you’re exactly right that this is backwards! It’s all surface, how things ‘look’ not how they are. It defaces the ‘depiction’???? What about it harms an actual human person who actually matters?! Ugh.
They don’t count. Especially unmarried women, since they are doing their own thing and under no ones thumb. Dangerous.
I should say, you get the impression with these people they only hate abuse because it’s bad PR. Which makes their solutions (shut up about it, woman) make more sense.
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Exactly, Lea, get her out of church because she has a mouth and will share with others about her broken marriage and we weren’t able to save it., rather than: let’s do what we can to love and support her, and keep her safe from her abuser.
Yes! That is an excellent explanation for why they want the woman gone in these cases.
Why, you might wonder, would they keep the man? Maybe because he can be relied on to lie about his wife? Maybe his lies in these cases will go quite well with the complementarian/patriarchal bent of the church? They can say ‘see this woman, she didn’t keep to her ‘role’ and that’s why this marriage didn’t last.
Whereas if she stays, and heaven forbid if she prospers, they might find others in the church questioning when they are in similar circumstances, that if she did alright on her own, why can’t I?
Exactly, Lea. If they befriend him, he will be forever speaking their praises about how the church handled his horrible wife and protected him. He can be an example for what happens when wives fail to submit.
Lea asked, “Why, you might wonder, would they keep the man?”
I think it’s because they identify with the husband and sympathize with him in his predicament. They also are husbands trying to keep their wives under control and they don’t want their wives getting any ideas. In one case the counseling pastor was horrified that the abused wife had read some sexy emails her husband had exchanged with another woman, and his reaction was to say, “It’s wrong for wives to read their husband’s emails. My wife wouldn’t do that.” I couldn’t help thinking, “Maybe she should?” (And why wasn’t it wrong for him to write and receive the emails to begin with?)
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Abusers are great manipulators. Many probably wondered how he could ever act the way he did. He probably said all the right things and told the elders he was doing all the right things. Meanwhile, behind closed doors he was a very different person. It’s safer for the leadership to uphold the abuser who in all appearances seems to be the perfect Christian. It’s messier, more complicated, and heartbreaking to admit that the victim is right, especially because she doesn’t want to play by the rules.
It’s a good job BBC is not an employer. Reading their letter above, which (thanks Kathi) I also found confusing, the following scenario comes to mind:
I wish to tender my voluntary resignation effective from the end of the month in accordance with my terms and conditions. Yours faithfully ….
regarding your letter of 2nd inst., we now hereby confirm you have been summarily dismissed from the service of the company on the grounds or gross misconduct. No references will be provided.
We wish you all the best in your future career.
Yours etc ‘
I have in the distant past had a minor altercation on the subject of Church Membership, and it can’t half get to you when they do silly, officious things with it.
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This really just makes me sick! I’m glad she’s out but they certainly thought they would give her a last jab.
So we left our church of many years also. I had never asked for a stinking thing from them and when I went to two people in leadership and begged for a phone call ( didn’t tell them the reason but it was possible infidelity) Not…. One… Call! Nope. Nada. So when my husband finally met our Pastor for lunch and asked him for the name of a counselor, he said he didn’t have the name of one! What the flying heck????
Top that off with the guy who dated my daughter for 4 months, dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him in the house he built in our neighborhood, and left the next day to drive along with his two kids- the church bus to take teens to camp in another state… nice Christian man that he is!
Hooks up with other single mom( my daughters friend( ex friend) and married that one 3 months later. They are all in their 30’s but the whole thing played out like a high school drama. He told everyone at church they never dated. Found out later he was dating 3 of them at the same time.
Top that off with the disturbing fact that he may have drugged her once after serving her coffee and her feeling extremely tired. She definitely dodged a bullet but they know about it and still let him drive that church bus with his new wife.
We don’t go there anymore! Of course my daughter is the “ Crazy One” because she called the church and cussed them out big time!!… lol .. She felt better afterwards!!
mwcamp wrote ‘”church discipline” is a control mechanism.’ I think we should not allow any of the control mechanisms to go unchallenged. Otherwise, even if a case gets attention, like The Villiage, they’ll just say “We apologize if mistakes were made. We’ll do better next time.” They’re still convinced their mechanisms are commanded by God, and a few squashed people along the way are just anomalies.
Lea wrote, “It defaces the ‘depiction’???? What about it harms an actual human person who actually matters?!” As I said above– the actual harmed human person is an anomaly. The “depiction” is all-important. To whom exactly it is depicted is hardly ever spelled out.
BBC leadership could not stand by and allow Natalie to leave of her own choice and accord (her rejecting them after how they cruelly treated her). They had to appear to be in control and have the last word…. insisting on taking (the dubious and damning) credit for kicking her out due to “discipline”. They appear to take pride in proclaiming they are pushing her out, even when that’s not true (she resigned).
Recently Pastor Jeff Crippen wrote a wonderful post on his blog “Light For Dark Times” that specifically addresses this kind phenomena…real Christians being driven or booted from their church by false leadership. I hope it’s ok to post the link to that, I really think he has some wise words about what is happening.
Natalie, if you’re reading this, I think you are very brave and I hope your life is getting better every day that you’re away from that situation.
S of J – I looked at your link. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought similar things for years and years. Not everything that calls itself church is church.
Look at what happens when someone is ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (I’m not being particularly ‘pentecostal’ here). Antagonism from other members, often jealousy. Don’t rock the boat. This isn’t something you can fake, only God can do this, unlike so much ‘ministry’ that is wholly based on human abilities. Nothing supernatural at all. The wisdom that is earthly, soulish (natural/unspiritual), demonic in James 3.
I knew an Anglican vicar personally who had been an ordained minister for 14 years before he became a Christian. Everybody soon got to know it when he did! When I knew him (which was later), he told me that he didn’t believe a single one of the 9 ministers in his local deanery were actually believers.
Whilst we have to use discernment in this area, we will probably have to live with it in this age, the final separation of the sheep from the goats, wheat and tares is still future. But it’s defnitely coming!
I cannot for the life of me understand how someone who attends a church and abuses others for years and years can possibly think they are going to get away with it when they stand before a God who will bring every deed into the light, and judge every careless word.
KAS, “I cannot for the life of me understand how someone who attends a church and abuses others for years and years can possibly think they are going to get away with it when they stand before a God who will bring every deed into the light, and judge every careless word.”
I think the point is that they don’t believe in God. “God” is just a tool to use to manipulate their targets, and get what they really want which is the respect and admiration of men.
I was fooled into this mentality quite a bit (I was born and raised steeped in it). Leaders who blurred the difference between what “THEY” said and what “God” said. Obedience to them was obedience to God and obedience to God was obedience to them. So, the approval of men (in the club) was conflated with the approval of God. In addition, when they told you to do things they didn’t have the right to, their peers and superiors always backed them up, because they might need the same backing.
I think this is going to be a common theme until the end of time. Here are the themes that lead to victim blaming.
Favoritism of the breadwinner over the stay-at-home mom
Male favoritism of other males
Refusal to admit they were wrong (he was welcomed, member in good standing, etc.)
Denial that something that horrific could happen in THEIR perfect church
Blaming the messenger
Breaking the silence could break the status quo and people might get upset and leave
The abuser is less “messy” than the victim
The only temporal solution I see is exactly what is going on here. We need to expose the deeds of darkness so that churches that side with the abusers can’t sweep it under the rug. They know that whatever decision they make will be publicly exposed and debated.
I know of a church that refused a divorce due to pornography. Thankfully, when many found out, they got upset and left, after telling the leaders they were WRONG.
I think this something that you might fall into because of lack of knowledge, believing the abusive person because they sound reasonable. Which makes sense, because they aren’t upset. they aren’t in pain. They are causing the pain. Some part of this is simple misogyny, since women are deemed ’emotional’ regardless, so that feeds into it.
I think it’s some of this, definitely. I think others think they believe in God, but they are blind to their own prejudices. If you are steeped in this male hierarchy authoritarian nonsense, you might need something serious to knock you out of it.
But others I really really doubt. I do NOT know how some one can stand in front of an actual living, breathing person who is hurting and treat them so callously and still believe. What is you believe in, at that point?
I think it’s the flip side of what JA said on the RZIM post. Their Biblical Counseling training tells them that once they have identified the “sin”, that they need to stay laser-focused on that and not let the person pull them off target.
I read this clearly in an article Paul Tripp wrote in the OPC magazine. “Perhaps one party draws most of the attention because he acts with his fists. But, on closer inspection, the other party may skillfully and perversely wield her tongue in ways that goad him to violence. Outbursts of violence are usually extreme instances in more widespread, low-grade patterns of conflict. Look for the common sins that both parties share, not just the unique outbreaks of sin in one party.”
So, he and other Biblical Counselors are already looking for whatever they can pin on the victim in the first meeting. Not surprising that BBC found “something” and then continued to make a mountain out of that molehill while making a molehill out of the husband’s mountain.
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“The fool (i.e. the morally reprobate) says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ”
Whatever they say in public about trusting in Jesus, their treatment of Natalie is evidence of what they say in their hearts.
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I had another light go off… The Paul Tripp quote. I would never hit my wife. I would divorce her before I hit her. I fully expect that if I hit her she would get a divorce. Yet, in the Paul Tripp quote, there’s really no apparent concern for the fact that there is no appropriate place for battery in a marriage. It’s one thing if she slapped him and he hit her, but Tripp is saying that battery is just a little bit more bad than a tongue lashing. In fact, the wording suggests… “well, yeah, he hit you, but look what YOU did. You were goading him. Of course he’s going to hit you if you goad him.”
I’m wondering if that is a necessary conclusion of complementarian + authoritarian theology. That is, if the husband is the head of the wife just like he is the head of the family, then it makes sense that DV is just a necessary next step. Kind of like a spank for the kids.
Also, the mentality is that it’s “okay” for the husband to divorce his wife (just like parents can divorce their children in the OT), but not okay for the wife to divorce the husband. Also, it’s more tolerated for the husband to be abusive than for the wife to be “rebellious”.
In other words, in an authoritarian, complementarian church, it is seemingly much more important to preserve and promote the authority structure than it is to punish abusers.
“We love you Natalie and will continue to pray for you and your family.”
Regardless of the specifics of the case whether Natalie was the most egregious sinner or not, the last statement is straight out of religious satire from a site like landoverbaptist.org. Churches like Bethlehem Baptist have become caricatures of themselves.
Churches treat me badly because I have no money or honey. My pastor’s wife keeps telling me to substitute teach though I’m suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome now and can’t afford a car on $750 a month.
I learned long ago growing up in the parsonage that what’s inside doesn’t count cause no one can see. Appearance is the most important thing in the world! Look perfect or Mrs. Crabapple the cranky elder’s wife will yell at your parents later. Accuse them of not spanking you enough–though they do it almost every day.
Growing up I Mom worried I was too fat and kept putting me on 1200 calorie diets and watching everything I ate like a hawk. Some mothers feed their kids too much; mine showed her love by keeping food from me and shaming my body.
So sick of putting on a pose. Every Sunday I feel like I’m going to a masquerade. Last thing we want is to be honest and look each other in the face. Whole thing is crazy making!
Kudos to Natalie (and Julie Anne) for sharing this experience. Too often, “christian” leaders want to hide evil to save their reputations, not to solve a problem or provide comfort or resolution to the victim. They say it shines a bad light on Christ, when it really shines a much deserved bad light on them. Ephesians 5:11-14. I will share this info about Bethlehem Baptist as widely as I can.
I have seen both sides the fence at BBC. One was a man that was emotionally abusive and “in anger” too often at his wife! Now this. I was much closer to the first case, In both cases, BBC handled it poorly. I tend to feel like its hunting season at BBC and in if your not wearing a yellow vest saying “I live Piper” your going to get shot at at BBC
There has been some reference to biblical counseling. OF course, BBC is steeped in biblical counseling. its a mess at Bethlehem Baptist, IMO
When I went to my pastor for help he would not even meet with me, he sent his wife instead. All she had to say, despite me being very clear that I was in fear for my safety, in addition to the emotional torment I was subjected to for years, I was told to keep praying for God to soften his heart. I was told to look inward and ask God to help me be the best godly wife I could be, because I should be the example of Gods love to my husband. My husband would see god working in me, as evidenced by me not fighting back, being submissive, always staying calm even in the midst of his chaos, and loving & respecting my husband despite how he was treating me. When I did finally tell my husband I was filing for divorce, even though I had repeatedly been told that god hates divorce, I endured the worst physical assault ever dished out by him, had a knife pulled on me, threatened with death, my 4 year old son ripped from my arms as I tried to flee after being held hostage for hours. I was finally able to get to a phone. He went to jail. The divorce was finalized 3 months later. I called the pastors wife to tell her what happened. I got the standard, Im so sorry, if you need anything let us know. I had no job, he had taken money from our account and hid it. I had 60 days to move out before the protective order expired. I never got a call from the pastor, or his wife, checking on me. Instead the pastor was talking with my husband, because according to my pastor, “It takes two to fight and divorce was not the answer.” Again, it was my fault. All the church ever did was put the onuson me to be a better wife, pray for him, and extend him grace because his heart was hardened. No responsibility on the abuser. No support was offered to me, not even any kind words. I had already been made to feel like I just needed to do better, and now, I was the sinful one for leaving. I left the church forever at that point. And I left the misguided teachings of an ancient misogynist book we call the bible, behind as well. My story is not unique and that is the problem. My story is rampant in churches across the entire world. Quite frankly, I came to the conclusion that if god really loved the church, he wouldnt have allowed man to destroy it. But man has destroyed it because man built it, just as man wrote the book that dictates the lives of people that attend it. I finally realized it was all false teachings. I refuse to believe in a god that allows this to happen. That allows his teachings to become so twisted that women literally die because they are told not to leave. I dont want any part of it. And letting go of all of it was the most freeing thing ever. But to all of you in the church that enable this to happen, that do nothing more than say “well those people aren’t real christians” you are failing your own make belief god, because his church is the very reason that I no longer buy into the fantasy. My son was traumatized beyond what any of you could imagine, and I will not ever teach him that god will use his horrifc experience to help others, or that this was all part of a divine plan. Unlike the godly father, I will do everything to protect my son, never allowing him to think that his suffering is justified, so that it could glorify the holy narcissist in the sky. These teachings, that boom, and the manmade institution of the church are dangerous. Im glad this site is speaking out as if some people have enough sense to know that the sanctity of marriage is never more important than the sanctity of life, but it is too late for me. We would have been spared a lot had it not been for the fact that god hates marriage so much. Who cares about an eternity in hell if you are already living it here on this planet? At least Im safe now, my son is safe, and Ill gladly burn forever to stand up and speak out against a church and a god that allows this to happen to women.
I’m a victim of emotional and spiritual abuse and an attendee of BBC. God has used Kenny Stokes, Ken Currie, Bryan Pickering and many ladies of the church to minister to me….. the church has changed much… for the better……
I know SEVERAL other women cared for faithfully by BBC as well…..
I hope that we can have grace for those in our past who had no idea how to help…..sanctification is a process.
There are many I have had to forgive….. they knew not what they were doing.
Grace and peace.
I’m glad to know that some have been helped, but until they publicly repent of the actions we see in this post, I would not consider it a safe place for women.
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I second what Julie Anne said. BBC needs to publicly repent of the actions they have done (as documented in this post) in order to be truly credible as a safe place for victims of domestic abuse.
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I am in this site and comments because I was looking for how a church ‘abuses’ a person or when they tell a person they are not allowed to attend a church any more!
I called for counseling on the phone once a few years ago and the one talking to me of the staff in that ministry talked with a angry voice and said he would call other churches to do a back ground check on me which then to me implied he would find why I don’t attend some churches now [ which I left them from their false teachings is why] > He implied I was hiding something or had been disciplined or something ( i got scared thinking I would be wrongly exposed , but by being lied about by those who were false teachers !).
I did not even realize a church would just call on other churches to scan and seek out why one did not attend there any longer .This surprised me and my first concern before that incident ( I phoned about for counsel ) was getting assured that we Christians are saved by Jesus by His grace and not something else !! So it appears I was being ‘disciplined’ for asking a legit question . I knew the answer just enough , but was going thru a small crisis of ‘confusion’ then . And why pastors or staff cannot be nice or kind or patient to listen good to comfort or assure of certain truths .I started seeing this big group that as a denomination is now rejecting salvation by the grace of God !! A very big almost international group .Just to say it is not something small or local . i feel churches will change to bad today as a sign of the times which the Bible warns is or now coming being now here.